Five Israelis have died and more than 2,000 have been infected with the coronavirus as of Wednesday as Israeli implemented more drastic measures in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus within its borders.
As of Wednesday night, the government banned outdoor sports and walks anywhere within a 100-meter radius from home. Public transportation has been severely cut back and now cabs can take only one passenger at a time.
Israelis may still go to supermarkets and pharmacies or order food for delivery from restaurants that provide this service. Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov has pushed for a full lockdown of the country, however he has been at odds with the Finance Ministry which is fighting to keep what is left of the economy afloat. As it is, more than half a million Israelis have filed for unemployment in just the last few weeks.
Unarmed IDF soldiers will turn their focus away from terrorism to their fellow citizens. Israelis caught breaking the rule could face a 5,000 Shekel ($1,500) fine and possibly six months behind bars. I find it unlikely that people would really go to jail, but more that Israel is begging its citizens to take this plague seriously.
Synagogues, mosques and churches are being shut down as well. But many of the faithful — from Messianic congregations to Orthodox Jews — are finding ways to meet anyway through online technology. In a shocking ruling, several Sephardic Orthodox rabbis in Israel have ruled that the Passover Seder may be conducted via videoconference.
Religious law bans the use of electronic devices on Shabbat and holidays, but this ruling makes an exception this year in light of the coronavirus and the forced quarantines that will keep families separated.
“Just as it is permissible for a non-critical patient to receive treatment on Shabbat in order to cure him of illness, such is the case here,” the 14 rabbis wrote.
Meanwhile, an El Al plane is being dispatched to Colombia and another to Milan to fly nearly 500 Israelis back home.
“The worried families of the backpackers in Colombia can smile,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said. “Israel doesn’t abandon its children.”
Last week, the Foreign Ministry organized four flights from Peru, bringing home more than 1,000 Israelis. Still some 10,000 Israelis are currently abroad and seeking to return home, including in Peru, while it is getting harder to get them back as countries shut their borders. The Foreign Ministry has been working with Israeli airlines to launch more rescue missions to places such as Australia, Costa Rica, India, Italy, Croatia, Argentina and Brazil.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman during a briefing for journalists. Credit Amos Ben Gershom