Lockdown Bluff: Tired of constant restraints, Israelis defy third lockdown, open shops and restaurants

Ron Cantor —  January 2, 2021 — Leave a comment

Barely a few days into the third national lockdown Israel’s corona commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash already warned that the two-week lockdown which began on Sunday will likely be extended at least two more weeks under heavier restrictions. 

Perhaps that is why many business owners and restaurants opened their doors anyway in defiance of the draconian measures that have sent unemployment soaring and small businesses closing their doors. 

Under the latest lockdown of the year, schools are open in most cities (certain grades are closed in “red cities”) and workplaces are still open. But shops that are not considered “essential” were ordered to close their doors again — some of them after opening just two weeks ago since the second lockdown in September. Other establishments, such as gyms, restaurants and hotels have yet to reopen since September while theaters and other cultural venues have been closed since March.

Nevertheless, many restaurants which are supposed to be closed except for delivery of orders, have opened their doors to passersby. On one street in Jerusalem, all of the cafes, restaurants, gift shops and florists were open albeit with their doors only slightly ajar and no seating available.

The rebellion appears to be widespread as shops in the open-air markets also opened against the latest regulations. When interviewed, a man who runs a fruit produce stand just shrugged.

“People don’t need fruits and vegetables? What, these aren’t essential?” he told a reporter. 

These businesses face fines of more than $1,000 if police catch them. 

But their fate seems to be sealed in any case as Health Ministry officials appear to be bent on extending the lockdown no matter what. Ash noted that this latest lockdown has seen only a 20% reduction in domestic traffic while the last two lockdowns averaged a 60% reduction. 

And this despite a 1 kilometer restriction on travel from one’s home. 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein agreed that the third lockdown has been too loose thus far.

“The closure is Swiss cheese. Dr. Sharon Alroy (Preis) rightly said, ‘Don’t call it a closure,’” Edelstein said.

Alroy-Preis, head of public health, has insisted that even without a rebellion, the rules do not make for a lockdown. 

But business owners are still ruffled by what they call a death blow, another lockdown.

Roi Cohen, president of the Lahav Independent Organization, said the government’s slogan for its mass-vaccination campaign, “lend a shoulder,” should be applied instead to business that are suffering. 

“We need to launch ‘lend a shoulder’ to businesses that are going bankrupt because of the government’s intention to impose a third closure on trade,” he said. “Entire branches are still closed, the street shops have just returned to work and have not received compensation for the merchandise they have leftover from the previous closures, for their rents and loans, but it is not of interest to any of the decision makers.”