Coronavirus lockdowns, protests continue through Israel

Israel has for now extended by a seven days a three-week national lockdown which was scheduled to end Oct. 11.

Though with no existing plan for an exit strategy, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prediction that the lockdown could last up to a year, few believe the nation will return to any sense of normalcy at the end of next week.

The lockdown was supposed to last during the Jewish holidays during which schools and some businesses would have been shut down anyway. But in addition, protests, prayers and other activities have been severely limited, while many businesses have been shuttered entirely such as restaurants, gyms and malls plus national parks, museums and other tourist sites. 

In fact, this week of the seven-day holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles would normally bring in thousands of Christian and Jewish tourists accounting in many cases for up to 10 of some businesses’ annual revenue for the year.

“This week is a very substantial time for us and the most important holiday for Jerusalem’s five-star hotels,” Rony Timsit, general manager of the Inbal hotel in Jerusalem said. “Not only that; we achieve most of our revenues in the second half of the year. Plainly, this year, it will not occur.”

What has occurred instead is clashes between citizens and police in both the religious sectors and among anti-government protesters during gatherings that defy the new restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Israel’s morbidity rate is one of the highest in the world with more than 11 percent of those tested being diagnosed with the virus. 

Police were attacked trying to break up a mass gathering in Modiyin Illit, where crowds of ultra-Orthodox threw stones, bottles, dirty diapers and fireworks at the officers. Also in Jerusalem, police were attacked by a crowd of religious Jews protesting COVID restrictions. Dozens of Haredi Jews have been arrested in the past few days.

Ironically, the infection rate among the Haredi is 40 percent, while the community makes up only 12 percent of the population. 

As of Tuesday, 855 people are hospitalized in serious condition with 223 people on ventilators.The death toll was 1,803.

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