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“Crying” Falafel vendor suffers heart attack from stress as Israel hastens reopening of economy

Remember the falafel shop owner we featured here who became the symbol of economic duress during shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic in Israel? Yuval Carmi was hospitalized this week due to a heart attack brought on by the stress of financial ruin.

But that is not all. Carmi, who was rushed into emergency treatment after experiencing chest pains, said people have been criticizing him since his April interview.

“I came to the ER. Someone came up to me, his wife recognized me and said ‘Hello.’ Her husband came up and asked her, ‘Do you know him?’ She said, ‘Yes, it’s the crybaby from the television,’” Carmi said. “It hurt me. My heart exploded.”

He said he had been subject to accusations on social media that he put on a show for the cameras to drum up business.

“My wife and children, every evening would come home and cry, and see everything that was written about us on Facebook, that we’re rich and that ‘he’s a liar and a cheater,’” Carmi said.

In his heart wrenching interview in April, Carmi pulled out his wallet and showed it was empty.

“I don’t have a shekel in my pocket… I’m embarrassed to face my children, to tell them I have nothing I can buy for you. I have nothing to give them. I have nothing to give them to eat. I don’t know what to do,” he said, crying and then apologizing for his tears.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Carmi the next day and promised to help.

“You have reached deep into my heart and the hearts of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu told him.

Israel is responding to pressure from business owners and rapidly bringing the entire country back online. Beaches, synagogues and museums were opened Wednesday after an unexpected overnight ruling. Schools went from grades 1 to 3 only to suddenly, after two weeks, all grades went back full time on Sunday.

Restaurants and hotels are expected to be opened next week. Israelis were already demonstrating against the continued lockdowns on some businesses while a number of restaurants even opened their doors to the public since Saturday, allowing customers to eat in outdoor seating areas in defiance of regulations.

“This disrespect towards bar owners and self-employed people in general cannot continue,” said Raz Avidan, the owner of the Concierge bar. “The [Dizengoff] square is full to the brim with people, the beaches are full of people and I am just serving take-way using one-off dishes so people can eat in my own yard.”

There is also talk of a travel agreement from July 1 between Israel and four countries that kept the pandemic under control: Greece, Cyprus, Montenegro, Georgia and the Seychelles. Under the potential agreement, the five nations would remove the 14-day quarantine requirements for travelers from these countries.

The number of new infections here in Israel has slowed dramatically in recent weeks and the death toll stood at 272 as of Wednesday.

Yuval Carmi at a after suffering a heart attack, May 17, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 13)

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