An increasing number of Israelis — particularly small business owners and self-employed workers — are protesting what they see as insufficient or nonexistent support from the government which shuttered all nonessential businesses for over a month during the coronavirus crisis.
After already more than a month of lockdown, independent small business owners such as barbers and cosmeticians, tour guides and even the falafel maker who can’t deliver his food (which would make it legal for him to operate) haven’t earned a shekel.
On Sunday, rallies were held in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa by protestors who claim that only 1,900 of 41,000 requests for loans made by small- and medium-sized businesses have been approved and people are drowning.
One man broke down on Israeli TV while explaining to Channel 13 reporter Noga Neeman that he attempted to open his falafel restaurant on Monday, but was almost fined by police because he could only serve food at the restaurant and was unable to make deliveries.
“I’m embarrassed, from my children, to tell them ‘I have nothing I can buy for you.’ I have nothing to give them to eat,” Yuval Carmi said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
He continued crying while Neeman broke down as well.
Israel’s unemployment rate soared to over 26 percent — more than 1.1 million workers — since the lockdown was put in place. The annual employment was 3.8 percent in 2019. But small business owners and freelancers receive no unemployment pay.
“I heard the protest of the self-employed outside Beit HaNasi and invited its leaders to come and talk,” President Rueven Rivlin wrote on Tweeter. “This is an emergency and I promised them, and all self-employed people, that policy-makers will hear what they say. We need to see the big picture without abandoning anyone.”
The economic crisis will kill more people than the viral pandemic, Maccabi Healthcare Services CEO Ran Saar predicted in an interview with the Calcalist.
“I hear the cries of the self-employed and small business owners. Such a person is on the verge of suffering a medical event due to stress, pain, and fear, and this can manifest itself into a mental or physical condition,” Saar warned. “The loss to the economy will be mad. When we are done with the coronavirus and the healthcare system will no longer be in everyone’s focus, because of the poor economic situation, there will be no money for healthcare.”
On Sunday, specific workplaces were allowed to have up to 30 percent of their workforce return to work but under certain guidelines.
Nearly 14,000 people in Israel have been diagnosed with COVID-19 while the death toll stands at 182, as of Tuesday night. ON a positive note, 3,872 Israelis have recovered from the virus and the number of recoveries has exceeded new diagnoses for the fourth day in a row.