Finance Ministry to Propose Alternatives to Rosh Hashana Lockdown

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police stationed at the entrance to Ramot, Yerushalayim, enforcing a curfew, Tuesday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As the deadline for a decision on coronavirus restrictions for Rosh Hashana approached, the Finance Ministry is reportedly backing alternatives to a nationwide lockdown.

Among the proposals is for trade and leisure activities to be reduced even in ‘green cities’ with low morbidity rates, but workplaces will be permitted to operate as usual, according to Arutz Sheva.

The matter is on the agenda for an inter-ministerial teleconference to be held by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ on Wednesday night, with a decision scheduled for Thursday. An in-person meeting was not viable, since Coronavirus Czar Prof. Roni Gamzu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, along with other health officials are in isolation after coming into contact with a coronavirus patient.

Whereas Israelis cooperated in a general lockdown with few complaints last Pesach, this time around it’s different. Mayors of cities and members of Knesset have been openly questioning the medical logic of such strictures, and on Wednesday small business owners and the self-employed, who have been hit hard by coronavirus regulations, were threatening civil disobedience.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Roee Cohen, the president of the Israel Federation of Small Business Organizations, said that “another closure is a death sentence for businesses” and that the government has “long lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the public,” according to The Times of Israel.

“I doubt business owners will obey the government’s instructions and close business once again,” he said. “Unfortunately, this time it will not happen. We are marching towards anarchy. We have children to worry about and mouths to feed,” and at the end of the day “they are the ones we will have in front of our eyes, and not the fines” imposed by inspectors. “The fear that we will not have bread on the table is greater and more real than the fear of getting infected with the coronavirus.”

Shai Berman, the head of the association of restaurants and bars, said that the sector entered the coronavirus pandemic with 14,000 active businesses and 203,000 employees, he said. Lockdowns and other restrictions have reduced that number to 12,000 active businesses and just 120,000 employees, he said.

Cohen warned that the business sector will join the weekly demonstrations against Netanyahu if compensation is not promised in advance of a lockdown.

“We will return to the streets. The matter transcends politics. There will be no left or right,” he said.