Photo: Flash90

Israel to mark Yom Kippur in tight lockdown

Israel officially entered a nationwide shutdown aimed at curbing spread of the coronavirus, during which the population’s freedom-of-movement will significantly be restricted for a minimum of 16 days.

Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld informed TV7 that “7,000 police officers involved in the operation and activities that will continue in order to prevent movements, where neighborhoods, communities and different areas are on lockdown,” which went into effect at 2 PM today at local time. He stated that confirmation of “over 8,000 cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours” lead to the government-imposed decision, and said “we are calling upon the public to keep the rules and the regulations that the ministry of Health and the Israeli national police.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially unveiled the harsh new measures to curb the contagion, saying, “We are in the midst of a prolonged war – the coronavirus war. This is a war for the economy, for health and again – this is a war for life.”

Further COVID-19 fatalities will nevertheless be as inevitable as they are in all battles, explained the Israeli leader. “The pandemic is expected to exact an additional very heavy price in human lives,” he said with regret, proclaiming  that, “Only if we stand together, only if we fight together, only if we adhere to the rules together – only then will we defeat the pandemic, and we will defeat it. This is what we did in all of Israel’s wars and this is what we did in the first wave of the coronavirus.”

In an attempt to alleviate public concern over anticipated economic ramifications over the latest restrictions, Netanyahu emphasized that national resilience reinforced by recent major developments in the fields of energy and diplomacy. “Let us not forget the natural gas that we extracted from the sea. Let us not forget the historic peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. All of these will inject billions into our economy and will greatly strengthen us in general and also during the coronavirus period,” he said, while underscoring, “But there is one simple rule that must be enunciated: When you open up the economy, morbidity increases.”

Despite Netanyahu’s statements, which were broadcast live on domestic media, Israeli residents of the capital, Jerusalem, are seemingly unconvinced about the government’s rationale behind the shut-down. Debbie Amichai told Reuters that “We were doing very well at the beginning and then pressure to open up was, it was impulsively, they opened everything all in one go, no one sensible would do that.” Jerusalemite Nir Durban said,  “Mainly I feel depressed because I sense out the government are not taking any rational decisions of this quarantine, it is only a lot of political reasons that brought us to this point that we are not dealing with the pandemic – we don’t have any strategy.”

Just ahead of the strictly-enforced lockdown, thousands of rabbinical ultra-Orthodox Jews performed traditional rituals as part of preparation for annual observance of the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement, the 25 hour fast and prayer lasting from Sunday at sunset until Monday evening. In place of Biblical sacrifices once performed on the Temple Mount, these traditions include the waving of live chickens over their heads and the emptying of their pockets into a stream, in a symbolic transfer of sin to an animal or the water.