Thousands of Israelis swarmed the country's beaches and nature reserves over the weekend, violating many health directives meant to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The government last week eased the health restrictions, opening beaches, parks and nature reserves, but emphasized that sunbathing or swimming in the sea is still prohibited. The authorities also asked people to wear protective face masks and keep a two-meter distance from one another when outside.
The request, however, went unanswered as thousands flocked to Tel Aviv's beaches on Friday and Saturday. The police and the municipality shifted responsibility for enforcing social distancing onto each other and did not issue fines to those violating the guidelines.
“The municipality's inspectors did not hand any fines at the beach," read a response from the municipality. "According to emergency regulations, police are in charge of enforcement and handing out fines in places where mass gatherings are forbidden, such as the beach," it added.
"As far as we know, Health Ministry guidelines allow swimming in the sea and crowds of up to 50 people. No doubt the public is confused."
Many visitors were also spotted swimming in a spring in the Judean Desert. Most of them, however, did not wear face masks and did not keep a safe distance from each other.
According to the Nature and Parks Authority directives, visitors are required to wear protective face masks, keep a distance of at least two meters (6 feet) from each other, and maintain proper hygiene. In addition, swimming was prohibited.
Campers will have to set their tents at least 10 meters (30 feet) apart and sleep at a density of at least 15 square meters (160 square feet) per person.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority Director Shaul Goldstein urged visitors to adhere to regulations."The wild nature has experienced a great rejuvenation in the last two months," said Goldstein. "The absence of humans allowed many species to recover and brought animals back to their natural place without guests arriving at 'weird' hours.
"As we return to nature reserves and national parks, we must behave like every guest. We've devised the guidelines for open spaces. If we'll stick to them, we'll keep ourselves safe and keep our right to leave home."