מחסומים בחג הפסח
A police checkpoint as part of a coronavirus lockdown during Passover
Photo: AP
A police checkpoint as part of a coronavirus lockdown during Passover

High Holidays of discontent

Opinion: The government must end constant zigzagging on the restrictions it implements to counter the coronavirus pandemic; now is the time for officials to show real leadership, and give us an unambiguous answer regarding the upcoming holy days

Ariela Ringel Hoffman |
Published: 09.05.20 , 23:04
The people of Israel are presently occupied with a burning question - what is going to happen during the High Holidays, two weeks from now?
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  • And not unlike a reality TV show, the answer remains ambiguous until the very last minute.
    מחסומים בחג הפסחמחסומים בחג הפסח
    A police checkpoint as part of a coronavirus lockdown during Passover
    (Photo: AP)
    Maybe there will be a closure all across the country, maybe not. Maybe it will be change from hour to hour.
    Imagine, if you will, this scenario: The government decides to impose a general lockdown a few days before Rosh Hashanah, only to magically lift the closure with no warning and for no apparent reason three hours before the holiday begins.
    This scenario is not farfetched, and it doesn't only apply to Rosh Hashanah, it may also happen during Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
    Our experiences during the last few months of the pandemic prove we are indeed standing on shaky ground.
    מחלקת קורונה בשיבאמחלקת קורונה בשיבא
    Sheba Medical Center's coroanvirus wing
    (Photo: AFP)
    The latest example is the farce that was the opening of the new school year in "red" cities, where the rate of infection is highest.
    One minute parents in these cities were sending their children to bed absolutely giddy with excitement for the upcoming school year, the next these same parents were telling their children there was no reason to get out of bed, because the government decided at five past midnight that the new school year was postponed indefinitely in "red" cities.
    תמונתם של ילדים בכיתה עם מסכותתמונתם של ילדים בכיתה עם מסכות
    Students in a school in central Israel wearing masks in class
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Not one of the decision makers gave us a reason for this emotional roller-coaster. What suddenly changed? Did they suddenly realize something that escaped their notice the day before?
    Why not provide the people with an explanation as to why these bouts of indecisiveness among the country's top echelons keeps happening?
    How is it that they announced in March that malls and shopping centers were re-opening, but then decided market stalls were not part of this new directive just as they were filling up with customers?
    How is it that in July the government announced the reopening of the country's eateries, and just when their fridges were bursting with fresh produce, they were closed down again - only to announce they may reopen once again, after the restaurant owners had already thrown away all their food and laid off all their staff?
    קבינט הקורונהקבינט הקורונה
    Israel's 'coronavirus cabinet'
    (Photo: GPO)
    It doesn't end there of course, it also happened when the government issued conflicting announcements regarding the return of the trains.
    It also happened when they announced that buses would return to full operations but only with the windows open – when some buses don't have windows that can be opened at all.
    What about the confusing guidelines regarding pools and beaches? Would they remain open during the weekend or would they be closed?
    In the end, the beaches remained open, but only where it was possible to adhere to social distancing regulations. This does not make sense in the slightest, when official data shows the number of infections at beaches and pools is roughly 0.2%.
    And so the question remains. Why?
    Could it be that someone at the coronavirus taskforce thought the infection rate would drop to zero by way of a miracle a day before the opening of the school year?
    רוני גמזו ויולי אדלשטייןרוני גמזו ויולי אדלשטיין
    Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu (L) and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein
    (Photo: Ichilov Medical Center)
    Could it be that the mess is due to power struggles between decision-makers, with decisions made at the last second, just before a deadline set by the judiciary is reached?
    What can we do in order to get a straight answer regarding the holidays, so that we can at least prepare a week in advance, and not throw away the fish we bought to feed 15 people who may or may not be able to come.
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