Owners of several bars and restaurants in Tel Aviv decided to open their businesses on Tuesday night, despite the coronavirus regulations that prohibit gatherings in public space.
Workers made sure to use protective measures such as gloves and masks, and food and drink were served using disposable products.
Due to the regulations, the police have warned business owners that they will hand out fines if they refuse to remain closed.
At the same time, police forces dispersed a large gathering of hundreds of people in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.
One man was detained for questioning after he refused to comply with police instructions, cursed at them and confronted them. The rest of the crowd quickly dispersed.
Raz Avidan, the owner of the Concierge bar, said: “This disrespect towards bar owners and self-employed people in general cannot continue. The [Dizengoff] square is full to the brim with people, the beaches are full of people and I am just serving take-way using one-off dishes so people can eat in my own yard.”
Two hours after the opening, police officers arrived and demanded the owner close down or risk a fine, saying bars are supposed to open only next week.
There were about 30 customers present at the bar at the time, all keeping a reasonable distance from one another.
“It’s fun to hang out and I hope it continues. We missed it after a while,” said Josh, who went for a drink at the Spicehouse Bar.
"It's still only takeaway, but you take what you can get,” said Harel, another patron of the Spicehouse.
Despite the approval of the outline that will see restaurants opening next week, business owners are still skeptical.
"We need to make it clear that we can't continue like this. The beaches are open, the malls are open, meanwhile our street is being destroyed,” said Spicehouse owner Yotam Shilla.
“Every night in Dizengoff Square, people are being less and less responsible. We decided we needed to make a point, it's a sort of protest opening,” said Shilla, who decided to open the bar and provide alcohol in disposable glasses, alongside food served on squares of cardboard.
Tomer Moore, one of the leaders of the campaign by restaurant owners to reopen, said that they were all planning to manage their businesses responsibly.
"At the end of a fight there are moments of agreement. We only approved this outline [for reopening] after we came to the conclusion that cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants can and will meet all the parameters” set out by the Health Ministry.
Meanwhile, the new government has approved amendments to the restrictions imposed by the spread of the coronavirus. Among other things, ministers lifted the ban on beaches and approved the reopening of museums, which will operate according to regulations.
With beaches also allowed to reopen, Wednesday morning marked the start of bathing season, as part of the state’s gradual return to routine.
On Tuesday night, the cabinet also decided to open synagogues and prayer houses following prolonged pressure from the Interior Ministry and Religious Affairs Ministry.
The Health Ministry, however, expressed opposition to the move and asked to postpone the opening of houses of worship until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr at the weekend, which is often characterized by large gatherings in mosques.
Similarly, Prof. Nimrod Maimon, who heads Health Ministry department to protect retirement homes during the coronavirus crisis, announced the expected lifting of restrictions in these facilities.
Residents of assisted living facilities will apparently be allowed to come and go freely, while leisure activities will return in accordance with safety regulations.
Outside therapists will also be given access to enter all sections of nursing homes, including those where the residents require constant care.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health also published the outline for the reopening of venues and event halls, which will go into effect from June 14.
Newly sworn-in Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited a protest tent set up by venue owners in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, and urged them to end the hunger strike they had launched.
According to the Ministry of Health's guidelines, venues can be opened as long as there is one person responsible for ensuring compliance with ministry regulations.
Guests must log in to the venue's website upon arrival at an event and the venue must also be able to contact all guests at an event should someone present subsequently be found to have been infected with coronavirus.
A venue must display the Ministry of Health guidelines, surfaces must be cleaned regularly, bathrooms disinfected at least once an hour and disinfection posts placed around the compound, at the entrance and next to bathrooms.