Israeli malls and shopping centers were waiting in anticipation as the coronavirus cabinet was set to reconvene on Monday afternoon to vote on whether to prolong the week-long pilot.
The coronavirus cabinet two weeks ago approved a pilot that allowed 15 malls around the country to reopen in order to examine whether more restrictions should be lifted off the trade industry.
Despite some experts suggesting the pilot was a success, others speculate the overcrowding that was reported in several shopping centers was partly responsible for the recent resurgence of COVID-19 in Israel.
The pilot was set to end at 12am Monday but was extended by 48 hours after ministers failed to come to a definitive conclusion on whether the malls should remain opened, during a meeting on Sunday afternoon.
"They reopen and close us as if we were an accordion," said Erez Ahiam, a store owner at Jerusalem's Malcha Mall. "It is impossible to run a business like this. They're driving us crazy. There is no infection in the mall. Everyone is wearing masks, everything is fine here."
Erez's relative, who also works at the store, said the staff is in a constant state of uncertainty. "We do not know what will happen. Maybe the next day we will not have a job anymore, they will close the mall and people have no livelihood. We feel that we are being toyed with," she said.
Adi Sherman, a store owner at BIG Fashion Ashdod shopping center, said it would be a mistake for the government to follow the Health Ministry's recommendation and close the malls. "I think the economic epidemic will hurt us much more than the health epidemic."
One customer at the same shopping center disagreed. "BIG needs to be closed, there are very large crowds and no one is maintaing a two-meter distance," said Noa Shachen Tov from Ashkelon. "Everything can be done on the internet, there is no need to come here."
Other shoppers, however, said malls should remain opened. "I want to go out and breathe air, to walk around, to shop. When everything was closed it was depressing, it's hard to just stay at home with the kids. Places like these have to stay open," said David Ohana, who came to shop with his daughter and grandchildren.
The sentiment was echoed by shoppers at Ofer Grand Mall in Petach Tikva. "The malls should not be closed, and if they close the prime minister should pay their property tax, water and electricity bills," said Shlomo Cohen from Bnei Brak.
"It makes no sense for a person earning a minimum wage to be furloughed and continue to pay for electricity, water, and property tax. If you want to close the economy, please take responsibility."
Avner Kuta, who owns a candy store at the same mall, said he has never had a year as bad as 2020 in his 20 years of owning a business.
"I am discouraged by the whole situation, I do not know what to do, do not know what the future will hold," he said. "This is not the way, to abuse us, to reopen for a week and to close for two or three months. I come home very angry and nervous. I did not bring a shekel home for two and a half months," he added.
"The lockdown is painful."