Israeli government declares total curfew for last day of Passover

Israelis ordered to stay at home on last night of Passover holiday to prevent millions from mingling in traditional Mimouna celebrations marking the end of the week-long prohibition on eating bread.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The government announced Tuesday a nationwide curfew that will go into effect at 5:00 p.m. as Jews mark the final day of the week-long Passover festival.

The move is similar to the lockdown imposed last week in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus by preventing millions of Israelis from gathering together for the traditional extended family event, the seder, that started the Passover holiday.

“The cabinet approved emergency regulations on a further restriction of going out into the public sphere for the seventh day of Passover and for Mimouna festivities in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.

A joint statement from the prime minister’s office, finance and health ministries listed the restrictions, including limiting residents to within 100 meters of their homes.

The end of Passover begins at sundown on Tuesday and the curfew will last until early Wednesday morning to ensure that families don’t spread the virus to one another and accelerate the infection rate. As of Tuesday morning, 11,868 Israelis had tested positive for the coronavirus, an increase of six percent within 24 hours.

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem sent an email to Americans who had registered with the embassy, warning them about the pending curfew.

“People traveling within Israel may encounter increased police presence and enforcement of social distancing guidelines, including checkpoints and the imposition of fines for violations,” the embassy statement said.

Passover celebrates the release of the ancient Israelites from slavery, and one of the biblical rituals is the prohibition against eating bread and bread products, replacing it with the unleavened bread called matzah. Jews of North African heritage from countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt celebrate Mimouna, the festive meal and party after sundown on the final day of Passover marking the return to eating bread.

Instead of the large family meals and neighborhood parties to celebrate, Netanyahu appealed to Israelis to stay at home and celebrate only with immediate family.

In order to prevent the traditional rush to bakeries and supermarkets expected at the end of Passover on Wednesday evening, the government also ordered bakeries and baking sections in supermarkets to remain closed until 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

“You are requested to celebrate the last day of Passover and Mimouna among the family members who are with you now, as it was on the first night of Passover,” Netanyahu said in a televised press conference Monday evening. “We will instruct the police to prevent gatherings at supermarkets and bakeries.”

The prime minister urged Israelis to comply with the regulations to help keep the virus numbers from growing, citing the significance of the Jews crossing the Red Sea on their exodus to freedom.

“On the last day of the holiday, we mark the miracle of the splitting of the sea, which symbolizes our ability to do the most difficult things. This is also difficult, like the splitting of the sea; together we will overcome and defeat the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said.