Israeli health officials urge extension of intercity travel ban until end of Passover

Despite its effect on the holiday mood, Israeli officials want to maintain the ban on travel between cities through the end of Passover next week.

By World Israel News Staff

As the global coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, Israelis gathered together on Wednesday evening in scaled down versions of the traditional festival meal that kicks off the Passover holiday, in accordance with government lockdown restrictions.

Ahead of the holiday, the Israeli government announced that residents would be prohibited from leaving their hometowns from Wednesday night until Friday at 6 a.m., with a curfew imposed on the first night of the holiday that lasted through 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.

On Thursday evening, health ministry officials recommended that the government extend the national intercity travel ban preventing Israelis from visiting other communities until the end of Passover next week, various Hebrew media sources reported.

In Israel, the Passover holiday traditionally involves packed roads and visits to extended family throughout the country. It is also customary to invite non-family members, travelers, students, and strangers to the festive seder meal on the first night of Passover.

None of these options were possible this year, with police enforcing stay-at-home orders and a general lockdown through Friday morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis that “every family will sit down for Seder night on its own.” Police planned to set up checkpoints in neighborhoods and on major highways to enforce travel restrictions.

As of Thursday evening, Israel had close to 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and at least 86 deaths.

Synagogues also have been closed and holiday prayers are to be held individually at home due to a ban on public gatherings.

To raise spirits, several Israeli towns called on residents to sing songs from the Hagaddah, the text read at the Seder, from apartment balconies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.