Israeli small business revolt: Hundreds open in protest of lockdown

The businesses opened against the law “and despite the risk of being fined 1,000s of shekels.”

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The lockdown is working. From a high of 9,000 daily cases at the start of the month, Monday’s numbers were under 2,000. But the drop isn’t coming fast enough for Israel’s desperate small businesses. Hundreds opened on Sunday against corona regulations across the country, Israel Hayom reports.

The hundreds that opened included big and small businesses. They opened against the law “and despite the risk of being fined 1,000s of shekels,” the paper reports.

The act of defiance was organized by the group “Don’t be in lockdown!” It counts tens of thousands of businessowners as members, according to Israel Hayom.

Tamir Barelko, who headed the protest, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, saying, “We have no other option outside of fighting for our livelihood.”

Israel’s Association of Fashion and Commercial and Catering Chains, which includes 400 chain stores and tens of thousands of commercial stores, announced it would call on its members to open on Oct. 18 in areas that aren’t “red,” that is, with a high incidence of disease, regardless of whether the lockdown is lifted, the paper reports.

Other retail groups and chains joined the declaration.

On Wednesday, a Zoom meeting will be held with the interested parties to make preparations for opening next Sunday.

Restaurateurs also want to join the mass opening. The paper quotes one restaurant owner who said, “We’re bleeding here already half a year since the first closure.”

The owner of a beauty parlor, who refused to be named fearing she’d receive a fine, told the paper: “I’m already desperate and I have nothing to lose. Even if one customer comes and pays 100 shekels against the 5,000 shekel fine that I’ll receive, I’m at ease with it because finally I left the house and opened the store, and it’ll be worth it.”

The willingness on the part of the businessowners to buck government regulations may reflect a larger feeling on the part of an increasingly restless public toward the authorities.

Two researchers from Hebrew University’s Institute of Criminology found a decline in the Israeli public’s appreciation for the police from the first wave to the second wave of the pandemic. In the first wave, 62% gave the police positive marks in dealing with the pandemic. In the second wave, only 21% did so.

The survey of 600 people found a dramatic drop in attitudes toward police in general and regarding the coronavirus in particular, Israel Hayom reports.