Israel’s lockdown starts Friday: The question is will its citizens obey?

The Health Minstry is pessimistic about the chances of the lockdown’s success.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

For a lockdown to work, it requires the cooperation of its citizens. Israeli authorities, only one day away from a nationwide lockdown, aren’t at all sure they have it.

Some 6,000 policemen will enforce the curfew measures. They’ll be assisted by hundreds of soldiers stationed at checkpoints throughout the country.

It might not be enough if the grousing from citizens aired by the Hebrew media is any indication. Business owners interviewed by the news say they won’t follow the health guidelines. They’re still nursing their wounds from the first lockdown and say in one voice that they simply won’t survive another.

Giving a tailwind to those who threaten to disobey is the general disappointment among Israel’s citizenry with the government, which is blamed for having allowed the pandemic to spiral out of control and has zigzagged in its decision-making, leaving Israelis confused.

Indeed, the guidelines for the lockdown were only approved on Thursday morning, some 30 hours before it was to go into force at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

There is also a sense of inequity within the population as certain sectors, like the ultra-Orthodox, or haredi community, and the religious in general feel that there is one set of rules for them and another set for the secular. They point in particular to the small numbers allowed to pray, even outside, while thousands are permitted to protest against the prime minister.

An appeal was brought to the Supreme Court by the mayors of a number of cities arguing that the number of demonstrators should be identical to the number of Jews allowed to gather outside to pray. The court is hearing the appeal on Thursday. A decision had not yet been released by the time of this posting.

The feeling of selectivity in corona enforcement is one of the main reasons an earlier government plan failed. Originally, the government had wanted to impose a ‘Traffic Light’ system, which rated cities differently based on their rate of infection, with the worst, or ‘red’ cities, placed under tighter restrictions.

Perhaps recognizing that Israelis will not be following the rules exactly as laid out over the next three weeks, and that there are holes in the lockdown rules themselves, the health minister, the deputy health minister and the director general of the ministry all issued pessimistic forecasts for the lockdown’s success.

They said it was unlikely to stop the rising corona rate in any meaningful sense, and that even harsher tightening would likely be needed after the three-week period.

Channel 12 reported that at a government meeting, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said, “I consulted with all the senior officials, most of them with advanced degrees and experts in the field, and asked them whether there is a chance that the infection rate will go down under these conditions. To my great disappointment, I did not find anyone who was optimistic.”

However, at a Thursday press conference Edelstein said that if the public will be disciplined during the lockdown, there won’t be any need for further tightening.

The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin issued a public apology on Wednesday in a nationally televised address for the government’s failure to manage the health crisis.

“I know that we have not done enough as a leadership to be worthy of your attention. You trusted us and we let you down,” he said.

Then, in an appeal to follow the guidelines, he said: “My fellow Israelis, you cannot beat corona alone, but no one can beat it without you. I believe in this people; I believe in our ability to prevail. I would like to ask you to believe in this people’s ability to prevail.

“This is the time to follow the instructions, to take care of yourselves and those dear to you, to join hands to help those around you in need of assistance. Because we have no other land, we have no other country, we have no other people and we have no other way.”