Purim events canceled, games played to empty arenas as Israel’s coronavirus fears grow

Israeli authorities are not willing to take the risk of holding large public events during the current health crisis.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

With the Israeli Health Ministry’s decision to ban gatherings of more than 5,000 people due to fear of the coronavirus, sports teams are playing in empty arenas and many public events in honor of the Purim holiday next Tuesday have been called off.

Holon mayor Motti Sasson decided to scratch one of the biggest Purim-related parties in the country, the nationally famous Adloyada parade that has drawn thousands of families for the last 18 years.

“The health of the children and attendees is more important,” he wrote on the municipality’s website.

Carnivals and raves have been cancelled in many cities in the center of the country, such as Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan. In the north, many municipalities have not made their final decision as yet, though a rainy weather forecast may make the decision for them.

No one has abandoned Purim plans in the south, but a sparser attendance than usual wouldn’t be a surprise.

Sports authorities are also following the Health Ministry guidelines. Several sporting events were held in nearly empty arenas or postponed.

For example, a soccer quarter-final between Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva was called off Wednesday a mere two hours before the game was to start. And a Euro League basketball game in which Maccabi Tel Aviv had a breathtaking win (77-75) over league powerhouse Anadolu Efes, was enjoyed live by only 3,300 spectators, who were only allowed into the arena just before game time.

The upcoming State Cup soccer playoffs will be held with no more than 5,000 fans. In this case, such a number would be a good turnout for those lower league games.

In the top league, however, officials are still deciding between postponing the contests or disappointing tens of thousands of fans, including thousands of season-ticket holders, who would not be able to attend.

The CEO of the Israel soccer leagues, Erez Kalfon, reportedly tried to convince the director-general of the Health Ministry to allow 12,000 fans into the games as they are held in open-air arenas. His efforts did not succeed.