Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Israeli police seen at the entrance to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot as Israel enforces a lockdown; a night curfew, applied to some 40 cities all over Israel which were badly affected by the coronavirus, September 08, 2020.

Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet voted late Monday night to approve a night curfew to begin on Wednesday, the day before the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

The night curfew was recommended by National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat and supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the coronavirus numbers continue to climb.

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The government is expected to ratify the decision during its meeting on Tuesday, including the start date, the time of day it will begin, the time in the morning it will end each day, and any other related restrictions to be enacted as well.

According to Channel 12, the curfew is to begin at around 6 pm or 7 pm, and end at around 5 am or 6 am. Israelis will be warned to remain within a specific distance from their homes during those times.

Public transportation occupancy is to be reduced and steps are to be taken to increase fines and enforcement as needed. The precise details are not yet known.

Coronavirus testing is to be required for all those who return to Israel from abroad. Anyone who refuses will be required to enter a coronavirus hotel for a 14-day quarantine period.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported Monday evening that 1,204 new cases of the virus were diagnosed since midnight. Of the 13,393 patients currently battling the coronavirus, 332 patients are listed in serious condition, with 89 relying on life support with ventilators to survive. The death toll has reached 2,924.

Also on Monday, Likud MK David Bitan announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered quarantine. Bitan added that he feels well and feels only minor effects from the virus.

Here’s the good news:

  • Essential services will remain open during the hours of the curfew, so if you need to run out to the pharmacy, you probably can do that – or at least, find a way to get something delivered.
  • The pilot program that opened malls and marketplaces will be continued, except in cities designated as red zones.
  • Schools will remain open as well.
  • So far, the “green islands of tourism” in Eilat and at the Dead Sea will stay open as well. “I am pleased to announce that the Coronavirus Cabinet today approved the continuation of the outline of green tourist islands in Eilat and the Dead Sea,” said Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. “It is a balanced and special plan that allows us to live alongside the coronavirus and that provides a livelihood for thousands of workers.”
  • Israel’s museums and cultural events will be opened for “careful, limited activity” in accordance with agreements made between the Health and Culture & Sport Ministries.

Here’s the bad news:

  • The night curfew is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s expected to last around three weeks and is actually only phase one of a three-phase plan prepared by the National Security Council.

  • Phase two involves tightening the restrictions, likely by “shuttering customer-facing businesses.”
  • Phase three involves a total national lockdown.

If there is no change in the rate of infection by December 20, and the number of daily COVID-19 cases rises to 3,500, restrictions will be tightened, and customer-facing stores and businesses will be shut down.

If the number of cases continues to rise after that and tops 4,500 per day as of January 2 and thereafter, a third national lockdown will be imposed, according to the Hebrew-language Walla! News site.

Regardless, Phase One will be in force from the start of Hanukkah through January 2, effectively, equally dampening everyone’s holiday season, but at least the malls will be open long enough for people to get their gift shopping done, and the open air markets still available for folks to stock up on their holiday feast supplies.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.