Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
A Jerusalem barber prepares his salon ahead of Sunday's reopening, October 29, 2020.

Israel’s Corona Cabinet approved on Thursday night the opening of synagogues and B & Bs starting this coming Sunday. It’s not clear why synagogues shouldn’t be able to open this Shabbat. Maybe it’s because barbershops, hairdressers, and beauty salons will also open only on Sunday, and you don’t want to go to shul without a nice haircut.

Street shops will reopen the following Sunday, November 8. Economic ministers Israel Katz (Likud) and Amir Peretz (Labor) voted against that delayed reopening because they saw no reason to keep street shops shut another week. Ministers Yuli Edelstein (Health, Likud) and Meirav Cohen (Social Equality, Blue&White) voted against because the move was in contradiction of the Health Ministry’s recovery outline.

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The debate was delayed two hours because of a press conference held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ministers had to wait for the prime minister, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was furious, accusing the PM of “contempt and impudence.” Ashkenazi later told Government Secretary Tzachi Braverman: “Is the schedule only a recommendation? I sent the grandchildren away so I would be ready on time for the zoom meeting. This is annoying.”

Jewish men in facemasks pray in a public park in Efrat, Gush Etzion, October 29, 2020. / Gershon Elinson/Flash90

At the press conference ahead of the discussion, Netanyahu said: “Let it be clear to everyone, if the morbidity goes up in this or that city, I will not hesitate to recommend that the Cabinet close that city, cordon it off. It is not important where it is located or in which sector – secular, Haredi, Jewish or Arab. We are compelled to know when to cordon off the disease, in every sense. There is also the possibility that we will impose restrictions on an orange city to prevent it from turning red.”

“Alongside these decisions, I will continue the efforts to procure vaccines,” Netanyahu said. “In the end – this the key to exiting from this disease because only a vaccine can take us out of the coronavirus routine, if at all, and therefore I am working on this without respite.”

“We are working on three axes,” the PM explained. “The first axis is the independent production at our Institute for Biological Research and there is progress. There are good signs. However, we are also checking other possibilities. The second axis is our Health Ministry’s contacts with the world’s leading companies in order to organize supplies for Israel. The third axis is my contacts with heads of state in order to ensure a sufficient supply of vaccines. I have spoken with Mike Pence, who is leading this in the US, with Chancellor Merkel in Germany, with President Putin from Russia, with Narendra Modi in India, and the day before yesterday I spoke with Italian Prime Minister Conte, who assured me that he would also advance the supply to Israel of drugs produced in Italy. I have just come from a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio who brought this message in addition to what Prime Minister Conte said. I hope that by these measures, we will have enough vaccines for the citizens of Israel, for all citizens of Israel, and in time.”

Regarding the efforts to revive the Israeli economy, Netanyahu said: “On Monday, the Finance Minister will submit for Knesset approval the additional grant for 400,000 unemployed. I very much hope that the Knesset will approve this. But our entire ability to exit from this disease with an agreed-upon outline depends, in the end, on your cooperation, citizens of Israel, in wearing masks.”

Netanyahu added: “Prof. Dan Aderka spoke to the Cabinet this morning. He told us one simple thing: If 80% of the public would wear masks, there would be no coronavirus. If in a certain community, over 80% of the public would wear masks, would really wear masks, meaning over the nose and mouth, there would be no coronavirus. The disease would be completely repressed. But if fewer people wear masks, then it rises.”

“There is a link between the restrictions that we impose and the spread of the disease,” Netanyahu insisted. “If the disease increases, we impose more restrictions. If the disease decreases, we lift the restrictions. However, there is one thing that cannot be lifted and that is the masks. We reached the point in which we can maintain a routine in the shadow of the coronavirus until the arrival of the vaccines, but all of this is conditional on our continuing to follow the directives and mainly to continue acting together and with a mutual guarantee. This is the only way; there is no alternative to defeating the coronavirus and together, with God’s help, we will defeat the virus.”

Small business owners protest against the coronavirus restrictions in Tel Aviv, October 29, 2020. / Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Dozens of street shop owners demonstrated on Thursday in south Tel Aviv against the government’s postponing their return to activity. Protesters blocked roads and set fire to tires.

Ilan Dayan, one of the organizers of the protest, said: “Shame on the State of Israel for turning us into lawbreakers. Let us earn a decent living. We want to open the street shops. The Cabinet decides on political matters, not real matters. To them everything is politics.”

At an earlier meeting on Thursday, the Corona Cabinet approved the outline for return to schools starting this coming Sunday. According to the approved outline, first to fourth-graders will study at least four days a week, in regular groups of up to 20 students.

According to the approved outline, a teacher will be able to teach up to three regular groups of students. In the first and second grades, learning will focus on Language, and in third and fourth grades, most of the learning time will be devoted to Language and Mathematics. In the fourth grade, Science and English will also be added.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Finance Minister Israel Katz once again attacked the Health Ministry, tweeting: “I have asked the Prime Minister to support my position on opening the street shops this coming Sunday. The Ministry of Health is turning a deaf ear to the needs of small businesses and conducts a battle for prestige on their backs.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein responded on Reshet Bet radio: “We want a safe exit, and not following some populist current. Instead of the Finance Ministry saying that we are turning a deaf ear, let them take better care of small business owners, and then I won’t be hearing from people who have not received their compensation. We asked the Finance Ministry for very precise definitions for the stores that should reopen. So far we haven’t seen such a definition, we’ve only heard accusations.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.