Photo Credit: Wisam Hashlamon/Flash90
Arab student at the Am Kusa Bedouin community near Hebron, September 8, 2020.

Eran Segal, professor of computational biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, on Wednesday morning tweeted the names of the top “red cities” in the country. They are all Arab.

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Israel’s Health Ministry and the Coronavirus Czar in 2020 designated red cities as restricted areas, under the Law on Extraordinary Powers for Containing Novel Coronavirus. A restraint policy is being implemented in these localities, accompanied by decisions on lockdowns or the declaration of restricted areas.

One of Segal’s followers pointed out that most of the residents of these localities work in Jewish cities in trade, education, medicine, and banking. They noted that the chance that an aide in a hospital won’t help spread the virus in their communities is “low to non-existent.”

However, this fact is also true regarding the country’s population at large, which, close to two years after the pandemic’s outbreak, has been vaccinated, wears facemasks, and obeys the rules of social distancing.

According to the Institute for National Security Studies, a think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University, Arab society in Israel is facing several overwhelming factors that inhibit its ability to fight the pandemic (החברה הערבית בישראל בצל מגפת הקורונה).

  • Distrust of the government – within the Arab public, feelings of alienation and distrust of the government have expanded in the past decade against the background of being excluded by government policies and statements. It can be assumed that these influenced, at least initially, the degree of attention paid to the guidelines regarding dealing with Corona.
  • The density that characterizes the Arab communities and the social composition (large families, clans, tribes), make it difficult to maintain distance and prevent physical contact between the people. The cohabitation of families makes them a high-risk group. Family and tribal shopping centers, cafes and hookah houses, traditional social parties with many participants, are dense gathering places. And Arab nursing homes senior citizens are concentrated without protection and isolation.
  • Eighty-five percent of the Arab public is Muslim. Some of them, including most of those in the risk group of people age 65 and older, practice praying in mosques at least some of the five daily prayers.
  • At the beginning of the spread of the pandemic, most government messages to the public were not delivered in Arabic. Even later, much of the information in Arabic was distributed late. A significant portion of the Arab population, especially the elderly, is not connected to online information.
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David writes news at JewishPress.com.