Israel in Crisis: A Second COVID Wave


Lab technicians test samples of suspected COVID-19 patients at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem

Sami Leder

Israel entered the Jewish High Holiday season with a second lockdown to battle a resurgence of coronavirus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed  the lockdown on  Sept. 18, the first evening of Rosh HaShana.

The Israeli government closed schools, dine-in restaurants, hotels, and malls for a

minimum of three weeks. They also limited the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings and required residents to stay within 500 meters of their homes, according to an official announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Haaretz, an Israeli magazine, reports Israel is the first developed country to reenter a lockdown after lifting it in May. Johns Hopkins University reports the country has had over 153,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and there are more than 30,500 cases in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The nation averaged 199.3 new cases a day per 1 million people during the seven-day period from September 2 to September 9, higher than any other country in the world.

The Jerusalem Post Editorial Board commented, “It’s amazing to think how Israel went from being the country everyone in the world looked to as a role model, to… an example of what you are not supposed to do.” The Board attributes the backward movement to a premature opening of the economy in early summer, a failure to effectively ramp up contact tracing and testing, and political interference in public health decision making.

Everyday Israelis are bearing the brunt of the backwards momentum. A recent article in Time Magazine quotes a 64-year-old Israeli seamstress as saying that “it’s unfair. They didn’t stop the big gatherings in synagogues, the weddings and the other events, and now I can’t be with my children and grandchildren during the holidays?” 

Michal Ilouz, an Emery/Weiner senior with many family connections in Israel, voiced concern that the country’s current situation may affect whether or not this year’s seniors get to go on the annual Israel trip. “No matter where in the world, people will ignore restrictions,” Ilouz said. “There is this stereotypical Israeli attitude of, ‘Everything will be fine.’ [This mindset] can really help us out even if it feels like the world is ending. We’re not helping ourselves by psyching out over hypothetical situations—if we just focus on the present we can live much better.”