Israel is reconfiguring for Jewish New Year holidays

Ultra-Orthodox Jews during a prayer next to their homes as synagogues are limited to 20 following government measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, in Bnei Brak, Israel on 8 September.

There is history and contingency: this is what Benyamin Netanyahu tried to remind his fellow citizens, when it was time to fly, Sunday evening, September 13, to Washington. The Israeli Prime Minister is due to sign, Tuesday at the White House, a document which enshrines the recognition of his country by two Arab Gulf monarchies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. It’s not quite a deal – details have yet to be clarified – but it’s a “Historical mission” which he fulfills.

As for the contingency, he had to announce it before leaving: Friday, September 18, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel will be the first developed economy to completely reconfigure itself. The epidemic caused by the coronavirus has grown out of control, with nearly 4,000 daily infections. In proportion to the number of inhabitants (9 million, of a relatively young median age), the number of deaths remains limited (more than 1,100), but the speed of circulation of the virus is almost a record: Israel is only ahead than by Bahrain.

This re-containment is causing despair, as one in five workers remains unemployed. Threats of disobedience are heard from hard-pressed restaurateurs or religious Jews, upset at the idea of ​​not meeting during the feasts of Rosh Hashanah then Kippur and until Sukkot, which ends on the 9th. October. In protest, ultra-Orthodox housing minister Yaakov Litzman tendered his resignation on Sunday.

A political failure

The country plans to close schools, restaurants and markets and limit the movement of everyone, but the private sector could be partly spared. Uncertainty remains as to the demonstrations which have brought together thousands of Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents in Jerusalem every weekend since June. Some were waiting for him at Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday evening, when he left.

This return to isolation is the result of a political failure: last week the government gave up imposing local confinement on Arab and ultra-Orthodox cities, among the poorest in the country, the most affected by the epidemic. Mr. Netanyahu’s religious allies, essential to his coalition government, refused.

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Israel could congratulate itself on having coped better than others with the first wave, by quickly confining and closing its borders, in March. But the epidemic was on the rise again in May. The authorities are still wondering whether this is due to the reopening of schools. They have multiplied since illegible arbitrations, and deplore the lack of discipline of the Israelis.

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