Israeli's works to combat outbreak; Knesset faces shutdown: Israel Update

March 20, 2020

Israel’s Health Ministry has confirmed 705 cases of coronavirus. While most of the infected individuals have mild symptoms, 10 patients are in serious condition,18 are in fair condition, and 15 have fully recovered. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a national state of emergency and added new restrictions and enforcement tools to halt the spread of the virus. These restrictions are designed to prevent Israelis from leaving their homes unless “absolutely necessary,” and can be enforced through fines. All essential services will remain open, including supermarkets, pharmacies, and a majority of medical services. In addition, while Israelis are encouraged to work from home, employees who must travel to work will be permitted to do so. The Israeli Employment Service published a report on Friday morning showing that more than 450,000 people have registered for unemployment since the beginning of the month, with roughly 6,000 newly unemployed applying every hour. 


The Israeli government is concerned about the lack of adherence to new COVID-19 restrictions among certain segments of society—specifically the Haredi and the Arabs. The Health Ministry has run special campaigns—targeting those groups—in an attempt to convince them to abide by the restrictions.  Haredi and Arab leaders have met with ministry officials and on Friday morning, Israel Police set up blockades around the Temple Mount to control the number of worshipers going to the al-Aqsa Mosque. On the other hand, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have set up a joint operations room to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the West Bank.  


As the Israeli cabinet debated the new emergency closure orders applied to all Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and three Likud ministers demanded that the Health Ministry not exempt the Knesset from those orders, arguing for the shut down of Israel’s legislative body. Shutting the Knesset would prevent two major initiatives of the center-left bloc from moving forward – a vote to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud, and the passage of legislation preventing a person indicted for criminal offenses from serving as prime minister. The ministers’ positions were ultimately rejected by the rest of the cabinet. The ministers changed their position and the cabinet unanimously voted to allow the Knesset to resume work after it reopens Monday afternoon.


The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This page has been developed to help our community stay informed and provide the resources needed to stay connected and informed. As more resources are curated, this page will be continuously updated.  


Shabbat Shalom,



Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


P.S. If you or a friend would like to get our own, up-to-the-minute Israel Update, you can sign up here; when asked for "interests" click "weekly Israel Update."

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