Israel’s Battle with the Coronavirus

In comparison with many countries, Israel is doing well in its battle against the coronavirus. The latest figures reveal a total of 9,404 COVID-19 infections, 71 deaths, 147 people in a serious condition, 199 in a moderate state and 801 recoveries.

Medical team member in protective gearMedical team member in protective gear (photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Deaths in the country represent less than 1 percent of the number of infections, which is a much lower percentage than those experienced by other countries.

A set of strict government orders have been largely responsible for this, with Israelis only allowed to go 100 metres from their homes for some days now. And the restrictions are about to become even more severe, with approach of the Passover festival this evening.

The country is set to strengthen its enforcement measures with a curfew that is due to begin at 3pm this afternoon and last until Thursday morning. Officials will use drones and helicopters to monitor the lockdown for the first days of the Passover celebrations. In effect, these measures will confine people to their homes.

It is no surprise, therefore, that many Israelis are finding preparations for the festival difficult, and many are not looking forward to spending the Seder night alone, rather than being with family and friends.

Dr Yehuda Sabiner has not been able to return home to help his family prepare for the holiday. He has spent the past week caring for COVID-19 patients at Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Centre.

He told the Times of Israel how stressful it is for medics to treat people that they know from their neighbourhood and their own street, in addition to strangers.

But the health professionals are not the only ones doing good work amid the crisis. One Arab pastor from Nazareth organized deliveries of food parcels from his church to elderly and needy families during the coronavirus restrictions.

The local Jewish mayor was really surprised when the church also delivered crates of matzot (unleavened bread) to enable Jewish families to celebrate Passover properly. The pastor said:

“When I called Mayor Ronen Plot at 7:30 in the morning
he was just as surprised as I was that he answered the phone.”

It was unheard of for an Arab church to want to help the mayor’s Jewish residents celebrate Passover.

But it is not all plain sailing for the Israelis. The coronavirus has affected ultra-Orthodox Jews disproportionately because their way of life is so different from the rest of the population.

Implementing the lockdown in their communities has been really challenging, as described by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Tom Bateman.