Restrictions Relaxed but Tensions Rise

On Sunday Israel relaxed its requirement for people to wear masks outdoors – something which, understandably, most Israelis welcome. One journalist wrote:

‘I can’t wait to again experience what we surely used to take for granted
– the ability to look one another in the face and recognize
a smile or other emotional expressions.’

Israelis celebrate not needing masks outdoorsIsraelis celebrate not needing masks outdoors (photo: Michael Giladi/Flash90)

That relaxation of a COVID-19 restriction comes as government figures show nearly 5 million Israelis have received both doses of a vaccine – more than 50 percent of the total population. Just 95 new infections were reported on Sunday, with less than one percent of COVID tests yielding positives.

But tensions are rising

Sadly, while restrictions are easing, tensions are rising between certain sectors of the population. Clashes in the city of Jaffa began on Sunday with protests over an attack on a rabbi, leading to groups of Jews and Arabs confronting each other. They were separated by police for a while but later the situation descended into violence.

In Jerusalem riots broke out close to the Damascus Gate of the Old City and led to five Arabs being arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and attacking police officers. The police fired stun grenades and used a water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Similar clashes have occurred nightly in Jerusalem since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week. During Ramadan, Muslim residents usually gather on the stairs outside the Damascus Gate each evening but this year police have put up barriers to keep crowds away.

Buses seem to have become a particular target during this latest round of unrest as shown in the news video below. It has prompted the Israel Bus Drivers Union to warn that it is only a matter of time before one of their members is killed.