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Absorption Minister Galant latest top official accused of flouting virus rules

Likud official hosted daughter at home for Passover, despite lockdowns aimed at preventing family gatherings; PM and president also violated restrictions

Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant attends a memorial ceremony for late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on February 21, 2020, at the family's Sycamore ranch, near the Israeli city of Sderot. (Flash90)
Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant attends a memorial ceremony for late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on February 21, 2020, at the family's Sycamore ranch, near the Israeli city of Sderot. (Flash90)

Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant (Likud) is the latest top-ranking official to violate the government’s own restrictions, which banned Israeli citizens from celebrating the Passover holiday with those who don’t live in the same home.

Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that Galant hosted his daughter who lives in Tel Aviv for the entire seven days of Passover, despite the closures imposed throughout the country on the Seder night and the last day of the holiday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused a furor by hosting his son at his residence in a video issue on Passover Eve (though it may have been filmed some days previously — when the Israeli leader was supposed to be self-quarantining). And President Reuven Rivlin also hosted family in violation of regulations, as did Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman.

All did so after the Israeli public was repeatedly urged not to visit family for the holiday to avoid infecting them with coronavirus.

A spokesman for Galant said that “in view of the current protracted situation, the minister’s daughter, Or, who lives in Tel Aviv, moved to her parent’s house from the beginning of the closure, and until a return to normal.”

Rivlin on Tuesday again apologized for celebrating the Passover Seder with one of his daughters.

“I debated if I should write again at the start of the holiday. Sometimes it is better if a person does not speak, and accepts the anger head-on,” Rivlin wrote on Twitter.

Rivlin said he had seen a lot of anger in the past week over “the wrong choice that I made, which cannot be justified,” vowing to “act differently” on the final day of Passover.

Rivlin’s tweet was accompanied by a picture of him in a Zoom video call with his children and grandchildren.

He also put out an English-language version of the tweet.

His apology came as Israel, for the second time in a week, came under a complete lockdown of cities as authorities sought to prevent people taking part in celebrations for the end of the Passover holiday and the Mimouna festival, fearing gatherings could cause a spike in coronavirus infections.

From Tuesday at 5 p.m. until Thursday at 5 a.m., Israelis were barred from leaving their hometowns, or in the case of Jerusalem, the neighborhoods in which they live, according to the restrictions.

Rivlin, 80, along with Netanyahu, sparked anger last week as both appeared to flout their own rules on Passover while millions of ordinary Israelis were making sacrifices.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Avner hold a Passover Seder, April 8, 2020. (video screenshot)

Rivlin has already apologized and his office noted that since his wife died last year, a family member was always with him on Shabbat, holidays and flights overseas.

The rest of the country celebrated the start of the holiday under a strict curfew that was enforced from Wednesday from 3 p.m. until Thursday morning.

This saw thousands of elderly people forced to spend the holiday alone, without their children or grandchildren, while everyone else celebrated only with those confined together in the same house.

Perahia Shilo arranges the Passover seder dinner table next to a picture of her children and grandchildren, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, April 8, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Netanyahu was also slammed after his son appeared with him in a Seder video, despite the premier repeatedly beseeching young people not to hold the traditional meal with their elderly parents — unless they live in the same household — to prevent coronavirus infection.

In the video the 70-year-old Netanyahu was seen alongside the 25-year-old Avner Netanyahu at a Seder table in the Prime Minister’s Residence as the two read from the Haggadah.

The video was apparently pre-filmed before the holiday itself, raising further questions, as Netanyahu was supposed to be in self-quarantine over the previous week due to his contacts with a coronavirus patient, which only ended Wednesday night.

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