Finance minister demands trains resume, culture be given green light — report
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Finance minister demands trains resume, culture be given green light — report

Israel Katz, a former transportation minister, reportedly says it ‘defies logic’ that railway still non-operational, even as Israelis crowd on buses

Train station staff and workers are seen receiving training instructions at Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, before a possible reopening order from the government on May 14, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Train station staff and workers are seen receiving training instructions at Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, before a possible reopening order from the government on May 14, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Israel Katz on Wednesday will demand the government allow train lines to resume after three months without service, and lay out target dates for the resumption of cultural events, according to a report Tuesday.

Israel’s rail network shut down in March as part of the government’s efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Earlier this month, it was announced that it would resume service on June 8, after a number of previous postponements. But that date was also delayed further, amid a rise in virus cases.

“It defies logic that tens of thousands of Israelis travel on packed buses while the train remains closed,” Katz, a former transportation minister, said on Tuesday, according to the Ynet news site.

He also called for the reopening of theaters and resumption of concerts and other cultural events, a day after thousands of arts and culture workers demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry and Knesset in Jerusalem. Invoking Israel’s plans to allow Greek and Cypriot tourists into the country beginning in August, Katz said the government must also permit performances.

Israeli workers from the culture and art industry clash with police during a protest outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem on June 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Now, when a date has been set to reopen the skies on August 1, and tourism and flights are resuming, this is the time to release the cultural industry to [resume its] full operations,” he said in a tweet.

Venues had been scheduled to resume operations in a limited capacity on Sunday, June 14, but this has been delayed until June 21 at the earliest, due to a new surge of infections in the country. However, that date too has not been finalized.

Addressing funding for culture, Katz also said the “hundreds of millions that were allocated to Culture Minister Chili Tropper to encourage the industry will allow artists and professionals to resume full-time work.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Minister Israel Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on October 27, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP)

The report said Katz would raise the issue at Wednesday’s meeting of the coronavirus forum of senior ministers.

Israel has lifted most restrictions on gatherings in the country, reopening schools, cafes, and restaurants. Earlier this week, it allowed weddings to be held with up to 250 guests.

But since lockdown restrictions were eased, virus cases have climbed. After a sustained drop in new cases, the number of daily infections has been on the rise in recent weeks, and topped 200 in one day late last week, before dipping slightly over the weekend.

Much of the resurgence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been blamed on the education system, which has seen hundreds of new cases confirmed in schools and kindergartens. The entire education system was shuttered for two months during the lockdown that began in mid-March.

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