IDF chief hosted his in-laws on Sukkot in violation of lockdown

Military says Aviv Kohavi and his wife thought it was okay to meet with guests in non-enclosed space, apologizes for ‘misunderstanding’

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi hosted his in-laws during Sukkot in violation of the national lockdown, Israeli television reported Thursday. Kohavi thus joined a growing list of public figures caught flouting the sweeping coronavirus restrictions.

According to Channel 12 news, Kohavi had has wife’s parents over at his home in northern Israel on the first night of Sukkot, which began last Friday.

Under the terms of the lockdown, Israelis are barred from hosting guests.

The IDF said Kohavi’s in-laws, who live three houses away from him and his wife, came to visit and sat in the yard, with masks and social distancing. The military said that was the result of a misunderstanding, with the family thinking meeting in open spaces was allowed.

“The chief of staff is sorry for [the incident] and accepts responsibility,” it said in a statement.

Kohavi’s violation of the coronavirus regulations was the latest in a string of cases of leading Israeli officials who have violated the rules enforced on the general public or have been accused of doing so.

Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman outside his home on February 11, 2016. (Flash90)

Earlier Thursday, the head of the Shin Bet security service apologized for hosting members of his family who do not live at his home during Sukkot.

“The head of the service [Nadav] Argaman apologizes for the incident and takes full responsibility,” said a statement released by the agency, confirming that he had violated the regulations.

On Tuesday night, the Kan public broadcaster broke the story about Argaman’s actions. The Shin Bet, which runs a contentious cellphone tracking program the government uses to track coronavirus outbreaks, initially refrained from commenting on the matter, saying it did not discuss the private lives of its members.

Before the start of the Sukkot holiday, the government approved fines of NIS 500 ($145) for anyone caught hosting someone not of their household in a sukkah, or anyone caught visiting a sukkah that is not their own. The ban on visiting another person’s sukkah is set to remain in force for two days after the festival ends. Similar fines are in place for visiting others’ homes during the lockdown.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who announced last weekend that she had been infected with the coronavirus, faced calls for her dismissal or resignation Monday, after confessing that last week she broke a lockdown limit by traveling from her Tel Aviv home to the northern city of Tiberias, a distance of roughly 150 kilometers.

She also reportedly tried to hide the trip from a Health Ministry epidemiological investigation into her infection.

Then-Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel attends a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Flash90)

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid announced on Monday that MK Mickey Levy will resign from the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee “by joint agreement,” after violating the lockdown rules.

In April, President Reuven Rivlin apologized to the Israeli people after it was reported that he celebrated the Passover Seder with one of his daughters, despite strict restrictions similar to current regulations that forbade family gatherings.

The report on Rivlin followed news that Netanyahu himself had shared his festive meal with his son Avner, prompting outrage that top leaders were flouting their own rules while millions of ordinary Israelis were making sacrifices.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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