A man was imprisoned for four hours on Wednesday after he refused to pay a fine for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules by going to the beach.
Mike Peleg, 75, from the coastal city of Ashkelon received a NIS 500 (approximately $150) fine for traveling more than 100 meters from his home when he went to the seashore during the country’s first coronavirus lockdown in 2020.
Peleg decided not to pay the fine because he found it “irrational” and instead took the matter to court. The judge decided to convert the fine into a one-day prison sentence.
“A terrible crime has happened with all matters related to COVID,” Peleg told Channel 12 news, adding that he did not regret going to jail for the fine.
Peleg wrote on his Facebook page that going to the beach regularly was a routine that kept him in good mental health, as he said he was prone to depression.
Peleg said he knew that if he accumulated multiple fines for lockdown violations, he would not be able to pay them all. He said he had received one warning for his walks to the beach, in addition to the aforementioned fine.
“I am fine with my decision after a long period of consideration, which proved itself [to be correct],” he said.
However, he said he did not wish to serve as an inspiration for others to make the same decision.
Peleg reported to Dekel Prison in Beersheba on Wednesday and was released after just four hours.
Despite thousands of individuals and businesses receiving fines for coronavirus restrictions violations, prosecutions have been slow in starting.
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a national state of emergency on March 19, 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. He instated a number of legally enforceable restrictions. Under one regulation, Israelis were not allowed to travel further than 100 meters from their homes except under certain circumstances.
Those restrictions started to lift in April 2020, but were reimposed to various degrees during subsequent waves of the pandemic.
Israel has since nearly done away with its restrictions; the last major restrictions of wearing masks during international flights and required COVID testing for travelers coming into the country ended last month.