Israel media review

Melancholy and the finite lockdown: What the press is saying on December 28

Shopkeepers are sad and frustrated, teachers are angry and parents are confused, but those who want to are able to see deliverance from the plague and its shutdowns coming up fast

A man closes his shop in Jerusalem on December 27, 2020, as Israel enters its 3rd nationwide lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man closes his shop in Jerusalem on December 27, 2020, as Israel enters its 3rd nationwide lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. A tale of two lockdowns: The front pages of Israel’s tabloids offer starkly different takes on the lockdown that began in Israel Sunday evening, each of them seemingly representing a politically convenient worldview.

  • Whereas Yedioth Ahronoth lets out a bloodcurdling “The third lockdown is a death blow” with its top headline, Israel Hayom goes with the optimistic “The vaccine is expected to shorten the lockdown.”
  • Both tabloids (and indeed several other newspapers) run pictures of bad traffic near Tel Aviv as their lead art, which — while yeah, the traffic was bad, was it really the story here?
  • Yedioth’s “death blow,” while overwrought, is a populist expression of the deep malaise and frustration felt by shopkeepers forced to shut again, as well as a way of pointing blame at the government for those already inclined to not like the right-wingers in power. But if the quote didn’t drive the message home, a picture of balloon shop owner Jean Macharva sitting on the floor and looking forlornly at balloons in his hand should do the trick.
  • “The state has once again found a way to take the air out of the balloons,” he writes in a column for the paper, in case the picture wasn’t on the nose enough.
  • Danielle Barak, who owns a clothing store in Kiryat Bialik, tells Kan that she no longer knows if she’ll manage to survive financially since she has big debts and no income. “I simply don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t see how I’ll survive,” she said.
  • Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist who has become a leading anti-lockdown voice, also tries to stand up for the little guy, telling Army Radio that “most Israelis want to stay healthy, they act according to the rules and understand them. But why does [the government] need to take out takeout, for example? They didn’t need to impose limits of movement, this is a totalitarian approach that has no place in Israel.”
  • Walla reports that Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama Hacohen is winning plaudits for his announcement that the city won’t enforce rules against restaurants that continue to operate takeout service despite the rules forbidding them.
  • “A million kisses to our mayor,” one falafel stand owner is quoted saying. “So much easier to do takeout than delivery,” he adds, explaining that he doesn’t want to have to employ more people to deal with the service.

2. Things are going to get easier: Meanwhile Israel Hayom, widely seen as a campaign organ for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, has been hard at work trying to downplay the deleterious effects of the lockdown. While it can’t ignore the massive damage to the economy, it does try to offset it with the success of the vaccine drive.

  • “The light at the end of the third lockdown is that now we can hope this will be the last shutdown. The government has managed to bring in many vaccines in record time, and thanks to them we have become one of the first countries in the world to start to vaccinate,” Sheba Hospital deputy head Arnon Afek writes in the paper.
  • Channel 13 expresses hopes that the lockdown will only last the planned two weeks, going off unreliable weekend data on morbidity rates.
  • “If [the rest of the week] looks like it did over the weekend, we’ll see a drop in the transmission rate, and even if it stays steady and does not go up, it’s possible that the lockdown will not be extended as expected by the government.”
  • For proof of the idea that politics plays a part in how people view the lockdown, a survey from Channel 12 news finds that 78 percent of self-defined center-left respondents blame the government for it, while among those who put themselves on the right side of the spectrum only 40 percent point a finger at the people in charge.
  • Among those blaming the government is former Education Ministry director Meirav Cohen, who writes in a column for the channel’s news website that “there is not a single mistake that decision-makers skipped over — it’s clear that during the exit of the second lockdown they made sure to make the same mistakes as during the exit from the first.”

3. Teach our children, unwell: In the exit from this third lockdown, nobody needs to worry about rushing the reopening schools, after the Knesset overrode the government’s decision to shutter grades 5-10, keeping the entire school system open throughout.

  • Haaretz lauds the Blue and White MKs who refused to rubberstamp the government’s decision, writing in its lead editorial: “On Sunday, a few days after the Knesset dissolved and after months of foot-dragging, [Blue and White] decided to show some muscle … While this step is too little, too late, it provides a vital reminder to Israelis of the importance of a strong and functioning Knesset.”
  • That’s not to say parents who want to send their tweens and teens off are off the hook. Channel 12 notes that “the decision has revived the relevance of the traffic light plan,” referring to the color-coded system which determines infection rates for cities. Only those marked as low infection, or green, can stay open, and as of Monday morning, half the country is red or orange, leading the channel to bemoan “confusion in the education system.”
  • There are also the teachers, who are threatening to strike if they don’t get vaccinated lickety-split. Union head Yaffa Ben David tells Army Radio that the head of the Health Ministry told her teachers would only get shots next week, and so a labor action is very much still on the table.
  • “The Health Ministry recommended against [opening schools.] I would be happy with the decision if they gave instructors the vaccines, and did not leave us in the line of fire and threaten our health,” she tells the station.
  • Walla reports that teachers are helping to try and put pressure on authorities to get teachers vaccinated first, but also say schools must be kept open even if teachers are not vaccinated.

4. Single, double, triple dose, ain’t gonna vax on Saturday: Everybody else appears to be getting vaccinated, though, with Israel hitting an astounding 100,000 shots given on Sunday.

  • Kan reports that the homebound will also start to get shots after a solution was found for the problem that injections can only be thawed in packs of 975 doses, making a home visit potentially very wasteful. The genius solution: split the packs and thaw fewer doses.
  • ToI’s Nathan Jeffay writes about Orthodox opposition to vaccinations taking place on Shabbat, under the argument that preventative medicine is not included in the exit clause that allows one to break the day of rest to save a life.
  • But “religious objections are not stopping healthcare providers,” he writes. “A spokeswoman for Maccabi Healthcare Services told The Times of Israel that her nurses vaccinated 7,000 people on Shabbat, some of whom had appointments for next month and were offered to vaccinate earlier if they took Saturday appointments. Opposition from rabbis would not stop them during future weekends, she said.”
  • Globes tries to look at why Israel has become such a world leader in vaccinating, coming up with a few environmental factors, like the fact that there are fewer people 65 and older than many other countries, and some questionable Israeli exceptionalism.
  • “The whole world is jealous of us, and it’s because we have state-run health care. The HMOs, which are non-profits, know how to reach each member,” says health expert Nadav Davidovitch to the financial daily.
  • And he adds one more reason: “When it comes to vaccinations, we’re a dream country. Despite the small core of anti-vaxxers, we are at our base a society that believes in vaccination. It’s in our DNA, since we get vaccinated in well-baby clinics.”
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