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Netanyahu holding Passover Seder with his son leads to criticism

After urging young Israelis not to visit parents for holiday, PM videoed with Avner reading from Haggadah; explaining matter, sources say son has been living with family for weeks

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

Questions have been raised about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son appearing with him in a Passover Seder video, despite the premier repeatedly urging the Israeli public in recent days not to visit family this holiday, and specifically 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 is 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 and Avner speaks of the relevance he feels the story of Passover has to the lives of Israelis today (it is traditional for the so-called head of the household to discuss the themes and relevance of Passover to the lives of the younger generation).

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

Pundits and social media commentators claimed that in order to be with his father at the mock Seder, Avner, who shares an apartment in Jerusalem with his girlfriend, would have had to break social distancing guidelines frequently cited by the prime minister in his television appearances.

Sources close to the prime minister told Channel 13’s Barak Ravid, “In the past month Avner has spent many hours a day at the Prime Minister’s Residence while sleeping in his apartment adjacent to the Prime Minister’s Residence inside the secure compound. Avner behaves according to the directives of the Health Ministry and does not go out anywhere.”

But Ravid questioned what apartment was being referred to, saying he was unaware of the younger Netanyahu having another home besides the one he shares with his partner.

Regardless, many commentators said the premier was setting a bad example by holding a Seder with his child after the public was compelled to avoid such gatherings.

Meanwhile, supporters of the prime minister accused critics of looking for ways to attack him, stressing Avner, according to the family’s version, was practically living in the same household in the past weeks and thus allowed to meet with his parents.

Avner Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the PM’s official Jerusalem residence on October 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Wednesday saw a curfew enforced throughout the country from 3 p.m. until Thursday morning. The curfew was aimed at preventing Israelis from spending the festive holiday meal with family or others, which officials feared could lead to a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections and set back Israel’s efforts against the virus.

With the lifting of the curfew, Israelis could travel more than 100 meters from their homes for essential purposes only, and businesses could reopen, though it was unclear if many would do so during the holiday.

Israelis continued to be barred from leaving their home towns as part of a general lockdown nationwide that won’t be lifted until Friday at 6 a.m. In Jerusalem, which has the most virus cases in the country, residents could not travel beyond the one of seven city designated zones in which they live.

However, the government was set to convene Friday and may further extend the lockdown, according to the Walla news site.

To enforce the curfew, thousands of police officers were deployed throughout Israel, backed by some 1,400 IDF soldiers helping to ensure Israelis adhered to the restrictions.

Confined to their homes and instructed to only spend the holiday with those they live with, many Israelis celebrated the first night of Passover alone, or if less religiously observant, used video chatting programs to connect virtually for the meal.

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