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Israel media review

Nocturnal submission: What the press is saying on September 9

Millions of people are under nightly curfew, though descriptions in the media focus on lack of enforcement, confusing rules and downright refusal by some to heed them

Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem as Israel enforces a night curfew on September 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem as Israel enforces a night curfew on September 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Curfew? Curfeh! After a handful of delays (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to lock down high infection areas in June, but who’s counting) Israel finally imposed what it is calling a curfew on 40 towns and neighborhoods, restricting their movement at night, to protect them from the nocturnal virus.

  • “1.3 million Israelis under curfew,” reads the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth.
  • Israel Hayom goes slightly less dramatic with “Hundreds of thousands under night curfew.”
  • The real number? Probably somewhere in between, with plenty of reports of non-enforcement and people simply ignoring the curfew rules.
  • Residents tell Hebrew-language media there was widespread confusion as the much-touted measure, designed to combat skyrocketing infection rates and set to continue for a week, was left mainly on paper.
  • Haaretz reports that in supposedly locked down areas in Jerusalem, businesses remained open in defiance of the curfew rules, and police officers manning roadblocks barely prevented anybody from passing.
  • “A walk around Jerusalem’s ‘red’ neighborhoods showed the curfew to be relatively airy and seen by the public is illogical and unsustainable.”
  • In Eilat’s Shahmon neighborhood, only one cop asked those exiting the neighborhood why they were leaving and implored them to go back home if it wasn’t a vital need, Ynet reports.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth notes that in Beit Shemesh, four cops sent out to enforce the curfew ended up attracting a crowd themselves with kids surrounding them. The kids, who sometimes throw rocks or calling the cops Nazi, were mollified though by some popsicles handed out by the cops: “Beyond that, it was a normal night in the neighborhood, public transportation ran as normal and at a yeshiva on Hazon Ish Street, learning continued through the night.”
  • “Partial enforcement, travel as normal and the school question: This is how the night ‘curfew’ looked,” reads a headline in Walla.
  • The story notes that police are expected to augment their numbers, along with some 1,000 troops, and that the main focus will be on preventing gatherings.

2. Too many mitzvah men: Perhaps they should start with deputy education minister Meir Porush, who is given a good chiding from Channel 12 news for attending a large wedding in Haifa.

  • While Haifa is not under curfew, a video published by the channel and others shows what looks to be hundreds of people sitting close together on bleachers and cheering on a “mitzvah tanz” hootenanny.
  • “At the request of the organizers, many of the crowd wore masks, but you can see that many of theirs are placed under their chins and not covering their mouths as needed,” the channel reports (and take what you will from the fact that covering the nose is not even mentioned).
  • In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer writes that anyone who thinks a yeshiva can do social distancing has never actually been inside one.
  • “A visit to some of the main yeshivas in Bnei Brak this week reveals that the plastic sheets are still up, though here and there you can see makeshift gaps for passing between the capsules. Outside the study halls, meanwhile, there is nothing to separate the students crowding through the narrow corridors and lining up by the kitchen door for hot trays of food to take back to the dormitory,” he writes, pointing out that the schools are not cloistered away but built into the fabric of the city, sometimes inside apartment buildings.
  • “After visiting some yeshivas and talking to staff at others, it’s clear that nothing is preventing the students from roaming the surrounding streets between study sessions and in the evening, or shopping in the local stores. Some prodigious teenagers are no doubt capable of not leaving the yeshiva building through the 40 days between the beginning of Elul and Yom Kippur, but they’re rare individuals,” he adds.
  • Ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Hashabbat quotes Rabbi Zion Boaron calling on the masses to come to synagogue to pray for synagogues to be kept open over the High Holidays, showing a Mr. Magoo-esque lack of understanding of how pandemics work.
  • “We need to pray to God more, especially now. People are leaving synagogue, it’s not right. There’s no danger in synagogues,” he’s quoted saying.

3. Not an open-shut case: Even those who are trying to keep the rules, or say they are, are still stymied by confusion, which appears to be rampant.

  • In Bnei Brak, Chanani Bleich reports for Israel Hayom that “instructions from various authorities were contradictory. Girls’ schools, for example, have been canceled, but the city announced that the heads of each Talmud Torah for boys could decide for themselves whether or not to open. Daycare centers are open, but nursery schools are not.”
  • “On Tuesday night, the streets of Bnei Brak were quiet and sad, and empty, because we are disciplined. Mournful, because once again we Bnei Brak-ites have been singled out. Elsewhere, everything is open, but for us, everything is closed.”
  • Haaretz reports from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria that residents are convinced they were mistakenly lumped in with “Greater Sanhedriya,” which is apparently a different neighborhood.
  • “In Greater Sanhedria, there’s a compound for the elderly with many sick, so they put down that there are many sick there,” a shop owner is quoted telling the paper, adding that he tried to explain it to coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu. “He does not know Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, like I don’t know Dimona’s. I told him ‘you’re going to look like a fool.’”
  • “Every time it’s another rule,” a bakery owner in Elad tells Yedioth. “Now they say food stories can stay open at night, but I don’t know what that means for me.”
  • It’s not only the ultra-Orthodox who are confused and unhappy. A bakery owner in Druze Daliyet al-Carmel tells Army Radio, “They’re closing my business at the most critical hour, as if coronavirus runs rampant at night.”

4. Save all the Ferrises: Kan reports that schools in Ashdod neighborhoods under curfew were opening up Wednesday morning, which would appear to be against the rules. But a teacher tells the channel: “I didn’t hear that schools need to close today.”

  • With schools continuing as normal elsewhere, some initial numbers are raising alarm bells about them being vectors for the disease.
  • “Sharp rise in the number of infected young people,” reads a Channel 13 headline. The channel points out that over the last week, those 19 and under represented 35 percent of those getting infected.
  • What the channel does not point out is that the number is not that much higher than what it was the week before, when schools were still out, according to official figures.
  • Walla news reports that 1,817 students have been infected since the start of the school year, according to Education Ministry numbers. However it adds that Education Minister Yoav Gallant claims that the number of tests coming back confirmed among students is a quarter that of the general population, which is maybe a silver lining?
  • A headline on Channel 12’s website claims that “Almost all the new serious cases are young people.”
  • Reading the story, though it becomes clear that their definition of “young” is 59 and younger (which may thrill some 59-year-olds). Plus it’s based on anecdotal evidence from one hospital, Rambam, at one point, now, when 10 out of the 11 people on ventilators are 50 or younger, the youngest being 24.
  • Not that that makes it any better. “We’re majorly overcrowded, the staff is tired and frustrated. We’re seven months into this and can’t see a horizon,” Rambam hospital head Michael Halbertal tells Army Radio.

5. A sorry sorry: Netanyahu’s apology — not for allowing politics to get in the way of the response to the coronavirus, but for the fact that police killed a man and then tried to tar him as a terrorist — also makes major news.

  • The case makes the front page of Israel Hayom with a headline claiming that former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman “gave the order.” According to the paper’s claim, Argaman gave the order for his organization to cover up a report that found that Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an was not a terrorist.
  • “The Israel Police declared the incident a terrorist attack, and now it appears that not only Alsheich, but also senior officials in the Shin Bet – including Argaman – prevented the representative who had been at the scene from giving the Internal Investigations Department her version of the events,” reports the paper.
  • Gobs of evidence showing not only that Abu al-Qia’an was not a terrorist but that he was killed by police for seemingly no reason, causing the crash that they called a “car-ramming,” have been out there since almost day 1. In February, a major report showed that the evidence the police had linking him to the Islamic State was all of a standard Islamic textbook and copies of Israel Hayom found at his home.
  • The fact that Netanyahu’s “sudden” discovery of the truth and his televised apology dovetail with a report being used by his allies to undermine trust in the police in the cases against him is not lost on many outside Israel Hayom.
  • “Three years, reports by the Shin Bet security service and the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct, dozens of video clips and investigative reports (including some in Haaretz), all without a single bit of evidence pointing to Abu al-Qia’an’s guilt, and still the penny didn’t drop. That happened only when Netanyahu spotted an opportunity to attack the former police commissioner and the former state prosecutor,” writes Yossi Verter in Haaretz.
  • In Yedioth, Ben Dror Yamini writes, “When did the picture suddenly become clear? Only when it became linked to the unending battle between law enforcement and Netanyahu.”
  • But he adds that it does not mean the cops and those involved in the alleged cover-up should get a pass: “Netanyahu’s apology, no matter the motivation, is not the end of the story. This time, one has to admit, calls for an investigation are justified, even if they come from the political fringe.”
  • But Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi tells Army Radio he won’t back MK Bezalel Smotrich’s push for an investigation and take part in the political games.
  • “I know what this is and what it’s meant to do. We won’t support the bill, despite all the claims we have against the prosecution, going back to the October 2000 protests — the violence is because they are dealing with Arabs, not in order to hurt Netanyahu.”
  • Jabr Abu Al-Qia’an tells The Times of Israel that he hopes Netanyahu is not merely exploiting his brother’s memory and this will all lead to more concrete support for the Abu Al-Qia’an family.
  • “This is a first step. I can’t say if Netanyahu’s apology was real,” Abu Al-Qia’an says. “But we want to see actions: Compensating the family, opening the investigation, and prosecuting those involved.”
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