Israel Opens for Business as COVID-19 Infections Plummet (with VIDEO)
People eat at a restaurant in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on March 7, 2021, after authorities reopened restaurants, bars and cafés to vaccinated "green pass" holders. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel Opens for Business as COVID-19 Infections Plummet (with VIDEO)

High vaccination rate means ‘return to normalcy’ well underway

Scenes of crowded restaurants, long lines at cafés, bands dotting the squares playing to passersby, children being amused by clowns and shoppers going in and out of stores had all but disappeared from the streets of Jerusalem. But with more than half the population now vaccinated, Israel has begun easing restrictions it has imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses are back open, and shoppers are heeding the call to turn out. And people are taking advantage of the weeklong Passover holiday to emerge from the seemingly endless lockdowns.

With a sharp and sustained drop in coronavirus cases and a successful vaccination campaign, authorities have relaxed many of the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic. As a result, life has nearly returned to pre-COVID times: Shops are open, eateries (those not closed due to the dietary restrictions of the holiday) are full, and even the border with Egypt has reopened, allowing hundreds of vaccinated Israelis to vacation at resorts along the Red Sea.

Vladimir Merakhovich drove from the northern city of Nof HaGalil (formerly called Upper Nazareth) with his wife for a day out in the big town. Now that restrictions have eased, and after getting vaccinated, they are going out more, and they are attending shows and concerts, he told The Media Line.

“We have a one-day vacation; we are traveling, [it’s] a nice time to breathe a little bit.”

Having restaurants and other businesses open has infused new life to what had been empty, soulless streets. For many, it is a symbol of a return to normalcy.

Israel has fully vaccinated more than half of its 9.3 million residents against the novel coronavirus, in the world’s fastest inoculation campaign.

Yitzhak Mandel said he now feels safe to go out with his children.

“Kids are excited, they are back at school. People are out and businesses are thriving. It’s great. Fun to be out,” he said.

And with spring officially here and Passover week coming to an end, it has made a believer out of Mandel.

“It really does feel like a miracle. A Passover miracle.”

Jaffa Road in the heart of Jerusalem is packed, and a woman from out of town cannot hide her excitement.

Dancing to street music, Bracha, who is visiting with her family, told The Media Line it feels like old times.

“I’m having fun, enjoying myself, having a good time. After the corona, you have to go out. Thank you, God, and bless Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] for bringing us the vaccines. And bless you, too,” she told The Media Line.

As soon as the US Food and Drug Administration approves the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, perhaps in May, the government will start inoculating that age group. Already at least 700 Israelis in that range, youngsters who suffer from serious risk factors, have received the jab.

The government is promising to have the entire country vaccinated and reopened by early summer.

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