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Israelis Are Skeptical as Hanukkah Brings Omicron Variant Restrictions (VIDEO REPORT)

Israelis Are Skeptical as Hanukkah Brings Omicron Variant Restrictions (VIDEO REPORT)

The Media Line asks Israelis if their government is right to close the skies to incoming tourists

Hanukkah is usually a peak season for tourism in Israel. But with the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading around the world, the Israeli government has closed the country to foreign visitors for at least two weeks. This measure has hit the tourism industry hard and is bound to have a ripple effect on the local economy.

The Media Line spoke to Israelis in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market to find out what they think of the government’s latest response to the pandemic.

Some of the interviewees reluctantly accepted the new restrictions, expressing the view that tough measures were necessary to save lives.

But the majority was skeptical and resentful. They don’t understand why it is necessary to take such extreme measures, and their patience has run out.

Ahmed, who sells pita in the market, takes a fatalistic attitude: “One who is supposed to die will die. Corona, not corona – it makes no difference,” he told The Media Line. “There are people who have corona and live. There are people who don’t have anything and die – it makes no difference.”

Shay, a Jerusalem resident, told The Media he was frustrated with the way the pandemic had been handled and the regulations enforced. “We have a need to return to whatever semblance of normalcy we can have,” he said, “and I don’t think that that normalcy needs to look like strict regulations [or] shutdowns of the economy.”

Another resident, Shir, doubts that the coronavirus even exists. “And even if there is corona, God is protecting us and the masks won’t help,” she told The Media Line. “Don’t believe the lies – the state is messing with you.”

Adi, who works in the tourism industry, said she and her colleagues were to begin receiving new groups from abroad when the rug was pulled out from under them. “This is our livelihood,” she told The Media Line. “We sat at home for a year and a half. And now that finally, people are starting to come back, starting to travel, again flights are canceled. We get no compensation from anyone and we have to feed our families, who depend on us.”

She further questioned the rationale for blocking the entry of incoming tourists but not Israelis returning from overseas. “It’s simply not logical,” she said, “that tourists are the ones who bring in the variants and not Israelis who get infected, return from abroad, and spread the virus.”

A number of interviewees expressed the view that there were better, more effective ways to deal with the virus than the measures taken by the government. But few had concrete suggestions about what those “more effective” alternative policies might be.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 5:10 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories431,1614,542423,1623,457
Saudi Arabia549,8108,839538,9662,005
United Arab Emirates742,1092,148737,0242,937


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