Muslims walk past Jerusalem’s Dome of Rock before dawn on May 31 for the first limited group prayer since the coronavirus pandemic led to strict lockdowns starting in March. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Belief It Defeated COVID-19 Challenged by New Spike in Cases

The confident – some say “smug” – air that has embraced the State of Israel for the past several weeks – the belief that it had defeated the COVID-19 virus more quickly and effectively than other nations – is being challenged by reports of 64 new cases of coronavirus in a single day. As of the end of last week, 284 Israelis had died from the disease while 16,872 cases were confirmed. The belief that the draconian measures imposed by the Netanyahu administration had proven to have been among the most effective world-wide could be seen among a population hungry to return to “normalcy.” Numerous instances of masses of people defying restrictions such as social distancing and the wearing of masks were reported in media outlets leading others to follow suit, believing the “all clear” had been sounded. Beaches, in particular, were full of revelers over the weekend despite the new figures having been released before the days off. Nevertheless, nearly 15,000 patients have recovered from coronavirus, with 1,900 being treated at the present time. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is opening on Sunday after being closed due to the virus since March 15. Worshippers must bring their own prayer rugs from home and wear masks, and the density of the crowd will be monitored. But the restrictions did little to impede the enthusiasm of hundreds who were at the Temple Mount – Haram al-Sharif to Muslims – before dawn. Israel’s political opposition has turned its attention to thwarting plans by the Netanyahu government to pass legislation that would extend emergency powers for another ten months – powers they argue come at a cost of personal freedoms including freedoms of movement, speech and the right to privacy.

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