This Week in Jerusalem: Coronavirus drive-thru

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a large portion of the construction projects in the city have been curtailed, and there is concern that things might get worse.

People wait in their cars for being tested at a new drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey (photo credit: REUTERS)
People wait in their cars for being tested at a new drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Freezing construction
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a large portion of the construction projects in the city have been curtailed, and there is concern that things might get worse. The government has approved for Palestinian construction workers – who are the majority on the building sites – to remain inside Israeli territory for a month to two months and keep working or to go home and not come back to work until the crisis subsides. Last week, most of the workers accepted to remain on this side, expecting that things would be back to normal within a short time. Contractors are responsible for providing their workers with accommodation and subsistence. While many of the workers have accepted these conditions so as not to lose their income, the association of constructors in the city is concerned this will not go on for long, and if workers decide not to remain in Israeli territory, construction projects across the city will be stopped all together.

Coronavirus in – rent out
In a gesture to business owners, Israel Railways, the owner of the First Station compound, has announced that it is cancelling rent payments until the end of April – altogether two months of payments. The decision was taken considering that the virus has caused an almost total shutdown of the businesses operating at the First Station, and in an attempt to save the economy of the city as much as possible, in expectation for better days. The whole compound is a project managed and promoted by Avi Mordoch, a businessman and former Jerusalemite.

And when the worst occurs
The Health Ministry has instructed all burial society associations in the country to prepare separate purification and burial areas for the deceased from the coronavirus. As a result, corpses of those who died from the virus will be cleansed in a separate part of the Shamgar ritual cleansing site (in Sanhedria) and the burials will be done at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery. The rules from the ministry include a reiteration of the need to proceed according to the strictest hygienic steps while cleansing and burying the dead from the virus. Sources at the ministry say these measures are necessary to avoid reaching a situation similar to that of Italy, where there was no other option than to cremate the corpses. “We don’t want that here so we have to be extremely cautious,” concluded the source.

Virtual arts
The Jerusalem Artists House, located in the historic building of the Bezalel Academy of Arts, founded by Boris Schatz, has turned, like so many similar artistic venues, to the virtual option, in search for some continuity in the wake of the coronavirus. It’s simple to access the online museum, and it offers visitors a free tour of the house and the exhibitions. This is a way to preserve the elements that have always been part of our culture, and a reminder that we should hold on until better days come. www.art.org.il

Coronavirus drive-thru
Earlier this week, as of Sunday evening, Jerusalem has its own drive-in coronavirus testing area. The east side parking at Teddy Stadium has been prepared for this purpose, by joint teams of Magen David Adom and the municipality, under Health Ministry guidelines. Jerusalemites are invited to drive to the lot (there are plenty of signs to direct the drivers to the entrance of the checking area) and to take the test. The tests are run by the paramedics of MDA and are free of charge.

One more
Another hotel has begun accommodating residents who are ill with the coronavirus but do not at this stage require hospitalization. Hotel Prima Park, located at the entrance to the city near the Bridge of Strings, with its 315 rooms, has added its facilities to those of the Dan Hotel at French Hill, which has been operating since last week. Unofficially, the Prima Park will serve ill members of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, and is being adapted to their needs and customs.Planning in isolation
Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger (Degel Hatorah) has been in isolation since the end of last week, after he was exposed to a person infected with the coronavirus. Rauchberger has not been contaminated, but his isolation has caused the cancellation of two weekly meetings of the Planning and Building Committee that he chairs. If no sign of infection appears in Rauchberger, the meetings should resume next Wednesday.

Isolated doctors
As of Saturday night, according to the Health Ministry, 3,030 healthcare workers were in quarantine, “including 814 doctors and 893 nurses. Some 42 medical professionals have been diagnosed with the virus, and the number continues to rise.” There is great concern that more doctors and nurses will have to go into isolation, a step that would make things even more difficult for medical personnel who are already exhausted.

Corona and underprivileged children
Due to the pandemic, there has been a dramatic drop in donations from Jewish communities abroad, and the impact on needy families in Israel has been particularly heavy. This is one of the most concerning issues in the present situation. Moshe Lefkovitch, who founded and chairs Afikim, a non-profit organization that helps needy families in Israel, is terribly concerned.
“Some 550 families who live all year in poverty and rely on Afikim to care for their children are now more than ever in a state of despair,” Lefkovitch said. “Most parents, if not all, have been laid off from their jobs, and the stress of parents is palpable.” Lefkovitch added that these parents - most of them new arrivals from Russia and Ethiopia - truly do not know how they will feed their children in the coming weeks and months. Therefore, Afikim has initiated an emergency campaign to supply meals and food packages in the time of need. For more information, got to Afikim.org

Corona matzot
Former Jerusalem Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has decided to begin baking matzot for Passover earlier than usual this year in order to add more mitzvot (good acts), in an effort to obtain Divine mercy for the corona pandemic. Passover begins in a little less than two weeks, on the evening of April 8. Usually, matzah baking takes place at most five or six six days before the holiday.

And a nice pick-me-up
The Jerusalem Artists House, located in the historic building of the Bezalel Academy of Arts, founded by Boris Schatz, has turned, like so many similar artistic venues, to the virtual option, in search for some continuity in the wake of the coronavirus. It’s simple to access the online museum, and it offers visitors a free tour of the house and the exhibitions. This is a way to preserve the elements that have always been part of our culture, and a reminder that we should hold on until better days come. www.art.org.il