88% of Israelis support reopening small businesses now – activist group

"We are being fooled!"

Central Jerusalem during the coronavirus pandemic (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Central Jerusalem during the coronavirus pandemic
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Businesses across the country are suffering due to the coronavirus-imposed restrictions. Many among those worst hit, café owners for example, warn that they don’t intend to wait even a moment longer and will begin to work in the open starting on Sunday.  
Up until now, many businesses attempted to bypass the restriction using creativity and a prayer. Falafel stands asked clients to call to have a “delivery” sent to them, which meant a worker would walk a few steps to the street and hand over the food. A florist would include parsley and rosemary, edible essentials, in a store so as to remain open and sell flowers – as if by accident – to shoppers, The Marker reported on Sunday.  
Now 64,000 members of the Facebook group ‘Lo Yihiyeh Beseger’ – a play on words between “it won’t be ok” and “it won’t be under lockdown” – vow to fight COVID-19 restrictions in the open, not by finding loopholes and hope the police will look the other way – and open stores while keeping the Purple Badge guidelines.
"We are being fooled!" they claim on their social media page. The government is keeping small businesses closed to ensure that the ban on protests will stay in place, they write. "We will change this [bad] decision."
How? By encouraging owners to open, in open violation of the restrictions, and providing them with legal help to avoid paying fines.  
Some “67,000 small businesses have closed down so far,” group co-founder Tamir Barlco told N12 news on Thursday, adding that at this rate, “100,000 businesses will close by the end of the year.”  
“This means millions of people will not have a future to look forward to,” the owner of Toha Café said.
In contrast to the claims of Finance Minister Israel Katz, who has presented four programs to aid those struggling with unemployment so far, Barlco said that, “in the past seven months, the government did nothing to take care of this.”  The group posted that 88% of Israelis support small businesses reopening. It should be noted that large supermarket chains, for example, are able to work as normal because they sell food.
Despite their calls on business owners to provide them with evidence that they dared to defy the current policy, no owner has sent any at the time of writing – likely because such a move would be an open invitation to the police to visit the business and impose a hefty NIS 5,000 fine.  
“Once they write you a report, they have you on their radar and keep on visiting you,” a business owner said on condition of anonymity. “Who needs the hassle?”  
Head of the Self-Employed Union Roee Cohen said on Sunday that he intends to beseech President Reuven Rivlin to pardon all business owners who "with their backs to the wall" opened their businesses in violation of the COVID-19 lockdown and got a fine, KAN reported.
"65,000 businesses are going to close by the end of the year," he said. "These are 300,000 unemployed people who will be with us for a very long time."
He referred to the manner in which the coronavirus restrictions are being enforced "an Isra-bluff," noting car washes that simply drive the customer's car into the wash and clothing stores that buy a few crates of fruit and sell clothes "on the side" just to remain open.
"I am saving lives for most of the day," he said, "people call me with empty refrigerators when they have no idea how to look after their kids." He warned that under so much stress, people can't sleep, can't eat, and are on the verge of heart failure.
The group lashed out at the government for what it claims is its ongoing failure to provide a personal example by obeying its own policy.  
“We’re not angry at [the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,] Sara Netanyahu for inviting a hairdresser to the prime minister’s residency,” the group claimed in a post, saying that “she proved what we have been saying for weeks.” The COVID-19 restrictions, they claim, make no sense at all.  
Netanyahu claimed she had the hairdresser over to produce a video in which she encourages citizens to wear facial masks.
The report about her personal conduct led the union of hairdressers to call on the government to allow them to return to work.