Malls, markets and gyms reopening today

Three Lag Ba'Omer fires on Mount Meron approved * Opening of daycares and preschools clouded

Gym illustrative  (photo credit: SNEHALKANODIA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Gym illustrative
Malls, markets and workout centers across the country are opening their doors Thursday for the first time since they were forced to shutter nearly two months ago due to the coronavirus crisis.
Patrons will be required to wear masks, have their temperature taken upon entry and stay two meters away from each other.
On Wednesday, shop and gym owners worked furiously to prepare their facilities for guests. Pictures were shared on TV and social networks of staff hanging signs, wiping down equipment and counters with disinfectant and sticking taping to the floors to mark where people can stand at checkout.
The move comes as the number of active cases of the virus continues to decline. The Health Ministry reported that there were only 5,434 people infected with corona – 142 less than the day before. Some 239 people have died and 69 are intubated. So far, 10,637 people have recovered – almost twice as many as those who are currently infected.
May 7 marks the second phase of the country’s exit strategy. The third phase is expected to roll out on Sunday with the opening of daycare centers, preschools and kindergartens. However, tens of thousands of parents across Israel remain unsure if their toddlers will have a classroom to go to on Sunday, despite the Health Ministry approving the government’s plan to reopen state-supervised daycare centers next week as planned.
The understandings between operators of the daycare centers and the finance and welfare ministries will enable the “operation of centers in accordance with health guidelines,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
“Opening the daycare centers is an important and necessary step in returning the economy and market to normal,” Labor and Social Welfare Minister Ofir Akunis said. “Opening the centers will enable about one million parents to return to work, and that is after ensuring the health of the children and staff.”
Approximately one-fifth of Israeli preschoolers attend state-supervised daycare centers. The others go to private centers, with which no agreement has yet been reached ahead of their planned reopening.
Dr. Shulamit Bismanovsky, head of the Organization for Private Preschools, said no government official had met with the umbrella group so far.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children who have not yet received a response from the government ministries,” she said. “I appeal to the prime minister to intervene immediately, so that kindergartens can open as scheduled at the start of the week, and declare that the education from birth to three years old is a critical service in the State of Israel.”
Parents of preschoolers ages three to six are also in limbo after the Education Ministry determined to open schools Sunday but without after-school care and with preschool classes broken into groups, with each learning three consecutive days in a row at school and then three from home. Despite the ministry’s best efforts, parents said with such a framework, they will not be able to return to work.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel on Wednesday said they hope to offer an alternative education program at local community centers to accommodate these children.
Israelis will not be locked down on Lag Ba’omer, but it will be celebrated in a more limited capacity than in previous years. On Wednesday, the government approved that on Mount Meron, three bonfires will be ignited, one for Ashkenazi Jews, one for Sephardi Jews and one for the religious-Zionist community. Some 50 people will be allowed to attend each bonfire ceremony by invitation and approval only. Participants will be identified, and anyone who is not supposed to be there will be removed, even by force.
Moreover, between May 14 and 17, directly following the holiday, entering and loitering in the area of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron will be forbidden, as will renting guest rooms in the area. Public transportation will stop during this period, too.
The government also voted to prohibit the lighting of all bonfires, even in private yards, from May 7-13.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.