Anger, frustration as coronavirus rules neglected at Jerusalem school

'Just like the outbreak happened in my school, it could also have happened on the beaches with hundreds of people, the crowded parties, the mall and every other school.'

Gymnasia Rehavia school in Jerusalem (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Gymnasia Rehavia school in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Students and parents at the Gymnasia Rehavia school in Jerusalem expressed anger at the conduct of both students and the school's administration as the school became one of the epicenters of the newest round of coronavirus outbreaks in Israel, with 104 students, 15 staff members and three parents confirmed as being infected so far.
One student at the school, Amit Sason, wrote on Facebook that the school itself neglected to enforce or follow Health Ministry guidelines, putting over 15 students close to each other in each class and not making teachers wear masks.
"At the entrance to the school, everyone just collected and entered as we were all close to each other," wrote Sason, according to Channel 12. "When we came in with masks, we found that some of the teachers thought that masks are just recommended for them, and students sat one next to the other and in groups of more than 15 in a class."
Even after students and teachers were confirmed as being infected, the school remained open. "The school told us that there was nothing to worry about and that the people and youth that were in contact with the infected people didn't need to quarantine, which turned out be complete nonsense," wrote Sason.
Itai Mizrahi, a 12th grade student at Gymnasia Rehavia, told Channel 12 that while many students were blaming the school administration for the outbreak, they should also be looking at their own actions as many students neglected to follow Health Ministry regulations as well.
"From what I saw as a student, there were many things that were beyond the administration's ability to enforce: the hugs on the way to and after school, the students taking off masks during breaks despite the prohibition of this – and the list goes on," said Mizrahi, who blamed both the students and the teachers for the outbreak.
Mizrahi also pointed to the "feeling of euphoria" and the "indifference" to the coronavirus by the general public. "Just like the outbreak happened in my school, it could also have happened on the beaches with hundreds of people, the crowded parties, the mall and every other school."
Alma Zusman, a 12th grader at the school, agreed with Mizrahi, telling Channel 12 that students were hugging and meeting at restaurants and parties. "This is due to the general loosening in the country regarding the guidelines," said Zusman. "People aren't keeping distance and aren't being strict about masks – and as a result [they also aren't doing so] at school. I think that after the first student was found with the coronavirus, the school should have automatically closed and not returned to studies on Thursday, although I think that the big outbreak had already began a few days earlier."
One of the parents also expressed their anger to Channel 12, saying that "this is just the beginning of the incident – and as time passes, we understand the size of the damage that we caused to our surroundings without knowing."
The school stated that when the first case was reported on Tuesday, it consulted with the Health Ministry, Education Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality, which all told the school that it could remain open. Once another case was reported, the school decided to close.
While the Jerusalem Municipality announced on Saturday night that all schools except the Gymnasia would open on Sunday, many parents stated that they would not be sending their children to school. The Municipality stressed in its announcement that there is still no requirement for students to attend school.
During a press conference on Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the public that it must follow Health Ministry guidelines or the state would be forced to reinstate restrictions on the economy. "The coming days will be a test," he said.
The prime minister stated that while in recent days he had been shown graphs showing a downward trend in infection rates, he was now being shown graphs with upward trends. "It's too early to say if this is a general trend change, but it's not too early to say that this is a general loosening in discipline."
Education Minister Yoav Galant added that the regulations would be made clearer and sharper, adding that he had directed administrators and teachers to conduct a "briefing" on the regulations with students.
On Sunday, the Hartman boys high school in Katamon closed for a week after a math teacher there tested positive for the virus, according to the Hebrew website Ynet. The teacher also works at Gymnasia, where it is likely he was infected. 
Overnight Saturday, new cases were also reported at additional schools in Holon, Kiryat Ye'arim and Jerusalem.