Malls, markets, museums and libraries opened on Sunday for the first time in two months as the country continued to loosen the restrictions of its third lockdown since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.By 10:30 a.m., shoppers were starting to fill Jerusalem’s Hadar Mall, and some of the more popular stores already had lines to get in. Health Ministry directives limit the number of customers allowed in a store at one time.
Employees at the mall were full of enthusiasm as the day started.
“We waited a long time for this moment,” said Shir, a worker at the Steve Madden footwear store. “There is a lot of excitement, and people are already starting to come in this morning.”
“There is great excitement today, and you can see how people are reacting,” Hadar Mall CEO Liron Elkayam said. “We put a lot of effort into preparing for this day: cleaning, planning where people can and can’t sit, and coordinating with security to make sure they take people’s temperature as they enter, and [we] don’t allow them in if they aren’t wearing their mask properly.”
“We worked with people from the Health Ministry, walking them through the mall to make sure we met every one of their requirements,” she said. “We have people circulating throughout the mall to enforce the rules, making sure people have masks over their nose and that they don’t gather together too closely. We are working at the highest level to make sure everyone is in compliance.”
Meanwhile, shoppers wandering though the mall looked at ease, and there was a sense of optimism in the air.
“There is nothing scary about being here,” said Amitai Koretz, a Jerusalem resident who was shopping with his child. “Hopefully, the reopening will go well, and the vaccine will keep things from getting out of hand again. I’m glad the kids are back in school, and I hope that will bring some normalcy to our lives.”
The health club in Hadar Mall was still closed, Elkayam said.
“They are taking some extra time to get ready, and they plan to reopen on Tuesday,” she said. “I’m glad they are taking extra care to make sure they are all ready to open.”
Gyms, swimming pools and hotels were given permission to open Sunday only to “green passport” holders who are either at least a week after the second coronavirus vaccine or who have recovered from the disease. Many gyms would not open on Sunday out of concern that many of their members would not meet those criteria, informed sources said.
VIP Gym, in the center of Jerusalem, did open Sunday morning, but it showed signs that those fears were valid.
“There’s only one person training here right now,” a worker said. “A lot of our customers are young and haven’t had time to get both vaccines since they became available.”