Tel Aviv residents assembled at a local beach to express their displeasure with Israel’s second nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The protest appears to have had a festive atmosphere – at least, until the police arrived.
Dozens of demonstrators, many of them wearing bathing suits and holding anti-government signs, defied quarantine orders and journeyed to Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv on Saturday. The protest comes a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown, purportedly in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus. All beaches will be closed as part of the weeks-long quarantine.
A much larger anti-lockdown rally took place on Thursday night in downtown Tel Aviv, but that protest didn’t have the same beach party atmosphere. Video from Saturday’s demonstration shows a group of Israelis splashing in the water as they danced to music and waved flags.
One demonstrator arrived with a shofar, a Jewish religious horn, apparently to protest the government’s decision to issue ‘travel permits’ to shofar blowers during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
Police eventually arrived at the scene and informed the crowd they were not allowed to protest at the beach. It is unclear if any arrests were made. As part of the new lockdown, which started on Friday, Israel has introduced a ‘cluster of 20’ rule, which requires demonstrators to separate themselves into groups no larger than 20 people, with each ‘cluster’ being socially distanced.
Israel has reported 179,000 cases and more than 1,160 deaths, with officials claiming that the mortality rate could surge, as new daily infections have recently topped 5,000. Authorities claim they lifted the first lockdown too soon, but the move to reimpose restrictions has angered many Israelis still reeling from the social and economic consequences of the initial restrictions. Netanyahu’s critics have accused the embattled prime minister of using the pandemic to distract from his slipping political support and corruption trial.
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