Israel marks Jewish New Year as it fights 4th pandemic wave

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Jerusalem – Israel at sunset on Monday began marking the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), one of the most important Jewish festivals, amid the country’s effort to curb a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike last year, when Israelis celebrated the occasion in lockdown, this time around people can enjoy the traditional family dinner with no movement restrictions.

The government has limited indoor and outdoor gatherings to 50 and 100 people respectively and is recommending open-air meetings only and that people intending to attend events obtain antigen tests before the celebrations.

The country appears to have begun bending the infection curve with the new case tally standing at 5,810 yesterday, compared to 11,000 daily cases recorded last week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has opted for a soft strategy to contain the pandemic based on keeping restrictive measures to a minimum to avoid economic paralysis.

The government urged caution during the two-day Rosh Hashanah celebration, followed by Yom Kippur on 16 September and Sukkot (September 20-27) – two other important religious celebrations for which Jews usually gather or attend mass religious events.

In recent months and despite a resurgence of infections, the coalition government has adopted a strategy to contain the spread of the virus by administering a third booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine along with implementing other preventive measures although it has avoided imposing another lockdown so that it can keep the economy going.

Experts say the current wave of infections is showing signs of slowing down and that the third booster dose, which has already been given to more than 2.5 million Israelis, is starting to pay off.

“I am very proud that we fought for the livelihoods of the citizens of Israel and have reached the beginning of this year without lockdowns, in contrast to the previous waves,” Bennett said.

“It is still too early to celebrate – we have a long campaign ahead of us- but we’re taking it step by step and dealing with it,” he added.

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