Israel was the first country to enter a second national coronavirus lockdown, but with new daily cases of the coronavirus reaching up to 9,000 recently, and with public trust in the government plummeting, there has been little letup in a growing sense of chaos and loss of control.
Several factors are complicating its struggle with a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths that, relative to the size of the population, is among the worst in the world.
Curbs on protests under the new lockdown — limiting gatherings to 20 masked people, two meters apart and no farther than about half a mile from their homes — have backfired. Israelis calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is standing trial on corruption charges and has been a focus of blame over the country’s handling of the pandemic, have staged hundreds of smaller demonstrations, even as protesters face an increase in attacks by their opponents and the police are also accused of violence.
The authorities are also struggling to prevent large gatherings in the country’s ultra-Orthodox communities during the Jewish High Holy Days, which began on Sept. 18 and extend until Oct. 11. Dr. Ronni Gamzu, Israel’s coronavirus czar, said last week that 40 percent of those testing positive came from the ultra-Orthodox community, even though it makes up only about 13 percent of the population.
Some Hasidic sects insisted on holding indoor prayers to celebrate Sukkot, the Jewish harvest holiday. Stormy confrontations broke out on Sunday in some ultra-Orthodox areas.
But the large weddings that were blamed for a surge of infections among Israel’s Arab minority over the summer have subsided, after Arab mayors acted to enforce restrictions on large gatherings. There has been a significant decline in new cases among Arab citizens of Israel.