JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel celebrates its 72nd anniversary as a modern nation on Wednesday but instead of barbecues in the parks and street parties, the country is under a strict curfew imposed to prevent a sudden flare-up of coronavirus cases.
Israelis are prohibited from traveling more than 100 meters from their homes except for essential needs.
Despite the restrictions, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for unity and national pride.
“Today, on Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day), in the shadow of the disease and its victims, and the economic crisis, we must not give up on our ‘togetherness’. We must not and we will not. We are happy and excited together, despite the distance,” Rivlin said in a pre-recorded Independence Day address.
The walls of Jerusalem’s Old City lit up with the Israeli flag Tuesday evening and the air force’s acrobatic team performed a nation-wide fly over with a special salute to the medical workers and hospitals fighting the coronavirus.
More than 15,700 Israelis have been infected with the virus, and more than 200 people have died.
The Health Ministry has reported a slow decline in the number of new coronavirus cases but still urges caution.
Before Independence Day, the government began rolling back coronavirus restrictions and will continue to do so after the holiday ends.
The Education Ministry is working to re-open schools next week.
Children in first through third grade will return to school with a limit on 15 students and classrooms at once. Children above the third grade will be required to study at home.
Last week, hairdressers, beauty salons, and chain stores were permitted to open as long as they adhere to hygiene rules. Restaurants and cafés were also permitted to open so long as they serve customers with delivery or takeout options.
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