Since it took the Israeli government until 20 April 2020 to form a coalition, the country was without a parliament when the pandemic first hit. Regulations were imposed and changed quickly, legislated under the state of emergency, in place since 1948. And then there was the "Major Coronavirus Law", passed on 22 July, which was met with outrage, since it allowed the government to declare a coronavirus-related state of emergency, under which new orders could be implemented without parliamentary oversight.
The association for civil rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights (Adala) filed a supreme court petition against the law, commenting that it
"(…) severely violates the fundamental rights of the individual. There is no justification for taking critical emergency decision-making out of the hands of elected parliamentary representatives operating with transparency. Worse still, the Israeli government’s frequent changes to its public health guidelines have damaged public confidence in the country’s leadership and in the guidelines themselves, thus reducing the ability of authorities to confront the spread of the virus."
"Damaged public confidence in the country’s leadership and in the guidelines" is key to understanding the laissez-faire attitude of young Israelis like the participants of FIT, who have decided to place the defence of their democracy above the curb of the virus.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is setting records with his vaccination campaign to claim victory over the virus at election time. Israel is the first nation having vaccinated already 36 percent of its population – more than 3.3 million Israelis have already received the first shot, while Palestinians have been completely neglected in Israel’s Covid-19 policy. Haaretz explains Netanyahu’s vaccination marathon as his best chance of achieving re-election in March, facing as he does the ongoing pressure of criminal charges and public protests.
Erosion of public confidence
"If the government’s regulations would make more sense, then maybe we would comply with them. But because everything here is political, people allow themselves to make excuses to go outside," says one young Israeli. Distrust of the authorities and growing frustration with the situation have led young Israelis to see the system – including its regulations – as the enemy, inducing them to disobey the government’s orders to curb the virus.
An article in Haaretz writes about the current lockdown that "it’s not all clear whether the public will abide by the lockdown anyway. The government has already officially given up on enforcing it in the ultra-Orthodox community."
Gaya’s standpoint reflects a general fatigue of lockdowns, masks and coronavirus regulations not uncommon among non-risk groups. This fatigue and the accompanying atmosphere of rebellion might seem selfish to some, for whom this behaviour only contributes to the worsening of the pandemic.
But it is important to consider its broader social context and understand nuances, such as political upheaval or the erosion of confidence as factors, instead of silencing these voices from a moralist standpoint. The pandemic has divided people into left and right, into conspiracy theorists and realists, into those who obey and those who don't (and maybe we have all been on both sides already).