In Arab Israeli Town, 100 Returnees From Overseas Flout Quarantine

Some of them went to the El Clásico soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona earlier this month where two others Israelis who were later found to have coronavirus also attended

A woman walks around the Arab Israeli town of Tira, March 2020.
Amir Levy

A hundred residents of Tira who recently returned from overseas and are required to quarantine themselves at home are walking around the city unrestricted, according to the municipality.

Some attended the El Clásico soccer match in Madrid last week, which was attended by two other Israelis who got diagnosed with corona upon their return. Tira’s Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay said he was considering turning to the police to enforce the quarantine, calling on Tira residents to adhere to Health Ministry guidelines. He noted that no case of corona had surfaced in the city of 26,000 yet.

The head of the local parents committee, Muaz Iraqi, told Haaretz that some of the people returning to Israel continued with their routines, sending their children to kindergartens and schools. “Earlier this week, parents became troubled and the number of children attending schools dropped. There was a lot of pressure by parents to take concrete steps,” he said.

A Barcelona player reacts during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, March 1, 2020.
Andrea Comas,AP

Due to the situation and parental pressure, the municipality decided to close all schools from Thursday until Sunday. Thousands of children, from kindergarten to high school, did not come to class. Meetings will be held on Friday and Saturday to decide whether classes will be suspended next week as well. In the meantime, schools will be disinfected.

One resident said she decided not to send her daughter to kindergarten even without the decision by city hall. “The fact that parents and residents thumb their noses at guidelines and ignore instructions raises many concerns,” she said. “I know parents who were overseas and did not quarantine themselves when they returned, sending their children to school. It’s an attitude of ‘don’t worry, it will all be fine,’ as if nothing could happen. This only increases the stress.”

Similar complaints have been made in other Arab communities. The Galilee non-profit group, an Arab group promoting health services, held an emergency meeting in Shfaram this week, with the participation of the national committee of Arab mayors, parents committees and a monitoring committee for education in Arab communities. The group’s director, Ahmed al-Sheikh, noted that his group emphasized to the mayors the need for early preparations and increased dissemination of information, asking them to call on residents to abide by quarantine instructions.

“There is no cause for alarm,” said al-Sheikh. “On the other hand, we need to be prepared. The Arab public is relatively young but there’s a need to be extra cautious. Local authorities can help a lot with giving out information to stop the virus, assuming that the required steps are taken and people don’t dismiss the need for quarantine.”