Israeli Private Day Care Plans to Remain Open During Lockdown

‘If gatherings of 20 people are allowed, we’ll take in 20 children,’ facility owner says amid fears that even a temporary closure threaten to wipe out these businesses

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Early childhood caregiver Noa Tzur in Givatayim, on September 14, 2020
Early childhood caregiver Noa Tzur in Givatayim, on September 14, 2020Credit: Moti Milrod
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

Noa Tzur’s private day care center in Givatayim intends to open its doors on Monday, following Rosh Hashanah, in spite of a cabinet decision to shut down all educational institutions for three weeks.

Tzur still doesn’t know in what format she’ll open her day care, since she wants to do so while abiding by the law. “I’ll find some workaround, some legal nuance,” she says. “If gatherings of 20 people are allowed, we’ll take in 20 children. If we need to, we’ll extend our hours of operation and have two shifts.”

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During the previous lockdown, Tzur’s day care was closed, as were all other day care centers. This time, she and other private day care teachers are planning to do things differently. The Private Day Care Forum, which comprises 2,000 owners of private facilities for preschoolers, has announced that its institutions will remain open despite the government’s decision.

“We respect the prime minister and his cabinet members, but we can’t allow the collapse of our facilities,” said the announcement. “Day care centers will remain open, and parents will be able to choose if they want to send their children and go to work.”

Tzur is worried about the financial implications of shutting down for a second time. Last time, she got by because some parents agreed to keep paying, even partially, even when the center was closed. In return, she took care of their children for extra days over the summer.

But more than her own financial losses, Tzur says she’s worried about the welfare of her 32 children. “I have a large group of children for whom this is the first time they are in this type of institution. They’ve just started adapting and trusting the caregivers, but now they may close our day care.”

She says this adaptation process will go to waste if she remains closed for many weeks, adding that most parents want the day care center to remain open: “They want to work, and they understand that we are vital in allowing the economy to function. I realize some parents won’t send their children, but we have to give them the option.”

Keren Ohana-Ayus, co-chairwoman of the private day care forum, also opposes shutting down day care centers. She still hopes that these will be officially excluded from the lockdown restrictions, enabling them to operate legally. “If we’re an essential service, we should be declared as one,” she says. “If we’re a private business, let us operate according to Health Ministry guidelines. Decide what we are and give us appropriate guidelines.”

Ohana-Ayus, a lawyer by training who also owns a private day care center in Jerusalem, believes that closing day cares is wrong for health reasons as well. She says that the labor and welfare minister, whose ministry is responsible for private facilities for preschoolers, has said that the number of verified infections in supervised day care centers since the beginning of the year is only a few dozen toddlers and staff out of more than 100,000 children and 20,000 staff members.

“The numbers don’t justify a closure. Someone should explain the logic of this,” she says. It would be understable, she adds, if it was a total lockdown, with a shutdown of the entire economy. “But that’s not the situation,” she says. “My husband, a garage owner, will continue working and will come into contact with people. My daughter is a soldier, in contact with another thousand. She’ll come home for the holiday. They should explain why toddlers are left without a solution.”

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