Israeli lawmaker infected with COVID-19 accused of violating lockdown rules

Israeli government minister Gila Gamliel at the Ministry of Social Equality in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Flash90) 

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An Israeli lawmaker who is infected with COVID-19 is accused of breaking the lockdown to pray in a synagogue on Yom Kippur located more than 100 miles from her home.

Gila Gamliel of the ruling Likud Party, who serves as environmental protection minister, announced Saturday that she had contracted the coronavirus. Haaretz reported that Gamliel avoided responding to contact from Israel’s Health Ministry for several hours and at first said she had contacted the virus from her driver.

In fact, Gamliel had broken the national lockdown rules to visit a synagogue in Tiberias on Yom Kippur, about an hour and a half away from her home in Tel Aviv. Israelis are required to remain up to a .6-mile radius from their homes, including for prayer, and are not supposed to spend time with family members with whom they do not live. In Tiberias, Gamliel and her family stayed in an apartment owned by her husband, whose father is a leader in the synagogue, and they spent time with members of their extended family.

The violation comes as tensions deepen over Israel’s coronavirus crisis. Some 20 people had to go into isolation due to close contact with Gamliel, including workers at her ministry, Ynet reported, and calls for her firing or resignation have come from many quarters.

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Gamliel apologized in a contrite statement and said she would pay the fine, one of thousands issued by Israeli authorities in recent weeks to deter lockdown violations.

Meanwhile, the head of the mostly Arab Joint List Party, Ayman Odeh, announced Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said in a tweet that he has a mild fever, and plans to continue working from home. As he has since the onset of the pandemic, he called on his followers to observe regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.