The head of the Yeruham local council, Tal Ohana, calls on local leaders to accept responsibility and not wait for the Israeli government and the Ministry of Health to recover and deal with the corona outbreaks. The city of Yeruham was defined as red between September 8 and September 18, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The number of patients in the city climbed to 100 people and the municipal graph showed the peak of infections in the city on 13 September.
Ohana, the mayor for the past two years, understood the severity of the problem the day after the start of the school year, after three cases of infection were discovered within one class of study at the city’s largest high school. That night, at midnight, Ohana ordered the school to be closed immediately, for all grades – from seventh to twelfth grade. 400 students, 60 teachers and staff were all sent home immediately.
“Although the instructions were to close only the capsules and only within a specific layer, I decided at midnight to close everything,” says Ohana, who told “Globes” that she was not satisfied with that. “I ordered the immediate closure of all informal activities in the city. Classes, music, sports, community centers, art, youth movements. And we also ordered the closure of all cultural activities, after in August we did an urban festival, with the participation of a thousand people and artists like Nasreen Kadri, a film festival and Grandpa Tuvia. The events were outside, in capsules, with registration and tests, because we also believe that it is possible to live a full life alongside the virus. “
Ohana in a testing complex in the city / Photo: Yeruham Local Council
The story of Yeruham should be taught throughout the country. Thanks to the closure of the school shortly after the start of the school year, Ohana interrupted the contagion chains. In retrospect, two teachers from the schools became infected and fell ill, but since then the city has reached the end of September and the number of patients has dropped.
From 100 to 44 and the city turned green.
What did you do in the city during this period with trade and industry?
“Industrial plants are essential, and there is extreme adherence to the rules. People work shifts, capsules, remotely. There are no casual contacts in the plants. So they continue as usual. I did not impose further restrictions on commercial activity, but I created more enforcement in the city. Our inspectors walked around the mall. “In the mail, in the market. The police imposed fines and the municipal inspectors increased awareness.”
Was there resentment in the city about stopping the activities of the classes?
“There was a certain difficulty with the sport because the season just opened. But I was very clear. There was an argument in the municipal gym as well. I insisted. In retrospect there was a chain of glue inside the gym. Lucky we closed. The private gyms only closed with the state closure before New Year”.
What about the stores?
“The stores are currently closed. Anyone who can work with deliveries, I hope will continue with deliveries. Food deliveries, houseware deliveries, grocery deliveries, clothing deliveries. It is possible.”
How did you make the decision to close synagogues?
“First I must say that we have a Chief Rabbi of the city, Yitzhak Shalev, who is an amazing and responsible person. I could not have done it without him. Shalev acted with rare courage, both in the first wave that fell on Pesach and in the current wave. To each of them and asked them to be responsible to the worshipers. After all, the Gabayim cannot stand in front of the worshipers who come. It is difficult.
“This time, right at the beginning of September, I invited all the synagogue collectors, together with the chief rabbi, to a conversation with me. I told them: ‘I understand that you are having a hard time enforcing the guidelines. I want to make it easier for you, and ask you to simply close the synagogues.’ “In September, the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah, everyone prayed outside. The synagogues were closed on Rosh Hashanah and also on Yom Kippur.”
A performance by Nasreen Kadri in August in accordance with the rules of the Koruna / Photo: Yeruham Local Council
Provide computers – and connect to zoom
In Yeruham, about 12,000 residents. 70% of the residents of Yeruham are religious, ultra-Orthodox or traditional, who visit synagogues on holidays. Less than two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, Ohana realized that the holiday prayers would be Yeruham’s test. And that it must provide the general public with an immediate solution.
Ohana decided that outside any synagogue she would set up a grill, bring plastic chairs and arrange lighting and prayer cycles.
She turned to the bases near Yeruham and asked to borrow large shades. Later, she expanded the circle of referrals, reaching as far as IDF bases in the Ramla area. Everyone responded and provided her with loans on loan.
“These are not conditions like inside the synagogues. These are field conditions and these are many worshipers who are adults and certainly on Yom Kippur outside, in the heat,” says Ohana. “The goal was to tell them, friends, we would not give up prayer but we would do everything according to instructions, in the quorum.”
But how did you convince the public that there was grave concern within the synagogues?
“In a proactive way. I posted posts on Facebook that follow every patient. I wanted to create an awareness for the public of Yeruham, that my aggravation with schools and classes is not just and it is not enough. It put everyone on alert. We made a ‘wall and tower’. In one night we built 46 complexes “External prayer. After we did that, the Ministry of the Interior issued a directive, a few days before Yom Kippur, and allocated NIS 25 million, NIS 1,000 to each synagogue, to fund barbecues.”
What will happen after Simchat Torah?
“We have set up an urban set-up, which looks at the situation after the closure. We have an education sign. My working assumption is that children from fourth grade and up are in homes with distance education until June 2021. About the schools. “
Ohana says she has raised dedicated donations from the Mandel Foundation, Elbit and other donors and has purchased 300 computers for children in homes where there is not a single computer. Some have already been distributed and others will be distributed after the holiday. The municipality’s ‘education sign’ has opened a switchboard to address questions and difficulties of residents in connecting to Zoom. Technical key people sit there and they answer questions and even come to any home where they are unable to use the systems. The education department in the municipality receives a daily report on the quality of learning in each classroom, what was the scope of learning, who did zoom sessions and who did not.
“We develop a whole set of services, with emotional support for parents, for students. For example, in kindergartens the instruction is to zoom in daily with the educational staff. I realized that instructing a zoom, every day for 20 minutes, is not enough. We started producing ‘meeting’ for children. Zoom at the fire station, at the police station, at MDA. Tell the children who is driving the ambulance. I am developing the program, which will be relevant to every age group. “
I hear mayors proposing to stop residents moving from red to green cities.
“I would close the crossing between cities. In fact, I already did it, in the first closure. I heard that before Passover people were coming from outside the city for the holiday and I did not wait for the government to announce a closure, but simply placed large concrete barriers at the entrance to the city with volunteers and closed the city. “I was told, ‘You will have a problem with the government.’
And what do you say about the closure that Carmel Shama Cohen made between Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak?
“They criticized him because he turned it into ultra-Orthodox versus secular. There was no substance in his decision. But closing cities until they are green, that’s right. It should be done in a non-populist way.”
Mobile cultural activity on the streets of Yeruham / Photo: Yeruham Local Council
Yeshiva students will get off the bus straight for a corona check
This week, young people from high yeshivot and seder yeshivot are returning to their parents’ homes, to the intervening period, how are you coping with this?
“There are about 50 young people who are supposed to return to their parents in Yeruham. First of all, they need to be taken care of for transportation back home. They will get off the bus here and go immediately for a corona check, funded by the municipality. “All the parents signed a document stating that the child would be in isolation. If one of them came out positive, he would immediately leave the house and be transferred to a motel.”
We understood that in Yeruham the establishment of an urban epidemiological system, without waiting for the Ministry of Health.
“We did it already in the first wave and it continues to be active. I have two senior doctors here in the city, Dr. Eli Rosenberg, director of the Corona department at Soroka Hospital, and the other, Dr. Nadav Eisner, a laboratory specialist. Both doctors are religious Sabbath-keepers. Like me.But in consultation with both of them, we carried out the epidemiological investigations without waiting for the Ministry of Health.
“In the first wave I did it myself. There were a few patients, I researched where they were and called everyone who was in contact. On Saturdays, I walked to people’s homes to inform them. I desecrated all Saturdays. If it’s people who live far away, I sent the Bedouin worker I have in the municipality, Shabbat gentile. If they are ultra-Orthodox people, I also sent them a Shabbat gentile to inform them. The goal was to locate the contacts as soon as possible with whom they met and put everyone in solitary confinement, also on Shabbat and holidays. .
“I’m a religious woman, but Corona’s story, it’s every hour. I think in the chaos, it’s a matter of control and maybe we have some peace, because our results in September are fine. And it should be emphasized, there is also a community here that obeyed instructions. They did not have to, And the achievement belongs to the rabbi of the city, who decided not to listen to the national leadership of the rabbis and to listen to the sounds of his heart. ”
Mayor Yitzhak Shalev / Photo: Nissan Samma
34 years old, lives in Yeruham, single and head of the local council ● Holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public policy ● In 2010 she was elected to serve as a member of the Yeruham local council and served as deputy mayor Michael Bitton, and as local education portfolio holder
Ohana rules for taking control of the plague
● Closing the city for external visits
● Closing an entire school after a verified patient is discovered
● Stopping informal education activities
● Closing synagogues and preparing for outdoor prayers
● Establishment of an urban system for truncating adhesive chains
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