Israel Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan (R) speaks with Deir al-Assad Mayor Ahmed Dabbah, April 19, 2020 (Facebook/Deir al-Assad Council) (Facebook/Deir al-Assad Council)
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned that the month-long Muslim holiday represents Israel’s most significant coronavirus challenge to date.

By Yakir Benzion

Public security minister Gilad Erden and senior police officials toured two Israeli Arab towns Sunday after they were put under precautionary lockdown after local outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Erdan visited Deir al-Assad and An’a and discussed preparedness with local officials for the Muslim holy month or Ramadan, Walla News reported. Known for the daily fasting that is ended each day with extended family meals and community celebrations, Erdan said Ramadan is the next biggest challenge Israel in fighting the pandemic.

“The corona crisis ties our fate together and does not differentiate between the different religions,” Erdan said.

“The month of Ramadan is the most significant challenge for us in the fight against corona, especially given the increase in the number of corona patients in the Arab communities,” he said. Israel’s roughly 1.7 million Muslims will begin the month-long celebration this coming Thursday.

Over the weekend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned Israel’s Muslims that the same curfew imposed on the Jewish community during Passover could be expected during Ramadan. In a drastic move to prevent infection during Passover, the government slapped a total closure on the nation to prevent millions of Israelis from joining extended family for the traditional seder meal.

“Ramadan is almost upon us. Just as the Jewish citizens of Israel acted during Passover, I now request that you have the Ramadan meals only with your nuclear family. I ask you to preserve the whole and thus take care of yourselves and your loved ones,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech.

Erdan examined police and army Home Front Command preparations and toured checkpoints around the communities, meeting with local leaders and saying he intended to raise awareness of the importance of complying with health ministry guidelines.

“We are in this fight together. I am confident that cooperation with the Arab heads of government will help us deal with the virus and the responsibility and discipline that the Arab public has shown so far,” he said.

Following closures in the cities of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem where police were deployed to enforce the curfew and IDF soldiers distributed food and aid packages door to door, the curfew in Deir al-Assad marked the first time during the pandemic a closure was declared in an Arab community.

Some 12,300 residents live in Deir al-Assad with 89 residents infected and 8,400 in An’a with 14 confirmed virus cases. Despite the low numbers, the high rate of infection showed cases doubling every 2 days and health officials moved to impose a closure. Local authorities are trying to persuade patients to move to government sponsored quarantine hotels so as not infect family members, similar to steps taken in other cities in Israel.

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