First grade students arrive to their first day of school at tali geulim school in Jerusalem on September 01, 2020. 

Children in cities, towns and local authorities designated “red” under Israel’s newly approved “traffic light” plan for managing the coronavirus crisis will not return to school before Thursday, the country’s coronavirus Cabinet decided on Monday night.

“Public-health considerations demand that we not start the school year in red areas, and given the urgency of the matter, it has been suggested that we … decide that the restrictions will take effect immediately,” stated the Cabinet decision.

The decision applies to all grades but exempts students in special education and youth at risk. The coronavirus Cabinet is slated to hold another deliberation on Thursday as part of an evaluation of possible closure measures for red towns.

The last-minute deliberation, the night before Israel’s school year was set to begin, kept parents, children and teachers in affected communities on tenterhooks.

The decision signifies a win for Israel’s Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu, who has repeatedly warned that opening schools in these communities would lead to outbreaks. Education Minister Yoav Gallant opposed Gamzu, calling his stance “baseless.”

Gallant said, without mentioning the decision on the red cities, “I’m happy that the school year is starting. I promised that school would start on Sept. 1, in all schools nationwide, and I kept that promise.”

According to Israeli Health Ministry data, as of Tuesday, 946 Israelis had died of COVID-19, out of 117,241 confirmed cases since the onset of the pandemic. JN

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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