Calling for Accountability with 1,019 Empty Chairs

Last week, NIF grantee Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together) made national headlines with a chilling and creative protest using 1,019 empty chairs in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

Each chair had the name of an Israeli who died from COVID-19 – a person who would not be there to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays. The exhibit is part of Standing Together’s national campaign calling for an official state inquiry into the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The government has no systematic plans to handle the issue and the health of its citizens has been abandoned,” said Alon-Lee Green, Director of Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together). “A State Commission of Inquiry must be established immediately to investigate this neglect.”

Prof. Rafi Valdan, Deputy Director of the Tel Hashomer Hospital, noted that, “the COVID-19 crisis comes after Israel’s health system has been starved of money for decades and this is reflected in an acute shortage of doctors, nurses and hospital beds. In all these indices Israel finds itself close to last place among the OECD countries. The ongoing crisis is expressed in restricted access for the social and geographical periphery to adequate health services.”

“The COVID-19 crisis shows how dedicated the COVID-19 medical teams are and they are even endangering their own lives. On the other hand, we see how cut off the government and political echelon is. We see how far they are involved in political games and are not concerned about the public and our health. It’s neglect. Constant neglect culminating in its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Since the “empty chairs” protest last week, 117 more Israelis have died from the virus, bringing the country’s total COVID-19 deaths to 1,136 (as of Monday, September 14). This week, Israel will become the first country worldwide to enter a second national lockdown.

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash90

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September 2020