Corona regulations led to the closing of the Willy Brandt Center on March 22nd, which dramatically effects the way of working and the continuation of various projects.
The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority reacted in a prompt and strict manner to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic: tourists had to leave the country, all incoming travelers must self-quarantine for 14-day, and businesses have been reduced to the essential minimum. Curfews were implemented first in the West Bank, then in Israel, limiting the freedom of movement to a maximum of 100 meters from the place of residence. These regulations also led to the closing of the Willy Brandt Center on March 22nd, which dramatically effects the way of working and the continuation of various projects. Home Office, Zoom meetings and phone calls are the new working routing for our entire staff. Planned projects and activities are postponed or had to be cancelled. Visitor groups and delegations were required to cancel their trip plans.
At first, the regulations were not taken too seriously by many Israelis, especially in the Ultra-Orthodox community, and life in Palestinian East-Jerusalem continued almost as usual. But security forces became stricter at the beginning of April: hundreds were fined for ignoring the curfew, checkpoints were set up throughout the city to control traffic and public, and places of worship were closed down. During the week of Easter and Passover, this conduct had harsh effects on common traditions and ceremonies. Worshippers of both religions were asked to stay at home and celebrate alone. For the first time in history, the Church of Holy Sepulcher was closed and no public services took place in the Holy Week. Passover Seders were celebrated separately, and people used Zoom and other digital tools to stay connected with one another. How this will affect the Ramadan (starting on April 23rd) and its traditions, like the daily Iftars, is not clear yet.