Ashkelon Navigates Coronavirus

Today, Ashkelon sits at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel. As a national information center, The Home Front Command, together with Professor Ronni Gamzu, national coronavirus “czar,” make regular visits to the city to check out how their instructions are being carried out in the field.

More than once, says Sigal Ariely, Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Director, “they have come out of here with nationwide insights.”

And, like much of Israel, our friends in Ashkelon are continuing to struggle with the second wave of the coronavirus. As of this writing, our partner city has been designated green (based on the government’s traffic light-themed plan to impose strict lockdowns on “red” cities with the worst outbreaks and ease restrictions in “green” ones with fewer victims). 

Yet the challenges remain real.  The lockdowns have imposed heavy burdens on city residents.

There is a growing number of needy families, as lockdowns have reduced their ability to earn a decent living. Like in Baltimore, there has been an increase in domestic violence victims quarantined with their abusers. And, just like Baltimore families here, Ashkelon working parents continue to face unique challenges as many students remain home for online schooling.

“For the last eight months we have been dealing with the global corona pandemic. We have known ups and downs, suffered losses and have had to deal with social distancing from the people we value and love the most,” says Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam. ” The Ashkelon Municipality is doing and will continue to do everything in its power to assist residents during this difficult period, to facilitate business owners and to tackle the health front of the pandemic.”


The disruption to education systems across the globe due to the pandemic has certainly caused its share of anxiety, leaving parents to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of supporting their children’s online learning.

Caro, an Ashkelon mother of three, explained that while virtual learning got off to a rocky start with technical issues and confusion the “kids and teachers seem to have figured out how to manage the lessons without too many interruptions.”

But, she shared, the quality of the education is just not the same.

“The school days seem shorter and less homework given. During lockdown, my son’s kindergarten teacher sent a list of activities to be done each day. It is tougher with little  kids as they cannot manage the Zoom lessons alone and need an adult to help them.”

Like many moms, Caro finds navigating work, housework, caregiving and homeschooling a daily challenge.

“I found myself juggling my time between trying to work from home and helping the kids with Zoom and keeping them busy. I have noticed the different effects on each child. The kids got very bored in the beginning, were frustrated at not meeting with friends and started arguing with each other much more often,” she shared.

Just recently, students in preschool and kindergarten through fourth grade returned to school in Ashkelon for in class instruction. Upper grades are expected to go back shortly as well.

And while uncertainty and stress still remain high surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many in Ashkelon look at the silver lining.

Merav, an Ashkelon mother of three says that her family has been “managing surprisingly well and has been enjoying staying home with the kids” and connecting to their extended family.

“In order to maintain our well-being and mental health we try and work out a few times a week as a family in the living room and take some time out in the 

fresh air every afternoon. The kids ride their bikes, rollerblades or skates.

Plus, they call their grandparents every day and we do a lot more video calls with our family around the world.”

Moving Forward

To keep Ashkelon a “green city,” Ashkelon has taken extensive steps to ensure the citizens adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines.

In conjunction with encouraging the wearing of masks, the office of the spokesperson has taken to the streets, incorporating units with loudspeakers to share critical information.

And, the city is educating children at an early age, providing leaflets with coloring books and activities with concepts about COVID-19 and how to protect oneself, making them ambassadors for family and friends.

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