Corona Fear: Netanyahu Refuses to Shake Hands at Jewish Holy Site

Coronavirus concerns exacerbated after video clip shows Bibi declining to touch fellow Jewish worshippers

Coronavirus fears spread in Israel, and Netanyahu isn't helping.
Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron this week. But Israeli media was less interested in his prayers for the welfare of the nation than in his refusal to shake anyone’s hand.

A video clip of Netanyahu’s arrival alongside his wife, Sara, shows the prime minister politely declining the outstretched hands of other Jewish worshippers. Perhaps fearing he had caused offense, Sara chimed in, saying that “it’s a government directive.”

Netanyahu himself tried to defuse the situation with a bit of humor by bowing and offering the Hindu greeting “namaste.”

Less than two weeks ago, a group of Korean Christian tourists visited the Cave of the Patriarchs. Shortly after returning to South Korea, it was discovered that at least 18 members of the group had contracted coronavirus, sparking widespread fears in Israel.

Any Israelis who came into direct contact with the Koreans were ordered to self-quarantine, and other tourists from South Korea were rounded up and sent back home.

Chinese scientists have since reported that they believe the coronavirus can survive on inorganic surfaces for up to nine days, making the prime minister’s visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs at this time a rather risky move.

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