It’s a holiday in Israel, starting tonight. It is the Festival of Purim. Time to take a bit of a break from double-Excedrin headache politics, even though politics doesn’t want to leave us alone. Three former army generals, two of whom made public statements about not being in a government with those who want to see the elimination of the State of Israel, are now willing to ignore what they said and join hands with the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, some of whose members openly praise terrorists and want to see the elimination of the State of Israel.
Hey, it’s Purim – a joyful, Biblical festival that commemorates and celebrates God’s intervention and salvation of the Jewish people, who were taken into exile in Persia (the Biblical name of what is now Iran). It is the story told in the Scroll of Esther and reveals God’s working behind the scenes to save the Jewish exiles from a ruthless enemy, who sought to annihilate us (so, what has changed over the last 2,500 years?). But, the holiday today is marred by the outbreak of the coronavirus, which Israel is now referring to as the Plague of Corona.
As of this writing, we have 42 cases of people who tested coronavirus positive. The Israel Ministry of Health has issued a number of guidelines and restrictions, each new one a little more stringent than the preceding one. Tourism has been seriously affected. Airlines have cancelled or limited flights to and from different countries, creating financial crises said to be unparalleled in our short history. The Tel Aviv stock exchange experienced a sharp decline, particularly energy and tourism shares. The IDF has imposed travel restrictions on its personnel and is setting up field hospitals to accommodate soldiers who returned to Israel, who were exposed to the virus while abroad. Passengers on a bus cannot sit in the seat immediately behind the driver and no one is allowed to stand on a bus. If there are no more seats, passengers will not be allowed to get into the bus.
Only a few minutes prior to the writing of this post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that all Israelis returning from abroad will need to be quarantined for 14 days. Starting this Thursday, non-Israelis who were in “affected” countries during the last 14 days will have to prove that they are able to self-quarantine, otherwise they will be denied entry. The consequences of such a declaration are far-reaching and unprecedented. It is estimated that some 300,000 people will need to be quarantined. How will such an enormous task be carried out? How will it be enforced? How will it impact on an economy that is already beginning to feel the effects of a slowly increasing awareness of a potential national health crisis? Will the people accept or reject increasing governmental restrictions due to the virus? Will fear over being “exposed” to the virus and the possibility of quarantine cause increased panic buying?
These and other questions do not have easy answers and we’ll have to see how things are played out. In the meantime, Israel is third highest coronavirus testing countries in the world, surpassed only by South Korea and Italy. Lowest on the list appearing on the data website Worldometer is the United States. Along with the high rate of testing, Israeli medical scientists are working diligently to try to come up with an appropriate remedy.
Oh yeah, we need to remember that we are now at the start of the joyful festival of Purim. It doesn’t matter that the coronavirus has caused public celebrations to be cancelled throughout most of the country. It doesn’t matter that we are told not to congregate in places that have more than 500 people. It doesn’t matter that we are cautioned not to shake hands with anyone, but to keep them almost sterilized. It’s a time to celebrate, as we remember what God has done for us in the past and to recognize that He is more than able to do the same for us today. He helped us to overcome Pharaoh, He can help us to overcome the Hamans of today, whether they are external, dwell among us, or both.
It’s Purim. Read, remember, rejoice.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,