Touching elbows, instead of shaking hands. Saluting one another, instead of greeting with a hug. Now, we are told that we need try to keep a “reasonable” distance between us, with “reasonable” being at least one and a half meters (4.9 feet). All of these are contrary to the norms and culture of our society. Slowly, slowly, little by little (or, as we say in Yiddish, “Yiddle by Yiddle”), we are facing increasing restrictions, limitations and interruptions in our daily life. All because of a microbe gone wild.
There are some 69 species of the family of viruses known to the medical community as coronaviruses, only seven of which are said to affect humans. The virus has been referred to SARS Covid-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the disease that follows being infected by it was labeled Covid-19 (coronavirus disease-2019). We are 73 days after the first disclosures of the disease and, as of this writing, 143 people in Israel have tested Coronavirus positive, with more than two dozen being added daily. About a thousand medical personnel are now in quarantine because of exposure to the virus. The Ministry of Health does not have a projected date for conquering the virus, although serious efforts are under way to find a solution. Even if a vaccine is developed to prevent contracting the disease, its commercial manufacture and distribute could well take a year or more. According to the statistics listed in Worldometer’s Coronavirus update, 137 countries and territories have been affected to date.
Israel is low on the list of countries affected, but has instituted protective measures early on. Restrictions imposed on traveling to and from affecting countries; mandatory quarantine for persons entering Israel from certain specified countries, which has had a major impact on the airline and tourist industry; restriction the number of people who can congregate in certain places, which restriction is now not to exceed 100; restrictions in public transportation and closures of educational institutions, among others. On the drawing board is the closure of government offices and having employees work from home (to the extent possible) and gradual closure of non-essential businesses, among other measures. The population is been encouraged to remain at home, with the exception of those in essential services. In short, we are gradually approaching a nationwide shut down, which has already occurred in other countries.
Being in the presence of someone with the sniffles causes knee-jerk reactions in people, who immediately distance themselves. Someone who coughs while at a supermarket check-out counter can cause angry responses and accusations of wilfully endangering other customers. Panic buying has become the norm of the day and supermarket shelves are quickly emptied of basic items. Fear and anxiety are seen, and expressed, in almost all locations. As one person put it, “I’m afraid of being afraid.”
With the Covid-19 being official labeled as a “Pandemic” by the World Health Organization and the possibility of additional, even more severe restrictions being imposed by the Department of Health and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there has been a stirring that the crisis of the Coronavirus could bring about a healing, although temporarily, to our political crisis.
As the Coronavirus crisis was elevated to a national health emergency, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form an emergency unity government to combat the pandemic. In the process, Netanyahu made it clear that the emergency government would be under his leadership and that the Joint Arab List would not be invited to participate in the government. He was pushing for an affirmative response from Gantz, as he called for “the formation now, even this evening, of a national emergency government”, while pointing out that it would be “an emergency government for a limited period … [to] fight to save the lives of citizens.” Although previously ruling out any partnership with Netanyahu, he nevertheless expressed a willingness to discuss the possibility of a national unity government, adding that the Blue and White Party would do “everything in our power to see it move forward.” However, this remains to be seen.
Whether or not Netanyahu’s offer is eventually accepted or rejected, there is a ray of hope, at least on the surface of things, that the two main political rivals are willing to work together to combat a powerful microbe that is bringing this country to its knees. Such cooperation, if it happens, could result in the healing of a government that has, essentially, been in a shut down mode for the past year and a half.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts… (James 4:8)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing. Happy Purim!