Oy! As if the political crisis were not enough, along comes the Covid-19 (coronavirus) health crisis. And, along with the coronavirus comes an aggravation of the political crisis, because of efforts designed to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Sometimes, it seems as though we don’t see the forest through the trees.
The third national election in one year took place on March 2nd. Neither of the two major parties achieved a majority to form a government. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc gained more votes, but the center-left block, which received backing from Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu Party, with support from Joint List of Arab Parties succeeded in getting a bare majority of 61 recommendations, allowing Benny Gantz to try to set up the next government. In the meantime, the coronavirus crisis made its presence real in Israel. This, in turn, resulted in a number of decisions that were taken by the interim government of Benjamin Netanyahu that were designed to deal with the health crisis. One of them affected the functioning of the court system, which resulted in delaying Netanyahu’s trial on three counts of corruption and breach of public trust, which was moved from last week and re-scheduled for May. Cyber monitoring of telephones, used primarily by Israeli security forces, was put into force to track the locations of people affected by the disease and to identify people who may have been exposed to it. The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) was disbanded for a week, with no new committees being formed and no government oversight of electronic invasion of people’s privacy. This created a crisis in our democracy in addition to the political crisis of still not having a government. The Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the Knesset needs to get back in business by Monday, that there can be proper supervision of electronic invasion of privacy, or the phone tracking – used for the sake of the public health – would stop. Political crisis and health crisis!
Which crisis is worse? If we need to choose between health and politics, it doesn’t appear to be a brain twister. Obviously, dealing with a pandemic should take precedence. What good is having a democratic, rights-protecting government, if it is not allowed to function in an effort to keep the voting public alive? Even in the midst of the health crisis, we still have the right to protest and demonstrate, as long as we keep a safe distance from one another. We can challenge the government’s behavior, but we need to be alive to do so.
Shabbat here is almost over. It is a day that we are to cease from our labors and regular involvements of the past week and rest. That’s essentially what we have been told that we need to do for the last six days. We are supposed to cause this day to be separate from the rest of the days of the week. Separation, isolation, seclusion and quarantine, terms that have been used to express how we are supposed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Along with those terms comes a new one: social distancing. As if we haven’t already done this during the last one or two decades.
We are social beings by nature and by design. Some of us live in the concrete jungle. Others in community settings of many different kinds. We used to relate to one another face-to-face, physically. We would arrange to “do” a meal together, meet for coffee, go to the mall, the beach, for a picnic, a hike, a movie, sports, and a host of other things – together. And then, along comes the coronavirus. Our lives are turned upside down. We’re told to stay put. All places of recreation and normal social gathering are now closed. Don’t leave home, except for a health-related reason, to purchase food or other necessity, or in case of an emergency. If we do go out, we’re told to stay at least 6-1/2 feet away from someone else, don’t be in a car with more than two people, wear a facial mask, don’t touch anyone else and don’t even to touch our faces. While we are told not to go out, we often allow confusion, frustration, panic and depression to gain an easy entry.
Social distancing is not new to our generation. Long before the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head, we have been physically separating from one another more and more with each new digital and electronic devise that entered the realm of what has been coined “social media”, which has done more to generate social distancing than the coronavirus. The social media revolution has affected our mental health. What we caused to happen slowly over time for physical convenience, we are now compelled to do as a means to save our physical lives. What a turn around! Don’t get me wrong. I’m as much a product of technological social distancing as anyone reading this. Some aspects of technology are good, others are anything but good. We truly need to have discernment to know what is beneficial and what is destructive, socially, mentally, ethically, morally and even physically.
How can we redeem the time? How can we remain “social beings”, while being compelled to exercise “social distancing”? It’s clear that our way of thinking and viewing the situation needs to be reversed. Instead of thinking that we are confined, we should find creative, innovative ways to reach out. Many have written and suggested solutions how to deal with the disease and the negative affects of isolation. We need to get out of our rooms of gloom and recognize that “this, too, shall pass”. One struck a chord with me:
“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.” In other words, being separated from one another doesn’t have to mean being cut off from one another. A burden shared is a burden half lifted. Be in touch … from a distance!
When both of these crises are over, we may well be facing new realities in all areas of government, business and social involvement. We’ll have to deal with each one in its time. We made it through Pharaoh, we’ll make it through this.
“But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who Love Your name may exult in You.” (Psalm 5:11)
“…I, the LORD am your healer.” (Exodus 15:26)
Keep looking up. Have a great week.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.