The Times of Israel published my new article “If Israel Were America”
For months, I have been watching with growing trepidation the cavalier nonchalance of Israelis toward COVID-19. Now, I am afraid, it’s too late to undo the damage. In the past week, the average death toll was 31 people, and the rate is quickly rising since many hospitals have passed max capacity and medical personnel are worn out. Proportionally, 31 deaths are equivalent to a daily death rate of 1130 people in the US. And it’s rising quickly. And as far as new cases go, no one even comes close to Israel. On September 3rd, the number of new confirmed cases was 2,990 on that day alone. A week later, on the 10th, the daily tally was 4,400. Six days later, on the 16th, 6,600 tests came back positive, and a week later, on the 23rd, no less than 11,300 people tested positive for the coronavirus on that one day. If Israel were America, this rate would mean 419,000 new confirmed cases in a single day!
And all the while, entire sections of the nation are defiantly ignoring the government’s lockdown orders. They’re saying that they will not comply until other sectors comply. They protest against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, but they refuse to wear masks or keep social distancing. In the first wave of the pandemic, we stood shoulder to shoulder and nearly eliminated the virus. In the second wave, we have become an exemplar of a country paralyzed by internal bickering.
In the battle against the virus, it seems as though we have made every possible error. But when we can’t even agree to try one course of action, and if it fails try another, we are left with no course of action whatsoever, and the horrific results are now beginning to show. Before long, the proportional death toll in Israel will outpace that of every country by a huge margin. Because the world always examines Israel with a close-up lens, we will become a proof that disunity wreaks destruction.
The closure that has been declared now will likely yield poor results not because it’s a bad idea, but because we’re not united and we’re not obeying it. We’re still doing whatever we want despite government orders and police attempts to enforce them. The result will be that people will be dropping on the streets of Israel, literally.
The coronavirus could have been an opportunity to serve as a positive role model. When the world is in darkness, fear, and division, we could be an example of unity. We could show how we rise above our differences and (deep) dislikes, and unite in order to defeat an otherwise undefeatable enemy. But we are failing left and right, thinking only of ourselves and seeing only our own interests.
We just celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we are meant to atone for our sins. But Yom Kippur does not atone for sins against our fellow persons, and even during that holiest of days to the Jews, we committed countless sins against our neighbors by not obeying the simple rules that could cut the infection chains.
The current level of internal hatred and division in Israeli society has become an existential risk. We are weakening our ranks and our ability to withstand aggression. Moreover, we are on the brink of erupting with internal acts of violence and aggression.
More than once we were consumed by civil wars before. In the last one, we lost our sovereignty and it took us nearly two millennia to regain it. Now we see that the ills that caused our destruction then are still just as active, and threaten to bring doom on us once more if we don’t get a grip on our raging egos.
We cannot, and will not convince one another. We must only remember that being Israel means sticking to our unity despite our differences, above them. Besides the fact that by doing so, we will set an example that others will want to follow, accomplishing this will save our nation from another civil war and another exile.