Opinion: With pandemic likely to last a while, Israelis must find their lost value of social solidarity, stay away from mass crowds and act responsibly to preserve their own lives and the lives of others, and not be motivated only by the need to protect hospitals from being overrun
The coronavirus ward at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem last month(Photo: Amit Shabi)
Jonathan Henry Sacks, a British Orthodox rabbi, passed away at the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic nearly 10 months ago.
He was a philosopher, theologian, author, peer and public figure and shortly before his death recorded a podcast about COVID-19 in general and on how it affected Israel in particular.
Sacks said the crisis taught him not to take anything for granted, especially life itself. Most things in the world, he said, were out of our control but the way we choose to deal with them is our own responsibility.
We are now in the midst of challenging times with a desire to see the coronavirus eradicated and life return to normal.
Schools in Israel have reopened and we have yet to learn how they will affect the spread of the virus in the country in the coming weeks.
Although we’ve been witnessing the number of serious cases slowly stabilize, we must be aware of the the fact that some 90-100 new patients become seriously ill each day and an average of 25 die daily from the virus.
In our fight against the pandemic we must not only prevent hospitals from experiencing an overcapacity of patients, we must also be wary of the tragic death toll, which has even impacted Israeli life expectancy figures.
Aalthough Israel’s decision to bring back frontal studies in schools is commendable, we should be avoiding taking any other unnecessary risks – mass gatherings, music concerts, festivals, parties or travel abroad.
But, Israelis seem unwilling to give up anything at all in the interest of the preservation of life.
Of the 7,100 people who have succumbed to the virus since the start of the pandemic, 605 died last month. We must not ignore this. A considerable number of deaths could have been prevented without severe health measures and lockdowns.
If current infection numbers don’t decrease, the number of virus-related deaths in September may even exceed the death toll recorded in August.
After a year and a half since the start of the pandemic, the attributes of solidarity and social responsibility – which are vital for any society dealing with COVID – have diminished.
The holiday of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – is an opportunity for national soul-searching and reflection on how we as a society can return to our defining Jewish values, especially the belief in the sanctity of life.
We don’t know when this pandemic will end. By all indications it will take a while. The need to maintain a routine alongside COVID is important, in fact, it is essential. Therefore, this should be our goal for the near future.
Rabbi Sacks’ call in his last podcast was not just for us simply to pray on the new year, but also to take responsibility over our lives and those of the people around us, and do the things that are necessary in order to preserve life.
May this year with its curses and pandemics end, and a new year and its blessing begin.
Shana Tova U’Metukah.