ISRAEL DECLARES TOTAL WAR ON CORONAVIRUS

Jerusalem on lockdown during this year’s Passover Seder

It was the most dramatic step so far – tantamount to total war with corona! The government imposed a full curfew before and after the Seder – the Passover festive meal. I am pleased to report that Israelis came through the Seder test with flying colors! 

The fear was that people would not obey the order to remain inside their homes for the Seder (without doubt, the most significant family celebration of the year), but we gritted our teeth and declared, “we are at war with corona and determined to win!” That’s one way of looking at it – the fact is that Israeli police set up roadblocks all over the country and inside towns and cities. Even the wiseguys who thought they could fool the police never stood a chance, and they knew it. 

Here in Jerusalem, there was not the bumper-to-bumper traffic for the festivities- it looked more like a ghost town. But on the other hand, every home was bright with lights because we all stayed at home. (For those of you familiar with the Capital city, for example, you couldn’t drive from Beit HaKerem to Givat Mordechai because there was a roadblock on the way.) 

Seder feasts in isolation

Even the town of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, where a lot of ultraorthodox people have been infected with the virus, there is now complete cooperation. In fact, the residents, after warning that they were running out of food due to the lockdown, warmly welcomed IDF paratroopers who delivered food parcels to them. 

Personal anecdotes from Jerusalem

On the afternoon before the Seder, I decided to drive my car around the neighborhood to prevent the battery from running down. Merely starting the engine takes a very long time for the battery to recharge if the wheels are not spinning. Anyway, I took a clean piece of white cloth with two elastic bands to create my homemade mask, and went driving off, minding my own business. I tried to pick routes where there weren’t many traffic lights, etc. 

I was quite enjoying myself getting behind the wheel again when suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt! Ahead of me, there was a lineup of cars as far as the eye could see, and there was absolutely no possibility of turning around. Nothing to do but wait it out – grin and bear it, as we all must do during this corona crisis. But maybe, it was just an accident, and I did hear a siren. Nope, no ambulance with sirens blaring, there must be some other explanation. Little by little, we inched forward from time to time. Nonetheless very irritating and boring. 

Then, I remembered that on my way to the car, I had passed by our mailbox and took out one letter – it was from the investment company where my wife, Nili, and I, have our life savings. With my hand maybe shaking a little, I decided to look at what was left after corona’s devastating attack on the economy. 

Then, I almost had a heart attack! The total amount left was so low – I sort of gulped – impossible. How could it be? Then, I looked at the owner of the account, and it wasn’t our name, but that of a young neighbor. The postman had made a mistake and put the document in our letterbox. Naturally, this was a great relief. I admit that I perused the balance sheet again and saw that the guy’s account had not depreciated so much, after all. Anyway, whatever happens, we’re all in the same boat. 

Possibly a turning point?

Israeli police are actively enforcing restrictions on congregating and leaving home unnecessarily

Hopefully, the public’s cooperation in not gathering in large numbers for the Seder may be a turning point. The strategy is that the “social distancing” of people and their following of the health officials’ instructions will flatten the curve marking the rise of new cases. If so, the government, still run by acting PM Netanyahu, will apparently agree to some younger employees returning to their jobs. So far, the trend in Israel (as elsewhere) is that the vast majority of corona patients are above the age of 60 or so.

 If the economy is restarted, schools may also be reopened gradually. It’s a policy of one step at a time. Moreover, a group of prominent, independent economists has appealed publically to Bibi and his task force to consider the urgent need to start up the economy again. They described it as a very delicate and crucial balance between the public’s safety and the economic and psychological wellbeing of the overall population. 

Meanwhile, some innovations

On another front, the first supply of a Japanese vaccine, called Avigan, has arrived to undergo trials on corona patients in several Israeli hospitals. Other Israeli scientists and hi-tech teams are working “around the clock” trying to discover ways to combat corona. We have just heard on the Voice of Israel newscast that the Israeli company Elbit has been given the go-ahead to start the assembly line for producing breathing ventilators for corona patients. The new invention can be mass-produced in a short time and will be marketed not only here in Israel but also in the US. 

Inside the crucial corona hospital wards

Now, for an inside look at the special corona wards where dedicated doctors and nurses are risking their lives in caring for patients: Kol Yisrael Radio broadcast a moving interview with Ilana Eliezrov, a young nurse in the isolated corona unit of Haifa’s Rambam hospital. Ilana, was already “doing her part” in the internal medicine ward when the hospital director called for volunteers to transfer to a new corona ward. 

Disregarding the fact that corona can be a deadly disease, she immediately volunteered. She described how, before going on duty, she must dress in a special protective uniform from head to foot. This includes wearing a big head and face mask that is attached to a white body uniform, meant to prevent the virus from penetrating any part of her body, and also special footwear to protect her feet.

Although they do extra-long shifts, the nurses cannot go home afterward to relax. They must remain in isolation themselves at the hospital. Asked if she did not miss her family, Ilana replied that she was single and did not have any children, so, “it was not such a big problem.” She sounded like a brave and wonderful person. Indeed, she is representative of the dedicated doctors and nurses not only in Israel but around the world, who are working under such difficult and dangerous conditions, risking their lives to treat and comfort corona patients. 

As for Ilana, I hope that she, or someone like her, will be selected to light a torch at the next Independence Day Ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The torch-lighters are chosen for their outstanding contribution to Israeli society.

Ordering books like ….?

In a lighter vein, naturally, books are a blessing and help in passing the time during this weird period in world history. Our favorite bookshop here in Jerusalem has just informed us that, in light of the circumstances, they have started delivering books (just like pizza!). 

So, my wife decided to order some new additions. I myself had no problem rereading old books that I’ve read long ago. The way I look at it is sort of like listening to beautiful music more than once. (Come to think of it, maybe I’ll reread War and Peace – the two volumes should be good for at least a couple of months!) Anyway, later in the day, a doorbell rang, and my wife carefully opened the door and looked out. All clear! No one in sight – the messenger had left the parcel of books on the floor and made his getaway! He had not infected us, and we had not infected him. Perfect. And that’s one up on corona. 

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