A Year of Corona

Israel (and the world) have now been in the grip of the Corona virus for a year and life for all has changed drastically with no clear sight on returning to “normal” routine anytime soon. The political and health authorities have several times promised that the end of the pandemic is near but they were proven wrong every time. The rapid and rather astonishing vaccination campaign has given us all hope, but with children below the age of 16 not being vaccinated while they are approximately 30% of the population, and about 20% of the people eligible for a vaccine shot proclaiming that they do not intend to take one, Israel will at best, have half of its population vaccinated, which in insufficient for “herd Immunity” and will not allow us to relax most of the restrictions that have been in place for months.

While this weekend will mark the (partial) opening of the schools and commerce, the sad experience of the previous times this was attempted does not raise any optimism that it will succeed this time.

The appearance of various “variants” (or mutations?) of the virus also has been a source of worry and uncertainty. While the most common new variant (the “British” one) appears to be neutralized by the current vaccine (from Pfizer), the “South African” variant may be better protecting itself against the vaccine and the “Brazilian” variant or the seven new variants that are now prominent in the United States are still unknowns and the effect of the vaccine on these is not yet known. But the fact that Pfizer has already announced that they are currently developing a modification of the vaccine to increase its effectivity against the South African variant, which would become a third shot, is worrisome, mainly because it shows that the appearance of a new variant may in the near future make the current vaccine obsolete and we would have to start all over again. And the formation of variants or mutations of the virus is happening all the time and is no more than a natural phenomenon as viruses go. And while most of these mutations will most likely not pose an (increased) danger to humans, it appears only a matter of time before a blockbuster of a virus will appear to which humanity may not have an answer.

So it is probably better to ignore such a doomsday scenario (at least by us, simpleminded citizens) and try to see the positive sides of this pandemic. Are there positive sides? Let’s look at the local, Israeli scene only so as not to be overwhelmed by positivism. But indeed, arguably, there are positive aspects of this pandemic and we should emphasize them and take advantage of them as much as possible, and attempt to strengthen them wherever we can. So what are these positive sides?

First of all, there is the Israeli health system. Neglected by politicians for years, underfunded for even longer, the Health funds (Kupat Holim) and the hospitals have performed beyond imagination during this year, when their resources, their resourcefulness, their commitment, the physical and mental strength of their personnel, undoubtedly have saved many lives (as an example, while in Israel, with just over nine million people, 5,300 have succumbed to the virus, in the Netherlands, with twice the population, three times as many people died of Corona.) The vaccination drive, which has in most countries gotten off to a slow start, was taken up in Israel by the Health funds and now, two months into the vaccination derive, more than 30% of the population has been inoculated with 2 shots and 20% more with one shot.

The second thing that Israel learned (or definitely should have learned) from the past year, is that the Israeli politicians are even more incompetent, self-centered and stupid than we already knew. Way in front of others of course is Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has again and again shown to place his own interests (of his criminal trial) before the interest of the Nation, but others, including the so-called Health minister Edelstein, the so-called Education minister Gallant, the so-called Finance minister Katz, the so-called opposition leaders like Sa’ar and Bennet (with his side-kick Shaked) and many others who get their salary out of our pockets but have forgotten that we exist. So why is that a positive aspect? There will (again) be elections soon, in five weeks in fact, and the people of Israel will have another opportunity to do what they didn’t do in the three previous elections, and throw out these no-goods, these egocentric nobodies and vote for new people who have the country’s best interest in mind for a change (presuming there still are people like that in Israeli politics). Unfortunately, from the dozens of opinion polls being taken every week, for now it doesn’t look as if Israel is ready for a change and is interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to hit the reset button. At least nobody will be able to deny afterwards (when Netanyahu is again Prime Minister) that they did have the chance to change things and they didn’t, even with the knowledge that he and his cronies failed miserably, and not only in the handling of the Corona crisis.

A third very important aspect of Israeli society that the Corona virus crisis has highlighted (even though it was already known as well), is the fact that there is a significant part of Israeli population that places itself outside the rules and boundaries of acceptable behavior and is (and has been for a long time) ignoring the most basic civil solidarity. At the height of the Corona crisis, Israel witnessed mass funerals (many thousands of participants) large weddings, schools that remained open against regulations, and in general behavior proving the complete disdain for the rule of law and the interest of the population as a whole, and only relating to their “own” and their leaders, who tried more than once to convince them that God will take care of them as long as they listen to their rabbis. And if that was not enough, some of the prominent “anti-vaxxers” are influential rabbis who strongly urge not to get vaccinated because the virus is nothing and God will protect you.   Unfortunately, the complete ignoring of civil society by the Haredim is not something that stems from the Corona crisis and has been obvious and prominent almost from the establishment of the State. And while this has been known and somehow tolerated, their behavior during the current crisis has only emphasized the need to put things in order, and either make them become real citizens or have them isolated from us, including from our money. Again, it appears doubtful that Israel will take this positive lesson to heart, but nobody will be able to deny it either.

It does appear that under the threat of a corona virus variant that will kill us all, these “positive” lessons that we learned and are learning do not seem to have major importance. But on the off-chance that the virus decides to leave us alone, or that Pfizer will be able to safe us with a miracle vaccine, it is worthwhile looking beyond this crisis into the uncertain future and decide that if we do have the opportunity to do things right this time, we will.

But don’t be too optimistic………..

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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