This exchange basically represents Israeli politics for me.
Source: Times of Israel
This exchange basically represents Israeli politics for me.
Source: Times of Israel
Israel is going into another national lockdown this weekend, for three weeks. It’s controversial (as are most things in Israel these days), and the cost to our economy will likely be substantial. At the same time, our COVID-19 infection rate seems to be out of control.
This headline on Times of Israel is just horrifying:
According to the article:
The Health Ministry said Tuesday morning that the daily coronavirus infection rate had rocketed to nearly 5,000 a day earlier as the country prepared for the nationwide lockdown set to begin on Friday.
According to the figures there were 4,973 positive tests for coronavirus the previous day, taking the number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 162,273.Daily infection rate surges to nearly 5,000 ahead of lockdown | The Times of Israel
I read another headline in the last week or so where an Israeli medical practitioner commented that Israelis will only pay attention when we see the death toll climb.
I hope that’s not the case, and fear it is. While many people are wearing masks, trying to keep a safe distance, and keep to the rules, far too many are not.
Our new year starts this weekend. I hope that it doesn’t become memorable for the tragedy we bring on ourselves because we didn’t take the pandemic seriously.
When I walk around the city, and go for my runs, I see Israeli kids playing in water fountains, while their parents watch on. Few of them are wearing masks, or maintaining a reasonable distance from friends and relatives. Despite that, I empathise with people who lived in the coronavirus shadow during our initial lockdown, wanting to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Then, I look around again, and I see how only a few wear masks over their mouths and noses, and make an effort to keep a safe distance. I feel like I’m watching a movie scene where people are unaware that their lives are about to be horribly torn apart by some unseen enemy.
Because that’s what seems to be happening here, in Israel, as we increasingly see headlines like this:
Virus infection numbers vault to record-breaking 859 cases in 24 hoursVirus infection numbers vault to record-breaking 859 cases in 24 hours | The Times of Israel
As much as I want everything to go back to how it all was before this virus fractured our society, I don’t think we can ever go back to the freedom we had before. Certainly not unless someone discovers a wondrous vaccine that reduces COVID-19 to a minor cold for the majority of our neighbours.
In the meantime, I see too many families behaving as if wearing masks is just a formality to avoid a fine from the police. Masks have become a fashion accessory for chins, and elbows for most of the people I see around me.
Some wear masks covering their mouths and noses, but not enough. For everyone else, the sun is shining, and there’s no need to keep apart. In the meantime, the virus’ resurgence started in schools, and instead of being horrified, we see school graduation events that cluster kids close together for dances, and photo opportunities.
Outrage doesn’t help. I just feel waves of sadness when I see this, and hope that perhaps there is some sort of magical bubble to protect our friends, and neighbours this time around.
This coronavirus is an insidious thing. It separates us at our weakest, and pulls families apart when they desperately need to be together. Parents diagnosed with COVID-19 are sequestered into hospital wards, and isolated from their families, fervently hoping/praying for their recovery, fearing that they may not.
I had a terrible thought: Imagine if a child becomes ill, and is isolated in one of these hospital wards. Will their parents be able to visit them, comfort them, or will their child be forced to face the fear of being sick, in a clinical environment, where they could lose their fight, alone?
It’s a truly awful thought, and yet we’re not doing nearly enough to keep our children, and ourselves safe.
When I look around at the people I pass, they don’t seem to have contemplated the nightmare that this virus could visit on them, and their families. Perhaps they don’t want to contemplate it, and prefer to pretend that everything is ok.
A cliché in Israel is the phrase: “הכל בסדר” – “Everything is ok”. It isn’t, and it won’t be for a while yet.
The world feels more than a little crazy at the moment. Relative to what 2020 has been so far, that’s saying a lot. Lately, I’ve felt a bit like we’re in free fall, pretending that the air rushing past us as we hurtle down is just a refreshing breeze on a Spring day. It’s almost as if we’re all desperately hoping it can be ok again, faking it until we make it (if we do).
Societies are in massive upheaval, and few politicians are making any real sense (again, relative to what they usually do).
Here in Israel, our Prime Minister is intent on annexing settlements in the West Bank (aka Judea and Samaria) next month. I imagine that reclaiming that territory for Israel is what most Zionists hope for, but does this really need to happen now, and like this?
Israel, like most of the world, is still reeling from the initial wave of COVID-19 infections, and we see the beginnings of what could be a second wave emerging from schools (that is horrifying in itself). Our economy took a serious knock when Israel went into a lockdown to try curtail the virus’ spread.
Most Israelis are more concerned about paying their bills, not dying from this virus, and trying to return to a semblance of normalcy (whatever that is now). And yet our Prime Minister is intent on dragging Israel into war with our neighbours, International condemnation, and even more strain on our society.
What’s pretty clear is that annexation will either utterly undermine Israel as a democratic, Jewish state by adding millions of unwilling Palestinians to Israeli governance, or create a 21st century Apartheid. Neither option is a recipe for our continued survival as a nation.
And why? Good question. I imagine the prospect of Donald Trump losing the November elections, and the USA’s current proposal that theoretically enables Israel to claim more territory being rescinded by a Democratic president is a factor for Netanyahu.
When our restrictions started to ease, many Israelis started to behave as if the virus had magically vanished. People quickly forgot about physical distancing, washing hands, keeping gatherings small, wearing gloves … all the habits we started to learn during our lockdown.
I can understand the need to feel like things are normal again. At the same time, these are not normal times, and the virus didn’t go away.
We’re seeing new waves of infections, and this time they’re starting in schools. Teachers are not always enforcing Health Ministry rules about wearing masks, and maintaining a safe distance between kids. Heck, some teachers our our kids’ school don’t wear masks, and this only encourages kids who are reluctant to wear masks, not to do so.
The fact that these new waves of infections seem to be starting in schools is shameful.
It’s not kids that aren’t paying attention to the rules we still have to try limit the spread of the virus. I looked out our window on the weekend, and saw a gathering of a few families at a park near us. They were sitting close to each other, and weren’t wearing masks (wearing a mask on your chin doesn’t count).
Wearing masks is unpleasant, but so is the prospect of being sick with this virus. I just looked at this group, and shrugged.
We each do what we can, and many people still wear masks, give each other space when passing in the street, or on parks. I worry that it’s not enough, and that our bubble will burst soon, leading us back into another lockdown, and more devastating human losses.
Outside our borders, it looks like the United States is in utter turmoil with a questionable response to COVID-19 in the first part of the year, and the explosion of outrage, and protest over deep-seated prejudice against people of colour, and people in the LGBTQ community (I’m probably making a mess of the community reference, so apologies for that).
It’s jarring to see how pervasive racism, sexism, and gender-based prejudice is in a country that holds itself out as a bastion of equality and freedom. Of course, this isn’t a disease in the United States. I am almost speechless about this display of misogyny here in Israel.
With all of this going on, I can’t help but feel like I’m in free fall. Again. I’m not sure what I can do about any of this, except do my best to be present with what I’m feeling, look after my family, and do the best we can each day.
This may be our new normal, but it’s not ok. Things won’t be ok for a while. That will have to be ok for now, I guess.
My wife recently wrote a post about our city’s annual tradition of putting up flags ahead of Israel’s Independence Day. Apparently someone raised concerns on Facebook about how this extra cost was wasted in light of the need for more resources to combat COVID-19.
These flags aren’t an annual exercise in vanity and frivolity, they mean much more than that –
Seeing those flags made me smile. Seeing those flags made my heart feel lighter. It made me feel connected to people, my fellow citizens, when I had spent almost an entire month in my home with no personal contact with anyone outside of my immediate family.
Those flags gave me hope.
It was an affirmation. We are Israel! We are Israelis – and we can overcome anything that is thrown our way.
So, random Facebook man, I vehemently disagree!
Those flags are not a waste of money. Not at all. They are – Joy, Love and Hope. And they are a promise.
We WILL make it through this.
We WILL survive.
It’s what we do.Flags of Hope – A Bit of This A Bit of That
An Israeli research team has developed an oral vaccine for COVID-19 that seems to be heading for testing, and could be distributed in a matter of months.
Chen Katz told The Times of Israel that the new oral vaccine for adults and children could “turn this disease into a very mild cold.” He said that for many people who are inoculated and then infected by COVID-19, “potentially it will not affect them at all.”
The rapid potential progress by the state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute stems from the fact that the institute has been working for four years toward a vaccine that could be customized for various viruses, and has now adapted that work to focus on the coronavirus, he said.Israeli-made oral vaccine for coronavirus on track, but testing will take months | The Times of Israel
What’s particularly exciting about this development is that the research team was able to adapt research they had been doing into a vaccine for a related virus for four years, into a potential vaccine for COVID-19.
[Dr Chen] Katz clarified that the 90-day time frame in the February 27 statement was until the product is ready for human testing, and said he still believes this is realistic. He said that skeptics should understand that his team is not working on new research, but rather customizing an existing innovation, meaning that a fast turnaround is realistic. He stated: “The important thing is that we were working on a vaccine, unrelated to this outbreak, and this is a great advantage.”
Update (2020-03-12): According to The Times of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced that the vaccine isn’t quite as advanced as it seemed yesterday:
“There has been no breakthrough in the efforts of the Institute for Biological Research to find a vaccine for the coronavirus or to develop a testing kit. The institute’s activities are being carried out on an orderly schedule and they will take time,” said the ministry.Defense Ministry denies ‘breakthrough’ on vaccine for COVID-19 | The Times of Israel
Still, I’m encouraged, and optimistic.
Regardless of the results of yesterday’s Israeli elections (the 3rd in a year), we saw the highest voter turnout since 1999, according to The Times of Israel:
The Central Elections Committee said that 65.5 percent of registered voters cast their ballots by 8 p.m. — the highest figure for the hour since 1999.
Although I have my preferences for who will form a coalition (and my strong hope that someone actually forms a coalition this time), I’m proud of Israelis for turning out in these numbers to have their say.
While most of the world was gearing up for the Christmas (or Christmas analog) holidays, we celebrated the festival of Chanukah, my favourite festival of the year. I thought I’d share my Chanukah highlights in a series of photographs.
I usually take photos on each of the eight days of the candles, and this year was no exception. That said, I decided to add some variations to my collection so I wasn’t just capturing our candles that we lit each night.
Instead, I took opportunities to include other people’s candles, whether they were neighbours, or family we visited.