Israel bears down to reckon with COVID-19

by | Blog

By Cliff Keller — The malls have closed in Israel. As of March 15, 2020 and recent regs passed to hinder the spread of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, so have all Israel’s gyms, public swimming pools, discos, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, heritage sites and hotels. Public transportation remains functioning but Israel’s Health Ministry has urged the public to avoid it. Schools and universities have closed as well. Assemblies of more than ten people anywhere is forbidden (20 people may meet if they stand at least 2 meters apart). All visitors to Israel are required to spend two weeks in “home quarantine.”

Three days before the announcement of Israel’s unprecedented hygiene measures, I hopped a bus from my home to Jerusalem’s popular Malcha Mall. It was clear from the outset that Israelis had already begun to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Seats at the front of the bus, normally reserved for seniors, were cordoned off, ostensibly to limit the driver’s exposure to passengers’ germs. Some people aboard wore masks. Vehicle traffic was sparse. No one on board dared cough.

At my next stop, a health system pharmacy, those waiting to be served kept their distance from one another, many of them, myself included, choosing to wait for their numbers to be called while sitting in an overflow area.

“We are at war with an enemy, the coronavirus,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “an invisible enemy.” So far, while there has been some outcry, most Israelis we know have avoided panic, perhaps because most of them are war veterans.

Netanyahu added that the Israeli Justice Ministry had given its approval for the Israeli government to employ intelligence tracking tools to digitally monitor coronavirus patients without asking them. Netanyahu acknowledged that the measures infringe upon personal privacy, but, “we will be able to see who [coronavirus patients] were with, what happened before and after [they were infected], and we will be able to isolate the coronavirus and not the entire country.

“We are one of the few countries with this capability, and we will use it,” he said. “We must do everything, as a government and as citizens, to not become infected and not to infect others.”

The restrictions will be in effect until after Passover unless the situation changes. More restrictions could be on the way, Netanyahu added.

The prime minister expressed confidence that essential services will continue in Israel, particularly regarding food arriving by sea and air for day to day life and the upcoming Passover holiday.

“I know there was hysteria,” Netanyahu said, “[but there] is no reason for this. We have ways to fill the shelves.”

Supermarkets, pharmacies, ATM machines and gas stations will continue to operate in Israel, Netanyahu emphasized, but “a new lifestyle needs to be adopted” during this crisis.

When I got home, my neighbor and her four children stepped into our building’s tiny elevator. “Would you like to come in?” she asked me. (After almost four years of our living in this neighborhood—where everyone speaks Hebrew—almost all our neighbors now try to speak English to us, a triumph of empathy.)

“No thank you,” I answered, and, of course, she laughed.

*****
SUBSCRIBE to continue reading this article and access more content about Israel and the Messianic Community around the world.

A Messianic View on the Israel-Hamas War

On that horrific Shabbat day of October 7th, Simcha Torah, a holiday of joy and celebration on the Jewish calendar, violence struck the Jewish people in Israel with a massacre of biblical proportions. Yes, there have been many wars in Israel but the onslaught was so...

Israel Experiences National Unity and Spiritual Revival During the War

It was the summer of 2023 that the words ’Civil War’ loomed at the forefront of almost every Israeli conversation. The country of Israel was, indeed, broken and ripped in pieces politically—left versus right. Judicial reform was promised by the right-wing government...

Antisemitism: History’s Oldest Hatred

The horrific events of October 7, 2023, now known as Black Saturday, were tragic. However, one only needs to tune into the local news for a moment to realize the massacre of Black Saturday has somehow triggered an open season on Jewish people around the world. But...

A Biblical View of Messiah’s Miraculous Birth

The Tanakh, also known as the Old Testament, prophecies of a Messiah who will come to usher in an era when the people of the world will live together in harmony and righteousness. The term Messiah (Mashiach in Hebrew) means “anointed one.” From the beginning, the...

Sukkot: The Jewish Thanksgiving

The Bible is filled with many references to thanksgiving and gratitude. The word ‘thanksgiving’ is found about thirty times, with nine references specifying being thankful toward G-d. The word gratitude is mentioned over one-hundred and fifty times. G-d is the...

Golden Anniversary for Jews for Jesus

Yovel, the Hebrew word for the “Jubilee Year”, means “blowing the ram’s horn of liberty.” It is a fitting word for the 50th anniversary celebration this year of Jews for Jesus, the ministry that brought a tsunami change to Jewish evangelism worldwide led by its...

A Messianic View of the High Holy Days

Over the last five decades, Messianic Judaism has evolved and developed, especially in the observances of Jewish holidays and practices, with most of these traditions originating from traditional Judaism, with the High Holy Days being no exception. The High Holy Days...

MJAA Lifetime Achievement Award – Rabbi Paul Liberman

 A Lifetime Achievement Award is an amazing accomplishment that is given to an exemplary individual for having outstanding vision, dedication, and commitment to their life’s work. Rabbi Paul Liberman has dedicated five decades of his life to the Messianic Jewish...

Congregation Beth Yeshua’s New Home

“Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the L-rd.” This Word of the L-rd came to and through Haggai, the prophet, as G-d desired to see the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem....

Shavuot: The Original Revival

Since the infamous Asbury Revival in Wilmore, Kentucky quietly erupted this year on February 8th, America and much of the world, especially the Christian and Messianic Jewish world, have been energized by this unexpected move of G-d upon a spiritually hungry group of...