Beating coronavirus together, city by city – opinion

This global uncertainty affects us all. People around the world are looking for an anchor to give them security and stability. This role can, and must, be filled by local mayors and municipal leaders

Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi'in Maccabim Reut and chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities (photo credit: AVIV KORT)
Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi'in Maccabim Reut and chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities
(photo credit: AVIV KORT)
We are currently facing the greatest global crisis in the last century. It is unprecedented. It is scary, but it is something that we can beat by doing nothing.
As a mayor of a mid-sized city, and as a leader of all the 256 mayors in Israel, we are doing a lot. We are working around the clock because we are the ones interacting with citizens and providing emergency services. For the country’s 9 million citizens though beating the coronavirus means doing nothing – literally. Stay home. That’s the best thing you can do to stop this.
This is difficult because when our country is under threat we mobilize. We volunteer. We work as a team to confront the threat. Here, we are asking Israelis to do something counterintuitive. We are asking them to go home and stay at home.
The consequences of this crisis are not yet clear, even as they are discussed and debated by forums and governments around the world. What we know for sure is that there are no regions and no peoples who will not be affected by COVID-19 in some way or another.
Everyone’s health is at risk. The economy of every single country will be affected. Industries such as tourism, aviation, manufacturing, retail and many others will be affected.  When economies falter, people are affected. Unprecedented numbers of Israelis are currently unemployed. But those are just numbers. I see what is going on in my city, Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut. People are hurting financially, and they don’t know what the future holds. Behind all the numbers and statistics there are people and families.  This is a personal, municipal, national and global crisis.
This global uncertainty affects us all. People around the world are looking for an anchor to give them security and stability. This role can, and must, be filled by local mayors and municipal leaders. As local leaders we are responsible to provide the best possible responses to our residents, whether they are demands for security, sanitation, education or welfare. As mayors, we take responsibility because life must go on. We can't stop living.
As mayors, we are responsible to help local businesses that are being closed. We have to advocate for our residents to get proper healthcare and testing if they need it. We have to ensure that the public spaces remain empty in accordance with security regulations and we are creating endless content and activities for children and parents in order to give them some semblance of routine
The local authorities invest thought, time and effort into creating tools that can ensure a culture of normalcy for their residents. It is critical for the local mayor and leaders to keep strong bonds with their residents to ensure that the residents will in turn respect and support the regulations, making the public space safe for all.
Myself, alongside my friends, mayors from Israel and from across the world, are living this reality every day in the field of combat, for this is nothing short of a war. The war against COVID-19 unites us all in our isolation and it is upon us to be the responsible ones to protect the people living in our authority.
When this crisis will end, I believe we will emerge with a strengthened health system, more cohesive residents and extensive knowledge in how to handle complex crises from afar. At the end of this crisis, every mayor and every citizen will mobilize to support our local businesses. It’s the local businesses that make our cities so unique and special, and provide us with the goods and services to live our lives. We will all work together to strengthen our economy and community.
As it says in Zechariah 4:6: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.’ It is clear that we will overcome this by our inner strength and resistance
I believe that together we will get through this and will emerge with stronger communities but it is going to take each one of us now, to listen to instructions from the government, and then when the threat is over to go back to our lives with renewed energy and vigor.
The author is mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut and chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, and of the Global Mayors Coalition. 


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