Last week, as Israel was grappling with the outbreak of the coronavirus, there was another contagion that reared its ugly head, one nearly as menacing and insidious as the pandemic that has swept the country. It is the pathogen of racism and discrimination and it, too, requires our immediate attention.On Saturday night, March 14, a new immigrant from India named Am-Shalem Singson, who studies at a hesder yeshiva in Ma’alot, was on his way home to visit his family in Tiberias. A member of the Bnei Menashe community, which claims descent from a lost tribe of Israel, Am-Shalem was brought on aliyah three years ago by Shavei Israel, the organization that I founded and chair. Walking peacefully through the streets of the northern city, not far from the rising waters of the Galilee, Am-Shalem and his friends, because of their physical and ethnic features, were accosted by two hooligans, who began cursing at them and shouting, “Corona! Chinese!” Am-Shalem tried to explain to them that they were completely mistaken. “I told both of the attackers that I was not even Chinese but rather a Jew from the Bnei Menashe community, not that there is any justification for attacking a Chinese guy or anybody else,” he said. But that didn’t appear to faze the two ruffians, who proceeded to beat Am-Shalem, viciously pummeling him with fists and then kicking him repeatedly in the chest once he fell to the ground. Am-Shalem was rushed to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Poriya with damage to the chest and lungs. Although initially listed in moderate condition, thank God he made a fairly speedy recovery and was sent home in time for the Sabbath.Thankfully, the mayor of Tiberias and other municipal officials acted decisively to condemn the attack and pressure the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. As a result, the police took the matter very seriously and within days were able to arrest the two suspected assailants. But the incident sent shock waves throughout the entire Bnei Menashe community, which numbers more than 4,000 people here in Israel and another 6,500 still in India. And I must say that I too was absolutely stunned that such a thing could possibly occur here in the Jewish state. I have been involved with bringing the Bnei Menashe on aliyah and settling them here in Israel for more than two decades, and while there were occasional stories that I had heard about instances of mockery or derision that were aimed at community members, the attack on Am-Shalem was simply unprecedented. It seems so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said but apparently it does: Jews come in all shapes, colors and sizes. A Jew is not measured by the tone of his skin nor by the shape of his eyes. The fact that someone would attack a Bnei Menashe Jew because of his appearance or ignorantly blame him in some way for the coronavirus is nothing less than shocking. Sadly, it is not only the Bnei Menashe who have suffered from such discrimination in recent weeks. A friend of mine, a South Korean graduate student here in Israel, has repeatedly been the target of insults and invective since the outbreak of the coronavirus.It would be easy to dismiss these episodes as functions of the stressful times in which we all find ourselves, with fears about the virus compounded by uncertainty and anxiety for the future. But doing so would be a mistake. There are already too many divisions within Israeli society, be they political, ideological or socio-economic. The last thing we need to do is to add racism against our fellow Jews to the list.Such incidents do not mean that Israel is a racist society, as many of our enemies would like to contend. No country on Earth is entirely free of racial, ethnic or other such tensions, and it would be unfair to characterize the collective based on the actions of a handful of hateful knaves. Indeed, the bitter irony is that Am-Shalem’s name, translated into English, means “a complete or whole nation.” And therein lies the lesson we should all learn from this. For when the two thugs assaulted Am-Shalem because of what they perceived to be his Asian features, they were in fact striking at the very heart of what makes us such a strong and sturdy people: the unique combination of our unity and heterogeneity. It all boils down to education and refining social norms, and to sending a clear and unequivocal message that anyone who dares to raise a hand against a Bnei Menashe immigrant in effect raises a hand against us all.The writer serves as chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities seeking to return to the Jewish people.