I thought that gatherings of more than 10 in any public area are now prohibited. Pity that the Israel Democracy Institute which organised an anti-Bibi demonstration outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem seems not to be aware of this.
That they should be endangering their own lives with infection is of no concern of mine, but that they should be so reckless to potentially endanger everybody else’s lives by risking the spread of coronavirus should be a matter of utmost concern to the police and every other citizen.
What is democratic about such foolishness beats me.
I was sitting comfortably in Chicago, ensconced among family and a warm, welcoming community, when I heard the announcement about the two-week coronavirus quarantine for returning visitors from the United States. With a confirmed ticket pending, I was inundated by suggestions from friends and family to stay put in relatively safe and calm Chicago, or to come to family in the New York/New Jersey area (less of a viable option daily) or to return to Israel to face quarantine.
The final suggestion came from an unexpected source. Receiving an email from El Al informing me that my flight was changed, I telephoned for details. The El Al representative with whom I spoke was clearly Israeli, although we spoke in English. As I hemmed and hawed about losing my preferred seat and considered postponing my flight, she said bluntly: “You have a seat on a new flight; take it and come home.”
She did not need to elaborate. For me the choice was clear: faced with quarantine or the prospect of an even temporary exile, I chose the former. And, I am happy to report, I am home.
Although I would hardly use “draconian” to describe the measures currently being taken by the government to battle or at least contain COVID-19, I’m sympathetic to Brian Blum’s concerns that erring on the side of being overly cautious might not be the optimum policy to pursue (“Is Jewish ‘fear of the other…,’” March 13). And while we have not yet reached the point of self-ghettoization, I can see how the current practice of self-quarantine can be perceived that way.
The threat from the “other” that Blum speaks of, though, demands a very specific sort of response, one quite different from those introduced for the more typical threats. The overriding problem is, of course, that there’s not much of a window through which policy-makers can squeeze intensive measures, if and when they become necessary. Blum seems to be suggesting that we should wait for a small fire to become a large one before bringing out the more powerful and disruptive ladders and hoses. Alas, it’s not long before a seemingly insignificant spark or two turns into an inferno, and insofar as the flames of COVID-19 are for the most part invisible, there’s not much time to waste.
Nor am I in agreement with Blum’s argument that equating this current malady with a viral terrorist will help us deal with the infection more rationally and systematically. On the contrary, terrorists and terrorism can, to some degree, be profiled, recognized and – in some cases, anyway – prevented. Israeli instincts are sensitive to the potential for terrorists, and safeguards have been established to deter suicide bombers or hate-infested murderers. COVID-19 is, if anything, biological terrorism in which the very air provides this particular weapon of mass destruction. What is brought by the wind or what handshakes transmit cannot be seen. A radically different set of precautions and safety measures than those in place for conventional terrorism is most certainly called for.
Common sense, then, is what must prevail, and thus far our leadership has shown itself to be proactive and responsible. It’s not at all unlikely that as the danger of the infection increases in severity, so will the steps being taken to contain it. And speaking as one who has also been immunocompromised, I have every confidence that my well-being is being considered and that our policy-makers will maintain the balance that Blum calls for in terms of a measured response to the virus.