Running a country is always going to be a balance between conflicting interests.
Take national security as an example. On the one hand, there is nothing security agencies would want more than to be able to listen in on every conversation by its citizens, to learn what they are doing, planning and devising. On the other hand, in democracies it is clear that doing so would be a grave violation of one’s privacy and that such eavesdropping and tracking would be unacceptable.
The same can be said now about the coronavirus and the gradual reopening of the economy. On the one hand, it made sense to send Israel into lockdown as the virus was first spreading across the country. On the other hand, it is clear to all in government that now has come the time to begin reopening the economy and allowing people to get back to work so they can try and save their businesses and livelihood.
One issue that remains unclear though is the decision by the government to ban bereaved families from visiting the graves of their loved ones. We understand that social distancing is needed and that restrictions are required to prevent people from gathering in large numbers in one place.
On the other hand, Israel is the start-up nation, a country known for its innovation, creativity and ability to come up with solutions for problems that at first glance appear unsolvable. It’s hard to shake the feeling that nothing could have been done to create a system to allow families or at least a representative of each family to visit the grave of their loved one on Remembrance Day this week.
There are just over 50 military plots in cemeteries across the country, some large and some small. Would it not have been possible to give people a time during the day that they can come. Not with crowds. Just one or two people? People would have likely been disciplined and followed the rules.
Something could have been done.
Because of this restriction, it was disturbing to see on Wednesday pictures of throngs of people standing in line to enter Ikea. In other words, it is okay to risk one’s life to go buy some shelves at Ikea but it is not okay to visit a cemetery at a designated time. The same can be asked about schools. Those remain closed and kids stuck at home but Ikea can be open?
Where is the logic?
We understand that the government wants to minimize the risk of infection and by closing the cemeteries it reduces the chance that people will be infected there. Usually, on an average year, hundreds of thousands of Israelis visit cemeteries to pay respect to Israel’s nearly 24,000 fallen soldiers.
There is also the explanation that Susie Weiss put so eloquently in Friday’s Jerusalem Post. Weiss’s son Ari was killed during an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Nablus in 2002.
“For us, this day, Remembrance Day, is no different than any other day of the year. The memories, the heartbreak, the wound is always there. I suppose that today we’re allowed – even encouraged – to openly express our grief and our pain, while sharing it with so many who would do anything to take it away,” Weiss wrote. “We don’t need to stand by Ari’s grave to show that we still love and miss him. He knows that we do. Every. Single. Day.”
But there does need to be a more detailed explanation by the government for the way it makes decisions.
Unfortunately, throughout this health crisis, we have seen too many government decisions are made without transparency and explanations. Who makes them and why they are made, remain hidden from the public view.
The best illustration of this was last week when the cabinet met only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced an easing of coronavirus restrictions and was simply asked to rubber stamp what he had already decided and unveiled to the public in a televised address.
The ministers were needless to say, not happy.
The government needs to do a better job explaining its decisions since on the surface if Ikea can be open, so can Mount Herzl cemetery.