There are 1,000 dead from coronavirus – it is time we see their faces

We should hear the stories – because these are real people, fellow Israelis, our relatives and our neighbors.

The funeral of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who died from complications of coronavirus, Jerusalem, April 13, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The funeral of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who died from complications of coronavirus, Jerusalem, April 13, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine for a moment that after every COVID-19 death we’ve experienced since the first one in March, the name of the deceased would be released to the media. There would be a picture, a few lines of who the person was, who they left behind and what they used to do – like the way we do it when someone is killed in a terrorist attack.
Imagine that the public saw all these names, read these few lines and watched as relatives spoke warmly and lovingly about the family members and what they had meant to them.
Would Israelis stay apathetic about the 1,000 people now dead from novel coronavirus if their identities were exposed? Would they continue to remain silent while the government plays petty politics instead of laying out a strategic plan to combat this silent disease and beat it – like we should have been doing all along?
Would haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and Arabs continue to hold weddings with hundreds of people? Would thousands of people come out to protest every Saturday night near Balfour Street? Would we even be having a discussion about letting thousands of people fly to Uman?
Would Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have time to tweet about deals with Kosovo and Serbia, which change nothing for average Israelis who are facing a lockdown, losing their place of employment and are up against a healthcare system that is about to be flooded to the point of collapse?
Move an embassy to Jerusalem? So what? That means nothing right now.
The Health Ministry will tell you that unlike a terrorist attack, it would be a violation of a patient’s privacy to release his or her name and picture to the press when someone dies of corona. That policy is what prevents news organizations, like The Jerusalem Post, from publishing the names. We simply don't have them. 
While it is true that dying in a hospital bed while hooked up to a ventilator is not the same as being killed on an Egged bus in a suicide bombing, it is still important for the public to see the faces, read the names and hear the stories.
WE SHOULD hear the stories; these are real people, fellow Israelis, our relatives and our neighbors. And all these deaths are not only killing them, they are killing us. What kind of a people are we to just accept these deaths? Yes, corona is killing people across the globe, but should we just accept it because these are older people?
Should we just nod in acknowledgment that someone old has died and then go back to leaving the house without a mask?
These people might be old, but they did not need to die. Someone in their 80s and 90s might have had years left to live, to spend time with their grandchildren, to hold their great-grandchildren in their arms and to continue contributing to society.
A few days ago, The Jerusalem Post published a story with the headline: “Who has died from COVID-19? Health Ministry provides new data.” The bottom line was that the average age of the people who had died from the virus was just over 80.
I’m guessing that many people under the age of 50 let out a sigh of relief, thinking, like many of us do, that even if we get the virus, it won’t do much to us. We might get sick, but except in a handful of rare cases, we will ultimately be fine.
That might feel good, but why are we pretending that people who are old have to die? They don’t. My grandparents are no longer alive, but until their mid-80s they were active and full of life and people whom we – their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – wanted to spend as much time with as possible.
There is importance in maintaining medical privacy, but let’s not kid ourselves: If the 1,000 people who died were in their 30s, 40s or 50s, the country would be in an uproar, and the government would be doing everything in its power to stop the spread of this virus.
It is time for us to see the faces and know the names of those who are dying from corona. The silence is deafening – and the apathy is killing people.


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