I spent Rosh Hashanah, much like Passover, staying at home in Jerusalem, but unlike six months ago, this time it was of my own volition. Even before the talk of a High Holy Day lockdown, I decided not to attend synagogue for the New Year, having stopped praying at an outdoor minyan in mid-July. That’s when coronavirus cases reached 1,500 per day and I no longer felt safe even standing outside in a socially distanced group, and my prayers have been at home ever since.
The mitzvah to pray with a minyan did not disappear, but the requirement to save a life still supersedes it. Our trajectory in July left me with the feeling the act of praying with a minyan put myself, and others, in danger of potentially contracting and spreading COVID-19.
Even a mask is no guarantee coronavirus will not spread, and as such every single trip outside my door holds inherent danger. Yes, some things are deemed necessary, but the average person has an opportunity to make a statement with their actions.
Going on with our lives as though the global plague is behind us – as large parts of Israeli society are doing, even as they say things should change – is saying we are okay with the current trajectory, with a sharp increase in daily cases of a highly communicable disease, and with people dying every day.
At this juncture we must ask ourselves: what is worth putting our life on the line each time we step out the door? If the government does not take strides to curb the spread of coronavirus, vote with your feet.
The World Health Organization has suggested – since March – that a country have its positive case rate below 5% for two weeks before considering reopening. Yet how were we okay with Israel setting a record at 12% in early September?
So before stepping out the door we must all ask ourselves: is it worth the potential risk of contracting a disease about whose long-term effects doctors know little, or worse, spread it to anyone else?
Those industries that stayed closed after the lockdown in March protested “a certain death sentence” that further closures would do to their respective industries, from hotels and tourism to bars and theaters. Even those running synagogues howled that their way of life was under attack.
But at no point did anyone ask if stepping outside was worth the risk of spreading a highly contagious disease.
Even as the government dragged its feet to make any decision, the public carried on as though everything was fine, or expecting that there was some ace up the government’s sleeve that it could pull out for an instant fix.
Seeing as the political leadership has little interest in actually tackling the coronavirus pandemic head-on, we citizens must bear the responsibility. The tough decisions must be made by all.
Yes, the government should have done more, and when the time comes it should step in to help businesses struggling in a post-pandemic world.
But so long as we cannot rely on the government, we must personally do all that we can to curb the spread of the pandemic, through our own choice.
There should be no such thing as an acceptable death – an ambitious goal, but one we should strive toward nevertheless.
If it were our own family member on a ventilator, no mountain would be unmoved to fight the pandemic.
We have failed once; there is no reason to continue doing so. It’s time we all chose to stay home whenever we can, irrespective of a lockdown.
Note: Steve Linde will be back in the next issue of The Jerusalem Report.