Amid Hanukkah, Israel can finally begin to rebuild from the coronavirus

There are lessons that we can learn from the Hanukkah story that are applicable to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Ruven Rivlin is seen lighing candles for the fourth night of Hanukkah on December 13, 2020. (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
President Ruven Rivlin is seen lighing candles for the fourth night of Hanukkah on December 13, 2020.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication,” marking the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was sacked by Antiochus’s army. It was then, as the Jews cleaned up and rebuilt, they found one sealed jug of pure olive oil that, instead of being enough for one day, miraculously lasted for eight days.
There are lessons that we can learn from the Hanukkah story that are applicable to the coronavirus pandemic, as vaccine distribution is about to begin, bringing some hope for more light into our lives just in time for the Festival of Lights.
The first is that it’s now incumbent on our government, and all of us, to have a rededication of our own and rebuild our economy.
The last year has been harrowing for so many, whether due to prolonged unemployment, having small businesses succumb to the pandemic or going through life savings to survive.
It long seemed that Israel’s economy would tank, with so many put on unpaid leave or fired from their jobs, and those technically still gainfully employed having to do much of it from home, and many juggling it with child care during two lockdowns. There has been talk about it taking years to recover.
 Yet not all hope is lost. On Sunday, the Finance Ministry reported a modest recovery in the job market, with unemployment at 18.2%, half of what it was in April. It’s still much higher than in the beginning of the year, but the impact of the second lockdown on the labor market was not nearly as bad as the first.
With the vaccine, which is slated to be rolled out next week, paving the way for a slow return to routine and normalcy, now is the time to work on building on that positive momentum to get the economy back on track more broadly.
Another lesson from Hanukkah is that people have to take control of their own destinies. The Maccabees did not accept their miserable fates when they were banned from observing Judaism; they took responsibility for themselves and their nation, they acted and they fought back.
Many have shown that spirit of the Maccabees, fighting to stay afloat, finding new and enterprising ways to do their jobs online, to turn in-person restaurants into delivery businesses, to give artistic performances over Zoom, divide their facilities into social-distancing “capsules” and more.
Yet, even the Maccabees needed a little help from above for their scrappy army to defeat Antiochus’s much larger force, and, of course, to be able to light the menorah.
Businesses won’t have that divine intervention in their struggle against the pandemic’s economic impact, and a viable vaccine in less than a year does seem like a kind of deus ex machina, but now the government needs to provide solutions that are more down to earth.
Though it may seem highly unlikely when the coalition appears to be falling apart, the government can and must use its final days or weeks before an election is called to come up with a wide-ranging economic plan.
Occasionally authorizing grants and loans is not enough. The government needs to come up with something organized and consistent so that the small and medium-sized businesses that drive our economy know they have the support they need to recover and rebuild.
The plan should help struggling businesses, drive unemployment down even further, and provide a framework for people to be able to dig themselves out of the economic hole the coronavirus has created.
Whatever missteps the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made and continues to make via zig-zagging and indecision regarding how to deal with the proliferation of the virus, we should all be thankful that the prime minister has been able to procure the much-needed vaccines that will hopefully lead us out of this dark tunnel.
But that’s just the first step. The economy is not the Temple, of course, and an economic plan is not divine intervention.
Yet, perhaps the lights of Hanukkah can be the inspiration our leaders need to rededicate themselves to helping the fighting force of our economy while it’s on the ropes, so we can all rebuild.


Tags Hanukkah