Letters to the Editor: April 1, 2020

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Corona: Follow the leader(s)
As I read various recent articles in The Jerusalem Post pertaining to those in the ultra-Orthodox community who were not abiding by the strictures of the corona crisis, it made my blood boil. This has nothing to do with strict adherence to religious principles; just the opposite – it displays a large degree of ignorance!
If they were truly religious and well-versed in religious concepts, they would know that religious Jews must adhere to the strictures imposed upon us by public officials for reasons such as: 1) Rabbinic authorities over the generations have impressed upon us that in practicing Judaism, v’chai bahem, v’low she’yamut bahem (you shall live by them [the commandments] but not die because of them) and 2) u-shmartem et nafshoseichem (you shall guard/protect your souls).
Protecting your health, ensuring that you are not in a life-threating situation, outweighs the fulfillment of other mitzvah. Period.
Tzur Yitzhak
The reluctance of some haredi leaders to support government directives regarding coronavirus (March 30) evokes memories of a similar experience in south Florida in 1992.
In August of that year, hurricane Andrew, a deadly Category 5 storm was barreling straight toward Miami Beach; its residents were duly advised to evacuate. In the main, most did, the exception being the Chabad community – assured by the Rebbe that the hurricane would not strike them.
As it turned out, the hurricane did change direction and veered southward – literally leveling in its wake a wide expanse of southern Dade County – from which it took years to recover. Hurricane Andrew was never to be forgotten.
Of course, the Chabad community was inspired by the seemingly prophetic powers of their Rebbe. The non-Chabad were considerably less impressed, soberly holding more to the maxim of ein somchim al haness (one does not rely on miracles).
Beit Shemesh
The irresponsible and sanctimonious extreme ultra-Orthodox sects from Bnei Brak and Mea She’arim who are refusing to comply with the rules of their country by senselessly spreading this deadly contagious virus throughout their densely populated areas are selfish and bigoted without a slight thought they imperil human life for others (“Enforcement for all,” March 30).
They may spend more time studying, but their copious prayers will not help them to withstand and cure this pandemic, as we observe the tragic results in many communities of a lingering death of thousands throughout the world. I am heartbroken with compassion for the families of the victims and the enormous task that health care workers must face with this insidious epidemic. Many who died did not have the time to say goodbye. We should say a prayer for them.
It is time that extremist religious sects and cults conduct their community with common sense and cease to be a law unto themselves, something that our insipid and severely fractured political system has allowed to thrive.
To protect us from these disobedient life-threatening religious factions we should lock their prayer houses and study areas and restrict them of any form of congregation by a forceful quarantine connected with meaningful penalties, obviate the death and destruction they are wreaking in our country. This should be in force until we control this contagion.
The front page stories today (31 March) demonstrate a level of pig-headedness of two groups in a worldwide emergency.
1) People who do not follow the rules for isolation can and do infect others and are committing a sin and/or legal infraction. Empathy for them is impossible; punishment is a necessity.
2) The members of our Knesset. Their selfishness in further delaying the organization of the government by fighting over positions is obscene. Starting in kindergarten, we learn that some people aren’t going to be chosen by the teacher. Most students don’t rant and rave by the time they become adults; they should know that this is the reality of life. They are not adults if they do not understand this.
My advice to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
• Sit down in a room alone and decide on the real number of ministers needed without considering splitting ministries into parts.
• Select those whom you know who are excellent for specific ministries and those that can serve in any ministry (no more than the number decided above).
• Assign the ministries to the winners and make the list public (before telling the losers). Make it clear to the losers that they can either shut up or quit the Knesset.
I read the article “Back to Work!” (March 29) with a certain amount of initial skepticism. It actually made some sense and the long term repercussions will be huge. However, people should, and can, anyway use the guidelines effectively, like hand washing, keeping spaces between people (especially in supermarket queues) and the unnecessary habit of hugging and kissing when meeting people; shaking hands too.
Where social distancing would be very welcome is in the economy section of aircraft!
This unprecedented situation will have to run its course for however long it takes, and one hopes that people will respect the world and each other more when its over.
Kfar Saba
To work or not to work – that seems to be the question.
A government’s priority is the safeguarding and well being of its people; all other aspects that affect society must unfortunately be secondary.
Yes, a return to normality is of vital interest to us all, but don’t rush it. Until the safety guarantee can be categorically assured, we must thankfully and gratefully let all those unsung heroes concentrate on saving lives.
Hopefully, with expert medical scientific advice, we will reach that nirvana sooner rather than later – probably somewhat monetarily poorer, but alive to retell the nightmare of 2020.
Tel Aviv
Examining recent global statistics, 718,656 have been infected and 33,891 have died – a 4.7% death rate.
• The country with the highest death rate is Italy, with 97,867 infected and 10,799 dead, 11%
• The USA has 139,745 infected and 2,448 have died, 1.8%
• In Germany 62,095 are infected and 525 have died, 0.8%
Here in Israel 4,247 are infected and 15 have died, 0.45%
Only Chile, with only seven deaths recorded (0.3%) has a lower death rate than Israel.
Despite all the complaints, the decisions made by our government and the dedication of our health care workers have saved lives, and for that we are grateful.
Masks gathering dust
In 2012 the IDF Home Command issued all citizens with updated models of gas masks. These were to protect us against chemical and biological warfare. The current virus is equivalent to biological warfare, the coronavirus droplet size between persons within a meter distance is reported as five to 10 microns diameter and airborne microbes from dried droplets as below five microns diameter that exist over a meter distance.
If these gas masks were designed to prevent particles of these sizes then why have we not been authorized to use them? If they are not suitable then why have no steps been initiated in the last six weeks to modify them?
The current surgical masks some are wearing are totally ineffective against this size of particle but there were available simple masks used on construction sites worldwide, particularly where asbestos was found, that prevent passage through them of particles of the sizes of the virus.
Israel is not Asia
Seth Frantzman’s article suggesting that to control COVID-19, Israel use the model used in South Korea and Singapore, which is based upon extreme government control is, in my opinion, not a viable option here. He has written many articles about various ethnic groups such as the Kurds and Yazidis and he always come to the conclusion that the reason for these problems is ethnic group incompatibility.
South Korea is 99% ethnic Korean and has no tradition of freedom, as they were under foreign rule for about 400 years until very recently. Singapore has been under one-man rule since receiving independence. Everyone has heard that in Singapore you can’t chew gum or spit on the floor. Their ethnic background of 80% Chinese also leads to total compliance with the rules and regulations.
Israel is the exact opposite of these models of uniformity and full compliance. We come from tens of different ethnic backgrounds, which we are proud of, but this means that we react to the current situation differently. We have the Arabs and haredim who don’t respond the way most of the rest of us do. Israel is not a “one size fits all” country and the policies have to be enforced differently for different ethnic groups.
Nobel intentions
Its hard not to suppress a giant smirk at the letter to the UN secretary general sent by a group of Nobel laureates blasting Iran for allowing virus cover-up (“21 Nobel laureates blast Iran for allowing spread of coronavirus, cover-up,” March 30). The Nobelists ask for intervention by the secretary general to remove all the medical resources and treatment from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
I guess no harm is done by the letter, but isn’t this carrying naïveté and ivory tower seclusion from reality much too far? Iran is a terrorist regime that will stop at nothing to remain in power – including mass killing among their population. The UN is a toothless, corrupt, bureaucracy that uniquely and invariably fails to fulfill any of the grand visions it was meant to meet by its founders.
The Nobelists should have sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency as well and demanded that Iran cease all their activity in producing a deliverable atom bomb. Then we might see some action. The only good thing that comes out of such letters is to give the writers a totally undeserved warm feeling that they have done something. Even group immolation would have zero effect on the Iranian mullahs and the UN secretary general.
Good news
Experts in social theory often make the point that it is easier to convince most people of the need to accept restrictions, difficulties and inconveniences if they see an end to these, and the prospect of a brighter and more promising future at some point. Demanding sacrifices of them while consistently and obsessively concentrating exclusively on the disastrous nature of the current situation can be counterproductive. Some will simply give up, since there is little point in cooperating if all is in vain.
The Jerusalem Post’s policy of always stressing bad news on your first pages and relegating any cheerful information (if including any) to columns buried deep in the newspaper will not only lead to overall feelings of frustration and despair but may even lead some lonely and unwell individuals to depression and suicidal thoughts. Your correspondents (as well as many television presenters) seem determined to outdo each other in the degree of sensationalism, headline grabbing, and fear-mongering that their offerings can achieve. Perhaps it sells more newspapers, but is it not possible to convey the facts without such patters of journalistic doom and gloom?
Is there no correspondent willing to cheer us up by concentrating, at least occasionally, on the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel?
Beit Shemesh
Gotta smile
Our daughter sent us this message: “Hi Mum and Dad. I am so excited. I am going out to empty the garbage. What shall I wear?”
Seder considerations
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on families to celebrate the Seder alone due to the corona pandemic and the fear of accelerated rates of infection (January 31). But this may only make a bad situation worse and underline the unhappy dilemma we are all in. Zoom or no Zoom, it will be difficult to celebrate under these conditions of isolation.
I and some others have a better idea: delay Passover until after the corona crisis subsides. Think how marvelously symbolic the Seder will then become. Just like the Israelites escaped from the Pharoah, they have now escaped from the dreaded corona. Creative families will be able to create other analogies with their youngsters and oldsters for matzah, the four questions by the youngest, Eliyahu’s visit, etc. What fun – and even meaningful.
Many of us are searching for ways to deal with some of the consequences of the incredible plague that threatens us. One issue is the observing of the Passover Seder either completely alone or cut off from friends and family. There has been much discussion and debate about having virtual Sedarim via Zoom, Hangouts, Meet, Skype, etc.
We have decided on a different approach, one that is very familiar to those who have experienced Passover in the Diaspora. My wife, Chaya, came up with the wonderful suggestion that, on the second night of Pesach we have an abbreviated (because of the time limitations of some of the programs) virtual Seder with our children and grandchildren, all of whom are Israeli and in Israel. That is, after all, when the second Seder takes place overseas. We can have our family Seder and, if we want, we can also interpret it as a way of identifying with world Jewry.