In the coming weeks and months, Israel’s national character will be tested to its limits.
Already, Israelis have had restrictions placed on their movements, ability to assemble and work, and leave their homes. Life has changed completely, as children and students of all ages have been sent home and their institutions shuttered for almost one and a half months, and perhaps much longer.
Already one citizen has died, and more than 1,000 have been sickened in varying degrees.
More than 150,000 Israelis who have been quarantined, completely cut off from life, sometimes sitting in one room for 14 days.
All of these measures are placing a tremendous strain on our economy and the ability of our nation to function.
Nonetheless, so far, Israel has acted with a national understanding that these steps are what it takes to be victorious over an invisible and deadly enemy.
When the coronavirus leaves us and life returns to some semblance of normalcy, it will only be a matter of time before our terrorist enemies once again test us with a barrage of rockets and missiles targeting our civilian population centers.
Our responses in recent years to this have been minimal, to say the least.
More often than not, our political decision-makers decide to bomb a few empty buildings and then seek a truce with the offending party, whether Hamas or Palestine Islamic Jihad.
When one asks political and security officials intimately involved why the response is so extremely limited, many argue that the public does not have the stomach for lengthy wars with large casualty figures.
They are mistaken, and now we have some evidence.
Israelis are showing every day that they are prepared to suffer in the short-term for a long-term good.
The public trusts its officials to make the right decisions and balance the possible loss of life with national security interests. They understand that sometimes ultimate victory comes with pain.
Israelis will not countenance the callous approach of some foreign leaders who suggest that the virus be allowed to run through the population, killing untold numbers, in order to create a Darwinian survival of the fittest of those who develop immunity.
Israelis know this is not the approach of a nation which has numerous hospital wards for those on ventilators or life-support machines with little hope of survival. The type of wards which simply don’t exist in most other Western nations.
Israelis place an inordinately high value on life. We see how the public mourns for people they did not know and never met. Our nation is one big family connected in minute degrees of separation.
Israelis also a country which understands the value of sacrifice.
We still vaunt the Battle of Tel Hai a century ago, and speak with reverence about the actions of Sgt. Roi Klein, killed in 2006 in the Battle of Bint Jbeil in Lebanon after he jumped on a grenade to save his fellow IDF soldiers.
Israel is perhaps unique in these characteristics and this is perhaps the foundation about why we are acting the way we are in the face of this epidemic.
Israeli decision-makers should look at this fortitude and resilience which can free up their hand about how to react to its enemies, who are starting to see large cracks forming in its deterrence.
Our southern residents, who bear the greatest brunt of the Gaza terrorist menace, are usually the one’s calling for the most robust approach. They know that if Israel reacts forcefully, perhaps more aggressively than ever before, they are likely to spend many weeks and even months in and out of their bomb shelters and safe rooms.
Nevertheless, they support an Israeli victory over its enemies, regardless of the costs.
Our response to the coronavirus pandemic should demonstrate to the country’s politicians and security officials that Israelis are prepared to suffer until total victory over the contagion.
If, when we emerge from our restrictions with all of the carnage and damage, economic and physical, we know that our enemy, in this case the virus, is completely vanquished, we will accept the suffering.
However, if it is only a partial defeat and the enemy continues attacking us every few months, then our sacrifice will have been in vain.
This is the lesson of the Israeli public’s reaction to coronavirus. Hopefully our politicians and decision-makers are listening as they strategize for the next terrorist attack.
The writer is a member of the board of directors of and adviser to the Middle East Forum Israel, which leads the Israel Victory Project, and a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.