Beware the Ides of March

Julius Caesar, emperor of the great Roman empire, unfortunately did not heed prophecy. He died on 15th of March, the notorious ides of March.

We who are living in an empire of a deadly coronavirus can be a bit more comforted today as we read the health reports stemming from China and reproduced worldwide.

In a nation of billions where the virus first appeared, China appears to be successful in reducing the number of cases of infected persons. Today, only 11 new cases were reported in that nation of billions.

The “secret” of China’s success is not a secret. The Chinese are practicing social distancing. They do not meet in groups. They keep a specified distance while standing in lines at supermarkets, pharmacies and all places where there is a need to be.

Schools, museums, and tourist sites are re-opening. The sun is shining in China once again.

Here in Israel, Netanyahu’s futile search for an emergency unity government has fallen on deaf ears. The prime minister who has never shown restraint on his anti-Arab racist remarks and practices is now desperate to include the Arab Joint List of delegates into his proposed unity government.

The Arab Joint List has two outstanding members , Dr. Tibi and Dr. Abbas, both medical specialists renowned in their respective fields of medicine.

Now Bibi needs them. Not out of love or respect but solely for his own personal ego needs to form a government which currently evades his efforts.

Kahol Lavan, the party of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid (a party for whom I proudly voted) is supported by Avigdor Liberman and his Bayit Yehudi party which has in past always refused to join a coalition with Arabs and haredi Jews. As the song goes, “Times they are a-changing….”.

So what’s new in our rather un-holy holy land? All restaurants, cafes, schools, cultural institutions in the length and breadth of our small country have been required to close. All of our majestic kanyonim… palatial shopping malls… have been forced to close. “Corona police” patrol public sites and will apprehend any who violate the new regulations.

As is their “tradition” the ultra-Orthodox haredi religious leaders refuse to close their yeshivot. They refuse to abide by Zionist laws. They believe that a God who sent the virus will protect them from contacting it. Dreamers and fools !

While Netanyahu has required all schools, cinemas, theatres, museums, tourist sites and attractions, cafes, restaurants and shopping malls to be closed for the duration of the pandemic plague, one wonders if he has ordered our too many brothels to be closed ! Corona is bad for business !

From a biblical query, could it be possible that the corona virus was one of the Ten Plagues which God brought upon Pharaoh’s Egypt in the days of Moses our teacher?

Can history repeat itself? So many Israelites died in the wilderness on their way out of Egyptian bondage. Is it possibly because they did not practice social distancing?

Israeli tourism to China prior to the virus outbreak has been among the most popular of world tourists. There is a strong relationship between Jews and Chinese, no doubt due to their ancient cultures and heritage which has been, like ours, preserved and practiced over the many centuries.

We have much to learn from China how, under the strict communist regime, the great country can flourish in the world of capitalism, how they can produce and export the fruits of their production and create a stable economy stronger and better than the economy of many western nations.

For the present moment, we would be wise to follow the current successful practice of the Chinese. Social distancing has greatly reduced the number of infected carriers.

Our synagogues would be well advised to practice it. Limit the number of worshippers at any given religious service to the required minyan of ten males. No touching of the Torah scrolls. No touching of the mezuzzot on door posts. No hand-shaking.

But a “l’chayim” drink of whiskey is permitted. It is good for the soul.

For some reason, the Chinese do not drink whiskey. They prefer rice wine. Too bad we cannot drink it on the approaching days of Pesach.

But for today it would be advisable to remember emperor Julius Caesar and beware the ides of March.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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