Sam Litvin

Bibi Performance on COVID – A Pesach Discussion

Israel from the outside, given the current numbers, seems to be doing a great job at combating the COVID pandemic. As of today, there are about 7400 cases and 40 deaths. This is certainly low compared to other countries like Italy, Spain or the United States where the pandemic seems to be out of control.

Bibi has been criticized for his actions to close down the country, but not stop Purim. Ministry of Health has been doing a good job of isolating potential cases, of tracing the paths of people who were infected and of testing Israelis for the virus. And yet, with a Heredi Minister of Health, Yaakov Litzman, the ability to get the Heredi community to act in the best interest of society and their community has been dismal, as evidenced by the fact that the Health Minister himself has been infected with COVID.

So as Israel gives more and more emergency powers to Bibi and allows him to stay on as a leader because of the emergency, why not look with a critical eye at what Bibi has done. Let us evaluate why he should stay in power, get emergency powers and why we fear to give the responsibility to a General like Ganz, why we think he would be unable to do a better job with a new cabinet that would include a Minister of Health who understands science and medicine and its importance in 21st century instead of relying on a tool of pre-history, instead proclaiming coming of a Messiah.

If Bibi is doing a great job and we should not go along with a trial and give him another year, then we should look at the numbers.

First: let’s take a look at the fact that over 2000 health workers were quarantined.

How is that possible? What kind of poor response occurred that in a nation of 9 million, where there is a shortage of health workers that 2000 were quarantined? Clearly, something went wrong in our system that would allow such an impact on our healthcare system. This would be an F in my book, we cannot create mistakes that quarantine 2000 health workers.

Second, is 7400 cases. Seems ok compared to others, but we can’t know for sure unless we compare them as a proportion of the population country. For that I like to compare to the United States, currently the worst-hit country with clearly one of the worst responses to the pandemic.

US population is 330 million. Let’s say that Israel is 10 million, that would mean that the US is 33 times larger in population than Israel. So if we multiply 7,400 cases by 33 and that’s how many cases would be in the US if the US was Israel. This equals 231,000 cases! Today the US is at 271,000. Given that Italy is 60 million, Israel’s proportion of cases to population is far higher than Italy, which is currently at 119,000. Also an F, clearly the spread has been out of what we can allow in Israel.

The third set of numbers are the 40 deaths. Israel seems to be spared the high death rate, only 40 deaths. Yet if we multiply this by 33, we get 1320. Much better than the US with 7,000 deaths, but still, proportionally, we are not doing great. That is a miracle considering the number of cases and the small size of the country. But obviously, as a proportion of the country, we are not doing well, and the increase in the deaths is going strong and seems to not have an end in sight. This would be a C, such numbers are far too high, but as usual, Bibi is often saved not by his actions but by the actions of amazing Israelis who do much more than their share. But Bibi takes credit. The 40 deaths didn’t happen because of his actions, but IN-SPITE of his actions.

By looking objectively and comparatively, we can unmask the irrelevant numbers and show the poor performance that the current administration has administered. Similar to how Bibi can claim to reduce the number of attacks from Gaza when in fact, their range, rate, and impact has been increasing.

This is my main point, a democracy ensures freedom for all people. To have a functioning democracy, one must have a free and vibrant press, independent judiciary, rule of law and elections that are free and transparent. As we approach Passover, in quarantine, we Israelis must decide what country we want to live in, what kind of people we want to be: a free people who are unafraid of the future, who can take a risk with a new leader. Or do we chose to be fearful people who put children’s lives at risk in Sderot rather than risk lives of soldiers who are there to protect children? Do we hide under the Iron Dome, or do we confront the situation in Gaza? Do we end the rule of Bibi with his assault on our democracy, not giving him extra powers when by objective measures he has proven himself to be a terrible leader in wake of this crises, or do we allow him as we allowed Agrippa before the fall of the second temple, an onslaught on our rights, our democracy, and our freedom? These are the questions that we musk ask ourselves this Passover as we ponder our freedom walk from Egypt.

About the Author
Sam Livin was born in Soviet Union and grew up in San Diego. In 2012, he travelled the world photographing Jewish communities publishing a book called "Your Story Our Sipur." Today he continues to write about Israel and Judaism as he lives and studies business and ecology in Tel Aviv.
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