So far, we’re doing very well. Zero known infected inside Israel.
Reasons? First of all, Israel is surrounded by enemy states. True, Egypt and Jordan signed a peace treaty with us. But their populations, in general, hate us. Most of them have never met a Jew in their life. Which has never stopped most people from hating Jews. To the contrary. If they’d get to know us, they’d have a chance to change their mind. Although, I must say that not too much love and respect is coming from Arabs having daily contact with Israeli Jews. Jew-hatred can be fought (Germany proves) but without fighting it, it tends to flourish.
The most popular truism from the famous and most loved and missed Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff was: “Every disadvantage has its advantage.” While many Israelis feel kind-of locked up in our State, an advantage is that there is not much trans-border travel except by plane. So, while our neighboring impoverished autocracies are in great danger to become a coronavirus haven, democratic Israel got none so far.
Second, Cruijff is known for: “Every advantage has its disadvantage” too. He was the master of the paradox. Israel’s tourism industry is prominent. We just had a North Korean congregation of the Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, tour our country by more than 1,500 members, some of whom, turned out, were carrying the virus. Israel expelled them quickly and ordered a couple of hundred Israelis to self-quarantine for two weeks but no infection has been reported. That, I don’t hesitate to call a miracle.
We’re also a small country with many international contacts. So, we hold off, for the time being, on high school students visiting Poland (concentration camps) or Japan (Judo tournament). It’s a pity be we’ll get over it. Better safe than sorry.
Third, Jews (and most Israelis are Jews) are statistically likely to carry something that I’d call the paranoia/naivety complex. Jews easily mistrust the trustworthy but, being tired of being ‘negative’ can also flip to trust even the most dangerous. So, when word came out of China of a highly contagious virus that kills a small percentage of those infected, Israel’s brightest believed it and put their heads together to deal with whatever would transpire quickly. Unlike the World Health Organization (WHO) that seems quite slow in catching the gravity of the situation.
Fourth, many Jews believe that we are clever. That can help when faced with a problem. Not only started many Israelis try to find medication and vaccines against the virus and use robots to prevent infection. We also thought well about the financial side. The WHO was slow to call for travel bans because of the economic impact. Israel understood that letting the virus in would be much more costly (closing whole cities, schools, workplaces) than even halting all tourism for a few months and obligating people possibly infected stay home and help them and their employers with any financial distress. Israelis might be in less economic distress if we’d buy more local produce. While China and many other countries likely will face major financial crises.
Fifth, it’s hard for most Jews to not panic. Our survival has been in jeopardy for millennia. Now that we’re finally relatively safe, old panic and despair surface easily. This is a disadvantage. But it’s not so bad actually. This could come from giving everyone a possibility to call to get reliable information. This is also important now dictatorships have been found to spread conspiracy theories based on nothing, to sow panic in democratic nations. Our PM now shows how to stay calm and safe. He refuses to shake hands. He’s right. Rub elbows or embrace but why let the virus network from hand to hand? Not that the chance of getting it on your skin right now is likely, but let’s practice while the risk is still low.
Sixth, old nonsense stays around. A highly educated nut now claims that ultra-Orthodox Jews are spreading this virus — those dirty Jews. No one believes him. (Jew-hatred sounds alike from whom-ever it comes.) Jews are not so naive that we would believe what dictatorships say.
Seventh, we just might be lucky. If this virus is as seasonal as its sister influenza, it might taper off before it gets a foothold here, G^d willing.
Israel has never been safer. Though, we must admit that this virus is not as deadly as popular myth has it. Watching out when crossing the street and buckling up in traffic will save more lives than all viruses, rockets, and knife-wielding terrorists together endanger. (The latter two also because of our excellent police force, soldiers, and military knowhow.)
Be safe, be here. (And wash your hands before touching your face.)