“Enjoy the ‘seger’!”, “Enjoy the lockdown!” – the most common sentence I heard in Tel Aviv, in the last two days of 5780, just before Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish New Year.
Of course, no one knew how the ‘seger’ will look this time because the government was changing rules until the last moment. But I must thank the government for allowing me to walk 1 km, instead of 500 m, because at least I could join my friends for Rosh Hashanah dinner (keeping the social distance of course, with corona friendly separate servings, that made everyone comfortable). But another guest had to jog all the way to the dinner, not to break the law, because this person lives farther. And it is alright to do sports during the lockdown.
On Shabbat, the first day of the New Year around 200 people were protesting at the beach against the lockdown restrictions, which we all must agree are illogical. They found a loophole within the regulations: although they cannot relax at the beach, they can protest there. Demonstrations are allowed during the ‘seger’.
The next day, on my way to Tashlich, due to corona I decided to do on my own this year, I noticed red barrier tape and black flags on the shore – the sea is closed, forbidden. At the same time, any water sports are fine – not against the law – so kite surfers were in a paradise! Hundreds of them were literally flying over the sea. It was beautiful to watch. But also irritating that the sea is closed to everyone else, and whoever tried to enter the water was told by a lifeguard from the megaphone, he must exit the water.
I was walking (that’s allowed) and feeling sorry for the employees of the beach, as they were telling people to get up – sitting at the beach is against the law.
The beach is not the most important thing, many might say, but this is just an example of the lack of logic in this lockdown and the situation in Israel right now. People are tired and will be looking for more gaps in the law to survive this time.
When two months ago I wrote an article ‘Izrael pogrążony w chaosie’ [‘Israel plunged in chaos’] for Polish News, Tygodnik Polsat News, some Israeli friends wrote to me they disagree, the government has it all under control. When I was writing that article, we just reached the line of 2000 sick. Today this number is a dream; there are days when we cross 5000 and some hospitals end their capacity to accept new patients. I wish I was wrong, but unfortunately, the chaos is even bigger nowadays, there are more and more sick people, the mortality numbers are higher, and it seems there is no end to the situation.
Obviously, it is not just the government that should pray hard, do ‘teshuva’ [repentance], and ask for forgiveness, this week. As a society, we have failed, too. Both Haredim and secular did not keep the social distance, ignored the proper way of wearing masks (if any). Whether some were clubbing in Tel Aviv or others could not resist from having hundreds of guests on weddings; or went to Uman, maybe in good intentions, but in my eyes not respecting Judaism at all…
Yet in April Israel was an example of dealing with Covid-19, today it is mentioned in the international media due to the second lockdown. The light Israeli version of lockdown we shall say; non-consequent lockdown – increasing the unemployment and existential problems of self-employed, but not healing the corona. So sad. Real ‘Yamim Nora’im’.
Prayers for being inscribed in the Book of Life probably were never that realistic as they might be this year. This Yom Kippur will be different, not only because of the limitations in synagogues. The pandemic made it real. We pray for surviving.
And maybe these days are for us to think, what can we, as people, do better in order to stop this deep health and economic crisis? What can we do, when we cannot rely on the government? What I can do? What each and every one of us can do to stop this madness?
Gmar Chatima Tova!
And… “Enjoy the ‘seger’!”.