Michael Boyden

Facing up to the Truth

There are some things that none of us wants to hear. We grew up on stories that ended with lines like “and they lived happily ever after”. That’s the way we like it to be.

They even changed the ending of the Hollywood movie “Pretty Woman” to fit in with that model. The original screenplay, so we are informed, had the sex worker Vivian Ward (played by Julie Roberts) being tossed out of the car and being left in a dirty alley with money that had been thrown on top of her.

It took the late director Gary Marshall and Walt Disney Studios to turn the movie on its head and have Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere), the “knight in shining armour”, come to rescue her.

Now that may work in Hollywood, but the realities that our world is confronting today are far from pretty. Johns Hopkins informs us that there have already been over 12,000,000 confirmed cases world-wide of people infected by COVID-19. Global deaths total over half a million.

In the early days we hoped that the nightmare would pass. Israel seemed to be handling the threat so well, but then the floodgates were opened and there are now close to 1,500 confirmed new cases every day. At one point there was a glimmer of hope that the hot summer days would kill the virus off. However, scientific evidence has now confirmed that to have been wishful thinking.

COVID-19 is here to stay and will remain so until an effective vaccine or treatment is discovered. We would like to believe that that is around the corner, but no one really knows.

HIV/AIDS has been with us since 1981. While effective therapies have been developed, a cure has yet to be found. However, unlike HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 had affected the entire world and has presented us with challenges that none of us ever imagined that we would face in the 21st century.

Whole sections of our society have been paralyzed or destroyed. From concert halls to theatres, from the travel industry to the hotel business, from restaurants to bars, from banqueting suites to fashion houses. The list is endless.

Some 20% of Israelis are now unemployed. Those who have mortgages or rents to pay will be unable to do so. People are seeing their life’s work being destroyed and we are only at the beginning. The economic consequences are colossal.

The unemployed and those whose livelihoods have been destroyed need serious help, and now.

In the UK, The Guardian newspaper reported that “the British government … would pay grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers if companies kept them on their payroll, rather than lay them off as the economy crashes”.

We are in desperate need of political leadership that is not detached from the reality of ordinary Israelis and feels their pain. When will our 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers agree to take a 20% cut in their salaries as have prime minister Jacinda Ardern and the ministers of her New Zealand government?

Leaders need to set an example and not seek extra funding to meet their personal needs from an already shrunken public purse.

To compound matters, the piecemeal and ineffective responses of Israel’s Bibi/Gantz led coalition are leaving many Israelis feeling like they are on a rudderless ship ill-fit to battle the storm. There are more protests. There are more examples of police violence. Such conditions are a recipe for civil disorder and anarchy. It is time to face up to the truth and do something.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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