In my small Israeli town, the main street is alive again. Kids lined are up for ice cream and adults for smoothies. The coffee stands are slowly reopening.
The hardware store is letting customers through the front door again. I’m not sure the cellphone store ever really closed or construction ever stopped. And in a sure sign of recovery, you can’t miss the women with foil in their hair sitting with a cigarette outside a hair salon.
Our economy is slowly rolling back to life. But should it?
Just a few weeks ago, COVID-19 was a plague on humanity. We were talking about vectors, flattening curves, and ventilator shortages. We were rewriting our liturgy to reflect the esteem with which we hold our first responders, our G-d, and each other.
How can it be that today, our youngest students are back in the classroom?
As we sit here today, there is no reliable quick test. There is only the small start of a system of tracking the virus as it moves through our community, and who knows how far off in the future a vaccine awaits.
It is a confusing time. On one hand, the “Corona wards” in a number of Israeli hospitals are closing, Hospitals can see the potential return to normalcy — and in the US — revenue generation. At the same time, the US lost 3,000 humans to the virus this weekend, and the numbers keep rising.
The confusion is no better on social media. We are buffeted on one side by Israeli small business owners pleading for us to come back and shop, while on the other side, we hear things like, “My grandmother is more important than your haircut!”
At the start of this pandemic, I took great pride in living in a nation that lived its values — putting lives over just about everything else. Israel, the great Start-Up Nation, was willing to tank its economy to save lives. We were living Pikuach Nefesh — valuing life over just about anything else.
Now, like too many others, I’m just confused. Just like you, I do not want to bring the virus into my house or carry it on to infect others. I value life above all else, but yearn for the freedom of movement again.
In every horror movie, you know, the ones where the object of terror slowly kills a group of teens one by one, there is a moment of hubris. I’m sure you can think of one right now. It’s that moment where just as the teen is smiling again, speaking of how maybe they have killed the monster or masked marauder, he is cut down.
In my worst moments, I feel like we are all that kid — full of hubris about this pandemic. I see it confirmed when someone lets her mask dangle down below her nose and mouth in the grocery store. I see it when friends chatting on the sidewalk aren’t really six feet apart. And who knows what kind of calculated risk we are taking as we send our youngest kids back to school?
I don’t know when we will be able to stop being scared of COVID-19, but I’m pretty sure it’s not today.