Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Israel Doesn’t Follow – We Lead!

These days, you almost never know what our newspaper headlines will say, but in a recent Jerusalem Post edition, two stories ran side by side on the front page.  One was entitled, Coronavirus czar:  Time to consider making vaccines compulsory and the other was “Mandatory vaccination seems unlikely,” (both having run on 12/2/21)

Naturally interested to see each position, I carefully read all the considerations put forth in both pieces.  The first quoted Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka who stated that Austria’s imposed lockdown on the unvaccinated was wrong and created a problematic “slippery slope.” However, he further went on to state that “all alternatives need to be examined, including a vaccine mandate in the State of Israel.”  Zarka went on to say that the new variant is worrisome, despite most media accounts having reported, over the last few days, that Omicron seems to be relatively mild, causing a cough along with less serious issues which apparently are resolved within a matter of a few days.

In his capacity as Coronavirus Czar, Zarka encourages Israelis to be vaccinated in order to boost their chances of an easy recovery.  Likewise, Israeli Channel 12 TV reported that “vaccine efficacy against the variant remains encouraging.” So really nothing has changed!  Enough Israelis have taken a vaccine which they believe will be effective in keeping them safe – so why would a mandate be warranted?

The second article, although being framed in the negative, doubting that vaccine mandates will ever become a reality, went on to answer its own question, of whether or not mandates would happen, by stating, “Likely Yes, at least from a legal point of view.” The skepticism was expressed in the possibility as to whether Israel would actually be prepared to take such a path.

The article then went on to quote Hebrew University law professor Rector Barak Medina who stated, “While it would definitely be unconstitutional to hold someone physically and force them to be inoculated, imposing a mandate and introducing fines or even harsher penalties would be legitimate.”

The suggestion that there are other ways to mandate vaccines didn’t exactly come as a shock, because no one can argue that there are already many incentives to be vaccinated, if only for the reason, to maintain one’s ability to freely come and go the moment they display the evidence of having been vaccinated.  However, it is equally incontrovertible that a certain percentage of the population, in almost all countries, has also chosen to forego those freedoms, which were once taken for granted, due to a variety of personal reasons not to be vaccinated – be they health, religious or whatever.  So the troubling question is probably more along the lines of what would those “harsher penalties” look like in order to persuade individuals who, up until now, have chosen to remain unvaccinated?

Would they come in the form of more job losses or the inability to shop for essential items?  How far and how harsh will penalties reach?  The thought is certainly very ominous and threatening.

But, collectively speaking, perhaps the most troubling issue in this second article was what criteria will be used in order to decide whether mandates would be the path chosen by Israel. The decision, it states, will be “influenced by how the pandemic in the country evolves as well as by whether other countries decide to take this step.”

This is where we, as the Jewish homeland, referred to in scripture as “a light to the nations,” must draw the line or else we have completely lost our way!

A light to the nations does not follow the beat of other drummers. Austria, which has, in recent days, chosen to divide its citizenry into two – those who are permitted access to everything and those who are not, cannot claim to have been a paragon of virtue some 80 years.  Are we really expected to follow a country which abandoned its Jewish community and aided the Nazi regime in its goal to rid itself of those who were viewed as undesirable vermin?

Likewise, the same can be said about much of Europe, as well as other parts of the world, which failed to come to the rescue of our people and whose history is stained with banishing us from their lands.

Are we, the Chosen People, now supposed to take our cues from governments who, perhaps, value honesty, righteousness, justice, equity and other biblical values far less than we do?  Why would we choose to follow rather than lead?

The only reason that comes to mind is simply because we have forgotten our specific calling and place among the nations of the world.  What has been accomplished here in Israel, in just 73 years, has never been accomplished in any other place.  Our medical, technological, scientific and industrial achievements are unprecedented, benefitting the entire world and advancing all mankind as we continue to provide solutions and viable alternatives to the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.

How did we do that?  We listened, considered, thought, prayed and, with the brainpower G-d gave us, we came up with some of the greatest inventions and novelties which were widely adopted and now utilized globally.

We didn’t follow and wait to see what others would do or how they would think.  We Thought and we Did, and, even though often hated and vilified, our intelligence and moral clarity is still unrivaled and sought after by those who sense that someone bigger than us is driving all that we do!

So why should we suddenly become followers of other countries and world governments who may take certain factors into consideration, when making their decisions, which would not necessarily be consistent with our own values, ethics and standards?

There is, perhaps, no better time to take a long look at our history, comprehend the great battles which we have won, despite all odds, and come to the conclusion that Israel is, indeed, divinely blessed, protected and shielded by the Almighty.

Wouldn’t it be a better idea for us to seek heavenly inspiration in terms of how to beat this modern-day pestilence and ultimately take our cues from Him?  That is, surely, how we become a real light to the nations!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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