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Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Let My People Shop!

Remember the joke, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping?”  I suspect that during this Covid era, a jaunt to the mall was sometimes the best we could hope for.  True, it wasn’t Paris, and it wasn’t the Greek Islands, but it somehow put a smile on our faces to see pretty things and splurge on them if we couldn’t do much else.

Well, for Israelis, those days of “shop till you drop” may soon come to an abrupt end for those who are not “fully” vaccinated, as it’s been suggested that only the “fully” vaccinated be permitted to enter malls. So what characterizes being “fully” vaccinated? Only those who have received the first two shots followed by the third booster are considered “fully vaccinated.” Consequently, they are holders of the “coveted” green pass which allows you access to most anywhere. Those who failed to receive the third shot ended up losing their green pass which they had earned by getting the first two shots.

Ironically, what began as a ferociously popular vaccine campaign with the vast majority of Israelis on board, has, somehow, petered off into a less enthusiastic clientele who are willing to undergo jab after jab without any end in sight.  A recent article in the Jerusalem Post ran the headline, “Has Israel become the Covid-19 unvaxxed nation?” (JPost, 12/14/21)  Statistics show that “only between 60-65% of eight million eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated….so in other words, 40-45% of the population is not fully protected against the Omnicron variant.”

These numbers make it all the more curious when owners of mall shops were recently asked how they felt about the prospective loss of shoppers.  I can only gather that they didn’t quite understand that a ban on unvaccinated and fully vaccinated would represent a loss of 40-45% of shoppers, because most responded by saying that they would support such a measure and felt that anyone who poses a danger should not be allowed to come to the mall anyway.

Spoiler Alert:  The “fully” vaccinated have been known to also be carriers of the virus.

Does it not occur to our brilliant ministers, including our prime minister, who are making these suggestions, that most of us who wear glasses have optometrists in the mall, that most drugstores are in the mall and that many supermarkets are also in the mall?  Will 40-45% of the population be unable to access these services and goods because, all of a sudden, someone thinks that those who have not gotten the third booster shot will become the next Typhoid Mary and turn the malls into a morgue?

The present hysteria over a new variant, which everyone says is weaker than the Delta Variant, is not only unjustified, but it is laughable. Hospitalizations have not suddenly spiked nor has the death toll, but after enduring Covid for nearly two full years, perhaps, it’s actually safe to say that the worst is behind us.  We know so much more now about how to treat the virus and which precautions to take, so why prevent mall access now? And why to nearly half the population?

If someone didn’t know any better, they might think that this is a clever way to put the squeeze on nearly half of the population to get that third booster shot, but I’m not suggesting anything of the kind.

I believe in Israel!  I believe in the intellect of our people, because without it, we would not have come as far as we have.  I also believe in the goodness of the Jewish nation and her people.  We have always looked out for one another.  When one soldier was killed, we all mourned as if it were one of our own, because it was.  When tragedy occurred on our roads, we bitterly grieved over the loss of whole families who were taken in one moment.

We are known for our humanity.  In fact, our army is legendary for being the most moral fighters on the face of the earth, so how could I ever believe that we don’t care for our own?

I have been struck by the reports of unprecedented numbers of young people and even older adults who have sunk into serious depression over the loss of life and freedom as they knew it.  Most recently, I heard a report that children, who were very young at the onset of the Covid pandemic, have suffered from a decreased level of certain developmental skills as a result of “not getting the cognitive and social stimulation that they would normally get outside the home.” (directrelief.org)  Others more desperate have even succumbed to suicide as they faced a bleak and uncertain future, feeling that there was no hope.

Yeah, things have been tough, and so we have had to gather our moments of pleasure from anywhere we could – whether that meant gardening, going for more walks, watching more t.v., or, yes, going to the mall to shop or just look at the beautiful new items which represent a sense of hope for the future.

The mall is one of those happy places which welcomes you from the moment you walk in.  It’s familiar, it’s shiny, and it’s one of those magical venues where you can forget your cares for the moment, get lost in the glittery objects and pretend that everything feels right again. Who would want to take that experience away from nearly half of Israel’s population at a time when travel is exceptionally difficult, when winter has approached making it impossible to enjoy the beach and when almost every form of entertainment requires one to be “fully” vaccinated with proof of a green pass?

I would like to actually meet the individual who thinks that this is a good recipe for the mental well-being of its citizens and one which will contribute to a feeling that our government is doing all they can to compassionately help us get through one of the most challenging times we’ve ever faced.

I would like to believe that such a threat would never be enacted, because it will only be the beginning of over-the-top restrictions which will feel as if someone has gone way too far to separate our population into two distinct camps when, in fact, there aren’t.

We are referred to as “Kol Beit Israel” (All of the House of Israel) during each holiday blessing. Who will choose to now call us “Chetzi Beit Israel” (Half of the House of Israel)?  I can only hope, and I’m sure I speak for the other 40-45% of not fully vaccinated Israelis who believe in this country as I do, that the proposed cure will not be worse than the illness.

After nearly two years, it’s certainly safe to say that the continuation of mall shopping won’t harm us, but it will significantly harm our economy if such large numbers are banned from the mall!

In a slightly different Mosaic twist, I stand before our leaders and proclaim, “Let My People Shop!”

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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