“It was our fault, and our very great fault—and now we must turn it to use.
We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.”
— “The Lesson,” by Rudyard Kipling
So wrote Kipling regarding the British experience in the Boer War in South Africa. Though the Boer War was a political win for the British, victory came at greatly wasteful expense to them and to all other combatants (and non-combatants). Many of Her Majesty’s forces’ costly tactical mistakes could have been avoided if better foresight had been employed in analyzing and dealing with the situation.
The current situation in Israel has Prof. Mordechai Raviv “resigning”
from his position as Director of Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak. His so-called “resignation” was obviously compelled by Mayanei Hayeshua’s board of directors after Prof. Raviv made some unpopular remarks concerning the cause-and-effect of the (mis)behaviors of certain insular groups to the spread of the CoronaVirus. [For reasons expounded upon at length in a previous TOI blog posting, I decline now to use the terms “ultra-orthodox” or “haredi.]. Had Prof. Raviv resigned on his own volition in protest of the noncooperation, he would have been more vocal about it, announcing it himself instead of allowing the hospital public relations people do it for him.
Though such insular groups have not been the only ones who have flouted the social distancing regulations, they constitute a disproportionate segment of Mayanei Hayeshua’s catchment area and patient population, and therefore, it is only natural that Prof. Raviv would make special mention of them. Raviv surely could have chosen better words in his public statements.
Meanwhile, as Prof. Raviv got sacked for speaking the t‑r‑u‑t‑h, various governmental figures, including MKs, Cabinet ministers, and Prime Ministers, have notoriously violated the regulations. One of the more egregious of these was Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who is credibly alleged to have withheld information and/or lied to contact tracers after traveling more than 100 kilometers from Tel Aviv to Tiberias during the lockdown, and further violating the restrictions once in Tiberias.
Far less outré was Chief of Staff Avi Kochavi, whose hosting of his in-laws (from all of three houses away) outdoors in his sukkah during the holiday, carried far lesser infection risks from an epidemiological standpoint, but which was nevertheless a technical violation of the regulations. Discipline is imposed upon many a military conscript for a technical violation, as Sgt. Azaria can attest. Gen. Kochavi had more time and leisure than Sgt. Azaria to ascertain what the appropriate regulations were, and to formulate a plan of action to comply with them.
For the aforementioned insular groups’ parts, the social distancing regulations they violated were (and apparently still are) continually changing from day to day and from locale to locale. Moreover, the insular groups (and others) have rightfully been quick to note inconsistencies in the rules themselves, whereby more stringent regulations have been slapped upon synagogues than for other epidemiologically-comparable venues. The small business owners and restaurateurs have also noted such disparities in the rules.
Not only the MKs, army, and police officials have been violating the rules, but also Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman have been delinquent. To be sure, Argaman, through his Shabak agency, issued an apology in which he takes “full responsibility” for the breach of the rules. What is meant by “full responsibility?” If Argaman (and, by extension, the entire government) wishes to regain the public trust, then Argaman will remit the prescribed fine from his own purse to the government, and provide a paper trail of the money flow.
The deeply-saturated mistrust of the government has caused an unwillingness of the populace to comply with its inconsistent, fickle, and often oppressive measures. This is where matters currently stand.
Kipling understood that there were many lessons to be learned from the British missteps, if only the British powers-that-be would learn from them. And the British did; indeed, it is quite likely that lessons learned by Field Marshal Allenby from his Boer War experiences enabled him to contribute heavily to setting the stage for the establishment of the State of Israel.
As with the British Boer War blunders, Israel’s (mis)handling of the WuFlu pandemic has millions of reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. And as with the British and their military blunders in the Boer War, Israel must turn its COVID-19 blunders to use. While we still can.