Until the coronavirus and the government response to it, both in Israel and the USA, I had not given deep thought to the concepts of personal liberty and personal freedom.
Historically, my connection to the word liberty stems from growing up in the United States and saying the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
As I grew older, saying the word liberty each morning began to take on different meanings for me. This was during the Cold War with Russia. As elementary school children, we did safety drills in case Russia attacked. I vividly remember going under our desks until we heard the all clear siren. I don’t remember being taught about Russia in school or hearing my parents discuss it. Somehow the Russia narrative was in the air: Russia is a Communist country. The people there suffer tremendously because they are completely under the rule of the government, with no personal liberty or freedom. I pictured Russia as grey and the USA filled with blue sky, green grass liberty.
Years later, when Russian Jews were given permission to leave Russia and come to Israel, I found out my childish view of Russia, especially for those that lived in the cities of the USSR, was not far from the truth. During a break in a Hebrew class for immigrants, a Russian woman was aghast that we were lounging on a grass area outside the community school. She asked me if we were allowed or would we get in trouble. I felt blessed and fortunate that I grew up without that fear.
Historically, my connection to the word freedom stems from growing up Jewish and celebrating Pesach (Passover) – the holiday of our escape from slavery. Until today Pesach evokes much discussion and discourse on what freedom means. Our blessing over the wine includes these words:
“And You, G d, our G d, have given us festivals for happiness, feasts and festive seasons for rejoicing, the day of this Feast of Matzot and this Festival of holy convocation, the Season of our Freedom a holy convocation, commemorating the departure from Egypt. “
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain writes “ Once a year, every year, every Jew is commanded to relive the experience as a constant reminder of the bread of oppression and the bitter herbs of slavery – to know that the battle for freedom is never finally won but must be fought in every generation”
To me, liberty is more personal. My personal liberty is that I can walk on the grass next to public buildings. To me, freedom is more about national freedom. The Jewish people are now free from bondage, free to live wherever they want, especially in their homeland of Israel.
Now that we have been living with so many restrictions under the guise of #coronavirus, I am embracing the words personal liberties more and more. As our behavior is being restricted by the government I wonder how easy we have given up our liberties. In the beginning we were told the closure would be 15 days, in order for the hospitals to get better prepared. As that full closure turned into 6 weeks, and a partial closure until today, 4 months later, the Israeli government is threatening the people with full closure again. And yet, no one protests. Everyone seems willing to give up personal liberties because we have been frightened to believe we will all get sick and thousands of people will die otherwise. And yet, statistics show that closures just delay the virus, it does not exterminate it.
In the past 4 months we have given up these personal liberties:
• Visiting loved ones in hospitals and assisted living facilities
• Opening and working at our private businesses
• Traveling certain distances within Israel.
• Traveling outside Israel
• Holding weddings, funerals, and other occasions in the way we want to
• Unmasked faces
• Attending cultural or sport events
• Leaving our home if we are told we need to quarantine
• Choosing how we want to treat the virus if we get sick.
• Praying in synagogues
• Privacy as the government tracks our movements via smartphones.
WHO decided that a pandemic gives governments the right to take away our personal liberties? Pun intended.
WHO -World Health Organization with an annual Budget-4.4 billion dollars
CDC – Center of Disease Control USA with an annual budget –Over 1 Billion Dollars
MOH- Israel Ministry of Health(nationalized medicine + research) with an annual budget-11 Billion Dollars
All this money and their pandemic plans only consisted of closures, washing hands, social distancing and late in the game outside Israel, wearing masks. This is the equivalent of me teaching my children to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. I realized the people whose job has been to plan for pandemics, had no clue how to handle a pandemic without stomping on liberty and freedom. It was then I decided to become an amateur sleuth into virus treatments, how viruses work, closures, and masks.
My friends and family have encouraged me to share what I have learned. My hope is to encourage people to think for themselves and as you begin understanding all the alternative information that is available, there will be no need to choose between death and personal liberties.