Staying afloat during Corona: The politics of the pandemic

Israel is at the forefront of the battle on Corona. A country barely the size of my fingernail on any map has made international news over and over again for its valiant efforts to keep Covid-19 at bay with its research, lockdowns, vaccination campaign, and now, its potential miracle drug. 

On one hand, living in Israel throughout this new Covid reality has been a huge comfort. As a whole, this country has done a great job at acknowledging the pandemic as a grave threat; and its Drs., hospitals and medical staff have worked tirelessly to troubleshoot all that has been thrown at them.

On the other hand, we are now entering the sixth week of our third national lockdown, and many citizens of this country, at this stage, are simply drowning.

At this point in my post, you are probably waiting for me to tell you what it’s like to live in a country that has been shuttered for 6 weeks straight. The problem is, I can’t do that, because, in reality, Israel is far from locked down. 

Yes. Most of the schools nation-wide have been closed for over 5 weeks, forcing our children, once again, out of their learning environments, which they have sorely missed for almost a year. Yes. Restaurants are closed for dining, and many businesses have been shuttered.

But, looking out my bedroom window, this is not the image that I see. The back of my home in Beit Shemesh overlooks the Haredi neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, and no matter how many times I blink my eyes, looking toward their community, one would never know that we are living in a state of national closure.

I look out my window and see the harsh reality: We are drowning, and our neighbors all seem to have rafts.

When my family moved to Israel two-and-a-half years ago, we moved to Beit Shemesh with our eyes wide open, knowing that we were choosing a community with a mix of Orthodox, traditional, secular, and ultra-Orthodox Jews; excited to raise our family in an environment that was a melting pot of Torah values. 

What we did not know before coming to Beit Shemesh was that there were political nuances — both on a local level and a national level – that allow certain populations among us to exist above the law.

We watched during the last two lockdowns as groups of ultra-Orthodox rebels insisted on holding gatherings in the midst of a national crisis. We cringed as Haredi fringe-extremists called the police ‘Nazis,’ threw things at the authorities, and chased law enforcement away. 

Our children remain home as we watch their school buses crowd the streets; their schoolyards bustle with noise; and their kids roam freely in their school uniforms, feeling like freiers for our naivete in thinking that the law applied to us all equally. We clench our fists as we see that their children are in their classrooms spreading Covid from one to the next, while we are home, doing our part to keep the numbers down. They are in kollel, shul, and work, while we are counted on to stay home to keep the virus at bay. They reap the benefits of our sacrifice. 

Not only are we drowning, but our Haredi neighbors are floating on our backs.

As our country begins to lift its lockdown, we, in Beit Shemesh, remain stuck — our Covid numbers too high, our vaccination numbers too low. We are unable to open our schools and struggling businesses that have been following the law throughout this crisis. We are a “red” city because our elected officials turn a blind eye to the huge portion of the population that is openly flouting the law of the land — the very law that is meant to protect us all. 

Bibi, Aliza, and anyone who will listen: Please fix this. Fix this before we all drown.

About the Author
Deborah Greene Strosberg is small-town girl from upstate, NY who recently made aliyah with her family. Deborah is a freelance writer and a therapist, currently working as a content writer for an international tech company while struggling to make sure her kids come out of this pandemic literate. She lives in Beit Shemesh with her husband and 4 sons.
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