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Stop trying to kill my mother

Israel needs the government to be a grownup and stop rushing into opening back up
People wearing face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on October 7, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People wearing face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on October 7, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Was that headline too aggressive for you? Trust me, I’m beyond caring.

It took Israel five months to hit 1,000 fatalities. Then five weeks to hit 2,000. Five days later, we’re already at 2,200 — and now we’re opening for business again?!

Ah, but the positive test rate went down, and the new case numbers went down. Really, over Shabbat, when most activity, medical or otherwise, comes to a standstill? What a shock! But yeah, that’s what this month-long lockdown was supposed to achieve. Awesome, we’re no longer at 120 percent of our hospital capacity for coronavirus patients, we’re just at 90%. See you at the victory parade!

I feel so alone, as if I’m one of the few adults left in this country — not by age, but by temperament. And we are so staggeringly outnumbered. We have vast communities of toddlers, who are not going to follow the rules, no matter what. Threaten, cajole — it makes no difference. All you can do is try to minimize the damage. Then you have grade-schoolers, who definitely learned the rules at some point, but just don’t follow them most of the time, because they’re lazy or petulant or preoccupied. Their masks are below their noses, on their chins, on their elbows, or maybe they just left them at home because they’re only going to the store for a couple of things. And then we have teenagers, who know the rules and will quote them to you chapter and verse — but utterly lack common sense. They’re the ones already planning their parties, because the government had decided 10 randos in an enclosed space is now safe.

Masks help, but most people don’t wear them properly. Social distancing helps, but most people don’t observe that. Being outdoors helps, but once you put up the sun cover, the plastic sheeting, the partition walls — are you even outside anymore? All three reduce the risk, but they do not eliminate it.

That’s why my immunosuppressed mother is not going to be venturing outside — except when she has to, for doctor’s appointments, which pose their own risk. Will that cab she hails have a plastic partition between her and the driver? Will the bus she boards become too crowded? There is no way of knowing.

This pandemic started, quite literally, the day of my son’s bar mitzvah celebration. His school insisted on starting this year with everyone coming, every day, but sticking half the kids in another classroom to do worksheets while the other half gets a live teacher. Within a week, three of six grades were in quarantine. Within two weeks, the whole country was in lockdown, so they switched to Zoom. Then my kid’s teacher decided he was going to meet the kids in small groups near their homes. My son’s group was scheduled for tomorrow, but that’s not happening… because the teacher is now in quarantine.

That is the Israeli mindset. Rosh ba-kir. So you tell me how we’re supposed to get out of this mess. I’m listening.

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.
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