The Colored Lights of Israel

Tel Aviv Before Dawn. by Marc Kornblatt
Tel Aviv Before Dawn by Marc Kornblatt

In the eye of the pandemic, I have not seen the light; I have seen many.  They represent challenges that lay ahead, as well as the promise of a better tomorrow. 

RED  Danger! Stop!!

Israel, I believe, has done a good job fighting COVID-19, thanks to a population disciplined by decades of hanging tough in the face of outside threats, an effective national health system, and leaders who respect science.  As the country emerges from its long lockdown, the red light is fading.  If people forget why social distancing was so important in the first place, red may return with a vengeance.

PINK  The LGBTQ color of inclusion

Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade, one of the biggest in the world, had to be postponed this year. I am confident that it will return bigger and better than ever, because Israel, though it flirts with theocracy, remains a robust beacon of democracy.

The Knesset stewed in virtual lockdown well before the pandemic struck, yet the country did not spiral into chaos. People kvetched and bickered, but, as controversial as its birth might be, a new Israeli government is about to form. Here’s hoping compromise becomes contagious.

GREEN  Life. Go.

During the worst of the lockdown, Israel never ran out of food. True, there was an egg shortage and toilet paper grew scarce, but neither privation lasted long. Israel took care of its citizens who found creative ways to stay connected.  

Now, the green light represents a looming threat. Do we move as quickly as we did against the virus to protect the environment?  Or do we let things tumble so out of control so that our sky, water, and land show us how much more devastating  a global “environmental pandemic” can be than the viral one we’ve been battling?

RED, WHITE, and BLUE  God bless America.

My native land remains a wonderful home to a “thousand points of light,” and I am sad to see how much it has suffered during the pandemic.  As things look today, the worst may be yet to come. 

People toting assault weapons around state capitol buildings to flex their 2nd Amendment rights, and Republicans in the US Congress threatening to withhold virus-related aid to states where the majority votes Democratic, have enraged me. 

The news has also shown how different Israel, my new home, and America, my former one, are.  Israelis understand what a true crisis at their borders looks like; America’s “invasion” from countries south of Texas doesn’t come close to the threat Israel faces from Qassam rockets incoming from every direction.

What’s more, life seems more valued in Israel than it does in the US.  As of this writing, in a country of 9.1 million there have been 266 coronavirus-related deaths.  The death-toll in my native New Jersey, population 8.8 million, has reached almost 10,000. I can only imagine what kind of lockdown we’d have if that many Israelis died from COVID-19. 

This pandemic should be a wake-up call to all Israelis to stop depending so heavily on America.  Whether we love Trump, or adore Obama, it’s time for us to accept that the US will never be as reliable an ally as Israel wants it to be. No matter who runs the Knesset, s/he should not play politics with this relationship.

RED, WHITE, BLACK, and GREEN  The colors of Palestine

They continue to flash even if their message has been sidelined during the pandemic. Palestinians’ complaints will not go away simply because Donald Trump has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and has given the greenlight for Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. 

 What can unilateral moves accomplish? We needn’t look any further than the repercussions of Ariel Sharon’s Israel-centric proposal to abandon the Gaza Strip compared to what the negotiated peace with Egypt and Jordan brought. We stand a better chance of making peace if we keep arguing with our adversaries around a  table, no matter how long it takes to hammer out a mutually respectful plan, than we will bulldozing our way through the territories on our own. 

YELLOW  Spring sunshine

As we emerge from our hibernation, I find delight in seeing people meeting in public again. Here’s hoping we show restraint in relaxing our social distancing practices to keep the red light at bay and are quick to respond to those other lights beckoning us to improve upon what we so fortunately have.

About the Author
Filmmaker and children's book author Marc Kornblatt is the producer/director of the award-winning documentaries DOSTOEVSKY BEHIND BARS and STILL 60 and the web series MINUTE MAN and ROCK REGGA. He and his wife made Aliyah in 2019 and now live in Tel Aviv where he recently completed OLEH HADASH, a web series about his experience as a new citizen of Israel. He is now producing corona-related videos for THE NARROW BRIDGE PROJECT.
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