The consequences of the novel coronavirus are endless. It is now a global pandemic. Stocks are dropping dramatically, populations are in mass hysteria, travel restrictions have been put into place and people are struggling to keep themselves safe from the rapidly spreading, unpredictable virus. The new travel restrictions have put millions of businesspeople into quarantine and the effects on some businesses have already been near ruinous.
In my book Israeli Business Culture I discuss the seven main Israeli business culture characteristics. In these days I see them coming into play and being strongly reflected in the way Israelis are behaving and thinking during the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some examples of how Israelis are, among other things, able to rise obediently to a difficult occasion and at the same time demonstrate their high creativity and improvisational abilities:
Mission-oriented society in both thought and deed
The idea of a crisis affecting an entire nation may be new to some countries, but Israelis, on the other hand, know all too well how to live in a state of emergency, and in the threat of it. Almost every Israeli citizen is subject to mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces. For decades Israel has been defending itself with the help of its citizens; early on, it became a mission-oriented society. Now, in the face of the coronavirus, Israel will do its best to defend itself from the global pandemic. We are seeing high compliance (relative to the Israeli public’s usual behavior) with the new and ever more stringent government directives issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation, asking Israelis for “behavioral change” to help defeat the coronavirus pandemic. He added, “In other crises, be it a terrorist attack or even a war, we do everything to deal with an external threat and change domestic routines as little as possible. In this crisis… we are now compelled to change domestic routines in order to deal with this crisis regarding a virus that wants to attack us from outside” (The Times of Israel).
Creativity and willingness to push beyond limits
Israelis’ high compliance with the new rules notwithstanding, it is important to remember that creativity and thinking outside the box are an inseparable part of being Israeli. Once Israelis understand the guidelines in which they need to operate, they usually look for ways to stretch the rules. In their eyes, it is perfectly acceptable and even preferable to improvise if it leads to better outcomes. And so, just one day after the government restricted all gatherings to ten people, to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we saw popup events held across the country. In the past couple days Israeli couples have held impromptu weddings in the streets, on rooftops and even in a supermarket (since the restrictions do not apply there). And shoppers in the supermarket took a pause from their coronavirus panic shopping to extend their well-wishes to a couple that had just walked down the (supermarket) aisle and gotten married.
“Yihyeh beseder”- A common Hebrew expression
“Yihyeh beseder” or “everything will be fine” is the Israeli approach to even the greatest of threats. Israelis stay optimistic. They tell themselves that although these times seem terrible, things will eventually get better – even if they don’t necessarily know what exactly awaits them and when. This mindset can help them get through this worldwide disaster as well. The Israeli culture’s strong faith, self-confidence and positivity has saved it from many tough situations.
To sum up, I can say that this frightening coronavirus pandemic is a better time than ever for Israel to band together once again (but not too close!), just like in our difficult times of military service, terror attacks and wars, and to fight through this crisis. Israelis know how to stay mission oriented, be creative, remain optimistic and believe that everything will turn out fine.
I wish us all easier times, good health and a speedy return to our routine.
“Yesterday affects today, and tomorrow is determined by today”
(David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of the State of Israel)
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