Susanna Kokkonen
Speaker on Jewish-Christian relations; anti-Semitism; the Holocaust and persecution

World at War

The story is different in Israel. It is different in so many places around the world. There have been natural catastrophes, wars and civil wars. Some of that has been my experience in Israel. I always appreciated how people came together at such times. But since the end of WWII, Western Europe (not to mention the USA) has hardly known war or crisis at least not on its own ground. In Northern Europe, especially in Scandinavia, populations have been largely untouched by instability, hunger or crisis. This situation, which is going on right now, is the first crisis my generation has ever experienced in these parts of the world.

The enemy is insidious. The enemy is invisible. The enemy could be lurking anywhere. The enemy could enter your house with your best friend or with your mother. The enemy wants to destroy you. The enemy is viral. This is an expression that belongs with this age. Some things goes viral. That is what corona has done. It has totally gone viral.

On Tuesday the Finnish government will pass emergency legislation in order to counter the virus. This is a rare thing in a peaceful democracy. This action in itself, in a time of peace, shows the seriousness of the situation.

Not to mention that neighboring countries, such as Denmark and Estonia, have closed their national borders. This has not happened in the past decades.

I have been reflecting on things. There is always the scientific or biological explanation. There is also a spiritual reflection.

First; as a believer in a G-d, who is also the King of the Universe, I am wondering what would He want to communicate to us right now? What came to my mind was that greed is a national emergency. All the busyness, the feeling that no one can manage a day without you, ultimately comes from greed. Greed is an international emergency. Do not tell me that there have always been greedy people around. Because, today, even toddlers need to have the latest gadgets. Greed is being communicated ‘in mother’s milk’. At the same time, people in many parts of the world, have to make do with very little. The King of the Universe has a way to make us all see what is really important. We are not all that powerful. There are things no money in the world can fix.

This is a good time to reflect.

Second; when streets are empty of people and your daily routines are taken away from you, you realize that these routines are what make up the good life. What are the things that make life worth living? They are not big things. Meeting a friend; traveling home to your parents or sharing a meal, are all things we take for granted. But nothing is to be taken for granted. Life’s beauty is made up of all these moments. Without those shared moments our life stops. So this is a time to remember how fortunate we are.

And whatever you think of climate change, it is a funny thing that almost no flights are taking off right now. It is possible to ‘close the entire world’. There is someone who can do that!

Seeing the empty streets makes one realize how vulnerable we are.

In history there have been many wars and crises. Life always continues but it is never exactly the same. Today, walking in a deserted Helsinki, I suddenly felt teary-eyed. I think that somehow this time will change something, globally, to all of us. What it is and how will things change; I am not sure. But there will be a time before corona and the time after.

About the Author
Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, originally from Finland, has lived in Israel for the past twenty years. She has a doctorate in Holocaust Studies and has pioneered Jewish-Christian relations including at Yad Vashem, as the Director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. She travels around the world speaking about Israel; the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and current issues.
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