Did you know we’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary as the 1st American News Agency exclusively covering the Middle East?

  • The Middle East landscape is changing rapidly.
  • The roads in the region open to new possibilities.
  • The Media Line continues to pave the way to a far greater understanding of the region’s land, people, policies and governments through our trusted, fact-based news.

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

Please make your gift today as we have a most generous matching 2:1 grant.
Thank you!

We paved the way to be the Trusted Mid East News you can rely on!

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

For those observing, may we wish you a healthy, safe, and sweet 5781.

Why Aren’t We Afraid?
Some people walk maskless at the Ramla fruit and vegetable market, not far from the writer’s home. (Mark Lavie)

Why Aren’t We Afraid?

When it comes to the coronavirus, it seems everyone is looking for ways to circumvent the rules

Israelis have been obsessively afraid of external threats for decades – Palestinians, Iran, Hizbullah. This fear has distorted Israel’s politics, ruined its sense of priorities, polarized society and produced a political stalemate.

If only the people would focus instead on domestic issues, so the thinking goes, the parties would realign, the stalemate would disappear and we could start fixing what’s really wrong – like the underfunded healthcare system, overcrowded schools and lagging public transport.

So now we’re facing a real domestic threat.

The coronavirus could kill thousands. You’d think this would be the time for Israelis to pull together, look out for each other and link arms to defeat the “enemy.” Instead, Israelis are ignoring simple, effective measures to deal with the crisis and are fighting each other.

So the question isn’t the title of my second book – Why Are We Still Afraid? It’s “Why aren’t we afraid?”

Fear is a good basis for dictatorship, not democracy. Fearing the coronavirus would not lead to the necessary realignment of Israel’s politics, so let’s not fear the pandemic.

But how about a bit of, say, concern? Concern for the deaths, concern for our personal safety, concern for the health of our fellow Israelis?

Instead, ultra-Orthodox Jews battle police over lockdown restrictions that include banning large gatherings, like synagogue prayers. Opponents of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu battle police over their right to demonstrate in large numbers despite the obvious health dangers. Other Israelis ignore the basics – masks over mouth and nose, social distancing and handwashing – even though it’s clear that if everyone were to follow just these three rules, there would be no need for lockdowns.

Instead, practically everyone, it seems, is looking for ways to circumvent the rules, up to and including telling police at roadblocks all kinds of fairy tales about why they’re driving around in violation of the lockdown.

Practically everyone, it seems, is looking for ways to circumvent the rules, up to and including telling police at roadblocks all kinds of fairy tales about why they’re driving around in violation of the lockdown

My synagogue is three-quarters of a mile from my house, just outside the limit. So I’m praying at home despite the urging of friends, including a Ph.D. and a medical doctor, to go to morning services anyway.

“There aren’t any police on the streets that early,” says one. “You’re close enough to the 1,000-meter limit. No one is going to measure it,” observes another. “I’m only going to follow the rules that make logical sense,” declares a third.

The common denominator for all these examples is the belief that some things are more important than fighting a pandemic that could soon have killed more Israelis than the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

That war is considered one of Israel’s worst and most traumatic catastrophes. So why are we so painfully dismissive in the face of today’s threat?

That war is considered one of Israel’s worst and most traumatic catastrophes. So why are we so painfully dismissive in the face of today’s threat?

One of the factors that feed this lack of concern is arrogance, the feeling that no one knows better than me about … well, anything.

Another is, for lack of a better term, bloody-mindedness. In many democratic nations, the citizen’s first instinct is to obey the laws. The first Israeli instinct is to find a way around them.

The only way to override these basic behaviors is to appeal to the caring side of Israelis – and yes, it’s there. Israelis volunteer on a level unknown in most of the world. They support countless charities that help the needy. They come together in times of tragedy.

Except for this time. This time, the government’s appeals for concern, for obedience, for empathy have fallen flat.

This by itself, without going into the obvious reasons, is a bad enough failure to warrant the replacement of the government.

It really should not be beyond the ability of any government to rally its people around the goal of just keeping everyone alive. In fact, that’s the basic reason for having a government at all.

It really should not be beyond the ability of any government to rally its people around the goal of just keeping everyone alive. In fact, that’s the basic reason for having a government at all

So it’s not a matter of policing and enforcement, fines and quarantines. It’s a matter of trust. Of common purpose.

Whatever else they have accomplished, Israel’s leaders have failed in their most important mission: forging unity to protect the population against a lethal outside threat. Yet they’re still in office, still playing their sectoral political games, still losing the confidence of the people.

But before we get all self-righteous, the people voted this government in. Again. And again.

That’s a good reason to be afraid.

The author of this blog or other opinion piece is a third-party contributor who is independent of The Media Line Ltd and its partners or supporters. All assertions, opinions, facts, and information presented in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and are not necessarily those of The Media Line and/or all parties related thereto, none of whom assumes any responsibility for its content.

If you believe you have discerned any form of abuse, please contact editor@themedialine.org

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.