Israel was the first country to advise all of its citizens against non-essential foreign travel, two weeks ago. It was the first to require 14 days self-quarantine for all returning nationals, earlier this week, and to ban all foreign arrivals who cannot prove they have a place to self-quarantine from Thursday evening.
Are Jews to be banned from our crowded, wall-kissing fealty at the Western Wall? Will Muslim attendance at Friday’s Temple Mount prayers be restricted? Are synagogues to be required to shut their doors in the face of the 101st worshiper? Presumably, hospitals are exempt from the 100-person limit on gatherings in enclosed areas, but what about universities? Schools? More decisions, we are told, will soon be forthcoming.
The coming weeks and, it appears, months, will tell whether this new framework for living — the closing of the borders, the bans on largish public gatherings, the advice to stay away from the elderly, the suggestions to work from home where possible — will come to be regarded as a wild overreaction or as our salvation.
(Our culture minister announced last night that this year’s Independence Day torch-lighting celebrations will be held without an audience because of the virus threat; that’s on April 28, almost seven weeks away.)
The economic repercussions are already staggering, the psychological impact incalculable.
We’ve endured some of these limitations and concerns in the past, of course, when we worried about being blown up when on buses or in the shuk, or stayed away from buses and the shuk, during the Second Intifada, the suicide bomber years.
The threat today is more pervasive and, before its symptoms show, impossible for us to identify. But if we follow the new rules, we are assured, we can ensure it is far less deadly here.