Politicians are human, and they make mistakes just like everyone else. As long as these mistakes do not stem from corruption or gross negligence, they can be forgiven. Mainstream and social media's never ending game of “Gotcha” can make us forget that. Leaders shouldn't be mocked or condemned every time they prove they aren't perfect, even though we hold them to a higher standard.
Israel's handling of the coronavirus plague was far better than that of most countries around the world. It was also far from perfect. It's impossible to say what a “perfect” response would even be, or what the results of that would look like. I will leave that to others to debate. Overall, we have much to be proud of and thankful for, starting with the divine protection that softened the consequences of our imperfections.
There is, however, one mistake Israel's leaders made that I cannot forgive. By late January they had determined that the coronavirus was a serious threat and had already begun spreading across the globe. They canceled flights from China. At the start of March there were about two dozen cases in Israel, and Israel had already banned entry to non-residents from most of Europe and Asia.
The virus had begun spreading in the United States. On March 7, Ynet reported the following: “A government official said the Health Ministry is pushing behind the scenes to have the U.S. added to the list, but so far the move has been delayed by some government ministries for fear of compromising diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S.”
Israel's leaders knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the virus was raging across the United Stated and that entry from there needed to be restricted. Nevertheless, the ban did not go into effect until March 18, lest certain people in high places take umbrage at a perceived insult.
Barely two months later, Israel has suffered over 16,000 known infections and 262 deaths, not to mention economic devastation to countless others.
In retrospect, the decision to allow entry from the United States during those critical two weeks was not only ludicrous but homicidal. Those responsible for the decision understood that they would almost certainly be sacrificing the lives of untold people in favor of not offending American officials who might take umbrage at restrictions they deemed unnecessary. The Israelis calculated that it was worth it to sacrifice these lives rather than the risk whatever repercussions might come from offending the Americans. Surely those repercussions would lead to an even greater loss of life, they rationalized, and hence this was the right decision.
How many times have we witnessed exactly the same rationalizations in slightly different contexts? How many Jewish lives have been sacrificed on the altar of appeasing not only our enemies but those who may or may not be our friends? How much longer will we allow this to go on, and not hold those responsible for this accountable?
Israel has a long history of failing to vanquish its enemies for fear of repercussions from its supposed friends. If we ruffle the feathers of the nations of the world we will be unable to survive, say our leaders. We must act with restraint. We must defend ourselves with one hand tied behind our back and one eye looking over our shoulder. Our friends will not be happy if our victory is too decisive, and that would spell doom for us all. We must bleed enough to justify our actions. The gods of the nations can only be appeased with Jewish blood.
Those who challenged this galut Jew mindset have been marginalized as extremist right-wing warmongers by atheists who consider themselves more “practical” and “responsible”. The coronavirus has given these enlightened adults the opportunity to examine whether this mindset is really to our benefit.
Restricting entry from the United States two weeks earlier would not have killed any of Israel's enemies or expanded Jewish control over our G-d given land — sins which our friends often consider unforgivable. At the very worst it would have offended American officials who had yet to realize the prescience and absolute necessity of this order, which would have become clear mere days later. It is hard to imagine any serious repercussions to Israel from this.
Instead, Israel knowingly imported more cases of coronavirus, trading the lives of its citizens for diplomatic convenience. Israel let itself bleed rather than risk losing even a smidgen of “American support”, which is presumably the only thing preventing our total destruction.
Were Israel not chained to relationships that demand Jewish blood to be cheap, were Israel not convinced that it needs to bleed itself to prevent others from bleeding us even more, it could have blocked the curve from starting without ever needing to flatten it. Imagine how much death and damage Israel brought upon itself “for fear of compromising diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S.”
Was it worth it?
Was it ever?
Let our leaders finally learn the lesson that should be obvious by now. No longer shall we sacrifice our people and our land to receive approval from the nations of the world. No longer shall we rationalize bleeding ourselves, jeopardizing our soldiers to protect our enemies, and giving new life to defeated enemies. No longer shall we rationalize self-destructive behaviors or trade dead Jews for diplomatic favors.
So many of our people died from this coronavirus plague. So many people are suffering from the foolish, self-loathing decision to keep the borders open when our leaders already knew.
Let us finally learn the lesson and never make this mistake again.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “Go Up Like a Wall” and "“Tovim Ha-Shenayim: The role and nature of Man and Woman.” He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, “Single Jewish Male,” available on YouTube.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; many of his writings are available here. Click here to read more of this writer's work in The Jerusalem Herald.