Israel should be China's friend in need

Opinion: The coronavirus is a Chinese tragedy and in the eyes of the world, all people of Chinese descent are lepers, whether they hail from Wuhan or Beijing or San Francisco; but Israel, with its proud history of helping others in times of national crisis, can be a beacon of light in the darkness

Alon Goldstein|
The other day I watched a woman crossing the road not far from my local town center, where Chinese workers, many of whom are building the new Tel Aviv light rail, were sitting.
When she saw them, she covered her mouth with a scarf and retraced her steps, so she could cross the road on the other side. Her entire objective was clearly to avoid walking past them.
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בקבוק מים להגנה מנגיף הקורונה
בקבוק מים להגנה מנגיף הקורונה
Chinese children at Beijing airport use empty water bottles are makeshift masks to counter the coronavirus
(Photo: EPA)
Meanwhile in the Yedioth Ahronoth newsroom the phones are ringing off the hook with calls from concerned citizens.
"I'm near a construction site in Netanya," one man shouted down the phone. "The Chinese here are working without gloves and without masks. Report it quickly to whoever you have to."
They are also singled out at the airport. Although to be honest, it doesn’t seem to matter there if the person no matter is Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese. If you have an "Asian look," no one will come near you.
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Chinese and Israeli workers building the Tel Aviv light rail system
Chinese and Israeli workers building the Tel Aviv light rail system
Chinese and Israeli workers building the Tel Aviv light rail system
(Photo: Moti Kimchi)
But above all, the coronavirus epidemic is a Chinese tragedy on both a personal and national level. Personal because of the terrible human toll and national because now in the eyes of the world, all Chinese people are lepers, whether they come from the disaster-struck city of Wuhan or from Beijing or were even born in San Francisco and never even set foot in China.
National because the Chinese seem to be doing in their power possible to combat this new virus, including taking uncompromising measures previously unseen, but even so there is large-scale distrust, suspicion and rejection.
Granted, Western suspicion of the regime in Beijing is not without good cause, but the current efforts of the Chinese government are truly amazing and the footage emanating from Wuhan and the entire Hubei Province shows unprecedented efficiency.
Huge hospitals have been set up in just a few days; drones are flying onto the balconies of skyscrapers to take the temperature of residents; educational, cultural and commercial institutions have been completely disabled. Everything has been brought to a halt.
In fact, it is hard to banish the thought that the Chinese government, through the extreme curfew imposed on Hubei, has actually decided to sacrifice entire cities in order to stop the spread of the disease.
For better or worse - what other country in the world would even consider such draconian measures?
If anyone deserves empathy and assistance it is the people of China, those besieged civilians and their individual personal tragedies.
Israel can help, as it has in the past in times of national crises abroad. It can send pharmaceutical supplies, share medical and biological information, maintain commercial and cultural ties as much as possible.
And the everyman and everywoman can also try to help by offering encouragement and support albeit remotely, and by choosing not to share the conspiracy theories that are rampant on social networks.
And they certainly should not flee when they come across a person of Asian origin on the street.

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נוסעים חוזרים מ סין
נוסעים חוזרים מ סין
Travelers from China wearing masks as they arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport
(Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
A multi-faceted Israeli response is vital, not only to help prevent the spread of the virus throughout the world, but also to show the millions of besieged Chinese who are starving in their apartments and collapsing in the streets, isolated from all human contact, that we value their heroism and the sacrifice forced upon them.
For in the darkness that has descended upon thousands of families in China, kind words and deeds can be a ray of light.
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