חן ארצי סרור
Chen Artzi Sror
Lighting the Hanukkah candles

Another Jewish holiday, another Israeli lockdown

Opinion: A clear lack of policy and selective enforcement gave rise to whispers of third closure at Hanukkah, which will further erode mental resilience of an already tired people forced to spend Passover and High holidays alone

Chen Artzi Sror |
Published: 11.11.20 , 23:42
We had all better invite our family and friends to light the Hanukkah candles and eat deep fried doughnut today, because according to various officials in the healthcare system, Israel will again be forced into some form of closure during Hanukkah itself.
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  • Israel is the only country in which the authorities are already talking about the third pandemic-induced closure, even as the entire country is still stuck in the midst of the second.
    צופים בהדלקהצופים בהדלקה
    Lighting the Hanukkah candles
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    One does not need to be an epidemiologist to see that the clear lack of policy, the selective enforcement and the ever-changing capricious decision-making are all leading to another holiday lockdown.
    The Jewish calendar is packed with holidays and days of special significance, which presented the government with the perfect opportunity to adopt a policy of repeated closure and reopening.
    It is an approach that is doubly. infuriating.
    First, this policy of repeated closures is based on the premise that it simply cannot be avoided. That the only way to defeat the coronavirus is to completely shutter and paralyze the country once every three months, preferably during the holidays so that the time spent being stuck at home will come at the expense of free time with families and not working days.
    מחסום באשדודמחסום באשדוד
    Police install a roadblock in Ashdod ahead of the High Holidays lockdown
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Secondly, such a policy gives the impression that the holidays and festivals are not important. Values like observance, family and even vacation or respite are being placed at the very bottom of the list of government priorities.
    When Israelis realized that they would have to have the Passover Seder alone, each in their own home, it hurt. Yet Israelis gritted their teeth and spent the Seder away from parents and siblings during the most familial event of the year, in the hope it would be worth it and they would be able to spend Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) together.
    Sadly, that was not the case, as the precious time Israel bought while reducing morbidity was not devoted to developing a system for cutting infection chains, for information or for enforcement, and thus the country found itself under another strict closure, this time during the High Holidays.
    The claim of the ultra-Orthodox parties that the closures are deliberately meant to prevent the observance of Jewish traditions is perhaps a bit exaggerated, but it does hold a certain merit.
    מחסומים בחג הפסחמחסומים בחג הפסח
    Police officers enforcing the closure on the eve of Passover at the exit from Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AP)
    The decision to impose a closure during the holidays is not derived from anti-Semitism and is not rooted in hate for the Haredi sector - it is based on an apathy that undermines the values of tradition and family and a basic lack of understanding that community, prayer and holiday meals are all tools to foster mental resilience.
    Let us not forget the mortal blow inflicted upon those working in the tourism industry and those forced to shutter their businesses during each ill-advised closure.
    Was it possible to use the period of the second closure to lower the infection rate? Definitely. It would merely have required Israel's leaders to produce an orderly and well-budgeted plan that would have applied to all citizens.
     Israelis Jews observe social distancing while praying outdoors during the High Holidays in September  Israelis Jews observe social distancing while praying outdoors during the High Holidays in September
    Israelis Jews observe social distancing while praying outdoors during the High Holidays in September
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    Should lightning the Hanukkah candles and holiday gatherings be permitted next month? Of course, albeit with careful enforcement and explanation of requirements such as wearing a mask and social distancing.
    But this all sounds so far from the realm of possibility when the government can’t even increase its fines for ignoring health regulations due to the objections of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
    The now-established routine of the coronavirus pandemic is tough and exhausting. And in order to boost civic resilience one must give a place of honor to culture, family and tradition.
    In order to make sense of the mess, some logic is required. With whispers of the next closure already being heard, perhaps we should wear our Purim costumes to the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, because it seems Israelis are not going anywhere anytime soon.
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