Apart from the tragic toll of lives and devastated families this pandemic has also let loose ancient demons.
It has also left in its wake potential political wrecks, social and economic upheavals and exposed totally unprepared and underfunded health systems.
To be fair this virus has also demonstrated some of the best qualities of human behaviour with voluntary groups, volunteers and especially first responders, doctors and nurses not only helping those in desperate need but putting themselves on the firing line and in many cases paying with their own lives.
At the end of the day it is the combined force of all these people in addition to social workers, psychologists and researchers which will finally defeat this latest scourge. One hopes that after it is all a distant memory the combined forces of goodwill still exert a major influence in countries ravaged by corona.
The conundrum we face however at this time is whether the damage caused now and in the immediate future will overwhelm all the good that has been achieved?
It was inevitable and entirely predictable that Jews would be one of the first spin-off targets for the international conspiracy proponents and so it has turned out to be. Jews were made prime scapegoats for the black plague which ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages and thus suffered twice, once at the hands of the bubonic plague and twice at the hands of theologically inspired hatred. The fact that Jewish communities were also infected with the plague did not matter as virulent libels incubated and then erupted in every place. Today’s anti-Jewish manifestations do not fortunately assume the same deadly status but nevertheless the blogosphere is alive with the same poisonous venom. Synagogues are being vandalized, hate graffiti has appeared and Jews in many places are being accused of spreading the virus. Like in the past the fact that in some areas Jews are infected and dying in higher proportions to their percentage of the population seems irrelevant to the hate mongers. Although thankfully the old theological accusations have almost disappeared the confluence of Passover and Easter managed to kick start the old plots in a few murky minds.
If you need any clearer examples of how hate viruses mutate take a look at the vile bile emanating from those whom the international community still insists are “peace partners.” Taken straight out of the medieval and more recent textbooks on how to vilify and lie, the nauseating slanders pouring forth on Palestinian Arab media and disseminated via social media are a perfect lesson on how these plagues successfully infect societies. Despite Israeli assistance in the midst of its own battle to contain and defeat coronavirus the PA continues to vilify and defame. To make matters worse it yet again employs its time worn but highly successful technique of demanding billions from the international community. Unreported and deliberately ignored by the UN and assorted NGO’s is the fact that the payments which Abbas and his friends make to those who murdered and maimed Israelis would if redirected to fighting the virus pay for the purchase of 387,143 testing kits or 465 ventilators.
Additional casualties on the battlefield after the plague has been defeated or at least temporarily held at bay will be political leaders and politicians in various countries. Inevitably there will be a day of reckoning and depending on how successful the policies were or were not, the fallout will surely follow. Those who delayed taking strong measures or who denied there was a serious problem are bound to face the wrath of the voters while others who demonstrated a willingness to take unpopular but necessary steps from the very beginning are likely to see their support increase. Most nations have opted for lockdown and isolation even though this comes at a cost. Sweden decided instead to go for herd immunity and the USA flounders with each State doing their own thing and the Commander in Chief believing that “great things are happening.” Israelis celebrated Passover home alone while in America with no travel restrictions in place Seder in many cases was as usual with children and grandchildren for example from the hotspots of New York and New Jersey joining elderly parents and grandparents in other States. A recipe for disaster if ever there was one. Rest homes and elderly care facilities have been particularly hard hit with staff and residents suffering equally. Health care systems are staggering under the strain with this crisis exposing gross underfunding and under staffing.
The economies of most countries are tottering and nobody yet knows whether a major depression is on the way or somehow chaos will be averted. In the meantime businesses are closed, millions are unemployed and the tourism and airline industries have ground to a halt. A major victim in the UK has been the venerable Jewish Chronicle, the oldest Jewish printed newspaper in the world. Together with the smaller circulation Jewish News it has reached the end of the road as funding dried up. This demise is indicative of how coronavirus is decimating everything in its path as it rampages throughout the world. Nowhere and nobody is immune from this plague except North Korea and its glorious leader where big brother dictates which fantasies are to be believed.
On Seder night we asked the usual four questions. Possibly unasked around the table was the imponderable mystery of when and how all of us will exit from this current chaos. The answer to this question remains murky mainly because nobody has the faintest idea of how to proceed. Everyone knows that we must get back to normality as soon as possible. In order to do so safely however many factors need to be taken into account. This is where things get controversial because experts are divided and this only causes additional confusion in the minds of citizens.
If we relax too soon and too quickly how do we prevent a devastating relapse and round two of the virus? There are worrying signs that immunity is not necessarily achieved after being exposed. If we delay returning to the way life was before lockdown we run the danger of irreparable damage to our economies and a breakdown in our social fabric. Will society ever be the same again? Will we return to our carefree socializing or will society be so traumatized that it permanently inhibits our behaviour and personal interactions?
There could very well be physical and psychological traumas which might take years to heal or people may be scarred for life.
Post Passover we face an uncertain future and one which is strewn with major challenges. This calls for resilience and fortitude and above all inspired leadership – something which unfortunately is not necessarily guaranteed.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.