Spread Joy, Bennett: Declare COVID-19 to Be Just Another Disease and Free Us From Fear

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a Maccabi vaccination center, last month
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Senior political commentators reported last weekend that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was happy in his job. That’s nice. To weaken the anti-democratic Bibi-ism and prevent the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to power, more autocratic and vengeful than ever, the new government must first survive. In this case, its existence is the message. Under its rule, no improvement can be expected in the horrors of apartheid and the occupation. The status quo will continue, but in everything concerning the coronavirus, the time has come for Bennett to take a courageous decision and declare a new approach.

First, because of the duration of the pandemic and the accumulation of experience. Second, because Bennett – as opposed to Netanyahu – is capable and needs to make businesslike, reasonable and fair decisions vis-a-vis the coronavirus. In managing the crisis, the only thing guiding him should be the public good. This is why Bennett must be a leader. He must open his eyes and ears and realize that in Israel these days the repressed coronavirus hysteria is bubbling up to the surface. Doomsday scenarios are spreading, accelerated by the TV commentariat and on social media – according to which the school year won’t open as scheduled September 1. This, the continuation of the disruption of daily life, routine and Israelis’ sanity.

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The fear and uncertainty concerning the new school year are causing great harm to the mental health of parents and children. They are unnecessary. Bennett must declare that the school year will open and that regular activities face no danger, unless a meteor hits the Earth. The public deserves stability and logic. It deserves a reasonable reality. The talk of not opening schools on time is insanity – and Bennett must put an end to it.

He must announce that Israel has decided to live alongside the coronavirus, not in its shadow – a move made possible by the vaccine. He must tell Israelis to stop monitoring the daily COVID-19 numbers. The experts will do it, the public has an exemption. Let it tend to its own business. If there’s a problem, it will hear about it. For now, there is no problem, thanks to the vaccine.

Bennett must recognize that the quarantine rules are onerous for young children and their parents. To be locked up at home in the middle of the summer for a week and a half is too much. Faster and more effective testing must be introduced to limit quarantines as much as possible. Bennett isn’t the only one who deserves to be happy these days, hundreds of thousands of parents and children deserve it too. Bennett can help by liberating them from the regime of fear-mongering and intolerable restrictions.

Bennett, declare that from now on, COVID-19 is just another disease. Of course, it’s a disease that is best avoided, like so many other such diseases that are best to avoid – so it is very much worth it to be vaccinated and to wear masks in closed spaces, and not to squeeze into crowded places. But the coronavirus is not a reason to deny Israeli citizens their fundamental rights and shut them up in their homes. It is not a justification for shutting down the economy and causing intolerable financial, psychological and physical harm.

Bennett, be a leader. After all, you tried to sell us on your managerial approach to the pandemic – now prove it. Israel leads the world in terms of the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated. The time has come for the prime minister of Israel to also lead a change in the world in the approach to COVID-19, based on the strength of the vaccines.

Save the Israeli public from this incessant fear, from the coronavirus neurosis, from the frightened wait for future sanctions. Make it clear to the professionals in the Health Ministry that the national sport of government officials, scaring the public, is finished. There will be school, there will be work. There will be a routine. Spread joy, Bennett.

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