From the Chosen to the Pampered People

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A female guest catching some sun during a quarantine stay at the Dan Panorama turned coronavirus hotel, September 10, 2020. For illustration purposes only.

The cry of the downtrodden Israeli, 2021: A group of passengers that has just returned from a pleasure trip to Dubai in the midst of a global pandemic is screaming upon learning that they are about to be sent – pay attention – to a coronavirus hotel at state expense, after many cases of the virus were detected among those returning from that destination.

Let’s leave aside the fact that in Australia, for example, incoming travelers are sent to a hotel at their own expense. Listen to the restrained, refined and understated comments of the Israeli passenger whose world has collapsed by being sentenced to a short quarantine in a hotel, which they consider only slightly less disastrous than a life sentence with hard labor: “They told me to go! What is this? We served in the army, we’ve done everything for this country, this is how they treat us? Like dogs.”

To the man standing near that guy, the above sounded a little too soft. “They’re pushing us like Nazis to the gas chambers … curses to the mother of this whole government,” he said. And a third knowing soul added, “Someone is profiting from all this.” Whereupon they start chanting, “Bribery, fraud, breach of trust.

Voices of Majdanek and Balfour Street at Ben-Gurion Airport. Rani Rahav tweets, “There’s no doubt that the lockdown will cause 100,000 new mental cases.” One hundred thousand, not a single one less. And Haaretz’s education reporter, Shira Kadari-Ovadia, tweeted, “How can we find the emotional strength for another lockdown?”

Indeed, how? The end of the world has struck Israel, of all nations. After the Holocaust, wars and terror attacks – a lockdown. Just imagine. There is no end to the suffering of the chosen people.

The truth must be said: Israelis have over the past few years transformed themselves from being the chosen people to the pampered people. It’s not that life’s difficulties aren’t burdensome and heavy; or that the pandemic hasn’t exacted a heavy financial and emotional price from hundreds of thousands of families, to whom our heart goes out. But we can’t ignore the fact that Israelis have become addicted to life’s pleasures, and if they are denied them, even for a limited time, they start suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms.

When Ari Shavit in his time lamented the croissant and espresso that was taken from him by the terror attack on the Moment Café in Jerusalem, there was outrage. People had been killed. Now it’s a different story with a similar conclusion: Every small price that must be paid here turns into a cruel sacrifice that’s indescribable. In very few countries – most of them suffering far more from the coronavirus than Israel – do we hear the cries of oppression that we’re hearing here.

It starts by blaming the government for every little thing. The state owes something to every Israeli, while they don’t owe the state anything. If a drug dealer is captured in Colombia, the government must secure their release. A hiker slips during a trek in Nepal, Israel has to evacuate them. Naturally this is a totally one-way process. “The government told us to fly to Dubai,” they fumed at the airport. The government told them, so the government is responsible for what happened to them when they came back. Individual responsibility? There’s no such thing. Only the government has obligations. The individual has none, including a responsibility not to infect others coming back from Dubai. Who cares?

To this we must add the addiction to existential, life-preserving pleasures, which if undermined by a lockdown for even a moment, the Israeli gets very angry, feels victimized, and is reminded of Auschwitz. It’s no life without two annual trips abroad. Don’t you dare deny me that. It’s no life without a weekend at the mall – don’t you dare close it. It’s no life without restaurant meals, or at least a weekly takeaway. No life at all. Don’t you dare. It’s certainly no life when you have to stay home with your kids for two weeks. Just as the ultra-Orthodox have no life without their studies, the secular aren’t prepared to give up anything. Why should we go into lockdown? More than half the world is locked down and that’s fine, but us?

Why do we do deserve this? After all, we served in the army.

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