Opinion

Israel's Coronavirus Generation, Alone in Its Misery

Sefy Hendler
Sefy Hendler
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Women in Jerusalem during the coronavirus crisis, summer 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Sefy Hendler
Sefy Hendler

The world we knew until early 2020 was supposed to raise at least   two more generations until perhaps arriving at Gen C. After the baby boomers, who were born during the two decades following World War II, came the generations that experienced the full impact of the birth of mass media (Gen X), the internet (Gen Y) and the iPhone (Gen Z).

We were supposed to watch the current Gen Alpha giving birth to children and grandchildren before mid-century, when Gen C, Gen Gamma or any other name the socialists attached to it established itself. But then the coronavirus arrived, became a game changer and created the Gen C that nobody had imagined, the coronavirus generation.

It’s hard to delineate its age range, as the experts have done with all the generations since the end of World War II, but it’s clear that the coronavirus generation is undergoing a dramatic upheaval that's accelerating historical processes. Members of Gen C were born into a world that is wealthier and more educated than ever, run by giant corporations that are all-powerful amid a worsening lack of interest among the world’s governments in the health and economic welfare of their people.

The Americans, the French and the Brazilians have been forced to realize that cuts in health care budgets and the unraveling of social safety nets have immediate and sometimes irreversible consequences for quality of life in a matter of weeks, not years or decades.

In Israel the collapse is particularly traumatic. Its citizens have become accustomed to the government’s profound lack of interest in the urgent issues on their agenda: transportation, health, education and the climate crisis. But the speed and force with which Israelis suffered a depleted and chaotic health care system, collapsing social services and the deliberate abandonment of taxpayers to poverty almost overnight was especially brutal.

The indifference to this collapse was shown by the ruling elite, for whom Minister Without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi provided a particularly authentic voice – he dismissed as nonsense the idea that there are Israelis who can’t afford to buy food. This only made clear to members of Gen C how much they're alone in their misery.

Added to this gloomy situation is the culture test. A society is measured by the basic living conditions it can provide its citizens during peacetime and in times of crisis. The ability to maintain a bustling, productive and challenging cultural life is a basic component of this. Here too it’s clear that Israel has failed dismally. Assistance to theater, cinema, dance, the plastic arts, music and literature isn't a luxury, it defines the way we will overcome a once-in-a-century crisis as a humanistic society.

Culture is a powerful tool that can give voice to various opinions and provide hope in times of despair in Israel and worldwide. Whether online performances by Israel’s leading artists funded by the state,  poetry readings in the city square, online exhibitions for youth or summer plays in the open air while maintaining social distancing, there are as many ideas as there is a lack of interest by the government.

When Rome was sacked in 1527, Medici Pope Clement VII was forced to flee. When he returned, one of his first decisions was to grant the title keeper of the papal seal to the brilliant Renaissance painter who accompanied him, Sebastiano del Piombo. The decision reflected a profound insight: There is no rehabilitiation without culture.

But every generation has its own leaders. Israel’s Gen C is learning the hard way that the country’s rulers don’t consider culture a part of the crisis, and certainly not a component of the rehabilitation process.

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