During its brief history, the modern state of Israel has had to endure endless wars, terrorism, political, cultural and economic boycotts, and has triumphed decidedly over all these hardships. The Jewish State, with a population of just under 9 million and about the size of New Jersey routinely ranks among the most powerful nations in the world and its citizens enjoy a standard of living on par with Western nations, an astonishing achievement considering that Israel has been in existence for only 72 years and is surrounded by medieval, genocidal neighbors.
But in late February, it became readily apparent that Israel, indeed the world was facing a much more insidious enemy, an invisible foreign virus, which emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan. While China was lying to the world and spinning false narratives as to the nature and origins of the virus, Israel’s leaders understood that this was an enemy unlike any other they had faced before, and consequently took immediate and drastic measures to minimize the damage.
Fast-forward to May 1, 2020. Eighty percent of Israeli towns and villages have reported no new COVID-19 infections. Hospitals throughout Israel are reporting no new COVID-19 admissions. Of the nation’s 16,193 confirmed COVID-19 infected, nearly 10,000 have fully recovered. Israel’s mortality rate from COVID-19 is among the lowest in the world, only 231 deaths.
These encouraging signs have prompted the government to begin reopening the country and getting things back to normal. Small business owners have been allowed re-open, with sensible restrictions. Malls will be opening next week. The government has lifted restrictions on movement. Schools are reopening as well, despite apprehension from local municipalities. Things in Israel are gradually getting back to normal. It will take time to reverse the damage caused by the Chinese coronavirus but Israel is on the right track.
With much of the world still in disarray and under lockdown, many are viewing Israel as the model for defeating Coronavirus. So how did Israel do it?
Israel was among the world’s first nations to halt international travel. On January 30, it halted flights to Beijing and banned entry of Chinese citizens into Israel. China’s ambassador condemned the move, invoking memories of the Holocaust. That asinine invocation drew widespread condemnation, forcing the embassy to apologize, no small achievement considering that the Chinese government never apologizes for anything. It should also be noted that while China had placed Wuhan under strict quarantine and banned Wuhan’s residents from traveling to other areas within China, it still permitted Wuhan’s citizens to travel abroad to other countries, knowing full well the ramifications of such malignant permissiveness.
On March 12, EL Al, Israel’s national carrier announced it was suspending flights to most areas of the world. This was a painful decision considering that much of Israel’s revenue is derived from the tourist industry. The timing of the suspension was also painful as it came during the peak tourist season of Easter and Passover. Eighty percent of El Al’s employees were furloughed and the rippling effect to Israel’s tourist sector was devastating. Nevertheless, the government’s seemingly draconian action proved to be prescient.
On March 20, the government followed up by imposing tough and unprecedented new restrictions on movement and travel to battle the spread of the disease, this at a time when there were only 705 recorded cases nationwide. Those who were known to be infected with the virus but did not require hospitalization were quarantined and their movements monitored by the police and Israel’s internal security apparatus, the Shin Bet.
In one particularly egregious case, but highlighting the efficiency of Israel’s police, an infected person boarded a bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. When the police caught wind of the violation, the bus was intercepted en-route. The police arrested the passenger, who now faces a seven-year sentence. The bus driver was fined 5,000 Shekels or $1,400 for allowing more than 25 passengers to board the bus, which when intercepted had 34 passengers. All the passengers were required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, Israel’s vaunted Mossad intelligence service, the apparatus entrusted with tracking down and liquidating the world’s vilest terrorists, embarked on a new mission. Its agents scoured the globe to obtain ventilators, COVID-19 testing kits and personal protection equipment in anticipation of the worst case scenario. This was no small undertaking considering that China was hording this material and preventing its export. A Mossad operative termed the effort among the ‘most complex operation’ he’s ever overseen. Needless to say, the operation was a resounding success.
But like President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understood that the cure could not be worse than the disease. To that end, the draconian measures undertaken by Netanyahu’s government to halt the pathogen’s spread had to be of limited duration. But Israelis now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Israel mustered all its efforts and resources to battle COVID-19 and triumphed. As the world continues to battle this pandemic, it can look to Israel as a model of efficiency and effectiveness.
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