Out of the depths of winter - a society of fear

This pandemic has created is a society of fear, even from those methods that can relieve the fear, along with apathy to the elections. Op-ed

Rabbi Berel Wein ,

Overcast Winter Day
Overcast Winter Day
Leah Lichterman

With Pesach already close at hand, nearly visible on the horizon, we are all hoping that the depths of winter are behind us. We could all use a little bright sunshine, warmer weather and the feeling of hope that springtime always brings.

We really cannot complain about this past winter, for it was a winter of abundant rain, the thrill of a short snowstorm and only a limited number of days of extreme cold. Nevertheless, winter is winter, and the short days and long nights can be depressing, especially since this winter brought with it two severe lockdowns occasioned by the continuing ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic.

It was also the winter of inoculations and vaccinations against the spread of that pandemic. The apparent success of this inoculation program and the positive effect that it has had in lowering the incidence of the disease have proven most heartening.

It is hard for me to imagine why anyone should oppose or even delay being vaccinated, when the evidence is so overwhelming that this vaccine is a boon to the health of the individual being vaccinated and to the society in which we all continue to function.

What this pandemic has created is a society of fear, and this extends even to the failure of being protected from the pandemic itself. Once people find themselves in a state of fear, they fear everything - even those methods that can relieve that fear.

The winter has also brought upon us the political collapse of the coalition government that was supposed to rule here in Israel for the next few years. Instead, we are about to embark on the fourth election in little more than two years. In honor of this new election there are several new political parties that arrived with great fanfare but with little if any new content or ideas.

The main common denominator of all these new parties is that they are opposed to the current prime minister at almost all costs. They are very thin on ideas and programs as to how they would govern in the future. The election seems to be whittled down to those who support the Prime Minister at any cost and those who oppose him, also at any cost. Whether this is sufficient cause for an election to be held and for all the pain and divisiveness that elections inevitably bring, is underlying to the election process itself.

Some of the new parties have already perished in the desert of public and media opinion. In this, they resemble the great gourd plant that covered the head of the prophet Jonah. It was created overnight but soon withered and disappeared almost as quickly. New parties rarely do well in Israeli politics, and their rate of mortality is remarkably high.

Most of the time the reason for this is that they are little more than ego trips for ambitious politicians, but the Israeli public is sophisticated and wise enough now to see through the supposed novelty of a new party or personality claiming to be the ultimate savior of our society and government.

In any event, winter has a deadening effect on electioneering and political campaigns. This is especially true regarding the Corona lockdowns which have occurred. Even the heartiest of partisans are not that anxious to stand out in the cold and rain for hours on end listening to speeches by politicians.

In general, Israeli society is weary – weary of lockdowns, isolation, economic contraction, false promises, ineffective government policies and the other assorted failings of our society. People wish to get on with their lives and somehow to be able to put the pieces back together after more than a year of living in a shattered society.

The feeling on the street regarding the elections is not one of excitement or anticipation, but rather one of apathy and almost boredom. The politicians are excited, but the voters are not. Since we no longer have a benchmark of normalcy, it is hard to determine when, if ever, things will really get back to ‘normal.’ It is certain that the new ‘normal’ will include more and more people working from their homes instead of in offices, zoom classes and lectures, and, perhaps, the wearing of masks for a long period of time into the future. But…we are definitely coming out of the depths of winter and that itself is a good thing.



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