Coronavirus Omicron variant
Coronavirus Omicron variantiStock

The Spanish flu pandemic (1919-1921), SARS (2004) and MERS (peak 2015) all were epidemics that either disappeared entirely (the first two) or, with the third, is causing minimal infections (MERS). It appears that, mercifully, pandemic viruses mutate to a form that simply are no longer capable of spreading their infection.

This leads us to our present Covid-19 pandemic. It's become obvious that the there will not be worldwide vaccination any time soon. Even in developed countries, a pitiful few of whom have 80% vaccination rates, there are irresponsible citizens who refuse to vaccinate; the undeveloped world has pitiful rates of vaccination, under 10%.

This means that the virus will continue to circulate among the worldwide unvaccinated population, and thus continue to evolve, producing mutations like Delta, and now Omicron.

Yet, maybe this isn't so bad. Perhaps Omicron is the mutant the world has been hoping for, and should be praying for. So far, anecdotes from South Africa say that the patients have mild symptoms and no cough.

This suggests that Omicron may not be attacking the lungs. Pneumonia with Covid-19 has been the big killer (stroke and heart attack have been minor killers) in the last 20 months; in some people, the virus destroys all lung tissue, leaving nonbreathing scar, with no hope of recovery except for ECMO buying time till lung transplant.

A mutant that spreads faster than Delta and causes no lung disease would be a blessing in disguise, displacing Delta in mankind and leaving us with just another virus causing the common cold.

Of course, it's still a week or so too early to tell if this is going to be the end of the story. Covid-19 disease has shown a propensity to just "putter along" for some ten days, and then attack the patient with a vicious knock-out punch. Will this pessimistic ending be the story of Omicron?

A mutant that spreads faster than Delta and causes no lung disease would be a blessing in disguise, displacing Delta in mankind and leaving us with just another virus causing the common cold.
Nobody yet knows that answer; but I can provide some advice to our Ministry of Health. Israelis well know that our MOH hit us with an unnecessary total shutdown of incoming tourists for Hannukah, starting November 29 - when all that would've been necessary was to close Ben Gurion Airport to anyone from Africa, or in contact with Africans in a third country (like the doctor who went to a conference in London, and came back with Omicron).

The MOH panicked after over a thousand Israelis died in the fourth wave, and overreacted; after all, we've had all of four Omicron cases in Israel in the last 8 days. Therefore the MOH should open the gates NOW to tourists - excluding Africa.

Meanwhile, the Chief Rabbinate should be leading a massive public prayer at the Kotel to plead with the Almighty to make this mutant dominate, and then become just another common-cold virus.

This would be the greatest Hannukah gift of all time; and if the Rabbinate has any qualms about praying for Hannukah gifts, it should know that the idea of Hannukah gelt (money) and gifts is VERY Jewish. The first hints at Hannukah money and gifts were in the ancient story of Yosef and his brothers, which focuses around money (see my Arutz Sheva articles: The Rule of Threes(2005), Threes Redux (2006), and The Price (Tag) of Peanuts (2011) ). Yaakov Avinu, our Father Jacob, even sent the Egyptian Viceroy a gift- original Israeli peanuts (Genesis 43, verses 11 and 25)- to create a relationship based on brotherhood and love, rather than sacks of money (Chapter 44, verses 1 and 8).

Perhaps that's all that G-d wanted all along: nations of the world united in brotherhood and love, rather than by Internet, Facebook and Twitter.

The Hannukah spirit is that the vision, spirit and faith of a youth, Joseph, of a family (the Maccabees), and of the Nation of Israel can overcome seemingly tremendous odds- by putting trust in G-d. In this case, trust science- but the nation that returned from the Dead (the Holocaust and Exile) can still be a shining Hannukah light to a world lost in materialism and despair.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch is a physician residing in Beit El who works at Hadassah Hospital. He recently completed Rabbinical ordination of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel through an adult study program at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav.