Back in late February when I contributed my last editorial for ‘The Advocate’ the world was a different place. Back then I wrote about the cooperation which exists between Jewish, Christian and secular organisations which support Israel, in New Zealand – and noted that our strength lies in our unity of purpose.
Seven weeks on and I’m writing this editorial from inside my Wellington ‘bubble’ and reflecting on the fact that my opportunities to even leave my home are limited, far less my ability to travel to Auckland where many of my pro-Israel colleagues reside. Indeed, one of the lasting impacts of Covid 19 will be the way in which it has forced us all to review our priorities as we seek to find our place in the ‘new normal’ and redefine what we mean by ‘unity’ in an environment where physical contact may be severely curtailed for a long time to come.
Yet even in this strange time, Israel is still very much in the international public eye. The nation faces coronavirus challenges of its own, mandating lockdown restrictions similar to those here in New Zealand – and for the first time in Israel’s modern history, Passover was observed remotely as the Government ordered a strict four day closure over this traditionally communal time.
But, as always, Israel is also leading the way in the fight against this pernicious new threat. One organisation has ranked Israel as the safest country in the world in respect of its response to the virus – an accolade which reflects it’s early decision to impose a lockdown, to ban travel from virus ‘hotspots’, and to impose quarantines on all those who crossed its borders. Israel has also been a leader in the use of technology to detect breaches of quarantine and is carrying out more tests, per person, than any other nation in the world – with tens of thousands of tests, per day, being conducted so that anyone who needs a test gets one.
And how do Israelis know if they need a test? Well, there’s an app for that. HaMagen records the places that infected people had visited – so you can know if you came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Another Israeli company – Vocalis – has developed an app that can detect deterioration in Covid patients by detecting fluid accumulation in the sound of their voice!
And in another stunning act of generosity – Israeli Ventilator manufacturer Medtronic is sharing design specifications to its units, free of charge, so that other nations can build their own ventilators quickly and safely. Two Israeli companies have also already developed potential Covid 19 vaccines which they expect to bring to trial by June.
Yet even in the midst of this global crisis – Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Israel, claiming that they will ‘murder every Jew in Israel by making them unable to breathe’. And how did Israel respond to this provocation? By sending medical aid to the Palestinians, training their medics and treating their ill.
It’s said that our real character is revealed during times of crisis – and this is as true of nations as it is of individuals. I’m an incredibly proud kiwi and I love my nation – but perhaps, instead of smugly congratulating ourselves at how clever we are for keeping our case numbers low within the fortuitous bubble of global isolation – we could take a leaf out of Israel’s book and apply smart solutions which focus attention on those at most disadvantage, by doing everything we can to also support our Island neighbours.
As always – there’s a great deal we can learn from the Israeli approach.