These are very troubled but also interesting times.
Traveling through Israel, one can see very unusual things.
In the Tel Aviv area, for example, one notices already the stark differences with normal times when traveling on the Ayalon freeway.
The situation on regular workdays on the freeway reminds one of Mark Knopfler’s old song “Telegraph Road.” “Now we have six lanes of traffic three lanes moving slow,” goes the song that deals with the ‘progress’ of civilization.
Traveling on Ayalon on Tuesday, I had the feeling it was a holiday: all lanes moved fast through Tel Aviv – no traffic jams.
In the center of Tel Aviv – called the ‘city that does not sleep’ by Israelis – almost all of the normally overcrowded restaurants and shops were closed while the square in front of Heichal HaTarbut, one of the largest theaters in Israel, was deserted.
On Rothschild Boulevard usually scores of people wander around or are riding their bikes and so-called ‘korkinets’(Hebrew for kick scooters) but now one of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv looks like the center of a sleepy Mexican town during siesta.
The only thing that hasn’t changed since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Tel Aviv, which has the highest numberof COVID-19 cases in Israel, is the lack of parking spaces.
Elsewhere in Israel, at the Sea of Galilee, one can see the collapse of the tourist industry now that all foreigners are banned from entering the country. Hotels are empty and no touring busses are seen near restaurants and the Christian holy places in the area.
Ever since the start of the so-called Second Intifada, when Israel’s tourist industry also collapsed, there hasn’t been a situation like this, and it looks like it will take a very long time before the tourists will come back.
The Corona crisis will have large repercussions for Israel’s booming economy that is expected to slide into the first recession in many years with 5,000 people per hour filing for unemployment benefits.
Since the beginning of this month 180,000 Israelis have registered at Israel’s Employment Service and the government expects the number to rise above 400.000, which will mean that the unemployment rate in Israel could reach 30 percent.
A drop in terror
Then there is Israel’s security situation which has changed overnight due to the Corona outbreak.
Scanning headlines on news sites you will hardly find news about Palestinian terror attacks including those emanating from Gaza that have targeted southern Israel relentlessly since the so-called “Great March of Return”began two years ago.
In fact, Israel is now supplying Hamas with Corona test kits and maskes against the virus while the Palestinian Authority (PA) has for the first time imposed a closure on the territories under its control.
The PA and Israel are also working together to contain the Corona crisis while the Palestinian leadership has copied the way Israel deals with the epidemic.
Middle East situation
In Syria, which is facing a new disaster due to the COVID-19 virus, Iranian-backed militias are hard hit by the disease which in turn causes a sharp reduction in the activities of these forces, according to the IDF.
The same goes for Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has many infected members because of the intense contacts with the Iranians who face their own Corona disaster.
The Iranian regime speaks of an official death toll of 1,046, but opposition sources say the number is at least 4 times higher.
Dr. Afruz Eslami, an Iranian physician who is also a journalist warns that at least 110,000 Iranians will die from the virus. He further cautioned that if the healthcare system in Iran collapses that number could rise to 3.5 million people.
Iran’s already battered economy will further collapse as a result of the Corona crisis and this is good news for Israel,which has been repeatedly threatened with annihilation by the fanatical regime in the Islamic Republic.
Iran won’t have the funds anymore to finance its drive to build-up a Shiite Crescent in the Middle East and to give support to terrorist groups that threaten Israel’s existence.
Israelis and Israeli citizens living abroad that I interviewed over the past week said they had an apocalyptic feeling because of the growing Corona crisis. This mood is reflected on social media, where all sorts of doomsday posts and Bible verses hinting at the Corona disaster do the rounds.
One religious Israeli sent me a Bible verse taken from the book of Isaiah in a chapter that deals with the end of days (26:20).
The verse states this: “Come, my people enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”
The Lord will use “a big sword to punish a flying serpent” which is like “a crocodile in the sea,” the prophet wrote.
A Jewish blogger from the US pointed to a verse in Proverbs that has been explained by the great Jewish sage Rashi some 1,000 years ago.
“A man’s spirit will sustain him in sickness (machalahoe), but who can support a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14).
The Aramaic translation by Jonathan Ben Uziel translates the word machalahoe into coranei (which is Aramaic forCorona, or Crown).
Rashi, according to the blogger, said that the cure for this illness is as follows:
“Someone with a healthy attitude, that tries to lead a happy life and he does not allow worries to affect him, no power, including illness (such as corona) will be able to consume him.”