COVID-19 and the Possible Breakdown of National Life
After an initially successful COVID-19 vaccination drive, many Israelis are now refusing the shot
An attempt by Israel’s Ministry of Health to remove from the Internet the videos of Rabbi Yuval Asherov drew even more attention to this man who has gained popularity by lecturing on why COVID-19 is just another virus among many others that we must live with. Asherov, who also has a clinic for “natural medicine,” calls on his listeners to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine.
Along with other pandemic-deniers, Asherov has managed to sway many from being vaccinated, to the extent that Israel’s daily rate of vaccinations has dropped from a peak of 200,000 to just 100,000 a day. Now it is a sad fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu is begging Israelis to get vaccinated in press conferences that our mainstream media will not broadcast.
In a nutshell, Asherov claims that COVID-19 is a kind of a hoax, although he would not explain who this hoax is serving. “I wonder where the new disease came from,” he said in one of his lectures. “All they have done was to change the name from ‘flu’ to ‘Corona.’” Asherov supports himself with what seems like credible information, and thus comes across as convincing.
However, a YouTube video from Neuro-Immunologist Prof. Eitan Okun systematically refutes Asherov’s supposed proofs. For example, Asherov says that the vaccine is genetic engineering of the human body. Okun replies that “the vaccine itself does involve genetic engineering…the RNA vaccine of Pfizer does not penetrate the cell nucleus.” To claim otherwise “reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the biology of the cell,” Okun added. Asherov says that there is a real danger that the vaccine will cause autoimmune diseases. Okun responds that no proof has ever been found that vaccines cause autoimmune diseases. The opposite is true. Viruses from which we try to protect ourselves cause autoimmune diseases.
Okun’s science-based exposure of the rabbi’s indefensible denial of the COVID-19 pandemic should have been enough to convince reasonable people. But since people are more often faith-oriented, a person of faith was needed to address this issue. In stepped Rabbi Moti Karpel, who in a short Facebook post was able to articulate the fundamental flaw of Asherov’s religious assumptions.
“The question about Asherov’s assumptions is not about whether he is right or not. Even if he is right,” argues Karpel, it concerns only individuals who keep a healthy lifestyle and healthy spiritual and moral diet. Only such people whose life centers around perpetual repentance can afford to rely solely on the notion: “great is repentance for it brings healing to the world” (a Talmudic saying based on Jer. 3:22). Maybe in such a condition, says Karpel, they can handle the virus without the vaccine.
The problem is that most people are living off of junk food and junk media, and therefore cannot live by the truth required of them by Asherov, even assuming he is right, and he is not. Living only according to the truth is a foundational principle, and so important that it is said that he who demands of others to live up to a spiritual standard then can’t achieve brings upon himself severe illness and even death. Therefore, argues Karpel, even if true, Asherov’s belief should have been shared with carefully selected individuals only.
“The inability to discern between individual guidance and public guidance,” concludes Karpel, shows a troublesome misunderstanding of the meaning of national life. Asherov shows that he does not understand what the resurrection of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel means.
And judging from the way so many Israelis react to the vaccine, the impression one gets is that just as Karpel says, refusing the vaccine reveals the breakdown of trust in national institutions, that even if not perfect still embody a national Jewish life. The pandemic therefore only highlights the across-the-board failure to understand the meaning of national Jewish life in the Land of Israel. And this failure has resulted in a deep division of society that if allowed to continue will lead to dire consequences.