On Wednesday, September 1, Israel’s school year opens, but with 124,000 thousand school children and 6,500 schoolteachers and staff in isolation, and on this past Shabbat more than 3,000 school children testing positive for the coronavirus, nothing is clear about what will happen as the big day approaches.
For some kids this might be a reason for rejoicing, but for most parents, especially those who must go to work Wednesday morning, it’s unsettling not knowing where the children will be or who will care for them if they are to stay home. And let’s now forget about the thousands of youngsters who have been excitedly waiting with new shoes and school bags in hand for their highly anticipated entry into First Grade.
Sadly, the number of adults fighting the virus is skyrocketing. As of the beginning of this week, there are 726 critical Corona patients, with 149 on respirators, compared to 703 critical patients with 153 on respirators on Saturday. Eight Corona patients have died over the past 24 hours.
Head of the Corona Task Force Professor Salman Zarqa said on Israeli news over the weekend that, “It’s impossible to both open schools and permit large gatherings when the situation in the hospitals is stretched to the limit. As the trend continues, it’s not reasonable to close down schools. The country’s priorities should be different. First the schools and then soccer and culture events.”
Sometimes the numbers don’t really hit home until one experiences the tragedy of the sickness. I just learned that a dear friend of mine and highly respected Messianic Jewish teacher here in Israel is hospitalized in a coma in critical condition after contracting the virus. Many parents will keep their children home out of concern they could spread the virus through the family.
Hopefully, the situation will begin to improve as the vaccination program is quickly moving forward. There are close to 2 million Israelis who have received a third dose which significantly reduces the morbidity and mortality rate from the disease. More than 5,500,000 have already received a second dose, and close to 6 million the first dose of the vaccine.
The government now plans to extend the third booster vaccination to all age groups. Zarqa warned on Sunday that Israel’s hospitals are under the heaviest load they have endured since the pandemic began. On top of that, he explained, an unexpected outbreak of non-Corona respiratory illnesses is spreading across the country causing adults, and their children, to rush to the emergency rooms even though they have been advised to stay home and avoid infection at the hospital.
With all the confusion, concern, and insecurities over the impact of the pandemic in the public square, I wonder how all of this is affecting our children? Our excessive apprehension about the virus may be infecting an entire generation with nosophobia, an overwhelming and all-consuming fear of catching, having, or developing illness or disease. I only hope, and pray, that parents and teachers will understand the need to support and comfort our children and grandchildren and not pass on to them our anxieties and fears, but teach them to trust God even in the midst of these present troubles.