PHOTO: A usually-bustling Ben Gurion International Airport is all but empty as Israel grapples with the coronavirus.
With the results of the recent Israeli election still hot, and coalition talks fresh out of the oven, the coronavirus outbreak is seizing the main headlines of all newspapers. As of the day of writing this article, there are 25 known cases of Israelis who have contracted the virus and tens of thousands more in self quarantine. The usually bustling Ben Gurion Airport is now almost empty of travelers.
While the government hustles to add restrictions upon restrictions, Believers turn to the Lord in prayer. What can we expect from the current situation and how should we look at it?
Today, almost every Israeli knows somebody who is in home isolation. The Ministry of Health issued a list of countries from which Israelis, upon arrival home, will have to be put on a two week home quarantine: Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, mainland China (including Hong Kong and Macau), South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore; with the addition of several more countries currently being considered.
As of now, approximately 70,000-100,000 Israelis sit in their homes, counting down the days.
These instructions aren’t met with the cooperation and urgency they probably should. The Israel Police had to open criminal investigations against 8 people who deliberately disobeyed the Ministry of Health’s requirements and were not self-quarantining. In an official statement the Police vowed to act against those who will violate the guidelines of the MoH.
It was reported that a group of 21 tourists from Greece, who had been diagnosed with coronavirus upon return to their country, visited Israel and the West Bank – as a result the Palestinian Authority closed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for further visitors, when they learned they had stopped there for prayer.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, an Orthodox Jew, announced on Wednesday that the Western Wall Plaza is still open for visitors. The Western Wall’s rabbi added that nothing will be more appropriate as to pray there for the lifting off of the disease. Festivities of Purim are being cancelled nationwide, as the happy merry holiday will be celebrated quietly this year. Soccer and basketball games will be held with no audiences to cheer on their teams.
Generally, the public in Israel isn’t panicking and many humorous memes and jokes referencing the coronavirus are being passed along on WhatsApp and Facebook. Although there have been fatalities around the world, with the World Health Organization saying globally we’re talking about 3.4% death rate, other experts estimate the real percentage is much lower as not all cases are being reported. Other factors should also be taken into account, like age, sex, your general health and the healthcare system one has access to.
While I’m not downplaying the severity of the situation, the international media coverage has caused a lot of unneeded panic in the global community. As the world governments react to this new virus, banning international travel, congregating and shaking of hands, the virus quietly continues to spread. As stewards of God’s creation, we should fight the ailments that disrupt our wellbeing. As Jesus healed, so we should lay our hands on the current state of affairs and pray for God’s cure over the sick, wisdom for the medical personnel and patience for those who are locked up in their homes.
Proponents of a biblical worldview maintain that even though viruses can be destructive, they are still part of God’s good creation. We know from science that viruses maintain balance in ecosystems, mediate the bacteria populations in our gut, aid in fighting other diseases and inspire nano-technological innovation. In spite of these recent events, I want to encourage you to leave alarmism behind, and trust in God’s sovereignty. John wrote: “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” For an old order of nature assumes there will be a new one.
Redemption is a promise, and not only for us humans, but Nature herself awaits the Day of the Lord. And while the kingdom of heaven is already here, it is in part, and will come in full. Till that day, when the cosmos will be written new laws, not of entropy and decay but of constant renewal, we need to reflect the godly nature that has already invaded earth in the form of the Messiah.