The Book of Lamentations, which we read just a few weeks ago, mourns in the most abject terms the fall of the kingdom of Israel – its physical destruction as well as its moral decline, the fecklessness of its leaders, its devolution from a beacon of light to a laughingstock among the nations.
The situation in Israel today, while a far cry from the depredations of the churban, brings to mind some of the most tragic chapters in our nation’s history. Corrupt leadership, lacking wisdom or compassion, sows mistrust of its own authority and among the people. Amiable neighbors become hostile and suspicious. Truth is buried deep, and the valiant few who persist in digging are mocked for their efforts.
As I write this, Israel’s “green pass” has just gone into effect again, and with it the wholesale narrative that a small but pig-headed portion of the population is to blame for the nation’s coronavirus numbers. “They” are dangerous. Badger them, shun them, prevent them from entering your synagogues, but whatever you do, do not treat them the same as the good people.
The facts on the ground and in the hospitals are not consistent with the government’s narrative – in fact, they suggest quite the opposite – so the libel goes out without corroboration. Jew vs. Jew. Could it get any uglier?
Sadly, yes. For well over a year now, Israel’s borders have been largely shut to the world’s Jews (and non-Jews), including the loved ones of Israelis with family abroad. The continuing allowance for first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens is not only exceedingly narrow but a nightmare in the execution. Onerous paperwork, constantly changing rules and instructions, no opportunity to ask questions or get clarification, and thousands of applications going unanswered. We spent weeks seeking permission for my husband’s parents to visit, applying about a dozen times using a mishmash of methods, and received no response at all. Thankfully, we found someone to intervene and help us out; otherwise, the effort would almost certainly have ended in tears.
The obstacles do not end there. Travelers must undergo PCR swabs and blood tests upon arrival, yet some people never get their results, while others who do never receive the required release from the Ministry of Health, meaning they are officially still in quarantine and move about at their own risk. Facebook groups offering advice and support on these matters, like Reunite Olim With Their Families and Yad L’Olim (started by Dov Lipman), generate daily litanies of horror stories.
Let’s be clear: The government’s approach hasn’t worked, has no chance of working, and has no logical endpoint. The misery will continue to mount while this virus takes its place in the landscape of endemic health issues society faces.
Yet while countless families suffer needlessly from the bureaucratized madness, I have seen little organized pushback from the Diaspora. Where is the outrage? The screaming headlines? The rallies? Why aren’t Jewish leaders and organizations speaking out against this modern-day White Paper? The country that came into existence with the express purpose of throwing its doors wide open to all whose hearts yearned for Zion is now shutting Jews out – indefinitely, it seems – and, within its borders, putting up walls between citizens.
This is Israel’s own version of B.D.S. – bar, divide, scapegoat. The Jewish State has tumbled quickly from its lauded designation as “Vaccination Nation” to become a hot mess, with a new government pursuing the same misguided course.
From where I sit, the picture is very disheartening. After making aliyah six years ago, my passion for living here grew progressively stronger than ever. I wanted to shout from the rooftops, inspire anyone who would listen, make them realize that the Jewish homeland is where we all belong.
I still believe that, but it takes more work to maintain clarity these days. To constantly refocus the lens and keep the anger and disillusionment from multiplying like a virus.
At the heart of the struggle is the need to home in on the distinction between Israel the Holy Land and Israel the State – a dichotomy with which Israel’s charedim are all too familiar and which I am surprised to find myself identifying with on some level.
We are here for the Land of Israel. The State, we hope, will regain its moral footing, but in any event, its role is temporal. G-d’s kingship will one day be restored and all the wrongs righted. Even Eicha promises as much, making it ultimately a book of hope. In the words of Yirmiyahu, “Hashem is my portion, says my soul; therefore I will hope in Him.”
I would not want my struggle to deter any readers from coming here (if the government will let them in, that is) and claiming their portion. But until Israel finds its way again, our voices must not be silent.