Israel’s tea pots are filling up again
By David E. kaplan
It was not written in the tea leaves that indicated the future was changing, it was in the people drinking it – or more precisely, the number of people!
Where for the past year it has been “Tea for Two” my wife and I recently sat down with a group of friends that until recently could have been described as an “illegal gathering”, a connotation repugnant to this former South African.
So what could be read into this tea – proverbial as some referred coffee – with friends was that all had been vaccinated against Covid and we were at last enjoying a taste of the “old normal”.
Instead of over the cell or ZOOM, we met face-to-face, shifted conversational gears opening with “So when did we ACTUALLY see you last?” to discussions on Israel’s unpredictable futurepolitical landscape following the predictable past election result to issues around Corona.
There were divergent views, voices were raised for this was again – real, animated social engagement – Israeli style.
It was REAL and a long time coming…..
Had the life we have been living this past year been the plot of an earlier book or movie , we would have scoffed at it being farfetched – the literary imaginings a of a Ray Bradbury, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. This sudden ‘Brave New World’ was a reality and still is for most the world as it awaits a speedier rollout of the vaccines.
And here is the rub as the goal of “herd immunity” has to be global not parochial. Confronting a pandemic, we are all in this together. These thoughts were on our minds as we enjoyed our tea, thankful that our country of Israel is the world leader in getting shots in arms at a pace that is far ahead of any other nation. If in January only 10% of Israel’s population had been vaccinated, by mid-March it was over 50%! Now in April, we look to the economy picking up as more and more businesses open up as we recommence our lives of engagement.
Since none of the vaccines were developed in Israel, an intriguing question is how did the country manage in record time to acquire so many vaccinations? It lies in the county’s DNA – its ingenuity, foresight, quick bold action – not without risk – by our political leadership, and our unique medical system that provides superlative cover to all its citizens. While some ignorant critics abroad might stupidly scream ‘”socialism”, Israel’s unique medical aid Kupat Holim – is our pride and saviour as has proved during this Corona crisis. I recall when interviewing the previous Coronavirus Tzar, Professor Ronnie Gamsu for Hilton Israel Magazine in 2016, he described Israel’s medical system as in keeping with the “fundamental egalitarian philosophy of our founding fathers.”
To my question of what he meant by this, Prof. Gamsu replied:
“Well, Israel can be truly proud of not only its superlative cutting edge medical services but of how we provide this quality service to all our citizens at affordable costs to the recipient. For this, we need to thank the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel. The Zionist Movement in pre-state Israel, which combined the traditional Jewish concern for all people with an emphasis on societal needs that regarded Public Health as a top social, political and economic priority.”
Emphasizing these priorities, Gamsu pointed out that by the time Israel declared its independence in 1948, “we already had a national health infrastructure in place. There was Tipat Halav (Mother-and-child care centers) administering vaccinations to new-born babies and counseling parents on proper care for their infants, and Kupot Holim (Health insurance funds) offering day-to-day consultations with doctors and specialists, and insured members for hospitalization.”
Even as Israel transformed in the twilight decades of the twentieth century from a socialist to capitalist economy, Gamsu explained, “some of our most cherished values of concern for the collective remained entrenched – they are part of our ethos and are ingrained in our culture.”
As future needs arise, he cautioned, “we need to be on guard and adhere to our founding principles.”
Clearly, this philosophy has carried Israel through with aplomb through the global Corona crisis.
As a country used to living on the edge with little room for error or miscalculation, the Israeli mindset – although totally inept at dealing with elections – is more than adept at situations when lives are at stake and ready to confront monumental challenges.
Compare Israel’s situation with other countries or regions.
Never mind my native South Africa, where Corona is spreading at unclear but feared alarming rates and with little certainty as to when it will receive a vaccine, ‘mighty’ Europe is faring not much better.
As there are currently dire warnings by health experts of a “fourth wave”, one looks with bewilderment at Continental Europe and wonder, “What went wrong?” as France and Italy enter ‘another’ full lockdown with a vaccine rollout in total chaos. Their systems, bureaucracy and political leadership has failed and people are suffering.
While Israel’s enemies are quick to point out its imperfections – Israelis do it far better themselves – there is a growing shift of more and more countries and its people to look to Israel as to “how they do it?”
Living up to its reputation as the ‘Start-Up Nation’, its handling of the most monumental health challenge in a century, Israel is showing a way forward.
It’s why I can enjoy a cup of tea in Tel Aviv with a group of friends. And now its back to the old concerns as my wife raises an eyebrow noticing me salivating over an inviting creamy chocolate eclair in inviting proximity and saying:
“You don’t need it!”
Stopped in my tracks from committing a gross culinary felony, Covid took a back seat to the old health and more ‘weighty’ issues!
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