In Fighting Coronavirus, Israel Suffocates Its Poorest

[COMMUNICATED] Israel is currently taking some of the strictest precautions in the world in order to stagger the spread of the coronavirus. This is highly necessary due to the once-booming tourist industry, as well as the many large families living on top of each other in crowded apartment housing. Some also speculate that the matter is being taken seriously due to the Minister of Health being a Gerrer chassid, who values life above all else.

Last night’s announcement, however, sent shockwaves of a new type of fear through the Israeli world: fear of going hungry. At 9pm last evening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that all ‘non-essential businesses’ would close indefinitely. Now just weeks before Pesach, many Israelis who live paycheck to paycheck are now bracing themselves for nearly 5 weeks without income. Layoffs have already begun as businesses plan for the worst.

Among those who are now without a financial plan are those of an even more vulnerable subgroup: individuals suffering from serious illness and their families. As the virus initially spread, many insisted that it was ‘only’ dangerous for the immunocompromised. Parents and spouses of those with cancer became fearful. For these individuals, catching the virus has a much higher level of risk. 

Many of Israel’s poorest are currently battling some sort of chronic illness. Even with their income in place, they struggle to afford life-saving treatments for those they love. They spend days in and out of hospitals, which the public are now advised to only visit if absolutely necessary due to their foot traffic. Without jobs from now until after Pesach, they are essentially facing a death sentence.

There is some hope, however: Many of them are registered with Kupat Ha’Ir, which funnels them emergency funds received via their cholim fund. The cholim fund has gained more popularity lately due to a now very relevant bracha from Rav Chaim Kanievsky: 

The Rav is quoted as saying that those who donate a significant sum to the cholim fund will be blessed to merit, midah k’neged midah, to have no illness in their own home.

During times of fear and suffering it is incumbent upon both the individual and the community to assess where they can improve. Teshuva is the ultimate tool in reversing harsh decrees, and at this current stage, the world’s fate seems to hang in the balance. Those who wish to do good – to bring blessing to themselves and to the world – can donate here for a limited time.



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