Israeli Paramedics of Maguen David Adom (Israel's National Emergency Pre-Hospital Medical Organisation) at the coronavirus national operations center unload a containment chamber during a coronavirus response training exercise in the central Israeli city of Kiryat Ono on February 26, 2020. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The Jewish Community’s Response to Coronavirus

Israel and Jews around the world come together to fight the deadly virus.

Although those who fear cruise ships have been ridiculed in the past, it seems as though some of the worries have begun to ring true. Freak storms—albeit unlikely— can and do occur. And seasickness real. Now, add coronavirus to the list.

For nearly three weeks now, I have relied on my trusted New York Times daily updates on the coronavirus crises, clutching my phone in terror watching the headlines, thankful I’m not in China. But then, I noticed the update. The feeble ping of my phone as my Station Eleven fears falter on the brink of becoming a reality — the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, declares a state of emergency. Then, another. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has followed the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus epidemic as an international emergency and highly recommended that Israeli citizens refrain from flying to China. Coronavirus is very much real and hits closer to home than its physical proximity would suggest.

In fact, on Sunday, per the Times of Israel, nearly a thousand people participated in a prayer for the well-being of the Chinese people at the Western Wall. Among participants were relatives of Israelis quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan. Then, I noticed an email from Chabad.org regarding the emissaries of the Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing who, amidst the crisis, have done everything possible to help their family and the community deal with the deadly COVID-19. By providing those in need with kosher food, emotional sustenance and advice, protective masks, they have proven that the Jewish communities in China will not crumble under pressure.

Although I’ll continue to check my inbox religiously with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Sunday ordering the Health Ministry and Israel Institute for Biological Research to establish a “vaccine project” against the coronavirus, we need not worry about Israel’s involvement. Israel has been active in the situation and has no plan on stopping. ‘

Furthermore, 74 Jewish groups signed a letter of support to all Chinese American communities, condemning the rising xenophobia aimed at this group since the outbreak of the virus. The letter states: “We pledge to help ensure that Chinese people feel safe and supported and to combat attacks and stereotyping on social media. We know from history, ours and yours, that such fearmongering can be devastating.”

So, while I wouldn’t necessarily suggest booking a flight to visit the Shanghai Chabad house right now nor boarding a cruise ship alongside hundreds of coronavirus inflicted individuals, the fact that Israel and the Jewish people have everyone affected in their prayers and actions is quite comforting. Perhaps enough to eradicate your fear of getting lost at sea or hitting an iceberg.

Ora Gutfreund is a sophomore at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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