WASHINGTON — Yom Kippur, the highest holiday on the Jewish calendar, has come to an end for 2020.
Yet in the modern era, the day has more than religious significance. It’s not only a time that millions of Jews in Israel and around the world fast and pray for the forgiveness of their sins.
It’s also the day that Israelis remember the devastating surprise attack in 1973 by the combined military forces of Egypt and Syria, both then backed by the might of the Soviet Union — the day that began a war that Israel almost lost.
Today, Israel is facing a another surprise attack — the COVID-19 pandemic has become a 2nd Yom Kippur War, and the bitter truth is: Israel is currently losing this war.
“These days we are at war on a completely different battlefield,” Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a national memorial ceremony for the fallen in the war. “We must honestly admit that this time, too, we were caught unprepared. We have starved our excellent health system for years. We have not responded properly. This time, too, we will pay the price and the price will be the heavy cost of life.”
“But this time also we will win, with everyone joining together,” Gantz added.
Here’s what you need to know this week:
• The number of new COVID cases per day is skyrocketing — in the summer, Israel was experiencing on a few dozen new cases per day; yesterday, we saw 9,200 new cases.
• One-third of all of the deaths have happened in the last three weeks.
• More Israelis have died from COVID than from all the wars and terror attacks for the last 20 years.
• The number of Israelis who have died from COVID is now 1,507.
• The number of Israelis who have died in all the wars and terror attacks since the beginning of the Second Intifada in the year 2000 is 1,411.
• The full national lockdown that currently prevents Israelis from leaving their homes for almost any reason except to buy groceries and go to the hospital is supposed to end on October 10th — but no officials say it going to be extended, though no one knows how long.
• “The closure will not be lifted — unequivocally,” says Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. “There is no scenario that in 10 days we will lift everything and say, ‘everything is over, everything is fine.’”
The economic and psychological effects on the Israelis people are devastating.
Unemployment is beginning to soar again.
Small businesses are struggling to survive.
Anger at the politicians is rising, as many believe the government has terribly mismanaged the crisis and let things spin out of control.
Israel has achieved some enormous diplomatic wins in recent weeks — historic peace treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — but at the moment few Israelis care.
The initial national elation of these victories has been soured by the painful realization that Israel is in a war with this pandemic — a very deadly war — and at the moment, we are losing.
Please pray urgently not just for the peace of Jerusalem but for the health of all Israelis.