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Let’s work together, and stay at home




We are entering a reality we have never experienced before in this lifetime – not in South Africa at least.

We have never been told to stay home and away from friends and extended family. We have never been told not to hug, kiss, or dance with one another. We have never been told we can’t make a minyan (prayer quorum) and pray together.

We have also never been as united a country as we are now, simply because this invisible enemy called COVID-19 is chasing after every single one of us. We are effectively at war with it.

By observing this lockdown fully, we have a chance to change the course of this extraordinarily contagious virus.

It seems that every day, I’m hearing about another person I know having contracted the virus. It’s mostly people I would never have expected to do so. But that’s just it. This isn’t a virus that’s aimed just at the elderly or any specific type of person, and the rest of us are immune. Neither is it a virus that’s going to stay away from us if we are blissfully happy at a wedding and dancing the Horah. It won’t even avoid us if we are in the middle of praying in shul – even if we are the most observant and devout of people.

In fact, Israel’s health ministry revealed that 24% of coronavirus infections in Israel were contracted in shuls, according to the Jerusalem Post this week.

This virus isn’t keeping its distance from you or me if we ignore it, nor if we wish it away. It’s clear this message has infiltrated deeply into the community, not least of all because our communal leadership acted so fast. We were undoubtedly the first community to close schools, and the first to put our elderly and infirm under lockdown. We were ahead of the rest.

The leadership of the community, including the chief rabbi and South African Jewish Board of Deputies among others, did us proud in battening down the hatches very early on before the rest of the country woke up to the depth of this crisis.

However, not everyone is taking it quite so seriously, and that’s a major problem. As has been made clear around the world, this virus will dissipate only if we all – as a nation – stay home and away from each other.

If you ignore it or try and buck the system, you will defeat the purpose and scupper the massive effort being made around the country. By doing so, it will prevent us from eliminating or at least flattening the curve of the pace at which this coronavirus is spreading.

“I can’t survive without picking up my daily cappuccino.”

“How dare anyone tell me I can’t have Pesach with my extended family? I need to be with my folks. So, watch me!”

“I will be a part of a minyan – nobody can stop me.”

“I have planned my wedding for six months, don’t tell me I can’t go ahead.”

Yes, we have all heard this. For some, it’s simply bravado and they will – when the lockdown is implemented – take it seriously. For others, who can tell?

The point is, one person you might somehow pass the coronavirus onto might not make it or might become extraordinarily sick. And if one person in your defiant group gets sick, what happens to the bravado then?

How will any of us feel if we knowingly try and defy this coronavirus and fail, and because of our actions, someone dies?

It hasn’t happened yet, but it can.

In Italy, the virus has gone berserk, and people of all ages and backgrounds are falling ill. Could the country have caught it early and prevented more than 6 820 deaths (on Wednesday)? The medical fraternity believe it could have if it had only gone into complete lockdown early.

Our own president has done us proud. He has taken extraordinary measures to try and stem the spread of coronavirus. It’s early days, and we still stand the chance of achieving this – that is, if we all play ball, and do what we need to do.

One of the quotes I will always hold dear about the closing of shuls last week, which applies to the national lockdown as well, was made by Rabbi Yossy Goldman. He said, “We are in uncharted waters. There have been times when we haven’t been able to daven (pray) together because of anti-Semitism and hate, now it’s because of love.”

This, for me encapsulates all the reasons why we need to move into quarantine in our homes willingly, and not try to buck the system. We are doing it for the love of our families, our friends, our community, our country, and our world.

Whatever we choose to do will have implications for a long, long time.

So, yes, this period of time, which I hope won’t need to exceed 21 days, will be difficult as nobody wants their homes to become prisons. But it’s simply a matter of perspective. If you look at it as a time to spend with those closest to you, a time to rediscover what matters to you, or just simply quiet time, in some ways it’s a gift, a privilege we don’t usually get in the hustle bustle of our lives.

I wish you all strength in this difficult time, and know that we, as a newspaper, will be there for you.

When you go out to buy your food and groceries, you will be able to pick up the SA Jewish Report. If you aren’t sure which retail outlet will have it, please look at our website,, in the top right-hand corner. On the website, you will also be able to download a digital copy, if you prefer it or can’t get to the right outlet.

Every Thursday, we email a newsletter that points to the wonderful stories you will find in the paper. On our website, there is a button (also on the top right hand side) you can press to add your email address so we can ensure you get this newsletter. We will be printing a special Pesach edition next week, so be sure to get it.

Shabbat Shalom!

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