Have you noticed how nobody is talking about the pandemic any more? True, the transmission rate and other numbers are falling and the Fifth Wave did seem to be gradually subsiding (here, in Israel, at any rate) throughout February, although the daily number of confirmed new cases is still high (8,280 yesterday, according to the updated figures released by the Ministry of Health this morning). However, since the last remaining restrictions ended on March 1st (most notably, the “Green Pass”), one would have expected the news and commentary programmes on TV and radio to be full of analysts attempting to predict how the return to “normal” would affect the Curve. Judging by past experience, this would continue for a couple of months – until the Curve does, once again, take an upswing with some new mutation. However, nobody is now talking about anything other than Putin’s vicious and unprovoked attack on a peaceful, non-nuclear neighbour. And judging by what I see as I zap from one TV channel to another, this is true not only here in Israel.
I have to be honest and say that I have mixed feelings about the Ukraine. It is not easy to forget that some of the worst pogroms in recent history (the 19th and 20th centuries) have been carried out by Ukrainians. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and other local collaborators enthusiastically assisted the Nazis in the massacre at Babi Yar, in 1941. Then there was the butchery perpetrated against the Jews twenty years earlier, by the “Cossack” leader Petlyura and his supporters.
On the other hand, the Russians were really no better. And Ukraine today is a democracy, which elected a Jewish President, a sovereign state which has become the victim of naked aggression by a power-hungry dictator whose dream, it seems to me, is to restore the Soviet Empire (albeit without restoring Communism).
One thing I am sure of. The lesson Israel needs to take to heart from what has happened in eastern Europe is clear. First of all, we can rely on nobody but ourselves. And secondly, we must never give up our nuclear deterrent. If Ukraine had not voluntarily relinquished her nuclear stockpile in return for empty Russian and Western guarantees of her independence, Putin would have thought twice before daring to invade her.
Update: Even as I type this post, I just heard on the news that the COVID transmission rate is rising again (0.72) and that a new variant (BA.2) has appeared, which is 30% more transmissible than the Omicron variant. Will we be back in lockdown for Pessach (Passover)?
Time now for something positive with which to end this post. March is here – and today is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet. In a fortnight’s time, we will celebrate Purim. In the meanwhile, I was going to write about the arrival of Spring, until I looked out of the window and saw that the sky had clouded over and that this morning’s sunshine had turned into pouring rain.
Still, the almond trees – harbingers of spring – are in flower at last:
And see who came to visit my window-boxes yesterday:
Oh – I just noticed! The sun has come out again.
May the sun shine again for the people of Ukraine.