Eva Illouz, Professor for Sociology
Human beings are eminently adaptable. At first, I felt as if I was in Lars von Trier’s movie Melancholia (2011), where the spectator comes to slowly grasp, with a mix of terror and powerlessness, that the world is about to end after it collides with the planet Melancholia. At the end of the movie, the spectator watches, mesmerized and paralyzed, the planet on its course to crash on the earth. It was at first a far-away point in the sky, and then it became a growing disc, ultimately covering the screen and colliding with the earth.
What would you say are symbols of your current situation or the current situation in your country?
As we all continue to be engulfed in a world event whose magnitude we have not yet fully grasped, I have tried to reach for analogies, and remembered the closing scene of Lars von Trier’s movie.
I first read about a strange virus in the second week of January 2020 in the American press and paid close attention because my son was due to travel to China. The virus was still far away, like the distant disc of a dangerous planet. My son canceled his trip, but the disc continued on its inexorable course, slowly crashing into us in Europe and the Middle East. I watched, with many, the world as it shut down. The Corona virus is a planetary event of a magnitude that we are struggling to grasp, because of not only its humongous scale or the speed of the contamination, but also because in a matter of a few weeks it has brought institutions, whose titanic power we never questioned, to their knees in a matter of a few weeks. For me personally, now that the situation has stabilized, life is on the one hand profoundly disrupted and on the other hand very much the same. I am a scholar and as such, I am used to staying a long time in a room, to read and write. Confinement is a very familiar experience. At the same time, I live in two continents, in France and Israel, and the virus has stopped me in one country. I feel as if I have separated from my other half.
Nationally, if I refer to Israel, the Corona crisis represents the most severe crisis of the history of Israel because it is a health, economic and political crisis all in one. Israel is the only country where a plague has been used by a defeated prime minister, Benjamin Netanjahu, to evade the law and the results of the elections.
I must confess that at the beginning of the crisis, I was impressed by the seriousness and thoroughness of the measures taken by Israelis, telling myself that it was better to err by excess to save lives than to err by mindless optimism as had been the case in France or the UK. In comparison, I thought, Israel was displaying responsibility and seriousness. Then, political events started unraveling and it slowly dawned on me that Netanyahu was using the crisis in an incredibly cynical way to evade the results of the elections in which he lost.