Israel’s Ministry of Health urged Israelis on Wednesday to reconsider traveling abroad entirely as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus outbreak.
“If you don’t genuinely have to fly—don’t do so,” the ministry said in a travel warning that also advised canceling or delaying all upcoming international conferences and gatherings in Israel itself.
The ministry additionally encouraged refraining from travel to “events of a religious character at which people from many different nations gather together,” a probable reference to the Hajj pilgrimage in July, and expanded a previous travel warning for northern Italy to the entire country, reported The Times of Israel.
Israel is the first country to urge its citizens to cease all international travel because of the coronavirus, which started in China in December. Already 1,600 Israelis are under quarantine for coronavirus and there have been two confirmed cases in the country, both of whom were on a cruise ship in Japan where hundreds were infected.
However, the unintended consequences of the decision could be enforcement of Ballam’s prophecy:
As I see them from the mountain tops, Gaze on them from the heights, There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations (Numbers 23:9)
The late Rabbi Meir Kahane expounds on this point saying: “G-d’s decree that the Jewish People must remain apart, separate from the nations, so as to be cut off from their abominations, and their alien culture. Toward that end, G-d established for the Jewish People a special land of their own, the Land of Israel. There and there alone they would live lives of G-dliness and build a perfect state and society based on Torah and holiness. The concept of a Jewish People alone is tied to the concept that G-d is alone. G-d is alone and cannot be compared or equated to anything else. He is One and Unique, as it says
It has been clearly demonstrated to you that Hashem alone is God; there is none beside Him.(Deuteronomy 4:35),
Who alone works great marvels, His steadfast love is eternal; (Psalms 136:4).
Just so, the Jewish People are alone, set apart from all the nations, as it says:
You shall be holy to Me, for I Hashem am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26)
There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations, (Numbers 23:9).
Rabbi Kahane adds: “Moreover, Israel , stubborn and insolent, will never believe that G-d is their Redeemer, so long as they have even one gentile nation standing at their side.
Only when “the L-rd alone is exalted on that day,” only when Israel sees that:
Hashem alone did guide him, No alien god at His side. (Deuteronomy 32:12),
will Israel believe in G-d and in the Torah of Moses His servant.
Indeed, this is how it will be: a nation alone with G-d alone, and both of them alone facing the whole world. Only in that manner will Israel’s redemption come, and so to speak, of G-d, via,
Thus will I manifest My greatness and My holiness, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations. And they shall know that I am Hashem. (Ezekiel 38:23).
The ministry previously ordered all Israelis returning from Italy to be quarantined for 14 days after Israeli officials said reports of coronavirus cases in certain European countries appear to have stemmed from travelers originating in Italy.
South Korea informed Israel over the weekend that several members of a group of pilgrims who recently returned from a trip to Israel were found to have the disease.
In Iran, 19 people have died and 139 are infected with coronavirus, Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Wednesday.
The coronavirus has already infected more than 80,000 around the world and killed as many as 2,700 people, mostly in China.
JNS contributed to this article