Freedom in the Age of Corona: “And You Shall Tell Your Son”

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Our son, Eran, never knew what it meant to be independent. He was born with severe autism and an orphan disease that slowed his cognitive development, making it so that Eran needed help in every aspect of his life. Without assistance, he could not dress, eat or bathe on his own. And he never said one word – he couldn’t even say ‘Abba’ (father) or ‘Ema’ (mother).

Our son, Eran, died from another rare disorder, Castleman’s Disease, which destroyed his respiratory system, much like the Coronavirus.

When we spent time together, Eran would “speak” to me via his piercing gaze. His eyes spoke volumes. During these unspoken heart to heart talks, it was as though he was saying to me:

“You know, Abba, no one is going to develop a cure for this disease that I have.  Too few people have it.  I belong to the minority, to the weakest group, those who have no economic power or political support.  My presence in this world is a test of humanity’s strength, an assessment of societal solidarity, of your communal ability to care for the weakest among you.”

Today, the entire world is threatened by the Coronavirus. We, as a society, are terrified of the unknown, maintaining distance from each other, afraid of catching or spreading the virus and worsening the pandemic.

During these days, it feels as though Eran is speaking to me again.

“Abba, now you are finally starting to understand what it feels like to live in my world, a world with no help and no hope for a cure. I lived my life, my dear father, to make it clear to you that a world without love, without humility, without giving and sacrificing to care for the most vulnerable is a miserable world, a world without hope. It is a fate that must be avoided at all costs. And never forget, my dear father, that everyone can end up just like me.”

My beloved son, Eran, showed me the importance of a world built on loving-kindness and compassion, and to my delight, hundreds of volunteers from around the world come to the rehabilitation village that we built for Eran and his peers to practice and promote the ideals of healing the world and giving without limits. Ours is a Utopian world where Jews, Muslims and Christians work together in harmony from a deep and abiding commitment and belief in the value of love for all people, just as they are.

Our advanced civilization is utilizing the best minds, harnessing every resource available to find a cure, vaccine or serum to conquer this virus, to stop the pandemic. But we mustn’t fall into the trap of putting man above nature, of believing that our leaders, scientists or businessmen have all the answers. Even more dangerous would be allowing ourselves to fall back into the familiar divisions of our pre-Corona world: the strong and the weak, those who are kept close and those who are pushed away, those who rule and those who they control. This kind of dichotomy derives its power from the misplaced pride of success, which clouds humility and the basic values of human decency and goodness.

Day and night, our ALEH medical team and staff battle bravely against the novel Coronavirus to protect our residents, the most vulnerable members of our society. Armed with head-to-toe protective gear and an indomitable spirit of pure chesed and endless love, they are steadfast, unassuming, and creative in their approach. Though the pressure intensifies, they press on, undeterred in their efforts, driven by a profound understanding of the inherent value and significance of each person in our world.

What’s more, they understand that after we beat the Coronavirus, a great new challenge will face our civilization, one that we have never faced before. Only the human spirit, imbued with its love, care and compassion will overcome the deeply embedded layers of ego and arrogance within society. Only the spirit of chesed will provide a balance and the essential human resources we need to navigate our way towards a better world.

Our son, Eran, lived his life in a sort of Coronavirus microcosm. His was an exemplar of innocence and vulnerability. He could never harm a soul, and he could not exult in any kind of personal success or achievement. But for me, his very essence established new limits in understanding the value of freedom and independence, of unity, camaraderie and unconditional love for all people.

During this season of redemption, Eran has flipped the age-old directive on its head, telling me, reminding me that it is not the scientists and lawmakers who stand at the top of humanity’s pyramid, setting the standard and compass for our values. Rather, it is the one who guides us towards the enlightened values of kindness, compassion and boundless love that make ours a model society. Taking this lesson to heart is the key to creating a world we can all be proud of once this pandemic is finally behind us.

Major General (Res.) Doron Almog is the Chairman of the ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, which was named in loving memory of his brother, Eran, and his son, Eran.