Putting Your Life Over My Comfort

(David Cohen/Flash90)

Noam Chakim is only an 11th grader but last week he taught all of Israel, including the country’s political leaders, a moving lesson in responsibility and putting others first.

Noam, a student at the Nechalim yeshivah high school, became ill with COVID-19. In the four days before the symptoms surfaced and he tested positive, he had been in contact with 85 students and teachers who were sent into quarantine and tested. One by one the test results came back; everyone was negative, much to Noam’s relief.

“I felt a stone lifted off my heart,” he told Army Radio’s Yishai Shnerb. “I worried that I might have infected someone.”

The key to success in this case, in addition to the obvious siyatta DiShmaya, was Noam’s meticulous observance of mask rules. It goes on as soon as he leaves the house, even if it’s just to throw out the garbage, and stays on until he returns.

When he’s at school, it’s on his face, not his chin, all the time.

The only exception — and this is where he got in trouble — is in shul, when he reads the Torah and wants to be heard clearly. “A person who stands at my side to help me had COVID-19 and wasn’t wearing a mask,” he relates.

Isn’t it annoying to have to wear the mask all the time, he was asked by the interviewer. “Definitely,” he laughed. “But there’s no choice. It saves lives.”

After beating back the coronavirus, to the point that the hospitals were able to close their special wards, Israel is now seeing a worrying resurgence. Many hundreds of new cases are being recorded each day, with the contagion rate being the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The government is adamant about not returning to a complete lockdown for fear of its effect on the economy, but at the same time is doing nowhere near enough to prevent the spread of the virus. All around the country people walk around without masks, putting others at risk for the sake of their personal comfort.

Politicians, who should know better, think nothing of appearing in public without masks, reinforcing the mistaken notion that they are an unnecessary nuisance, not a life-saving measure, as they truly are.

Last week, the Coronavirus Cabinet voted to raise the fine for not wearing masks from NIS 200 to NIS 500, but that’s meaningless, as long as there is no one out there handing out fines.

With government officials who have access to inside information about the virus — and its potentially devastating impact — making light of the need to wear masks, we have to rely on a teenager like Noam to teach us how to care enough about others to weather a little inconvenience.

As he put it so well, “There’s no choice. It saves lives.”