Passover is the time to ramp up the economy

WORKERS AT the Yehuda Matzos factory in Jerusalem prepare matzot for Passover. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
WORKERS AT the Yehuda Matzos factory in Jerusalem prepare matzot for Passover.

Passover is the perfect time to help the economy get back on its feet.

With the success of the vaccination campaign in Israel, the country is opening up fast and there is a definite atmosphere of things returning to normal. The fact that the Passover holiday starts at the end of this week also adds to the festive feeling of spring and renewal. It is the Festival of Freedom, and while the country remembers the more than 6,000 people who died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, there is also a feeling of thanksgiving. We are particularly grateful that whereas last year Seder night was spent alone or in very small family configurations, this year we will be free to gather in each other’s homes and celebrate together. People need to maintain the necessary precautions – including masks in public places, hand washing and some measure of social distancing – but Israelis today are in a much better position public health-wise than we were a year ago.
As we try to return to normal, the focus must move to the economic revival. Passover is the perfect time to help the economy get back on its feet. Many local businesses in Israel, as elsewhere, did not survive the economic repercussions of the pandemic, the lockdowns and strict social distancing regulations. Some businesses tried to keep going using online sites and deliveries, but this was not feasible for all; some stores have had to throw out perishable stock; shoe stores, accessories and clothing stores have found themselves with stocks of out-of-season merchandise.
There was a domino chain of people affected by the closures – a restaurant that closed, for example, affected not only the owners, chefs, kitchen staff and waiters but also suppliers, drivers and even florists and down on to the farmers, who cultivate the flowers.
Now is the time to reverse that trend as much as possible. Whereas during the lockdowns, buying online – often from abroad – was the often the only viable option, that is no longer the case. We need to return to stores and restaurants in person wherever possible.
Similarly, since tourism was particularly badly affected, now – even though the skies are gradually reopening – it is a good time to remember what this country has to offer in terms of tourist attractions, with its unique natural, historical and archaeological assets. Take a staycation and if possible, hire a local licensed guide to show you the sites. 
There are many people who are struggling financially after a year of the pandemic; those who have the means should help them – not as charity, but by purchase power and employing job seekers.
Similarly, those hundreds of thousands of people who were put on paid leave should now be seeking to return to their old jobs or new positions. It was only right that the government help fund those who unexpectedly found themselves unemployed due to the coronavirus regulations. Now that the acute stage is thankfully behind us, the emphasis should be to encourage people to get back in the workplace.
Last year on the eve of Independence Day, President Reuven Rivlin declared: “In the shadow of the disease and its victims and the economic crisis, we must not give up on our ‘togetherness.’ We must not and we will not.”
As the country goes to the polls this week for the fourth general election in two years, there is obvious tension and a tendency to dangerous divisiveness, but we need to remember that our fates are tied together, all segments of society and all the different communities that make up this country.
New York-born Murray Greenfield made aliyah in 1947 and worked along with other North American volunteers who helped break the British blockade after World War II to enable thousands of Holocaust survivors to reach these shores. He went on to found Gefen Publishing House and was a founding member of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, and is credited with establishing the first loan funds.
In an interview with Steve Linde, editor of The Jerusalem Report, Greenfield discussed the slogan he had come up with to counter the BDS movement boycotting Israel. It seems to be a particularly appropriate message now.
“For me, it’s B-I-G: Buy Israeli Goods,” Greenfield said. “That’s it, that’s what we can do. Think BIG!”