Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

Three unrelated points of informatio

  • In a podcast at the end of last week, The Economist Magazine examined how communities in the west are altering their views of preparing for death. Pardon the pun, but we are being more proactive since the onset of covid-19.
  • Last Tuesday, the Israel Psychiatric Association, warned that the second lockdown “took away all of our normal coping mechanisms for such an emergency.” Up to 20% of Israelis could be suffering from emotional and psychological distress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • When I now have an opportunity to see friends and family, I have noticed a change amongst those who are stuck at home with little work. A fizz and bubble is missing from them. Disturbing.

Covid-19 has dominated news coverage since February and continues to do so around the world, including in America during election week. The reporting continues to emphasise that around 1.2 million have died, globally. Businesses have been destroyed. Political leaders, together with health and finance ministers, offer platitudes but no substance.

Interestingly, few have admitted that the mental health costs of covid-19 could be just as great as the immediate economic fall out. It appears a subject too hot that it must be ignored, at last in public statements. And yet it is right in front of us.

Here is a very simple example. Teachers have discovered zoom. Kids are thus learning, at least somewhat. But they are losing the ability to develop valuable inter-personal skills. And as for being cooped up at home with frustrated siblings and frantic parents…….. Don’t tell me, there is no social cost here!

Dr. Robert Brooks addressed the issue admirably in his most recent monthly paper. Citing the ‘Stockdale Paradox’, he notes that the famous POW in Vietnam, despite being tortured, “never lost faith in the end of the story.

In essence, the Stockdale Paradox captures the belief that one must maintain hope while being able to accept and consider options for dealing with existing, often seemingly overwhelming, hardships.

I suppose this is some what similar to the work of the Austrian psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl. In his ever-so-relevant book from 1946, “Man’s Search For Meaning”, he described how he and others coped with the dehumanisation of Nazi concentration camps.

Jonathan Gabay, an international brand expert and short movie demon, has created a fascinating series of podcasts, entitled “Thought and Leaders”. His talk with former political spin-king, Alastair Campbell, was amazing. You listen to it and you ‘suddenly get it’, when it comes to ineffective leadership.

What do I mean? Politicians like Trump, Corbyn and Netanyahu base their rhetoric on sowing distrust, creating divide, and searching for extreme arguments. At a time of pandemic, surely electorates deserve empathy and mutual compassion? We need each other to get through it.

Leadership in the work environment has also come under scrutiny. When everybody is located on the one site, it is relatively easy for the boss to be seen and felt. The virtual set up does not allow them to abandon that role. Even the most reliable of employee, as they operate from home, needs guidance and support…… and to feel that somebody has ‘got their back’.

Over the past 9 months in Israel, politics and personal aspirations have appeared to have shaped some key parts of the decision-making process. Most people, who I talk to, have simply lost trust in the ability of the government to act, decisively and in a bipartisan manner. It is depressing.

And it is not just me. More and more shops are opening up, in defiance of the lockdown, as the government seems unable to convince even themselves of what they are doing is correct.

But, hey, who cares? Let’s set everyone off against each other. It doesn’t cost anything…… on the surface.


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