It's also affecting areas known for reveling in behaviors forbidden for both Jews & non-Jews.
- The virus shut down a big avodah zarah holiday in China, and everything that goes with it.
- It's looking like it will mess up the 2020 Olympics at the least and cancel the Olympics at the most.
- San Francisco (not exactly a bastion of shemirat habrit) has requested 7600 people to self-quarantine because of possible exposure to the virus.
- At this writing, Northern Italy has quarantined 10 cities, affecting 50,000 citizens. Oddly, Italy has the 3rd-highest infection count and the 3rd-highest death count. A major rugby match between Ireland & Italy has also been cancelled. (Don't know enough about northern Italy to theorize any connections.)
- It looks like fear of the virus could affect Israel's election attendance. That, combined with some of the heavily rainy weather we've been experiencing, could keep many potential voters at home. On the other hand, the religious who generally go according to their rabbanim & especially those who believe that Hashem determines who gets sick, will still go out to vote in the same numbers as always. This could tip things in an appealing direction. (However, I've grown increasingly cynical about the point of Israeli elections & don't trust the government officials at all. So we'll see...)
- Cruises have been disabled by it.
The Merry Feast of Achashverosh at Sea
I'd always heard of them, which gave the concept a certain familiarity, but I didn't really know what they were about. I guess I assumed they were like ocean hotels.
But then I realized that they're major tiflut centers that cater to all the human vices. They're more like ocean casinos with sleeping and eating accommodations.
I remember the first time I saw a photo of the lounge or dance floor or something of a cruise ship. All the lurid pink neon lighting made me think, Ew, this isn't just a hotel on waves.
All sorts of crimes occur (including crimes against children), but because of the shifting staff, inconsistencies in international law and attitudes, plus the cruise company's desire to avoid negative publicity, these crimes are notoriously hard to investigate.
People embark on cruise ships...then never disembark.
Some are murdered & thrown overboard; others meet with an accident (often combined with inebriation).
If other passengers witness the accident, then there's no cover-up.
But if it either wasn't witnessed or was only witnessed by workers or cameras, a cover-up sometimes ensues.
In 2011, one British crew member simply disappeared off a ship during a cruise. The cruise operator claimed she was last seen on a CCTV tape timestamped 5:45 AM.
She didn't answer attempts to contact her from friends or relatives, nor was she found anywhere on the ship.
The Bahamas sent a detective only 3 days after her disappearance and he spent only 1 day investigating — he spoke only to a few crew members and no passengers.
Did she meet with an accident while climbing a protective wall (some crew members said she that kind of risk-taker)? Was it suicide? Was she a victim of crime? Or did she meet with a rogue wave during rough seas in an otherwise safe area? (Records shows the waters were calm that night and it's assumed that a rogue wave would have left damage to the ship.) Was she drunk or high in way that led to her falling overboard?
Even if her disappearance involved no crime, insiders state that cruise operators don't want to be held responsible for walls & gates that aren't high enough or not secure enough in some other way.
Fellow crew members claim that the company knows exactly what happened. CCTV cameras are mounted all over the cruise ship; it's impossible that her disappearance was NOT taped.
But the company isn't forthcoming.
That's just one example.
All in all, 300-400 crew & passengers have disappeared from cruise ships since 2000.
Nearly 300 of those are counted as going overboard.
The crime statistics from cruise operators differ from those gathered by the FBI. For example, the website of Royal Caribbean International reported 37 crimes total for the year 2011.
However, this same cruise line reported a total of 298 crimes to the FBI for the year 2011 — including 3 deaths (instead of the 2 reported on their website) and 2 overboard (instead of the 1 reported on their website).
298 vs. 37? That's a huge discrepancy.
Carnival Corporation reported the highest number of crimes to the FBI in 2011, with the biggest discrepancy in deaths (6 deaths reported to the FBI versus the 2 deaths cited on their website).
You can see the stats here:
Finally, my mother-in-law's secular mechutanim dropped by one Shabbat while my husband & I were visiting, and related their own cruise experience.
They signed up for a cruise catering to Israelis.
After setting sail, they approached the food display to enjoy themselves, then stopped short in disgust.
The food was obviously not kosher.
They wouldn't say what it was, but by their grimaces of disgust, I figured it must have been shrimp and other obvious treifus.
Even more shocking to them, they watched as their fellow Israelis dig in with gusto.
"Ugh, we couldn't even stand watching them!" said this older couple. "How could they?"
It's interesting that it never occurred to this couple to check if the cruise was kosher.
Catering to Israelis (who are mostly Jewish) and advertised in Hebrew, it simply never occurred to them that the cruise wouldn't be kosher.
Rationally speaking, they're correct. Events catering to Jews in Hebrew really should automatically be kosher. Just like you expect your event to have chairs and air-conditioning, stuff should also be kosher.
But practically speaking, that's just not how the world works right now.
Anyway, until they docked, this older secular couple subsisted on vegetables, fruits, bread, and I can't remember what else.
(There's that pintele Yid peeking out again!)
Their mesirut nefesh was impressive and it should be a zechut for them.
It all sounds like a modern version at sea of the activities commentaries and midrashim describe in Achashverosh's palace in the first chapter of Megillat Esther.
By the second verse of the second chapter, Vashti and Achashverosh's ministers have even "gone overboard;" they're missing, probably dead, and never heard from again.
Disclaimer: By pointing out the downside of cruises, I don't mean to say that everyone who has taken a cruise or who is planning to take one is evil or degenerate. They're not. But just that there is a very real atmosphere & attitude surrounding cruises that contradicts the spirit of Torah, whether for Jews or non-Jews.
May we all merit to do true teshuvah from love & be protected from all harm.