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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 132-133

COVID-19 and Psychosocial Issues: Israeli/Middle East Perspective

Department of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Zvi Zemishlany
69 Levi Eshkol Street, Tel Aviv
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/WSP.WSP_43_20

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The number of confirmed cases and fatalities in the Middle East countries has been relatively low in comparison to some countries in Europe and the United States, in spite of the economic, political, cultural, and medical differences. One explanation may be the closed borders and lack of migration in the Middle East, with the exception of Iran, largely to its close economic ties with China and mismanagement. The distribution of the infected cases in Israel reveals two distinct populations with disproportionately high infection rate: the elderly people leaving in nursery homes (like in the rest of the world) and ultra-orthodox Jews. Ultra-orthodox Jews comprise about 12% of Israel's population, but they accounted for more than one-third of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 and as much as 60%–70% of Israel's COVID-19 cases in major hospitals. Ultra-orthodox communities initially resisted physical-distancing measures regarding the closure of synagogues, religious schools, and prayer services, due to their shared belief that practicing the religious services and rituals as usual will protect them from harm. This seemed to be helpful in alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety from the pandemic on one hand but placed people in harm on the second hand. Thus, social factors such as sense of belonging, social support and religious beliefs, known to increase resilience, and coping with adversity in uncontrolled disasters turned to have a harmful effect on coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, a disaster that its consequences can be partially controlled. This is an interesting social phenomenon worth further study.

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