Modern-day Prophets Who Predicted the Pandemic: We Ignored Them

By Shlomo Maital

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of the Holy Temple, by Rembrandt

   On Wednesday evening, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, we Jews mark the anniversary of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 2,606 years ago, in 586 BCE. We sit on low benches and read the book of Lamentations — “How you sit, alone, great city, a great nation, now bereaved, like a widow”.

     The prophet Jeremiah warned King Hezekiah – and foresaw the disaster. Hezekiah ignored him, then imprisoned him. Hezekiah paid a heavy price.   Some scholars say Jeremiah wrote the Book of Lamentations.

     Today, when we refer to prophecies of doom, we call them ‘jeremiads’, lower case ‘j’.

     Fast forward from 586 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took the people of Israel into exile, to Babylon — to 2020, and the pandemic.

     We were warned. And by more than one “Jeremiah”. Here is the proof:

   * Bill Gates, TED  talk, 2015: If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” Gates said. “Not missiles, but microbes.”   Gates noted that many countries worked for years to reduce the risk of nuclear war, and needed to give similar attention to a massive mobilization against a killer virus.   “We’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic,” he said, echoing warnings in recent years from infectious disease doctors. “We’re not ready for the next epidemic.”

   Vaclav Smil, “Global Catastrophes and Trends” (book), Sept. 2012: “Consequently, the likelihood of another influenza pandemic during the next 50 years is virtually 100 percent”

     Preparing for the Next Pandemic, By Michael T. Osterholm, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005: “This is a critical point in our history. Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic. We must act now with decisiveness and purpose.” And in “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs”, he warned, the US is not properly prepared for a pandemic.

     Robert G. Webster, “Flu Hunter: Unlocking the secrets of a virus”: “Nature will again challenge mankind with an equivalent of the 1918 influence virus. We need to be prepared.”

     In 2018, the US intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment team warned that “a novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat”.

   In the 2019 threat assessment: “We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic …that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources and increase calls on the US for support.” [The Trump administration, without explanation, postponed the DNI’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment which warns that the U.S. remains unprepared for a global pandemic. The office of the DNI was scheduled to deliver the Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on February 12].

     US AID Director Jeremy Konyndyk, Politico, 2017: “At some point a highly fatal, highly contagious virus will emerge, like the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which infected one-third of the world’s population and killed between 50 and 100 million people”. He added that President Trump is unprepared for such a pandemic.

   US National Security Council, Dr. Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness: in 2018: “The threat of pandemic flu is the number one health security concern. Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no”. (John Bolton disbanded the NSC team).

     2006: Massachusetts Flu Pandemic Preparedness Plan: public health officials predicted as many as 2 million people could become ill. [4.25 million people have so far been ill with the coronavirus in the US and the numbers mount].

     Stephen Soderberg’s movie Contagion, released in 2011, is about a fictional virus called MEV-1, which became a global pandemic after a bat spread it to a pig, who spread it to a person…. The fictional virus had a 72-hour incubation period and high fatality rate.

       Albert Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague described an epidemic in Algeria….

       Nobody listened to Jeremiah, who warned against allying with Egypt, against powerful Babylon. And nobody listened to the modern-day prophets either. Indeed, fake news/conspiracy mongers blame Bill Gates for the pandemic (along with George Soros), even though the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has donated, by some reports, over $350 million to COVID-19 mitigation and innovation.

       Why did we not heed Jeremiah? And for 2,606 years, why have we consistently turned a deaf ear to wise experts who warned of impending disaster and urged us to prepare?

     Jeremiah too paid a price, sent into exile in Egypt. It would appropriate if modern-day naysayers too were sent into exile ….. at least metaphorically.