Israel has a unique ability to deal with Coronavirus because we are relatively small and isolated geographically, thanks to our neighbors. We also have a sense of nationalism and national service that’s unique. Times of crisis make people understand the need to get along and be helpful to one another. Last time I wrote a series of articles like this was during the 2006 Lebanon War. A third of Israel was in range of rockets being fired from terrorists in Lebanon, and we were in the midst of a ground war that impacted us all.
I do not write to preach but to share our experiences in the hope that it may be enlightening, maybe comforting, if not helpful. I also write because we are blessed by many who have reached out, as friends from all over the world, specifically to ask how we are because we are in Israel. Everyone is dealing with the current global crisis in one way or another. For everyone, the situation is personal. Some are more impacted than others, and some have the better capacity to deal with such challenges than others.
Unfortunately, also thanks to our neighbors, we have had our share of war and other threats nationally that have given us the unwanted experience of hunkering down and fulfilling the injunction, all Israel is responsible for one another. For instance, when I (and it felt like half of Jerusalem) emerged from the tranquility of Shabbat (the Sabbath, a complete day of rest when we shut off and shut out the entire world), and heard that stores might be closed, I went out with two kids to the closest grocery store and stocked up. As we were shopping, I was keeping in mind that it may come to a situation that we may literally need to provide help to our neighbors, so I bought a little more than otherwise, just in case.
So, how are we? Well, just as everywhere, nothing is usual or normal. Personally, we are all doing well, and healthy, as far as we know. We’re not in complete isolation but it’s close as we are being told not to go out unless its absolutely necessary, and if so, only for limited times with any gatherings limited to 10 people.
One daughter is a physical therapist. While schools and many businesses are closed, or people working remotely, she’s still working “normally.” Like all medical professionals, it puts her at higher risk which is concerning especially coming home to our 18-month-old grandson.
Our daughters who are a teacher and student respectively are working at home. It's nice to have them around and helping to cook. But with a 14-year-old boy home from school and getting under their skin, there’s a little more stress which is probably not unusual from other people’s homes anywhere else.
Two of our children are in the midst of national service that remains uninterrupted. One daughter is working with at-risk kids. Because the facility remains open to help kids who have nowhere else to be, she’s going back and forth trying to help keep the kids’ lives be as normal as possible, but of course putting herself at risk.
Our son just finished his paratrooper basic training. It was one of the proudest and most emotional days of my life, and probably the last large public gathering for awhile. He’s being kept in the army for at least a month to avoid any exposure to sick people outside, and risk bringing the virus back into the army.
It’s funny that our kids don’t want us to go to the store or out in public (while we still can) because we’re older (always nice to hear), and they’re afraid we might get sick.
A large part of the risk where we live comes from our Arab neighbors in the Palestinian Authority who have a much higher rate of infection. Bethlehem, right next to our town, has largely been closed. Nevertheless, it seems that many are still coming to Israeli stores where they work and shop.
We just bought a new apartment that’s under construction. The work site is completely closed because the Palestinian Arab workers are not allowed in for health reasons. This is not the only business that’s getting shut or slowing down. At least it’s refreshing that Arab workers are not being banned because they’re trying to blow us up.
There is a big national cloud over the upcoming celebration of Passover. This is uniquely food-centric. Some are concerned that there won’t be food, or the ability to go shopping, and preparing as usual. Part of preparation is a spring cleaning on steroids which is easy to do in isolation and, pun intended, is going viral.
Professionally, we are experiencing challenges like many others. Run for Zion, the program that has prepared for over 18 months, was supposed to take place this week, but we had to cancel because tourism has been ground to a halt. The tourism industry here has taken a great hit with groups canceling as far out as June, and businesses closing or remaining open with a skeletal staff.
Now we’re trying to reschedule which is hard because people are not thinking about international travel, not even a year away. Also, major companies and small businesses in the tourism industry are operating on a crisis basis and making huge layoffs and it's hard to make plans.
It’s not just impacted tourism, of course. Israeli high tech has been hurt as investors even in some of the most promising technologies are licking their wounds because of losses in the stock market. Layoffs are abundant.
When the current situation became more of a crisis, I prayed about what we could do, as an organization, to help people in Israel most impacted. I realized that’s global and widespread. With lots more people having more time and less income, we’re doing something that may be a blessing from Israel that can help many. Hopefully, this will all be temporary and short lived. For now, Israel is getting by as much as anyone can, just with our unique challenges.
May we all stay safe and healthy and be back to normal as soon as possible.