First and most importantly, I wish speedy and complete recovery to all those who are ill with COVID-19 and continued good health for those who are asymptomatic and in quarantine.
I delayed writing because the situation in Israel is changing hourly and while there will be more to come, now is a good time to catch up.
After the third election, there was still no coalition, but because of the coronavirus, elected officials understood that now is the time to act in unity to protect Israel and its people. Corruption and massive egos get pushed aside when Israel is under threat.
On Thursday, Israel closed its borders. Tourists are not allowed in the country unless they can prove they have a home (not a hotel) to self-quarantine for two weeks. Schools were officially closed until after Passover (mid-April).
Also on Thursday night, a huge storm blew across Israel with high winds and chances of flooding in the Dead Sea and Negev. Coincidence or Divine Directive to stay home?
On Friday morning, normally a busy time in Jerusalem even on rainy days, the streets were quite empty. There are images of a nearly empty Western Wall plaza, nearly empty Mahane Yehuda (the open air market), and few people on the outdoor shopping streets (Ben Yehuda and Mamilla).
As of Saturday evening (see sections of Netanyahu’s speech with simultaneous English translation), entertainment and cultural activities are closed, including cafes and malls. Gatherings of 10+ people are no longer allowed. We are asked to keep 2 meters (6 feet) away from others. Netanyahu said we are at war with an invisible enemy.
We are not in lock-down, but we’re getting there.
This is where we are now
The main article making the rounds right now is “Corona Virus: Why You Must Act Now” (available in 19 languages). It’s a pretty scary article backed by a lot of graphs, statistical models, and historical analysis of the 1918 flu pandemic. Bottom line: Social distancing, containment, early action.
I skimmed it and am quite comfortable with Israel’s policies – even if they get a lot more invasive (and they will).
Getting in touch with our humanity, virtually
My friend in Milan is taking the lock-down philosophically. He can’t go anywhere for a month, so he thought it would be a good time for some self-reflection and life evaluation.
Facebook is filling up with quarantine support groups and offers of small group activities for children.
Asymptomatic but quarantined religious women in Israel are expecting to have more time to clean for Passover.
A Hebrew Ulpan is offering Hebrew classes online (free).
Economic safety nets are showing up using online technology. Tour guides have been hit hard by the closed borders and one company decided to try something different: virtual tours given by real guides on location to families in their homes around the world.
The main Tai Chi group in Israel is offering stress-relieving Qigong meditation classes online (for free).
Thoughts for now
Reasoned, thoughtful action is what will get the world through this mess.
Panic will only lead to irrational toilet paper and hand sanitizer hoarding. Let’s elevate ourselves above that.