All of Israel is responsible for one another? Let’s act like it

I know we all like happy endings, and I wish I could write one for you about my bout COVID-19.

But I can’t.

It’s been a month, and I’m still in the sticky middle – and even though I’m not contagious and technically the virus is gone, I feel worse than I did that first desperate week.

The funny thing is, they tell you that after 14 days, if you aren’t still in the hospital – or dead – that you’ve recovered.

But what they don’t tell you is that even when you have a fairly mild case, the virus can run rogue and ravage your body: Your heart, your liver, your lungs, your kidneys, your brain are all vulnerable, so even when you’re out of quarantine and “well,” you really aren’t.

I’m not.

Some days I’m ok.

I can walk a little without getting dizzy, I can smell mud and rain and lemon grass, and taste my ginger tea.

And then out of nowhere, after getting dressed and putting on makeup, a minute passes on the clock and suddenly, I’m struggling to breathe, my joints are burning, and I can barely keep my eyes open.

I sink down into the couch as though it’s quicksand, and I’m stuck.

Not a good day

My lungs are heavy and full of grit but I have no urge to cough, and even though my oxygen is (thank God) in a healthy range, I feel like I’m sucking air through a thin metal straw just to be able to speak.

My heart is a wild animal trying to gnaw its way out of a trap – my pulse goes from 140 down to 70 and back up to 120 in a minute with no rhyme or reason.  That’s just my heart how my heart is working now, and I can feel it fighting against itself, feral and strange.

I forget things – I leave the refrigerator open. I walk around looking for my phone while I’m holding it. I have to go back into the house and check to make sure I didn’t leave the stove on or the water running.

I’ll be in the middle of sentence and forget what I’m talking about.

Wait? Where was I?

Oh right:

Anyway.

We’ve been under a fairly strict lockdown three weeks now and we have the highest vaccination rate in the whole wide world which is amazing and still: our infection numbers are high in Israel.

Absurd? Yes.
Heartbreaking? Absolutely.
Baffling? Not so much

We are letting our guard down.

I saw it today at the store when I was picking up groceries.

Masks back around the chin like we’re in Florida, zero personal space….

“Hey, can you please give me some room?” I asked Moshiko who was eating a felafel in the middle of the store.

“Nu? You’re worried about Corona? It’s all over! I got my first shot a week ago”

“Um, actually, you don’t have much protection. You need the second shot, and even then, you have to wait two weeks,” I said as calmly as possible.

“So what, Sweetie?” he said, his mouth full of felafel. “It’ll be fine, trust me.”

And you know what? I lost it.

Because today wasn’t such a good day.

I just want to sleep all the time and my heart physically hurts, and I can’t walk more than a few dozen steps without needing to stop and catch my breath.

Some days are better – today is not one of those days.

And for the last several days it’s been getting worse, not better.

“Actually, Sweetie,” I said, teeth clenched and as close to hitting someone as I’ve been in a very long time  “it isn’t always fine.”

He shrugged. The big old Israeli  shrug of the ex commando who knows better than GOD but doesn’t actually know Jack. (PRO-TIP: When you hear the words “trust me,” it’s very simple: don’t.)

“Our numbers are rising, there are new versions of the virus that we don’t even know about, I’m still feeling awful even though I’ve technically recovered and you aren’t immune and even if you were immune which – again – you are not –  you also can get others sick, and I swear to God, if I get sick again because of you, I will hunt you down and make you RUE the day you were born.”

I said all of this in a low and quiet growl – half tiger, half Leonard Cohen.

He looked startled. This is probably because I said all of this in English but whatever.

It scared him enough to make him take a step back which was exactly the point.

Yes I’m fully aware I’m actually still immune and not at risk. I still have alllllll the antibodies.

But I’m not the woman next to me, or the child in front of me, or the old man who can’t get the vaccine because he has some condition that prevents him from getting it. I’m not the foreign worker who isn’t documented, or the mother with five kids who hasn’t been able to get an appointment.

I am not the average Israeli who still hasn’t gotten their second shot and waited the necessary two weeks for immunity to kick in.

And this all takes time.

But if people like Moshiko and his buddies are standing around crowing that they’ve gotten their first vaccine and they’re fine, TRUST ME, not to worry – masks down around their chin and mouth full of felafel and crumbs a-flying, I promise you, you will not see your family for Passover. Or maybe even Hanukkah.

Do you want that?

I don’t.

I’m tired.

I bet you are, too.

I want to see my dad and my family again, and I want to get on with my life already and I want to be able to just BREATHE again without feeling the room spin into a haze of stars.

I want to be able to be with my kids without worrying that I might collapse in front of them, without having to remind them how to call an ambulance, and what to do if Mommy isn’t breathing.

And the most frustrating thing of all is we could all be out of the woods if we stop acting like selfish, entitled children.

Please.

I can’t do this alone.

If you see people breaking the rules, say something to them. Tell them you know a woman named Sarah who is 39 and was perfectly healthy, but then let her guard down and got sick and had a relatively mild case and now has an irregular heartbeat and can’t walk more than a few dozen steps without getting dizzy.

Tell them everything.

Tell them about your friends who are even sicker – or God forbid, dead.

Please. This isn’t over yet – but it could be SOON if we just wear our masks and respect the rules… and respect each other.

And no, it isn’t just “the Haredim” or “the Arabs” although I know it’s easier to blame someone else.

It’s all of us. Every single one of us.

We are responsible.

Kol Yisrael arevim ze le ze – all of Israel is responsible for each other, we say.

Let’s act like it and get through this.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems. She now lives in Israel with her two kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors and talks to strangers, and writes stories about people. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She also loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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