My sister got married on September 1st, in New Jersey. Although it would have been wonderful if my entire family — me, my husband, and four children — would have been able to attend, we decided it would make the most sense if I traveled alone, thus avoiding mandatory quarantine for the entire family upon return to Israel.
The wedding was beautiful. My sister is the youngest in the family, and the last of my siblings to get married. Knowing there will likely not be another family event in the near future to bring all nine of us together, especially with the uncertainty of the coronavirus looming before us, we made the most of the celebration. I got to spend quality time with my siblings, my parents, and my nieces and nephews, some of whom I had only previously seen in pictures and videos on the family WhatsApp group. And then, it was time for me to leave.
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on the morning of September 9th, and after being questioned about the facilities available to me in my own home, it was determined that I could either spend my two weeks of quarantine with my family, under the condition they all quarantine, as well (a situation we were trying to avoid) or go to a quarantine hotel. I chose the hotel.
I was sent to speak to military representatives at the airport, who took my information, and assigned me a hotel — the Leonardo in Jerusalem. I was sent by cab to my destination.
Throughout my travels, I followed the rules of mask, hygiene and social distancing as meticulously as possible. The airport and airlines all seemed to have logical regulations in place that were applied consistently.
When I arrived at the hotel, I was informed that the guests must not leave their rooms. If they need something from reception (where you can get new linens, milk for coffee, snacks, cigarettes, etc.) the guests are required call first and coordinate, to make sure they would not cross paths with anyone else. This, too, made sense to me, and seemed consistent with the rules of quarantine.
About a week into quarantine, I received a call to my room informing me that everyone in the Leonardo was going to be transferred the following morning to The Olive Tree Hotel, and I was to be in the lobby at 8:30 a.m., masked and with my suitcase, to board a bus that would take me and the other guests assigned to Capsule 2 to our new accommodations.
I assumed there wouldn’t be more that 10-15 people per capsule, since more than that on a bus would make it impossible to socially distance ourselves from one another. But it turned out I was completely unprepared for the idiocy that I witnessed the following morning.
As instructed, I arrived in the lobby at the designated time. There were at least 20 other people there. Apparently, the need to avoid crossing paths with other potential corona carriers had been suspended.
I checked out, and loaded my suitcase into the luggage compartment, and boarded the bus. I chose a seat that seemed a reasonable distance from the other passengers. Then, little by little, more people boarded the bus. There were definitely too many people to properly distance ourselves from one another. I waited 20 minutes in that enclosed space with close to 30 other people, all of whom, allow me to remind you, were prevented from leaving their rooms, for fear of COVID transmission, for days beforehand.
And then, the kicker. After 20 minutes of breathing possibly COVID contaminated air, circulated by the bus’s air conditioner, we finally started to move. We drove no more than 200 meters, when the bus stopped again. We had arrived at our destination.
The Leonardo Hotel and the Olive Tree Hotel share a parking lot. It would have taken less than five minutes to walk that same distance, in the open air, and allowing two meters space between each person.
And now, once again, I am alone in my room for the next seven days.