Exit time blues — the end of solidarity

‘We’re all in it together. Every human life — every moment of human life — is precious, so we should try and be kind to every other human life in every moment.’

That’s the way New York City felt to me in the wake of 9/11, like those words were a voice in everybody’s head, determining their behavior. And that’s the way (well, except on Twitter) that the world has felt to me in these Corona times. It’s a natural thing to experience feelings of solidarity and altruism in the wake of a disaster. But the wake only comes ‘after’, when the disaster is over. And Corona isn’t over. Not hardly.

And, as Israel begins its exit process with students returning to schools and even restaurants reopening, I feel the comfort of solidarity coming to an end. We’re on the way to becoming two societies — the society of the people who return to normal, and the society of people, like me, who plan on continuing to (at least, mostly) stay at home.

I’ll still have Facebook, and my American Facebook friends, who, for the most part, seem to belong to the demographic of people who feel strongly about continuing stay-at-home measures, the kind of people who made the decision to cancel summer programs at all of the Reform Movement camps (a move the Conservative Movement’s Ramah camps are likely to, at least mostly, follow). (I don’t think I have among my Facebook friends any of the kind of Trump-loving, gun-toting folks who did things like protest at the Texas statehouse the other day.) 

And, I’ll still have my podcasts (well, the ones that haven’t been canceled or suspended because of the fall-off in advertising during these Corona times). On the ones I listen to at least, they still seem to all be saying things like ‘in these times when we’re all stuck at home,’ which allows me to perpetuate my illusion that everybody is stuck at home like me. Solidarity.

Personally, I’m deeply torn inside between these two poles of reopeners and stay-at-homers. I have no doubt that staying at home is best for my health. But my love for my four-year old daughter pulls me strongly in the other direction. The good news is that I don’t think she’s going to be emotionally scarred by the stay-at-home time. And, believe it or not, the hours she has spent watching Paw Patrol are yielding real benefits. Her English vocabulary is exploding. And, while I don’t love the fact that the show has only one female character, the show’s basic message that people (or ‘pups’) should use their ‘super powers’ (read, skills, talents, money, resources) to help people in trouble is providing her something of a moral education.

But her Hebrew. One of the main reasons I want to endure the strains of living here in Israel (we made Aliyah in 2014) is because it fills my heart with joy to think my children will grow up as native speakers of the language of the Bible. At Gan, she gets to function in Hebrew. And her Gan does a wonderful job of introducing her to the traditions of both the State of Israel and of Judaism. And, she has a social — and exercise and play — life there and so much more that she needs to develop into her best person.

Israel, demographically, is very young for an industrialized country, and, as we know, most young people are at very low risk from this virus. For them, the very real health risks, including risks to their mental health, of losing their social and play life are too great to make it worth staying at home. They need to learn. They need to work. They need to play, to breathe. It’s inevitable that they will want to go back.

But the risks to people like me from living in close quarters with a potentially infected, but asymptomatic, young person are real. Risks need to be balanced. There is no ‘totally safe’, only safe enough. Every day we’re searching for it.

I’m not sure what safe enough looks like, and that’s frightening for me. My anxiety level will surely go up sometimes as we pass through this time of ‘dance after the hammer’, but sometimes it will go down. I’m not sure where it will end up in the end. But I am sure of one thing. I’ll miss the solidarity.

About the Author
Alan Abrams is a spiritual care educator who made Aliyah in 2014. He and his wife live in Jerusalem with their two "sabra" children. Alan is the founder of HavLi and the HaKen Institute, spiritual care education and research centers based in Jerusalem. A rabbi, Alan received a PhD in May 2019 from NYU for his dissertation on the theology of pastoral care. He was a business journalist in his first career.
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