David Schoenfeld
fun,dynamic,energetic, licensed tour guide in Israel

Forced unpaid vacation by…The Plague

Many of us look forward to a vacation. Usually, we can’t wait! We plan itineraries, clear off our work schedules, make the necessary reservations, and off we go. I am currently on a different type of vacation. One that I did not plan.  This vacation was forced upon me by the plague known as ‘COVID-19/Corona. It is a forced unpaid vacation, one which has curtailed my freedom. A vacation that I was totally unprepared for.

Thankfully I am not ill. I do not show any symptoms at all. And yet, I stay home for 14 days in isolation as required. On Tuesday, Aug 25 I received a notice on my iPhone from the Health ministry. It seems that according to the technological epidemiology on Friday, Aug 21 between the hours of 8-9 a.m I was next to someone who had Corona. I was instructed to enter isolation for 14 days- till Sept 4. In my mind, I started to retrace my steps and movement of that morning. It was Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the month of Elul. I arrived at my local Beit Knesset just a few moments before 8:15 a.m. I opened the doors, windows, and turned on the air-conditioning, all before anyone else arrived. As people started to slowly come in I looked around. We had no more than 15 persons praying indoors with us, and a few prayed outside. Most were regulars, with a few additions due to  Rosh Hodesh. Everyone wears a mask at all times and we make sure to be at least 2 meters apart from each other. To the best of my knowledge, I am in the only one in the group who received a notice of being exposed.

How can this be? How is it possible that only one out of 15-20 persons was near someone with Corona? Maybe I was exposed outside the Beit Knesset? Perhaps I walked past someone with corona on my way to or from the Beit Knesset. Whatever the reason, I received official notification via a message to my iPhone with instructions to go into isolation.

I really don’t do well in isolation. It’s really tough on someone like me. I like to see people and also to be seen. I enjoy the social contact that being with others provides. I thrive on being with others. That’s probably why I became a tour guide. Instead, I am forced into being by myself. I feel like I am a pariah amongst my own family. I live in my basement office. I eat by myself, using paper or plastic dishes so that no one else should be in contact with any of my germs. I read books, study, and watch TV programs all on my own. Thankfully I have a computer. Facebook and Netflix have become the norm. When I venture upstairs to one of the other rooms in the house (kitchen, bathroom, etc) everyone moves away from me or goes into another room. It’s as if I have the “cooties” (remember those?), and they might catch it from me, just by being in the same room with me! And yet, I show no symptoms. I feel fine.

The isolation has definitely had an effect on my mental health and personality. I have become more grumpy and sensitive than usual. I react quickly in anger and frustration at my situation. I keep wondering what I did to deserve this forced unpaid vacation. It really feels like someone or something has curtailed my freedom. I’m stuck in my house, only free to venture out of my basement when no one else is nearby.  I can’t wait until it ends.

I really appreciate all the messages and phone calls that I have received. After telling the Facebook world of my situation, I received many comments of support. Some friends sent me private messages, while others called and spoke directly with me. These calls were the best. They really lifted up my spirits. It is so much better to speak directly with another person, rather than just reading a message on the phone or on a computer screen. I’m part of that older generation before cellphones when we actually spoke with one another. A few spoken words even via WhatsApp or Skype are far better than any message.

Laughter really is the best medicine. Netflix and Utube have quite a few comedies in their lineup. These comedies really help to keep my spirits up. At least the plague and the isolation have not taken over my sense of humor.

Animals help. The plague has not reached them. We have two dogs. Both have been very attentive to me. They seem to sense the various mood swings that I have been going thru, and respond accordingly. Since I am not sick and show no symptoms I have allowed myself to take them out for their short walk early morning and late evening. I wear a mask while walking, and make sure not to walk near anyone.  There are only a few other people out when we walk. I call it  “walking in isolation”. After our walk, I return to my isolation room and they are happy. I too am happy that I was able to get out a bit and walk twice a day. Needless to say, if I really had Corona, I would not be going out at all.

A word about the family. As in any illness situation, it is the family who needs to cope. It is the family who needs to take care of themselves, and me!  They too have their fears and worries about the virus. Above all, they do not want to catch it either! So they do their best to keep away, and to make sure that I stay in isolation. Although they are not in isolation it is not easy for them either, especially for those living in the same house.

I know that there are persons reading this whose situation may be worse than mine. Some may actually be sick with Covid-19 or know someone who is.  Some may have returned from abroad and knew they would be going into isolation upon their return. Others may be asymptomatic like me and are also in isolation. My heart goes out to everyone in this situation.

I’m concerned about the future. This could happen again. I could be walking somewhere and be near someone who has Corona. I would not know until I get another notice. Can I prevent this? I don’t think so. The only thing any of us can do is take preventive measures. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth and stay at least 2 meters apart from anyone else.

So whats next? I have already planned a real vacation; my vacation from isolation. I’m going to head south to the Sde Boker area in the Negev. There I plan to join my friend on a night desert hike to see the stars. It will be a great way for me to get out into the open air and revive, after being cooped up indoors for so long. After that, I plan to visit a few other tour guide colleagues and together explore some new areas that I have yet to see.

Its time to get out of the house. Time to get back into my normal routine. Time to lead others on tours, and help them plan their vacations. Real ones.

I can’t wait.

About the Author
Owner and chief Guide of Dave's Dynamic Tours of Israel. Originally from Los Angeles. New Oleh since 1992.Licensed by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Focus on Family & Private Tours.Expert in showing Israel to people of all ages; young ,old, and young at heart, body, and soul. High on Touring!
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