Risi Adler Finkel
Risi Adler Finkel

Getting Back to Normal

“Is life getting back to normal in Israel?? I need to know there’s light!!”

This is the message my friend in New York sent me on Yom Haatzmaut. 

When I received this message, I was drinking wine with a friend at her house while my husband hosted his friends for poker. Our sunburnt kids had gone to bed with bellies full of barbeque and memories from a morning spent picking strawberries with our cousins and an afternoon of grilling and splashing in the sprinklers with friends. My four-year-old was especially tired because he had been out late the night before watching our town’s fireworks display. 

Is life getting back to normal in Israel??

Well, as of this week, masks are no longer required outdoors. The education system has fully reopened. The majority of our citizens are recovered or vaccinated, and infection rates continue to plummet. After a year of very little work, my husband has a packed schedule. A sense of normalcy is creeping back into our lives. This is thanks largely to some unpopular decisions that the Israeli government had to make this year. 

In early March 2020, Israel was one of the countries that decided to close its borders in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19. Over the last year, the airport has continued to open and close, with fluctuating infection rates. The government has allowed Israeli citizens to travel abroad and return home, but non-citizens could only enter the country under highly specific conditions, with special permits. As someone whose parents, siblings, and in-laws live abroad and are not Israeli citizens, this decision was heart-wrenching to me. My mother-in-law in the UK has still not met my daughter who is turning one year old this weekend.   

My family strongly felt the decisions made by the government. Not only were our families unable to visit us when our daughter was born, but my husband’s career took a huge blow. As a licensed tour guide and professional photographer, both of his fields of work were greatly impacted this past year. When the borders closed, we felt lucky that he also had photography to rely on, but then events were prohibited. With each lockdown, family portraits were also not permitted. 

As painful as the closure has been, I have been grateful to the Israeli government for doing everything in its power to keep its citizens safe. Yes, I also have questions about why certain people were let into Israel while I am waiting for my family to be able to come to visit. But overall, I believe that the government has made decisions that have been bad for the economy but have been amazing for our health, safety, and return to “normal” life, which will slowly heal our damaged economy. 

All Jews have the right to live in Israel, but during a pandemic, Israel made the painful but necessary decision to close its borders to visitors in order to protect its citizens. Aliyah numbers have been skyrocketing throughout the pandemic as more and more Jews from around the world have chosen to make Israel their home. Over the past year, Nefesh B’Nefesh saw a 206% increase in Aliyah interest. Thanks to our rapid and effective vaccine campaign, Israel has been able to begin allowing first-degree relatives of citizens to apply to visit and intends to allow tour groups this summer. 

Is life getting back to normal in Israel??

It has been a hard year for everyone in the world. I miss my family with all my heart. A year ago my mother-in-law “joked” that she hoped to meet my newborn before she started walking, but she has already missed that milestone. Nonetheless, I am grateful to live in a country that chose to take what some would call “drastic measures” with vaccination and border closures to protect its citizens and bring life back to normal as quickly as possible.

About the Author
Born and raised in Cedarhurst NY, Risi moved to Israel in 2010 to study English Literature at Bar Ilan University. Since 2014, she has been writing professionally, both in-house and freelance on a variety of topics, from nonprofits to tech.
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