When I walked out the door today, I did something I haven’t done in over a year.
I took off my mask.
I wasn’t alone. Israelis are now allowed to be outside without a mask.
It felt strange. Almost…. scandalous.
But I am both COVID recovered and COVID vaccinated, and I, like millions of other Israelis, am waking up from a very long, grey nightmare into a technicolor world that is brighter and sweeter than I could ever have imagined it.
I went to the Shuk and for the first time in too long, I could smell cardamom and clementines and ripe strawberries and Starfruit. I could smell fresh bread and cinnamon and garlic and mint and zatar. I felt the sun bake down on my skin and as I walked through the offerings and around the people, I felt a little baffled, a little dazzled… like stepping out into the sun after being lost in a maze beneath the earth for a very long time.
And I also felt defiant – to HELL with you COVID. I’m still here.
I saw more people smiling in 15 minutes than I saw in an entire year.
There is a lot wrong with the way things work around here in Israel – we have more than our share of problems. Some are emphatically not our fault… and some are. We are a work in progress.
But today, as we take off our masks and see each other’s faces, as we feel the sun and smell the earth’s sumptuous offerings, I feel gratitude welling in me — swelling me — my heart has doubled — no, TRIPLED!! — in size and it’s growing still… big enough to contain the misery and the terror and the boredom and the loneliness of this past year…. and big enough to contain each little piece of hope that found a way to take root. And gratitude is the greatest feeling and that’s what fills me up right now – I imagine this is on that continuum of what our parents and grandparents felt when the allies won the war, and everyone took to the streets in one long sigh of relief.
I know Covid didn’t disappear. I know we are still mourning our dead and many of us are living with symptoms of this terrible disease long after we’ve “recovered.”
And yes, I’m still carrying my mask, and probably always will – and I will wear it in crowded places and indoor spaces and whenever asked (or if I have a particularly nasty zit on my chin).
But we have turned a corner and eased into a new normal – and right now THIS MINUTE our numbers are beautifully reassuring, and we feel safe enough to lower our masks – if not our guard completely – and smile at each other in public.
So: Thank you to our health care workers. Our supply chain workers. Our garbage and utility workers. Our scientists, our teachers, our defense officials, our police, our protestors, our artists and our dreamers… and thank you – yes – to our Prime Minister and our government for getting us to this moment in time.
The future stretches out now – unwritten, still… uncertain, absolutely …. but it sure feels a lot brighter from where I’m standing.