Living in Israel during the Corona Virus outbreak was truly a surreal moment. I was raised in the states and France and have been living in Israel for the past ten years. Since mid-March, Israel decided to take preventative measures against the viral outbreak that began devastating the world. The Prime Minister along with the Health Ministry leadership began making public speeches stressing the urgency to perform social distancing and washing your hands constantly in order for the virus to not spread. As the infection and death rates in Europe and Asia started increasing, Israel began imposing tighter restrictions upon their citizens.
Towards the end of March, the tourism in Israel came to a screeching halt with a government mandate requiring that all incoming tourists and Israelis from abroad be quarantined for 14 days. Many flights stopped flying to Israel and most of the tourists already in Israel began rushing back home in order to not be locked down in Israel. Most Israelis were starting to be laid off or be put on leave without pay due to the crippling restrictions imposed by the government. Currently, there is a 25% unemployment rate in Israel and I am one of them.
By the first of April, I was confined to my apartment in Tel Aviv. Constantly observing the news for the daily updates related to the Corona Virus, checking in with my family living in France and America, and watching tv shows and movies online was the main recipe to pass the time. After the first week of April, more people were wearing gloves and protective masks outside when they went on their mini walks around their neighborhood or to the supermarket to buy the necessary food products. Speaking of buying food, there was a shortage of toilet paper and eggs for some time and Israelis were buying in droves thinking it was the plague of death descending upon Israel.
Social media became a major blessing for people to communicate and have a semblance of normalcy during their isolation period. The government insisted that everyone must stay home and can only walk 100 kilometers from their home should they choose to leave. Therefore, everyone was using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to speak to their friends and family. I was constantly updating all of the Olim groups on Facebook as to any changes occurring with the government restrictions because I wanted to make sure that every Oleh knew the rules and who to be in contact with if any emergency arose. Also, I wanted to make sure that the world knew exactly what daily life looked like in Israel and not through the news but through people living in the land.
Ironically, Passover fell during these troubling times. For the first time, every Jew would be forced to stay home and perform their own Seder alone. Apparently, this is the first time since the exodus from Egypt, that Jews were all required to stay home in order for a plague to pass over and not inflict us. Thanks to the Zoom, I was able to bring Jews from around the world together with a Rabbi explaining the importance of Passover. There were many online Seder events for everyone to share their experience together. We may have been locked in our own houses but every Jew was united around the world sharing the exodus story online.
Corona taught everyone what it feels like to be alone and the importance of reaching out to your friends and family in order for them to know that they are not alone. Patience and faith was also strengthened during these crazy times since no one knows how long this outbreak will last and who will be affected next. Passover taught the Jews what it means to be a free people after witnessing the harsh plagues inflicted, perhaps, in the end, the Corona virus will serve as a wake up call to the world where our values will shift to the importance of cherishing being with our friends and family and taking care of our personal health instead of always focusing on outdoor activities. Mankind can can use this new wake up call to purge hatred of one another and to work harder to eliminate the ancient threat of antisemitism in order for all of us to help and strengthen one another since the Corona showed the world that we are all affected the same way. The Jewish people were called to stay home during the Egyptian plagues testing their faith and patience, and now the Jewish people are being called again to stay home and this too shall pass.