I came well-prepared. My four grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. And I safely raised my children in Jerusalem. The contrast is stunning. But life in Israel was not always quiet.
At the start of the Second Intifada, the shootings started at civilians in Gilo, the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where I lived. Were we safe? Well, in comparison to 60 years earlier, we were totally safe. We had our own State, army, and police, and different from Abraham, we didn’t live in tents anymore.
It was clear what streets not to walk at night. Stay on the south side of buildings so that you have cover from bullets coming from the South.
Nevertheless, we miraculously escaped an unprecedented unexpected daytime shooting. I was crossing the street at 4 PM with my sons of 5 and 6 years old when three bullets zoomed by us. At the time I was incensed that gunmen would be so callous to target such young guys or their father. Later I considered he may have missed us on purpose–there is good in everyone. Or, it was a miracle. Happens.
But, generally, the situation was safe. Of the 18 months of shooting, no one died. It’s a whole story in itself.
At a certain moment, rockets started flying–not just bullets. Would we hide, would we run? I still remember saying that if we would all leave, we would give up a part of Jerusalem to a bunch of murderers and Jew-haters. No way. And I said: If rather live half a year with my family in a bunker than flee. We’ll survive. Worse has happened.
And now, I’m half a year inside my house. No bullets are flying but microscopic viruses. They kill about 5% of people of my age and give many health effects for months to survivors of any age. I have many plans for my life. I have no time to die. I’ll sit inside.
It started a month before Pesach, at Purim, and it’s now Rosh haShannah. Then we were told to sterilize our hands and that masks don’t work. Now we know that masks are the most important. But it’s the safest to not meet anyone. Last week, two people told me that it was completely safe outside. While 4,000 people a day are infected. One can get used to and justify anything, I guess. These people do not understand why we are heading toward lockdown.
Now, I must admit that if I had no electricity, I’d go raving mad. But I do have current. So I can call people, surf the Internet, get my news, partake in Zoom and Skype sessions, exchange emails, post blog posts. I’ll manage.
And I learned very unexpected lessons.
First of all, I did not know how much money I spent, bit-by-bit on busses and food sales. And that I had enough dry, tinned, and frozen food in the house for many months. I was left with more and more money at the end of the months and finally was eating the bargains put away for when?
Shopping once every two weeks is enough. Nothing my son or daughter couldn’t carry. Plenty to improvise mails with.
I knew I was a workaholic. But I didn’t know how much so. Now I am not doing day trips. I’m not enjoying bookstores. I’m not meeting friends. And I’m not wasting time at bus stops. What was left was working and sleeping. I never got so much done before. Very efficient. But also kind of maniac. I need to learn better how to take breaks. Being efficient can help you get a lot done but should not be the main quality of your life.
I knew that I was a bit of an introvert. One with courage but an introvert nevertheless. But I didn’t know I would enjoy being on my own so much. I’m not the only one. I’ve heard many times that people said, It’s actually doing me very well to be with I, me, and myself at home.
Several people told me that virtual dating is so nice. You don’t need to make clear that you are not seeking one-night stands. You don’t need to avoid hugs. You can focus on becoming friends first. Sweet.
A friend sent me someone who had a huge anger problem. If I could help him. Gave him some attention on the phone. What should you be scared of, he said, I can’t beat you up long-distance.
Yes, it’s hard to never shake a hand, never exchange a hug, a lecture over Zoom is not the same. But it will pass.
It was strange to always pray alone. But it was comfortable to pick my own prayer and sleep times. And to miss prayers outside like at the new moon or the blooming fruit trees for the first time in 40 years.
But, I will not be getting an anti-flu vaccination for the first time in years. Which flu? I don’t do viruses inside my house. I also don’t risk sunburn or dehydration, frostbite, or sprained ankles.
And when the first vaccinations against the new coronavirus come, I won’t be the first to apply. Give it to the teachers, the delivery youths, the store and healthcare workers, etc. I have been safe, I will be safe.
Soon the country will go on lockdown. Won’t affect me. It’s like asking someone who never shaves if it’s not hard when you are not allowed to.
Will I celebrate being let loose in two or six or 12 months? I guess, I will. But I won’t be surprised if I’d sometimes think back with some nostalgia to the times I sat at home, missed spring, summer, autumn, and winter, but lived a good life nevertheless. And even the things you missed most teach you what is most important in life. Those were the days.
It will get better. Let’s hang in there to be able to witness that.