Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Lessons from half a year sitting at home

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.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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