Happy end of the lockdown! Another one is behind us! Now can we also, please, stop zooming before turning into zo(o)mbies?
So we can go out of the house not only for the tedious chores – I mean, work, groceries, fake doctor appointments, fake rehearsals (a trick a musician friend taught me). I even bought a ukulele so I can answer the question: “where are you going?” by the police guard – “Rehearsals! See!”
But let me take you to a place where lockdowns are forever.
“Seger”, which means ‘lockdown’, is a word in Hebrew most Israelis haven’t used prior to 2020. I heard it for the first time in 2016. I wanted to invite my friend Abir with her cute daughters from Sur Baher (a neighborhood in East Jerusalem) to my lovely sukkah and share with her the joy of my favorite Jewish holiday. But she told me she couldn’t leave her neighbourhood for the entire week due to the seger. There were roadblocks placed at both entrances of Sur Baher and a flying (temporary) checkpoint letting people out only for emergencies.
The IDF locks down some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and all of the checkpoints in the West Bank, during the Jewish holidays. Of course, their justification is the “security reasons”, although I can imagine that most of the soldiers and police guards want to go home and eat their festive dinners with their families.
Getting permits for Palestinians from the West Bank on a regular sunny day for just paying a visit, doing shopping or going to the beach is impossible anyways. You need to be sick from a disease which can’t be cured in the West Bank, or attend some extraordinary conference, or the hardest of them all, work in Israel, by paying 2000 NIS a month in order to get your work permit.
Another time a friend from the West Bank – Moe from Hebron – had really hoped to join his Israeli friends for the big Purim parties. That’s why he had even arranged a doctor’s appointment to receive his medical permit the day before. His plan was first to get his eyes checked and then party with a pirate eye patch. But in that year, the checkpoints were closed even before the holiday began.
He came over a couple of days after the seger, and with our friend Nir from Tel Aviv, we went together to the Purim after-party.
“Oh, B(P)esah is in three weeks,” Moe exclaimed like a balabusta would (Yiddish for a domestic goddess) upon noticing she hasn’t yet started to clean the house.
Nir was impressed that a Palestinian knew better than he did about when Pesah starts. He told us he would find out it is Pesah only the night before the “leil haseder”, when his mom would remind him to come back home for the special dinner.
“You have seder, we have seger. Indeed, we know well when the Jewish holidays take place because we always have lockdowns then! We even joke about it: ”Seger Sameah!” (Happy lockdown).
“Walla achi, I had no idea about this! Reminds me of The Beatles song, Living is easy with eyes closed. We should just find those strawberry fields together!”, Nir said.
Ever since the Covid19 started, there have been no permits for peace NGOs, even in-between the waves. For our community, called Holy Local Aliens, planning any events and trips was nearly impossible. Instead, online gatherings have now become the norm. In one such meeting between our aliens everyone was asked how did the lockdown affect their lifestyle.
Nada from Nablus said that her routine hasn’t been affected at all since her father never lets her out of the house anyway. She is unemployed after completing her Master studies in Economics, and by the way, she was the first one to warn me about the upcoming financial crisis.
Moreover, our good friend from Gaza said that the world finally understands how Gazans get by: “We live in an eternal lockdown!”
I then remembered another friend from Gaza, Ahmed, who I randomly met at a group called “Vegans United”. Upon seeing where he is from, I immediately contacted him and we became messenger friends and also met in person in Cairo years later when he managed to escape his Gaza lockdown. He is an impressive individual who taught himself everything including web development, languages, meditation, a healthy lifestyle, and even became vegan thanks to the documentaries he watched and the books he downloaded. He even found a high paying job as a Java developer for an Australian company. “We are lucky that we live in times where the internet can give you unlimited opportunities.”
Ahmed inspired me to utilize this lockdown wisely as well. It is thanks to him that I did yoga every day, tried improving my Arabic, opened all of my unfinished books, registered for a number of online courses, and even began learning a musical instrument with the help of YouTube tutorials.
Every morning was a battle though. A battle to be productive today without having the freedom to go out, meet friends, attend an inspiring cultural event and most importantly receive energy from the desert, the sea, the springs, or nature, together with best friends and community. In my case, the community of holy local aliens.
Crossing fingers, this was our last lockdown and miraculously the number of infections will not increase anymore. Perhaps we learned how to be careful as prescribed, wear our masks, and keep the freaking distance to not get any more “segers”. There is some hope, and if not, I am even better prepared now for the third lockdown. I learned from those who lived in lockdowns before Covid19.
But will my Palestinian friends ever be let out of their eternal lockdowns, or should they follow my lead and just get a ukulele? Then we can all play together one-day “Strawberries fields forever.”