Sholom Rothman
Never Stop Growing

Protect Yourself, Protect Others

I get it.
I really do.
As we are into our eighth month of the pandemic, we are all weary of the rules. We are tired of social distancing, or being careful not to be indoors with a big crowd, and most of all – having to wear a mask in public.
But, as responsible adults, we try our best to protect ourselves and protect others.
Every weekday, I’m out jogging on the Tayelet (the Hass Promenade), which is located close to my home. As I wend my way through the trail between the trees, I see before me a beautiful view of the Old City of Jerusalem. I try to get out early, between 5:45 – 6:45 am, so I will make it in time to our outdoor morning services at 7:30. The exhilarating, fresh mountain air, and the gorgeous sight of the sun starting to rise from behind the Mount of Olives onto Jerusalem of Gold  helps me stay motivated to move my tired bones at a 13:15 minute per mile pace (about 25 years ago I ran at a 9:30 minute per mile clip – the discrepancy must be due to the slightly hilly terrain of Jerusalem, as opposed to the flat running paths of Long Island 🙂 ).
One of the exceptions to the Health Ministry’s rules is that when one is exercising (doing ‘sport’ in the Hebrew slang), one doesn’t need to wear a mask. It makes some sense, as it is hard enough to pant and gulp big breaths of air without the restricting fabric across ones mouth and nose. So most of the time I jog with my mask hanging loosely near my chin. If I do come across another rare person ‘doing sport’ at that early hour, I raise my mask into proper position for the half minute or so that I approach and pass my fellow fanatic on the trail. Most don’t bother at all with a mask at that juncture, although a few caring people act the same as me, and I try to nod and say Boker Tov (good morning) to them to show my appreciation.
When I leave the trail, I still have a few blocks of jogging on the city sidewalks until I get home. By then I am likely to meet more people walking to catch a bus or to complete some other errand. If they don’t have a mask in proper position as I approach, I either point to my mask, or just say “Please put on a mask”. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.
A week or so ago I began to notice a man, of about my age, seemingly walking to work wearing a backpack, but with no mask on at all. He wasn’t ‘doing sport’, so he had no excuse (besides laziness) for endangering himself, and others like me,  as we passed each other. I tried all kinds of methods to get the message across to him that he really should be wearing a mask, but he just seemed to ignore me.
Finally, a few days ago I put in place an ingenious plan (thanks, Iris – you always were more insightful than me). I started wearing my police tee shirt (I volunteer with the local police) when I go jogging. This would give me more gravitas in the eyes of the strangers I pass.
Yesterday, I spotted my nemesis, walking with a bare face, when I was a block from home. I raised my mask, and stopped right in front of him (standing more than 6 feet apart). He took in my apparel as I said to him (in Hebrew), “How long will you keep going outside without a mask? Until you get a ticket?”. He shrugged sheepishly, said “You are right”, and pulled a mask from his pocket. I replied, “So put it on”, and I finished my workout without looking back at him.
This morning. once again. I was close to home as I spotted him walking down the block. Somewhat to my surprise, he was wearing a mask. When I got closer to him, I raised my thumb in approval, and said “Kol Hakavod (great job) ! “.
And he smiled at me from under his mask.
At least I hope he was smiling.
About the Author
I studied in Jerusalem for a year when I was 19 years old, and developed a love for Israel and especially Jerusalem. It took me over 40 years to finally fulfill my life's dream and make Aliyah to Jerusalem. I had been a computer programmer for 37 years, but now, after retirement, study full time in yeshiva, and was granted Semicha two years ago.
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