Alan Abrams

Proud but not free — Pesach 5780 and corona restriction easing

From our back mirpesset we can see and hear the nearby park. On Shabbat, there were kids there playing while adults watched. “Don’t they know there are germs,” our four-year old daughter asked?

The challenging truth is that, yes, I think they knew that the virus is out there, and they were, nonetheless, intentionally choosing not to stay at home. In violation of the social distancing restrictions then in place.

And, now that those restrictions are starting to be officially lifted,  so too will all of us start going out. We will collectively be increasing our risk, intentionally going out where there are germs. Ultimately, we have no choice. We cannot stay inside forever. Even if we could afford the financial consequences, our daughter could not possibly thrive without going out. Without friends, without exercise.

The shared isolation has been hard on the four of us (we also have a three-month old son), but our daughter did pretty well over Pesach, agreeing to put away the ‘screens’ for the holiday days without argument. Helped by the toys shared with us by a neighbor (who knew plastic food could yield so many hours of fun?), she played nicely both alone and with us (asking what we wanted to eat and assertively declaring rules for our conduct in ‘the restaurant’). She asked genuine questions at Seder. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of us. I’m proud of how I was — despite a national egg shortage and difficulties getting grocery deliveries — able to carefully plan so that we had sumptuous holiday meals, including matza balls and some morning matza brei breakfasts. I’m proud that we didn’t have to go to my emergency plan of making this the year that we ‘finally’ start cooking with rice, beans and other kitniyot on Pesach (although I know I will eventually; but I didn’t want to feel I was abandoning a tradition I was raised with ‘under diress’). I’m so glad we were able to succeed in making this a real holiday  amid the isolation and shortages. We’re clearly blessed.

But I don’t feel free. Actually, I’m terrified.

I know how much people are hungering for the lifting of restrictions, for a greater freedom. I just have to look at my daughter to see it, to see how much she is missing being able to go to her Gan pre-school every day. But, ironically, this very freedom is the source of my terror. You see, I am one of those people with ‘underlying conditions’ who have much to risk from getting sick.

The government officials making plans for ‘the exit’ seem to imagine that people over 65 and with underlying conditions will just continue to self-isolate. But how can you do that if you live with a four-year old? Children seem to be under little risk from this virus, but they still can catch it and bring it home.

I hunger for the time our daughter will be able to return to Gan, for some quiet for us and for greater learning and joy for her, but my terror will clearly grow on that day.

I trust the leaders of this state to be able to handle crisis. Israel has not had the very best response to the virus, but it is among the best in the industrialized world outside of Asia. We have had nothing like the desperate overloading of the medical system that has plagued places like Italy and New York. But we still do not have widespread testing like they have been able to achieve in places like South Korea. And, until we do, I will be especially terrified with every step we take towards greater ‘freedom’.

About the Author
Alan Abrams is a spiritual care educator who made Aliyah in 2014. He and his wife live in Jerusalem with their two "sabra" children. Alan is the founder of HavLi and the HaKen Institute, spiritual care education and research centers based in Jerusalem. A rabbi, Alan received a PhD in May 2019 from NYU for his dissertation on the theology of pastoral care. He was a business journalist in his first career.