I’m a city girl — New York City, born and raised. I moved to Israel 14 years ago and the only place I’d ever agree to live is central Tel Aviv. We even bought an apartment just outside the city-center, and only after the fact did I realize that I cannot and will not leave my beloved center. Everything is walkable. The park, the beach, the port, restaurants, bars, (yes, once in a while I make it out to a bar!) and coffee shops. As someone who recently started working from home – coffee shops are key. And not just one coffee shop, but a variety of them! Variety keeps things interesting. There are also a number of different playgrounds – to keep my kids entertained. As an avid runner, I love the different running routes I can choose from. And I certainly don’t need to mention the endless amounts of culture and arts. Things just don’t get boring when you’re in the city.
Except. Except. There are always exceptions. Like when you get back from four lovely days in Italy with your family. And the Israeli Ministry of Health enforces a 14-day quarantine for all travelers from Italy due to the highly contagious and potentially deadly Coronavirus. Fourteen days. Fourteen days inside four walls. Fourteen days of keeping a 5- and 7-year-old sane. Fourteen days of keeping a husband and wife — just that: husband and wife. Fourteen days of testing the limits of marriage. Of brother and sister. Of parent and child. Of family.
A friend asked me today how we have been passing the time. I honestly couldn’t even answer her. The days are just passing. We haven’t implemented any set schedule. Kids are in front of their screens for more hours than I would ever dare to publicly admit. And when we give them the five-minute-warning to shut them off, 30 minutes later, the headphones come off and they figure out what game they want to play either together or separately. Or fightingly. Or screamingly. Or cryingly, while clutching a bruised, reddened body part, one arm raised in revenge.
I rarely feel the need to go out for a drink. But suddenly, now that I can’t, makes me want to that much more. To be around other people — adults. Let’s replace whine with wine, if you don’t mind. Another glass, please! Thank you very much.
I guess it could be worse. We happen to have a large balcony that hangs over a communal yard — which we use during this time if there are no other people down there, but there often are. And of course, we can sit on our balcony as much as we want. But the simple task of running to the store for some milk, or getting take out Chinese food is out of the question. And G-d forbid I go for a run in the park. If a neighbor saw us violating the terms of quarantine, we could be reported. Apparently, it is a felony for endangering the health of others, and we could get a heavy-duty fine or even jail time.
We’ve had numerous friends and neighbors graciously offer to bring us anything we could possibly need or want. From groceries to homemade chocolate chip cookies, to board games, to crossword puzzle books, to challah and kiddush wine. Our dear couriers have placed their deliveries on the floor, outside our door. What’s hard for us to digest is that we are healthy. We feel fine. We are 99.9% sure we are not carrying the coronavirus. So being kept at home, feeling like lepers from society, not even being able to open the door when a close friend comes with a delivery, when in fact, we are most likely not a risk at all, seems trivial. But I understand, that regardless, we must keep these 14 days.
We are six days in. Eight more to go. But who’s counting? And so, my love for the city wanes just a little when I think about those in quarantine with a big house and a nice private, grassy yard, where you could spend the remaining Israeli winter days of nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) outside. My kids could run around and burn off their endless amounts of energy, and the tension would be ever-so-slightly released. I would never trade my central Tel Aviv apartment for the burbs, but, times like these, I can certainly understand the appeal. If the four of us make it out alive in our 76-square-meter digs, I’ll catch you on the flip side, with a glass of white wine in hand.