After 11 long months, I have finally returned to Israel from Rhode Island. While it’s good to be back, the road to getting here wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked.
The first problem was that I did not receive my COVID-19 test results, required for the flight, within the 48 hours that was promised. After a scramble to get another test, I finally got the results right before my arrival at the airport.
I went through security and arrived at the gate. Boarding for my plane began. But, unfortunately, Hurricane Ida had other plans, and the flight was canceled. Fortunately, the next day my flight left without a hitch.
In the pre-pandemic world, arriving in Israel five hours before Shabbat wouldn’t have been too stressful for me. In this case, however, I didn’t want to leave the airport until I got both a PCR test and a serological test to prove that I had antibodies from my U.S. vaccinations.
Getting the PCR test was easy since there were many lines to accommodate the many arriving passengers.
The line for the serological test took a bit longer, and I only made it back to my apartment two hours before Shabbat. Fortunately, I had the serological test results emailed to me within 10 minutes of leaving the airport, and the PCR results came by the end of Shabbat.
Returning to my home was a bit of a shock to my emotional system. In the past 11 months, all three of my roommates had moved out – two got married and one moved into a place of his own. And my landlords of 10 years had sold the apartment, so I had new landlords. A lot can change in 11 months!
Fortunately, it still felt like my apartment and my bedroom. Just a little different, like someone had modified the cover of a book. It didn’t feel like I was away from my home and neighborhood for 11 months – it didn’t even feel like I’d been away for 11 days!
The rules about entry into Israel, who must quarantine and for how long, change constantly. Based on the rules that were in place upon my return, I had to quarantine for one week. During that time, I called Israel’s Ministry of Health almost every day – not just to try to end my quarantine early, using my U.S. vaccination records, but also to get Israel’s Green Passport, which allows entry into movie theaters, restaurants, etc.
But rules are rules, and they couldn’t end my quarantine early. However, they did instruct me on how to apply for things like the Green Passport, which they assured me I could get as soon as my quarantine ended. I submitted all documentation to their online system.
In order to end the quarantine, I needed a second PCR test on day 7. Scheduling a PCR test in Israel is relatively simple – you can do it by just pressing a few buttons in your health-care app.
By 12:30 that night, I had received favorable results and permission to end my quarantine. I instantly called the Ministry of Health and requested a Green Passport.
“Check your email,” they said – and there was my Green Passport.
I celebrated by going out to a movie with a friend. It was my first time in an Israeli cinema in over 18 months.
From my personal perspective, life is more or less back to normal in Israel. Of course, there are some exceptions, like still being asked to wear a mask on public transportation and indoors. But removing a mask to eat, such as in a movie theater or a restaurant, is fine.
Now that I was “free,” I wanted to see and catch up with as many friends as possible, as quickly as possible.
As I got out and about, I made the following observations:
One couple I know has a young daughter who got COVID-19. Fortunately, her symptoms were extremely mild, and her parents said it was a blessing in disguise, since people who have recovered from the virus can get a temporary Green Passport. Since their daughter contracted the virus not long before the summer, they had freedom to go wherever they wanted as a family since they all had Green Passports.
Now that I’m back in Jerusalem, and seeing my friends here for the first time in nearly a year, it feels like no time at all has passed – to the point where it almost feels like my time in Providence was a dream.
I’m happy to go to Shabbat meals, movies and restaurants again in a country that I feel is doing well and whose people are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. It’s nice to be back and living my normal life in Israel again.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a corporate recruiter and certified Life Coach who lives in Jerusalem. His collection of short stories, “Tavern of the Mind,” is available for paperback and Kindle purchase on Amazon at www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.