What can I say about the last few months that hasn’t already been said? I think all I can do, as a columnist for Jewish Rhode Island, is to share my personal experiences as a Rhode Islander living in Israel.
It’s been months since my last column. So what should I tell you? About how I spent yet another day in my home? At times, based on the rules in Israel, I wasn’t even allowed to go more than a few hundred meters from home unless it was for essential errands.
When this all began, I discussed with my family whether I should fly back to Providence to wait things out. My family said they wanted to make sure I was safe. Given that understandable familial logic, I felt the best thing was for me to stay put in Israel. I honestly felt from the beginning that, if it were solely a matter of personal safety, I was better off in Israel. That’s still true, in my opinion.
For the most part, Israelis adapted very well to the new restrictions. Masks were more-or-less required, going more than 500 meters from your home was forbidden, and gatherings were all but banned.
And our numbers showed that it was working. Israel was a model country when it came to dealing with the pandemic. Beyond this, heartwarming stories came out of hospital coronavirus wards. Stories of patients with moderate cases caring for the more severely afflicted in order to limit the nurses’ exposure. I heard of a rabbi in one of these wards who led a Passover seder for the strangers in quarantine with him. Sometimes, the best of humanity comes out during the worst of times.
Eventually, it got to the point where Israel began returning to normal. Unfortunately, our virus numbers show that was not the case as of late August. Our government seems like a deer caught in the headlights, unsure about what to do, even though they pulled off successful measures just a few short months ago.
I won’t comment on what’s different now, and why the government isn’t acting swiftly, since I honestly don’t understand why there is such hesitation in the face of a second spike. But I’m proud that, at least at the beginning of this, we were a model country, with examples like patients showing one another the utmost kindness and compassion in the face of their own illnesses.
All I can comment on for now is what my personal experience has been. Fortunately, while many people lost their jobs, my workload increased. Both my jobs – a corporate recruiter for a specific company and a Career/Life Coach – started booming. I’m proud to say that I’ve helped to reduce the unemployment rate in Israel by finding and hiring people. And my career coaching is global, so I’m doing what I can to help people around the world.
On a Rhode Island-esque side note, I saw a meme asking “What’s one thing you’ve said in 2020 that your 2019-self wouldn’t understand?” For me, it happened while I was listening to 92 ProFM (the R.I. radio station I won many prizes from in high school, such as CDs, concert and movie tickets) on a phone app, and hearing how a contest winner would get hand sanitizer. I thought, “It’s great that 92 ProFM is giving away hand sanitizer as a prize.”
But back to life in Israel. I’m fortunate to have been “trapped” at home with three amazing roommates. Over the last few months, we threw a mini-surprise party for one roommate who couldn’t celebrate with the rest of his friends. On Yom ha-Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), the four of us celebrated together in our garden. And three of us did the Passover seder together – and while it broke from my lifelong tradition of spending the holiday with either family or close friends, it was still very special.
I had hoped to be visiting my family in Providence as I write this. It was my light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. But in the end, I realized it wasn’t worth the risk of potentially exposing my parents. So now I’m trying to do the best I can during this virus resurgence in Israel. In the meantime, my 13th aliyah anniversary (the “Bar Mitzvah” anniversary) came and went, and I barely even noticed.
I’m finding new outlets to enjoy myself as much as possible during these strange times. And it helps that sometimes I get my own taste of coronavirus-era kindness. The one and only time I forgot to wear a mask out of the house, I was speaking with a friend and debating if I should go home to get a mask, even though I was already running late. A stranger on the street overheard what I said and handed me a spare mask.
Living in the moment and making the most of this situation is the best we can do. And being there for each other as much as we can only helps to make this difficult time more tolerable.
In the meantime, hope to see you soon, Rhode Island.
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 at Amazon. www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.