In the more than 13 years that I have lived in Israel, I have tried not to repeat a topic in an article. I last wrote about COVID-19 in September, but since then I’ve had some updates that I think are worth mentioning.
Recently, I felt that I needed a change in scenery. Sleeping and working while staring at the same four walls in my apartment every day had become very tedious. The days seemed to blur together. I needed to be somewhere else. I’m sure that many people can relate to this feeling.
I can count on one hand how many vacation days I’ve taken since the start of the pandemic. I wanted to visit my family in the U.S. and get some R&R.
I quickly discovered that planning a three-week trip to Rhode Island was not as simple as I thought it would be. First, in the age of COVID-19, it was difficult to find insurance for such a trip. Second, the thought of being required to quarantine in Rhode Island for two weeks was not appealing.
After two months of failed attempts, I finally found insurance and got permission from my job to work from the United States for a period that would extend beyond the mandatory quarantine. After discussions with my parents, whose health and safety I was far more concerned about than my own, I decided it was finally time for me to visit.
Soon after I purchased my airplane ticket, the government of Israel announced lockdown measures in reaction to a surge in COVID-19 cases. This included the possible closure of the Ben Gurion Airport. I scrambled to find a way to leave prior to the lockdown, but I had no luck finding an earlier flight.
Fortunately, when the new restrictions were put in place, I learned that this restriction did not apply to passengers who had already purchased a ticket. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I had to do my homework regarding the new travel routine. I learned I had to fill out a form on Israel’s Ministry of Health website confirming that I was feeling fine in the 24 hours prior to my flight and had not come into contact with any virus patients.
Instead of using public transportation, I had to spend extra money to take a taxi to the airport. Upon arrival, I had to wait in line outside the airport.
When I reached the front of the line, I had to show the Ministry of Health form I had filled out, and proof that I had purchased my ticket before the lockdown began. Also, I had to have my temperature taken – and wear a mask, of course.
When I got to the duty-free area, I was surprised to see so many travelers congregating, albeit socially distanced. This created the illusion that more people were traveling than actually were. Then I realized it was because almost every duty-free shop and restaurant was closed. The people were in that area because there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go!
My greatest fear was my safety on the plane itself, although I’m not normally an anxious traveler. Fortunately, as promised by the airline, everyone had at least one extra seat to themselves. I estimate that the plane was no more than 25 to 33% full; great for the passengers but horrible for the airline.
Upon boarding, we were all handed sanitary wipes – a far cry from the good old days, when we got peanuts. And the preflight instructional video now included details about how the plane was sanitized between flights and the extra precautions passengers should take.
The flight attendants also did a spectacular job helping us feel safe. Aside from meals, passengers were required to wear a mask at all times. The flight attendants not only reminded passengers of this requirement, but would wake up anyone they saw sleeping mask-less. (I made sure to send a thank you note to Delta Airlines for their excellent service during this difficult time.)
Fortunately, I arrived safely in good old Providence, by way of John F. Kennedy airport, in New York City, and Boston.
A family in our great Rhode Island community was kind enough to let me begin my quarantine in their third-floor guest room, so I could distance myself from my parents until I had a chance to get tested again for the virus. A few times a day, my parents and sister would walk by and talk to me from the street.
Fortunately, my test results came back negative. My family and I agreed that it was time to really, truly, come home – while still continuing the quarantine from my own bedroom.
It goes without saying that these are not easy times. I feel blessed that all I needed was a change of scenery. I know there are people who need much, much more than that while COVID-19 continues to rage.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a corporate recruiter and a 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.