We are in a second lockdown in Israel and it is much worse than the first one.
During the first lockdown, even though we were all very worried, we were happy to protect the compromised and stay at home. Our infection and death rates were of the lowest in the world. Israel was praised all over the world for taking such swift action in these uncertain times.
And yet, here we are again in a second lockdown. One of the first countries to do so because our infection rates are scaringly high. We seem to reach a new record of infected people everyday. Three thousand a day, four thousand a day, even up to seven thousand a day.
We have even surpassed the USA in daily corona virus deaths per capita.
I cannot help but think that this situation is such a good metaphor for life in Israel. We are good at handling a crisis. We know what to do if a bomb explodes, or if we see a suspicious package or someone fainted on the train.
One day on my commute, when I was still commuting, the train conductor stopped the train at an unscheduled station and told us to immediately evacuate the train. Nobody panicked or insisted on an explanation. We all got up from our seats and left the train quickly and orderly as though we were programmed robots.
It turned out that there was some kind of electrical wiring issue in one of the carriages. This got unhooked and we were on our merry way again. (My first thought was that someone discovered a bomb on the train...)
It was surprising to see my fellow Israelis so calm and organized in this scary situation. Our usual default setting is "question everything and argue as much as you can." But as I said, we are good in a crisis.
As the corona virus started to get momentum in our country, we were one of the first countries to close our borders and get people to work/teach/study from home.
We are quite computer savvy here in Israel and though not every child may have a her or his own personal laptop, the majority do have internet access. People held small weddings on rooftops and there were special flights to Peru to fetch Israelis trekking on the other side of the world.
We even figured out how to slow the flights coming in from the highly infectious USA without insulting an important friend. Every person flying in, tourist or local, was mandated to go into an immediate two week quarantine.
We are used to handling crises here in Israel. Bombings from Gaza, terrorists digging tunnels under the border, fires in the Carmel mountains. Israelis do not hesitate to go in and sort the problem. These situations may be extremely tense but they are usually short-lived. Afterwards we all have a breather, slap ourselves on the back and prepare mentally for the next thing.
The coronavirus is however not a short-lived crisis. We are in it for the long haul and that is really not easy for your common garden variety Israeli. We are too used to flaunt convention and use our chutzpah to do something outrageous and creative.
Instead of exiting slowly from our first lockdown, we acted as though we have averted another crisis with our quick action.
We really needed this breather, to go to the beach again or sweat along other people in the gym. Most of us kept our distance though and everyone always wears a mask. There are fenced-of capsules for everything, from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, to school classrooms And absolutely everywhere, there is someone checking your temperature.
We didn't behave as though everything is back to what it was before, but we also didn't keep social contact to a minimum. There were large Arab weddings in the villages, young people attended summer parties and religious Jews gathered in large groups to either pray, study or celebrate the holidays.
As soon as the children started to go back to school in September, the infection rates started to climb. We heard of friends getting infected, and school teachers and entire classes being sent into quarantine.
And the infection rates rose and rose and rose.
And now here we are in a second lockdown. And it is much worse than the first one because now we know.
We know how difficult it is to avoid human contact. We know how difficult it is not to visit elderly parents or go out for a coffee with friends. We know how it sucks to celebrate the holidays alone at home and not have a normal daily routine.
We are worried for the people without a job or savings or food to eat. We are worried about the filled-up hospitals and the overworked hospital staff. And we worry that we and our friends and family and fellow Israelis will get sick from the virus and die.
Here in Israel we refer to life in 2020 as 'living under the shadow of the coronavirus'. This shadow has deepend drastically and there is no sign at all that the clouds will part away and the sun will shine again.
As of today, 11 October 2020, the number of people infected with the coronavirus has slowed down a bit. If the numbers stay good, we will hopefully soon start our exit from our second lockdown.