Life, work and Passover amidst Coronavirus
“Hello, is there anybody out there?”, one may be inclined to start out with these days.
A month ago, we were celebrating Purim at the onset of the Coronavirus in Israel and it seemed people were not taking it seriously. By now, the whole world is in “serious mode“ and the Jewish State spent Passover under general lockdown.
What has happened in a month? In a nutshell – everything that was initially “advisory” has now become “mandatory” and enforced by law, as we are seeing and hearing drastic changes and news nearing apocalyptic proportions.
As the virus pressed on, the Israeli interim government was forced to adopt increasingly stricter measures to fight its spread. Workers who provided “essential services” were reduced in stages, resulting in a skyrocketing 25 % unemployment rate. Jerusalem has responded with several aid packages for families, the elderly, business and other sectors, as well as preparation of exit strategies for the “day after”.
Public gatherings, prayer meetings, exercising and the like were reduced to ten, five and then two people. Citizens nationwide were called upon to stay home and only allowed to leave only for the purchase of food, medical emergencies, or to attend legal procedures and protests.
Police and the military have been mobilized over the past week to enforce the government’s measures and impose fines up to ₪5000 shekels (equal to about €1300 or $1400) to penalize violators. The preventative restrictions have now culminated to include the halt of both intra- and inter-city transportation and a ban on people from being any further than 100 meters from their homes on the Passover Eve. Starting from Sunday, April 12, it will be mandatory that anyone in the public sphere must wear a protective face mask.
“Your home is your fortress,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a couple of weeks ago, as he urged Israelis to stay home in order to avoid any possible contact with unknown carriers of the contagious virus. “Stay home, stay alive”, he said, coining a new COVID-19-era slogan.
With the latest virus-related regulations this week, it looks like we have almost returned to the original Biblical Passover setting some 3500 years ago – when families were called upon to slaughter lambs, mark doorposts with its blood and remain at home as the Angel of Death wreaked havoc in ancient Egypt.
The family-oriented feast of Passover, called Pesach in Hebrew, as set forth in Chapter 12 of the Book of Exodus, was very different this year. Visits of relatives, friends and neighbors were not allowed, and many were forced to celebrate alone.
As one who enjoys solitude and would normally choose it voluntarily to recharge, I must say that when it is forced on you without any choice, it tends to mess with your mind a bit. And the social distancing rules of remaining at least two meters apart from other people when in public areas may feed the paranoid tendencies of some.
When walking home a month ago on the Eve of Shabbat, after our last day in the office together as a team before switching to working remotely, it started raining. A woman stopped her car next to me on Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim Street to offer me a ride. “Wow,” I thought, overwhelmed with emotion, “even in times like these, Israelis have not lost the heart to take care of each other.”
Yet a month later, as some people actually wear gas masks, one might be given an evil look if coming within the two-meter parameter.
A scene from a neighbourhood health food shop yesterday, where I managed to find eggs – which have been short in supply:
The salesclerk, who has blocked herself off with tape, rolls a wheeled shopping trolley with the coveted box of eggs toward me. I take them, place my credit card in the cart and send it back to her. She completes the purchase, and returns my card and receipt aboard the trolley. All transactions preserved the required two-meter restriction at all times. Extreme? Perhaps, but it was a shop promoting health-awareness, after all.
These times may also be quite taxing for families who are forced to work from home while caring for young children at the same time. Several of our team members can testify to that. But Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has come up with a solution – Heads of State of the world, take note! Offering to babysit, he began reading children’s stories live over the internet, in order to give a break to the busy Moms and Dads. You are welcome to check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jBckXWVopg
Even nature seems to have joined the chorus of “Unusual, unprecedented, extraordinary,” with a phenomenon of the so-called supermoon, when the lunar orb seems particularly huge, luminous, bright and reddish in hue. One appeared a month ago during the Purim holiday, and now again during this week’s festival of Passover – sending rabbis and other likeminded to cite end-of-time prophecies.
Amid all of it, TV7 Jerusalem office continues production as usual; although most of us are working remotely from home and our Jerusalem Studio guests are also participating in panel discussions via Skype or other communication platforms. Similar to many other media outlets, we have been called upon to come up with new ingenious technical solutions to continue bringing you the honest truth from Israel and the region.
So, thank you for your continued support and prayers!
As over a month after elections we still do not have a new functioning government, with coalition talks repeatedly running into hiccups, so please pray for one to finally emerge. One according to God’s heart; one that He can guide to bring forth His kingdom’s purposes and one that would best serve the people of Israel, called to be light to the nations.
And as always, please continue praying for the peace of Jerusalem and peace and salvation of Israel. Pray also for the whole world to meet the Lamb of the Passover, who was sacrificed so that anyone who believes in Him, may live.
May these trying times bring forth the best in us, not the worst!
May the God of Israel watch over you, hide you in his shelter in the day of trouble and give you peace! (Psalms 121, 27, 91 & Numbers 6:24-26)
Shalom till next time!