Israel is set to enter our third lockdown starting this Sunday at 17:00. Restrictions are similar to the October closure – no one allowed to visit anyone’s house, stores closed, restaurant delivery only (no take out this time), and exercise allowed up to 1 km from your house. The biggest change is that preschools, 1-4th grades, and 11th and 12th grades are allowed to attend school Sunday – Thursday from 8am -1pm. Bad news for Kayla and Reuben, who will be forced back into all zoom classes for the next few weeks. I’m guessing soccer practice will not be allowed to happen either.
It is almost guaranteed that there will be daily protests over this new closure. Small businesses are failing, families don’t have enough money to cover their expenses, and many people simply aren’t afraid of the coronavirus at all. Israel shut the skies to all non-Israeli citizens this week after the news of the new virus mutation in the UK and South Africa. All returning citizens are forced to quarantine in state-run hotels upon their return to Israel. People lost their minds over that decision, and Israelis abroad did everything in their power to get on return flights before the change took effect last night. The ones that made it back are still forced to quarantine, but are able to do so in their own homes. We have friends who are residents in Israel, but not citizens, who made the decision to stay in Dubai until the restrictions change. At this point, they are not even allowed back in the country until non-citizens receive permission to enter again.
Meanwhile, as the news of the new restrictions on travel were announced, a big fanfare was made as the first Israeli flight left Ben Gurion airport carrying politicians and reporters bound for Rabat to resume ties with Morocco. Upon their return, the delegation was allowed to cut their quarantine to 48 hours with a negative coronavirus test result. A friend of mine, who travels from Israel to Colorado for work, fumed on a Facebook post over the injustice of the Israeli government’s hypocrisy. He commented that after 10 months of ever changing restrictions, politicians don’t understand the hardships they are imposing on their populations because they never apply to them. We have a friend who works for the Israeli military, who flew to Florida the week before Hanukkah, and was given a pass to skip quarantine upon his return to Israel. He has a family with young kids in school, and he was simply allowed to go home and return to normal life.
On a positive note, all of my friends in town over the age of 60 have received their first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Some drove as far as Be’er Sheva in order to get an appointment this week. Others posted pictures on social media showing the set up – they drove to a large parking lot in Haifa where individual tents were set up outside. They drove their car into the tent, received their vaccination, and were then given a Krembo and a bottle of water. There was even a photo screen set up where people could have a photo magnet made after they received their vaccination. At the moment, Israel has the highest number of COVID-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people. If the vaccination drive continues at its current rate, doctors are forecasting that Passover seder will be celebrated together with extended family, and not under another lockdown, as in 2020.
At this point, we are trying to refrain from being too optimistic or pessimistic. Remember, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is difficult to know whether or not this new lockdown will make a difference. The situation still changes constantly. We had thought about driving to the desert for some hiking next week, but that is off the table for now. I have to plan one day at a time. Reuben has a soccer game this afternoon. Tomorrow, we are making a Chinese food Shabbat dinner, the “traditional” Jewish meal for Christmas. Beyond that, we will have to wait and see. Reuben already has plans to do zoom school next week at a friend’s house. It will be a direct violation of the new restrictions – not sure if his friend’s parents will care or not. I guess we’ll see.