Since the last lockdown in Israel was lifted, there appeared to be a sense of relief and complacency that permeated the country. The corona numbers were significantly lower. Malls, schools, businesses, museums, hair salons, zoos, nature reserves, national parks, and memorial sites reopened. People were permitted to visit in each other’s homes. Travel was permitted, and there was even a “Green Island” program that allowed Israelis to travel to Eilat or the Dead Sea resort area after showing negative results for a corona test performed within the prior 72 hours. That is not to say that things had returned to normal and that the corona period was behind us. It was just a teeny taste of normalcy, a sneak preview of good things to come in the not so distant future. I could practically smell the tantalizing aroma of the cappuccino that I would soon be drinking with my husband at an outdoor (or even indoor) cafe. I could see myself at my favorite shiur - not on Zoom, but live! I began to give thought as to what should be our next travel destination and conjured up images in my mind of the beautiful scenery that we would witness. I could almost hear the force of the powerful waterfall that would most certainly be part of the landscape.
In our home we’ve had a few variations of bidud (quarantine) of late. My husband was in post-travel bidud after returning from a trip to New York. Since I was the only one home for that particular Shabbos, I set a table for him on the mirpeset right off our dining room for the meals. That way we could eat alone together, an oxymoron if I ever heard one. For Shabbos Chanukah we had another variation. My son’s yeshiva is exceptionally careful about keeping their boys healthy. They take the restrictions of the Ministry of Health very seriously and are even more machmir (stringent) in certain ways. They keep the boys’ capsules totally separate from each other and only let boys leave the yeshiva for medical appointments and dates. But since our family had not all been together for Shabbos for an unusually long time (possibly since Pesach but we couldn’t even remember), the corona posek gave our son a heter to come home as long as he kept distance from all of us. So, we set him his own table for one in our dining room.
Then the vaccines arrived! “We are in the homestretch,” we were told. The light at the end of the tunnel was shining brightly. As a social worker I was able to get my vaccine immediately. The atmosphere at the vaccination station was almost celebratory. History was in the making! The staff was exhilarated. The doctors walked around introducing themselves. They were the men and women of the hour. The nurse wished me “b’sha’ah tova” before she injected me. After waiting the requisite time to make sure I didn’t have a negative reaction, I headed off to work with the relaxed feeling that I had turned the proverbial corner.
But no! Not so fast! My daughter received a call from her friend with whom she had met a few days earlier (outside only) telling her that she had just tested positive for corona. My daughter couldn’t believe it. She was back in quarantine for the third time. But who’s counting? She made her displeasure about this particular piece of news very clearly and very loudly. This was going to mess up her schedule big time. Again. A technician who happened to be working at our door at the time heard the commotion and immediately asked if everything was okay. Don’t think he was especially concerned that he would catch corona. Not at all. His overwhelming fear was that he might get a text message telling him to go into quarantine. He was wondering if he should put his phone in his car so that he wouldn’t be traced by the Israeli Shin Bet as being near a verified patient.
Someone from the Home Front Command dressed in a hazmat suit came to our home to give our daughter her test. Despite showing no symptoms whatsoever, a short time before shabbos my daughter received the unexpected results: positive! Oh no! We were thrown for a loop. We thought we were heading out of the tunnel but it seems we still have a bit more to travel until we reach the light at the end. My husband and I were back in quarantine as well. One son, who was trying to get in one more shabbos at home before the lockdown, was already on his way home and was expected to arrive at any minute. Since he already had corona, it was actually quite convenient having him around so he could take out our garbage and stock us up after shabbos with all that we would need for the following week. Another son needed to enter isolation for the fourth time, still not counting.
So, now we are at home, doing bidud together. My power walk has been replaced with stair climbing as I deliver individualized meals to all areas of the house. Another spaceman in a hazmat suit dropped by once again to give us tests. The police came by two nights in a row to check that we are all at home where we belong. My husband and I went out to greet the policewoman from our mirpeset and our son waved from the attic window.
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. With all our advances in the understanding and treatment of corona, and with the speedy development of the vaccine, we must not forget that Hashem is still in charge. This crisis will end exactly when He deems it the right time, and not a moment before. We are awaiting our test results and hoping for the best. B’ezrat Hashem.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.