I think for most people around the world, the past week has involved casting off life as we know it and trying to adjust to a new normal. Here in Jerusalem it has been a phased approach. All schools have now been closed for over a week with parents expected to home school their kids for the foreseeable future. Based on my contact with other parents, I think it’s fair to say that emotions have ranged from initial enthusiasm, quickly moving on to panic, peppered with repeated bouts of frustration, sliding into downright horror and then climbing back to a tepid feeling of reluctant acceptance.
By Day 2 we already needed human contact and had a lovely day out in a forest with two other families. By Wednesday, new restrictions had rendered socialising with others forbidden and the net closed in that little bit more. Now my husband jostled for space at the kitchen table alongside us as he attempted to work from home.
Suddenly any excuse to leave the house became a luxury. On day 4 we competed to take the bin out and exercising outside was suddenly embraced with a new vigour despite the torrential rain. There was definite joy in chasing the kids around in the rain and a feeling of a return to simpler pleasures. The other plus was that the dreaded morning alarm clock went out the window and we all felt better for it.
Looking back, this has the cliched feel of the Craig David song, but the week ended with us getting drunk on Saturday and chilling on Sunday. True story. There was a giddiness to our Saturday night that we’ve not felt in a long time. It may have been a mild hysteria.
We continue to be very lucky and if last week felt hard, I know it will only get tougher. Bethlehem has already been in full lock down for 18 days and conditions are much harsher there.
Michael who lives in Beit Jala told me that although the measures are strict there is a feeling that it is the right approach and most people are sticking to the rules. He says ‘I think people are afraid. I am. I have children and old parents that are vulnerable’. Michael lives with his wife and four teenage children and says that ‘at home, things are difficult especially with four kids who are very different and have lots of questions’. Every day he has to support each of them with their schoolwork whilst trying to finish his own work priorities, helping with cooking and cleaning and going out for essential supplies.
He says, ‘I go out to buy food and supplies while taking all the precautions and keeping distance, and even washing the money with alcohol to reduce the risks’. Like others, Michael hopes this situation will end soon.
Along the road in Aida Refugee camp, residents have worked hard since the first case was reported to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus. My friend there tells me that this seems to have worked well so far but they are nervous about the future. Medical resources were already limited due to UNRWA funding cuts over the past year and the situation is not easy.
As cases start to ramp up more quickly in Israel, further restrictive measures are expected to be announced soon. For now, we will take each day as it comes and look for small moments of hope or joy where we find them. Virtual support networks have sprung up everywhere. Our kids have shared bedtime stories with their classmates over Zoom. The internet is awash with funny memes of how different countries are responding and an almost wartime spirit of resilience has taken root. For us, the loss of our freedom is hard to swallow. For many Palestinians it has been the backdrop to their whole lives.
What changes have the past few weeks meant for you? What have been the good and the bad consequences of this? Please share your experiences!