On Saturday we went for a walk. It wasn’t just any walk. It was the first walk in nearly 6 weeks where we were allowed to go further than 100 metres, and latterly, 500 metres, from our home for the purpose of exercise. We dared not take the car and set out on foot from home.
Israel has taken a tough stance in clamping down on corona virus and with only 230 recorded deaths across the country, this seems to be delivering results. Even more remarkable is the fact that Palestine has had only 2 recorded corona virus deaths to date.
The country was quick to grind to a halt and for hundreds of thousands of workers this has cut them off from their only means of earning a wage.
I have been ‘lucky’, in that for me staying at home has been a case of boredom, of a shrinking world, where the highlight of the day might be a trip to the skip for a chat with the cats.
During this time, I have looked on in envy at people isolating in the UK who have enjoyed the freedom to hike, bike and enjoy the countryside with far fewer restrictions. Being outdoors feels like an important ingredient in maintaining sanity and I was annoyed that we had been deprived this.
‘When did you last leave the house?’ I nervously asked my husband on Friday. ‘Ummm’, he didn’t know and I worriedly shooed him out for a loop of the neighbourhood. We badly needed to change things up and so the loosening restrictions on exercise had come just in the nick of time.
On Saturday morning we packed a rucksack as if setting off for a great expedition. We were not going anywhere we hadn’t been before, but it felt fresh and exciting. We walked slowly and stopped to admire the bits of nature we would normally pass by. ‘Will it take all day?’ my son asked. ‘We hope so’ we replied, feeling free from the usual time pressures and happy to be in the moment.
Setting off from our house, we quickly skirted down through the Israeli settlement and on to the track heading towards Wadi Al Joz. Apart from the fact that most people were wearing masks, normal life seemed to have resumed here, and it felt strange to be in the thick of that again. We quickly cut through the backstreets, filled with its many car garages and greengrocer shops, and on to the quiet track that lay beyond.
From this point on we were completely alone, and the landscape was transformed into an overgrown meadow. Sage old olive trees stood proud against the long grass with a bright peppering of wildflowers to admire. The sun shone brightly but was not yet uncomfortably hot. A gentle breeze blew and the birds trilled a happy soundtrack.
We were still little more than 2km from home but felt transported to another world. Even the three year old forgot to complain and walked contentedly along. Rounding the corner, the glint of gold revealed the roof of the Dome of the Rock. We were gaining a bit of height now as the path winded up towards the Mount of Olives. This gave a wonderful view over the Old City walls, to Lions Gate and the Al Aqsa compound behind.
Our horizons stretched again as we saw the city unfold before us. It felt like a secret retreat and a special moment. On another day it would have just been a walk. On that day it was a chance to breathe freely again.
Everyone I have spoken to this weekend is also awakening as if from a hibernation and starting to come out again. Some feel nervous being out in public. Others are delighted that some sense of normality is starting to return. For how long, we don’t know and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the next few months will hold. For now, I hope you can enjoy a slice of East Jerusalem living again!
How do you feel about the restrictions starting to lift? Are you excited or scared to be out in public again? What new experiences are you having? Please drop me a line and share your thoughts!