Editor’s note: This column was accidentally omitted from last week’s paper. We apologize to the author and to her many fans.
Last week, Israel again entered a national lockdown, our third for those keeping score at home. So what does the third lockdown look like?
Confusion… utter confusion.
For example, you’re restricted from going more than one kilometer from your home. Unless you’re exercising – then you’re allowed to go as far as you like. However, you cannot drive beyond your one kilometer to exercise somewhere farther from your home.
You may drive, however, as far as you need to obtain an essential service or goods. Apparently that includes driving to another city to visit Osher Ad because it carries Kirkland paper towels and garbage bags. (If you have ever compared these items to their Israeli counterparts, you would certainly agree that they are necessary household goods.)
Businesses are all closed, unless they are essential stores. Despite the fact that my kids are growing at an extraordinary pace, baruch Hashem, shoe stores are not essential and are closed. Art supplies and toys on the other hand, seem to be more important, as our local toy stores are somehow deemed essential during this lockdown.
The school situation is perhaps the most confusing of all. Kitot heh through yud (5th through 10th grade) are allowed to have in-person classes if they are located in green or yellow cities as designated under Israel’s Ramzor (Traffic Light) system. (This system designates cities as red, orange, yellow, or green based on their Covid-19 morbidity levels.)
Oddly, whether a school is open is based on its previous week’s status, so on any given day, a school may be open in an orange city (which was yellow the previous week), but closed in a yellow city (which was orange the previous week).
Kids in younger grades and those in kitot yud alef and yud bet (11th and 12th grade) can continue to have in-person classes regardless of the city’s ramzor status. But even these classes can be suspended. Just two days into the lockdown, my son’s classmate learned that he had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. Although the classmate had no symptoms and promptly entered quarantine, the school suspended my son’s class and sent the students to richuk minyati (preventative distancing) pending the results of a coronavirus test on the boy.
While my son and his classmates were not allowed to report to class, they were otherwise free to go to parks and stores and even pick up siblings whose classes were continuing as usual. Makes total sense, right?
Despite the chaos, it’s clear that the government is committed to trying to keep us safe while allowing life to continue as much as possible. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the government’s Herculean effort to quickly vaccinate the country. Within just days of beginning the vaccine drive, Israel vaccinated hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, the elderly, and other medically vulnerable groups. Teachers, who have been our superstar front-line workers, also were prioritized so they could safely continue their important work.
But people quickly realized that there were often “leftover” defrosted shots available after all the scheduled vaccinations were completed. (From what I’ve heard, there can regularly be anywhere from tens to hundreds of these vaccines.) Healthcare systems sometimes call patients to see if they want to come in for an earlier appointment, but often they will give these shots to the public on a first-come-first-serve basis to ensure they aren’t wasted.
When I first received a message about such shots in our city from our shul’s WhatsApp group, I wasn’t sure it was real and sent my husband out to test the waters. Unbelievably, 15 minutes after he arrived, he walked out having received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. (There is even a great Facebook group that tracks reports of these extra doses throughout the country to help people find them and prevent shots from going to waste.)
A lot has changed since I wrote this article a week ago. Even as the vaccine drive continues to roll out efficiently across the country, coronavirus cases continue to rise, and cases of the mutated virus have begun to appear. In light of the current situation, the government decided to institute a strict lockdown, most similar to the one we experienced when we first arrived in Israel.
Police checkpoints have been set up at city entrances and along major roads to ensure that no one travels more than a kilometer from his or her home. Schools have returned to distance learning (although select childcare options remain open for essential workers). Even essential stores such as supermarkets are only allowed to operate subject to certain time restrictions and strict guidelines.
As I resume my gannenet and kita alef homeschooling responsibilities, I sneak peeks at Facebook in hopes of finding my chance for a “spare” vaccine. I dream again of a day when the kids can return to school, we can share a Shabbos with friends, and even – crazy as it may sound – we can go on a much-needed shoe shopping run.
Until then, we will continue to hunker down at home and pray that this lockdown is the final one for us all.