And now we stay in.
Remember how dramatic, even draconian, it seemed on January 31, when the interior minister barred foreign nationals recently in China from entering Israel?
And then how dramatic it seemed on February 16, when the Health Ministry required self-quarantine for Israelis returning from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau?
And then how unbelievable it seemed on March 9, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that anyone coming from abroad must self-quarantine.
Gradually, though by no means imperceptibly, we have been working up to the semi-lockdown the Health Ministry placed us all under on Tuesday. On March 5, gatherings of over 5,000 were banned. On March 11, that number dropped to 100, and then the number dropped even further to 10 on Saturday night.
And now the semi-lockdown. No stores, other than pharmacies and groceries, are open. No trips to the beach. No friends over for dinner. No visit to grandma’s house.
This feels like nothing we have ever experienced before. Even during the First Gulf War you could invite friends over, as long as they came with their gas masks. Not now. Now you are at home with whomever lives under your roof – and that’s it.
And what makes this crisis feel different than others when our movement was restricted – wars, periods of intense terrorism – is that this is not something uniquely Israeli.
During the various crises of recent memory that put a severe crimp on our daily lives – the First Gulf War, the Second Intifada, the Second Lebanon War – we felt alone. These were traumas to the home front that we uniquely experienced, crises that we uniquely weathered. Often we felt that we were badly misunderstood by the world, that it did not understand our fears and insecurities because it did not go through what we went through during those periods.
But this time it is different. We are not alone in facing the coronavirus crisis. It is not something happening only to us as Israelis or as Jews.
The entire world is in crisis mode, not just us. Much of the world is in lockdown, not just us. The economies throughout the world are tanking, not just ours. People all around the world are suffering from cabin fever, not just Israelis.
Netanyahu, in his near nightly addresses to the nation, likes to stroke our communal ego by saying Israel is ahead of the curve in fighting the virus, and that other countries, such as New Zealand, are looking at us as a model.
But one thing that stands out about this crisis is that Israel is not really any different from other countries in dealing with it. We have no silver bullet with which to slay this virus, nor are we suffering more than anyone else. We have much to learn from others, no less than they have what to learn from us.
Israelis like to perceive themselves as a people toughened by the many challenges that have beset the nation in the past. It makes us feel battle-tested, perhaps better able to weather devastating storms than others. We like to see ourselves as uncommonly unified in times of crisis.
But now we see that in Italy, people are joining in makeshift balcony sing-alongs. In France, there are acts of kindness being done for the elderly. In the US, communities are rallying together. Other countries are showing signs of the solidarity that we as Israelis like to feel we specialize in.
What we are going through right now, the rest of the world is also going through. What we are facing, the rest of the world is also facing. This time, we are not facing the enemy alone, neither as a nation nor as people. And in that there is definitely some solace.