​Life in quarantine: From the UK to a Dead Sea hotel

Some people may think it would be a nightmare to be single in the same room with no one to talk to. But that is not quite right.​

The view from the hotel (photo credit: PAUL CALVERT)
The view from the hotel
(photo credit: PAUL CALVERT)
​I looked outside my hotel window in early May and saw a cat walking around the grounds of the hotel. At that moment, the cat had more freedom than I because I was under two weeks of quarantine.​
I had just flown into Israel from London, and the Israeli government required everyone who entered the country to go into quarantine.​
In one way I was quite excited, but in another way I was not sure how I would cope with being in the same room for two weeks.​
It is something I had never done before; but if biblical characters like Joseph in the Old Testament and Paul and Silas in the New Testament can endure incarceration, then I was sure I could too.​
I am single, so I was all by myself in this hotel room.​
Everyone on the flight came through Ben-Gurion International Airport. We had our temperatures taken and then had to go through passport control. After that, we lined up to have our details taken.​
I thought I heard there were two places of quarantine, Eilat and the Dead Sea. I wasn’t given an option, but I was sent to a Dead Sea hotel, which is exactly where I wanted to go.​
We were taken to our bus, which drove us the 1 hour, 45 minute drive down to the Dead Sea.​ It’s always down to the Dead Sea as it is the lowest place on earth.​
Would this two weeks in the same room be my lowest point?​
Some people may think it would be a nightmare to be single in the same room with no one to talk to. But that is not quite right.​ I did have people to talk to.​ With the miracle of technology, everyone was right there at my finger tips.​
I was not alone. Technology through the pandemic has been a Godsend. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been stuck in a room without a computer and iPod.​ I had a TV in the room but it took me a while to work out how to put it on. After realizing there was a switch, it came on when I pressed the remote.​ But I couldn’t get any channels on it. Something came for a brief moment then went blank again, so I gave up.​
I had my laptop with a hard drive full of great British TV shows, including Inspector Morse and the Vicar of Dibley.​
Day One of my quarantine went quite quickly. I was surprised how quickly it went.​
I had decided to treat my two weeks as a sort of holiday and make the most of it.​
So I did some work and caught up on a few movies.​
The view from my room was amazing. It overlooked the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan. The salty sea was so blue and the sandy beach looked so clean and tidy.​
There was no one around. The odd car drove past and there were some lorries doing work on the beach but basically it was dead, just like the sea itself.​
Breakfast arrived at my door. I just needed to open it and realize it was there. Lunch didn’t arrive at lunch time so I though maybe we were only getting two meals a day. But there was so much for breakfast that it didn’t matter, so I ate my leftover breakfast. And then at 2.30 p.m., my lunch arrived on my doorstep.​
A little late to my liking, but I was really not complaining. I was just so happy that the government was paying for all of this. What a blessing when so many other countries were charging for quarantine. I ate my second lunch, beef or lamb (I’m not sure which) with vegetables and rice. Just after 6, my supper arrived. This time it was chicken. We were being treated like royalty!
I called up some friends and relatives via Skype and Facebook messenger.​ I called my boss who had been praying for me to be able to get back into Israel without any problems.​
I called my father and his girlfriend and told them about my adventure. I had traveled from Carlisle in the north of England down to London on a couple of trains going via Newcastle and getting into Kings’ Cross. Just outside the station, only a few yards away, was my hotel for the night where I could rest and sleep and be ready for my flight the next day.​
I flew on Wizz Air from Luton airport. I was in the line for check in and spoke to an Orthodox Jew. He was a rabbi working in India but had to go back to Israel for visa reasons. I took his business card because he would be a great person to interview in the future if it was possible in these strange conditions.​
The man from the airport shouted, “Tel Aviv” and “Israeli passport!” I replied “British passport.”​
“No you can’t fly,” he replied.​
“I can,” I said, feeling very worried. “I have a letter from the embassy.”​
I showed him the letter and he said, “No!” ​
I argued again. I said I had it on email. He told me, “Only Israelis are allowed to fly.”​
When I showed him my B-1 visa to work in Israel, however, he was happy and let me fly. He actually apologized in the end. He had me worried!​
I also called a blind lady I know in Bethlehem. She is called Sabha, which in Arabic means “Morning.” You will hear “Sabha Al-hir” in Arabic, which means “good morning.”​
Sabha got the measles when she was about two years old and went blind. She was put into Christian homes and basically forgotten about by her family.​
When I am in Israel, I visit her twice a week. She is over 70 years old. We talk, moan, complain, discuss the political situation and put the world to rights.​
We can spend an hour talking on messenger, so you see I was not alone. I have many friends with me: they live in my iPod.​
At 4 p.m. on my first day of quarantine, I joined “the older youth meeting” for Immanuel Church, Bethlehem on Zoom. This was the way we have been doing our meetings for the past few weeks. It is a great way to catch up with everybody and keep the meetings going.​
Elias led some songs, Fadi gave us a biblical encouragement and Billal provided a Bible quiz about women of the Bible.​
I love Bible quizzes because I know my Bible quite well so I get very competitive.​
After our youth meeting, dinner arrived: it was a delicious chicken dish. I watched two episodes of The Vicar of Dibley and the first episode of Inspector Morse, listened to my audio Bible and went to bed.​ What a busy day, considering I was in lockdown. ​
By the way, people chatted to me all the time. I posted on Facebook that I was in quarantine at the Dead Sea, so friends began messaging me and asking me questions. One lady was booked to fly to Canada and wanted to get out of her flight. My friend from church has a son who wanted to come back via Jordan and a friend from the Bible college told me he was in Dubai and wanted to return to undergo surgery.​ It seemed I had become an advice agency!
On Day 4 of my quarantine, I got up early and managed to film a wonderful sunrise. At night, I also photographed the powerful glow of the moon on the water over the mountains of Jordan. What an amazing sight!
By May 10, I had completed seven days of quarantine. It went quite fast, with a combination of work and movies it was  enjoyable. Then there was breaking news: Israel had decided to allow people arriving into the country to quarantine at home. That night I got a telephone call saying we could go home if of course we could fulfil all the requirements of self-quarantine. So the next day we left our hotel, and buses were provided to take us back to the airport. There were 12 people on my bus. At the front of the bus a temporary barrier had been built to separate us from the driver. And we arrived at Terminal 1, my friend and fellow Jerusalem Report journalist Brian Schrauger picked me up. Thank you, Brian; it was very kind of you!
What do I think about quarantine?​ It’s really how you look at it. You can be negative and down, which will get you nowhere, and you can pick at every little thing and blame the government – or you can be positive and upbeat. I am a positive person. I stayed at a wonderful hotel with an amazing view. The staff treated us well, and we got tasty food brought to our door. It didn’t cost us anything. I decided I was going to get the best out of this situation. It’s not what I wanted – being locked up in a room by myself – but I was going to use it to my advantage.​
Thank you, God; I am blessed!​
Paul Calvert is a Christian journalist who works in Israel and Bethlehem