A peek behind the curtain

With the spread of coronavirus inducing worldwide panic, the public is starved for information more than ever; ‘Post’ editors reveal how they’re providing this essential service.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Reaching 60 and breaking the shackles of oppression


As editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report, I was told by management that my job as a journalist was a vital one, and I should keep coming into work as long as I could, because we have at least 60,000 subscribers and many more readers on the JPost.com website who rely on reading the magazine every two weeks.

So, after purchasing hand sanitizer, gloves and getting a mask made by a friend’s mother, I drove into work every day. Then, on March 25, the government ordered a lockdown, and warned that people over the age of 60 should stay home as much as possible. Well, I checked the date, and realized that I had almost a month’s grace, because on April 23, 2020, I turn 60.

My wish for my birthday is that it’s all over by then, not for me but for the whole country and the whole world. But as my late mother, Roseve, once wished me on my 21st birthday, “May all your dreams come true, and if they don’t, may you learn to cope with that too.”
As a journalist, I have always believed in putting a positive spin on a story. Yes, I know this virus is potentially lethal, and it has tragically killed wonderful people. But it is also a common enemy that has brought humanity together and taught us to really appreciate the things in life – and people – we might have taken for granted. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this disease it’s that the more you show compassion and reach out to others, even if it’s just a phone call, the better you feel about yourself.
A fake letter published in the name of Microsoft founder Bill Gates contained a wise line. The virus “is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression,” it said.
As the Jewish people prepares to celebrate its freedom from slavery in Egypt – the festival of Passover – in the time of coronavirus, this is the time to remind ourselves that, as the late Israeli singer Meir Ariel sang, “we survived Pharaoh, and we’ll survive this too.“
The writer is editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report  


Family and Passover in the time of corona


One of the reasons my wife and I decided to have four children was the hope that, come holiday times, the house would be chock-full of family – not only our kids, but in time their spouses and eventually grandchildren.

Making aliyah on our own, we were taking out an insurance policy that we wouldn't be lacking in company, but would have an occupied house and a full dinner table.

And it came to pass. All of it – even the spouses and a granddaughter.

We’ve always tried to be together for Passover Seder, and have generally succeeded, barring a child’s army service absences or obligations at the in-laws. Additionally, we’ve hosted longtime friends and families, singles, Chinese journalists and African refugees. The Seder table has been lively and joyous.

All that is changing due to the coronavirus lockdown. We’re all separated; some, like a daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, only by two kilometers. A son in Tel Aviv prefers not to put his “elderly” parents in danger by coming home.

Another son is being inducted into the army early April, and between basic training and corona regulations, it’s unlikely we’ll see him home for the Seder.

That leaves one daughter and a dog home with us on Seder night. Keeping the evening joyous and lively will be the big challenge of Passover 2020. Sure, we’ll bring the laptop out and try to do a Zoom or Skype joint Seder from our various points in the country. But it’s not going to be the same.

That’s why we’ll give Elijah some company and pour some more cups for all those who can’t be with us. And that’s why, at the end of the Seder, we’ll vary the closing declaration and shout out “Next year in our house together!”

The writer is managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and likes his wife’s haroset more than anything.


Celebrating with absent friends and relatives


We all know the answer to the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and yet every year we ask it. That’s what tradition is about. This year, however, the response will be like none before: corona – a deadly pandemic that is changing everything about the way we live, pray, work and celebrate.

Gathering with family and friends, out; social isolation, in. It goes against everything we have been taught and against our very instinct and nature, but if it can save lives, we do it. And you can be sure that we will wash our hands before the meal.
Even if my household is reduced to a mother-and-son family Seder, we intend to go by the book: the Haggadah. We can argue about the math of the plagues, the tunes of the songs, the meaning of the words. We can discuss the significance of the Four Sons, even with only one son at the table.
I can pass on family lore – the time that this or that happened, stories that grow larger every year. You’ll never believe how hot the horseradish has become in my memory, or how long it took to realize my uncle was tricking my mum into serving ever more portions. And every year someone will say: “Eggs in salt water never taste the same any other time of the year.” I guess this year I’ll be that “someone,” and my son can give me the standard response: “But we never eat it any other time of the year!”
When it comes to opening the door to Elijah, I will recall the stories of my grandmother, who died when I was too young to remember her. Family legend has it that she hated that part of the evening. She was conditioned by her childhood memories to be afraid that Cossacks might come in and commit a pogrom. This year, there will be those scared of opening the door and letting in an invisible virus instead of the prophet. Indeed, every generation has faced threats and ultimately been saved.
The family stories that are passed down through the years bring us together even when we’re apart. These shared memories allow beloved relatives – even those long departed – to join in the celebration. In that sense, this year will be no different. Those who can’t physically be with us will be together with us in spirit.
The story of this year’s Seder will be recalled for years to come. We will tell it to our children, and they will tell it to theirs. Next year, in a Jerusalem rebuilt, we will look back in wonder and remember the Exodus, the 10 Plagues – and the coronavirus epidemic. It is no fun now, but it will make an epic family legend.

The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post. [email protected]


Thinking of you


Suddenly we find ourselves thrust into a dystopian near-hellscape even Stephen King couldn't have dreamed up. Our world looks the same, the almond trees are blossoming and the birds are singing, but it's eerily quiet and the next minute could turn everything upside-down again.  

In Israel we're used to being a country apart and having different rules apply to us. But nothing could have given us the bandwidth for this. If you told me less than a month ago I'd be putting out two supplements on a weekly basis given these new pressures, I'd have... I don't know. Certainly not believed it.

But yes. It is true. Every morning, for a split second I wake up and forget. Then I spring into action: Time to fortify myself with healthy food I was lucky enough to purchase at a supermarket yesterday. Time to decide if I'll walk the kilometers into work - yes, I'm still going to the office, blessed routine and fresh air! - or take my chances on the bus and light rail, exchanging stares with the other aliens brave enough to risk it. And when I sit behind my desk, time to forget my own fears of everything imploding, and remember the people at home.

I ask myself: What do they want to read? Do they want comfort, reassurance, practical suggestions, humor, searing introspection, to forget? All of the above, I think. And then I put my head down and try to pull those threads together, stopping every so often to yell out in frustration, stress eat or laugh at some impossibly creative meme.

I'm grateful to have a purpose, to writers for taking inspiration and producing like never before. When I feel the printed Magazine in my hands, I'm thankful it's somehow come together for another week, and picture you at your kitchen table, hopefully feeling seen.

And Passover? I've been living in the moment, something that doesn't usually come naturally for me. I'll manage. I'm doing it on my own this year and I'll make it happen, somehow. In years to come, I'll recline at a decidedly more standard seder and be ever-so-grateful - for the return to normalcy, but also for the resilience this insane period has ingrained in all of us.

The writer is the editor of the Magazine and In Jerusalem. [email protected]