Encountering Peace: Quarantine pastimes

We all have “projects” that we have avoided doing for years. Well this is the perfect opportunity to finally get them done.

Jerusalem residents enjoy the holiday of Purim while wearing costumes that poke fun at the coronavirus pandemic, pretending to bury the virus (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem residents enjoy the holiday of Purim while wearing costumes that poke fun at the coronavirus pandemic, pretending to bury the virus
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Like more than 100,000 other Israelis, I am in quarantine. I returned from France where I was visiting my daughter and my granddaughter. I debated whether or not I should travel to begin with mainly out of fear that it would be difficult to find a flight back home. After only two days there I booked an early flight on the same airline I flew with – Ryanair.
Just after I booked the return I heard on KAN Bet radio that Ryanair was canceling all of its flights to Israel. As a backup I book a return flight on El Al, only to be informed one hour later that El Al had canceled its flight. Ryanair did not cancel the flight, but it did take off late. On a plane with more than 250 seats, there were 11 passengers flying from Marseille to Israel.
I usually take the bus from the airport to Jerusalem, but having to go into quarantine, my wife and son picked me up. I sat in the backseat (which I have never done before in my own car) and kept the windows open. My house in Jerusalem has two floors and luckily my middle son moved out last week to a place of his own with his girlfriend so our lower floor (consisting of his room, my workroom and our safe room) was completely available for me to be alone without endangering the rest of the family from this mysterious virus. Now the question facing me is what to do during the next 14 days. I decided that I had to face this forced isolation as an opportunity and not as a punishment.
We all have “projects” that we have avoided doing for years. Well this is the perfect opportunity to finally get them done. I have about a thousand books in my house. They have been shelved more or less randomly, as I bought and read them.
Project No. 1: Organize my library. This is definitely something that I have avoided. Well we can check that one off the list. I can finally now find a book when I want to – classified into peacemaking, Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israeli society, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Israeli-Arab conflict and history, conflict and conflict resolution in other conflict areas of the world, literature, Arabic language, etc. I also removed about 200 books to place in one of the free open books stands around Jerusalem and my son took them there.

Project No. 2:
the safe room – like everyone else who does not live next to Gaza, our safe room has become the ‘junkiada’ for everyone and everything in the house. We had stored there a few hundred cassette music tapes (remember them?), more than a thousand slides, Purim costumes from years gone by, dead basketballs and volleyballs, the kids’ artwork from kindergarten and elementary school – you get the picture. Now you can actually get inside the place, have a place to sit, if, God forbid, we needed to and no more dust.
Project No. 3: The piano! I took piano lessons from First grade until the end of high school. I have not sat down to play the piano in about 40 years. I don’t even think I can remember how to read the notes. I know that I will have to practice the basics – scales and boring exercises. Well, today I started and even though muscles in my hands and arms that I haven’t used for years hurt even after 30 minutes of playing – this is a real opportunity to revisit a skill that I at one time had and one that my parents paid probably thousands of dollars to encourage and develop.
Tomorrow I will look at the slides to see if they are worth investing the money to scan them. Most of them are from my Young Judea Year Course in Israel in 1974-1975. It will be really interesting to see Israel from that time through the camera lens of an 18-year-old Zionist-enthusiast planning to make aliyah. Today I found about a dozen companies around the country that digitize slides and old movies. I found four reels of old Super 8 movies that I took in Israel in 1969 during my bar mitzvah trip. That will also be really interesting to see.
Our course I also have the regular reading with a pile of books waiting for me. And Netflix series, which I watch every morning while I do my 6-7 km. on the treadmill – which I do corona or no corona. And of course, the normal Facebook, Twitter and emails – but with all of the corona focus news, there is a kind of relief from the lessening of news of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My Palestinians friends and colleagues are also facing the dangers of corona. The borders and checkpoints between us certainly don’t prevent the virus from hitting all of us and it is actually quite comforting to know that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are actually cooperating and instituting common policies to contain and hopefully prevent this virus from spreading.
Despite the horrible impacts of the virus and the illness and deaths we see and will see, and the dreadful impact on our economy and that of the whole world, let’s make the best of this time to face those things we have wanted to do for years but have never gotten around to doing them.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.