Letters to the Magazine: Readers respond to coronavirus crisis

Readers of the magazine have their say.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman crosses a street with her children in Bnei Brak, a town badly affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and which Israel declared a "restricted zone" due to its high rate of infections, near Tel Aviv, Israel April 5, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman crosses a street with her children in Bnei Brak, a town badly affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and which Israel declared a "restricted zone" due to its high rate of infections, near Tel Aviv, Israel April 5, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Appropriate behavior in crazy times...
During the current coronavirus pandemic, we are facing a novel paradox. Behavior that was appropriate in the past, and even praiseworthy, is now viewed as wrong, dangerous, forbidden, perhaps even criminal and life-threatening to ourselves and others.
This is difficult to comprehend, internalize and implement.
We are told: Follow the rules. Keep your distance. Stay at home.
However, by nature we are social beings. Our instinct and past experience tells us to reach out to others, to hug our grandchildren, to help those in need. Those are all appropriate, admirable, commendable actions. Or at least they used to be.
I am in a quandary. I am tempted to break the rules, but I am afraid. The ubiquitous virus is invisible, yet potentially lethal. By trying to act in a way that was appropriate in the past, by trying to help others, will I actually be causing them harm?
I don’t know.
I try to find safe ways to circumvent the dire restrictions.
I sit outside with my elderly neighbor who lives alone – more than two meters apart. She is my knitting mentor and I bring her the baby blanket I am working on to fix. I tried to start the new velvety-soft ball of yarn on my own according to her instructions but messed up. I left it for a few days and cleaned my hands with alco-gel before picking up the knitting bag and visiting her. We sit in her yard as the sun struggles to break through the armor of grey clouds. It feels good to see her in person and talk to each other.
My daughter who lives nearby brings the grandchildren to visit, two at a time. She parks in front of my house and they stay in the car. I stand above them in the front yard, imprisoned behind the bars of the brown wood fence. We pantomime hugs and air kisses. I throw a bag of arts and crafts materials I found in the closet to them. I miss them a lot. It feels wonderful to see them in person.
I find another excuse to get out of the house. I volunteer to deliver medicine for our local pharmacy with my sister. She drives and I sit in the back, with the windows open. We wear masks and gloves. She follows Waze to find the address and I fill out the form for each delivery. We leave the bags by the door and wave from a distance when they open the door. This, too, feels good.
I have an idea. The food industry continues to function and there are many options to order takeout food for the holiday. If they can do it, I can do it.
Since I over-shopped for just myself and my husband, I can overcook for the two of us and share my favorite Passover foods with my neighbors and relatives. Perhaps that is a permissible way to deal with the dilemma. I know it will definitely feel good.
My little coronavirus Garden of Eden paradise
You probably haven’t heard that I recently turned 80. I don’t think it was announced on the radio but it’s a fact of life. But I want to let you know that here in Jerusalem, safely locked up due to my age, all by myself and thankfully coronavirus-free, quite unexpectedly I feel like I’m in a kind of Garden of Eden or paradise.
Yesterday they brought me a parcel with two excellent meals to heat up and eat up and promised me three more to expect this week, and this evening Tzvia, my excellent social worker, phoned to check up if I was okay or needed anything, and not to go out, not even to the pharmacist for my medicines, and she also told me that the wonderful welfare fund the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, was prepared to make a donation for some much needed dental work.
Then another dear friend earlier today arrived with big packs of matzot and other Passover goodies to enliven my lonesome Seder table. And as if this was not sufficient for the beginning of the week, a kind friend phoned to ask how I was managing and told me I should come and collect an envelope with money to help me to cover expenses over the holiday. And then, all of a sudden, the next day, and quite unexpectedly, a youthful masked volunteer from a Chabad welfare agency deposited two very heavy boxes filled to the brim with Passover delicacies and fruit and vegetables, as if to make doubly certain that this particular Passover I should not starve or bemoan my coronavirus-enforced loneliness.
But how on earth could I possibly feel lonely in my old age with such amazing evidence of friendship and care? Who knows where it will end, I wonder, as I strive manfully to clean and clear my tiny Kiryat Moshe apartment
But, as I review the events of the past two days and look forward to the unknown of the rest of the week, I’m beginning to feel as if here in Israel in the midst of the fearful pandemic, I am the object of so much genuine care and generosity that I must surely be in some Garden of Eden or at least some heavenly Jewish paradise.
All I can say, my dears, is lucky me! And I sincerely hope that many of my contemporaries are feeling the same way in our Holy Land and experiencing similar manifestations of love and care for Israel’s lonely elderly.