COVID-19 Diaries: Jerusalem Apartment Life While Working and Worrying About My Children


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JERUSALEM - I'm used to working at home - it's one of the things I like best about being a freelancer.

I'm able to continue working, but my favorite part of journalism has always been the reporting part - getting out to interview Israelis and Palestinians throughout Israel and the West Bank - and I am really missing that part now.

I was supposed to travel to the U.S. to give two lectures last week - one at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and one at the College of Charleston. I was planning to see my sister and several close friends, and spend a few days in Manhattan.

That trip, of course, was canceled. Here in Israel, we are allowed out only to buy food or for medical care, and for short exercise walks. I've been walking with my friend Robin, and if one of us gets coronavirus, the other probably will too, but it's nice to have company while I walk.

My husband has been working at home for the past two weeks as well. He is a marketing writer for Mobileye, an Israeli company owned by Intel. He works at the dining room table, and I work upstairs in my home office.

I do feel I've been more distracted than usual. That's partly because we are five people living in a Jerusalem apartment. Our apartment is actually large by Jerusalem standards, but it is starting to feel smaller and smaller. I am also amazed at the amount of food we are going through, with five of us eating three meals a day at home.

One of the five is a 19-year-old confirmed carnivore who requires large amounts of steak to stay healthy (or so he says). I have three out of four children living at home, and one in the US.

My oldest, and only daughter Rafaella, just finished 4-½ years of pharmacy school, and is supposed to start her 6-month internship as an assistant pharmacist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

She has to pass a series of medical tests, which she's doing now. She could probably push off her start date until the pandemic ends, but there is a shortage of pharmacists and she is determined to do what she can to help. She says that when she begins working, she will "self-isolate" from the rest of the family.

My next son, Uriel, is 23 and has been living in Hawaii on Kauai since August and selling Israeli cosmetics. He was supposed to visit home for Passover. We had a plan that on the way home from the airport we would stop at his favorite restaurant in Jerusalem for grilled meat and salads. As of now he has decided to ride it out in Hawaii, but we are all disappointed.

We also had a big trip to Hawaii planned for this summer to visit the Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai. We haven't given up hope yet, but we're not sure it's going to happen.

My next son, Netanel, is 19 and is due to be drafted to a combat unit on Sunday. Draft day is a big deal in Israel, with the extended family accompanying the young man or woman to a central location. The mothers always cry, the fathers smile bravely, and the siblings look bored.

This time, we are only allowed to drop them off at the induction area, without going further. It seems that once he goes in, he won't be able to leave the army for several weeks, meaning he won't be with us for Passover either.

My youngest son, Mishael, 16, still has some online learning, but it is just one or two classes a day. While all grades started online learning, the Ministry of Education at first said it would only pay high school teachers, so learning in the lower grades stopped. However after pressure from the parents, it began again, and became even more important as the government now says it doubts that schools will reopen this year.

So far, Mishael has spent a lot of time playing video games online with his friends, but that will probably eventually get boring as well.

One upside of all this time at home is that I've become interested in cooking for the first time. My husband was always the family chef, and he is an amazing cook. Two of my kids also enjoy cooking. I am a foodie and write restaurant reviews for the Jerusalem Post but until now my food knowledge was limited to consuming it.

Maybe it's a way of establishing some feeling of control, but I'm enjoying trying new recipes. Last night it was a coconut curry soup with ersatz shrimp as shrimp are not kosher. This afternoon I made kubbe soup, an Iraqi tomato-based soup with meat-filled dumplings, although I did use frozen dumplings.

For me, the hardest part is not knowing how long it will last. I think I could manage almost anything if I knew there was a finite end. I follow the news about the pandemic closely, and at least so far, there is little good news to report.