Coronavirus creates a New Normal in Israel

We knew a big announcement was coming.

Last night the Israeli Prime Minister made an announcement to close all non essential businesses in Israel. The countrywide broadcast was all in Hebrew, so we had to rely on friends and check online to know exactly what was happening in our new adopted country. Basically, all stores, malls, restaurants, businesses and sports events would not be allowed to open or play here. Grocery stores, banks and pharmacies would remain open. This is unchartered territory for us and everyone here.  

Schools were closed a few days ago except for kindergartens, pre schools and boarding schools. That also changed last night as the younger kids were also required to stay home now. Josh attends a boarding school and the answer about his education was still a question. We were told by email the school was asking the government to remain open. A big reason – they are on an isolated campus, and many of the international students  can not get home now.  Most flights have been suspended.  The school told parents weeks ago to not make arrangements for their kids to go home over the 2 week Passover break, fearing they would not be allowed back into the country with the coronavirus outbreak. Now they are stranded here.

We found out today the school will be allowed to remain open, but under strict conditions the students can not leave campus. That means Josh would not be allowed to come home on weekends as he had been doing. We were lucky he was home this past weekend, but dropped him off last night figuring he would not be returning for a while. He was told they will continue with online classes from the school.  We are happy he will be among the few students in the world with his school still open. The classes will be online and some face-to-face interaction with the teachers and counselors that also live on campus.

Even with the restrictions put forward last night, many people still had a lot of questions about what would be open today. I went out this morning to find out.

My first stop was at a laundry business I had dropped off sheets a few days ago. This was before any restrictions were announced. I was hoping I could pick up the sheets so they were not stuck there for over a month or longer. I was happy the store was open when I arrived. I asked the owner when they would close for good and he told me they planned to remain open. He said they were considered a service business, so they could remain open.


My second stop was to the store where I purchased my electric bike. My charger was broken and I was hoping they could fix it so I could still get around the city using it. It was also open. The man at the shop told me they were also considered a service business and people need to fix their bikes to be able to get around. Many people use bikes and scooters instead of cars to commute in Tel Aviv.


We heard bus service would be limited or suspended, but I did see them on the streets today. Josh took the bus to get home from boarding school a few days ago and told me the driver’s area was protected in plastic, so you could not pay.


After getting my bike charger fixed, I noticed a cafe was open across the street. We eat breakfast at this cafe often and I was surprised it was open. They workers told me the restaurant was closed, but because they also sold bread, they would remain open until they were told to close. I bought a loaf of bread and some croissants to take to the kids.


Before I left, I saw a man making a big delivery of baking supplies to the cafe.


I also noticed the busy coffee stand we frequent was also open.  But, most of the other stores on the street were closed.


Jim went to the small store across from our apartment this morning to get some eggs. Reality is setting in we will now have to prepare EVERY meal. We have not seen the rush on grocery stores here that appears to be happening in America. He said the shelves were full and there is no mass buying. Perhaps that’s because this country has faced a lot of adversity and people do not panic. The Prime Minister said last night Israel was at war, but the enemy this time was coronavirus.  He told people they are prepared like any other war to battle it and there is no shortage of food. I remembered a trip to Haifa, Israel two Summers ago.  I was with an American Israeli who pointed out a huge building next to the sea. She told me it was where Israel had a massive storage of grains in the event they were isolated from the rest of the world for a long period of time. I remember thinking then how much this country really prepares for the worst case scenario. Most of the food is also grown and produced in country.  It’s something they have done knowing they are surrounded by enemies. It also makes us feel safe here as we face so many unknowns with coronavirus.


It happens to be a beautiful day, so I thought a run would be a good way practice social distancing while still getting in a workout. Gyms are also on the list of closed businesses. I saw many people along the way who seemed to be practicing the social distancing mandate, but still living their lives. Many families with kids, couples going for a walk, even a bunch of surfers in the water on this nice day. Perhaps that’s something new we can learn?


Jim’s office is open today but he says only about 20% of the people showed up.  The Prime Minister said key employees could work, but other  employees needed to work from home. Jim says people in his office are spread out with 2 in the office, people outside at tables and the large conference rooms are also open to accommodate social distancing.

The girls are enjoying the day and helping me set up the online classes and WhatsApp groups that will begin in a few days for school. This is our new normal…at least for now.


2 comments on “Coronavirus creates a New Normal in Israel

  1. Thanks for writing this! I also felt like things were kind of normal despite the announcement last night. Our bakery is open and the coffee shop is offering coffee to go through a take-out window. Even the ice cream shop is open, but no customers are allowed to sit inside. Of course I am exhausted after a day of “teaching” the kids. I felt like I had no time to myself all day.

Does this ring a bell? Have something to share?