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Coronavirus has affected Israel just like many other countries around the world. We pray that the 14 day quarantine for travelers ends soon, so Jews around the world can get back to eating decent shawarma.
This has of course been devastating for the Israeli tourism industry. But we Jews must always look for an opportunity to see the good in difficult times. We must see the positive. We must always see the blue and white lining. So here is what Israel is like without tourists:
People Are Starting to Speak Hebrew
I saw no tourists and witnessed something of amazement. People were speaking Hebrew. Hebrew was the main spoken language in the country. even in Jerusalem.
Store owners are so relieved to have a break from trying to speak English. And I am relieved to finally understand what they are saying. It made no sense in English.
Nobody in the shuk said 'My friend,' or 'My friends' when only talking to me. One proprietor finally spoke to me in Hebrew. He said, 'You're not getting a good deal. I am ripping you off.' I was relieved not to hear his regular English, 'I give you deal. My friends.' This was the first time I returned to the US at peace with how much I spent at the shuk.
Falafel Shops Are Finally Charging the Correct Price of Twelve Shekel
Falafel is not being sold at 40 shekels anymore. The shuk shopkeepers are even showing prices on their products. They’re not making up prices depending on your accent.
Note to Tourists: Due to the coronavirus, the falafel shops are finally clean and the tourists are missing this. The pita loader guys are cleaning their hands after they cough. Coughing in the air with no mouth covering, and sneezing openly, is still happening. I don’t believe we will ever be able to stop that in Israel.
I feel bad for the tourists who are missing this new clean falafel. We might be coming on a new age falafel service prototype. If the tourists saw this no coughing into the falafel and weren’t served after the falafel guy sneezed into his hand, tourist falafel sales would go up. I hope it continues when the tourists are back.
People Thought Israel Was Attack
When we saw no tourists, we thought there was a war. But then we saw CNN and BBC weren't blaming us.
We were happy to find out Israel was not under attack and the lack of tourists had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. If they find a way to blame the Jews for being the first contract the virus in China, we're in trouble. I don't know how they will do that, but they will find a way. A Jew might have visited Wuhan over the past forty years.
Every City Feels Like Beer Sheva
I love Beer Sheva. It’s so quiet. It’s like Israel’s suburbia. Now every city in Israel feels like Beer Sheva.
I hope I did my part just now, and more people will move down south. Helping Nefesh B’Nefesh along.
Cab Drivers Are Not Beeping
Beeping has been cut in half, as cab drivers have less people to initiate fares with.
Some people are still beeping. The lack of tourists can’t account for you getting cut off inline at the supermarket and lack of sleep because it was hard to figure out where the thermostat should be at. Honking at people still helps with those fights.
There has to be a bit of leeway on the beeping. We need someplace to get out our anger. That’s why people are still driving,
Some People Are Less Friendly
We're being encouraged not to shake hands. But some people in Israel are taking it a little farther. They see someone they know approaching them and they run to the other side of the street. The belief is that anybody walking has the virus. Otherwise, they would be taking the bus.
Once the tourists come back, I’m hoping the service people at the bodega near me will start saying “shalom” again. People have become suspicious of each other as if smiling will help us contract the disease. I wouldn’t mind being called “my friends” again by somebody who doesn’t know me. I miss it.
Not as Much Pushing
That's a positive in the more crowded areas. With nobody at the Kotel, I wasn't bumped by people trying to catch Barchu. At the Makolet, I had space inline. At the falafel shop, people weren't standing right on me. People aren't cutting me. They’re finally giving me space inline. I still got cut off at the supermarket. Distance doesn't happen there, as the virus never hit supermarkets.
They're very conscious of distancing. At the protest, where they try to cause traffic and make people late, the people laying on the sidewalk and the street moved out of the way so that others could pass at a safe distance.
After all of this is over, I'm going to let everybody know I am sick. Wherever I go, I'm going to say 'I think I have a cold.' I don't know what buses are like right now, but I have missed out on getting my own seat too many times.
The Really Friendly People Are Fist Pounding
Israel has turned into a cool country. Even cooler, they’re elbow bumping. That’s the new cool way to say “shalom.” The elbow bump is sweet. I wish the tourists would be in on this and see this new way Israelis are greeting each other. The Holy Land would get an amazing reputation.
Security Is Better Than Ever
This is the safest time to be in Israel. Mass quarantine helps with security.
Airport security has time to focus on the traveler right now. They’re checking every item in those bags. I’ve got to be honest. I never trusted airport security in the first place. Asking me if I’m smuggling stuff from America. They should know I’m smuggling stuff into Israel when I leave Israel with two empty suitcases.
Does security think I'm starting a luggage business in the US when I visit family?! I'm starting an electronics and cheap denim business in Israel when I get back.
Creating A New Business Model of Tourism
Being the savvy business people we are, Israelis still made money. We started running virtual tours, where you pay for a tour and don't go on it.
Now, people are touring Israel from America, not coming to Israel, and paying. You can do a tour of the Kotel and not be there. You go to Eilat, virtually, and not get a sunburn. You go to your bathtub and save on the flight. Put salt in the bathtub, lay on your back. If your tub is not very deep, you're floating. If you feel a bit of a burn, you get the full Dead Sea Experience.Some tourists came even though they will be locked up for 14 days after arrival. They didn't want to miss the hotel experience. It’s the future of tourism. You still get to eat the huge Israeli hotel breakfast. Then you get two more buffets, daily. And there is no possible way of taking off any weight. You leave Israel with a tour and fifteen pounds of tourism on you.
I always wondered why half the Kotel tunnel tour was me sitting at a computer screen near the tunnels. They were forward thinkers.
Finally Visiting Cousins
Some tourists who already planned their trip and don’t have the money, now have to let the family know they’re in the country. They’ve got no choice -- they have to stay at cousin Shmulik for two weeks. That’s the vacation. Cousin Shmulik and Israeli TV. Until they needed a place to stay, cousin Shmulik didn't even know them.
You visit and now cousin Shmulik and his family are bonding with you, because they’re now quarantined by your visit too.
Much of The Country Are More Packed Than Ever
Much of Israel is more packed than ever. I didn’t realize how much Israelis vacation. When we talk about tourism, we’re talking about Israeli flights to Hungary. That’s the main Israeli tourist market. Budapest is the one that is hurting from the Israel quarantine.
It's not that bad. Israel is a country with so much character when tourists aren't around. The tourists should merit to see this.
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I was going to do Kaparos before Yom Kippur, but I chickened out.
You get it? Kaparos is the tradition of placing your sins on something else, the day before Yom Kippur, traditionally a chicken, and waiving it. He chickened out of the chicken. He might've done it with money in the end. But that would still be without a chicken.
Designated stroller parking area. Something every shul needs, so I can get through the entrance on Yom Kippur... Truth is they should have stroller parking all the time. The entrance is always blocked.
Problem: Merv and Bernie will end up parking there. They already take the disabled parking spots and walk just fine. When it comes to parking, every member of our congregation is disabled.
Side Note: Figured out why so many kids come to shul on Yom Kippur. Because they get to eat in shul on Yom Kippur.