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Quarantine Diary Day 10: More questions than answers

Z ack Dinerstein and Lisa Tauber, both 35, moved from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Tel Aviv a year ago for her job at Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services (he is a web developer and former podcast producer). Newlyweds, they recently went for a romantic getaway to Paris — only to find on their return that France had been added to Israel’s list of countries from which travelers must stay in isolation. Now, they are among 80,000 people confined to their homes, and they’re letting us follow along.

Day 10 – 10:15am (Lisa) | Chirp chirp

You know you’ve hit a new low when you want to tell the birds to shut up. I remember when we first moved into our apartment — on a small, quiet street near Rabin Square — I noticed the sounds of the birds. In fact, even then my urban sensitivity kicked in and I complained to Zack that the birds were “awfully chatty this morning.” Zack (from Utica, New York — a place I’d never heard of until we met) shook his head and laughed. “You sound like a Disney villain.”

That put me in place and for awhile I tried to appreciate the sounds of the birds waking up, alerting one another to new food sources, or mating readiness, or goods for nest building. I could be like the Disney princesses who were friends with the animals and found no better joy than waking up to chirping.

But at this point, I’m happy to be the most sinister Disney villain when I say, without shame, “Birds, please shut the hell up.” It feels like they are quite literally surrounding our entire apartment and are having some sort of Jets vs. Sharks group argument. Or maybe it’s families too lazy to just go into the other room to have a conversation — instead intent on yelling across their house. In this case, our apartment is their hallway.

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Now this experience has definitely made me more of a birder. I love seeing the green parrots every morning (and sadly, it turns out they’re the squawkiest perpetrators of them all!), I’ve noticed the beautiful Palestine Sunbird with its black body and iridescent blue head, and adorable sparrows that swoop by our porch.

While it’s a real delight to see such wonders take flight around me, the joyful chirping also feels so incongruous to the situation out in the world. I know it’s often said animals can sense natural disasters or changes in the environment before humans, but how about pandemics? Do the birds know about the fears, the hoarding, the self-quarantining happening around them?

In some ways, their chirping reminds me of a sense of normalcy that existed before we went into quarantine, and I expect I’ll be looking for other signs of continuity when we get out in a few (3!) days. But I’m not sure where I’ll find it. I’ve decided to avoid the gym, I imagine I’ll see many kids on the streets since schools have shuttered, and I’m hearing it’s all a matter of time before everyone will need to self-quarantine. While those out of quarantine have been experiencing these changes daily, we’ll experience this new normal all at once, and I’m trying to prepare myself for that.

Day 10 – 1pm (Zack)

We’ll be released in three days’ time. Though this is absolutely a reason to celebrate, there are still so many unanswered questions flowing through my head.

What’s the world like out there now? What will happen to the global economy, which has already started to freefall? Will navigating Israel’s health system be more difficult for us as foreigners?

And at the top my mind: What will happen to our families, who live on the other side of the Atlantic, who we probably won’t be seeing for months?

I’m not worried about myself getting sick, or even Lisa. We’re young and healthy and have the impervious confidence of people who are both young and healthy. But I am worried about certain family members and how, God forbid, if anything happened, it might be impossible for us to fly home to be with the people we love.

Israel is an island in many ways. Bordered on one side by water, and unfriendly-to-hostile countries on all others. There are times when I feel how compressed and separate from the rest of the world we are — like when an air-raid siren pierces the air and my mind spins through a rolodex of future scenarios.

Now is one of those times when I can feel the contours of this country. The gaps between it and the world. In some ways, that intimacy is comforting. Because they’ve often been forced to depend on themselves, Israelis come out en-masse for one another when times are tough. (As I type this sentence, our friend Eitan just called to see if we’d like homemade cookies delivered this afternoon. Since quarantine, similar kindnesses have rained upon us over and over again, an indicator of how the country bonds together in difficult stretches.)

But in most ways, the travel restrictions and self-quarantining world leaves me feeling like a raft in the middle of the ocean, subject to forces way bigger than me. Helpless to do much about them.

But you know what? To hell with those feelings. When I get out of here, I’m going to try to live my life as normally as possible. See our friends. Pay back those small kindnesses and deliver to people quarantined like us.

I’ll be dolling out fewer hugs and a lot more hand sanitizer, but I’m not going to let the unknown shape my life. Fear of this disease is just as destructive as corona. There’s not a whole lot I can do about what this virus affects, but I can control how I live my life in hard times. And that’s something.

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