Despite a widespread pandemic, Israel found a way to join togetherJuly 9, 2020 9:46am

July 08-- I live in Modiin, Israel and when the pandemic began spreading across Asia and Europe, Israel was one of the first countries to shut down all international travel. At the start, some countries were mad at Israel for canceling tourism and business travel, but I felt it was the right thing to do. And soon after, countries across the world began following suit. Although most of my vacation plans were canceled, I believed putting those around me and my own health first was more important.

When the virus first hit around March, Israel was in the midst of elections for prime minister and we didn't have a government. At the start, I was worried this would affect the way the virus was going to be handled. I was wrong. Because of the pandemic the two rival parties joined forces to form a special government.

Israel locked down pretty quickly. For a period of time we couldn't leave our homes at all except to go to the pharmacy or the grocery store. And the city I live in was ranked the number one city when it came to following the lockdown rules. I stayed inside my house with just my parents and brothers for company for over two months and never left. It was hard on everyone, but I felt like I learned a lot about myself and my abilities.

Usually I'm a very social person. During our isolation period, I noticed that I am able to entertain myself for a very long time without having to interact with other people. Being a naturally curious person, I used the opportunity to practice Korean. Since I was home and during the first few weeks I had no online school, I had more time to focus on art, books, and writing.

After a couple of weeks, my school decided to teach us using Zoom and Google classroom. For me it was really hard. I had a lot of trouble staying focused and understanding what the teacher was saying at all times. Since everyone was at home and using the internet at the same time sometimes, the connection got really bad. And since it was a new situation for the teachers and the students, some of the teachers had trouble figuring out the best way to teach students from afar.

The weirdest part in this whole thing for me was the holidays. Every year on Passover, which fell on April 8, my whole family gathers together to celebrate. My aunt cooks a big meal and we all go to her house. We sing together, talk and eat. Since the country was on lockdown my family and I had to celebrate it through Zoom and it didn't feel right to me. It was hard to sing together because through Zoom it's difficult to hear everyone. In fact, we discovered that Zoom actually mutes people if someone else is talking-or in our case singing-which makes group singing impossible.

Yet the pandemic brought out the best in people. Israel is a tiny country, with fewer than 9 million people, and roughly the size of New Jersey. So sometimes it feels like a huge family instead of strangers, with everybody chipping in to help one another.

For example, teenagers all across the country came together to help the elderly. Since the elderly are most at risk, teens took it upon themselves to help out. Instead of grandparents and parents taking care of us, we took care of them. There were numerous teens in various cities who organized deliveries of food, medicine and anything else elderly people needed and delivered them with the help of other teens. My dad and I helped deliver some packages to the elderly of our city. As a teenager, I felt that I had to keep myself safe so I won't pass the virus on to my grandparents because for them it's deadly. Usually I would visit my grandparents every week but during most of the pandemic I haven't been visiting them at all.

When schools reopened in May, things went back to how they were before. There were originally plans to go to school on rotating days so we could social distance and minimize the spread of the virus. But it was quickly determined that this was not possible because most classes consist of 35-40 students so if they divided the classes there wouldn't be enough teachers and if we all come to class there is no way to social distance. So when I went to school, the only difference I saw was that everyone was wearing a mask.

Overall, I think that the pandemic was handled well and we all learned something from it, whether it's something about ourselves or our country. And it gave me an opportunity to help in my community and witness people coming together for good causes. I hope that these acts of kindness in the community will continue even after the pandemic is over.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Gavrielle Altman is an iGeneration Youth reporter living in Modiin, Israel. Read more stories at igenerationyouth.com.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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