Walking around Israel, you wouldn’t know that the coronavirus crisis is still raging in large parts of the world: restaurants are open, weddings are back, and tour groups are making their way to the Holy Land once more.
In honor of us opening to the world again, we thought to share with you a few words of wisdom on what to expect upon landing in post-Covid Israel. To be honest, quite a few things have changed around here. We’ll be focusing on the most fun and funny aspects, all while desperately hoping that this whole pandemic business is truly behind us.
1. Missed the sun? You’ll soon be begging to return indoors.
Months of lockdown and and/or working from home means that you probably haven’t enjoyed sunshine for quite some time. And while that may sound like absolute heaven to you, a short trip to this little corner of the Middle East will quickly dispel you of that notion.
Israel’s reopening is coinciding with its hottest season, in which temperatures in the shade rival those in Hell and the idea of stepping out of the AC is downright ridiculous. So yeah, you’re going to last exactly five minutes on the beach — unless it’s sunrise or sunset.
2. Safe distance? Israel is back to its mosh pit ways.
It’s no secret that Israelis have never been particularly good at standing in line or, for that matter, respecting personal space. So you can only imagine that this whole Covid distancing thing never really caught on here, with people literally being unable to keep away from their fellow mankind for more than a few split seconds.
Now that the worst (tfutfu) of the crisis seems to be behind us, we’re not even bothering to pretend that we’re making an effort to steer clear of others. We can only hope that this won’t make you want to hop straight back on the plane.
3. Get set for inoculation tales.
In Israel, each generation has its tales of bravery. Some fought in Israel’s War of Independence, others braved the Egyptians in the Suez Canal, and today’s heroes felt absolutely nothing after being inoculated against Covid-19.
When the vaccination campaign started here, rumors went around about the terrible side effects of the injections — the fever, the muscle pain, the splitting headaches — but miraculously, no one actually experienced any of these. Oh no, you see, we were perfectly fine. Really, all those people making a fuss are such wussies. Those painkillers that we’ve been popping? They’re for our allergies.
4. Nod and smile when we tell you we’re the best country.
Even before we beat the rest of the world in the vaccine race, we always knew that we’re the best. Sure, the political situation is dire, war could break out at any moment and the cost of living leaves us in tears. And yet, more likely than not, whoever you’re talking to over here is incredibly proud of the country, or at least some aspects of it.
In the past, we had to give poor strangers lengthy explanations of why exactly that is, but thankfully the pandemic has enabled us to cut our speeches short (hypothetically speaking of course. You try and stop an Israeli giving you their unsolicited opinion). Really, just nod and smile; it’s the quickest way out.
5. No spontaneous dinners.
Months of lockdown and Covid restrictions have left Israelis keener than ever to go out and spend way too much money. Whether we’re talking restaurants, bars, parties or shopping malls, every place is absolutely packed.
That means that there’s zero chance that the nice quiet place you remember from your last visit still doesn’t require reservations, for it either went under during the crisis or it’s bursting at the seams with people with the same exact fond memories as yours.
6. Don’t try to get people to put their masks on properly.
Facemasks go against the grain of our nature here in Israel and wearing them all the time was a nightmare. Now that restrictions have eased and we’re no longer required to wear them outdoors, we’ve unfortunately become somewhat lax about donning them elsewhere.
A common sight at supermarkets, offices, restaurants and other indoor places is people resting their masks on their chin, far away from the mouth and nose that they’re meant for. Even more unfortunately, it won’t do any good to ask people to cover up — you’ll only get a nasty stare.
7. Don’t run over delivery guys.
One of the remaining telltale signs of the coronavirus crisis that engulfed Israel is the abundance of delivery guys risking life and limb to deliver us pizzas, burgers, sushi and everything in between. You see, our collective takeaway habit somewhat increased during lockdown, and it’s been a hard one to let go: cooking dinner more than a couple of times a week has become but a distant memory, and our trigger-happy fingers are permanently only inches away from our next meal. So please, drive carefully.
8. Takeaway drinks!
Although sipping drinks on upturned crates is not a completely new phenomenon in Israel (chef Eyal Shani, we’re looking at you), Covid made the trend explode.
It went like this: Covid regulations meant that sitting in restaurants or bars was banned, so the said establishments would offer their customers the opportunity to “take away” their food and drink to conveniently placed, makeshift tables right outside their doorstep, managing to both adhere to regulations and enjoy a booming business. And while it took us a while to get used to it, it’s actually pretty fun, and feels like urban alfresco dining at its best.
9. The permanent under-eye bags young parents are sporting.
Walking around Israel, you might encounter people sporting varying shades of black and purple under their eyes. No, they probably did not just emerge from a fistfight. Instead, they have only recently emerged from three lockdowns with their usually beloved children, whom they had to feed, entertain, school and pretend to like despite living in close quarters with them for the best part of the past year. In a country as blessed with children as Israel, lockdown was very much a family business, and a tiring one at that. Let’s just say, we’d gladly get back on the plane with you, sans kids.
10. It’s five o’clock somewhere.
In pre-pandemic times, Israelis used to drink far less than their American or European counterparts. A glass of wine or a couple of beers usually constituted a night out, with real benders reserved for teens who know no better. But lockdown, stress, hanging out with the kids all day and the lack of entertainment led many to discover the joys of a boozy night in, and now that we’re allowed back out, our newfound habits are coming with us. So let us raise a glass or two of chilled rosé and enjoy the best that this (hopefully) post-Covid summer has to offer.