By YARON HOVAV
The Corona virus caught us in Israel, like the rest of the world in complete surprise. Just at the beginning of the high season after the slow winter, just as I started working with hotels to arrange better prices for my tourists, just after purchased a new SUV, suddenly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a press conference and said that anyone who arrives to Israel from abroad should stay at home quarantine for two weeks, decision that’s simply closed the gates to Israel and stopped tourism.
My inbox started to get full with cancellations one after another, a couple from Miami, and family from New York, Switzerland, family from San Francisco, and so on from all over the world.
In one week, hundreds of hotels in Israel were closed, taxis stopped to operate and touristic sites where left empty and tour guides became unemployed.
Surreal. Almost no one passes through the Jaffa Gate, no one celebrates Bar Mitzvah the Western Wall, only the priests in the area come to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, all the sites were empty.
As a tour guide and as director of the MyIsraelGuide.com tourism site there is nothing more painful than loosing tourists. My colleagues and I always thought that lack of tourism will be as a result of terrorism, war or an operation in Lebanon or Gaza. We did not see this coming.
As of March 22, there are more than 1000 Infected by covid 19 in Israel, most of them in very mild condition and one person deceased. There is no quarantine but the provision is to stay in homes to reduce contagion and not reach the numbers of Italy. It is permissible to go out and buy necessary products. I’m spending my time these days at home with my beloved wife and children
The biggest concern in Israel, as in the rest of the world, is the adhesion of the medical teams and lack of respirators (which is why thousands have died in Italy), to our delight, there is an Israeli idea that takes all the manual respirators (ambo) and automates them (hope they will not need to use it).
Of the 9 million residents in Israel, half a million are already unemployed. In every city we see empty roads, closed government offices, long queues at supermarkets even though the government promises there will be no food shortage.
This morning when I went to the Supermarket, I decided to take a walk of the Jerusalem Old city. I have walked around the tourist sites in Jerusalem and seen a spectacle I have never seen, and I believe the city has not seen in a long time – zero people. Surreal. Almost no one passes through the Jaffa Gate, no one celebrates Wall Bar Mitzvah the Western Wall, only the priests in the area come to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, all the sites were empty. I walk through the alleys of the city with a mask on my face and gloves on my hand and like me, a few more residents of the Old city. Last month, about half a million tourists visited here. Surreal.
For anyone reading these lines, do not forget that we are part of a historical period, try to make it your most pleasant memory because you are going to talk about this times for many years to come. Of course I hope you are all well and healthy and spending these days with your relatives or with the closest people.
We are, at My Israel Guide, like the rest of the world, are eagerly awaiting a vaccine / cure for the virus and wait for your arrival to the Promised Land – Israel to use our services.
If you have general or specific question about our life in the Holy Land, you are welcome to contact me at 516 340 3181 or send me an email to [email protected]