Israel is opening back up following months of lockdown, but Israelis seem reluctant to venture out in public amid what many are calling the start of a second coronavirus wave.
Just this week, Israel restarted train service across the country, but limited the number of passengers per train to just 500, or about 75 percent occupancy.
For us, the train is one of the most important means of transportation. The train is never stuck in traffic, and one need not fight for a parking space. This is most relevant to those of us living in the vicinity of Tel Aviv. The past three months without the train have not been easy. Already for over a month now, people have been returning to work, but without a train that meant overcrowded buses and major traffic jams.
Finally, the train has returned! And given the above description, you’d think people would be clamoring for tickets, which you currently need to reserve in advance via the Israel Railways website. My daughter needed to take the train this week, so I went online to get her a ticket and was very surprised to find only about 50 people had reserved tickets. There were plenty of seats available.
Following her journey, our daughter informed us that the stations along the route had been equally empty. It was really odd considering how much Israelis want to go back to work and return to normal life, how much of an outcry there had been for a return of train service.
But with so many new COVID-19 cases in the past few days, everyone is afraid considering that all it takes is a single passenger testing positive to send everyone on the train into quarantine.
Keeping clear of the tracks was no problem at the train stations. Shalom Station in Tel Aviv, yesterday.
And it’s not just the trains that are empty. Many restaurant operators are complaining that they are only 20 percent full. I myself have experienced this when visiting a huge shopping center, which is otherwise always crowded. But this week, it was shockingly empty.
Later in the week, we decided to walk the beach in Bat Yam (just south of Tel Aviv and Jaffa). There, too, we were surprised by the lack of people. The weather was great, most schools have already let out for the summer vacation, and still the beach was empty.
Still, there have been some silver linings to the coronavirus crisis, one being the ability to peacefully stroll down Israel’s typically-packed beaches.
Another has been the newfound connection with our readers via Zoom. For the German readers we conducted an online gathering with our magazine editor Judith, who lives in a small Arab village in the Galilee. Next week, our English readers will have a chance to meet live with our “resident rabbi” David Lazarus to discuss the history of the Church vis-a-vis Israel and the Jewish people. You won’t want to miss that – Learn more here >>