Israel in the Queue

Corona is doing its best to teach Israelis a bit of patience. Waiting in long lines for repeated tests is quickly becoming a daily occurrence

Israelis wait in line to be tested in Tel Aviv. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Whenever I would visit my sister in England, I noticed the way the English patiently stand in a queue. No matter what you are waiting for, it’s always done in an orderly fashion, without jostling or arguing. It was always with a degree of envy that I realized things would never be that way with us. Here in Israel I had never in my long years here witnessed order and patience as people waited for anything. The rule made famous by Charles Darwin according to which “only the strongest survive” is ingrained in the local psyche. When I was “new” to the country, I had to learn to adapt. I learned to insist on my rights and to prevent any attempt to push. Unfortunately, it is also the same on the roads. If I were to wait for another driver to let me turn into the street, I would probably be waiting all day. Here in Israel you have to assert yourself, you can’t show any weakness.

But then came the latest wave of Corona, and with it long waits to be tested. With Omicron now the dominant variant, Israelis may have to finally learn how to stand in a queue. Families with school children in particular find themselves forced to visit local test stations almost every week. The sometimes insane queues were shown on television. Waiting times of two hours and more are not uncommon.

An entire country in the queue

Yesterday morning our daughter received an email from her university. Another student in her class had been infected with Corona. She was instructed to do a rapid antigen test before she could enter the school. So instead of going to the train station, I drove to the nearest drugstore and bought a pack of take-home antigen tests. I did the test with my daughter in the car. And then two lines appeared. What a bummer, was my first thought. Our daughter was fine, she only had a slight cold. But the positive antigen test now forced us to do a PCR test as well, to be sure whether or not she was infected. I also called my son who was already on his way back to his army base. His commander ordered him to go home and do a PCR test as well.

There seemed to be no end to the wait. Photo: Dov Eilon

So we found ourselves in an enormously long queue at noon at our local test center. It was a drive-through set up in a large parking lot. The line of cars was so long that we couldn’t even see the entrance to the test facility. In total we waited a little over 2 hours. Everyone was impressively calm. Because we’re all in the same boat now.

Hopefully we can push through this annoying transition time with continued relative calm among the people and quickly learn more about how to handle Omicron. Our government seems to now understand that the spread of this new variant simply can’t be prevented. And that’s why tourists may soon be allowed again into the country. See: Herd Immunity is Talk of the Day in Israel

 

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