Thoughts on Coronavirus, Quarantine and Freedom of Movement

Saed, from Bethlehem


It’s kind of surreal what the past 48 hours have brought with it: yesterday I was at work where we had a meeting planned with co-workers from other cities in the West Bank; my parents were planning a trip to Acre, a city in Israel that they haven’t been to for a long time, and my youngest brother was at school. All of that changed with one post on Facebook from a journalist that said that one of the Hotels in Beit Jala city, near Bethlehem, had cases of the Covid-19 (Corona Virus). It was just a social media post but it was enough to make dominate the headline of almost every conversation since, and after the confirmation by the authorities the meeting at work was called off and the employees were sent home while the management talked about what to do next. My brother was sent home from school and the Israeli authorities shut down the checkpoints with the city of Bethlehem, so my parents couldn’t go on their trip or continue their tradition of praying in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem every Friday.

Today feels like a dream, you can feel that something is off, it’s getting really quiet, it’s almost getting to a degree of silence that is cut only by the sound of the call to prayer from the nearby mosques, which are now closed. It’s like a scene from a movie where it’s been raining non stop since the morning, with nearly empty and quiet streets, it's getting really uncomfortable to say the least, somehow Bethlehem feels like its own isolated island with the lockdown by the Israeli checkpoints and the directions from the government about minimising the movement of the people. Now, basically, if your ID card says that you are a resident of Bethlehem you can’t move outside of the city even to visit the neighbouring cities; but I think that this action is probably necessary, if a little late, in order to assure that the epidemic isn’t spreading anymore than it already has, and I think that the government should do its best to eliminate misinformation and spread awareness and at least hope that we could get through this.

For me personally I spent the day with family at home; I only left to get some necessary groceries and during the coming days one of my siblings won’t be going to school and the other won’t be going to his construction job in Jerusalem. For my job they will most likely ask me to work from home if the situation gets worse.