QUARANTINE - DAY 11 - 16th March 2020
As Bethlehem enters its eleventh day of quarantine, the UK government starts to introduce measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus in the UK by banning mass gatherings, suggesting working from home and avoiding non-essential social contact, while in France a 15 day lockdown has been introduced. In Bethlehem a certain amount of calm still presides, and the news of the toilet roll, pasta and paracetamol panic-buying of the UK or the panic-buying of guns and ammunition in America is a far cry from the Palestinian composure shown now. A teacher in Beit Jala with four children shares their daily routine:
On the 11th day of quarantine I am in the house with my four children and husband. We were quarantined so many days before the rest of the world started to have cases and we watch countries like Italy and Spain shutting schools, universities, airports and borders with solidarity. Yesterday soldiers by the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square held Italian flags aloft in solidarity with Italy at this time.
We are used to the borders being shut and being locked down both in the First and Second Intifadas, so we are probably more able to endure long periods without being able to go out of our houses. In the second intifada in 2002 we were trapped in our houses for 40 days while Bethlehem was under siege. This time we are hiding from a hidden enemy rather than from the bullets of armies.
My eldest son is at university outside Bethlehem but was able to get back in before the checkpoints all closed.
Two days ago I was tested for the virus. Some men from the Ministry of Health came to take a sample. They arrived dressed, from top to bottom, in fully protective clothes – we thought they looked like aliens. It was a horrible test. They put a tube inside my nose right up to the top and took a sample. They said that if I heard nothing that meant I was clear of the virus. I heard nothing but heard later on the local news that all tests done that day had been negative.
Our daily routine goes something like this..
The children wake up late and study from 12pm to around 3pm. Their schools and universities provide online work for them to do. UNRWA has a special education channel for children in Palestine which they have activated again. This channel is used in times when the situation in Palestine becomes dangerous and is a great resource for children of all ages.
From 3pm we all cook something together. Today we made pizza – the dough, sauce and toppings. We make all things in the house including bread. I guess we have something else in common with families in Italy today. There are many ways to remember others who are suffering the same things as us!
After lunch, around 4pm we try to think of activities to do as a family board games or watch a film of television. We played Monopoly a few days ago
My husband finds it hard to be in the house. He likes to keep busy so we often find him pacing around the house! We try to think of ways to keep him busy ;) He is doing lots of gardening – he planted some trees yesterday. He works in a bank normally. The banks closed down in the first few days of quarantine so he has been at home since then.
My children sometimes go to the nearby shop for food we might need. We wash everything carefully when they bring it back. We can still get fruit and vegetables in the shops but we are worried that when Israel locks down, the supply of food and vegetables will be a problem. We expect this to happen in the next few days. We have a traditional food here called Khobeizah which is a leaf (mallow) that grows in the wild everywhere here. It is in season at the moment so we can gather this if times get hard – it is cooked a bit like spinach and served with olive oil and onion.
Everyone is talking about the virus. Friends and family are always messaging to check on us. I told a family friend that the doctor had said a family member had a problem with vit B12 and she thought I was talking about an unknown deadly virus – not vitamin B12 deficiency.