QUARANTINE - DAY 18 - 23rd March 2020
On this date last year, the Right to Movement Marathon in Bethlehem was taking place. Thousands of people from across the world participated in the 5k, 10k, half and full marathons, while thousands lined the streets to cheer them on. It was a wonderfully memorable day and celebration of Palestine.
As Bethlehem and the whole of Palestine enter the first day of curfew, they look in disbelief at the UK who seem oblivious to the seriousness of the global epidemic and continue to move around freely, despite doctors on the frontline fighting this disease, pleading with people to stay in their homes. In Bethlehem there are no new cases and the rain has stopped falling, so perhaps this is the beginning of brighter days ahead..
Day 18 of quarantine
My name is Nour Alsqa, and I am a resident of Bethlehem. I always wake up early and drink my favourite coffee, then prepare myself to walk to work and breathe in the clean air and sunshine, see the coloured corners of my city, hear the sounds of happiness, enjoy the green spaces and meet my neighbours on my way. I have many activities in my daily life which always inspire me, for example visiting my grandma and hearing her beautiful stories, climbing the mountains, going shopping, reading books surrounded by nature, sitting in my favourite café and praying at the mosque on Friday.
Suddenly, a pandemic spread in Bethlehem and the city went under quarantine, and it begun to look like a ghost town. We can’t go out, everyone stays in their houses. I still go to work because I work at a TV studio, and we must keep covering news about the virus and conveying the truth to our audiences.
I drive to work in my family car with a feeling of sadness. The streets are empty, the shops are closed, and the kids are in their houses. A small cat is walking in the street lazily, and it feels sad too. There are policemen in the streets, and many road blocks between cities and towns. I miss the crowded streets, the shops and the smell of falafel in the morning.
I used to come back from work and lie down on my bed in a bad mood, waiting and waiting for something - but nothing. I was still in this mood every day after work until the 10th of March, when I shook myself out of it and washed my face.
And from that day on I started to think about how I could improve this situation. I started doing a lot of work, exercising, cooking, learning new skills, attending online lectures and reading many books.
Finally, I have faith that our prayers will be answered, the pandemic will be over soon and I will be able to return to my favourite way of life, walking to work through the nature, visiting my grandma, drinking coffee with my friend at our lovely café, having BBQs on the weekends with my family and praying in the mosque.
Curfew being enforced. Photo courtesy of Mohamed Abu Haniyeh