Travelling from Berlin to Tel Aviv these days is not just a travel between two cities, cultures, countries, weathers and continents. It is a time travel between two different universes. You sit at 09:10 on a seat in an analog world, and you land four and half hours later in a digital world.
The main terminal in the new airport in Berlin is empty despite 20 scheduled flights at eight o’clock in the morning on Sunday. Every employee is bored out of their minds. The coffee bar owners are desperate in their lonesome. The only traffic is at the gate to Israel, Where I can witness many faces that swore never to return to Israel out of ideology. I guess easy access to vaccination tramps ideology. During the flight, you can hear the babies cry, the fathers snore, the mothers try to do with two hands what you can do only with six hands, One row is passing its time with books, the other with Netflix or Spotify. There’s a familiarity to all these sounds and scenes, but I can’t still put my finger on what is the right word to describe it.
Israel welcomes you with clear skies, thin clouds, and millions of butterflies in your stomach as soon as you witness the shoreline. When you arrive you are stopped by an Ethiopian female soldier asking for your identity, followed by a Russian immigrant checking your documents. An Israeli of oriental descent is channeling you toward the first Corona test, conducted by two Arab Israelis just before you leave the terminal. The test, just like the second test I will take nine days later to come out early of the quarantine, lasts two minutes, doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t require you to stand for one second on line. All the process of the registration and getting the results was digital. When I had a question, I called a toll free number. The women on the other side sent me a form via SMS while we were speaking, I filled it and within 20 minutes got the answer.
About two hours after landing in Israel, I got my first BioNTech vaccination. I was scheduled to get it only on my third day, but I have decided to try my luck at the vaccination center. I was told that basically anyone stepping in can get it with the right forms (a tourist to Israel can buy health insurance policy for 30 days covering the vaccine. It costs three Euros per day). A person at the center bended all the rules in order for me to get an early vaccination while reminding me the entire time that we are partners in crime. During my quarantine, the police called me every day to check my whereabouts. Others told me that the police called and asked them to step outside to their balcony and waive them to insure they don’t break the quarantine. At nights, when the wind was gaining speed, I could hear the calming sound of the waves breaking into the shore.
When we finished the quarantine we stepped outside. All bars and restaurants were full and you needed 90 minutes in order to get a table. It took us 30 minutes to order a passion fruit-pineapple-mango-granatapfel smoothie in „Tamara“. In some streets, and in the market we literally had to walk sideways because it was so crowded, happy music was blasting from everywhere, there was a live chatter from everywhere, men and women, squeezed into minimal clothes, were recreating the art of gaining and giving attention. We entered the ice cream shop „Golda“, ordered a a waffle with Kinder Bueno and cheesecake lotus tastes and sat on the bench, and my son was looking at me with these eyes I haven’t seen in a while. „Papa, this is normal“, he said to me, „I feel normal“.
I don’t write this to brag about Israel or to defame Germany. I think this tells much about the difference between the two countries. Everybody in Israel is wearing a mask outside, almost everyone is taking the vaccine, the anti-corona sense is on the fringe, when someone steps into a public place without a mask, the other patrons let him know about it, no one really cares if his or her private data is being used for a medical research. The idea is: we will do whatever it takes to vaccine everybody, We will look Corona in the eyes, and we will make it look down in shame.
I think the sense of Corona in both countries is a good indication to the root differences between the countries: my generation of Germans is enjoying a good life, it never had to fight for its freedom and democracy. They are almost obvious to them. My generation in Israel is in a constant state of fighting for its life and freedom and democracy. In other words: once Corona was declared as a real threat to their existence, Israelis put on their uniforms and joined the battle. Mentally and strategically Israelis couldn’t afford a loss. For many Germans it is the first real dire obstacle of their life. When I left Germany I still couldn’t feel the urgency.
And it was 33 degrees here today.