Monday, April 25, 2022

I didn’t recognize you without your mask

On the bus this morning in Tel Aviv, nearly half the passengers and the driver were wearing masks. The loudspeakers played a message stating there was no place for coronavirus. Earlier at the train station, masks hid the faces of foreign workers and the elderly, but also the faces of several soldiers and businessmen. I rubbed my exposed chin, wondering if I should have worn my mask after all.

Two years into the pandemic, we could be at the end of the pandemic, and it’s strange. Leaving home without a mask, I felt like I had forgotten something. I felt naked, unprotected. Yet, I also felt safe.

A few weeks ago, I tested positive for COVID-19, but it was an almost symptom-free case. While many of my coworkers reported fevers and that they could barely get out of bed, I experienced nothing more than one evening of chills. My wife also had a mild case, and luckily my children had just a day of discomfort. My granddaughters also tested positive and except for my son-in-law, every member of my immediate family has had coronavirus.

Maybe it was the two vaccinations and the two boosters that protected me. I had two bouts of persistent coughs over the past year that were more serious. Like most Israelis, I tested positive for the virus, but it wasn’t entirely a negative experience.

I remember back to the early days of the pandemic. We monitored reports of when people with coronavirus visited a supermarket, or traveled on a bus, fearing that we had been exposed. We wore masks everywhere, even outside. We were not allowed to go more than 100 meters from our homes. Police stopped my car on a traffic-free highway during a closure, and only let me continue driving when they learned I was on my way to a pharmacy.

Everything became part of our norm. Working from home; watching Netflix; ordering groceries and other products online; office meetings, family gatherings, and even Passover seders on Zoom. Washing our hands for at least 20 seconds and staying 2 meters apart. What about our children missing so much school and social interaction? Israel, along with the rest of the world, shut down. No air travel, no tourists, no restaurants or hotels. No normal life.

But, little by little, we began to reclaim our lives. Until the next variant arrived.

For the time being, we are mask-free. There are still reports of Israelis testing positive every day, but the number of serious and hospitalized cases remains manageable. Things are looking up and my wife and I are planning a trip overseas. We are very positive, and that's a good thing. Our biggest worry today is how crowded the airport will be when we leave for our vacation.

Masks are off and it's wonderful to see people's faces again, and their smiles. 


Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

"The Muse" - short story

“Have you told your wife about us?”

“My wife? Why do I have to tell her anything?”

“She probably suspects that you’re cheating on her.”

“I’m not cheating!”

“A married man and a much younger woman meeting for coffee every evening? Some people would consider that cheating.”

“We’re not doing anything we’re not supposed to be doing. We’re just having fun.”

“You’re not being honest with her. She assumes you’re coming to this coffee shop after work with the intention of writing, when you’re actually spending time with me. If you haven’t told your wife about us, you’re cheating.”

“My wife trusts me. Totally. After you leave, I’ll start writing.”

“Why do you have coffee with me, anyway?”

“Because sitting here, drinking coffee, I get ideas that I can’t get at home. I use them in my writing.”

“What kind of writing?”

“Short stories, mostly.”

“Am I giving you these ideas? What am I, your muse?”

“You’re not!”

“Are you writing about me?”

“No, never.”

“Let me see one of your stories.”

“They’re not finished. I still have a lot of writing and editing to do.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I really do write stories! My laptop is full of them, although none have ever been published.”

“I bet your characters are based on me.”

“They’re not.”

“I would think you’d be getting inspiration from your wife but apparently, I am the one motivating you to write.”

“You keep saying that, but it’s not true. I write fiction. Everything I write is made up, coming solely from my imagination.”

“Or from me.”

“Say, what’s that shiny thing on your blouse?”

“Just a brooch I really like. Stop changing the subject. Tell me now, seriously. Where do your ideas come from?”

“I’m sitting here in the coffee shop, talking to you, drinking my coffee, overhearing bits of conversation from the other tables, eavesdropping on the customers. Listening to the roar of the coffee grinder, smelling the smoky aroma of freshly poured roast coffee. Everything around me is the source of my inspiration.”

“Don’t you want something more?”

“What do you mean?”

“Come home with me now.”

“No, no. I’m here to write. I’m not cheating on my wife.”

“We’re not going through that again. I’m leaving.”

“Aren’t you going to finish your coffee?”

“I think we’re finished.”

“Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Yes. We may be finished today, but tomorrow would be alright. Same time, same place?”


“I don’t know how you would accomplish any writing without me to inspire you. After all, I’m your muse!”


* * * * *


“Hi! Is dinner ready?”

“Very soon. I just got home myself.”

“Wonderful. I’m starving.”

“How was your writing?”

“I made a lot of progress on my story.”

“I look forward to reading it.”

“As soon as I finish...”

“Was she there?”

“Yes, she was.”

“And she gave you some ideas?”

“She always does, although I would never admit that to her face.”


“She said something today.”

“What did she say?”

“She suggested that I’m cheating on you.”


“Because I’m a married man—a happily married man—and she’s so much younger than me.”

“Should I be worried about something? Did you do anything more than drink coffee together?”


“Have you ever gotten together with her outside the coffee shop? Have you gone home with her?”

“No, never! It’s not like I’m having an affair or something. You’re all I’ll ever need.”

“Good. I trust you.”

“I am always honest with you. Let me give you a hug.”

“A hug? You’re being affectionate all of a sudden. Should I leave dinner for later?”

“I’m just suggesting a hug.”

“Okay. Let me take this brooch off first so that it doesn’t get in the way.”

“That shiny thing? Come here.”

“Oh! Apparently, your writing session turned you on!”

“Well, that can wait.  Seeing you here, in your role of my wife making dinner, that’s what really turns me on. Let’s eat.”

“First, let me see what you’ve been writing.”

“I told you—I still have a lot of writing and editing to do.”

“Let me be the judge of that. You can put on the finishing touches later.”

“It’s a draft. Not the final version of the story. I’m still working out how to describe the story’s main female character. She’s a lot like you, actually.”

“Your characters are always good. Where do you get your ideas?”

“From you, only from you.”

“Let me see your story.”


* * * * *


“Have you told your wife about us?”


“My wife? Why do I have to tell her anything?”


“She probably suspects that you’re cheating on her.”


“I’m not cheating!”


“A married man and a single, much younger woman meeting for coffee every evening? Some people would consider that cheating.”


“We’re not doing anything we’re not supposed to be doing. We’re just having fun.”



# # #

Originally published on

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Flowers After Fire

In August 2021, an enormous wildfire consumed some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) of forest. At the height of the blaze, it was feared that Hadassah hospital at Ein Kerem might need to be evacuated, the Times of Israel reported.

The Jerusalem Hills, with their sprawling pine tree forests, are prone to forest fires. According to another Times of Israel report, "Israel experiences a massive wildfire every few years, with especially large ones in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2016, 2019 and last month. Climate models show they’re getting more frequent and more fast-spreading, in part due to rising temperatures and a longer summer dry season."

I remember the 1995 fire well. I was working at the Neve Ilan Hotel and one July afternoon, we were preparing to host the wedding of Israeli President Yitzhak Navon's daughter. A fire raced up from Sha'ar Hagay, burning trees on on both sides of the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The fire reached the hotel grounds and skirted the main buildings, but causing the wedding to be canceled. The fire made its way into the moshav itself, burning five homes, including the house next door to my in-laws.

The 2016 fire came even closer to my home. We could see the flames in the forest below our moshav. I wrote at the time: "We also saw fire racing up a distant hill across the valley. Along with other residents of Neve Ilan, my wife Jodie and I stood watching the flames, worried that danger was quickly approaching."

Yesterday I hiked at Sataf with my sister, Judy, in forests burned last August. Although I could see the charred remains of burnt trees, and the dry, brown areas that had suffered, the area was also beautiful after the plentiful rains of this past winter. As we go into summer, the wildflowers covering the ground will dry out, It will take years until the forest regains its former green splendor. But yesterday I could really sense how beautiful this area of the Jerusalem was, and how beautiful it will again be in the future.

Related article

When a Wildfire Endangers Your Home