Date: June 17-18/2020
Place : SFO to TLV
By : Lili Naveh
Travel Log: Flying out to Israel in the days of the Corona
Never have I encountered, in my prior travels from SFO, an almost vacant British-Air flight to London, as I had on the plane, we boarded on the evening of June 17 of 2020 - the year of the Corona.
The 50 brave passengers, who mainly populated the Tourist class cabin, constituted only 25% of the aircraft’s occupancy.
First and Business class cabins had more service staff and vacant seats, then the few passengers who dotted them.
BA Flight to London
The deteriorating health condition of both our aging mothers (now at their upper 90) and the insistent pleading of our daughters, whom we have missed, for the longest ever, since we last return from Israel (Jan/2020), finally “ejected” us, at a very short notice, out of the solitude of sunny, dreamy, California.
That’s where we have stayed put, all these long months, under the senseless, politically driven prolonged lockdown, which has been dictated by the blue state useless Governor Gavin Newsom.
While other many states and of course other countries, have gradually lifted up the restrictive ordinance, California has fallen into a
“sleeping Beauty” gear, waiting, aimlessly for a competent “prince” to
"kiss-shake" it out of its complete dormant paralysis.
Bay area’s retail stores, shopping centers, most eatery establishments, movie theaters and small non-essential businesses, have all been hermetically shut, since March. Hwy-s, streets and all other public complexes, have been emptied out of almost all traffic and human presence only up to this month.
By the large volume of bumper to bumper cars, trailing into and out of San Francisco, we astonishingly observed, on our ride to the airport, what seemingly, despite the enclosure, social and commercial life have, in defiance, started resuming thier new pre-corona normal.
Even prior to the wide nation's demonstrations by the intrinsically antisemitic “Black Life Matter” movement
and the ludicrous self-appointed “Defund the Police” reformers , that unleashed into the streets the wrath of the pent up job-less anxious crowd, along with the cultish instigators, and state-sponsored violent looting mob, the lingering lockdown had by far, exceeded its term limits.
The vanishing image of the national scientific expert, and known pandemic pacifier -Dr Anthony Fauci, off TV screens, combined with the intensified divisive election’s identity politic propaganda, as well as the silencing of any rational discourse, have become the daily practice in the land, once prided itself of being the beacon of “Free Speech”.
All that mayhem invoked within the law and order abiding folks, many questions about the merit of this enduring enclosure, as well as resistance to the forbidden social congregating ordinance.
We, for sure, were “pioneers” of such defiance, much earlier into the start of the crisis chaos.
We got fed up with the politicization of questionable pandemic medicinal benefits, as well as with the hypocritical partisan media manipulations, exposing the monumental failure of all politicians on the political spectrum, at every level-national and local. The brain-dead paralyzed leadership, provided more than enough reasons, to the provoked turmoil.
Despite the enclosure’s restrictions, when this spring’s dazzling bloom, and fabulous weather enticed us into the outdoors, we had marveled at taking social walks, in our township and close by surroundings, with our dear friends and neighbors, but obviously had adhered to the protective face masked and physical distance recommended measures.
Furthermore, we had invited friends for Shavuot holiday gathering, and for socializing dinners, as well as accepted invitations. We had hosted and had been hosted, in our home’s outdoor porches, balconies and garden, being together yet separated each couple dining by its own accommodating table setting.
The benefits of those outdoors invigorating social interactions and friendly dinner gatherings, took off the edge off the forced isolation, and had so much contributed to our physical and mental resilience. By all means they out -weighted the many still unknown warning risks in contracting this pandemic, and they had only added to ours and and our friends good health.
More encounters with the world of the surreal, continued with the arrival to SFO airport, which in normal time is a busy overloaded airport, but during the past 4 months, had transformed to a deserted ghost depot.
Most airline’s check-in counters, all duty-free shops, and airport restaurants were closed. “Potrero Grill” - an eating place situated just before entering security check, was the only eatery serving food, to the only 5 travelers spotted at the time, when we passed by it.
BA which in the pre-corona days had served from at least 10 check-in counters, had only 2 of them operating today. So was the low number of the security check-up stations, servicing the
non existing lines of the fewer trickling passengers who showed up for today’s flights.
Creative floor signs marking the 6 feet apart distancing, could be seen at every service station, as well as reminders of distancing, constantly were announced, on the airport loudspeakers.
Masks are required to be worn at all times in all terminal areas.
Masks were also worn on the faces of all the aircraft’s most dedicated BA stuff, throughout the entire flight. For some add reasons cooking and heating food is not, yet, allowed during flights, thus pre-prepared cold food served in a “lunch box” style and much below British’s better known standard, was very disappointing.
For the same lame reasons, servicing alcoholic drinks, which were banned on flights, since the start of the pandemic, was re-instituted only today.
This minor alcoholic consolation for the displeasing meal, was compensated with generously offering drinks, as well as extra cold boxed meals, given to those with weird taste
who desired it…a left over from the reduced number of passengers, and of those who gave up altogether on the food,
In London's Heathrow, which is a much larger airport then SFO, and where we lay-over for 2 hours, the desolate scenery was the same, but on a larger surreal scale…
We had to switch to El-Al for the connection to Tel- Aviv as British may be allowed to fly all the way to Israel, only later in July.
The only almost full flight, at 80% occupancy, was that of El-Al, carrying mainly Israeli passport’s holders returning from Paris via London back home. Many of them wore hats, beards , traditional outfits and even masks, all in black. These ultra orthodox Jews made sure to assemble right by the check-in gate, for praying and dovenning, just prior to boarding.
In color contrast, engulfed from head to booties, in all snow-white protective suits, and looking like aliens less the antennas, but covered with masks and visors instead, was the El-Al airplane staff, who greeted the boarding passengers, with pointed thermometers guns.
Checking the temperature of each traveler, meant to verify the authenticity of the mandatory “Good Health” declaration form, passengers were required to sign, prior to entering the plane.
Passengers were required to wear their face masks on board, throughout the entire flight.
El Al Flight
The food served, also, on this much shorter flight segment (only 4 hours) was an inedible cold sandwich. Besides water, no other drinks were offered.
25 hours later, from the start of our SFO departure, we finally landed at midnight, very hungry with growling stomachs, but relieved that we made it safely to our destination, without any additional hindrances.
Uniformed army reserve personnel, politely greeted the disembarking incomers, checked their temperature, and orderly streamlined all
into Israeli and foreign passport holders 2 lines, where the Health ministry staff was encountered,already at the exit access corridors.
Israel BG Airport
Each passenger was questioned regarding arrangements made for the first 2 mandatory weeks of quarantine, and each was required to complete, on line, a governmental Health Form, detailing personal information, needed for the monitoring/enforcing policing. Hotel dwellers went through more grueling questioning, then those having a residential address, but all were offered assistance, and the process was surprisingly handled fast and quite efficiently, at that late hour of the night, thanks also to the much limited incoming air crafts.
Also our special request, to have a Corona test, in addition to the one taken just prior to our departing the US and which resulted in negative, was granted right there and then on the spot at the airport.
If resulted again, in the desired negative, we would be able within 48 hours to get an exclusion permission from the Israeli Health Ministry, to visit our moms in Haifa .
Although this related pandemic extended bureaucratic procedure had prolonged the stay at the airport by one additional hour, our own experience was bearable and positive.
This journey came to its end, when we finally landed in between the huge bed sheets, in this much more spacious, than ours apartment, which we specially rented, to dwell in during these 2 quarantine weeks . Its central location also allows much nearer access, to our daughters, on whose assistance, we would need to depend, during this stay.
Also this short term rental arrangement, at the larger space, designed to
guarantee the continuation of David’s and I civilized liaison, during this enforced shut in at home …
Stay healthy, safe and sane!