The Corona Chronicles – In Spite of All Terror (or: The Bright Side of Life)

I ended my previous post on a very dark note, I fear. And while subsequent events – for example, the spike in new COVID-19 cases in the Arab community, due to a large number of mass gatherings, such as weddings with hundreds of participants, every weekend (Friday to Sunday), and the complete chaos surrounding the reopening of (some) schools, and the refusal of certain large segments of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to abide by the prohibition on opening yeshivot and talmudei torah – seem to have borne out my fears, I feel I should try to balance my pessimism with something more optimistic.

So – where, oh where, is that silver lining?

Well, the fact that synagogues were closed over the High Holy Days and that one was forced to pray at home, alone, did make me concentrate more on the meaning of the prayers. That, certainly, was an upside to the surrealistic situation imposed upon us – as was the initiative to have the shofar blown throughout the country at the same time, in order to promote unity (a commodity sorely lacking these days) throughout the country.
I listened to it standing at my living-room window, and I wept – not least at the almost certain knowledge that the fragile unity would be short-lived.

Then, too, there are the Open University courses which, instead of being held in various campuses throughout the country, are now being conducted via Zoom or on Facebook. This started earlier this year, during the First Lockdown and is set to continue during the Winter Semester which begins next week. It does have the advantage that, this year, I shall be able to participate in courses which are not usually held in Jerusalem. Moreover, when winter finally arrives, it will be nice to listen to a lecture ensconced in a comfortable armchair, a hot cup of coffee/tea/cocoa in my hand, rather than have to brave the elements to get to a lecture hall on the opposite side of town, or spend a fortune on taxi fares (because I am too scared of catching the virus to risk going by bus).

And then, there is choir practice. Zoom is far from ideal for this. It is impossible to sing together, because there is always a delay factor. And that makes it impossible to hear the harmony that is at the heart of choral singing. On the other hand, it makes it very easy to learn new pieces, especially because we have been going over the same half dozen songs again and again. But I think we have reached saturation point – and it was a relief to learn that this week, we are returning to face-to-face meetings, albeit in “capsules”. Instead of the whole choir meeting twice a week, each group of ten members will meet once a week. (If you think you have seen this movie before, you are right!) Even so, since the meetings will now be indoors rather than in the large synagogue courtyard, as they were during the summer, some of us are still afraid to attend, and so it has been decided that the rehearsals will also be streamed on Zoom. I have hesitated – but singing in the choir is like the breath of life to me, and so I shall take the risk. It’s hard enough that several members have left recently. Two have moved away from Jerusalem, one – who lives in a retirement home where the management has a stringent “non-mingling” lockdown policy – has decided to “take a break” till all this is over, and one has been struggling with recurrent laryngitis and has decided to leave, with the hope that one day, she will be able to return. One of our other members described it as “tearing bits off our mutual heart” and that’s how it feels. We did discuss pausing all activity “for the duration” (as they used to say in World War 2), but we all fear that once we stop, we may never get it going again.

So, I will take the risk and go to the live meetings – wearing a mask and keeping my distance and hoping that everyone else does likewise.


I have already mentioned some of the new skills I have been forced to acquire since the start of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Two more opportunities presented themselves earlier this month. First of all, whilst researching ways to help my 93-year-old father overcome difficulties with his computer, being unable to visit him myself due to the lockdown, I discovered that Windows 10 contains software which enables users to ask for, or extend, assistance from afar, by giving or taking temporary remote control over the affected computer. If you don’t believe me, try clicking on the Start icon in the bottom left hand corner of the computer, go to Windows Accessories and thence, to Quick Assist. Or just type Quick Assist in the search box next to the Start icon. Then follow the instructions.
Unfortunately, my Dad hasn’t yet allowed me to try this out on his computer.

At one point, I lost internet connectivity for a couple of days due to what the cable company which provides my internet infrastructure called “a regional problem”. They had no idea, they said, how long it would take to fix the problem, although they had technicians in situ working on repairs. That was all very well, but I had a Zoom meeting with my choir set for that evening. And then I remembered Dor, our musical director and conductor, suggesting to someone else who was experiencing problems from an unstable internet connection, that they use their mobile phone as a modem. So I thought, why not give it a try (although I had no idea how). Usually when I am at home, if I want to use my mobile phone to surf the internet, I use the computer’s Wi-Fi, so as not to eat into my cellular internet package, which I prefer to save for when I am out and about. But these were desperate times. I unplugged the modem/router from my computer, connected the cell-phone to one of the USB ports and, following the instructions on my phone, was able to connect the computer to the phone’s cellular internet service (which is provided by a different company). I daresay for many of you, more tech-savvy than I, this sounds like child’s play, but for me, it was like discovering Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (lol).


On Friday, October 9th, the eve of Simchat Torah, Rabbi David Refael ben Ami Feinshil, died of COVID-19. He was just 70 years old. In his youth, before he “found religion”, he was better known as the singer, Dedi ben Ami. I first heard of his death a couple of days later when the radio started playing one of his most famous songs (from when he had already become religious, and devoted himself to collecting the songs of the Breslov Hassidim, to which he belonged). It was a song I first heard thirty years ago, during the First Gulf War, crouched one night in my sealed room, as Saddam Hussein was making good his threat to rain down Scud missiles on Israel. The song is an adaptation of one of the sayings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:

“Thus says Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: It is forbidden to despair. And even if hard times come, one must only rejoice.”

In my sealed room, that song gave me comfort. Listening to it again, earlier this month, I thought to myself that no song could be more suited to the present situation.

And I wept.

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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3 Responses to The Corona Chronicles – In Spite of All Terror (or: The Bright Side of Life)

  1. I had to leap through hoops to be able to get here and now my comment has vanished. You’ve covered a lot of ground here. One thing I’m wondering is how much data in your plan. I have 20 GB which is plenty for those rare occasions when I need to set up a wifi hotspot for my computer.

  2. there’s talk around the alleyways here of another “mass shutdown”; if this happens those who
    have been isolated for all these many days will probably lose their minds. I don’t have a working sound card on this PC { at work } so will give a listen to the video posted ♥♥

    ps…the “tech savvy” paragraph; I wouldn’t have had a CLUE about any of that !! ☺☺

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