Jerusalem: Let's share our monsters

We've all stopped moving; but some of us are already far from home. R., a German in Israel, finds that it's all less terrifying when we share the monsters we bring with us (though not the virus!), and recognise this is an experience we have in common.

5 months ago, I decided to move from Berlin to Israel for 5 years to start a PhD and work in an international research project with 5 other people from 5 different countries (6, including me). Yes, I was TERRIFIED. As you can imagine, the last months have been anything but ordinary. I started to question my culture, and my privileges as a European. Let’s say, I have lived and learned a lot more than I did during some phases in Berlin, which I still call my chosen home to this day. But this office I am now working in almost every day and share with a bunch of amazing people from all over the world, has become a part of something I like to call home. And they teach me more about life than I could have ever wished for.

Photo by R.

Since the beginning of the year, Corona has been a topic at work as two of my colleagues are from Asian countries. As Corona spread over the world and got to Israel, they faced a lot of backlash, and racism. As Israel takes very strict measures, one of them was not able to fly back to his home country to visit his wife and kids, who have been stuck at home for weeks. I had to cancel a trip to Berlin at the last minute, as Israel decided to send people who came from other countries into quarantine. Since then, things here got scary, and weird. Now, the virus is everywhere and all of us are basically stuck in Israel, as there is almost no way to get out, and especially now way back into the country at the moment. Israel is on lockdown since today, and no-one really knows when it will end and how things will develop from here. A surreal standstill. Today, I had to say goodbye to University and our office, as also this place will be shut down now. Meanwhile, every one of us is worried about friends and family back home. I worry about my grandma, who lost her husband last year, and my parents, about their jobs, about me not being able to be there, if something happens. Or about my former flatmate and her family back in Italy. All of us have these monsters, these are some of mine.

So, what’s the good side of this little story I would like to share? These people I share an office with have become far more than colleagues. I graduated from university 7 months ago, got rid of most of my stuff, and moved to Israel with 3 suitcases, not knowing how this would all work out. I choose to stay here, because I know if something happened, they would be there. Far more, it shows me that fear, angst, is a universal feeling, and if it’s shared it becomes less strong. If you start to share, your worries might not get smaller, but you get to experience that you are not alone with this feeling, which can be a bigger monster than the virus itself. Instead of pictures of empty shelves, I want us to share monsters.

This story was shared by R., a German researcher living and working in Jerusalem, Israel.

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