Written by Jamie Magrill

Coronavirus Updates, Guidelines, Tips, and Support in English for Everyone Living in Israel 

israel coronavirus updates

By now, your life is probably significantly impacted by the new coronavirus. The good news is that everyone else is more or less in the same boat. The bad news is we are all in the same boat, and tight quarters tend to spread the virus quicker (so start social distancing now). New guidelines and rapidly changing circumstances make it difficult to predict how or when the current pandemic will end, but know that our Masa Community is here to support you in this challenging time. Before going further, I should note that none of our Masa Team members have any specific training in public health or epidemiology – I am a scientist, so my perspectives are based on the same news articles and books everyone else has access to, just with a bit of scientific skepticism added to the mix.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

First, remember that up to 90% of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, so you may be infectious and not even know it (another good reason to stay home). The usual symptom profile of coronavirus (in order of appearance) includes: onset with high fever and possible throat irritation, followed by a dry cough and eventually shortness of breath (often manifested by wheezing or dyspnea – trouble breathing), although some studies suggest only 20% to 25% of coronavirus patients experience shortness of breath and are hospitalized. Other symptoms include sudden loss of smell and taste or muscle aches.

If you feel that you have any of these symptoms, don’t panic. Feeling stressed can actually cause many of these symptoms, particularly shortness of breath (although not fever). Either way, the safest place for you is your house. Let a friend or family member know if you are feeling sick and make a contingency plan. If your fever worsens or you feel dizziness, chest pain or severe shortness of breath, call Magen David Adom at 101 (do not go to a clinic or ER) to get tested free of charge.

What are the most recent guidelines for coronavirus in Israel (as of April 7th 2020)?

The list of instructions are updated almost daily, and for a full list in English please refer to The Times of Israel or the Israeli Ministry of Health.
In brief, the guidelines now require masks or scarves to be worn when outside, no personal trips except within 100 meters of your residence for exercise, unless for medical reasons or for food, no work except essential services with an emergency pass from your workplace, and no gatherings of more than 2 people except in a few cases like prayer or funerals.

How can I support myself if I have lost my job?

If you have made Aliyah and are an Israeli citizen, then you may be entitled to unemployment insurance. The best way to find out is to speak to your Aliyah Advisor, usually through Nefesh B’Nefesh, or to check out their UI guide here. If you made Aliyah recently and just finished your Sal Klita benefits, you may also be eligible for another round of benefits from the Misrad Ha’Klita if you are now unemployed due to the crisis: again, talk to your Aliyah Advisor for more information. Masa runs an Aliyah-specific group for new Olim and Masa Alumni, where you can connect directly with other Alumni or workers of Misrad HaKlita and the Jewish Agency.

Masa also runs a Careers Facebook group, where you can find vacancies from our partners. You may think that COVID-19 means a hiring freeze, but there are still organizations looking to fill roles, so don’t be disheartened!
You can join the group here.

What if I am feeling stressed, anxious or sad?

Maintaining your mental health and wellbeing is super important. Now is the time to reach out to your friends and family, strengthen your connections and also get to know yourself better. Here, Tara Brach offers some tips for self-calm during the coronavirus pandemic and the WHO provides a list of mental health guidelines while in isolation.

You can also reach out to the Masa Community for support.

We’re all in this together – we share the frustrations, uncertainty and anxiety that you may be feeling. As the saying goes – a problem shared is a problem halved, so join us on Facebook and Mobilize to connect with over 3400 Community members also going through this. You can find all the groups here.

For those looking for professional help, the Masa Community has partnered with Amcha to offer reduced price therapist sessions. You can read more about this here– please make sure you’re a member of our Facebook group to access this link. You can join the Facebook group here.

Personally, I have found that there are three critical things to keeping my mood stable. First, proper nutrition: it’s important to keep eating lots of fruits, veggies and non-processed foods. Yes, it’s hard to get out of bed and make breakfast, lunch and dinner. As someone who often eats at work during the week, I had to rebuild my daily schedule around mealtimes to ensure I was maintaining a balanced diet. I also found my appetite changed; with less physical activity I was less hungry, so I now eat two smaller meals and one larger one throughout the day. For healthy meal inspiration, try Gordon Ramsay’s Quick and Simple Recipes or this online simple recipe book from Delish. These meals require quite a few fresh ingredients, so if you are having trouble finding fresh food, consider buying frozen fruits and vegetables for stirfrys and smoothies instead!

Second, physical exercise: again, hard to do in your house or apartment, but yoga, stretching or weightlifting with creative household substitutes for weights help. Having an online workout buddy who can encourage you to meet your goals is very helpful, and many online tutorials or live classes are available to keep you motivated and moving. Finally, stay social and keep your mind working. Here is a list of free online course sites including Coursera and Udemy, a list of 450 Ivy-League courses that you can take online for free and for online fun with friends, try Catan Online, Words with Friends (like Scrabble) or schedule a FaceTime session with a friend or family member.

What else can I do while in self-isolation?

Great question! Masa is also here to help: we have a host of online resources including daily Zoom seminars, yoga classes, and even drink-making classes available here. Masa also has a wide variety of online community groups for every major area in Israel and many interest-specific groups for foodies, dancers, hikers and more on WhatsApp, Facebook, as well as our Masa Community private platform on Mobilize (only for us!), so check out this landing page, as we are sure there will be something for you.

You can also get involved with online volunteering. Helping others is a great way to do something positive without leaving your home – you can find a post all about this in our Facebook group.

Jamie Magrill

Masa Alumni Fellow

Jamie Magrill is a scientist-scholar and world-traveler with an interest in entrepreneurship and startups, particularly in the biomedical and philanthropic fields, an MSc in Biomedical Sciences Candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a Masa Israel Journey Alumni Fellow.

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