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Aliyah StoriesCovid-19 in Israel's Retirement Homes

Covid-19 in Israel’s Retirement Homes

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Last Updated on September 30, 2021

My experience of Covid-19 in one of Israel’s retirement homes and elder-care facilities.

By: Lynette Karp (Resident at Beth Protea – Herzliah)

Lynette Karp enjoying the sunshine at Beth Protea

My husband and I made Aliyah in 2008  to join our daughters in Israel when our responsibilities in South Africa allowed it. This included our involvement in  the establishment of a Jewish Aged Home (Jaffa)  and caring for the last of our parents. We settled in Kfar Saba and I volunteered my services at Beth Protea where I felt very at home after my involvement with Jaffa in Pretoria – and after a short while we put our names down on the Beth Protea waiting list. Ill health accelerated our future intentions and when an ideal room became available at Beth Protea in 2017, we made the move to the independent-living section there.

Life has taken an upturn since that day – we have maintained friendships out of the home and have made new meaningful and international connections amongst residents and staff of this fabulous institution without foregoing our independence.

Being here for this taxing time of Covid was an adventure of note, isolated from our children, grandchildren and extended family we are protected and  reassured by the amazing staff and the company  of our fellow residents.

This is my story…

The Year that Was

Like every chapter in our lives there comes a time to turn the page and get on with it. And that is where we are now, but we take with us some important lessons from the past and some vivid memories.

The arrival of the first corona cases with warnings to cancel or postpone large gatherings caused a great deal of disappointment and despair. For the staff of Beth Protea it required an overnight paradigm change to daily programs and planned events. From cleaners to executives we were being served by willing workers covered in protective gear, but very quickly our routines were established albeit in a different form.

We woke up to sheeting closing off the social centres of Beth Protea and separating us from all staff members except for a limited few who were delegated to connect the two sections. The wonderful Filipinos, aides to many of our residents willingly co-operated in assisting the staff.  Our essential shopping was immediately undertaken with the co-operation of the Beth Protea Home Care team who were amongst the workers entitled to be out and about when Israel itself shut down in a desperate attempt to stem the growing numbers of Covid-19 patients and alarming fatalities particularly amongst the aged. 

In Beth Protea itself we were implored to abide by the required hygiene and distance regulations. As a very limited number of people were allowed to gather for activities; movies were shown 3 or 4 times a day to entertain as many as possible, art was distributed over a sheeting barrier, exercise classes continued on  a grassy knoll adjacent to the swimming pool which luckily remained open as did the gym for limited numbers. All of this took a tremendous amount of organization to implement and the overriding attitude of the residents was tremendous respect for our newly appointed CEO and the phenomenal staff who certainly were thrown into the deep end overnight.  

Anxiety was replaced by reassurance and every day brought more positive encouragement. Entertainment was introduced on the outside patio, with musicians and entertainers separated from us by the dining room doors while we enjoyed glorious weather with a new and wonderful silence interrupted only with  the sound of the birds chirping freely in the blue skies, uninterrupted by the noise of air travel! There is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Progress was tangible. First the testing and the relief at our Home being amongst the small number unaffected by Covid. This was shortly followed by the arrival of the vaccine in Israel and it being made available to us so promptly after it arrived. Our corridors were soon opened, we returned to the dining room albeit in three sessions to abide by the numbers stipulated to be safe indoors. 

Life is full of surprises – just because the world was wracked by a lethal virus didn’t mean that peace reigned over the troubled earth – and Israel was not spared, neither was Beth Protea. Sirens woke us up on two consecutive nights which saw us all rushing into the corridors for safety. But here again – we were not alone. The heads of many of the departments left their own families to drive to Beth Protea at 3 in the morning to make sure we were all in a place of relative safety and to reassure us that we were not alone.

What a privilege it is to live in this home and we all pray that the Covid-19 pandemic will in time just be a memory for all of us that live through it.

A new reality is waiting for us all out there!

Beth Protea is a retirement facility in Herzliah with a distinct Anglo flavour. To arrange an appointment with them, fill out the contact form here

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