“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Ramat Gan, Israel” by Julie Gray

corona sam

My Loving Life Buddy, for that’s what he is, sits next to me and we watch Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu make an announcement that Israel will be closing the schools in yet another move to try to curb the coronavirus in Israel. Outside, the wind is battering our house and rattling the binds. Life is feeling very biblical right now, but then, life in Israel is often dramatic.

My Loving Life Buddy is 85 years old. Most people think that I am his daughter but nope; I am his girlfriend. I am 30 years younger than HE IS, so I’m not at the same level of risk for this virus that he is. But that makes no difference; we live together. I could easily get him sick. Earlier this week I bought hand wipes and then drenched them in rubbing alcohol and put them in Ziploc bags outside our front door, on the coffee table and in our car.

I have spent the last three years writing a book about my boyfriend – Gidon is his name. I just finished it, in fact. I want so badly for him to be able to hold that book in his hands. The clock was already ticking because of his age but now I am really scared. Gidon is a Holocaust survivor, one of the estimated fewer than 200,000 left in this world. What if, having escaped Hitler, Gidon is killed by a microscopic bug? How many other Holocaust survivors will be killed by the coronavirus, their stories wiped off the face of the earth with them?

I am guarding someone very precious. Precious to me, personally, and precious as a piece of living history. Gidon is one of the very few people left alive who looked directly into the eyes of Nazi camp guards and who saw the trains coming and going, who felt the daily hunger. He knows what really happened.

Gidon has lived a very good and very full life after he was liberated from the Theresienstadt concentration camp near Prague, where he spent four years of his life, from the ages of six to ten. But Gidon is not done living – as so many other elderly people all over the world are not done living. This most vulnerable group is so often written off by society as dispensable. Until you think about that more personally – your grandmother, your parents, the sweet old lady in the park. Their lives matter. Their memories matter.

We’ll get through this somehow, over here in Israel, where, so far, as I write this, there are only 104 cases. But Israel is a very small country. I am armed with hand sanitizer, wipes and a willingness to stay home as much as possible to try to keep a bubble of safety around my charming, handsome, funny, precious Gidon. I realize that I might lose this battle of trying to protect Gidon from this virus and that if I do, it won’t have been my fault. But my life will have an enormous hole in it and there will be one less Holocaust survivor in this world.

–March 13, 2020


julie gray

Julie Gray is a writer and editor in Tel Aviv, Israel. A longtime Huffington Post contributor, Julie has also published in Moment Magazine, The Times of Israel, Script Magazine and others. Julie is the author of The True Adventures of Gidon Lev, slated to be released on July 1, 2020