On August 4, 2020, I returned to Israel with my family after conducting two years of postdoctoral research at the University of Leicester (UK) funded by the ISF (Israeli Science Foundation). On arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, we were sent for a 14-day quarantine at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, which was populated mainly by Jewish immigrants to Israel (most returnees, like us, were sent to other hotels around the country: in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the Dead Sea). As a family of four, we were given two connecting rooms: one for us and one for our daughters. This gave us two balconies from which I could observe the others with whom we shared this bizarre experience.
During the first few days of quarantine, I was in contact with Dolly, an older woman who had immigrated from Italy. She had a room two floors above us, and her balcony looked out on ours. Dolly used to go out on the balcony mostly in the early morning before the Israeli sun dazzles the eyes, and she was always happy to see my daughters. I started talking to her just to pass the time and soon discovered her fascinating life story. I was particularly impressed by the fortitude and courage evident in her decision to immigrate to Israel alone at the age of 78. Our conversations lengthened and deepened, and I asked permission to photograph her, record what she was saying, and post it to my Facebook page.
Following the warm reactions to the post, and since I couldn't concentrate on the work I had brought with me, I decided to try and interview others on the balconies around me. Thus, I unintentionally created the #etnographquarantinedan project. The interviews started to pile up, so I decided to produce 14 episodes according to the number of quarantine days. I was especially curious about why Jewish immigrants would decide to immigrate to Israel during a global epidemic, how they had experienced the COVID-19 pandemic in their countries of origin, and how they were experiencing the hotel quarantine.
I hope you find these 14 quarantine stories interesting.