Spinning Oh So Slowly!

This is the last day of March, 2020. In this month we have seen the rise and fall of temperature across our country, earthquakes, (10,900 worldwide ranging from a 2+ to one 7+), tornadoes in unexpected and unusual places and, most alarming, the virus that has shut down the world. Who would have thought this would be such a strange month? A tragic month.

As I look out my window I see the greening of the lawn, leaves popping out on trees and I hear the sounds of birds singing, people on the pathway behind my house and every indication that life is normal, but it isn’t! Will it ever be normal again? Many people are asking that same question while the so-called threat looms large like that of Charlie Brown’s friend that is always dirty. And somehow we are made to feel dirty. But are we?

Stories about the virus abound. Sad stories of people dying. Sweet and encouraging stories of doctors and nurses leaving their families to go to New York City to help with the outbreak there. Beautiful stories of our hospital ships being sent to and arriving on the east and west coast. And, there are stories that this isn’t a real situation but one made up by certain members of the government to orchestra crowd control.

What is truth? Will we ever know truth?

Today I heard that one of the national cable TV stations had been found to be using film footage of bodies being piled high in refrigerator trucks in New York City only to have it revealed that footage actually came out of Italy where the virus is a very real and virulent devastation that has killed many.

Why Italy?

According to what I have read Italy sold out to China years ago. Most of Italy’s factories – the ones that produce the things we so love like Prada, CC, Gucci and many other fashion brands that we enjoy parading around in – were sold to China. Then the unthinkable happened. Instead of employing Italian citizens as had been hoped, China moved people to northern Italy in droves. The last count I heard was that there were over 30,000 legal Chinese in Italy and untold numbers of illegals. They work in the factories and they go home – to China – for the Chinese new year to celebrate with their families. This year, 2020, the Chinese new year was January 25 and thousands of Chinese flew on direct flights to and from Wuhan, China, where the virus initiated, back to their homes in Italy unsuspecting that they were carrying a silent killer with them.

Many of Italy’s people are elderly. I don’t know why that is – maybe it’s the wine! I don’t know. But we’ve all heard enough horror stories about the virus to know it is extremely dangerous for the elderly, especially if they have any compromising diseases. Suddenly Italy is under attack and her citizens are dying in droves from a virus they hadn’t even known existed until they were completely inundated with it. As of this writing, Italy has had 105,792 diagnosed Corona Virus (CoVid 19) cases with 12,428 deaths, in a population of 60.48 million.

Here in the United States, the areas that have been the hardest hit to date are both coast areas. New York City, with a population of 18+ million now has a full blown epidemic on her hands. Almost 76,000 cases of the virus have been diagnosed at this moment with 1,550 deaths. Make-shift hospitals are being established all over the city including the tent hospitals of Samaritan’s Purse now functioning in Central Park as well as in Italy.

On the West Coast, it seems Washington state has been the hardest hit, with 4,896 confirmed cases and 195 deaths. The first case was diagnosed on January 21, four days prior to the Chinese new year. A great number of the deaths came in a nursing home where it seems it was first noticed to this degree as their residents succumbed to it. Since then isolation has been ongoing and it seems, but I’m not sure, that many changes have been implemented to stave off the onslaught of the disease.

On January 29, USA Today announced that the White House was considering stopping flights to and from China much to the chagrin of all the news channels, with accusations of racism. Sometimes it is very difficult to do what you think is best for those whom you love the most because of the interference of others who always think they know more!

Today, on the eve of April 1, April Fools Day, we all sit in our homes with extremely clean hands and disinfectant spray at every door, wondering what will happen next. We have been told the lock down or ‘stay in place’ order has been extended to April 30 with a “we’ll see” at the end of that statement. I have to wonder how long this will last. It certainly has effected my business (insurance agent) and that of my sister who lives with me (medical massage therapist), just as it has effected that of multitudes of others.

America is spinning, ever so slowly. Spinning. Spinning. Spinning. Where will the needle stop? Will it be on ‘get out of jail’ or will it be ‘resume life as normal’ or will it be something devastating? I don’t know the answer to that but I, like so many, am trying to walk out Isaiah 26:20 “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.” I wonder, does the next verse, verse 21, have anything to do with this virus? “…the earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.”

Wash your hands and be well.

Blessings from Oklahoma City.

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Corona! Corona! Corona!

It isn’t a song and it isn’t a beer…it’s a total disruption to our lives! Can you believe in just a matter of days our country has been taken hostage by a bug that we can neither see or hear or even describe? It’s like we’ve surrendered to the enemy without a shot ever being fired! I’m not sure that is a fair analysis but that is what it seems like to many of us.

In my neighborhood people are being very compliant with the constraints put on us by the city and state officials. So far, it has been mostly volunteer but there is the threat that if we don’t cooperate they may implement a fine. Personally, I have a problem with that just as I do with all of this loss of our normal life as we have known it.

I do believe there is a virus. I don’t question that. And, I do believe some people have died and will die from it, just as happens every year. But, I do question the response to it – this mysterious virus. Each year the flu – in whatever form it takes – sickens thousands upon thousands and kills many, far more than this bug kills, yet we don’t get quarantined because ‘it might get us’ nor does our economy shut down. Instead we go on with life and some people die and we mourn their loss.

Last year the flu hit very close to home when my nephew-in-law, 46 years old, succumbed to it. He was a totally healthy young, American father of three and in just a matter of days he was gone. That was a shock to us and I’m sure many families suffered similar situations. In fact, in this winter of 2019/2020 these are the current statistics for the flu – not Corona, but the flu:

“According to CDC, this year’s flu season has led to at least 17 million medical visits and 390,000 hospitalizations. CDC found that the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increased to 5.8% in the week ending on March 14, up from 5.2% the previous week. The national baseline for those visits is 2.4%.”

To my way of thinking, we are looking at the wrong killer. But why is that? Is it because there was nothing that has been done so far that has brought President Trump down so why not initiate an epidemic – the invisible enemy that he cannot see or text against? I don’t know. I do know I’ve read much, heard much, and thought a great deal about it and I do not know of anything that has done so much damage to our country in such a little amount of time than this alleged pandemic.

Like everyone else, I’m sitting in my home waiting on the time when we can, once again, go out into the real world. When that does happen, I wonder what the real world will look like and will we recognize it? Is this the beginning of the destruction of America and the western world as we have known it?

Dennis Prager, one of the most intelligent, clear-thinkers in our country said, “We can only be certain that shutting down virtually every part of society will result in a large number of people economically ruined, life savings depleted, decades of work building a restaurant or some other small business destroyed. As if that were not bad enough, the ancillary effects would include increased depression and divorce and other personal tragedies. The effects of closing schools for weeks or months will include family chaos, vast numbers of bored young people, health care providers who will have to stay home and more. Yet young people are the least likely people to become ill from the virus.”

To further quote Mr. Prager: “But here is a prediction: If the government can order society to cease functioning, from restaurants and other businesses to schools, due to a possible health disaster, it is highly likely that a Democratic president and Congress will similarly declare emergency and assert authoritarian rule in order to prevent what they consider the even greater “existential threat” to human life posed by global warming.

The dam has been broken. Maybe it was necessary. But when dams break, flooding follows.”

It is time for us to stop and think about this. How far – exactly how far – are we willing to go? Are we going to watch our country destroyed from within? Have we surrendered?

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The Journey…Page 2!

When I left off on the telling of this story, Theresa and I had just arrived in Atlanta to the Delta terminal. We had missed our flight to Oklahoma City so we found a hotel, made arrangements for the night and were headed to the hotel feeling sorry for those remaining stranded in the almost empty terminal. We felt very blessed to have a place to go with a warm shower and a clean bed.

The hotel shuttle failed to show up so we took a taxi that sat waiting at the entrance to the terminal. To our dismay, when we told the driver the address of the hotel he didn’t know where it was and ran back to another waiting taxi to get directions. Apparently he didn’t have GPS which is almost unimaginable in this day and age. Finally we were at the hotel, bid him adieu and walked into a clean lobby with a very sweet young lady at the desk. She told us we were lucky as they were talking about shutting all hotels in Atlanta next week which we understand yet we find to be unconscionable since there will be stranded travelers.

It is amazing how much joy a hot shower can bring. Just to feel you have travel grime washed off of you, even for just a few hours is wonderful. We fell into bed exhausted. It was 4:30 a.m. and we had to be up and getting ready by 8:30 in order to be at the airport in time to catch our flight.

The Delta terminal was, once again, almost abandoned. TSA was no longer honoring ‘TSA Pre’ so we had to go through the normal security checks including removing shoes, etc. Eight soldiers, tall, bearded and in fatigues that didn’t look American were in the line ahead of us. I didn’t recognize the flag on their sleeves

Image result for german flag emoji

so I asked where they were from. One of them, in perfect English said they were from Germany. I asked if they had to go into quarantine when they got home. “Yes,” he said, “but two weeks off with pay – nothing wrong about that!” He smiled and walked through the metal detector. That is a good way to look at it I suppose. Hadn’t actually thought about it but why not.

Our flight to OKC was without incident. We had a lovely stewardess whom we befriended and learned that Delta was considering going to only one flight a day beginning next week. We knew we were blessed to have made the decision to come home when we did even though the trip had been arduous. At least the next stop was OKC and that sounded great…HOME!

As soon as we arrived back at our house we deposited our luggage, visited the bathroom and headed to the grocery store as we had emptied our refrigerator of all perishables when we left home almost four weeks before. Although we had kept up to some degree with what was going on in America and we had observed that traffic was minimal it was still a shock to our system to see some of the shelves in the store almost empty.

Another thing that was shocking was the lack of eye contact with people – customers – in the store. It was almost as though they thought that by looking at you they might get a bug or something. I started smiling at people and saying ‘hello!’. I am not sure it did all that much good but I’m pretty determined not to let this virus influence my life any more than possible and not speaking to people is ridiculous!

Finding no hamburger in the store I was standing at the meat counter trying to decide what meat to purchase when a man – also a customer – stood to the side watching me. I had noticed him in the store before and felt he looked familiar but I wasn’t sure whether I did or didn’t know him. I looked at him and said “Hi!” He said he needed ‘a plastic bag and did I mind?’ Well why would I mind? Then it dawned on me that the bags are on a spindle above my head and he wanted me to move! Oh my gosh!

I stepped to the side and said, “No, I don’t mind and I’m not afraid!” I couldn’t believe it. If this man was who I thought he might be, then his attitude of fear was way over the top for the job I think he might have. Not sure he was that man but I didn’t care.

Because we had been gone and there was no perishable food in our house our basket was full. We didn’t have any duplicates except two containers of cottage cheese because we couldn’t get one big container. But, you would have thought we were hoarders the way everyone was looking at us. One guy, a different one, sent us a very judgmental look. I wondered if his church was one of the ones that was closed!

Image result for grocery cart emoji

Finally, we were home. Truly, there is nothing quite like “Home Sweet Home!”

Wash your hands and when you do, remember Whose hands you are in! ROG

Blessings from Oklahoma!

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The Journey…

We are back at home in the U.S.A., and we are glad to be here although we don’t really recognize it as the same place we left just a few weeks ago. It took us almost 48 hours to get here with delays, frustrations, alternate plans and a lot of waiting.

Our journey began with a really great taxi driver, Udi, picking us up at our apartment in Jerusalem as previously scheduled. This was the first time we’d taken a taxi to the airport but due to the circumstances this was a trip of ‘firsts’. We listened as he told us how much his business had dropped and how hard it was since he is the sole support of his family with one child still at home. We were glad we had booked a taxi instead of driving to another location to return the rental car.

Ben Gurion was interesting – there appeared to be only two airlines operating. A Turkish line and United. Most of the people waiting in line were flying United, as were we. While we waited I found myself wondering just how big this plane was if we were all going to board the same one. Nevertheless, we were eager to get on the plane now that we’d made the decision to return home.

We had to check our carry on luggage which greatly surprised us. We were told it was because of Corona but we were given ample time to take out what was necessary – things like my computer which I have to keep a tight grip on due to my personal work. I was really happy that I had formed the habit a number of years ago to slide a small bag with handles into my carry-on, ‘just in case’. That little bag was a welcome carrier to my laptop.

Once we were through security we entered the huge rotunda where there are shops and restaurants usually teeming with people. This time, there were few people and only very few shops were open. We did get a little food and drink which we enjoyed before going to the departure gate.

While sitting at the gate we were observing people. Several tour groups came in talking about their experiences. Although their trips had been limited in what they could do they didn’t seem disappointed that they had made the trip. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as I knew some of them had probably worked and saved for a long time for this trip-of-a-lifetime that somehow had become very restricted due to the virus.

The plane was packed. I saw a total of two empty seats – there may have been more but those two were rare. About an hour out of Newark, NJ, where we landed they announced that Global Entry – an additional travel security system we belong to – was shut down so everyone, absolutely everyone, had to fill out the immigration form, no exceptions. They also announced that every person, again no exceptions, had to fill out a health questionnaire which they then proceeded to pass around.

Then there was an announcement that they had run out of the health questionnaire and had radioed ahead for more to be waiting at the gate upon our arrival. No one would be allowed off the plane until absolutely everyone had a questionnaire and had filled it out so just sit tight. A few minutes later they announced that since we were coming in from Israel we were not required to fill out the forms so we could go ahead and deplane! Okay, chaos seems to be the new norm.

As we landed we were trying to watch out the window to see how traffic in Newark was as that would tell us how much the new edicts were being adhered to. There was traffic but certainly not what one would expect on a Friday afternoon at rush hour. We shook our heads in awe that the insanity had reached our shores and people were isolating themselves.

When we got to immigration/customs there was a person directing traffic. Considering the announcements we’d had on the plane I asked her about Global Entry and she motioned us around the corner. We were happily surprised to see the kiosk was open and functioning. We were able to utilize the system and zip through immigration/ customs to retrieve our bags and move them to the other side of the area for our connecting flight. That was all easy –

Then came the switch to Delta as originally scheduled. We had to catch the train over to the Delta terminal which was very hot and almost abandoned. We had our carry-ons in tow as we marched up to the counter. The Delta employee was very nice and helpful. Our flight from Newark to Atlanta had been cancelled and she’d have to see if she could get us on another flight.

While we waited on her to find out we began talking about renting a car and driving to Oklahoma City from Newark, NJ. It was an option that was being seriously considered, so seriously that we asked her if we decided to do that what would happen to our bags that had been checked through from Ben Gurion to Oklahoma City. She told us what to do and reassured us that eventually the bags would catch up with us.

Finally, after a lot of computer manipulating and telephone calls she was able to schedule us on a flight leaving Newark at 9:30 that night, arriving Atlanta at 12:30 in the morning. That was fine – we could wait a few hours even though the airport was hot. She wasn’t able to assign us a seat but gave us boarding passes and sent us merrily on our way.

Thankfully, before we went through TSA we asked if there was food available in the gate area. “No. No food. Everything is closed down.” She directed us to the food court on the outside of TSA and we were happy to sit at a table, get some food and drink and just sit for a while even though the few restaurants in the food court were beginning to shut down while we sat in the common area. We ate at leisure and discussed our options of the ‘what ifs’. The decision was we would fly to Atlanta and then, if necessary, we would drive home from there.

The gate area was just as hot, if not hotter than the ticketing and food court areas had been. In addition to that, there was no food/drink to be had, not even a vending machine. There was a drinking fountain with luke warm, nasty tasting water but we had no containers for the water so we were limited even in that. After several hours, one of the Delta employees came out with a case of water, saying she had ‘begged for it’. Everyone was thrilled and rushed toward the cool water.

We sat and waited and watched as our flight got moved from 9:30 to 11:30 then to 12:30. Again, we wondered if it would hold at all. It did and the very crowded plane that we had trouble getting seats on was almost totally empty – and yes, we did have our comfort seats which were so welcome after having been on a sardine flight from Israel for 11.5 hours.

In fact the plane was so sparsely populated that I moved across the aisle to three empty seats and my sister sat in the three empty seats we had been assigned. Although this plane was also freezing cold, we were able to put our feet up, cover ourselves with our coats we had been lugging along and get a little sleep before we landed in Atlanta at 3:30 a.m.

Again, an empty airport. We made our way through the almost empty hallways toward ground transportation in hopes of finding a taxi. The Delta counter was occupied by two lone people who gave us a list of hotels on the airport grounds and told us no discounts were being offered since the virus thing had happened. At least we had contact information so we called a hotel and made arrangements before we grabbed a cab.

There were people in the airport, other travelers, most of whom were sitting like zombies hoping to sleep since nothing else was moving until morning. We saw one guy curled up in the shoe shine chair, fast asleep and we hoped he would not slide out and hit the floor. One woman sat on the cold, hard floor, secluded by her luggage. I thought I recognized her as having been on the United flight but I wasn’t sure. I did know I was thankful we were going to a hotel where we could shower and get some sleep in a real bed. Thank you God!

I am going to end this story right here – I’ll write the rest of it tomorrow as it is already too long but the journey does continue! Tune in tomorrow!

Blessings from Oklahoma!

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Heading Home…

This is our last day/evening in Jerusalem. It is with mixed emotions and blessings that we shut down the apartment and prepare to leave – 11 days earlier than had initially been planned. Although we had carefully planned our trip with places to go and people to see, circumstances have dictated the terms of this trip and changed almost everything.

When we left the States the Corona Virus was about the farthest thing from our minds. Now it is on everyone’s mind. It has been very hard for us to realize that we have been limited by this bug that, in our minds, is not as serious as the world seems to believe it is. We have had no fear of the virus but we are very concerned about what the distancing is doing to relationships now as well as in the future. Is this the new normal? We don’t know the answer to that one yet but I’m sure we will figure it out in the next few months.

For us, not being able to see our friends and, for those whom we did get to see, being kept at a distance of six feet has been very difficult in our ‘huggy’ world. We have managed but it has left a sense of emptiness in my heart, almost as though we didn’t really get to see them.

Yesterday I felt directed to check on the rental car return at Ben Gurion Airport and boy am I glad I did. What has always been our habit of driving to the airport, getting the luggage onto the carts and then one of us staying with the luggage while I return the car got shot out of the realm. Fortunately, I obeyed my spirit and called El Don/Enterprise car rental only to learn the Ben Gurion rental spot was closed. After some hoop jumping we were able to return the car today here in Jerusalem.

As we drove to the car return lot we were both shocked to see the number of people out on the streets. Although they are almost empty by normal standards there was still quite a lot of activity, more than we had expected. We were surprised because we had come to understand the police were fining people – heavily – for being out for anything but a grocery store run and/or to the pharmacy. After we dropped the car we took a taxi back to the apartment and listened to the driver tell of the lack of business and how he was going to have to turn his cab in until this was over as he had to pay 200 shekels a day for rental and he wasn’t even making that. And so it is going, not only here but at home as well. Everyone is being hurt by this insidious bug – I pray this is over with soon and life, hopefully, will return to a normal that we can recognize.

I do believe we will overcome this. How and when? I don’t have the answer to that yet but I do trust the Lord and I KNOW He has everything under control event erroneous response to a ridiculous virus.

Shalom from Jerusalem.

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The Memorial

Still in Israel! We are sitting in our lovely apartment in Jerusalem, enjoying the blossoming of the trees and flowers surrounding our building, listening to enlightening music, and trying to remain positive in the midst of insanity in the world. As I have written previously you can only stand so much sitting in the house until you have to do something, so we did.

Although Israel is on a form of lock down that increases every day we decided to go for a drive to see what is happening and to check off one item that was on our bucket list before the world went crazy, that being the 9.11 Memorial.

Last year as we were driving down Highway 1 towards Tel Aviv we looked into a valley and spotted the Memorial and made a mental note to track down it’s location. As things turned out we had to leave Israel in a hurry due to a family emergency so we put the Memorial on a bucket list for the future. Now it was time.

First of all, let me say that without Waze we would never have found it. While it is slightly visible from Highway 1, which provides only a quick look down as you are speeding down the road, it is far from visible on a casual drive. Having a general idea of the location would never have gotten us there but Waze did!

The road to the Memorial is nothing more than a narrow path that two cars can go down if one is willing to pull to the side and let the other pass. It is a hilly, curvy road with many pot holes and no guard rails but it is doable in a vehicle but certainly not a bus. Along the way are a couple of really great parks for kids with wonderful play gear including a zip line, climbing challenges, miniature trains, jumping things and lots of adventurous items that help while the hours away. On this beautiful sunny morning the parks were full as were the hiking and biking paths. Israelis hike and enjoy their countryside like no other people I’ve ever known. Even now, but maybe especially now, they are hungering for fresh air, sunshine and a sense of freedom.

So we made the arduous drive with the determination to find the Memorial. It was a beautiful drive in that there was so much nature. Flowers were in abundance with some of them popping out of heavily porous rocks, much resembling a sponge, intertwined with a few weeds, lots of interesting geology. A lazy stream wove it’s way through the valley and on towards the Dead Sea, many miles away. Amongst the many fascinating things in the drive was the amazing heights of the bridges that were built for Israel’s new train system. Up and up they went from the deepest valley far above the roadway they ran parallel. Amazing engineering feats!

We found the 9.11 Memorial and we were so happy we did. It is beautiful in it’s elegant simplicity. It is a cast American flag situated atop a base that made me think of our early space capsules in design. The flag appears to be waving upward, toward the heavenlies yet gently kissing the names of the 3,000+ plus that died that day forever resting on what appears to be pewter plates framed by Jerusalem stone. The description of the Memorial on Wikipedia reads: “The cenotaph measures 30 feet and is made of granite, bronze and aluminum. It takes the form of an American flag, waving and transforming into a flame at the tip.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_Living_Memorial_Plaza

It is truly beautiful and well worth the effort of going to see, however and whenever you can. One item checked off the bucket list while we soaked in the fresh air and sunshine before the storm that was coming moved in. We returned to our apartment thankful for the adventure.

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There IS Fresh Air Out There…

We are still in Jerusalem. As things stand now, we will be here until Friday morning when we are scheduled to head home. God willing, all things will go well and we will arrive Oklahoma City at midnight on Friday. Now what do we do?

Although the apartment we are in is extremely lovely and we are having a delicious time watching birds: ravens, pigeons, turtle doves, and a beautiful green bird that looks very much like a parakeet but flies like the wind, we still have a need to get out of the house. Today our journey was a drive around Jerusalem to see what is going on, how many places are open for business and how many are actually closed.

My guesstimate is that Jerusalem is 65% shut down. Everything is very quiet but there is still life and activity. One thing that is not missing is the plethora of cars with the Hebrew Lamed ‘ל‘ on them, housed in a tent-like device that sits on top of the car, much like a Dominoes delivery vehicle to warn unsuspecting following vehicles that it will be a while before you can get on down the road! I am sure it is a pleasure to learn to drive in this situation with so few cars on the highway. Normally Israeli drivers are very aggressive, cutting in where there isn’t room to cut, speeding around a slower driver and honking incessantly. Not now. So the learners are out, putt – putting along in traffic as though they have all year to learn and there is no hurry – and there really isn’t a hurry right now.

Our outing for today was to go to the Super Pharm (pharmacy) to pick up some more allergy medicine and to buy some moisturizer. We then went to the grocery store next door and picked up a couple of items just because we could. One of the things we have found here that is amazing is a travel size tissue called Selpack. We love it so we bought a couple of extra packs to tuck into our luggage just because they are great. There is no shortage on tissues, or toilet tissue for that matter, here in Israel because they are thinking and not hoarding. It will be a bit of a shock to our system, I think, when we get home and see that the stores are as empty as I am reading they are.

Next adventure was to find the American Embassy in Jerusalem. It is located in Talpiyot, in an old hotel that was called the Diplomat where I stayed in 1987 for a short time when I first came to Israel to live. It isn’t a hotel any longer. It is a rather majestic looking building that we couldn’t get close to due to a lot of construction going on there – looking much like a security fence being installed. It didn’t matter, we did find it after getting lost a time or two, but mission accomplished.

Our next stop was at the Haas Promenade. It is a lovely site only a stone’s throw from the Embassy and a place that we’ve been to many times. It is a tiered park, with lovely rows of Jerusalem stone steps, plenty of seating and a vastly panoramic view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, past the Old City and the Temple Mount on almost to the western entrance to the city. We sat there for quite a while and took in the view, talked quietly about all that is happening around the world and watched a beautiful Jewish family with eight children as the Abba – daddy – entertained them with a drone. They had a picnic lunch with them and they gathered around to eat and then continued with their energetic play activity. All is good in Israel, virus or not!

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