As Israel enters its contentious second lockdown, there are lessons to be learned from an extreme version of this practice: the two-week quarantine.

As an Israeli citizen who traveled from the United States, a red zone, I had to do a mandatory two-week quarantine period upon arrival.

Like all things during this period, we can either be the victim of circumstances or we can make the best of the situation. I chose the latter, but not without hesitation.

My hope is that coming from the States, and particularly being in lockdown in New York and New Jersey during the worst of the pandemic in March and April, I can share with you some ways to make the best of a situation out of our control.

Knowing that I was going to enter quarantine, I did everything I could to find a way around it, or at least to shorten the period. After flying to Israel from Tulsa via New York and London I brought the recent negative Covid test to show the Ministry of Health when I landed in Ben Gurion. My advice to those trying the same thing is don’t bother; they won’t accept them.

The airport was empty, and even the cellphone store was closed, so I was not able to get an Israeli SIM card before I entered quarantine. Everything was pre-arranged and the cab (with driver wearing a mask) took me to a moshav in the north, Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav. If there was one place to quarantine, this was the place to do it.

  1. Zoom all day and night

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).

If I thought I was going to be bored, and even have time to read and reflect, I was mistaken. I was on Zoom calls all day… and well into the night. Many of these calls were work-related, but there were plenty of people checking in via WhatsApp and Zoom.

Community is such an important aspect of Israeli culture, and that innate desire to connect with our fellow tribe members drives our behavior.

Being on Zoom did pass the time, and it was a productive way to spend my quarantine, but sometimes it is too much. Zoom fatigue is a real thing. We were not meant to spend so much time in front of a computer screen.

So what I did was change it up with WhatsApp calls where I walked around (as much as I could given the limitations). Zoom is not going away, even after we get a grip on this virus, but I would suggest being conscious of how much time you spend on it.

  1. 1% improvement every day

“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov).

Structure was important and helped me keep my sanity: going to sleep at the same time every day (when I didn’t have calls from the States), waking up at the same time every day, and keeping other healthy habits.

As we learned when the gyms closed, there are plenty of workouts we can do at home to keep healthy and maintain our sanity. Aside from journaling, intense bodyweight workouts helped me do that, as it has for many across the globe.

I had the choice of how I used this time, and I decided to partake in activities to better myself, even if it was by 1% a day. I want to improve my Hebrew reading comprehension, so I started with a few minutes a day of just reading the newspaper.

Find something you want to improve and dedicate some time, even five minutes a day, to move toward your goal. The current lockdown is the perfect time to start.

  1. Acceptance 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”

(Viktor Frankl).

The pandemic has really shined a light on how much we don’t control and, depending on how you look at it, this can either cause chronic anxiety or liberate us.

Yes, people are suffering during this pandemic with mental-health and economic challenges. But you cannot control the situation through actions like excessively checking the news.

It has always been hard for me to just accept things for what they are. Once I realized that there was so much out of my hands, I was free to focus on what I could: wearing a mask, social distancing and being mindful of others.

  1. Setting work boundaries

“What can’t be done with force can simply be done with more force” (IDF quote).

During quarantine, we can’t even go for a walk around the block. We get up and, without travel time to reorient ourselves, are thrust right into the workday. The same goes for when we want to end our day and unwind.

Without a time to decompress from the day, our sleep is impacted, and it becomes a cycle where we’re always catching up. A lesson learned during this time was the importance of putting my phone away and shutting my computer down at certain hours.

  1. Time flies

“Life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you must keep moving”(Albert Einstein).

Not surprisingly, for better or worse, time does go by. All the pleasurable moments we have fade away, as do the difficult times we have to overcome.

When difficulties arise, we remind ourselves that “this too shall pass,” but there is a benefit to embracing the challenging times as learning opportunities.

There is a tendency to pass this time at home watching Netflix and not being active. It has been over six months since the pandemic started. The time will pass either way, whether or not we use it with purpose.

It’s easy to lose track of time during these days stuck at home. You’ll be back to the “new normal” sooner than you think and you’ll ask yourself where the time went.

Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel heads a digital marketing agency, YKC Media, focused on engaging millennial and tech professionals through content. He’s been involved in the New York Israeli tech community for many years and previously held roles as a non-profit professional at the IAC Dor Chadash and AIPAC.