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Dimensions for the New Normal: Thriving in Time and Space during COVID-19

"Our historical lack of a permanent space and the special relationship to time, illuminates the challenge presented during these daring times.”

fizkes / Shutterstock
fizkes / Shutterstock

Time and space. The two dimensions that rule our lives under the threat of COVID-19. In normal times, they are a silent stage for our daily routines. But now, they are performing in the middle of the stage of our own existence.

These days, the days of pandemic, we live from one lockdown to another, viewing calendars as prisoners count down their remaining days. It usually ends with an addition of time, as in a tennis match when tie-breaks never end. We are trapped in time, and we suddenly have a lot more of it. Time might seem endless but when death is at the doorstep, it also shows the finish line. 

Our spaces have become smaller, much smaller. We move from the bedroom to the living room and are lucky when we can spare some legal time to walk the streets for a few minutes. Used to taking the wider spaces we rove for granted, we feel miniaturized. Digital experiences might fill the gap, but they do not replace the exploring nature of humankind.

Time and space. The struggle to save lives of COVID-19 patients is built around gaining time and expand available spaces for acute patients. I see it daily at Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) in Jerusalem. In that fight, we are all responsible for each other as we give up our freedom to move into space in order to grant more lifetime to those who get sick. It is that equation where we, as a global tribe, have an opportunity to thrive, to show that we deeply anonymously care for each other. 

Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem

As a Jew, I belong to the people of the time. The Jewish philosopher Abraham J. Heschel, said that “Judaism is a religion of time” and indeed, our celebration has been for thousands of years one around the sacred time of Shabbat. Only in modern times, could Jews reconnect to our historical land through the creation of the State of Israel. Our relationship with time helped us stay together as a source of spirituality, creativity, and ideas. As we could not carry land from one persecution to the other, we took with us our knowledge and ideas, transmitting them from one generation to another. 

Our historical lack of a permanent space and the special relationship to time, illuminates the challenge presented during these daring times. Being reclused in quarantine can be hard but it’s not a hardship when you know that time will get you out. Looking at time as a transcendent dimension helped us transform tragedies into renewal, struggles into renaissance, annihilation into our own rebirth.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah, Tuesday, April 21, 2020) when all of Israel stopped for the long two minutes listening to the sirens to remember the Holocaust, I thought about Anne Frank. About her and the millions of Jews and others who were hidden in cellars, ceilings, wardrobes, boxes; not for a few days or weeks but for years living under the fear of the Nazi boot. And in days like the ones we experience now, I think about how lucky we are that we can deal with the current enormous threat, as one civilization, caring for each other. 

It is in times like this when we must ride time and space and regain center stage. Enjoying the additional time we are given to find our inner voice. Rejoicing in the intimacy of space and the value of what we have, who we are and how we thrive in time and space in this new era.

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