The normally bustling city of Tel Aviv has fallen eerily quiet due to Israel’s tight restrictions on movement that are meant to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The city has the familiar anxious feeling of wartime, only now it’s silent without air-raid sirens. The chirping of birds, once impossible to hear over the din of cars and buses, and chatter and music from restaurants, is audible on every street. The only things that seem to move are the clouds overhead.
Israel appears to be weathering the global pandemic better than many nations, in part because of the lockdown restrictions. Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 13,000 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and over 170 deaths.
Nonetheless, the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Tel Aviv is visible as its citizens have largely observed government orders to remain at home in recent weeks. Although people began to trickle outdoors on Sunday as the government loosened its restrictions, the city’s ordinarily traffic-clogged streets remained empty.
Stoplights cycle through their red-yellow-green at empty intersections. Sidewalks once full of pedestrians are bare but for the occasional homeless man or dog walker, or Palestinian construction workers, allowed to stay in the country for the duration of the crisis, venturing out to buy food.
By nightfall, packs of jackals desperate for food descend on the city’s sprawling Hayarkon Park, taking over this urban oasis in the heart of the city.
Along Tel Aviv’s beachfront, the shore is a sandy void. Tourists are long gone, and locals are barred from taking a dip despite the increasingly warm weather.
Police officers on duty are relieved to see another human face. The tape they have stuck on exercise equipment on the beaches’ open-air gyms to deter users has frayed. The tattered strips flap in the breeze with nobody around to ignore them.
And the clouds keep on moving.