A messy post about COVID-19 and what the pandemic is doing to us as a society

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Things have been quiet here. Really, really quiet. Some of you may have already surmised part of the reason: I’ve been working a lot lately. With four kids at home, renovations going on, and building up my freelance writer business, my own stuff has taken a place on the back burner.

But there are also other issues. COVID-19 has messed with my wellbeing in a massive way. No, I haven’t had the virus (I think). I’m just finding it extremely difficult to adjust to this new world we’re living in.

About a month ago, our new PM started a witch hunt campaign against people who haven’t taken the COVID jab yet. “They’re endangering us,” Mr. Bennet says. The ensuing media echo chamber has led to an unrestrained hate trip against the approximately 1 million un-Pfizered Israelis, many of them children under 18.

This circus goes on while two things are becoming clear: first, vaccinated people still spread the coronavirus, specifically the Delta variant; and second, people who’ve had two Pfizer shots are now getting infected. The vaccine’s protection against COVID is wearing off rapidly, and the government has started a massive Round Three campaign, giving people a third jab in what is essentially a clinical trial, since they have not tested this practice anywhere as far as I know.

This was not what people expected when they started lining up to get vaccinated in January. We kept hearing, “the vaccine will probably be effective for at least a year.” Well, it isn’t. And now we hear, “You should get used to it: a scheduled jab every 6 months.” Long-term effectiveness? Risks? Pffft. Don’t be ninnies, just roll up those sleeves!

Furthermore, there’s a more aggressive push than ever to vaccinate children and teens, who have a near-zero risk of COVID complications but not a near-zero risk of newly emerging side effects of the vaccine, like myocarditis.

All these months, I’ve felt like I have so much to say and so few words to articulate it all. Then Dr. Robert Malone came and said it all for me in his recent interview. I’ll just share a few select quotes.

We had the CDC come out last week, talking about the pericarditis and other cardiomyopathies that are showing up in the pediatric population, up to the age of 18. That is a significant safety risk. That was only recently identified about two months ago. It’s taken two months for the CDC to verify it.”

The thing is, mRNA vaccines use a new technology. They’re being researched as I write this, and the research will continue for many years to come. It’s not surprising that things like this are cropping up. In fact, I won’t keel over with shock if honest, unbiased research discovers more and more side effects down the road.

“So there’s things going on there with the vaccines. The problem is we don’t know how severe they are in general. What is the bell curve distribution for severity? What’s the incidence? Often the question is asked, why don’t we know? And the answer is because the FDA elected during this phase of emergency use authorization to not require that the drug manufacturers rigorously capture adverse events and efficacy signals.”

And this just begs to ask WHY?? My logic says that capturing adverse events should have been the FIRST aim during a mass trial of a novel genetic vaccine.

Dr. Malone also mentions Israel:

“We had hoped to have a rigorous data set from Israel. The CDC and FDA had been very comforted by what they thought was a rigorous data set from Israel and the ability of the Israeli government-related epidemiologic monitoring people to data-mine that database and identify signals.

The cardiac events in the adolescent population were actually first identified by an Oracle biostatistician, working with people at the FDA that are outside of all this. That was data mining from the various publicly available databases. He identified it, and notified the CDC. They identified it, then tracked it. They notified the Israelis, and then the Israelis were able to verify that they saw that signal in their database too. And how could this happen?”

I’ll tell you how. The Israeli government (Netanyahu, then Bennett, together with all their cohort) declared that we were pioneers. We were trailblazers. We were quicker and smarter and more advanced than the rest of the world. We’d grab this amazing new mRNA vaccine technology by the horns and we’d be the first in the world to BEAT COVID.

“Effective” and “effectiveness” were the only words in the official jargon. Nobody used terms like “caution”, “prudence”, “conservative approach” or “rigorous monitoring.” People who experienced a whole array of post-vaccine side effects were simply brushed off or told it’s “all in their heads.”

I haven’t been out to collect data, but individual cases stare me in the face. A family member with inflammation flare-ups. A friend who hasn’t had her period since getting jabbed. People complaining of muscle pain, general weakness, allergies suddenly rearing their heads.

So they come to their family doctor, and they’re told, “this has nothing to do with the vaccine. The vaccine is safe. Safe. SAFE.”

Of course, no treatment is 100% safe for everyone, let alone an experimental vaccine. Israeli health experts are no fools. If our government had been totally honest, they’d have said, “Yeah, we expect some people are going to suffer severe health effects from the vaccine. Some may possibly lose their lives. But as epidemiologists and statisticians, we have made our calculations and figured out that we’d lose more people if we let COVID run rampant. So we’ll sacrifice a few in order to save many. Roll up that sleeve, please.”

You know what would have happened then? No one would get vaccinated except possibly the risk groups. And they couldn’t let that happen, could they? Not after they’d agreed to become Pfizer’s biggest lab. So the vaccine is SAFE. It HAS to be safe. And anyone who has experienced a different reality must be a crazy anti-vaxxer.

The consequences of what we’re doing socially right now in this context is driven by fear. We’re driving ourselves a little bit mad with our fear over this pathogen.”

I’ve seen this with my own eyes. Today, Israel has a Green Pass for vaccinated people and people who’ve recovered from COVID. Children under 12 cannot get a vaccine yet. Children between 3 and 12 must get a COVID test before entering ANYWHERE, including movies, amusement parks, or the library. One mom got hysterical because another mom tried to get her 3-year-old into the local public playroom without a COVID test. It escalated to the ugliest mudslinging you can imagine. The offending mom left in tears.

Today, the public playroom is empty. Parents just won’t bother with constant health paranoia for their 3-12-year-olds. They’ll take them to the beach, out to nature, to visit friends, or to any place that doesn’t require a Green Pass. The library is empty because they fired the librarian for not getting the jab. People live in fear.

I hear hate-speak all the time. “Non-vaxxed people shouldn’t be on public transportation.” “Non-vaxxed teens shouldn’t be in schools.” “I’ve crossed any non-vaxxers off my friends list.”

Even with one million non-vaxxed people, Israel still has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Declining effectiveness and sneaky variants are responsible for the new upsurge of severe cases, coupled with the fact that COVID vaccines were never able to fully prevent transmission. Mr. Bennett must know it, yet he still points an accusing finger to the non-vaxxed even as their numbers shrink. This is called scapegoating, and it’s a classic bullying tactic.

Dr. Malone says, “Eventually, we’re going to get through this, but it’s impacting on society in profound ways. This censorship of information, those that are experiencing it, including myself, are profoundly disturbed by what we’re seeing, and the long-term meanings of it.”

Do you know the saying, “two Jews equals three opinions”? Jews love to debate. Israelis love to argue. But not when it comes to the COVID vaccine. Ever since the vaccination campaign first launched in January, there’s been no discussion. Just one huge echo chamber on the mainstream media and perpetual shutting down of social media profiles for people who posted “misleading” information (honest personal opinions and experiences).

It scares me. It scares me because it seems that free exchange of information, the ability to disagree, the ability to shift from monochromatic yes-no, black-and-white thinking are gone.

“Just today, the World Health Organization made an announcement clearly and unequivocally. You’ve got to start using masks because none of these vaccines are preventing infection. They’re preventing disease. They’re not preventing transmission.”

Got this, Mr. Bennett?

Israel, the COVID vaccine pioneer: an insider opinion

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Disclaimer: all opinions and insight in this post are my own. I make no claims of statistic or scientific accuracy.

Some time ago, I wrote about my personal choice to wait and watch for a while before getting the COVID vaccine. Since I work from home, am not in a risk group, and am a natural introvert, this choice is viable for me.

But it is different for many other people in Israel. Quite simply, many will soon have to take the vaccine – regardless of their personal preferences or concerns – to keep their livelihood and avoid restrictions.

Israel has started its vaccination campaign in full force and, so far, has vaccinated about 1/3 of the total population and most people in risk groups. Despite this, COVID continues to spread rapidly, in a large part because of new variants that now target younger people and children as well.

There’s a big – and, in my eyes, very scary – trend of shaming and pressuring the people who are reluctant to get the vaccine for any reason. They are labeled uneducated, scare-mongerers, selfish, unwilling to “do their part”. Allegedly, vaccine refusers are the reason why we won’t be climbing out of this pandemic anytime soon.

There has been talk of making vaccination mandatory but, since legislation for this would likely cause an uproar, there’s an insidious movement to make people get a vaccine by existing legal means.

It started with a “green passport” incentive that’s supposed to give vaccinated citizens access to shopping centers and recreational activities, and escalated to organizations saying their workers had better get the vaccine if they want to keep their jobs. Teachers who have concerns about the vaccine are told “it’s your fault we can’t open schools, kids are missing out on their education because of your silly irrational fears”. I’ve heard local authorities declare that unvaccinated individuals will get no services, no counseling, no assistance when needed. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but the statements can give you a hint of the overall attitude.

Any concerns about the vaccine are systematically swept under the rug and any reports of possible serious side effects are dismissed as a coincidence. This week I heard a recording of an epidemiologist who had given a radio interview and very carefully and rationally explained why the vaccine might not be 100% safe for everyone. The interviewer, seething with fury, terminated the report midway.

The worst part? Leading authorities are talking about taking the plunge and vaccinating children and pregnant women before any clinical trials have taken place for these groups, because without these populations, Israel will never reach herd immunity.

I am still pretty positive about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. I hope that, in the end, it will prove the solution we’ve all been hoping for. But here’s the thing:

It should be illegal to try and coerce, force, shame, or manipulate anyone into taking the vaccine. It should be illegal to offer external incentives for taking the vaccine.

Any discussion on possible negative side effects should be open and transparent. People shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to ask questions, or labelled as senseless fear-mongerers when they do.

The demonization of people who are choosing not to take the vaccine yet has got to stop. It appears, so far, that being vaccinated doesn’t prevent someone from spreading the virus to others. Therefore, it has minimal impact on my neighbors and friends whether I’m vaccinated or not. We are not the problem. We were not the ones who caused uncontrolled spread through massive crowded events, parties, demonstrations and (ironically) funerals.

I never thought I would say this, but living in Israel has become scary lately. I have never felt such instability. Not during wars, not during terror campaigns.

I pray that we somehow make our way out of this without forgetting about democratic values like bodily autonomy, critical thinking, and freedom of speech. Because so far, things aren’t looking very hopeful on that score.

Why I’m probably going to wait before getting a COVID vaccine

Warning: this might be a bit of a controversial post (something I don’t really do anymore these days!)

Like everyone else, I’ve been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. And like everyone else, I’d just love to get my life back.

I don’t think COVID is a hoax. I’m not really into conspiracy theories. I am a very run-of-the-mill person. I vaccinate my kids (with a slightly delayed schedule for newborns).

But I would still rather wait a while before lining up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s why.

In the past months, the world has been pretty much obsessed with the upcoming vaccines and when oh when we can get them, and whether Pfizer’s or Moderna’s is more effective. There’s been a lot of indignation about knowing that there won’t be enough vaccine stock for everyone at once, and a whole lot of arguments about who gets first priority.

There’s been a lot of talk about “emergency approval” (fancy word for cutting corners with trials and testing) and doing it all fast, fast, and FASTER.

The comments from more cautious people saying, “but wait, maybe we need more trials” are pushed to the bottom of talkback lists and the people writing them are labeled as whackos.

The novel vaccines (actually labeled “revolutionary” by their makers) were judged as being “safe to use” with suspicious speed. And there has been talk about making them mandatory.

I doubt anyone will be coming to round us up and tie us to chairs to get us vaccinated. But people who would rather wait a bit before trying a new, only recently tested vaccine might find themselves facing serious limitations in travel, employment, and their children’s education.

When you Google “covid vaccine side effects” you get the typical list of vaccine side effects (swelling, redness, slight fever, etc) but nothing about longer-term possible implications. Why? Because there simply hasn’t been enough time to test them yet. COVID has been with us less than a year.

I’d like to wait at least a year to see some conclusive, nonbiased research on the effects of various COVID vaccines on pregnant women, children, and immunocompromised groups. We’re being told that governments and the WHO have given the green light. They claim it’s safe.

But the thing is, they really, really, REALLY WANT it to be safe.

Governments want to reopen the economy with no limitations. They want to make sure the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. They want the unemployment rates to go down. They think in global terms.

As an individual, I would rather live another year or two with masks and social distancing than take the risk of an insufficiently tested vaccine. Why do I say “insufficiently”? Because there simply hasn’t been enough time.

Here is one of the few articles I’ve found with a safe, balanced approach towards the COVID vaccine. Neither an “avoid all vaccines like the devil” nor “let me be the first to get it”.

So I’m just going to do something very conservative. Wait and watch. And I know many people around the globe are thinking along the same lines, though we might be a bit of a silent group.

When little ones are sick: a re-post

I thought it would be nice to re-post this little throwback to four years ago.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

This week we’ve been struggling with a bout of flu that got all of the children in turn. As much as it pains me to see a little one sick, I consider this also an opportunity to slow down – which is especially important if I’m not at my best either – rest, unwind and do some quiet, enjoyable things there often isn’t enough time for:

Reading – listening to an interesting new story, or re-visiting an old friend of a book, is a soothing and relaxing activity that is perfectly suited for a day spent mostly in bed or on the couch. Older children can read quietly to themselves.

Crafts – drawing, stitching, beading and working with play-dough all stimulate the mind and creative senses without requiring too much physical exertion. Dress-up or building forts and hideouts with chairs and blankets are also fun.

Board games – pull out old favorites like Monopoly or Scrabble, or try something new. Forbidden Island is currently all the rage here.

Outdoor time – if the weather is nice, I see no reason to necessarily stay indoors. On the contrary, warm sunshine provides a cheering effect and may even help with nasal congestion. I do discourage sick children from “playing hard” – running, riding bikes, climbing trees, etc.

Outdoors we may also pick herbs to make medicinal tea and talk about their various healing properties, as well as of the importance of staying hydrated in general.

Movies – I like to restrict screen time, and especially so for sick children, because I find that prolonged staring into a screen is fatiguing, but a short cartoon or an educational video can be nice.

On days when the children don’t feel well, I usually dispense with school, but the girls may still choose to do some fun educational activities such as writing in their story notebooks.

The most important thing is to remember that this, too, shall pass. Slow down, allow everybody the time to rest and heal, and try not to mind the mess too much. There is always tomorrow for catching up with housework, gardening and lessons.

The little yarn shop

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It was a tiny store tucked into the crook of a little side street, with no showy banner or attractive display windows. But if you knew where to go, you’d see bins upon bins of discounted yarn overflowing to the sidewalk, and ladies rummaging in them enthusiastically. On the shelves inside, you would find every yarn you could ever want, from affordable acrylic to luxury cashmere blends.

I had not been there since the coronavirus breakout and ensuing restrictions in March, and I’m not even sure the store is still there. It was not an essential business, so it wouldn’t get permission to operate during lockdowns. It was tiny, with barely any room between the display shelves and the counter, so it wouldn’t allow for social distancing. It was not big or modern enough to have financial reserves or switch to online orders.

I’ve completed many crochet projects since the start of the COVID-19 era, with yarn arriving in convenient, hazard-free packages from eBay or Ice Yarns. But I miss the little warm hub where the proprietor would always be ready to chat about anything related to knitting, crochet, and macrame; where other visitors would sometimes chime in with spontaneous opinions about whatever you were buying; where I would see displays of beautiful fiber art from local artisans.

I have most of the things I need within walking distance, and haven’t been to town in months. And I fear that next time I peek into that little side street, I will see the yarn shop locked up or replaced by another business – perhaps a place selling cheap plastic homeware or cell phones or toiletries – something that would get more of a leeway than a yarn shop to remain open.

I realize that the COVID restrictions are necessary to keep the infection levels down, but I feel that social distancing regulations are killing us as a society. They are knocking down the weak and vulnerable, the poor and the lonely. They prioritize large, soulless convenience stores over small businesses run by real people. They isolate us and deprive us of everything that is so essentially human, like hanging out with friends and spontaneous hugs. That’s a tragedy, and I don’t know how to avert it or whether we can ever turn the wheels back.

Living through another lockdown

I’m failing to keep up with what’s going on in the rest of the world, but Israel is going through another lockdown, and I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope. I’m not alone, either.

Things are mostly closed, except for food and pharma. Places are shut up and businesses are going bust. COVID statistics are frightening. Hospitals are nearing maximum capacity and we’re all going to suffer from further overload.

There’s something profoundly unsettling about having to keep away from people – to meet a friend and then be restricted to talking awkwardly from a distance through a mask, without being able to give a hug.

No library. No swimming pool. But thankfully, the heat is letting up enough for us to plan some hiking and spending time in the open air during this week of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

I have some friends who have taken this whole crappy period as an incentive to do lots of house remakes and upgrades. Me? I feel like I have weights on my arms and legs. I just slug through work, food prep, basic cleaning, and some reading and crochet to keep sane.

I keep counting my blessings. We’re all in good health. I

live in a large house with a yard, trees, chickens, etc. We have a large supply of books and craft supplies. There are plenty of educational and entertaining stuff on the Web. I work from home and have a flexible schedule.

How many people have it way, WAY harder?!

Still, I find it hard to shake off this heavy, heavy oppressive feeling. And I’m sending this post out there as a big virtual hug for all the people who feel the same.

Stay safe, guys. And stay sane. Hug your kids. Do that puzzle. Bake those cookies. Put on some music. Do whatever makes you feel good that isn’t totally unreasonable. Be kind to yourself. You’ve got this.

Delicious homemade granola

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Cooked oatmeal is a great, healthy morning food, but sometimes you’re looking for something quicker, or just aren’t in the mood for hot breakfast. In this case, homemade granola might just be the thing for you. 

Most commercial granola brands are ridiculously expensive and loaded with sugar, but it’s easy to make your own, and once you try it, you’ll never look back.

Basically, you will mainly need 2-3 cups whole oats, and you can add various goodies such as:

– Sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds

– Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricot chunks

– Coconut or almond slivers

Mix everything and add cinnamon, a couple of teaspoonfuls of coconut oil, and your favorite natural sweetener such as honey, date sugar, or maple syrup.

Spread over a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at medium heat, or just until it gets a beautiful golden hue.

Take out of the oven and set out to cool and dry. Keep in a sealed jar.

Enjoy for breakfast or as an any-time-of-the-day treat!