I fled from Israel in early March, two days after the election. I decided to move up my flight because the virus panic and general atmosphere made me think of Iran on the eve of the revolution. I had to catch the last flight out before the Revolutionary Guard seized control of Ben-Gurion International Airport.
When I returned, soldiers awaited at the airport, as did an elaborate triage procedure involving a bunch of forms to fill out, cell-phone tracking and, perhaps for the sake of a little normalcy – a bored customs officer.
I was sent to quarantine at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv. A reservist soldier from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command had whispered to me that it’s “a lot more fun” to be in a hotel for people who are COVID-19 carriers, but unfortunately, since I showed no coronavirus symptoms, I was sent to the hotel for those who must remain isolated – the lepers, in other words.
The lyrics of the Eagles' “Hotel California” felt perfectly apt: At the Hotel Panorama, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.
When I was asked to photograph “the quarantine experience,” I realized that I didn’t want to just take pictures of a toothbrush, the sad meals, the tear in the rug or the crack in the ceiling. I chose to focus on my neighbors – like me, all vacationers at the hotel, under a military regime.
I also managed to speak with a few of them, because the angles and distance between our balconies made it possible. And all the others? We’ll never know that we were in quarantine together.