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The negative and positive effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in Al-Quds

Maya De Vries Kedem26 August 2020

Blog post by Laila Abed Rabho and Maya de Vries

This blog post is available to read in English as well as Arabic (please scroll down for the Arabic language version).

As home-based self-isolation has become the most common way of avoiding the COVID-19 virus, in many households, anxiety has set in as a result of the acceleration of the spread of the pandemic around the world.

Although quarantining at home will not prevent the spread of the virus altogether, it does help distribute the number of cases over a longer period of time, which is important from the perspective of the distribution of health resources and the provision of medical care to those who need it. However, home quarantine has both negative and positive consequences, at least according to some of the people in Al-Quds that we talked to. On the one hand, it may lead to a breakdown in social contact, especially for individuals who are most threatened with isolation and loneliness, including the elderly, people with special needs or those suffering from various conditions. At the same time, the Corona crisis has helped us see the elderly differently. They are our family and the family of our friends, as well as being the ones who have worked hard all their life provide those who come after them with a decent life – at the very least, they deserve the appreciation of others as well as the guarantee that they will be safe.

Recently, many local initiatives have emerged to help elderly people who are unable to shop on their own or who need help with household matters. Also, a large number of young people have committed to self-isolating at home to protect the elderly from the risk of infection with the Coronavirus. This has shown us that in times of crisis, we need each other more than ever.

Life before and after the pandemic set in

The elderly are accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The community of elderly people in Dar el Hawa, which is a village in Al-Quds and the fieldsite for our research, used to regularly go to a club for seniors, where they would spend time doing various activities, whether this is attending religious, cultural, educational and educational lectures or just having conversations with one other. However, because of warnings from the Ministry of Health, they were forced to stay in their homes, which negatively impacted both their mental and physical health, mostly due to the lack of direct contact with their friends and children. However, friends and children did check in on them via their smartphones, knowing that, during the Coronavirus pandemic, they were likely to undergo physical and hormonal changes as well as being psychologically affected (and more likely to develop depression and anxiety).

In general, locally, aid and donations to the needy are offered at specific times, especially in the month of Ramadan or during festive periods, but the pandemic has fostered a sense of social solidarity as some families experienced financial and economic difficulties and donations and money were collected and distributed to those most in need, as a way of topping up the aid coming from government institutions. Grandmothers who regularly took care of their grandchildren and who used to go out shopping or for breakfast or lunch with one another from time to time and who would visit each other’s homes to have coffee at least once a week are now confined to their homes, avoiding going out because they believe the virus is deadly as this is what they hear on the news on a regular basis. In addition, communication between them has been restricted to phone calls. All of these factors have had a psychological impact on their daily life.

On a more positive note, however, some of them tried to fill their free time by making food and sweets and selling them online for some additional income.

Examples of baked goods made and sold during lockdown. There were also those for whom the quarantine meant that they had the opportunity to escape daily stress and rearrange their thoughts – a rare opportunity for calm. It also gave others the opportunity to discover some of their hidden talents – after all, experts say that boredom is what encourages innovation. Some women have embroidered masks in order to encourage their use. In addition, a woman had crocheted a strap that had the benefit of better fixing the mask onto the face.

Women trying on masks with embroidered motifs. Photo credit: Anadolu News Agency. The photo can be found here.

Loss of freedom, the COVID-19 stigma and spending more time with family members

If we look at the negative impact of the virus on individuals, families and society, we can observe that some older customs and traditions within the community may have contributed to this. For example, there have been cases of people in the village being infected with coronavirus and not disclosing it, as doing so would be seen as a mark of shame and would make them the target of bullying and mockery, which might, in turn, have a negative effect on their psychological wellbeing. When this practice becomes widespread, it can lead to an increase in cases, even though there have also been many examples of responsible and conscious groups that have warned everyone around them when they contracted the virus in order to protect their families and members of their community (especially those who have elderly people at home) by preventing them from getting infected.

The lockdown has also made our research participants feel a certain loss of freedom, as they are forced to stay in their homes, which has contributed to increasing their anxiety and tension.  On the other hand, there were also members of the community who found this to be positive because it gave them the opportunity to spend time with their family members, dedicating more time than ever to their families.  Parents who normally work full-time were finally able to spend time and play with them. Indeed, some of the members of the Dar el Hawa community turned the free time they had with their children into a positive, setting up different activities for them, including sports, games or even simply playing pranks on unsuspecting family members – they did not let their children get bored.

Whilst preoccupied with work and life matters, some may forget and others may ignore their social relationships, whether this is to do with family, friends or neighbours. Some have re-evaluated the importance of friends in their life, especially during moments when they spend most of their time at home with their family. Humans are social beings, and the lockdown has caused some to reconsider their priorities.

Husbands who previously complained that their wives were neglecting the home have come to understand how much women actually do in terms of housework, especially if there are other pressures such as employment outside the home. One example of this situation was the husband of one of our research participants, who was finally able to experience how tiring it is to clean, cook, raise children and teach, in addition to working outside the home. This has led to more sharing of household duties, with the husband taking over more of the cooking and childcare. This is someone who, previously, would not see much of his kids due to his job, which requires him to work long hours, often returning late in the evening.

Silver linings and benefits of the pandemic: online learning and sharing of household duties

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a positive effect on young people and low-income families who do not have the financial means to help their children get married, for example. Young people who were about to get married but wanted to comply with advice coming from the Ministry of Health (which warned against gathering in large numbers) were able to hold smaller-scale events with a small number of attendees in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The pandemic has meant that people gathering to celebrate a specific event were able to save on the cost of hosting these, whether we are talking about lunches or other celebratory events.

In addition, we must not forget about one of the other benefits of the pandemic (perhaps one of the most important ones), which is the fact that pupils moved entirely to distance learning after schools were physically shut. In Al-Quds, this has led to an improvement in terms of families adopting modern technology such as Zoom and online exams. Although distance learning has improved pupils’ skills and abilities in terms of using computers and smartphones, it has also had a negative impact on families who have multiple children but did not have enough devices to participate in the educational process. Providing the necessary tools for educational participation is something that needs to be taken into account by the Ministry of Education if it wants to increase educational inclusion.

In Al-Quds, as elsewhere, the Coronavirus pandemic has had both negative and positive effects on all segments of society.

 

الاثار السلبية والايجابية لجائحة كورونا

 

يسيطر القلق على كثير من الناس نتيجة تسارع وتيرة انتشار فيروس كورونا المستجد حول العالم، حيث بات العزل المنزلي طريقة لابد منها لتجنب الإصابة به.

الحجر المنزلي لن يمنع انتشار الفيروس، لكنه يساعد في توزيع عدد الحالات على فترة زمنية أطول، ما يجعله مهما بالنسبة لتوزيع الموارد الصحية وتقديم الرعاية الطبية لمن يحتاجون إليها

لكن الحجر المنزلي له تبعات سلبية وايجابية بحسب البعض، إذ قد يؤدي إلى انهيار التواصل الاجتماعي، خصوصا بالنسبة للأفراد الأكثر تهديدا بالعزلة والوحدة، بينهم المسنون وذوو الاحتياجات الخاصة أو من يعانون من أمراض

أزمة كورونا جعلتنا ننظر للمسنين بشكل مختلف، فهم أهلنا وأهل أصدقائنا، هم من عملوا بجهد في شبابهم ليوفروا لمن بعدهم حياة كريمة، ولذلك يستحقون من الآخرين التقدير والحفاظ على سلامتهم

فقد ظهرت في الأونة الأخيرة العديد من المبادرات لمساعدة كبار السن غير القادرين على التسوق بمفردهم أو من يحتاجون للمساعدة في تدبير أمور المنزل. كما التزم عدد كبير من الشباب بالعزل المنزلي لحماية الأكبر سناً من خطر الإصابة بعدوى فيروس كورونا. وهو ما أظهر لنا أنه في وقت الأزمات يحتاج كل منا للآخر.

فالمسنين اعتادوا على نمط حياة معين فقد كان كبار السن يذهبون الى نادي للمسنين لقضاء وقت لل ترفيه وفعاليات مختلفة كحضور محاضرات دينية ،ثقافية،توعوية وتبادل الاحاديث فيما بينهم لكن بسبب التحذيرات من وزارة الصحة  التزموا بيوتهم مما اصر سلبيا على صحتهم النفسية والبدنية بسبب قلة تواصلهم المباشر مع اصدقائهم وابنائهم وكان فقط الاطمئنان عليهم عبر الهاتف الذكي علما بان المسنين دون جائحة كورونا بسبب التغييرات الجسدية وتغير الهرمونات وكبار السن يتاثرون نفسيا وبتعرضون للكابة والقلق  فما بالكم بوجود جائحة كورونا وتاثيرها على نفسيتهم

بشكل عام كانت المساعدات والتبرع للمحتاجين يكون في وقت معين خاصة في شهر رمضان او في فترات الاعياد لكن في جائحة كورونا ظهر التكافل الاجتماعي والشعور بالاسر المحتاجة فكان اهل البلد يجمعون المونة واحيانا النقود لتوزيعها على المحتاجين بالاضافة الى المعونات التي كانت تاتي من المؤسسات الحكومية

الجدات اللواتي يحتضن احفادهن كن يخرجن احيانا للتسوق مع بعضهن او لتناول وجبات فطور او غداء سويا واحيانا يتبادلن الزيارات لاحتساء القهوة يوم بالاسبوع في منزل كل واحدة مرة بالاسبوع لكن بعد جائحة  كورونا والخوف من هذا الفيروس الذي يعتقد البعض انه فتاك بسبب تهزيل ما يقال عنه في محطات التواصل الاجتماعي، فقد التزمن بيوتهن واصبح التواصل بينهم عن طريق الهاتف فقط وهذا له اثر نفسي على الحياة اليومية لهؤلاء النساء

ومن ناحية اخرى  جزء منهن حاول التغلب على وقت الفراغ بعمل انواع معينة من الماكولات والحلويات وعرضها عن طريق الاونلاين من اجل بيعها وتمكين انفسهن اقتصاديا

وقسم منهن أتاح لهم العزل المنزلي بعض الهدوء في حياتهم، حيث أعطاهم الفرصة للابتعاد عن الضغط اليومي وإعادة ترتيب أفكارهم. كما أتاح للبعض الآخر فرصة اكتشاف بعض المواهب الدفينة لديهم، حيث يقول الخبراء إن الملل قد يدفع البعض للابتكار.، حيث قامت بعض النساء بالتطريز على الكمامات بهدف الترغيب في استعمالها بالاضافة لهذا فقد قامت ايضا احدى النساء باختراع قطعة من الكروشيه (صنع يدوي )لتثبيت الكمامة عليها

لقد كان للعادات والتقاليد البالية أثر سلبي على الأفراد والعائلات والمجتمع من قبل المصابين بفيروس كورونا، والسبب هو ان من يتبين لديه أنه مصاب بفيروس كورونا لا يقوم بالإفصاح عن ذلك باعتبار هذا وسم عار عليه وعيب حيث يخاف من التنمر والاستهزاء اضافة الى توجيه كلام قد يؤثر على نفسيته وهو اعتقاده بأن الكثير سوف يتشمت به فهناك فئة لم تعلن عن اصابتها مما ادى الى زيادة الحالات وهناك فئة اخرى مسؤولة وواعية تعلن عن اصابتها من أجل تجنيب عائلاتهم وابناء مجتمعهم من الاصابة وخاصة من لديه كبار سن في البيت مثل الأب والأم والاجداد.

ان الحجر أيضا  احسهم بفقدان الحرية لأنهم ماكثون في بيوتهم مرغمين لا بخاطرهم وباختيارهم مما يزيد من قلقهم وتوترهم ولكن من ناحية اخرى هناك الكثير الذين وجدوا في ذلك ايجابية بسبب الفرصة التي توفرت لهم للمكوث مع أفراد أسرهم حيث الدفء العائلي وهذا شيء جميل حيث أصبح وقت للأب والام العاملين أن يجلسوا مع أطفالهم واللعب معهم وفعلا هناك من استغل الحجر بصورة ايجابية ولم يترك اطفاله يشعرون بعدم الحرية عن طريق وضع برامج لهم منها الرياضية ومنها اللعب وعمل مقالب مضحكة مع أفراد اسرته وغير ذلك..

ففي ظل الإنشغال بالعمل وأمور الحياة، قد ينسى البعض ويتجاهل آخرون علاقاته الاجتماعية سواء مع الأهل أو الأصدقاء أو الجيران. الآن تجلس الأسرة الواحدة معاً، وتظهر قيمة الأصدقاء في حياة الفرد. فالإنسان كائن اجتماعي من الدرجة الأولى، والعزل الحالي جعل البعض يعيد ترتيب أولوياته مرة أخرى.

حتى الزوج كان يتهم زوجته  دائما بالتقصير بالبيت لكن مع جائحة كورونا والحجر الصحي عرف الزوج وقدر ما تقوم به المراة من اعمال منزلية وضغوطات بالذات عندما تكون المراة عاملة خارج المنزل

واصبح يشعر معها كم هي تتعب في داخل المنزل من تنظيف وطهي وتربية اولاد وتدريس بالاضافة الى عملها خارج البيت مما ادى الى مشاركته لها في بعض الاعمال المنزلية كالطهي والطبيخ اضافة الى الترابط الاسري والتقرب الى ابنائه ،بعد ان كان احيانا لا يراهم نتيحة خروجه من البيت مبكرا ورجوعه متاخرا

هناك اثر ايجابي لجائحة  كورونا على الشباب والاسر الفقيرة التي ليس لديها امكانيات مادية كافية من أجل اتمام فرحتها بزواج ابنائها وبسبب المصاريف الكثيرة التي يتحملها الشباب وعائلاتهم من اعباء مادية لا يقدرون عليها

استغل الشباب المرتبطين اتمام عملية فرحتهم وبالزواج ممن يرغبون متقيدين بتعاليم وزىرة الصحة بعدم التجمهر وعدم التجمع باعداد كبيرة من اجل المحافظة على سلامتهم وسلامة افراد مجتمعهم وبأقل التكاليف المطلوبة لتوفي الغداء والضيافة للمعازيم .

علينا ان لا ننسى الفائدة العظيمة والاهم من كل شيئ وهي أن لجائحة كورونا والتي بسببها اغلقت المدارس حيث انتقل الطلاب للتعلم عن بعد مما ادى الى تطور في تعلم  استخدام التكنولوجيا الحديثة كالزوم وتقديم الامتحانات عن طريق اون لاين مما أكسبهم مهارة وقدرة على استخدام الحاسوب والهاتف الذكي ولكن من ناحية اخرى كان لذلك اثر سلبي على العائلات التي لديها أكثر من طالب حيث لم يتوفر لديهم اجهزة كافية من الحاسوب والهواتف الذكية من أجل التواصل مع العملية التعليمية وهذا يجب ان تقوم وزارة التعليم بحله بتوفير الادوات الازمة للعملية التعليمية

هكذا نرى ان لفيروس كورونا آثار سلبية واخرى ايجابية على جميع شرائح المجتمع

Death and Social Duties during COVID-19 in Dar al-Hawa

Maya De Vries Kedem29 June 2020

By Laila Abed Rabho and Maya De Vries

As in the rest of the world during COVID-19, in Dar al-Hawa, al-Quds, social distancing regulations have impacted the social behaviours and norms that we were used to, changing our lives. Schools, universities, workplaces and mosques have been completely shut down. People stayed home and it was forbidden to walk more than 100 meters away from your home for about three weeks. There were cases of patients testing positive in Dar al-Hawa from the beginning of the crisis – first, one patient, followed by another few people. This raised people’s awareness that anyone could be infected, and social distancing is important.  Hence, the strict prohibitions that came with the new social distancing norms were received relatively well, despite the difficulties we’re following them in a relatively small and crowded place like Dar al-Hawa. In addition, many families share the same residence or residential space with their older parents, so young parents and grandchildren immediately felt that they are responsible for keeping the older people living with them safe and healthy. That feeling of shared responsibility helped enforce the new norms of behaviour that COVID-19 forced upon all of us.

One of the most challenging things at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic was the fact that visiting family or friends’ houses was not allowed. In Dar al-Hawa, there are several occasions when social visits are an obligation – for example, during holidays like Ramadan or Eid al-Adha and when someone passes away.

Before coronavirus, when a person died in Dar al-Hawa, their family would announce their death through the Muezzin of the mosque. Usually, the Muezzin would turn on the speakers and as he calls for prayer out loud, he also announces the person’s death, letting the entire neighbourhood know about it and enabling everyone to operate according to the accepted social norms around visiting the deceased’s family. In addition, prior to COVID-19, the process of preparing the body for burial took place in the mosque, together with the deceased’s close family and followed by the option to honour the deceased for the last time before taking his or her body to the cemetery. Usually, men carry the coffin while praying and heading to the main cemetery for the burial ceremony. Women who are not from the immediate family are not accepted in the cemetery and cannot participate in the burial ceremony.

Some of these norms have changed due to COVID-19. While the muezzin still calls the deceased’s name through the mosque’s speakers, gatherings inside mosques and houses are not allowed. The process of purifying the body prior to burial has also stopped and is not taking place at the mosque but at the hospital. The burial ceremony itself has also stopped, as there is a limit of only 20 people. The restriction on the number of people is significant in Dar al-Hawa, as most of the families typically consist of over 20 people who define themselves as first degree relatives. The social norm of gathering and participating in the burial ceremony is not the only thing that has been altered.  The custom of neighbours and other family members bringing food, mainly breakfast, during the three-days mourning period, has also completely stopped. People were afraid to eat something that they did not cook themselves and did not want to take responsibility for accidentally infecting someone with the virus through the sharing of food.

The mourning period lasts for three days and takes place at the deceased’s home. The family’s duty is to open a mourning tent if possible or to receive visitors in the living room.

During the beginning of the current health crisis, particularly in the first two months, when gatherings and visits were forbidden, the opening of mourning tents did not happen – most of the offering of condolences moved from face to face to online correspondence, being sent mainly through WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, including video calls.

This different way of sending condolences also occurs among Palestinian families who originate in Jerusalem and live in Jordan can enter Israel since the Peace agreement between Israel signed in 1994 allows it. The Palestinian community in Jordan generally has broad family ties to the Palestinians living in Jerusalem and Israel[1]. Previously, such interactions and movement were easier, as families travel to Jordan or enter Israel from Jordan to attend either the funeral or the mourning.

Another custom that has been suspended because of the coronavirus is one that happens on the third day of mourning when the deceased’s family prepares food to feed the visitors at their home while reading suras (chapters) from the Quran, a religious duty during the third day of mourning. But when there are no visitors, there is no need for this custom.

All these important practices constituting both a religious duty and social norms around death have become impossible to maintain. However, as COVID-19 becomes part of our lives, it seems that big, open mourning tents can return as it becomes easier for social distancing rules to be followed inside them.

Aside from all these challenges, Covid-19 has brought about some other changes which are actually beneficial.  During the strict lockdown period, Laila and Maya talked to several women who had been caring for their sick husbands for a long time.

For them, the lockdown was quite a positive development since all family members stayed home, including children and grandchildren, the direct consequence of which was that the burden of care did not fall on them alone. For about two months, they said, they felt less lonely. Social distancing from the rest of the world brought together the nuclear family and, in the case of Dar al-Hawa, when families live in the same household, or near each other, directly benefitted the older population.

In a way, it seems that the physical help and in-person support that older women received from their children and grandchildren were much more important than any online assistance or communication that was so popular in public discourse while COVID-19 dominated our lives.

Recently, Laila and I went to offer condolences to one of her relatives in Dar al-Hawa. She told us that she has been feeling less lonely since visitors who come to offer condolences now call in advance to set specific times to visit in order to avoid overcrowding, meaning their visits are spread across a longer time, thus extending the three-day mourning period, but on the other hand – that the bitter coffee pot the deceased’s family pours to each visitor is constantly being put to work. This stream of many mourning days can be exhausting but at the same time, it this very constant stream of visitors that may help reduce this her feeling of loneliness after separating from her husband.

Since death, according to many of the people we spoke with in Dar al-Hawa, is considered as fate and something that can only be decided by God, during our visit we felt that there is a genuine acceptance of the situation, even if the deceased’s death came as a surprise. “It always comes from God”, we were told.  The acceptance of death is accompanied by sincere sadness, but God’s will helps overcome this sadness and allows people to move on with their life. As people accepted death, they also accepted the new social distancing norms quite easily as these are perceived as God’s will: death is in His hands and so is the coronavirus.

Coffee pot in Dar al Hawa

[1] Habeeb, W. M. (2012). The Middle East in turmoil: Conflict, revolution, and change. ABC-CLIO.