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My Life in Israel’s Brave New Post-Pandemic Future

A Green Pass allows us, the vaccinated, to go to concerts, restaurants and sporting events. But Israel’s real-time experiment in post-lockdown living leaves many questions unanswered.


TEL AVIV — As the lights dimmed and the music started up, an audible wave of excitement rippled through the crowd. Somebody a few rows above me ululated with joy, as if at a Middle Eastern wedding.

I had come to Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield soccer stadium for a concert by Dikla, an Israeli singer of Iraqi and Egyptian origins, which was hailed by the city as a celebration of the “comeback of culture.” It was the first live performance I had attended in over a year. There were only 500 vaccinated Israelis in a stadium that ordinarily holds nearly 30,000 people but it felt strange and exhilarating to be in a crowd of any size after a year of intermittent lockdowns.

The audience was confined to their socially distanced seats, dancing in place and singing along through their masks. But the atmosphere was exuberant and it confirmed my status as a member of a new privileged class: the fully vaccinated.

We, a group that includes more than half of Israel’s nine million people, are getting a taste of a post-pandemic future.

new cases of Covid-19 have dropped dramatically, from a peak of 10,000 a day in January to a few hundred by late March. The economy has almost fully reopened. Just as Israel became a real-world laboratory for the efficacy of the vaccine, it is now becoming a test case for a post-lockdown, post-vaccinated society.

The Green Pass is your entry ticket.

Green Pass holders may dine indoors in restaurants, stay in hotels and attend indoor and outdoor cultural, sports and religious gatherings in the thousands. We can go to gyms, swimming pools and the theater. We can get married in wedding halls.

celebrated the spring holidays of Passover and Easter in the company of family and friends.

Local newspapers and television stations are advertising summer getaways for the fully vaccinated in countries prepared to take them, including Greece, Georgia and the Seychelles.

And when you book a table at a restaurant, they ask, Do you have a Green Pass? Are you vaccinated?

The system is imperfect, and, beyond the Green Pass, in many ways “system” may be an overstatement. Enforcement has been patchy. There are troubling questions about those who are not vaccinated and noisy debates playing out in real time — some landing in court — about the rules and responsibilities of the return to near normalcy.

Moreover, there’s no guarantee that this really is the start of a post-pandemic future. Any number of factors — delays in vaccine production, the emergence of a new vaccine-resistant variant and the huge numbers of Israelis who remain unvaccinated — could rip the rug out from under it.

post that getting vaccinated was for the common good, balancing public health against personal liberty, part of the social contract and a civic duty just like stopping at a red light.

“We have an issue here,” she said in an interview. “The world is paralyzed, people have lost their livelihoods, their health, their hope. When you put all those things on the scale, come on, just get inoculated! And if you really don’t want to, stay home.”

To solve the conundrum, and cater to under 16s, the government has allowed venues to offer rapid testing as an alternative to the Green Pass. But many business owners, responsible for ordering and financing the testing stations, have found the logistics impractical.

Unlike concerts and soccer matches, however, going to work is not a luxury for most people.

A teaching assistant at a school for children with special needs in central Israel refused to be vaccinated or, as her employer, the town of Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal, demanded instead, present a negative Covid test on a weekly basis.

The school barred her from coming into work, with backing from the town council.

The teaching assistant, Sigal Avishai, appealed to the Labor Court in Tel Aviv. She argued that the council’s demands “impinged on her privacy” and were “without legal basis,” and that the requirement of a weekly test “was intended to pressure her into getting vaccinated contrary to her beliefs,” according to court documents.

Last month,the court ruled against her, saying her rights had to be balanced against those of the teaching staff, the children and their parents to “life, education and health,” citing the particular vulnerability of the children in question.

In a country with plenty of doses to go around, access to the vaccine is not an issue, said Gil Gan-Mor, director of the civil and social rights unit at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

In Israel, he said, “Anybody who is complaining can get the vaccine tomorrow morning.”

But in the absence of legislation, employers have been making up their own policies. At least one college of higher education was relying on the Labor Court precedent to require all staff and students to obtain a Green Pass in order to attend classes on campus.

In another case that went to court, the Health Ministry wanted to distribute lists of unvaccinated people to the local authorities so the authorities could, for example, identify unvaccinated teachers who have returned to school and try to persuade them to get vaccinated.

Citizens rights groups sued to prevent the ministry from distributing the lists, arguing that it was an invasion of privacy and that the medical information could not be adequately safeguarded. The case is before the Supreme Court.

Even where there are rules, enforcement is spotty.

The concert in Tel Aviv was the first time I was asked to show my Green Pass — and the last. My family has since spent a weekend at a B&B in the Galilee where breakfast was served in a closed room for all the guests, including unvaccinated children. A crowded Italian restaurant in the area made it clear that it was not sticking to the regulations, offering us indoor seating with a 7-year-old.

Back in Jerusalem, when I phoned to make a reservation for two at my favorite restaurant, serving pricey fresh market cuisine from a lively open kitchen, I was asked if we both had Green Passes. But when we arrived, nobody asked to see them.

The tables were placed as cozily as ever. Strangers sat shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Our young waitress was unmasked. A diner at the next table questioned how Covid-safe it all was, then shrugged and carried on with her dessert.

Some restaurant owners and managers complained that the pandemic has left them chronically short staffed and that they could not be expected to police the customers as well.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Eran Avishai, a part-owner of a Jerusalem restaurant. “I have to ask people all sorts of personal questions.” Some customers have come up with excuses and notes explaining why they have not been vaccinated, he said, and “all sorts of things that I don’t want to have to hear about.”

However, some restaurants are strictly observing the regulations, even checking the Green Pass against customers’ identity cards. Based on experience, friends are swapping tips and recommendations on Facebook regarding the entry policies of local eateries and watering holes. And at least one hipster pub in Jerusalem is asking only unfamiliar clientele to show Green Passes and using the system to keep out undesirables.

I feel a personal sense of lightness and relief as I go about my new, vaccinated life. I even caught myself the other day in the supermarket without my mask on, which is still required in public places.

We are living in splendid isolation. Virus restrictions still make most travel a daunting proposition and non-Israelis generally cannot enter the country. I miss my family overseas. Until the rest of the world catches up, we are a nation living in a bubble.

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‘Mommy, I Have Bad News’: For Child Migrants, Mexico Can Be the End of the Road

Thousands of children, most from Central America, are making their way to the border, many hoping to meet parents in the United States. But for those caught in Mexico, there is only near-certain deportation.


CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — The children tumbled out of a white van, dazed and tired, rubbing sleep from their eyes.

They had been on their way north, traveling without their parents, hoping to cross the border into the United States.

They never made it.

Detained by Mexican immigration officers, they were brought to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, marched in single file and lined up against a wall for processing. For them, this facility about one mile from the border is the closest they will get to the United States.

“‘Mommy, I have bad news for you,’” one of the girls at the shelter, Elizabeth, 13, from Honduras, recalled telling her mother on the phone. “‘Don’t cry, but Mexican immigration caught me.’”

a growing wave of migrants hoping to find a way into the United States. If they make it across the border, they can try to present their case to the American authorities, go to school and one day find work and help relatives back home. Some can reunite with parents waiting there.

But for those caught before crossing the border, the long road north ends in Mexico.

If they are from elsewhere in the country, as a growing number are because of the economic toll of the pandemic, they can be picked up by a relative and taken home.

But most of them are from Central America, propelled north by a life made unsustainable by poverty, violence, natural disasters and the pandemic, and encouraged by the Biden administration’s promise to take a more generous approach to immigration.

They will wait in shelters in Mexico, often for months, for arrangements to be made. Then, they will be deported.

by the thousands.

“There is a big flow, for economic reasons, and it will not stop until people’s lives in these countries improve,” said José Alfredo Villa, the director of the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez.

In 2018, 1,318 children were admitted into shelters for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, the local authorities said. By 2019, the number of admissions had grown to 1,510 children, though it dipped to 928 last year because of the pandemic.

But in the first two and a half months of this year, the number has soared to 572 — a rate that, if kept up for the rest of the year, would far surpass 2019, the highest year on record.

When children enter the shelter, their schooling stops, the staff unable to provide classes for so many children coming from different countries and different educational backgrounds. Instead, the children fill their days with art classes, where they often draw or paint photos of their home countries. They watch television, play in the courtyard or complete chores to help the shelter run, like laundry.

71 percent of all cases involving unaccompanied minors resulted in deportation orders. But many never turn up for their hearings; they dodge the authorities and slip into the population, to live lives of evasion.

Ecuadorean girl who died by suicide at another shelter in Juárez in 2014 after being detained. She was 12, and on her way to reunite with parents who had lived in the Bronx since she was a toddler.

In mid-March, two weeks after her arrival, Elizabeth celebrated her 13th birthday at the shelter.

As shelter staff cut the cake for Elizabeth — the children are prohibited from handling sharp objects — three more children were dropped off by the immigration authorities, just hours after the eight who had arrived that morning. They watched cartoons as they waited for shelter officials to register them.

Elizabeth’s best friend since she arrived, Yuliana, 15, was by her side, apprehended by the Mexican authorities in December when she tried to cross the border carrying her 2-year-old cousin and tugging on the hand of her 4-year-old cousin. Yuliana is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violence-wracked cities in the world.

Both girls said they had seen a parent struggle to put food on the table before making the tough decision to migrate to the United States. And both felt that their failure to cross had upturned the tremendous expectations that had been placed on them: to reunite with a lonely parent, to work and to send money to family members left behind.

For the girls, home is not a place — Honduras or the United States. Home is where their families are. That is where they want to be.

“My dream is to get ahead and raise my family,” Yuliana said. “It is the first thing, to help my mother and my brothers. My family.”

The day she left San Pedro Sula to join her father in Florida, she said, her mother made her promise one thing.

“She asked me never to forget her,” Yuliana said. “And I answered that I could never, because I was leaving for her.”

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If You Care About Privacy, It’s Time to Try a New Web Browser

Firefox Focus, DuckDuckGo and Brave are all similar, but with some important differences.

Firefox Focus, available only for mobile devices like iPhones and Android smartphones, is bare-bones. You punch in a web address and, when done browsing, hit the trash icon to erase the session. Quitting the app automatically purges the history. When you load a website, the browser relies on a database of trackers to determine which to block.

DuckDuckGo, also available only for mobile devices, is more like a traditional browser. That means you can bookmark your favorite sites and open multiple browser tabs.

When you use the search bar, the browser returns results from the DuckDuckGo search engine, which the company says is more focused on privacy because its ads do not track people’s online behavior. DuckDuckGo also prevents ad trackers from loading. When done browsing, you can hit the flame icon at the bottom to erase the session.

Brave is also more like a traditional web browser, with anti-tracking technology and features like bookmarks and tabs. It includes a private mode that must be turned on if you don’t want people scrutinizing your web history.

Brave is also so aggressive about blocking trackers that in the process, it almost always blocks ads entirely. The other private browsers blocked ads less frequently.

For most people, not seeing ads is a benefit. But for those who want to give back to a publisher whose ads are blocked, Brave hosts its own ad network that you can opt into. In exchange for viewing ads that do not track your behavior, you earn a cut of revenue in the form of a token. You can then choose to give tokens to websites that you like. (Only web publishers that have a partnership with Brave can receive tokens.)

I tested all three browsers on my iPhone, setting each as my default browser for a few days.

All have a button to see how many trackers they blocked when loading a website. To test that, I visited nypost.com, the website of The New York Post, which loaded 83 trackers without any tracking prevention. With DuckDuckGo, 15 of the nypost.com trackers were blocked. With Brave, it was 22. And Firefox Focus blocked 47.

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