by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, April 14 (Xinhua) -- As most of Israel has been under lockdown in recent weeks amid the spread of COVID-19, few places witness no restrictions.
But some hotels are exception. They are called "Corona hotels" which were emptied due to the virus and have been converted to quarantine places where patients tested positive but in mild condition can stay.
The Israeli military is in charge of these hotels and operates them together with the original hotel staff.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are operating 12 such facilities: eight host mild patients, and another four host civilians who need to be quarantined and cannot do so in their own homes for various reasons.
According to the IDF, 1,044 COVID-19 patients are currently staying in such hotels.
The hotels, along with the Israeli health system, offer much needed company for those who are sick without taking up precious hospital beds. For many, the virus carries only mild to moderate symptoms and most people can recover.
Footage on various social media outlets shows comradery has been fostered under the circumstances. People with the same fate under the same roof, mostly strangers, have been put together in an unlikely situation. The mood in the hotels appears to be better than the general mood in the country.
"This is the only place in the country where there are so many people, without masks and free because everyone here is sick and we are not afraid of getting sick anymore," said Eden Emmanuelle Dori, 21-year-old from central Israel, who is staying at a quarantine hotel in Jerusalem.
Eden was on a trip to South America when she decided to return to Israel due to curfew measures in Peru. She returned in mid-March and entered into quarantine in an apartment with a friend.
Eden then tested positive and was taken to the hotel. She is asymptomatic and has self-appointed herself to be in charge of entertainment in the hotel. She has conducted Zumba lessons and singing and dancing shows for her fellows.
Noam Shuster-Eliassi, 33-year-old, who is also a guest at the hotel, had cut short her studies at Harvard University in the United States and decided to return to Israel at the beginning of the outbreak.
Within four days of her quarantine in Israel, she began feeling unwell. When having trouble in breathing, she was evacuated to a hospital where she spent a day before stabilizing and being transferred to the hotel.
While the majority of Israeli Jews spent their traditional Passover holiday meals with their immediate families, staying at the hotel offered a different experience.
"We are the only ones allowed gathering," Noam told Xinhua. "I thought of my parents who were sitting alone for their meal."
"But it is much better than staying at a hospital," she added.
Noam is a stand-up comedian who has already conducted two shows at the hotel lobby.
The hotel where Noam and Eden are staying at is currently hosting 150 patients, as Arabs, Jews and Christians are staying under the same roof.
"There is not a drop of racism, hate or negativity," said Noam. "Everyone is together in this situation. Everyone talks to each other."
"I met Arab friends here," Eden said.
Both Noam and Eden arrived alone at the hotels, but now knowing everyone around, they feel they have forged friendships for life, which will stay with them even after they recover and leave the hotel.
"Everyone here hugs without fear," said Noam with laughter, as the rest of the world is advised against showing affection by hugging.
Eden has helped an 80-year-old elderly man throughout her stay. When he tested negative and was allowed to leave the hotel, he refused to leave until he said goodbye to her.
"He waited for me until I came to say goodbye. It made me so emotional. He is proof that happiness is a cure," she said.
Noam and Eden are waiting to test negative for the virus twice before they are released. That is the protocol. But Eden feels she has found her calling in making others happy.
"I am in no rush," she said. "As long as I can make people happy, I don't care that I am still here. It is good for me to do good for others and I am enjoying my time."