From the end of August until the middle of November, the 11th-grade students traveled to Israel for a unique Muss experience. Muss is a three-month program in which students learn and travel throughout Israel. In 2020, Muss was postponed for the class of 2022 as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.
While COVID-19 still looms, the loosening of restrictions allowed this year’s 11th-grade students to get the Muss experience. Fortunately, I live with one of these Muss students (my sister Talia Erlbaum) which made it quite convenient for me to conduct this interview and learn how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Muss experience.
THE COUGAR CHRONICLE: What was the quarantine experience like at the beginning of your time in Israel?
TALIA ERLBAUM: At first, it was definitely challenging to get to Israel, and automatically we had to separate into our quarantine capsules. Before arriving in Israel, we were given a group of six people who we were quarantining with. On a typical day, we would wake up and have breakfast, and then we would have zoom classes for the rest of the day, always remaining in our capsules. During the day we had two different times that we were able to go outside with our capsules but we had designated answers that we had to be in so that we weren’t near other capsules. Being inside for most of the day was very difficult but when we had time outside we really valued every second.
TCC: How do the restrictions in Israel compare to the restrictions in America?
TE: In Israel, they are definitely more careful about limiting exposure so the restrictions are definitely more extreme. In every public place, we were required to wear masks whereas in America it is mostly optional if you want to wear a mask or not. We also needed to show our vaccination cards in almost all restaurants in order to eat. In America, it is still optional to wear a mask in public places and they do not require people to show their vaccine cards in restaurants.
TCC: Did COVID-19 impact your schooling while in Israel?
TE: Covid did not really impact our general studies while we were in Israel because we were still wearing masks in class like we had the prior year and like we knew we would continue to do when we got home. In terms of Israel studies, some of the places that we were supposed to tour required physical vaccination cards and we all just had pictures of them so we were forced to adjust our schedule for the day.
TCC: What was the worst part about having to deal with COVID-19 while on Muss?
TE: The worst part about covid was definitely when one of our classmates tested positive. We were very hopeful that we would have no cases but when we had to quarantine for an extra week the restrictions in terms of mask-wearing and social distancing became more extreme. Once our classmate was healthy and we had no more cases we all were definitely more careful and made sure that we were wearing our masks while in public areas.
TCC: If you could change one of the COVID-19 restrictions that impacted your Muss experience, what would it be and why?
TE: I would want to change the mask-wearing policy because coming from America where it was a little more lenient in terms of mask-wearing, it was definitely an adjustment when we got to Israel. We had to make sure that we had masks everywhere we went and even on the bus with each other we wore masks just in case anyone tested positive so we could limit exposure.