Funerals on Zoom: How Israelis Grieve in the Time of Coronavirus

On Passover Eve, Esther Nahoun of Kfar Sava died of complications from the coronavirus. Her family, who couldn’t surround her with love in her final days, now had to face the next painful burden.

Esther, who was 90, is survived by nine children, 30 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, six siblings and dozens of nieces and nephews. But because of the Health Ministry directives limiting funerals to 20 people, most of the family had to watch the ceremony on their cellphones.

“I hope you know that we were all with you. We may have been physically far away, but we never left you for a moment,” her niece Tamar wrote in a eulogy she posted on Facebook.

“The death of a loved one is always sad and painful. Death in the time of the coronavirus is crueler and more unbearable,” she wrote, expressing the feelings of many Israelis who in recent weeks have been forced to find creative ways to bid farewell to their loved ones.

“I ‘attended’ my aunt’s funeral. I sat in front of the screen and watched the funeral from afar …. I can’t even begin to describe how unreal and painful it is to deal with a situation like this. How hard it is not to hug anyone. How hard it is to mourn alone,” Tamar wrote.

In recent weeks, many other families have used Facebook as a platform to eulogize their loved ones, expressing frustration at having to part from their loved ones this way.

“We’ve been deprived of the basic consolation of a warm embrace,” wrote Alon Chen after his uncle’s death. Ido Yamin described a similar experience following the death of his father, noted Jerusalem painter Yitzhak Yamin.