Inside Hotel Corona: Where COVID-19 Recovery in Israel Meets Standup Comedy (Noam Shuster-Eliassi)
When the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem was leased by the government to house recovering COVID-19 patients, the new guests gave it the nickname, "Hotel Corona." The nearly 200 patients inside already had the coronavirus; and so, unlike the outside world on strict lockdown, they could give each other high fives and hugs and hang out together. What was even more surprising than what they could do was what they were doing. Patients from all walks of life - Israelis, Palestinians, religious, secular, groups that don't normally mix - were getting along and having fun. They were eating together, sharing jokes, even doing Zumba. And because they were documenting themselves on social media, the whole country was tuning in to watch, like a real-life reality TV show. Before her sojourn at the hotel, Shuster-Eliassi had been at Harvard Divinity School on a fellowship to develop her standup act, which she performs in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, and was performing with the Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Harvard shut down, so Noam decided to take a chance and fly home to Israel. She had a layover in New York City. Within days of her flight, Shuster-Eliassi had developed COVID-19 symptoms and had to go to the hospital for supplemental oxygen. And there, her unfortunate situation led to a unique opportunity. “I did stand-up shows here in the lobby,” says Noam. “The fact that I got sick let me do what no other comedian is doing today: a show with a real audience.” Shuster-Eliassi left the hotel on April 19, after finally receiving the required two negative tests for the coronavirus. Leaving was an emotional experience. “There was a sense of leaving a family,” she says. Now separated from the community at the Dan Hotel, she is trying to process what she experienced there. Join us as we hear the inside story from Israeli comedian and patient #3555.
Sponsor: Community Scholar Program (CSP)