Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Israel Driving To the Right

On Our Way to Ashdod and Beyond:  Well, here we are. We have entered the month of August in the year 2020 (of the Common Era). We are (mostly) stuck at home while the coronavirus pandemic works its way around the world.

And, G-d willing אי״ה Ken O'Hara pt pt pt
during this month, Abq Jew will turn 70.

During these 70 good years, Abq Jew has made many promises - and has fulfilled, Abq Jew believes, a pretty good number of them. But there is one promise that Abq Jew made to you, his loyal readers, that he has not yet fulfilled.

Back in 2011 (see Rejoicing Again) and again in 2012 (see A Message From PBS), Abq Jew stated, for the record:

Abq Jew will check with his legal team and his agents,
and will share
The Greatest Pun Ever Told,
which Abq Jew did indeed tell at (no pun intended)
Tel Ashdod in the Summer of 1968
, with you -
just as soon as the trademarks and copyrights
are secured, and the book and movie rights
are nailed down. Yes, it's that good.

Just a hint, and a tiny forschbite of what is to come G-d willing אי״ה Ken O'Hara pt pt pt, perhaps even next week.

It has something to do with archaeology.

But first- let's take a ride on the southern portion of Israel's Coastal Highway 4.

Highway 4 (Hebrew: כּֽבִישׁ אַרְבַּע, Kvish Arba' ) is an Israeli highway that runs along Israel's entire coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Rosh HaNikra border crossing with Lebanon in the North to the Erez Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip in the South. [205.2 km; 127.5 miles]
Oy! Oy! Oy! 50 years ago, in Old Israel, Abq Jew and his parents, of blessed memory, used to make this trip in our brand-new VW bug from Ashkelon (where they had an apartment on Simtat HaSneh) to Tel Aviv (where the action was) all the time. No "Highway 4." Just a road.

Lots of trucks, few cars (who except an עולה חדשׁ could afford one?). And not too many signs. We just sorta found our way.

So anyway. Abq Jew was watching the car ride on Highway 4, eyes tearing over with nostalgia, when the Big Question hit him:

Why do Israelis 
drive on the right side of the road?

To every one of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who answered

Because otherwise
they'd be on the wrong side of the road.

Abq Jew says

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Perhaps - just perhaps - Abq Jew's work here has been at least marginally successful. Perhaps - just perhaps - Abq Jew's work here has not been for naught. Perhaps - just perhaps.

However. Abq Jew was, in fact, referring to the historical anomaly that the State of Israel was, for many years, part of British Mandatory Palestine. You know - like Britain, where they all drive on the left (because they know it's right). They drive clockwise around traffic circles, too, which is why they call them circuses.

And, Abq Jew must point out (for the sake of historical completeness), in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (which was separated from Eretz Yisrael in 1920) they also drive on the right.

For more information about just how all this came to pass, Abq Jew strongly recommends the Wikipedia entries for Mandatory Palestine, Sykes-Picot AgreementBalfour Declaration, and Partition of the Ottoman Empire.

For Abq Jew's view of these events, Abq Jew recommends his 2012 blog post 5 Years, 65 Years, 19 Years and his remarkably similar 2017 blog post 10 Years, 70 Years, 24 Years.

For an even stronger background of all this, Abq Jew further recommends the Wikipedia entries for Gallipoli Campaign and Zion Mule Corps (Jewish Legion).

If you still have the strength, Abq Jew must point you to With the Zionists in Gallipoli, Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson's 1916 account of the Zion Mule Corps, which he led.

And about whom he writes:
My chief object in writing this book is to interest the Hebrew nation in the fortunes of the Zionists and show them of what their Russian brothers are capable, even under the command of an alien in race and religion.
 And yes, Abq Jew is a proud owner of that 1916 edition.

Oh yeah -

Why do Israelis drive on the right side of the road?

Why does anybody drive on the left side of the road, as about 35% of the world population does? The World Standards website explains.
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. 
Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people. 
Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). 
It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.
So then what happened?

Enter the Teamsters.
In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. 
Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.
Isn't this fascinating?

Nobody wanted to go against the Teamsters. Suddenly, driving on the right side of the road became the thing to do. Soon, everyone (except, of course, our old friends the British) was heading to the right side of the roadway.

Including Turkey and its trucks.

Oops! Wrong photo!

Including Turkey and its trucks.

The first trucks to arrive in Israel (then Greater Syria) came from - you guessed it! - Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire). When the British arrived, and stayed, and stayed, and stayed, they left things the way they were. In a manner of speaking, of course.

And then there's Cyprus.

Cyprus was placed under British administration based on the Cyprus Convention - a secret agreement between Great Britain and Ottoman Empires - in 1878, and was formally annexed by Great Britain in 1914. Cyprus was granted independence in 1960. And then, Wikipedia tells us
The crisis of 1963–64 brought further intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which displaced more than 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves and brought the end of Turkish Cypriot representation in the republic. 
On 15 July 1974, a coup d'état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis, the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece. 
This action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus in the following month, after a ceasefire collapsed, and the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots.
A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community, with Turkey alone recognising the new state. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.
In the current era, drivers in both the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus and [Turkish Occupied] Northern Cyprus drive on the left. Yes, drivers in Greece and Turkey drive on the right. The British thought they were in Cyprus to stay, so they didn't leave things the way they were. In a manner of speaking, of course.

On the Road to Tel Ashdod and
The Greatest Pun Ever Told.

Perhaps even next week!

Billy Nader

Friday, July 31, 2020

Shabbat Nachamu 5780

Consolation for What We Lost: Following Tisha b'Av, there are seven prophetic readings of consolation - all from Isaiah - that comfort us after the Black Fast and prepare us, emotionally and spiritually, for the upcoming High Holidays.

And strange High Holidays they will be - unless our Mashiach arrives beforehand. Can we Jews feel spiritually connected - to each other and to our God - without a physical community? Must we put our faith in Zoom, Skype, and Facebook?

In the meantime, if we're lucky, life goes on. Mr & Mrs Abq Jew's grandkids Vera and Chuck are celebrating birthdays this summer. Last summer (see The Night the Well Ran Dry) we were all together. Not this year.


Abq Jew wishes to share
with Vera and Chuck,
and with you, dear readers - the
Best. Short Story. Ever.
The Fable of the Goat (מעשה העז)
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (שׁ״י עגנון)

The Fable of the Goat (מעשה העז) is one of Agnon's best-known and most-loved works. The story never fails to bring tears to Abq Jew's eyes, for "there is no longer a short way."

The Fable of the Goat (מעשה העז)
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (שׁ״י עגנון)

The tale is told of an old man who groaned from his heart.

The doctors were sent for, and they advised him to drink goat’s milk. He went out and bought a she-goat and brought her into his home. Not many days passed before the goat disappeared. They went out to search for her but did not find her. She was not in the yard and not in the garden, not on the roof of the house of study and not by the spring, not in the hills and not in the fields. She tarried several days and then returned by herself; and when she returned, her udder was full of a great deal of milk, the taste of which was as the taste of Eden. Not just once, but many times she disappeared from the house. They would go out in search of her and would not find her until she returned by herself with her udder full of milk that was sweeter than honey and whose taste was the taste of Eden.

One time the old man said to his son, “My son, I desire to know where she goes and whence she brings this milk which is sweet to my palate and a balm to all my bones.” His son said to him, “Father, I have a plan.” He said to him, “What is it?” The son got up and brought a length of cord. He tied it to the goat’s tail.

His father said to him, “What are you doing, my son?”

He said to him, “I am tying a cord to the goat’s tail, so that when I feel a pull on it, I will know that she has decided to leave, and I can catch the end of the cord and follow her on her way.” The old man nodded his head and said to him, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will rejoice.”

The youth tied the cord to the goat’s tail and minded it carefully. When the goat set off, he held the cord in his hand and did not let it slacken until the goat was well on her way and he was following her. He was dragged along behind her until he came to a cave. The goat went into the cave, and the youth followed her, holding the cord. They walked thus for an hour or two, and maybe even a day or two. The goat wagged her tail and bleated, and the cave came to an end.

When they emerged from the cave, the youth saw lofty mountains, and hills full of the choicest fruit, and a fountain of living waters that flowed down from the mountains; and the wind wafted all manner of perfumes. The goat climbed up a tree by clutching at the ribbed leaves. Carob fruits full of honey dropped from the tree, and she ate of the carobs and drank of the garden’s fountain.

The youth stood and called to the wayfarers: “I adjure you, good people, tell me where I am, and what is the name of this place?” They answered him, “You are in the Land of Israel, and you are close by Safed.”

The youth lifted up his eyes to the heavens and said, “Blessed by the Omnipresent, blessed be He who has brought me to the Land of Israel.” He kissed the soil and sat down under the tree.

He said, “Until the day breath and the shadows flee away, I shall sit on the hill under this tree. Then I shall go home and bring my father and mother to the Land of Israel.” As he was sitting and feasting his eyes on the holiness of the Land of Israel, he heard a voice proclaiming:

“Come, let us go out to greet the Sabbath Queen.”

And he saw men like angels, wrapped in white shawls, with boughs of myrtle in their hands, and all the houses were lit with a great many candles. He perceived that the eve of Sabbath would arrive with the darkening, and that he would not be able to return. He uprooted a reed and dipped it in gallnuts, from which the ink for the writing of the Torah scrolls is made. He took a piece of paper and wrote a letter to his father:

“From the ends of the earth, I lift up my voice in song to tell you that I have come in peace to the Land of Israel. Here I sit, close by Safed, the holy city, and I imbibe its sanctity. Do not inquire how I arrived here but hold on to this cord which is tied to the goat’s tail and follow the footsteps of the goat; then your journey will be secure, and you will enter the Land of Israel.”

The youth rolled up the note and placed it in the goat’s ear. He said to himself: When she arrives at Father’s house, Father will pat her on the head, and she will flick her ears. The note will fall out, Father will pick it up and read what is written on it. Then he will take up the cord and follow the goat to the Land of Israel.

The goat returned to the old man, but she did not flick her ears, and the note did not fall. When the old man saw that the goat had returned without his son, he clapped his hands to his head and began to cry and weep and wail, “My son, my son, where are you? My son, would that I might die in your stead, my son, my son!”

So he went, weeping and mourning over his son, for he said, “An evil beast has  devoured him; my son is assuredly rent in pieces!”

And whenever he saw the goat, he would say, “I will go down to my grave in mourning for my son.” The old man’s mind would not be at peace until he sent for the butcher to slaughter the goat. The butcher came and slaughtered the goat. As they were skinning her, the note fell out of her ear. The old man picked up the note and said, “My son’s handwriting!”

When he had read all that his son had written, he clapped his hands to his head and cried, “Vay! Vay! Woe to the man who robs himself of his own good fortune, and woe to the man who requites good with evil!” He mourned over the goat many days and refused to be comforted, saying, “Woe to me, for I could have gone up to the Land of Israel in one bound, and now I must suffer out my days in this exile!”

Since that time the mouth of the cave has been hidden from the eye, and there is no longer a short way. And that youth, if he has not died, shall bear fruit in his old age, full of sap and richness, calm and peaceful in the Land of the Living.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Welcoming New Hampshire

At Home in Portsmouth:  It is with continued (see Leaving Long Island) joy and excitement that Mr & Mrs Abq Jew report that their son Dov the Film Editor; their daughter (in-law) Jessica the Surgeon; their grandchildren Vera and Chuck; and their granddog Dave -

have safely arrived at their new home in Portsmouth. New Hampshire, that is.

The Nine Days - the first days of the Hebrew month of Menachem Av - begin tonight. This coming Shabbat will be Shabbat Chazon, and beginning on Wednesday next week we will observe the Fast of Tisha b'Av.

These are days of semi-mourning, when it is not permitted to listen to [live] music. This year, we have already been in various states and phases of semi-mourning for months. 

So Abq Jew (who is most definitely not a rabbi) this year favors a more liberal attitude. Perhaps next year the Nine Days will only last nine days.

Moving right along. Let's get to
Abq Jew's favorite Portsmouth / NH videos.

1. A Tune

English multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Oldfield in 1976 recorded a delightful rendition of Portsmouth, an English folk dance tune. Released as a single, it is Oldfield's highest charting single in the United Kingdom, where it reached number three.

What beautiful landscapes! What thrilling cityscapes! 

However, as you may have guessed, the song, the landscapes, and the cityscapes are all for Portsmouth. Old Hampshire, that is.

Wikipedia tells us -
Portsmouth is an English port city primarily built on Portsea Island in the county of Hampshire. 
The United Kingdom's only island city, it is 70 miles south-west of London and 19 miles south-east of Southampton. Portsmouth's population was 205,100 in the 2011 UK Census. 
The city is part of the South Hampshire metropolitan area, which also includes the city of Southampton and the towns of Gosport, Fareham, Waterlooville, Havant and Eastleigh.
Portsmouth's [also known as Pompey] history can be traced back to Roman Britain. 
2. A Walking Tour

Ahem. So let's take a first look at Portsmouth, New Hampshire - by taking this Walking Tour.

What beautiful landscapes! What thrilling cityscapes! 

Wikipedia tells us -
American Indians of the Abenaki and other Algonquian languages-speaking nations, and their predecessors, inhabited the territory of coastal New Hampshire for thousands of years before European contact. 
The first known European to explore and write about the area was Martin Pring in 1603. 
The Piscataqua River is a tidal estuary with a swift current, but forms a good natural harbor. The west bank of the harbor was settled by English colonists in 1630 and named Strawbery Banke, after the many wild strawberries growing there.
Strategically located for trade between upstream industries and mercantile interests abroad, the port prospered. Fishing, lumber and shipbuilding were principal businesses of the region.
Enslaved Africans were imported as laborers as early as 1645 and were integral to building the city's prosperity. Portsmouth was part of the Triangle Trade, which made significant profits from slavery. 
At the town's incorporation in 1653, it was named Portsmouth in honor of the colony's founder, John Mason. He had been captain of the port of Portsmouth, England, in the county of Hampshire, after which New Hampshire is named.
As with much of (especially, but not exclusively) early American history, this is probably more than you were ever taught and more than you wanted to know.

3. Samantha Brown's Tour

Travel Channel host Samantha Brown offers her own tour of her hometown Portsmouth. New Hampshire, that is.

Walking and talking. All of which she quite obviously loves.

What beautiful landscapes! What thrilling cityscapes! 

Wikipedia tells us -
When Queen Anne's War ended in 1712, Governor Joseph Dudley selected the town to host negotiations for the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, which temporarily ended hostilities between the Abenaki Indians and English settlements of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire.
In 1774, in the lead-up to the Revolution, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth warning that the British were coming, with warships to subdue the port.
African Americans helped defend Portsmouth and New England during the war. 
In 1779, 19 slaves from Portsmouth wrote a petition to the state legislature and asked that it abolish slavery, in recognition of their war contributions and in keeping with the principles of the Revolution. 
Their petition was not answered, but New Hampshire later ended slavery.
4. A State Song

Yes, of course New Hampshire has a state song - Old New Hampshire! In fact,  New Hampshire has eight "honorary" state songs and no other official songs.

Old New Hampshire's words were written by Dr. John F. Holmes, and the music was composed by Maurice Hoffmann in 1926.

Old New Hampshire was chosen to be the "official" state song first in 1949, then again in November 1977, by the State Song Selection Board.

What beautiful words! What thrilling music!
Nice banjo-picking, too!
Old New Hampshire, Old New Hampshire,
Old New Hampshire Grand and Great.
We will sing of Old New Hampshire,
Of the dear old Granite State!
5. Welcome Home!

Fans have compared Don Watson to John Denver and Dan Fogelberg, but he has a sound all his own. With a straightforward, down home feel he has an entire CD full of songs that extols the virtues of the Granite State.

Here is Welcome Home New Hampshire.

What beautiful landscapes! What moving words!

Hello, Portsmouth!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Leaving Long Island

Goodbye, Farewell: It is with joy and excitement that Mr & Mrs Abq Jew report that their son Dov the Film Editor; their daughter (in-law) Jessica the Surgeon; their grandchildren Vera and Chuck; and their granddog Dave -

have departed their now former home on Long Island, and are venturing to their new home in the Far North. Portsmouth. New Hampshire, that is.

There is, of course, a touch of sadness involved. Leaving friends and family is always hard. But we may thank the US Postal Service and FedEx, Skype and our cellphones -  for keeping us close no matter what. And the airports (halevai!).

Moving right along. Let's get to
Abq Jew's favorite "farewell" videos.

1. Goodbye Odessa

When it comes to leaving one place and going to another, nobody does it like us Jews. You can learn from history books, but you just can't beat experience.

Abq Jew's mishpocha said Goodbye Odessa more than a century ago. Maybe it was the traffic; maybe it was the crowded coffee shops. Or the cost of housing. Or the pogroms.

Wikipedia tells us
A series of pogroms against Jews in the city of Odessa, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, took place during the 19th and early 20th centuries. 
They occurred in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881 and 1905.

2. Ashokan Farewell

Ashokan, it turns out, was the name of a former village in the Catskill region of New York that is now mostly covered by the Ashokan Reservoir.

And furthermore, Wikipedia tells us
Ashokan Farewell is a piece of music composed by American folk musician Jay Ungar in 1982. 
For many years it served as a goodnight or farewell waltz at the annual Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps run by Ungar and his wife Molly Mason, who gave the tune its name, at the Ashokan Field Campus of SUNY New Paltz (now the Ashokan Center) in Upstate New York. 
The tune was used as the title theme of the 1990 PBS television miniseries The Civil War. Despite its late date of composition, it was included in the 1991 compilation album Songs of the Civil War.

3. Jamaica Farewell

As every Long Islander knows - when you reach Jamaica, you make a stop. Usually, to change trains. After which it's Jamaica Farewell. Oops - Abq Jew's got the wrong Jamaica.

Indeed. Wikipedia tells us
Jamaica Farewell is a Jamaican-style folk song. The song appeared on Harry Belafonte's album Calypso. The lyrics for the song were written by Lord Burgess (Irving Louis Burgie).
In his album My Son, the Folk Singer, Allan Sherman included a parody of the song: "I'm upside down, my head is spinning around, because I gotta sell the house in Levittown!"

4. Remembering Ronkonkoma

And then there's Ronkonkoma. What a train station! What parking!

Forever in our hearts!

Wikipedia tells us
Ronkonkoma is a major railroad station and transportation hub along the Main Line of the Long Island Rail Road in Ronkonkoma, New York. The station is the eastern terminus of the Ronkonkoma Branch and the western terminus of the Greenport Branch.
The station has a total of about 6,100 parking spaces. As of May 2011, 63 trains connecting to New York City stop at this station every weekday.
Ronkonkoma (alt: Ronkokomo) is, apparently, the hometown of comedian / actor Christopher Brian Roach, who we all remember from CBS's Kevin Can Wait.

Hello, Portsmouth!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

How to Stop A Pandemic

Three Ways for Three Weeks: How, during this dreadful time of viral death, financial destruction, and emotional devastation should we observe the 17th of Tammuz, the Three Weeks, and Tisha b'Av?

Cheer up! Abq Jew here thoughtfully provides three (3) ways to stop the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Way #1: Follow the Rules

When it comes to stopping the current COVID-19 pandemic, we all know what we need to do: follow the rules. Stay home until we run out of food or toilet paper. Wear a mask when we go out. Don't get too close. And, for heaven's sake -

Let's Wash Our Hands!

Way #2: Sing a Song, Say a Prayer

It turns out that ours is not the first generation to face pestilence and disease. There have been eras of bubonic plague, cholera, influenza, tuberculosis, and polio (just to name a few) since we humans started living together.

Some of these times of illness have been memorialized in song. Lior Zaltzman of tells us:
This 100-Year-Old Yiddish Pandemic Song Could Have Been Written Today 
In 1916, Solomon Smulevitz, a Yiddish musician and entertainer who immigrated to America from Belarus, wrote “Mentshn-Fresser.” The song’s title means “man eater,” or “devourer of mankind.” 
“The pale pestilence lives deeply buried in the lungs,” the song begins, and it goes on to tell the story of a terrible plague spreading across the world, with the speed of a raging fire. 
Sound familiar? 
Fast forward a century and change later, and Sveta Kundish — a classically-trained singer turned Yiddish musician, and the first female cantor in the history of the German state of Lower Saxony — was taking an online class at the Yiddish Worker’s Circle, when her teacher introduced the class to the song, translated and recorded by Jane Peppler. 
The following day, Sveta and her partner, accordion player Patrick Farrell, who live in Berlin, had Shabbat dinner with fellow Yiddish musician Daniel Kahn — whom you may know from his amazing Yiddish cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” — and his wife, Yeva. 
“I showed everybody the song,” Kundish tells Kveller, “and everybody got very excited because it felt like it describes our times precisely.” 
And so, with the help of some musician friends and fellow Yiddishists, Kundish and Kahn set out to record of a version of the song. They released it last week [June 23], along with a dark, pandemic-themed video that incorporates a trove of historical footage.
Mikrobn batsiln vos vilt ir? Zogt vemes shlikhes derfilt ir?
Microbes, bacilli, what do you want?
Whose mission are you carrying out?

Ir frest di korbones gor on a rakhmones, in bliyende lebn nor tsilt ir!
You gobble the victims mercilessly,
you aim only at blooming lives

Ir bodt zikh in trern fun veyner ir tsit oys di markh fun di beyner
You bathe yourselves in the tears of those who weep,
you suck the marrow from the bone

Ir samt di gederem ir krikhende verim, mikrobn batsiln vos vilt ir?
You poison the entrails, you crawling worms.
Microbes, bacilli, what do you want?

You can learn more about "Mentshn-Fresser" here and here and here and here.

Way #3: Hold a Cemetery Wedding

To be used very strictly and under rabbinic supervision only as an absolute last resort. When there is neither cure nor effective treatment.

When social-distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing, and chaval! even song and prayer do not appear to be working.


The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research recently offered an online class titled "Dybbuks, Golems,  S. An-ski, and Jewish Legend in Times of Fear."

Which Abq Jew was fortunate enough to attend. (You can watch a video of the class, presented by scholar Gabriella Safran, here.)

And wherein Abq Jew learned about weddings held in cemeteries. Know as Cholera Weddings, Black Weddings, Plague Weddings. Or more colloquially, Schwartze Khasenes.
Shvartse khasenes (black weddings), reported from Chełm, Opatów, and other places, were intended to end a crisis such as a cholera epidemic by arranging a wedding in the cemetery for two people who were poor, orphaned, or disabled, as this was considered a very good deed.
The boundary between the living and the dead, Professor Safran told us, is fluid. Which, perhaps, we can exploit - when direly needed to save our lives.

In March, P J Grisar wrote in The Forward:
We used to conduct weddings in cemeteries to fight epidemics — really 
As the world confronts the novel coronavirus pandemic, many Jewish leaders are urging their communities to make changes in their lives to help cut the crisis short: Don’t kiss mezuzot, convene with your minyan online. Keep events like weddings small, if at all possible. 
But in past moments of public health crisis, our community wasn’t always so practical. Perhaps the most unusual response was a ritual folk remedy in which the living were married on a field of the dead — before the whole village. 
Shvartse khasenes, or black weddings, were, well, weddings performed between two previously unwed people in a graveyard. The betrothed were often poor, orphaned, disabled or some combination of the three. Sometimes they didn’t even know each other before taking their vows. 
The hope was that the communal hesed — kindness or love — fostered by these graveside nuptials would stop the diseases cold. It was believed joining a couple in the presence of the dead allowed for a more direct appeal to be made to God to intervene.
You can learn more about Black Weddings here and here.

Yes, Abq Jew hears you say, that's what we Jews used to do. Before the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason.

Well, here is what Kaushik Patowary wrote just a couple of months ago in Amusing Planet.
Black Weddings: Marrying in The Time of Cholera
Last month, a peculiar wedding ceremony took place at a cemetery in Bnei Brak, a city in Israel, just east of Tel Aviv. 
With government regulation prohibiting large gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, the wedding was a small affair with only a few attendants huddled under a small black canopy, the chuppah. 
The groom was an orphan and while the identify of the bride was not disclosed, she was probably an orphan herself. The two had never met before, never known each other. 
These essential strangers were the unwilling participants of a ritual known as shvartse khasene (black wedding) or mageyfe khasene (plague wedding), where the local Jewish community forcibly marries off two of the most marginal residents of the town in an effort to ward off diseases.
And yes - even right here in the good ol' USA!
When Jews from Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States, around the turn of the 20th century, they brought this custom with them. During the devastating Spanish Flu epidemic desperate Jewish communities across America married off dozens of young couples. 
One of the most celebrated and widely reported black weddings took place between Harry Rosenberg and Fanny Jacobs in October 1918 at a cemetery near Cobbs Creek in Philadelphia. The event was attended by over a thousand. 

Abq Jew does not know when it will get better, but he is certain that it will.
In the meantime -

Mikrobn batsiln vos vilt ir?