Residents of Tel Aviv—“the city that never stops”—are used to spending their days and nights in restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars. They’re used to eating out. They’re used to having a good time. Obviously since COVID-19 started, all of this became a problem. But where there’s a will—and good weather—there’s a way. Thus, in the middle of the pandemic, Tel Aviv’s new picnic culture was born.You can see these urban picnics across Tel Aviv: along the city’s large boulevards, like Rothschild, Ben-Zion, and Ben-Gurion; in the public parks and squares; and on benches everywhere. Some are extravagant and involve people schlepping wicker baskets with delicacies and a bottle of wine from a local deli (those are open even during lockdown, like supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.), and sitting on plaid picnic blankets. Others are more impromptu and involve ordering food delivery to the picnic destination—Wolt couriers are already used to delivering to groups of people sitting in parks or on a bench outside. Some people bring sandwiches and pasta salad from home.Everyone is having picnics: Families have them with their kids; groups of 20-somethings socialize on the grass in Habima Square, clutching fancy takeaway bags; couples eat sushi on benches. Food couriers from competing food-delivery apps and platforms roam the streets and rule the city. They deliver food to people’s homes, but also fuel the city’s exploding picnic culture.This new social trend more or less adheres to COVID-19 restrictions: People aren’t wearing masks since they’re eating, and they are probably sitting a bit too close to each other, but groups are typically smaller than the 10-person gatherings permitted outdoors during lockdown—and many times these are family events or couples on dates, involving people who are already in a bubble together. So it’s mostly OK in terms of safety regulations. And it’s a means of survival—both for the local way of life and for local food businesses.I’m writing this in late January. Surprisingly—and I don’t want to jinx it—the weather in Tel Aviv is still picnic-friendly. Some days it does get a bit chilly, but there are always a few hours of sunshine to be soaked up on a bench, with a face mask under your chin and something to eat in your hand. Even if it does get cold soon, it probably won’t be for a long time, and I predict the picnic trend will continue when the weather gets nice again, and will keep going strong up until the day restaurants reopen.As I’m writing this, Israel is in the midst of its third lockdown. This means no school or kindergarten and many more slices of pizza in the playground. The legal difference regarding eateries between lockdown and non-lockdown COVID life is that takeaway food is only allowed to be delivered by couriers—no self pickup. Restaurants were closed before this lockdown, too, but you could walk up to one, order, wait a few minutes outside, and take it with you. During lockdown that’s verboten—but since it makes no sense to get falafel or a sandwich or a cup of coffee delivered by a courier, many places have found a way around it. One of the confusing things is that you’re allowed to buy a croissant in a bakery, but not from a café. I’m not sure who’s allowed to sell you a cappuccino—since it seems some places do it openly, while others do it like they’re selling heroin.To survive, businesses are looking for creative solutions. Some cafés let you order online and come pick up your coffee secretly. Many fast-food eateries—especially places selling things in a pita—barricaded their counter so that customers can’t get close, since formally they’re only allowed to fill orders to be delivered by couriers. But when you approach the place, the person working inside usually comes out, starts walking toward you, somewhat stealthily, and with a wink of an eye motions you to come talk to them on the street corner. There, in the shadows, they take your order, all the while glancing sideways, on the lookout for municipality law enforcement inspectors, lurking about to slap recalcitrant businesses with a fine. Then they tell you where to wait: on the other side of the street or next to the traffic light, for instance. Nothing too close or incriminating.After a few minutes they bring you your goods—sometimes discreetly wrapped in a brown paper bag. A coffee cup in a brown paper bag is never a good idea, and it’s quite a challenge getting far enough without spilling the coffee inside the bag. The whole procedure feels awfully like buying drugs on a street corner, which is weird, but it does add a certain kick to your morning coffee and cinnamon roll.This is what’s going on in Tel Aviv. During lockdowns, your city becomes your universe. Your neighborhood is your oyster. During this particular lockdown, you’re not allowed to venture more than 1,000 meters from your house, so a 1,000-meter radius is all you know. Or, actually, 3,000 meter—we Israelis are cheaters, after all, always looking for ways to dupe the system (like wearing sports clothes when walking farther than allowed, since jogging or power-walking legally enable you to exceed lockdown limitations).Tel Aviv’s nightlife has also changed dramatically since this mess began. Obviously, people meet to drink in their homes (even when lockdowns don’t permit it), but Tel Aviv was always about going out. And COVID or no COVID, people still go out. If between lockdowns, some bars were open for takeaway cocktails and people gathered to drink outside the establishment, during lockdowns most of the drinking is done picnic-style, too. It’s not uncommon to see groups of giggly girls celebrating birthdays (you can tell by the helium balloons) with a bottle of Lambrusco on the patch of artificial grass located at the tail end of Rothschild Boulevard—a habit Baron Edmond de Rothschild might have appreciated. You also see couples on dates sharing a bottle of sauvignon blanc on a bench. Many bring wine glasses from home, and supermarkets started selling plastic wine and champagne glasses, too. They look pretty real—especially after a glass of wine or two—but feel fake. Like everything else these days.Another product facilitating the city’s new alfresco drinking culture is nice little branded plastic whiskey flasks, which come with the whiskey inside. On your way to a bench party, you can drop by a kiosk or the AM:PM—the popular 24/7 minimarket chain—and get yourself a Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old in a shiny black plastic flask and a packet of spicy Doritos, and you’re set for the evening.But Israelis are known as a people with a penchant for outsmarting others, including the authorities. So it’s not surprising that some bars survive by ignoring the legal restrictions and opening their doors, secretly, to friends and insiders, by special appointment or password, much like the speak-easies of the Prohibition era. Some might deem this immoral and lacking in social solidarity—as far as public health is concerned—but on the other hand, illegally going to a bar can be seen as helping out local businesses. And hey, whatever gets you through the night.