Table of Contents:
How Is Israel Dealing With Coronavirus?: Emanuel Miller, Honest Reporting, Mar. 16, 2020
Israel Exemplifies How to Respond to the Coronavirus: Daniel J. Samet, Atlantic Council, Mar. 12, 2020
Is the Virus Hurting Jewish Communities or Showing their Strength?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Mar. 16, 2020
Israeli Nobel Laureate: Coronavirus Spread is Slowing: Donna Rachel Edmunds, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2020
All you need to know about how Israel is responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including what limitations have been put in place regarding public transportation, self-isolation, and how Israel is fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Since the first identified outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, COVID-19 spread quickly across the world, and within three months, it reached Israel. While some countries, such as Italy and Iran, have been particularly badly hit, Israel’s severe response to the outbreak has seen it suffer a relatively low number of confirmed cases of infection.
Predictably, antisemites have been swift to use the phenomenon to attack Israel. After Bethlehem was affected by multiple instances of coronavirus infection, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered both the IDF and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to impose a closure on the city until further notice, in a step he said was coordinated with the Palestinian Authority.
The move was met with cynicism, with some suggesting that the authorities were taking stricter measures in the West Bank than inside Israel. At the same time, others used the burgeoning pandemic as an excuse to spread classic antisemitism, in the form of conspiracy theories that Jews created the virus, and a Lebanese-American university professor claiming that Israel would place non-Jewish coronavirus patients in ‘mass prisons’.
So what’s really happening? How is Israel really dealing with coronavirus?
The first case of COVID-19 in Israel was confirmed on February 21, 2020 after a female citizen who returned home from Japan after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive at the Sheba Medical Center.
Immediately, Israeli officials understood that the pandemic would spread to Israel and clear measures were swiftly taken to prevent the virus’s spread. The day after that first case, a 14-day home isolation rule was instituted for anyone who visited South Korea or Japan, and a ban was placed on non-residents and citizens who were in South Korea for 14 days before their arrival.
The day after that, on February 22, 2020, a second former Diamond Princess passenger tested positive and was admitted to a hospital for isolation, and Israel started imposing its first large-scale self-isolation measures. Two hundred Israeli students were quarantined after being exposed to a large group of South Korean religious tourists, some of whom tested positive for coronavirus upon returning to their home country. A further 1,400 Israelis were quarantined after returning from abroad. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
How to treat a nation suffering from a year-long political crisis? A public health crisis is presumably not what the doctor ordered. Yet a disease like coronavirus does not care if you’re unable to form a government or if your prime minister is under indictment. Like over 100 other countries, Israel has come face to face with a slew of COVID-19 cases within its borders. Its efforts to limit the virus’ spread, which seem to be working well, may offer lessons for managing outbreaks elsewhere.
The government has used the full force of the law to contain the virus, which had infected 100 Israelis as of March 12. Besides communicating how severe the threat is—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the disease the “worst pandemic” in a century—authorities have acted swiftly and decisively. Perhaps the most arresting regulation is making all returning international travelers self-quarantine for two weeks. Add that to the over 1,000 soldiers who have already been in quarantine, and the number of Israelis in isolation will surely skyrocket.
Other measures show how seriously the government is taking COVID-19. During the March 2 elections, quarantined voters assembled in polling stations built for their exclusive use. Compare this to the unsettling lack of election day measures in Iran, a country much worse afflicted by the virus. More recently, the health ministry has banned gatherings larger than 2,000 people and has issued new regulations for visiting hospitals and senior care facilities. The country has mobilized its renowned medical research sector, which hopes to ready a vaccine for testing within months.
Netanyahu has also committed masses of teens as well as the armed forces to cleaning public spaces and distributing medical supplies, while a chief rabbi has advised observant Jews to forgo the common practice of kissing mezuzahs (doorposts inscribed with prayers) upon entering and exiting rooms. Beyond its borders, Israel has in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority placed Bethlehem under quarantine and closed the entire West Bank to tourists. All this reveals one common thread from the powers that be: an unrelenting approach to the virus.
The Israeli case raises the question of whether other countries can and should follow its lead. For starters, a response of this magnitude can only take shape in the presence of strong institutions. The many weak states throughout the Middle East and beyond simply are incapable of doing as Israel has, from restricting the border to disinfecting public spaces. Jerusalem has orchestrated a coordinated, whole-of-government response that has brought together not only the national-security apparatus but also domestic policymakers. The same cannot happen in poorly governed places.
However, all countries can emulate how quickly Israel has responded. Recall 100 Israelis have actually tested positive— a considerable number in a nation of nine million but far fewer than what many other countries have reported. Any government can act now within its means to contain the virus. Though preemptive measures may incur great economic and social costs, the cost of inaction could be far higher. Assuredly Italy, shut down amidst thousands of infections, rues not doing more before its crisis spun out of control. Even if weaker states do not have the resources that Israel does, they can nevertheless do what they can while steering public discourse in a sensible direction. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For many Jewish communities in the United States, this was the week when synagogues were abandoned. In an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many houses of worship were empty and may remain that way until the end of the pandemic is in sight.
Like professional sports, Broadway, the arts, local and national conferences, and a host of other endeavors that involve people gathering in groups, Jewish communal life is on hold. And while some may grouse about the inconveniences that the shutdown of so much of public life entails, as well as the staggering economic costs, there is no doubt that as long as there is a danger that the pandemic may become a public-health catastrophe, these measures are necessary.
The assumption on the part of most people is that this will soon pass. We must hope that the efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 are successful, and that life will be back to normal before the carnage the social-distancing imperative does to the economy and our usual pastimes is irreparable. However, it’s entirely possible that this crisis is going to last longer than a few weeks. Indeed, it may be that the only way to ensure that the worst outcome is averted is for these measures to stay in place for months.
If so, then that will put a great many families and individuals under tremendous stress as jobs are lost and children remain out of school.
But it also places a different kind of pressure on voluntary institutions like those that keep the Jewish community afloat. For Jews, our prayers and our communal life revolve around participation. If it is axiomatic that it’s difficult to be a good Jew while stranded on a desert island since so many religious obligations involve being with others, then it’s not just a matter of people learning whether their personalities are suited to a situation in which they are essentially locked up at home with loved ones or by themselves. At this point, Jewish institutions are about to learn how well they are equipped to cope with a new normal in which interactions with members and supporters, as well as the intended objects of their efforts, will have to become virtual or not take place at all.
The immediate response from many parts of the Jewish world has been to embrace the challenge. Some non-Orthodox congregations are putting their services online. Others have put lectures, sacred text-study sessions and other courses on the Internet. The same is happening with schools as well as some communal events. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The coronavirus epidemic is slowing down in China, and will not pose a risk to the majority of people, an Israeli Nobel Prize laureate has said.
Michael Levitt, an American-British-Israeli biophysicist who won the 2013 Nobel prize for chemistry for “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems,” has become something of a household name in China over the last few months. Although his specialty is not in epidemiology, he accurately forecast the slowing down of the spread of the virus in February, giving hope to those affected by the lockdown.
But far from being a modern-day prophet, he explained in an interview with Calcalist that he simply crunched the numbers.
Levitt’s wife, Shoshan Brosh, is a researcher of Chinese art, meaning that the couple regularly travels between America, Israel, and China. Consequently, when the virus broke out in Hubei province, Levitt wrote to his Chinese friends in support.
“When they answered us, describing how complicated their situation was, I decided to take a deeper look at the numbers in the hope of reaching some conclusion,” Levitt explained. “The rate of infection of the virus in the Hubei province increased by 30% each day — that is a scary statistic. I am not an influenza expert but I can analyze numbers and that is exponential growth.”
Had the growth continued at that rate, the whole world would have become infected within 90 days. But as Levitt continued to process the numbers, the pattern changed. On February 1, when he first looked at the statistics, Hubei Province had 1,800 new cases a day. By February 6, that number had reached 4,700 new cases a day.
But on February 7, something changed. “The number of new infections started to drop linearly and did not stop,” Levitt said. “A week later, the same happened with the number of the deaths. This dramatic change in the curve marked the median point and enabled better prediction of when the pandemic will end. Based on that, I concluded that the situation in all of China will improve within two weeks. And, indeed, now there are very few new infection cases.”
Levitt likened the trend to diminishing interest rates: if a person receives a 30% interest rate on their savings on Day 1, a 29% rate on Day 2, and so on, “you understand that eventually, you will not earn very much.”
Similarly, although new cases are being reported in China, they represent a fraction of those reported in the early stages. “Even if the interest rate keeps dropping, you still make money,” he said. “The sum you invested does not lessen, it just grows more slowly. When discussing diseases, it frightens people a lot because they keep hearing about new cases every day. But the fact that the infection rate is slowing down means the end of the pandemic is near.”
By plotting the data forward, Levitt has predicted that the virus will likely disappear from China by the end of March.
THE REASON for the slowdown is due to the fact that exponential models assume that people with the virus will continue to infect others at a steady rate. In the early phase of COVID-19, that rate was 2.2 people a day on average. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Israel to Use Anti-Terror Tech to Counter Coronavirus ‘Invisible Enemy’: Reuters and Algemeiner staff, Algemeiner, Mar. 15, 2020 — Israel plans to use anti-terrorism tracking technology and a partial shutdown of its economy to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
Coronavirus: With Fewer than 300 Cases, Why Is Israel in Near-Lockdown?: Mayaan Jaffee-Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2020 — The novel coronavirus that has spread across the world, infecting more than 175,000 people, has hit the Jewish state too. But according to the Health Ministry, fewer than 300 Israelis have COVID-19, and no one has died. So why is the government shutting the country down?
Islamists Call Coronavirus a Zionist-American Conspiracy: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Mar. 16, 2020 — As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeps across the world, some Islamists are pushing a theory that God is punishing infidels for disobeying his commands.
The Coronavirus and the Palestinians: Pinhas Inbari, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Mar. 16, 2020 — Alongside the dramatic coronavirus and political developments in Israel, there are also developments on the Palestinian side that may not be as dramatic, but they are worth watching. The coronavirus scare has captured the mind of Palestinian public opinion.
This Orthodox Brooklyn Doctor Saw the Truth about Coronavirus Weeks Ago: Ari Feldman, Forward, Mar. 16, 2020 –– On Wednesday evening last week, Dr. Stuart Ditchek convened an unprecedented meeting. At a synagogue in Midwood, Brooklyn, he gathered 170 rabbis, yeshiva principals and administrators (some streaming in via Zoom) to ask them to make a difficult, but necessary, decision: close their doors immediately to help stop the spread of coronavirus.