April 20, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Inside the Hospital at the Center of Israel's Coronavirus Pandemic - Ronny Linder (Ha'aretz)
    At Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak last Monday, an Arab doctor entered the hospital's coronavirus unit in full protective garb, holding a Torah scroll wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl for use by the patients there.
    Last week, Covid-19 wards were the only places in Israel where prayer could be conducted in groups: the worshippers were already infected.
    The physician who brought in the Torah, Dr. Abed Zahalka, has worked in the intensive care unit at Mayanei Hayeshua for many years.
    See also Video: Inside a Busy Israeli Coronavirus Intensive Care Unit - Oren Liebermann (CNN)

Technion Researchers Create Rapid Home Testing Kit for Coronavirus (Times of Israel)
    Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa are developing a home kit to enable people to be quickly and inexpensively tested for the coronavirus.
    Ha'aretz reported that the kit would only need two test tubes and a container with hot water.
    The team is claiming a 99% accuracy rate and says that the test yields results in less than an hour.
    Microbiologist Dr. Naama Geva-Zatorsky, the lead researcher for the project, explained that the kit is based on existing materials produced by an American company that have been shown to be efficient at identifying the genetic material of the virus.
    The Technion innovation is in developing a protocol that enables adaptation for home testing.
    See also Ben-Gurion U Researchers Developing Coronavirus Test that Is 8 Times Faster (Ben-Gurion University)
    Ben-Gurion University researchers are using AI to develop an algorithm-based test that can speed Covid-19 testing eightfold and help locate asymptomatic carriers.
    The new test is one of 50 initiatives underway as part of the BGU Covid-19 response effort.

Israeli Airline Brings Precious Covid Cargo to Detroit - Jennifer Lovy (Detroit Jewish News)
    On April 12, an El Al jet touched down at Detroit Metropolitan Airport carrying 3.5 million surgical and KN95 protective masks, face shields and pulse oximeters from China for Michigan hospitals, senior living facilities, and first responders.
    Alon Kaufman, co-owner with his wife Shari of HoMedics, a Michigan manufacturer of consumer wellness products, is Israeli.
    They had reconfigured production lines at the factories they work with in China to mass-produce FDA-approved protective face masks and other needed medical supplies.
    HoMedics had tried unsuccessfully to charter a plane from several different airlines to bring the equipment. Then they reached out to El Al.
    The Kaufmans also worked with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit to ensure masks would be available to individuals working at senior housing facilities and people delivering meals to senior citizens, as well as burial staff.

Elbit Wins Swiss Army Tactical Reconnaissance Deal (Globes)
    Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems announced that it has been awarded a $15 million contract from the Swiss Federal Office for Defense Procurement to provide the reconnaissance battalions and forward observers of the Swiss Army with command and control systems.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Tired of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Riyadh to Press Sides on U.S. Peace Deal - Elizabeth Blade
    Having been hostile to Israel for decades, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seems to be changing its policy, thinks an official with close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Although full diplomatic relations are not yet possible, he believes this is only a matter of time. A Saudi official said Riyadh had come to acknowledge "the positive part Israel has played in the region" and started to realize that "cooperation needs to replace the constant clashing" so typical of the Middle East.
        The source in Riyadh, who is connected to the highest echelons in the government, including the crown-prince himself, confirmed the Saudis' satisfaction with the U.S. peace plan, designed to put an end to the conflict. "Mohammed Bin Salman thinks the Palestinians have wasted too many opportunities thrown their way," he states, referring to a number of initiatives that have been offered to the Palestinians throughout the years.
        "The problem is that Palestinians are hard to please. We also have a tendency to believe that some elements of their leadership are interested in keeping the conflict alive to continue to get our generous donations.... When the Coronavirus is behind us, Mohammed Bin Salman plans on telling the Palestinians to either take the plan or leave it. If they push it away, future opportunities - if they ever show up - will certainly be less profitable," the official said. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Virus Patients at Israeli Hospital Are Not Dying Alone - Isaac Scharf
    Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center offers the next of kin of dying coronavirus patients the rare opportunity to say goodbye in person. Many hospitals around the world don't allow final family visits as a precaution against spreading the virus. "The stories of patients dying alone are horrifying," said Roni Gamzu, the hospital's chief executive. "This is our moral duty as medical staff and as human beings. No one shall be allowed to die alone."
        The hospital provides immediate next of kin with head-to-toe protective wear and allows them about 15 minutes to say goodbye. It then assists them in removing the mask, cap, robe, gloves and boots with the utmost caution to prevent infection. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 173, with 13,654 Confirmed Cases
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 173, with 13,654 confirmed cases, the Israeli Health Ministry said Monday morning. 150 patients are in serious condition, including 114 patients on ventilator support. 3,872 have recovered. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Forces Fix Lebanon Border Fence after Sabotage - Yaniv Kubovich
    The Israeli army operated on the Lebanon border on Saturday to fix three breaches in the separation fence caused overnight Friday. The IDF said no one had entered Israeli territory. "We hold the Lebanese government responsible for anything emanating from its territory," the army said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israelis Flock Home, Fleeing the Virus - Dan Zaken
    Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel's Ministry of Interior reports that 500,000 Israelis have returned home, about 15% of them following an "extended stay" abroad. (Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In the Covid-19 Pandemic, What Are the Reciprocal Israeli and Palestinian Obligations? - Amb. Alan Baker
    The 1995 Interim Agreement (Oslo 2) sets out the basis for cooperation between the Palestinians and Israel in the fields of health, medical affairs and contagious diseases. Both sides are obliged to cooperate and coordinate activities to combat Covid-19. In light of the seriousness of this corona crisis, the need for open and real-time cooperation should drive all parties in light of their responsibilities to their respective populations.
        Despite this, hostile statements and false accusations against Israel continue, voiced repeatedly by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, as well as the daily social media and international political incitement and misrepresentation by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. This hostility and incitement are misplaced and ill-advised and serve to undermine regional efforts to combat the crisis.
        The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Opposing an IMF Loan to Iran - Patrick Clawson
    The U.S. apparently plans to "veto" a loan to Iran under a new IMF facility intended to help countries deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Yet Iran already has immediate access to $2.8 billion in existing funds from the IMF without drawing up any new loans: $700 million in its "reserve tranche" and $2.1 billion in Special Drawing Rights. This money is available without condition, yet Tehran has made no effort to use it during its ongoing health and economic crises. More important, the regime holds at least $90 billion in foreign exchange reserves, a large portion of which are now accessible. These factors raise questions about Tehran's motivations in applying for the loan.
        In fact, there is no realistic way for Washington to block any such loan brought before the IMF Executive Board. The U.S. has a long history of unsuccessfully objecting to IMF loans. At the same time, even if the Trump administration wanted to support the loan, it could not do so. According to Section 1621 of the International Financial Institutions Act (22 U.S.C. 262p-4q), "The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose any loan or other use of funds" for countries that the secretary of state has determined are state sponsors of terrorism.
        The writer is director of research at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches at Yad Vashem on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Monday evening, in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.
  • Haim Arbiv was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1934, which was under Italian rule. The treatment of Jews worsened as the authorities and the local Italian residents considered the Jews collaborators with the enemy. In 1942, Haim's family was deported to the Giado concentration camp, 1,200 km. from Benghazi. Hundreds of Jews died of hunger, fatigue and disease in Giado. In 1949, Haim and his family boarded a ship to Israel. Due to his command of Arabic, Haim served in the IDF Intelligence Corps.
  • Zohar Arnon was born in Hungary in 1928. In 1944, the Nazis occupied Budapest. Zohar made contact with the underground Zionist movement, which provided thousands of young Jews with false papers and smuggled them into Romania. Zohar traveled through Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. In January 1945, he finally arrived in Eretz Israel. His parents and two of his sisters were murdered in the Holocaust.
  • Yehuda Beilis was born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1927. The Germans occupied Lithuania in 1941 and Yehuda's family was sent to the Kovno ghetto. They were taken with thousands of other Jews to the Ninth Fort, the site of the mass murder of Kovno Jewry. Yehuda was pushed to the edge of a pit. He heard shots, and the murdered Jews fell into the pit, bringing him down with them. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in pitch blackness at the bottom of the pit. He made his way out through the bodies and ran away. He was hidden by righteous gentiles for two years. In 1944 he helped smuggle 22 children out of the ghetto with the help of local clergy.
  • Aviva Blum-Wachs was born in Warsaw in 1932. Her mother, Luba, was the deputy director of a nursing school. When the Warsaw ghetto was established in October 1940, Luba secured a building for the school. In the summer of 1942, the residents of the nursing school were marched to the departure point for deportations to the death camps. Luba managed to convince the Germans that the nurses were essential to the efforts to deal with the epidemics in the ghetto, and the Germans let the nurses go. In the Aktion of January 1943, the Germans barged into the hospital and shot hundreds of patients, physicians and nurses. Luba had received a few minutes' warning from the underground resistance, and managed to hide several of the nurses and patients, as well as her children, in the basement.
  • Avraham Carmi was born in Poland in 1928. After the German invasion, his family fled to his uncle Moshe Posner, who managed the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. In the summer of 1942, the Germans came to search the cemetery. Avraham was taken, along with other cemetery workers, to the departure point for deportations, but he escaped. The Germans discovered Avraham's relatives hiding in the cemetery, and shot them. During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the spring of 1943, the Germans discovered their bunker and Avraham and Moshe were sent to various camps. Moshe watched over Avraham and shared his food with him, helping him every step of the way. Moshe died of exhaustion and disease just two days before liberation.
  • Leah Reuveni was born in Czechoslovakia in 1926 and in 1929 her family moved to Antwerp, Belgium. When the city came under aerial attack in May 1940, the family fled to France. When the Germans occupied southern France in November 1942, the family fled to the Italian zone and survived with the help of a righteous priest. Later her father was deported to the camps and murdered. In 1960, she immigrated to Israel and worked as a hospital nurse.