News Digest — 3/12/20

Corona Control: Israel Bans Gatherings Of More Than 100 People In Closed Areas

On Wednesday evening (11th), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is instituting a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people in closed spaces.

The prime minister took the unprecedented step in response to a public health crisis that the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed a pandemic, days after Netanyahu made a similar announcement.

“We’re asking, if there is no need for conferences, if there is no need for events, don’t hold them and don’t go to them,” said Netanyahu, reported the Times of Israel.

While there will be exceptions to the ban based on security requirements and other considerations related to the public, it remains unclear how long the ban will remain in effect.

The move comes a day after Israel announced that all arrivals to the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days, which the prime minister framed as a step to close the nation’s “outer envelope” of vulnerability to the virus.

Netanyahu also told Israelis not to hug, kiss, or shake hands, reiterating that the corona crisis is a “pandemic” and referring to the virus as a “global plague.”

Earlier in the day on Wednesday (11th), Netanyahu announced a $2.8 billion package to secure the Israeli economy, as it weathers the economic fallout from the virus.  The money is intended to help businesses affected by the crisis, with $280 million allocated for the health sector.

At press time on Thursday (12th), Israel reported a total of 100 diagnoses of the virus in the Jewish State.



Western Wall To Remain Open Indefinitely

In the wake of the Ministry of Health’s updated guidelines regarding the coronavirus the Western Wall Heritage Foundation made clear on Thursday (12th) that it is consulting with the Ministry of Health and is following its instructions.

According to the announcement, for the time being, the Western Wall Plaza is an open area, “and as such there is no restriction and there are no concerns over visits to the Western Wall,” the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

At the same time, it also made clear that entrance to the indoor prayer hall will be limited to up to 100 worshipers at a time, until further instructions from the Ministry of Health are received.

The visits to the Western Wall Tunnels are taking place as usual with three groups an hour, and less than 100 people at one time.

“We ask the public to listen and obey all instructions of the ushers at the Western Wall Plaza,” the statement read.



A Yom Kippur Type Of Feel At Ben Gurion Airport Amid Coronavirus Threat

Yom Kippur is essentially the only day of the year that puts a total stop to business at Israel’s largest airport.

This may no longer be the case following strict new governmental procedures that include a mandatory two-week quarantine for everybody entering the country, including all foreigners, in an effort to curb the coronavirus threat.

“People who return to Israel from anywhere in the world must be placed under house isolation for 14 days counting from the date of return,” the Ministry of Health said on its website.

The Israel Airports Authority decided to shut down parts of the main international terminal at Ben Gurion Airport and reduce manpower significantly following the steady flow of canceled flights, the Times of Israel reported.

Two out of five check-in areas in the terminal have been closed and just 30% of airport employees will be allowed to come in to work until further notice, the report said.

Pinchas Idan, head of the airport’s workers union, told Channel 12 News “there’s never been anything like this.”

“Before Passover, there will be wide layoffs at the airport, so we’re waiting for a miracle.  Even during the Gulf War in 1991, and the first and second intifadas, we never experienced anything like this,” he  said.

As of Wednesday (11th), 100 people were confirmed to have been infected with the deadly disease and tens of thousands of suspected cases are in self-quarantine.  Of the 100 victims, one is in severe condition, six are in moderate condition, and the rest are being treated as light cases.



Palestinians Revive Blood Libels As Israel Saves Their Lives – Khaled Abu Toameh

Israel is making a massive effort to help the Palestinians contain a coronavirus outbreak after several Palestinians in Bethlehem tested positive for the disease.  Israel has transferred hundreds of coronavirus test kits to the Palestinians and conducted joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel.

“We will continue working to help the Palestinian authorities curb the spread of the virus, both as an Israeli interest and for humanitarian reasons,” said Israeli Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa.  “We will expand medical training to Palestinian personnel as much as possible, as well as the transfer of medical equipment to the Palestinian healthcare system.”

In return, the Palestinians are continuing to spread blood libels against Israel and the Jews.  On March 7, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds claimed that Israel had been releasing wild boars in the West Bank to destroy Palestinian crops.

It is hard to find one Palestinian who does not carry a smartphone.  Palestinians regularly document the actions of Israeli soldiers and settlers.  Why has no one snapped even one photo of an Israeli truck carrying the animals into Palestinian villages?  How come the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the West Bank have not been attacked by wild boars? And how are the boars able to distinguish between Arabs and Jews?



Don’t Boycott Israel Just Yet – Aaron B. Andrews

Those calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel should consider putting a stop to it until the coronavirus blows over.

Scientists at Israel’s MIGAL Research Institute say they are 8-10 weeks away from a vaccine.  Indeed, Israel is on the forefront of a host of medical breakthroughs. But the BDS movement would cut off such promising research from collaborators and investors in the U.S.

What’s going on in Israel’s laboratories is saving lives all over the world.  For example, take Israel’s medical breakthrough in treatment for multiple sclerosis over a decade ago, or consider its advances in treatment of parkinson’s disease.

BDS backers should be asking themselves if they would really say no to a coronavirus vaccine, or any vaccine, just because it was created in Israel.



Arab Media Abuzz With Rumors That Hezbollah Chief Infected With Coronavirus

On Wednesday (11th), a United Arab Emirates-based reporter named Maria Maaloof posted to Twitter about Arab media reports claiming that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has the coronavirus.

Nasrallah allegedly contracted the virus after hosting a delegation from Iran which bankrolls his terrorist group.  Iran has the highest concentration of virus cases in the Middle East, with the senior vice president and two other ministers reportedly diagnosed with COVID-19, the technical name for the illness caused by the virus.

Iran reported 354 deaths so far, second only to China and Italy.

Maaloof’s tweet about Nasrallah arrived on the heels of a report by Al Arabiya discussing Nasrallah’s quarantine, The Algemeiner reported.

Head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, Hashim Safi Al Din was also reportedly quarantined, along with a number of senior Hezbollah members confirmed as having contracted the virus.

Iran, which controls Hezbollah from Tehran, reported 9,000 cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday (11th).

These cases include Vice President Eshaq Jahangir and a number of high-level Iranian ministers, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency.