News Digest — 3/18/20

‘This Is A Matter Of Life And Death:’  Netanyahu Announces 3 New Corona Guidelines

In a dramatic press conference, Tuesday (17th), 24 hours after the one on Monday night (16th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced three more steps to fight the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

The first was reiterating the use of tracking technology to follow the steps of those with the disease or suspected of having it.  Approval of the technology, used by Israel’s internal security service to fight terror, has led to criticism from certain circles worried about the ramifications for the privacy of the country’s citizens.

Netanyahu said Israel would dramatically expand the use of the tracking technology.

The second step, he said, is that the number of coronavirus tests will expand dramatically to 3,000 a day, at least.  

Netanyahu said that Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross will man drive-in testing stations, where people can be tested from their cars. A method which will protect against the spread of the disease.

Third, the prime minister said that the capacity of hospitals to treat the disease will expand dramatically.  He said 1,000 artificial respirators will be added to the health system.

Netanyahu also pleaded with the public to take responsibility and act with discipline.

“None of these steps will help without discipline,” the prime minister said, noting that parts of the public have yet to grasp the danger.

“There are people who think this is a time for vacation,” he said.  “When I watch the television, I don’t believe what I see.”

“This isn’t a child’s game – this is life and death.” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu, referring to the guidelines issued on Monday (16th), said that the recommendations regarding who could go to work and when to leave the house were “a suggestion, a request.”  However he warned this could possibly be changed and enforced at any time.

“I will do everything in my ability so that we can successfully overcome this test, but we are only at the start of the battle,” Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile Moshe Bar Siman Tov, director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health said Israel is seeing a rise not only in the number of cases but in the rate they are happening.  

At present there are over 427 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel, with 5 patients in serious condition.  So far no one has died from the virus in the Jewish State.



Ben Gurion Airport More Desolate As Terminal 1 Shuts Down

As of Wednesday (18th), Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport will be closed down and flights diverted to Terminal 3 until further notice, announced the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) on Tuesday (17th).

The closing of Terminal 1, which serves charter and domestic flights, is seen as a cost-cutting measure, as airline revenues continue to plummet due to the coronavirus restrictions placed on the airline industry.

The IAA reports having lost over NIS 1.2 billion to date in revenues and has announced its intention to place an additional 2,000 employees on unpaid leave and to stop paying overtime for those currently employed.

Terminal 3, the main international terminal at Ben Gurion Airport, isn’t faring much better either.

Last week, the IAA shut down parts of terminal 3 and reduced manpower significantly following the steady flow of canceled flights.

Currently, only two out of five check-in areas in the terminal are open and just 30% of airport employees are working.

The Jerusalem Post reports 6,400 flights to and from Israel have already been canceled since January, and that number is expected to rise as many of the 2,065 flights scheduled to fly before the end of the month are expected to be canceled.



Religious Leaders: Coronavirus Is Punishment, Sign Of Messiah’s Coming

Troubled times often lead to “conclusions” about the cause of such difficulties, none more so than by some religious leaders.

Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmeul Eliyahu posted a video to YouTube on Monday (16th) in which he noted that people have been asking him why the coronavirus pandemic has been sent to the world by God.

In answering, Eliyahu said that the world was coming closer to “The days of the Messiah,” and went on to imply that the coronavirus outbreak was bringing about greater adherence to God’s Word.

Eliyahu, a hard-line right-wing religious leader, noted the recent comments of Pope Francis, who has called for stricter observance of the Sabbath by Christians and has spoken approvingly of the Jewish observance of the Sabbath.

“Maybe the Muslims will tell us to build the Temple,” continued the rabbi, something that is often understood will herald the coming of the Messiah.  “Jewish people are waking up and opening their eyes,” he said.

Another hard-line leader of the religious right, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, wrote on Sunday (15th) that the coronavirus is a rectification for humankind’s arrogance and haughtiness, and a rebuke to moral relativism.

“In our days man thinks he is God, that he is the master and can decide what is good and bad, something that is called moral relativism or postmodernism,” wrote Aviner on the Kipa News website.

“If this is the case, that mankind is proud, mankind knows everything, understands everything, let us see man fight the smallest of God’s creations.  This creation is called corona (crown),” he continued.

Corona is so-named because of the crown-like arrangement of proteins on the virus when viewed under a microscope.

“We must restore the crown to God,” he concluded.



Coronavirus: Fearing The End Is Near, Man Returns Stolen 2,000-Year-Old Artifact To Park

Fearing the end of the world, an Israeli returned a 2,000-year-old catapult ballistic-ball to the City of David National Park – 15 years after he took it.  “The time has come to clear my conscience. It feels that the end of the world is near,” the anonymous citizen said in an Israel Antiquities Authority press release on Monday (16th).

While the jury’s still out on whether the world is ending – due to the current coronavirus pandemic or any of the other pressing existing threats – the IAA took advantage of the opportunity to call on citizens to return archaeological finds to the State Treasury, “so that the entire public can benefit from them,” it said.

The anonymous citizen did not deliver the bowling-ball sized stone directly.  Rather, he used a go-between man named Moshe Manies who agreed to not divulge the thief’s identity.  According to Manies, the original theft occurred when two mischievous youths touring the park 15 years ago saw a display of ballista stones, which had been catapulted at fortifications.

The IAA’s Jerusalem Region Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch explained in the press release ballistae are a form of ancient weapons which were used by forces besieging a city, and were used to hurl stones to cause forces on fortress walls to flee.

“The ballista stones which were uncovered at the City of David are most likely connected to the harsh battles between the besieged residents of Jerusalem and the soldiers of the Roman Legion, from around 70 CE – the year of the destruction of Jerusalem,” said Baruch.

Fifteen years ago in the city of David, upon seeing a pile of these ancient projectiles, “One of the boys took one of the stones home,” recounted go-between Manies in a Facebook post that drew the attention of the IAA.  “Meanwhile, he married and raised a family, and told me that for the past 15 years the stone was weighing heavy on his heart.  And now when he came across it while cleaning for Passover, together with the apocalyptic feeling the coronavirus generated, he felt the time was right to clear his conscience, and he asked me to help him return it to the Israel Antiquities Authority,” said Manies. 



Poll: Views Of Jerusalem Arabs Harden Toward Israel – David Pollock  

From 2010-2015, the proportion of east Jerusalem Arabs who said they would prefer Israeli to Palestinian citizenship rose from 35% to 52%.  But in a survey conducted Jan.23 – Feb.11, 2020 this figure dropped to 15%, compared with 70% who would choose citizenship in a Palestinian state.

The dream to regain all of Palestine persists.  Like their cousins in the West Bank and Gaza, 59% of east Jerusalem Arabs prefer a five-year goal of “regaining all of historical Palestine for the Palestinians,” compared with 32% who favor a two-state solution.  Over 2/3 said “the conflict should not end and resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated.”

Around 3/4 say “any compromise with Israel should only be temporary.”  Moreover, 2/3 agree that “We should demand Palestine rule over all of Jerusalem, east and west, rather than agree to share or divide any part of it with Israel.”  61% “somewhat” or “strongly” agree that “the Palestinians should move to a new intifada and make armed struggle their top priority.”