News Digest — 3/23/20

IDF Thwarts Terror Attack As Coronavirus Surges Past Thousand to 1,238

On Sunday evening (22nd), the Israel Defense Forces thwarted an attempt to carry out a terror attack adjacent to Ni’lin junction, south of Qalqilya.

IDF troops spotted a number of suspects hurling rocks at Israeli vehicles driving on the highway.  The troops fired toward the suspects after they threw a rock and began hurling more.

One of the suspects was killed by the fire and another was injured and escaped.

The dead terrorist, 27, was from the village of Ni’lin.  He was a part of a gang that arrived regularly to throw rocks in the evening at passing cars.  His trunk was, on inspection, filled with rocks.

Arabs in this area have a reputation for violence and the Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan called Qalqilya “a terror city.”

Rock-throwing by Arabs is an almost daily occurrence in Judea and Samaria, but tends to be under-reported by local media.

On March 11, a Jewish boy 14, was listed in serious condition after being struck in the head by a block thrown by an Arab near the village of Hawara in Samaria.  Medical staff reported that his skull had been fractured.

He had been dancing and celebrating Purim at a street corner when Arabs stopped and attacked him.

Meanwhile in Israel, the number of cases of coronavirus passed 1,000 to 1,238, the Health Ministry announced on Monday (23rd).  It was a jump of 12 percent from the previous day.

Israel has been one of the countries that has acted very quickly to curb the disease.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting on Monday (23rd) with various ministers over the possibility of tightening existing restrictions even more, throughout the country.



Netanyahu: Coronavirus Worst Epidemic ‘Since Middle Ages’

While some are comparing the coronavirus to the Spanish Flu of 1918, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reaching even further back in history to the medieval period, calling COVID-19 “the toughest epidemic we have seen since the Middle Ages,” during an interview Saturday night (21st) on Channel 13 News.

“Most countries are on the verge of losing control, including advanced countries such as Germany, France, and soon the United States as well,” Netanyahu continued.  “There are currently countries with huge shortages, and we are relatively well off.”

The Spanish Flu of 1918 infected some 500 million and claimed 20 million lives.  More recent research put that number much higher, between 50-100 million.

However, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Middle Ages saw many devastating epidemics including leprosy, Bubonic Plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, anthrax, trachoma and more.

The worst diseases during the Middle Ages were the Justinian Plague and the Black Death, known as Bubonic Plague.

According to the History Channel, the Justinian Plague, starting in 541 C.E., and killed about 50 million people, or 26% of the world population, over the course of two centuries.

The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) entered Europe through Sicily at the Port of Messina in 1347 A.D. and swept across Europe over the next three years, killing an estimated 75-200 million people worldwide.  Europe lost 30-60 percent of its population.

In the interview, Netanyahu suggested possible fines for civilians who leave their homes for nonessential purposes other than equipping themselves or receiving medical attention.

The prime minister, in a separate interview with Channel 12 News, also discussed the tentative agreement for a unity government that would avoid a fourth round of elections.

If the agreement with Blue and White is signed, Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for a year-and-a-half, until September 21, 2021, when Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would take over. 



Austrian Chancellor: Netanyahu Woke Me Up To Corona Dangers

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one who woke him up and inspired him to take decisive action against the coronavirus.

“Thank God, I can say in this case that Bibi Netanyahu contacted me some time ago and said, ‘Hey, you underestimate this in Europe.  Wake up and do something.’” “That was a call that shook me up,” Kurz told the German newspaper Bild on Friday (20th).

The 33-year-old leader of Austria said,”It is not an easy situation, but we know what the alternative is, namely a collapse in the health system.  And we want that even less. We know that these measures have no alternative, so the faster we act, the better it is.”

After his conversation with Netanyahu, Kurz decided to impose strict measures, closing schools, restaurants and shops.

On Friday (20th) Kurz extended the new rules until April 13, with Austrians not being allowed to go outside except for necessary work, shopping or assisting the more vulnerable. 

Austria shares a border with Italy, which is one of the world’s hardest hit countries, with nearly 5,000 reported deaths, compared to China’s 3,261.

Currently Austria’s numbers are significantly lower than its neighbor with 3,024 confirmed cases and 8 deaths.

Netanyahu and Kurz have met at least half a dozen times since Kurz came into office in 2013.

Netanyahu has said that Sebastian Kurz is a tremendous friend of Israel, a great leader for Austria and a champion of fighting anti-Semitism.  In November 2018, Kurz hosted a conference on anti-Semitism in Vienna.



Reporter Apologizes For Hinting Science, Not God, Will Solve Coronavirus

Channel 12 reporter Dana Weiss apologized via social media on Sunday (22nd) for saying that science, not prayers to a deity, will solve the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She wrote on social media she “believes in the rights of each man or woman to believe in anything they want to believe” and that she only meant to emphasize the importance of the men and women “of science in solving the crisis that is happening all over the world.”

On Friday (20th), during an interview with Weiss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at a time such as this everyone should pray to God to end the pandemic.

Weiss responded by saying that perhaps people should look to the Weizmann Institute of Science for answers.  Netanyahu said that these things are not in opposition and that even people in that institute “pray to God.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also slammed the reporter for her words saying that it is shocking that in a “Jewish State” a prime minister using religious idioms should be met with such a response.

Due to the novel coronavirus, public prayers at the Western Wall and synagogues in Israel were halted. 



Israel Named World’s 14th Happiest Country In Annual UN Report

Israel was named the 14th happiest country in the UN’s eighth World Happiness Report, suggesting that even the coronavirus outbreak would struggle to wipe smiles off Israeli faces.

Published annually by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network to coincide with International Day of Happiness on March 20, rankings are based on the Gallup World Poll surveys from 2017-2019.

Top countries, the report stated, are found to “support well-being, including income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.”

Tel Aviv was ranked the eighth happiest city worldwide, as the report focused on cities for the first time, based on residents’ self-evaluation of life quality.  Jerusalem was the 33rd happiest city.

The happiest countries worldwide were Finland, Denmark and Switzerland, the report found.  At the opposite end of the 153-country spectrum, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe were named the least happy nations.  The greatest increase in happiness was recorded by Benin, Togo and Hungary.