News Digest — 3/25/20

Israel: Corona Death Toll Rises To 5, Stricter Lockdown Announced

The Israeli cabinet approved, via a phone call vote early Wednesday morning (25th), new, stricter limitations on public life in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, as Israel’s death toll continued to rise.

Under the new restrictions, which will come into effect Wednesday night (25th), people will only be allowed to leave their homes within 100 yards of their house; all leisure activities and sporting events will be barred; public transportation by bus will be suspended and taxis would only be allowed to fare one passenger.  Further, companies still operating would be required to check their employees’ temperature before letting them in the workplace.

Essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and access to medical care would not be limited, the Prime Minister’s Office explained.

Restaurants will have to close their premises, but they will be allowed to make deliveries to customers who order food.

The number of Israeli coronavirus fatalities rose to five on Wednesday (25th), the Health Ministry reported, saying that 2,030 Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus.

According to the Health Ministry, 37 patients are in serious condition, 54 in moderate condition and the rest were experiencing only mild symptoms.  Fifty-eight Israelis have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Over 65,000 Israelis are currently under home quarantine. 



Israeli Startup Aims To Identify Coronavirus Carriers Using Their Voice

Can coronavirus carriers be identified by analyzing their voice?  That’s what an Israeli startup is trying to find out, in collaboration with the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. 

The startup, Vocalis Health, is currently conducting research aiming to identify a voice fingerprint unique to those who have the respiratory virus, to help the Health Ministry better identify those who have been infected, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday (23rd).

Vocalis Health, headed by Tal Wenderow and Dr. Shadi Hassan, is currently collecting voice and breathing samples from COVID-19 patients as well as from the general public, which will then be analyzed using machine learning technology.

It will then attempt to develop an algorithm that would help the Health Ministry make initial assessments and easily monitor the condition and symptoms of coronavirus carriers who are in their homes, to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

Since the coronavirus affects the respiratory system, the underlying assumption is that the signs of distress it causes could be reflected in one’s voice and breathing.  

Anyone can send voice samples via the company’s website and mobile application.

Initial results of the research, which is being conducted in collaboration with healthcare organizations and hospitals in Israel and around the world, are expected within four to six weeks.

There have been 2,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel – with hundreds added to the tally every day – and five deaths.



Holocaust Survivor Rabbi Who Led US House In Prayer Dies Of Coronavirus At 91  

A New York Rabbi who recently led the US House of Representatives in prayer and is credited with saving 56 families as a young partisan during the Holocaust died on Tuesday (24th) due to complications from the coronavirus.

Avraham “Romi” Cohn was 91 years old.

He was born in Checzoslavakia, which was invaded by Nazi Germany when he was just 10-years-old.  He joined a group of Jewish partisans shortly thereafter and went on to write about the experience in a memoir titled, “The Youngest Partisan: A Young Boy Who Fought The Nazis.”

After the Holocaust Cohn immigrated to the US and lived in New York.

Earlier this year, New York Congressman Max Rose invited Cohn to deliver the opening prayer at the US House ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.

Rose wrote Tuesday (24th) that he was “heartbroken” upon hearing of Cohn’s death.

“Rabbi Cohn lived an incredible life of service, helping 56 families escape Nazi tyranny.  Two months after he led the House in opening prayer, I hope you’ll join me in praying for his family.  May his memory be a blessing,” Rose tweeted.



Tips To Get Through The Coronavirus Quarantine – Natan Sharansky

→ My name is Natan Sharansky.  I was born in the Soviet Union and at the age of 29 I was arrested for my Zionist activity.  I spent 9 years in prison, half of it in solitary confinement and 405 days in a punishment cell.  So I have some experience of spending time in solitary confinement and I want to give you 5 tips to get through the quarantine.

→ Tip 1: In prison I always had to remind myself I am part of a huge, global battle.  You also should remind yourself that we are at war with a very dangerous, though invisible, enemy.  And whether we will succeed in the battle depends also on your behavior.

→ Tip 2: In prison, I didn’t know when I would be released or if I would be released at all.  Don’t build your future plans based on the hope that in the next few days, or the next few weeks, it all will be finished.  It does not depend on you. So try to build plans which fully depend on you.

→ Tip 3: Never give up your sense of humor.  I remember how in prison I enjoyed telling anti-Soviet jokes to my prison guards.

→ Tip 4: Don’t give up on your hobbies.  I knew how to play chess without the board and in the punishment cell I could play thousands of games in my head.  You can enjoy singing, playing music, drawing, or whatever you like to do.

→ Tip 5: Feel your connection.  Remember that you are not alone.  We Jews for thousands of years were scattered all over the world.  But we always had this feeling that we are part of a great people, with our mutual past, with our mutual future, and with our mutual mission.  Think about it. Feel your connection. Together we will succeed. Am Yisrael Chai [The people of Israel live].



Squawking Parrot Warns World In Hebrew: ‘Coronavirus! Don’t Go Out’

Zehava Shabat from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona took advantage of the recent ‘stay at home’ order to teach her 22-month-old grey parrot Luca about the danger of COVID-19.

Now, her talking parrot has a playful message for a world gripped by the coronavirus: “Don’t go out!”

In crystal clear Hebrew, Luca squawks “There is corona” and “Don’t go out,” repeatedly echoing official health warnings.

Israel has ordered people to stay at home to slow the contagion’s spread and billboards reinforce the message in both Hebrew and Arabic.

The 22-month-old grey parrot began to mimic the words after training with its owner, who like many Israelis have been alarmed by their country’s more than 2,030 cases and five deaths.

Zehava Shabat says she and her husband spent several days teaching the bird the new words while holed up in their home in Kiryat Shmona.

Then one morning, two days ago, the parrot was heard saying: “Zehava,” “There is corona,” “It is dangerous,” “Don’t go out.”

Zehava, 53, said that children may hear about Luca and gain help, in a new way, to cope with the corona crisis.  



Daylight Saving Time To Start Friday

Daylight saving time, commonly known in Israel as “summer clock” will begin on Friday, March 27,2020.

On the night between Thursday, March 26, and Friday, March 27, at 2:00 a.m., Israelis will move their clocks ahead one hour.

Daylight saving time will end on Saturday night, October 25th, 2020.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri commented: “The attempt to postpone daylight saving time, to prevent people from walking in the public space for additional hours, was unsuccessful.”

“I ask and plead with all residents to obey all instructions and guidelines – together we can overcome the spread of the coronavirus plague.”