News Digest — 4/17/20

Clowns Join the Front Lines Of The Coronavirus Fight

Israel’s hospital clowns are refusing to let the coronavirus stop them – even if it means reinventing the red nose and disinfecting oversized pants in near-boiling temperatures.

The clowns are contending with their baggy pants shrinking from daily 90-degree-Celsius washes, and they have thick glass windows in the way as they try to connect to coronavirus patients.  But the smiles and laughs continue, as they work across hospital departments, including at new COVID-19 facilities.

“Instead of letting it hold us back, we carefully check the level of protection needed in order to entertain,” said Nimrod Eisenberg.  “Then I add gloves on my ears, for example to make this frightening situation amusing.”

Israel is a world leader in medical clowning, and Eisenberg works at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center – he is one of 100 clowns who are part of the Dream Doctors non-profit.  It works in 30 hospitals across Israel, generally raising morale of patients and staff, and assisting in performing more than 40 different procedures.

The organization’s CEO, Tsour Shriqui said that some hospitals asked clowns to stop showing up at the start of the crisis, but they are in the minority.  “There were hospitals that suggested that we stop coming, but in 80% of the hospitals we’re still working,” said Shriqui. “We’re not just about entertainment and cheering up patients.  We’re actually reducing fear and anxiety, which is especially important at this moment. We are also performing as people have procedures, which relaxes then and makes them more cooperative.”

Clown props aren’t designed for contact with harsh chemicals, and they are fading from regular dousing with alcohol.  “Everything must be cleaned with medical alcohol and we need to wear lots of protection,” Eisenberg said.

“We will continue to go to hospitals, stand behind glass, and interact with coronavirus patients,” he said.  “It is a beautiful thing. If we need to manage without sound, we mime, and if we can, we put a speaker in the room so they can hear us.”

Eisenberg said, “We can be outside the rooms and work with either video conference, or clowning through glass.  The amazing thing about clowning is that it can be beautiful and non-verbal, so we’re a great tool for passing on positive emotion, even through thick glass.”

“When there is no sound, it will be a physical pantomime, and when there are speakers and microphones available we sing, perform and hear patients’ stories.”

Eisenberg commented: “Coronavirus restrictions involve a big creative challenge for clowns but it is worth the effort.”

Shriqui said that clowns are investing lots of energy trying to relax staff as well as patients, noting that while they are the ones in comical outfits performing outlandish routines, they are helping others to keep level-headed.  “We’re keeping the system sane in this crazy time,” he said  

Meanwhile as of Friday morning (17th), Israel is reporting 12,855 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 149 fatalities.  182 patients are in serious condition, and 129 of them are on ventilators.



Poll: Israeli Patriotism Good Even During Pandemic

Israeli patriotic feeling is as strong as ever, a new poll finds.

The poll which surveyed 576 people, found that they believed that the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) and the Mossad would find a solution to their crisis Arutz7 reports.

The survey was conducted by market research firm Blueberries Panel on behalf of Galei Tikshoret, a firm founded to study Israeli public attitudes.

The overall average feeling of “National Resilience” in the poll was a 5.42 out of a possible 7, “impressive and optimistic by all counts,” Arutz7 reports.

The reactions of those surveyed scored consistently high, conveying optimism and hope.  In first place was a sense of security that Israel will emerge from the crisis (5.57). Hope came second (5.2) and a sense of calm and quiet was third (4.13).  Men expressed more optimism than women overall.

Those surveyed were asked to note their primary feelings out of a series of possible emotions.  Most respondents (23%) chose as their primary feeling, “Hope”, two days before Passover.

Gal Galei, founder of Galei Tikshoret said, “As media people, it is important for us to know what the true position of the public is and to act accordingly.”

Gal Basberg, CEO and owner of Galei Tikshoret said, “For years we have been seeking, in our work, to identify the real public position.  This survey is a part of a measure that we’re producing – ‘a measure of the national mood’ and it has great media importance. It will be a helpful tool to many public bodies and to us as a media body that works on the public frontlines.”



Morocco Blocks Rescue Flight Leaving Dozens of Israelis Stranded

Morocco has blocked a flight to bring stranded tourists home to Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s Army Radio reported Thursday (16th).

The UAE had previously evacuated 180 of its citizens that were stuck in Morocco due to the coronavirus outbreak, but another 74 remained stranded in the North African country.

Dozens of Israeli tourists have also been unable to leave Morocco.  While Morocco agreed in theory to allow the evacuation of the Israelis, El Al flights are not permitted to enter the country.

Neither the UAE or Morocco have official diplomatic relations with Israel, and neither country recognizes Israel as a state.

However, the UAE offered to give the Israelis a ride when it picked up its remaining 74 stranded citizens.  The plan would have brought the Israelis home in time for Passover.

But Morocco vetoed the operation, expressing anger that the UAE had not coordinated the arrangement with them but instead had made the agreement directly with Israel.

Relations between Morocco and the UAE have been tense lately with the UAE being accused of defaming Moroccan royalty and Morocco seeking closer ties with the UAE’s regional rival Qatar.

Some of the Israeli tourists are staying at hotels in Morocco, at the expense of the government, while others are staying in the homes of members of the Jewish community in Casablanca.

Meanwhile 16 Israelis stranded in New Zealand are expected to arrive home on Saturday night (18th) after Germany allowed them onto a rescue flight with its citizens.

IN March, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yisrael Katz announced a national emergency rescue plan to bring Israelis back from abroad.

“The closures taking place around the world at a growing pace and the number of Israelis abroad have created a national emergency, which requires the implementation of an emergency plan.  The principle of mutual responsibility will continue to lead us until all Israelis return home,” Katz said.  

Israeli embassies worldwide have been working hard on getting stranded Israelis back home including nearly 1,000 rescued from Peru last month and hundreds from India.



Germany Marks Liberation Of Bergen-Belsen Nazi Camp As Memorial Event Canceled

Germany held a minute’s silence on Wednesday (15th) to mark 75 years since the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp was liberated, after planned commemorations were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephan Weil, Lower Saxony state premier, called on residents to observe the silence to commemorate the liberation on April 15, 1945, urging them to set aside “all of our current worries.”

More than 50,000 Jews and others died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, including the diarist Anne Frank, whose accounts of the Holocaust have become a symbol of the suffering inflicted by the Nazis during World War II.

Commemorative events originally planned for Sunday (19th) have been postponed to April 2021 as the memorial site to the camp is closed because of restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Some of the planned speeches will be delivered online.

“For us in Lower Saxony, Bergen-Belsen is the place that shows us the cruelty and mercilessness of the darkest part of our history,” Weil said.

Jens-Christian Wagner, head of Lower Saxony’s memorial foundation, told Bavarian Radio that the cancellation of the memorial event was a “very, very big disappointment” for survivors of the camp, who had been planning to travel to Germany from around the world.

Bergen-Belsen was one of the first concentration camps to be liberated by the Western Allies, who arrived to find it riddled with disease and about 10,000 unburied corpses.

The Buchenwald former concentration camp marked the 75th anniversary of its liberation on Saturday (11th) by publishing an online “Declaration of Thuringia” warning that “human rights, democracy and freedom can by no means be taken for granted” as “right-wing radicalism and authoritarianism are on the rise.”



Christians Yet Again Denied Food Aid – Coronavirus Relief Distribution ‘For Muslims Only’

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports Pakistani Christians were denied food aid amid the COVID-19 crisis in the fourth incident ICC has documented since Pakistan was placed on lockdown by authorities seeking to combat the pandemic.

According to a video post on Facebook, Christians were denied food aid on April 2 in a village situated on the Ral Wind Road, near Lahore.  A local pastor confirmed the incident to ICC.

In the Facebook video, a young Christian man claims that a local mosque committee distributed food on April 2, however, Christians were told to leave the mosque compound because the food aid was meant for only Muslims.

“If this is the situation, then what are the arrangements for us?” the Christian asked in the Facebook video. “Who is going to feed Christians?  Are we not citizens of the same country?”

“Denying food aid and discriminating among citizens is a crime,” Aftab Hayat, a Pakistani NGO leader, told ICC.  “Christians often face discrimination and are victims of religious hatred. However, the situation for Christians in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is alarming and becoming worse.  Therefore, the authorities must take note of the developing situation.” 

Jihad Watch previously reported on two other incidents, one on April 1st and one on April 7th, as well as on April 11th – “where Christians were forced to make the Islamic profession of faith to get food aid.”