Close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied Thursday that the premier and his family members violated Health Ministry directives during a holiday meal, as Israel struggles to contains the coronavirus pandemic.
Netanyahu and his son Avner, who doesn't live in the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, were seen holding the traditional meal in a video allegedly filmed prior to the Passover holiday.
The Health Ministry and Netanyahu have called on the public to ťact responsiblyŁ and keep the Passover seder to the nuclear family, whose members reside in the same household. Furthermore, the Health Ministry instructed Israelis to refrain from visiting their parents on Passover eve in order to prevent further infection within the community.
When her mother died in late March, Nancy Levitt knew that she couldn't attend her mother's funeral or sit shiva for her at least not in the traditional Jewish way.
Levitt's mother was born and died at the age of 86 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the Canadian mid-West. Levitt, 65, grew up with her family in Winnipeg and has lived in Israel for 44 years.
ťMy mother had been sick for many years, and I travelled to Winnipeg countless times, sometimes twice a year, to take care of her, to visit her. Now, because of Corona, I can't travel, and that is was so hard for me. I know that she is in a better place now, not suffering any more. But I still needed to sit shiva for her,Ł Levitt says in a telephone conversation. ťI needed the embrace of my friends and family. I needed to feel part of a community. I needed not to mourn alone, quarantined in my home. I needed to hug someone and to be hugged.Ł
England's oldest synagogue, the 350-year-old Bevis Marks, which has held continuous services for longer than any other synagogue in Europe and famously stayed open throughout the Blitz, closed last month, and remains shuttered. This hasn't stopped Rabbi Shalom Morris from being in touch with his flock. He's busy posting daily YouTube sessions from within the empty building, sharing anecdotes about its history and showing off the holy objects.
And he is far from alone: The orthodox synagogue St. John's Wood is offering live Q&A sessions on koshering for Passover via the video-conferencing app Zoom; Chabad Belgravia is hosting virtual ťThank God It's FridayŁ family sing-alongs; and the JW3, London's popular Jewish Community Center, is streaming everything from comedian Ashley Blaker doing stand-up to former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack discussing morality.
Similarly to what's going on elsewhere around the globe, London's diverse Jewish communities have been coming up with creative solutions to both staying connected, and to keeping Jewish tradition and religion alive and kicking in these unprecedented times of the coronavirus.
Just how the primate family reached South America from Africa remains a mystery. However they did it, it had been thought that only one lineage of monkeys reached the New World, around 32 to 36 million years ago.
Not so, it seems. Researchers, to their shock, have found evidence of a second lineage of early monkeys that strongly resemble archaic monkeys found in Africa.
But that second lineage went extinct, albeit after more than 11 million years, paleontologists reported Thursday in a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A person gets a text message alerting of close contact with a person known to have the coronavirus at a certain date and time. They check and know the information to be erroneous they were either at home or somewhere far from the alleged carrier. Or the neighbor in the next apartment is a confirmed case and that is probably what alerted the system. Or someone put food at the door of an infected person's apartment but they never had any direct contact with each other.
In instances like these, the recipient of the warning calls the Health Ministry hotline and is told: We have no way of confirming the report, so you must go into quarantine. ťThe Shin Bet doesn't make mistakes,Ł the callers are told and that's the end of the matter.
Thus, without any right of appeal thousands of Israelis have been wrongly ordered into quarantine. For many it means no longer earning a salary and or caring for their children or elderly parents.
As the highly contagious coronavirus spreads around the world, Israel and the Palestinians struggle to contain a local outbreak that has virtually halted daily life and led to tens of thousands of people entering quarantine.
-á 9,755 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 79 people have died. In the West Bank, 250 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s has died. In Gaza, 13 cases have been diagnosed.
-á Laboratory material shortages are forcing Israel to reduce testing, but Israel says it's planning on producing materials locally. The government has called upon citizens to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus. Guidelines explained
Dr. Riccardo Di Segni stands at a unique intersection of health and faith: He is both a medical doctor and the chief rabbi of Rome, capital of the country that has seen the most deaths from the coronavirus.
ťMy experience allows for a different point of view,Ł the retired radiologist, speaking Hebrew, told Haaretz in a phone interview. ťAs part of my medical work I've also helped organize during emergencies, and this is exactly where we're at right now.Ł
Di Segni, 70, headed the radiology department of the San Giovanni public hospital in Rome between 2001 and 2014. He helped prepare that medical institution and others during times of emergency.
Were Neanderthals wearing not bloodstained pelts but fabrics? Sometime between 41,000 to 52,000 years ago, Neanderthals in a cave in today's France wove a three-ply cord, a team of scientists reported in Nature Research on Thursday.
The cord is the prerequisite for a host of potential developments including weaving. The news is nothing short of momentous.
For one thing, this postulated string is tens of thousands of years older than the previous record holder, string found in the prehistoric site of Ohalo in northern Israel, which was 19,000 years old and definitely made by a member of Homo sapiens, the authors explain.
A cease-fire proposed by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen went into effect Thursday, potentially paving the way for an end to the more than 5-year-old conflict.
Saudi officials announced late on Wednesday that the cease-fire would last for two weeks and that it comes in response to UN calls to halt hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted on Thursday that it ťwill hopefully create a more effective climate to deescalate tensionsŁ and enable the sides to work toward a political settlement.
"We were the first to identify the expected outbreak of the pandemic. We took early measures and now we can reap the fruits," said this week Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. But the truth is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long belittled the threat the coronavirus posed to Turkey, vowing to keep the country free of COVID-19.
As infection rates spiked across the world and Turkey seemed to be lagging behind, ridiculous theories circulated on social media claiming the Turks were immune "because of their DNA structure."
Turkey now faces a major acceleration of the outbreak, with nearly 40,000 cases, and has very little ammunition left. Measures such as turning private hospitals to coronavirus treatment facilities, housing medical teams in military camps, banning gatherings and imposing partial closures in many provinces, have failed to be effective. Turkey is currently ninth globally in rate of infections, a huge leap since the country's first official case was announced on March 11.
STOCKHOLM The primary schools are operating normally; gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted; restaurants, shops, cafés and gyms remain open, although there are fewer customers. Most limitations announced by the authorities are no more than recommendations. Anyone displaying the symptoms characteristic of the coronavirus is asked to stay home, but other members of their family are not restricted from going to school or showing up for work.
Public transportation is operating, though people are encouraged to use it only when absolutely necessary, and the borders to most European countries are still open.
Welcome to Sweden, early April 2020 a country that has adopted a radically different approach to the pandemic from both its neighbors in Scandinavia and on the European continent, and most of the rest of the world, even though the virus has already claimed quite a few victims here (477 deaths as of April 6).
To recover from the coronavirus, as she did, Ada Zanusso recommends courage and faith, the same qualities that have served her well in her nearly 104 years.
Italy, along with neighboring France, has Europe's largest population of what has been dubbed the ťsuper oldŁ ö people who are at least 100. As the nation with the world's highest number of COVID-19 deaths, Italy is looking to its super-old survivors for inspiration.
Earl Kerr, a 57-year-old electrical contractor in Jacksonville, Florida, says he fears for his 80-year-old mother, who entered an assisted living facility just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. And he says he worries that the tanking economy will sink his small business.
But he has faith in U.S. President Donald Trump to handle the crisis. He's heard the widespread criticism that Trump initially didn't take the pandemic seriously, that his administration failed to procure vital medical supplies and left overwhelmed states to fend for themselves. Kerr has a different take.
Chinese doctors at the primary hospital treating severe coronavirus patients in the city of Wuhan said they have been using the HIV drug Kaletra since January and believe it is beneficial, despite a previous study that it was ineffective.
They have been prescribing Kaletra, an off-patent version of lopinavir/ritonavir produced by AbbVie, as well as a second drug, bismuth potassium citrate, said Zhang Dingyu, the president of the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, where the disease originated late last year.
Of all places, it was in the archives of the Israel Defense Forces that Dr. Sharon Geva found the answer she had long been searching for. Geva, a historian who is interested in the role of women in Israel, wanted to find out why, for so much of the country's history, there were no women in the air force.
ťWe were told all along that the reason was concern about what our enemies would do to female pilots who might be captured if their plane was shot down,Ł says Geva, a former reporter for the Israel Air Force Magazine.
However, she was startled at the official explanation, which she found in an air force document from 1957. ťThe air force commander does not think it would be moral to commit to not marrying or bearing children for five years,Ł wrote IAF commander Maj. Gen. Dan Tolkowsky, justifying the dismissal of a woman who had been enrolled in the flight academy school (and referring to the minimum duration of service for pilots at the time).
Brown-robed Franciscans stride through a shuttered and deserted Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the global focus of the most important festival in the Christian calendar - but in a city bereft of Easter pilgrims.
Among them is Father Francesco Patton, 56, the custodian of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic church, responsible for looking after its sacred sites.
"We are living in strange days. Usually at this time the Old City was full of ...pilgrims coming for Holy Week," he said after his group prayed outside the locked door of the church that is their base.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's supporters have made it clear what their priority is for the new government whose terms are still yet to be finalized.
The right-wing/religious bloc has given way on a number of issues in the negotiations with Benny Gantz and the rump of the Blue and White Party he brought with him to the new coalition. But the one point on which they will not yield is annexation of part of the West Bank. And now they've pushed Gantz to buy into to it too.
Though annexation has always been a long-term goal of the Israeli right, the current sense of urgency they are demonstrating is a function not so much of Israeli politics but of the American election cycle.
Italy may start gradually lifting some restrictions in place to contain the new coronavirus by the end of April, provided the spread of the disease continues to slow, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC on Thursday.
"We need to pick sectors that can restart their activity. If scientists confirm it, we might begin to relax some measures already by the end of this month," Conte told the British broadcaster.
Conte warned, however, that Italy could not lower its guard and restrictions would only be eased gradually.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would like to reopen the U.S. economy with a "big bang" but that the death toll from the coronavirus needs to be on the down slope before that can happen.
Trump did not give a timeframe on when he would like to reopen the economy, but his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Tuesday it was possible this could happen in four to eight weeks.
New York state on Wednesday reported the most coronavirus cases in the world, overtaking Spain, according to a Reuters tally.
The U.S. state has 149,316 reported cases compared with Spain at 146,690. Italy is now in third place with 139,422 cases reported on Wednesday. In total, the United States has recorded over 417,000 cases and 14,100 deaths, according to the Reuters tally.
Indian and Pakistani troops in disputed Kashmir are engaged in their most frequent cross-border fighting of at least two years, official data shows, even as both nuclear-armed rivals battle surging coronavirus outbreaks.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between the neighbours but tension was renewed after New Delhi withdrew the autonomy of the Himalayan region last August and split it into federally-administered territories.
Both countries claim the region in full, but rule only parts, and often accuse each other of breaching a 2003 ceasefire pact by shelling and firing across the Line of Control (LoC), an informal border in Kashmir, and of killing dozens every year.
Iraq's intelligence chief was appointed the country's third prime minister-designate in just over a month Thursday after the resignation of the most recent candidate amid political infighting.
The upheaval threatened a leadership vacuum at the helm of the government amid a severe economic crisis and viral pandemic. Adnan Al-Zurfi's candidacy was imperiled in the past 48 hours when key Shiite parties rallied around Iraq's intelligence head, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to replace him. His chances were further diminished when the main Kurdish and Sunni blocs withdrew support for his candidacy.
Iraq's president appointed Kadhimi, 53, as prime minister-designate shortly after Al-Zurfi's resignation.
Barring unforeseen disaster, Joe Biden will represent the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump this fall, the former vice president's place on the general election ballot cemented Wednesday by Bernie Sanders' decision to end his campaign.
Biden likely won't secure the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination until June. But without any Democratic rivals left, a general election campaign that will almost certainly be the most expensive and among the nastiest in U.S. history is underway.
First, it was the media that was at fault. Then, Democratic governors came under fire. China, President Barack Obama and federal watchdogs have all had a turn in the crosshairs. And now it's the World Health Organization that's to blame.
President Donald Trump is falling back on a familiar political strategy as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic: deflect, deny and direct blame elsewhere.
As he tries to distance his White House from the mounting death toll, Trump has cycled through a long list of possible scapegoats in an attempt to distract from what critics say were his own administration's missteps in slowing the spread of the coronavirus on American shores.
The Champagne corks no longer pop at Dubai's infamous alcohol-soaked brunches. The blaring flat-screen televisions stand silent in the sheikhdom's sports bars. And the city-state's pubs have shrink-wrapped their now-idle beer taps.
This skyscraper-studded desert metropolis on the Arabian Peninsula has long been one of the wettest places in the Mideast in terms of alcohol consumption, its bars and licensed restaurants serving tourists, travelers and its vast population of foreign workers.
Up until the global coronavirus pandemic, that is. With the virus now threatening a crucial source of tax and general revenue for its rulers, Dubai's two major alcohol distributors have partnered to offer home delivery of beer, spirits and wine, yet another loosening of social mores in this Islamic city-state.
Leaving the Gaza Strip was the only thing Randa could think of for an entire year after finishing university. Months of unsuccessful job hunting depressed the 23-year-old English literature graduate, whose bachelor's degree had been achieved at the expense of her family's savings. She spent most of her days in her room, looking for a way out of the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Now, as countries tackle the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing the most draconian measures, Gazans like Randa are watching on as people around the world find themselves in a state of lockdown. Or as Gazans call it, reality.
ťThe coronavirus finally gave the world a chance to feel what we have always felt,Ł says Randa, self-isolating in her new home in the United Kingdom.
You live and work in New York, but now you're here in Israel, in quarantine.
The situation in Manhattan is only getting worse. The city is in true lockdown. My work, with patients, companies and the media, takes place by video only. When Israel announced that Israelis who wanted to get to Israel should do it fast, I realized that they might be closing the borders, and I wanted to be with my family, so I came here.
You are known for your practical approach to dealing with mental crises. Your books and your TED talks are about how we can heal wounds caused by heartbreak, rejection or guilt. In light of our new lives, those suddenly look like ťfirst worldŁ problems.
Even as a child, Lina knew that she didn't want children; Hagar Feldman opted to have her tubes tied; Antoinette had children and regrets it. These and other women are a rare breed in Israel, where women typically bear 3.1 children on average, almost double the average of 1.7 children in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The fertility rate in Israel is higher than in Saudi Arabia (2.4 children per woman), Peru (2.3) and Mexico (2.1).
This is not a random occurrence, nor one due solely to the high birth rate in certain communities, such as the ultra-Orthodox or Bedouin: It is a principle.
ťSince Israel's establishment, motherhood has been the mission of the Jewish woman. It's axiomatic, the point of departure, the cornerstone of her place in society,Ł says Dr. Sharon Geva, a historian and the author of a newly published book, ťWomen in the State of Israel: The Early YearsŁ (in Hebrew).
The practice of decorating eggs predates Easter by tens of thousands of years, and now a group of experts has concluded an unusual egg-hunt: a high-tech quest to understand the origins and spread of decorated ostrich eggs, a rare luxury coveted by elites in the ancient Levant and the Mediterranean.
Scientific analysis of surviving decorated eggs has revealed that these artifacts were usually sourced through a life-endangering hunt and were then traded by an unexpectedly complex network that spanned three continents.
The findings of the British-led team, reported Thursday in the journal Antiquity, suggest that thousands of years ago the Mediterranean world was much more interconnected than previously thought, and luxury goods were traded and valued in ways not dissimilar from today.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen announced Wednesday that its forces would begin a cease-fire starting Thursday, a step that could pave the way for the first direct peace talks between the two sides that have been at war for more than five years.
In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia's official state news agency, a Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, said that the ceasefire would last two weeks and that it comes in response to UN calls to halt hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said the ceasefire could be extended to pave the way for all the parties ťto discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable ceasefire in Yemen ... for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.Ł
There was no immediate reaction from Houthi leaders or Yemen's internationally recognized government to the coalition's statement.
By Monday, the coalition agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz was fully decided. The ink cartridges were loaded and all that was needed was to hit the print button and sign.
In the section relating to the annexation of parts of the West Bank, the only remaining question was if a specific sentence would say ťandŁ or ťand/or.Ł The two sides agreed that the deal would be signed regardless, and the disagreement settled later and corrected by hand.
Netanyahu sat at home, besieged and isolated in the Prime Minister's Residence, immunized from the virus but enveloped by the poison of his illustrious family. Hod Betzer, Gantz's chief of staff, sat in the hall waiting for the final okay. And then someone came out and told Betzer that the prime minister had changed his mind about the section concerning the Judicial Appointments Committee, a section that had already been agreed on and finalized. Betzer was shocked. The representative explained to him that Netanyahu had experienced a crisis within and couldn't accede on this point.
Last week, Wikipedia broke its record for most viewers per day, with over 360 million page views globally in one 24-hour period. Everyone is self-isolating and everyone is online and Wikipedia is one of the beneficiaries. In Italy, where the virus hit especially hard, for example, many were using their down time to volunteer on Wikipedia and help enrich its local Italian-language content.
The COVID-19 pandemic traffic surge has brought with it special challenges to the web from the struggle of Netflix to meet streaming demands, to the deluge of viral fake news relating to the virus deemed an ťinfodemicŁ by the UN.
The misinformation ranges from false theories about the origins of the virus to suggestions to drink tea to lower fever, as well as claims that vaccines exist but are being withheld by dark forces. YouTube, Google, Twitter and Facebook have all taken drastic steps to curb the spread of such materials warning readers against certain posts, and referring readers to the World Health Organization website for reliable information. They also are working with the WHO to take down content the latter deems dangerous. While efforts by the commercial online giants have been mostly successful Wikipedia is not just doing its part, it's actually having its moment. Since the start of the year, its English-language articles about the virus alone have registered over 115 million views, and in recent weeks alone, more than 40 million have read COVID-19 entries in all of Wikipedia's languages.
The Hamas movement said it is ready to begin negotiations on a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, after Benjamin Netanyahu expressed willingness to hold immediate, indirect talks on the matter.
Two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers are held by the group in the Gaza Strip. Hisham al-Sayed and Abera Mengistu crossed separately into Gaza on their own, while Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014.
"We are ready to make a deal tomorrow," said Musa Dudin, the head of Hamas's political office, demanding that mediators be neutral and not biased toward Israel. "The window of opportunity will not always be there and Israel will later have to negotiate under more difficult terms," he warned on Wednesday.
When Alma Beck and Danielle Cantor realized restaurants and offices in Tel Aviv would be closing down due to the coronavirus crisis, they recognized an opportunity to help those most vulnerable.
Initially, Beck, a 32-year-old film professional, and Cantor, a 26-year-old researcher of food cultures, planned on taking groceries that would otherwise be discarded by shut down businesses, and using them to cook for the homeless. But after receiving more donations than they could possibly cook, they decided to do something different. ťWe realized that rather than offering a meal for the day, it made more sense to help underserved folks prepare for the coming weeks, if not months, when there will be very limited access to social services and aid,Ł Beck says.
So together with Leah Tonic, a 38-year-old filmmaker, they started an unnamed operation in Tel Aviv. Their volunteer movement has helped hundreds, if not thousands of people, over the past three weeks.
As the coronavirus started spreading across Israel in early March, technicians at the control center of Cellcom Israel's second-largest telecommunications company and largest provider of cellphone services detected a spike in usage around 8 P.M. every night. Israelis were tuning in to watch the nightly briefings by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the last couple of weeks, however, those spikes have all but disappeared as Israelis got used to life in lockdown and realized there isn't much useful information to be learned from the briefings.
The control center on the southern outskirts of Netanya (a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv) is usually bustling, but now only has four people in it.
The founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement said that if Israel invents a vaccine for the coronavirus, those who boycott it can still be given the vaccine.
Omar Barghouti made the comments in a Facebook live Arabic-language webinar Sunday titled ťBDS and Anti-normalization: The most important strategies to fight against the deal of the century, even in the time of COVID-19.Ł
Barghouti said that Israel should not be allowed to use the coronavirus crisis to maintain relations with the Palestinian Authority and with other Arab states.
Unity government negotiations between Kahol Lavan and Likud were halted because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demands to interfere with the work of the Judicial Appointments Committee, Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said.
The two sides had been ťvery close to an agreement,Ł a Facebook post by Gantz, written Wednesday morning, read. ťNetanyahu and his people came with a demand to harm the proper working of the Judicial Appointments Committee, in opposition to what had already been agreed,Ł Gantz wrote. The Judicial Appointments Committee is the body that appoints judges to Israeli courts.
ťWe informed them that we wanted the establishment of a national emergency government but not at any price. Joining forces at a time of crisis is important but at such times the preservation of democracy and rule of law on behalf of Israel's future is important and essential,Ł he wrote.
Iran's new coronavirus death toll has climbed to 4,003 with 121 more deaths in the past 24 hours, a Health Ministry spokesman told state TV on Wednesday, adding that the total number of infections in the country has risen to 67,286.
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"We had 1,997 new infected cases in the past 24 hours .... there are 3,956 infected people in critical conditions," spokesman Kianush Jahanpur added.
Palestinians seeking to verify whether their permits to remain in Israel are still valid have been instructed by Israel to download an app that enables the military access to their cellphones.
The app would allow the army to track the Palestinians' cellphone location, as well as access notifications they receive, files they download and save and the device's camera.
Palestinians who are granted a permit to reside in Israel for humanitarian reasons or for family reunification are usually required to go to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) offices to check their status. The offices are now closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving them no choice but to download the app instead.
In an episode of the History Channel's futuristic documentary series ťLife After People,Ł a large lion with a beautiful mane is seen roaming in Washington on the White House lawn. The narrator explains that wild animals have quickly taken over major cities. Haaretz photographer Ofer Vaknin's photos of jackals, which he took in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park this week, are reminiscent of that series, but the joy or panic over their takeover is a bit premature and very much blown out of proportion.
Roughly 10 families of jackals have been living in Hayarkon Park for the past decade. They reached the area of the park known as Sheva Tahanot (Seven Mills) from further east along the Yarkon River in search of food and have acclimated to living around people. Until recently, scraps of food in the park were plentiful, left behind by visitors from their barbecuing.
But since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, most Israelis are confined to their homes and the country's parks and beaches have been closed. Recent reports attest to the fact that Yarkon Park's jackals have taken to the trails in the park with greater confidence, but they may also be worrying about where everyone has gone with their food.
Even as medical teams struggled to save an onslaught of gravely ill coronavirus patients and deaths hit new highs, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations seemed to be leveling off in New York state, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
New York was one of several states, along with the nation as a whole, to post their highest daily loss of life from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the virus. A staggering 731 fatalities were reported in Cuomo's state alone.
The number of daily coronavirus deaths rose in Spain for the second day on Wednesday as 757 people died over the past 24 hours, though the pace of the proportional daily increase in the death toll slowed down slightly, the health ministry said.
The number of total fatalities caused by the new coronavirus in Spain rose to 14,555 on Wednesday, the ministry said. The daily increase as a percentage of the total death toll was 5.5%, down from 5.7% the day before, when 743 people died.
The overall detected cases in the country rose to 146,690 from 140,510 on Tuesday, it added.
In a Passover message Tuesday to U.S. Jews, Joe Biden consoled those forced to celebrate the eight-day holiday alone because of coronavirus quarantining.
ťJill and I know how hard it is for so many families, friends, and communities to not be physically together at Passover this year,Ł Biden, the former vice president and now the front-runner among Democrats vying for the presidency, said in greetings posted on the Medium website. The Bidens' three children have married Jews.
ťThe thought of all those grandchildren and grandparents, siblings and cousins, neighbors, and strangers in need who will mark their Passover seders alone this year tears at our hearts,Ł he said, referring to the self-isolation many Jews are observing because of the coronavirus. ťBut we also know that you are still together in the senses of the word that matter most; blocks away or miles apart, across virtual connections and the connection of common faith, you nevertheless celebrate as one.Ł
All nursing home residents and employees will be tested for the coronavirus if anyone in the facility is diagnosed with COVID-19, Israel's Health Ministry announced Tuesday evening, marking a major policy change.
Last week, a special team within the Health Ministry recommended expanding virus testing to include people without symptoms in prisons, nursing homes and other residential facilities with at least one coronavirus patient. As of Wednesday morning, 19 residents from four different nursing homes around the country have died of COVID-19.
Before the Health Ministry announced the change in policy, the High Court of Justice decided to hold a hearing on a petition submitted by 24 nursing homes and assisted living centers, along with the national association representing such facilities. The petition asked the High Court to order testing for all staff and residents in nursing homes as proper protection for the staff.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a second night in intensive care and was in a stable condition on Wednesday after receiving oxygen support for COVID-19 complications, raising questions about how key decisions would be taken in his absence.
Johnson, who tested positive nearly two weeks ago, was admitted to St Thomas' hospital on Sunday evening with a persistent high temperature and cough but his condition deteriorated and he was rushed into an intensive care unit.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon warned on Tuesday that the Palestinian hospitals in the eastern side of the city are on the verge of collapse, and accused the Health Ministry of ignoring their needs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Leon wrote: ťI would like to warn you regarding the serious shortage of medical equipment at the hospitals in East Jerusalem, particularly protective equipment and equipment to conduct coronavirus testing. This is despite repeated promises on the part of your .Ł
The health care system in Jerusalem as a whole could collapse ťin light of the inability of the hospitals in the east of the city to sustain the concerted efforts by all hospitals during this period,Ł Leon warned.
With social distancing guidelines in place and many holiday plans canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jewish communities in the United States are gearing up to help those in need as they prepare for a restricted Passover seder on Wednesday night.
The UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Communal Fund said they would distribute 8,500 free Passover seder kits and meals to more than 4,000 ťof the most vulnerable and most impacted New York householdsŁ by Passover eve.
>> Follow Haaretz's live coverage of the coronavirus crisis
In countries like Great Britain and Sweden, not to mention New York state, Jews have been vastly overrepresented in the coronavirus death toll. The South African Jewish community knock on wood, some would add has thus far been largely spared.
To date, not one death from the COVID-19 disease has been reported among South Africa's estimated 50,000-plus Jews. Although Jews returning from trips to the United States were among the first confirmed cases in the country, the spread of the infection within the community appears to have been contained at least for the meantime.
Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, notes that when the pandemic first reached South Africa early last month, ťseveral casesŁ were reported in the Jewish community. Currently, she says, ťwe know of no new infections.Ł
For thousands of Israelis living overseas, Passover was supposed to be a time of festivities and family reunions back home. Many others were due to head home after vacationing abroad. But the coronavirus upended all of those hopes, leaving planes grounded around the world and many Israelis' vacations up in the air. Here is how COVID-19 ruined the best-laid plans of seven of them...
Omer Rabin, New York
The managing director of a software company in the travel/hospitality industry, Omer Rabin, 33, was supposed to arrive in Israel from New York at the end of March and stay until the end of the Passover break. He was especially looking forward to spending the seder with his 90-year-old grandmother.
As the highly contagious coronavirus spreads around the world, Israel and the Palestinians struggle to contain a local outbreak that has virtually halted daily life and led to tens of thousands of people entering quarantine.
-á 9,404 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 70 people have died. In the West Bank, 248 cases have been diagnosed so far. One woman in her 60s has died. In Gaza, 13 cases have been diagnosed.
-á Laboratory material shortages are forcing Israel to reduce testing, but Israel says it's planning on producing materials locally. The government has called upon citizens to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus. Guidelines explained
On this seder night lockdown, millions of Israeli Jews will sit down to celebrate Passover in an entirely new format. This most family-oriented of festivals will be the holiday of isolation and social-distancing; the festival of freedom become the festival of closure; the festival of spring now the festival of staying home. It's hard to think of a greater contrast than the one between the Passover tradition and the way the festival will be observed this year. Israel is withdrawing into itself, separated and disconnected, each family on its own.
This is a rare opportunity for reflection. The pandemic is still raging, and likely has not yet reached its peak. Now is not the time for summaries or reckonings. Their time will come, once the pandemic subsides. Until it does, we must be grateful to everyone who is battling the crisis with selfless devotion and to pay attention to the points of light amid the great loss and suffering. They have the power to change the face of Israel or conversely to be forgotten as if they never happened.
The first lesson to be learned is that the state must change its priorities. The pandemic has taught Israel that the peace and security of its inhabitants do not depend solely on the force of arms. There are perils that even the most advanced weapons and espionage cannot conquer. One of the world's most heavily armed nations has found itself vulnerable and insufficiently protected.
Sagi, a paratrooper in Battalion 890, has a very clear idea of his unit's mission in Bnei Brak on the eve of Passover.
ťWe are here so we can all go home,Ł he said while standing guard at the entrance of the logistics center set up by the army in the ultra-Orthodox city under closure. Thousands of boxes of food were being unloaded and distributed throughout the town, which has become the main hub of coronavirus infection in Israel.
For civilians, the hope is to be able to finally leave their homes, once the spread of the virus is curbed and the shutdown lifted. But for a soldier in a combat unit who has had no leave since the crisis began over a month ago the hope is just the opposite: to finally be allowed to go home.
Finally, the best of Israel's academic brains have been mobilized to conjure a way to exit the coronavirus lockdown.
An inter-university committee, headed by Tel Aviv University President Prof. Ariel Porat and Weizmann Institute President Prof. Alon Chen, has presented a 27-page document that proposes dividing Israel into zones based on virus risk, allowing more freedom of movement for those living in areas deemed relatively safe.
>> Follow Haaretz's live coverage of the coronavirus crisis
In the senior housing project (ťdon't call us an old-folks' home!Ł) Nofei Yerushalayim, people have gotten used to the new reality of the coronavirus threat. The residents, mostly affluent people from pre-World War II Germany or from English-speaking countries, have been instructed to stay indoors and, obviously, not to receive guests, while maintaining a distance of six feet from each other. However, they still meet in the lobby.
ťIn the past, we sat wherever we felt like, and anyone who wanted to would come down here,Ł says Asher Cailingold, 90. ťNow it's more restricted and done only in accordance with the rules.Ł The cafeteria has also made some adjustments. ťWe've started offering coffee to go,Ł he explains. ťYou come and place an order. They put it in a closed cup and you leave.Ł
Meeting with visiting family members has also changed. These meetings are held at the entrance to the complex. Cailingold keeps a safe distance, exchanging air kisses with his grandchildren, instead of the real thing. The rest of the time, they meet on Zoom.
Police were called to two grocery stores in the central Israeli city of Rishon Letzion after a fight broke out because of a shortage of eggs. Other supermarkets are limiting shoppers to one carton of eggs each. In many store, eggs have sold out. Meanwhile, overnight Sunday, Israel got a shipment from Portugal of no less than 1 million eggs, and that followed previous egg imports from Spain and Ukraine.
Along with toilet paper a strange matter in itself eggs have become the symbol of the current distress. But anyone with common sense and some compassion will look at this egg tumult and think, ťGuys, are you serious?Ł Of all consumer products, this is what you're fighting over?
Cultivating the image of eggs as a healthy and basic food that is required in every home (which is in stark contrast to what eggs actually contain) is the Poultry Growers Board and their lackeys in the Agriculture Ministry, who have successfully brainwashed an entire country into believing this lie that you can't live without eggs, and that a holiday meal must include lots of this inferior product. This indoctrination has been so successful that we're not only abusing Israeli chickens but also those of Portugal, Spain and Ukraine.
With Passover Eve upon us, the keyboard refuses to accept anymore doomsday scenarios or desolate visions of what we can expect in the coming months in the wake of the economic and social crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yes, the decision-making is a mess and there is a lot of anxiety both health-wise and financially, with over a million unemployed, and hundreds of thousands of self-employed who don't know how they'll survive the crisis. The government that could be emerging may also make many of us unhappy. But to paraphrase Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Leaving aside the sick, the dead, the unemployed and the bankrupt Our situation is excellent. This is an exaggeration, of course, but there are still some encouraging things about the dynamic caused by the coronavirus crisis.
1. The pictures of IDF soldiers distributing food to the needy and to people shut inside their homes in Bnei Brak and other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are heartwarming and plant the hope that this will help topple the walls built up over many years in Haredi society's attitude toward the army, by a hardline rabbinical establishment and maintained by cynical identity politics. This is not a victory for the IDF or science over unenlightened rabbis, it's a victory of goodwill and solidarity shown by Israeli society toward a community in need. It's doubtful that this will spur throngs of Haredi young men to enlist in the near future, but it will certainly make it clear to the extremists in that society who viewed the army as the enemy just who was at their side in a time of trouble.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials have repeatedly warned Israelis against leaving their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the Health Ministry director general, called it a ťmatter of life or death - nothing less.Ł
But for Israelis adhering to the warnings and shunning trips to the supermarket, the alternative of ordering online is no option at all, a survey by TheMarker finds.
Online orders can take two weeks to arrive, even in the best of circumstances. In the worst case, shoppers are told ťno delivery times are available.Ł When deliveries do arrive, items are often missing, or they include expensive products that weren't in the order.
Armed with face masks, gloves and shopping carts, dozens of people stood at intervals of two meters outside a supermarket in Tel Aviv, waiting for an opportunity to do some last-minute shopping for the Passover seder which takes place Wednesday evening. They didn't care about the approaching curfew. All they wanted to know was whether there were any eggs and if the imports from Portugal had arrived.
As in Tel Aviv, throughout the country people stood in long queues outside grocery stores and supermarkets early Tuesday morning, in some cases taking over entire streets. But despite the dystopian vibe, no one shoved or cursed or tried to cut in line. In a few places, supermarket employees handed out water, and everyone waited patiently in the heat. If anything good can be said about the coronavirus, it may be that it has taught Israelis to wait in line..
>> Follow Haaretz's live coverage of the coronavirus crisis
A 50-year-old Israeli was charged Tuesday with spying on behalf of Iran and delivering information to the Islamic Republic for the purpose of harming Israel.
The charges were filed in the Central District Court and include contact with a foreign agent, indication of a determination to commit treason, providing information to an enemy with the intention of harming national security, destruction of evidence, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
At the request of his attorney, a gag order was placed on the defendant's identity.
The economic stranglehold has already become as major a threat to Israel as the pandemic, warns an interim report issued Tuesday by the Knesset Coronavirus Committee. The report also slams the decision to task the National Security Council ł' a part of the Prime Minister's Office ł' with management of the crisis and calls for the mission to be assigned to a new body for handling national crises. It also questions the crisis managers' decision to rely on highly unlikely doomsday scenarios.
The members of the committee, headed by Kahol Lavan MK Ofer Shelah, call on the government to provide masks and protective gear for free to at-risk groups, including medical staff. In the report, which was compiled in the last few days, the committee calls on the government to change the policy of travel and work prohibitions immediately after Passover, contrary to the position expressed to the committee by the Health Ministry deputy director general Prof. Itamar Grotto. ťThe committee members are unanimous in the view that the approach of ťflattening the curve,Ł which is intended to avert a situation in which we will be unable to treat critically ill patients, has a cost in that it greatly extends the amount of time that the severe restrictions are in place. The economic stranglehold, with all of its social implications as well as current and future health implications, has already become just as genuine and major a threat as the pandemic itself,Ł the report says.
The committee which includes members of Kahol Lavan, Yesh Atid-Telem, the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu also noted that, ťbesides the mighty and praiseworthy struggle to reach each patient and person requiring isolation, and the tremendous welfare efforts being made with the aid of the IDF and the police, currently the system has no plan for how to prevent Bnei Brak from turning into a giant coronavirus ship.Ł The report says that Bnei Brak should be at the center of the national effort, and that the effort there should be coordinated by a special project leader of the top operative level who will be in continuous communication with city officials.
Israeli politicians did not invent the term ťkeep śem barefoot and pregnant,Ł but they have surely turned it into an art form. Merging heightened cynicism towards their voters with love of self that knows no limits, for decades they have been leading Israel along a socioeconomic trajectory that heads straight for the iceberg. Their names may change from decade to decade and they hail from all corners of the political map, but cynicism and narcissism are the dominant characteristics of Israeli politicians who have successfully eviscerated all attempts by persons of a different creed there were some, and there still are trying to correct the ship's course before it's too late.
Though the current epidemic is just a preview of future social cataclysms facing Israel, the aftershock also provides an opportunity for a pivot in Israel's priorities before it's too late.
Within the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) community there are many who do understand too late, when they're already adults the need for an education beyond Torah. But although the number of Haredim who embark on academic study has significantly increased, that fact crashes into the wall of reality: the majority of women (53%) and men (76%) have to drop out, according to the State Comptroller's office, because of the appallingly low level of education that they received as children. When their leaders deprive them of a core curriculum (a denial that is illegal in every other developed country), there should be no surprise when the share of Haredi academics in Israel is just half of the share of academics among American Haredim. When their leaders deny them access to the non-Haredi world that provides their health, security and higher education needs, how can anyone be surprised when so many good people fall by the wayside without understanding who's responsible for keeping them in the dark, completely vulnerable to any health, economic and security crisis?
The number of diagnostic tests for the coronavirus is not expected to reach the pace of 30,000 per day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set as a target in the near future, or even the 10,000 per day that the health care system set for itself.
The shortfall in testing levels, which is the result of a shortage of the ribonucleic acid RNA required for the first stage of the lab tests, is reflected in official data obtained by Haaretz, showing testing targets for the seven-day Passover holiday which begins Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the eve of Passover, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service plans to perform about 6,000 to be followed from Thursday through Saturday by 7,000 a day. On Sunday and Monday of next week, MDA will increase the pace of testing with a goal of about 8,500 tests per day.
NSO, the controversial Israeli cyberattack company said Tuesday it had named the former CEO of Orbotech as its chairperson, a job that had been empty for four years.
The appointment of Asher Levy is an unusual one for NSO, which generally fills its upper ranks with people from a national security background. Levy's career has been in the high-tech industry, capped by the top job at Orbotech, a maker of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment. Orbotech was one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies from 2013 until its sale last year to the U.S. company KLA-Tencor for $3.4 billion.
Levy has a bachelors degree in industrial engineering and management from Ben-Gurion University, a masters in business administration from Tel Aviv University and has completed a management program at Harvard Business School. His pay package at Orbotech in 2019 was $7.2 million.
A 90-second film clip screened in movie theaters in British Mandatory Palestine in August 1939 provides a quick glimpse of an exceptional person to whom many owe their lives but whom few have heard of. The silent film, which was produced for Carmel newsreels the news program of the pre-television era shows a group of young people in a tent encampment on a bare hill abutting the coast near Atlit.
The women are busy setting up fishing nets while the muscular men, in bathing suits, undershirts or shirtless, board boats and sail out to the stormy sea. In the midst of the tumult, the figure of the handsome captain stands out. For a moment it looks as if the news clip is a Hollywood film and the captain is actually an actor.
It's not just his appearance. The man's name Capt. Gustav Pietsch also attests to the fact that he is an exception on the local landscape among the group of Zionists, members of the Maapilim-Gordonia youth movement who immigrated to Palestine from Poland and in the film are building the fishing village which later became Kibbutz Neve Yam.
It's tempting to feel that the coronavirus is the planet's revenge against us. Arguably if we had remained small nomadic groups of locavorian hunter-gatherers, our environmental impacts would have been localized and minor, but our modern ťadvancesŁ including a penchant for procreation combined with health care extending our lifespan, consumerism, and industrialization have poisoned our planetary petri dish.
But no, the planet isn't a sentient being. It isn't taking revenge; it's our own behavior that's come back to bite us in the behind. Nor is the sigh of environmental relief caused by the coronavirus forcing vast populations of people to stay home likely to be sustained. All it will likely do is give us a breather in which we can realize the gargantuan dimensions of our impact on the en.
There is no indication that humanity at large has exploited the involuntary bout of navel-gazing at home to decide to forgo all non-essential consumption. And if they haven't, the second the lockdown is lifted, we can expect business and damage to resume as usual.
Israel's efforts to quickly procure ventilators from abroad to address the coronavirus pandemic ended in clear failure this week, official documents obtained by Haaretz show.
As a consequence, Israeli authorities decided to halt further efforts to buy the equipment overseas, and to concentrate on meeting the needs through domestic resources.
For a number of weeks, Israeli health care authorities have been anticipating substantially boosting supplies of ventilators through orders that had been placed. The new items were promised to intensive care units and hospitals, in preparation for a spike in the number of patients needing them because of the coronavirus. About a week ago, however, a German supplier withdrew a commitment to supply 1,000 of the devices in the time frame that had been agreed upon.
Bedouin herders in the West Bank, already isolated by virtue of their nomadic lifestyle, have become more cut off than ever from ordinary Palestinian life since the coronavirus outbreak began.
That isolation is a double-edged sword. They say their mobility makes them less vulnerable to catching the infection, but a territory-wide lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the disease means they are no longer able to sell their farm produce in local villages.
Some 30,000 Palestinians live in the pastoral encampments scattered across the West Bank, where sheep are herded along uninhabited hills and rocky valleys.
In Singapore's white-and-gold-pillared Chessed-El Synagogue, not far from the famed Orchard Road shopping hub, men enter the shul one by one, each having their temperature taken at the door. When a group of 10 have assembled, they begin to pray, standing at least 2 meters apart.
ťWhoever wants to come down and pray if it happens that we can have 10 men together, we will gather and pray,Ł Chessed-El's rabbi, Asher Fettmann, told Haaretz in a phone interview last Thursday, just hours before the government would impose new regulations banning such gatherings.
Now, Chessed-El has closed its doors for the first time since the synagogue was completed in 1905. The coronavirus has succeeded where SARS failed, after the shul stayed open during the earlier epidemic in 2003 that affected Singapore and 25 other countries.
When January began, as yet another election loomed in Israel and with climate change and other burning issues commandeering the public's attention, Hamutal Shabtai said to herself You see, 2020 is here and nothing you wrote about happened.
Indeed, ť2020,Ł the science fiction novel that Shabtai published in 1997 (Keter Press, in Hebrew), about a mysterious virus that threatens to doom humanity to extinction wasn't on anybody's radar for the year. She certainly never imagined how prescient her futuristic dystopian fantasy written 23 years ago would prove to be.
ťThe Chinese are behaving very much in keeping with my script. The similarity is remarkable,Ł says Shabtai, 64. ťIt began with television reports about villages in China where people are smashing the roads so no one can come into the village. I thought, that's just like in the book, places cutting themselves off... That's where it started.Ł
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught me anything, it's that I need to update my cultural references.
Every single time I sneeze, cough or feel a slight twinge, I hear the voice of Edward G. Robinson in my head whimpering, ťMother of mercy, is this end of Rico?Ł And literally every time I visit the local store, Ronald Reagan urges me to go in there with all I've got and ťwin just one for the Gipper.Ł
Given that these two film quotes have a combined age of almost 170, by rights they should be running for president of the United States. But unlike the actual candidates in that race, I'm trying to retire my references so that, yes, it is the bloody end of Rico. The sooner I can get Buffy's ťI'm the thing that monsters have nightmare aboutŁ embedded as my daily mantra for this Grave New World, the better.
Squatting with other day laborers under a bridge in Cairo, 48-year-old Yasser Nagi says he has waited in vain for two weeks for work on a construction site so he can feed his family.
Egypt, like other countries, has been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, which has wiped out its vital tourism industry and prompted authorities to close airports, restaurants, firms and shops and to impose a night curfew.
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has approved a 100 billion pound ($6 billion) plan to stem the economic fallout. Measures include the payment of salaries for staff sent home by their employers as well as a payment of 500 pounds a month for three months for workers in the informal sector who are not registered on social insurance rolls.
The Israeli government approved on Tuesday the toughest set of regulations since the coronavirus outbreak began, in an effort to clamp down on any attempts by Israelis to leave their homes and travel in order to celebrate the Passover seder with their extended families.
Under the latest measures, which go into effect on Tuesday at 7 P.M., all intercity travel is banned until Friday at 6 A.M.
In Jerusalem, travel between different zones of the city is also banned.
PARIS Deaths from the coronavirus are mounting in France and the Thiais cemetery on the outskirts of Paris is almost out of space. ťIn normal times we fill one row of graves per year,Ł says mortician Avraham Weinberg. ťNow we are burying a row and a half every week.Ł
On Monday, April 6, the death rate in France from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, accelerated anew to almost 9,000, after slowing for some days, Reuters reported. As of Tuesday morning the number of cases worldwide was nearing 1,1350,000 and the number of cases in France had reached 98,010, according to Worldometers.
Home to about half a million Jews, France is the second largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
In normal times, the election of the leader of Her Majesty's opposition would be front-page news in Britain. In the age of the coronavirus, Sir Keir Starmer's election as Labour party leader was more of a media whimper.
Yet it spelled the end of the far Left's control of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn and signals a shift to more rational policies not least on anti-Semitism and Israel. Indeed, during the campaign for the leadership, most candidates criticized the party's inability to deal with anti-Semitism, distanced themselves from Corbyn's inadequate and tarnished approach and even proclaimed themselves as "Zionists" - because they accepted the existence of the State of Israel.
Starmer himself publicized his wife's Jewish family and her extended family members living in Tel Aviv. But it was his surprise appointment Sunday of Lisa Nandy his rival in the leadership contest as shadow Foreign Secretary that was most intriguing. Nandy, viewed widely as an articulate and principled politician, is the chair of the parliamentary group Labour Friends of Palestine.
The Israeli government approved on Tuesday a general closure across the country to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which will bar Israelis from leaving the community where they reside, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as the need for urgent medical care.
>> Explained: Israel's toughest coronavirus restrictions so far
Intercity travel is banned from Tuesday at 4 P.M. until Friday at 6 A.M.., and all public transportation services are suspended as of Tuesday at 8 P.M.
Flight tracking website Flightradar24 says that in the last two weeks of March, commercial air traffic was only 41 percent below 2019 levels, to 36,491 flights. The site also says that last year it tracked almost 69 million flights (specifically: 68,948,849), a new record and an increase of 10 percent over 2018. Much of that wasn't passenger traffic but cargo. But much was passenger traffic.
Arctic sea is śAtlantifying' faster and algae are on the move
It's a well-worn lament that has intensified during the Obama and Trump years: Israel and American Jews are drifting apart, and the gulf between them has become impossible to bridge. But that cry was always a metaphor. There was never a real physical divide between America and Israel, nothing that physically kept them from traveling back and forth, and sharing in each other's joys and sorrows.
Today, even those with the closest ties to members of the tribe on the other side of the Israel-Diaspora divide must stay put. Moreover, as Israelis and American Jews cope with the deadly and frightening new realities in each of their countries, they have little mental bandwidth for what is happening far away, even when it is happening to their brethren.
As in any Arab country where true statistics are a strategic enemy, in Qatar it's hard to find an agreed-upon number of cases to show the extent of the coronavirus pandemic.
Qatar's neighbor, Iraq, found a surefire way to control the data. It revoked Reuters' work permit for three months and fined it $20,000 for what Iraq said was false reporting about the spread of the disease. While the official statistics reported of some 840 cases, Reuters reported thousands, based on its sources in the Iraqi health services. Iraq also banned the distribution of print newspapers and editorial staff were restricted to a minimum to stop the spread of the virus.
Qatar has another essential interest in controlling data. It has a World Cup to think about. Qatar did report 1,046 cases of the coronavirus, but the report stressed that none of those infected were involved in constructing facilities for the FIFA World Cup, scheduled for 2022.
Israel said it would establish a procedure for testing Palestinian laborers suspected of having been infected by the coronavirus in Israel, as Palestinians point to a factory near Jerusalem as a possible source of the outbreak in the West Bank.
Israel had previously rejected the demand by the Palestinian Authority to test all laborers from the West Bank before they return there.
The director of international relations in the Health Ministry, Asher Shalmon, told Haaretz that there was as yet no decision on whether the tests will take place in Israeli territory or in the West Bank.
Thousands of Israeli families recently heaved a sigh of relief: their loved ones, traveling abroad, have been repatriated, thanks to combined efforts led by Israel's Foreign Ministry. Israelis heeded the calls of envoys worldwide to leave at once before curfews and lockdowns go into effect and outgoing flights are cancelled.
Israeli representatives the world over have moved heaven and earth to allow Israeli citizens to return home. Unusual methods, such as leasing ferries, police-escorted bus convoys and convincing authorities to open shuttered airports have became new emergency tools of the trade for Israel's diplomats. The ministry's "Situation Room" in Jerusalem has become an operations hub.
Very few foreign ministries (if any) are so intensely committed to their citizens abroad. Our foreign ministry is proudly embracing the Israeli values of mutual responsibility and protection. In tandem, the Foreign Ministry continues to engage in other aspects of the national effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Mohammed al-Dulfi's 67-year-old father died on March 21 after a brief struggle against the new coronavirus, but it would take nine days for his body to find a final resting place in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq.
On two occasions, the family rejected remote burial plots proposed by the government outside Baghdad for him and seven other coronavirus victims, al-Dulfi said. A fight broke out between the families and the Health Ministry's team. His father's corpse waited in a hospital morgue for days.
ťWe were suffering immensely, knowing my father was deceased but we could not bury him,Ł said the 26-year-old.
Israel's nursing homes are seeking government assistance at a time when nursing homes around the world are increasingly finding their residents ravaged by the coronavirus.
Israel's largest nursing home chain, Misha'an, took out a newspaper advertisiement asking ö or begging ö the government to help.
The chain's Be'er Sheva facility has been hard hit. Some 27 of its 35 residents in nursing care have tested positive for COVID-19, as have another 13 staff members and two residents of its independent living division. On Monday, a 90-year-old resident died of the virus; this makes her the facility's seventh casualty.
ťI'm self-isolating in my house,Ł Claudia Roden, 84, told me last week when I asked how she was feeling. The woman who has become a source of inspiration for multitudes of food lovers around the world continued, ťI don't shop and only go out for a walk on the heath behind my house. Nobody comes into the house. My children and grandchildren leave food boxes on the doorstep and come round the back to sit in the garden three meters away from me. I wish I could go out. I miss being with friends. It is awful to think it could go on for months and months until a vaccine is found.
ťBut I'm not bored,Ł says Roden. ťI've been working on a book for several years on and off while spending time on other projects. Now publishers want the book soon. But writers work in isolation, so my everyday is much the same as usual. Now that I have to hand in a new book within weeks it is even an advantage.Ł
Born in 1936, Roden grew up in Cairo in a Sephardic Jewish family whose roots lie in Aleppo and Istanbul. She studied art in Paris and London. In an effort to recapture and revive the feelings of warmth and belonging of her childhood in the cosmopolitan Levantine community, she started to collect recipes from friends. Her cookbooks the most famous are ťA Book of Middle Eastern FoodŁ (1968) and ťThe Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present DayŁ (1997) are based on many years of research, are widely translated and have made her a household name worldwide.
When people started to share the Facebook post ťDear world: How is the lockdown? Gaza,Ł I felt uncomfortable. Though the posters sought to generate empathy for the 2 million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, the attempt to compare the closure that free citizens of the West are experiencing to the 13-year siege on the Strip is, at the very least, tasteless. Now that the virus has crossed the military checkpoints and 12 Palestinians have been diagnosed as infected, the distortion of this comparison is going to become tragically clear.
Gaza residents will suffer not just from the natural complications the virus causes, but from the fact that the siege puts them at an extreme disadvantage in all three categories considered vital to battling the coronavirus epidemic: health services, social conditions that determine the level of health, and the ability to keep social distance from one another.
Most things, if not all, are political. Even at the height of the global coronavirus crisis, a considerable portion of the government's decisions have been influenced by internal considerations, some of which seem petty. The best example is the amazing backflip over the past 24 hours with regard to imposing a closure on ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods where infection is widespread.
Bnei Brak, which heads the list of infected towns, called for help and got it a closure on that city alone, along with an impressive mobilization of the army to supply residents' needs. But measured by the number of patients per 1,000 residents, that list is led by other ultra-Orthodox towns, such as Elad and Modi'in Ilit. There are also large concentrations of patients in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.
Journalist Gili Cohen of the public broadcaster Kan reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially wanted to impose a closure on eight other ultra-Orthodox towns. But both ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers, Yaakov Litzman and Arye Dery, objected, so the proposal was softened to make the closure less strict, enabling residents who work out of town to continue doing so. Yet this proposal, too, was later scrapped, and the virtual cabinet meeting was postponed.
In the West Bank there is an increasing fear of a coronavirus outbreak due to the imminent return of thousands of Palestinian workers from their jobs in Israel over the Passover holiday. Another source of anxiety is the recent sample tests in which some Palestinians tested positive for the virus.
Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Kaila said Monday that the height of the outbreak is expected to begin Tuesday night and last until April 23, after the Passover holiday.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the number of people infected in the West Bank has increased to 240. Sixteen were discovered in the past 24 hours workers from the Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron areas. Of the 240 infected people, four are on respirators and all the others are in mild condition, said Dr. Kamal Shakhra, who heads the PA Health Ministry's efforts agains the virus.
A day after he presented the economic assistance plan to deal with the coronavirus crisis an unprecedented plan that will cost 80 billion shekels ($22.1 billion) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made another announcement on live TV about a Passover grant to be paid to every child and elderly person. ťI decided, together with the finance minister, to give a special grant for Passover,Ł he said, like a grandfather announcing the prize for the child who stole the afikomen.
The total outlay for this grant will be 2 billion shekels and economic assessments, along with common sense, suggest that this is a waste of public funds. But common sense isn't relevant when decisions are made by Netanyahu over the head of the Finance Ministry, and without consulting with any ministry officials. The prime minister simply decided that he felt like handing out a 2 billion shekel Passover gift, presumably believing that the hollow and populist gesture would improve his image, or score him points with voters in the ultra-Orthodox community.
This type of behavior has typified Netanyahu throughout the coronavirus crisis. He is acting like a sole ruler who commands his subjects to fulfill his orders without orderly staff work, proper administrative rules or an orderly decision-making process, and without consulting the professionals. He considers all that superfluous during this emergency period.
The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week to make a one-time grant of 500 shekels ($139) to every Israeli child, up to four per family, and to the elderly has aroused a surprising degree of opposition from the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Israel and the National Insurance Institute.
The gift came out of nowhere without any serious discussion among policy makers. It's seen as a populist device being used by Netanyahu to give a little bit of succor to an Israeli public suffering the hurt of the coronavirus health crisis, record joblessness and lockdown isolation.
Some see it as a Trumpian act, akin to the $1,200 checks the U.S. government is planning to hand out to taxpayers. Here, however, we don't send checks through the mail. The fastest mechanism is to do it through the NII.
Try to imagine how the present coronavirus crisis would look if Israel, and other places in the world, had a universal basic income program. According to such a plan, every adult would receive a regular monthly payment from the government, independent of his employment situation. Without questions and without forms to fill out. A direct deposit to his bank account.
Think what a payment of $1,000 a month would do for an adult. Such a sum could remove a significant part of the pressure to survive that many people are experiencing now. In light of massive waves of dismissals, the closing of every non-essential business and a serious recession around the corner, a basic income, even if modest, would guarantee that bills would be paid and that there would be food in the refrigerator.
The idea of the universal basic income is not new at all. One of the first pilot programs was introduced in Canada, in the town of Dauphin in the province of Manitoba, between 1974 and 1979. According to the program, which was called Mincome, every person and family living below the poverty line received a monthly cash payment.
First I should make clear that everything said below does not refer, God forbid, to the tiny historical community known as ťNeturei Karta.Ł The Guardians of the City. The members of this community, who follow the path of Amram Blau, Aharon Katzenellenbogen and Leibele Weissfish of blessed memory, are declared anti-Zionists for halakhic reasons (based on religious law).
They make sure to refer to the Zionist state, which for them is an abomination, in the spirit of the Hebrew saying: ťNeither your honey, nor your sting.Ł They work for a living, pay taxes, but aren't willing to receive a thing from the government. They reject National Insurance, stipends for yeshivas, salaries for married yeshiva students, maternity allowances, and old-age pensions. One can argue with their opinions and their actions, but it's impossible not to respect their determination and stubbornness. They don't have an iota of hypocrisy.
And as opposed to them there are the other Haredim (ultra-Orthodox). The ones who have joined the political game. The ones who take a huge bite out of the public coffers. Who profiteer from those who vote for them, in order to derive more and more money from the public. They nurture idleness, educate to arrogance, and encourage ignorance and rejection of progress for the glory of dependence and obedience. Those who see themselves as exalted, better than anyone else, and bearers of the hereditary right to do as they please. They deserve to be called the Guardians of Foolishness and Rubbish.
A Palestinian minister filed on Monday a complaint against Israeli police officers, who he says abused him, beat him and forced him to wear a dirty and bloody mask during his arrest on Friday.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami was arrested on suspicion of acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in coordinating its coronavirus response in East Jerusalem, which is illegal under Israeli law. Israel views any Palestinian Authority presence in Jerusalem as a violation of the Oslo Accords.
Al-Hadami, himself a resident of East Jerusalem, has been in office for a year. During his tenure he was arrested four times, including the latest one on Friday, for his work with the Palestinian Authority with Jerusalem.
Millions of dollars in additional funds are being made available to agencies around the world that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, whose advanced age and health issues makes them particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus, the organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis announced Monday.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Monday the $4.3 million in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for some 120,000 survivors.
The emergency funding includes 200,000 euros ($215,000) from the Alfred Landecker Foundation, established last year by one of Germany's richest families, whose assets include Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, as a way to help atone for its use of forced laborers during the Nazi era and support of Adolf Hitler's regime.
The Health Ministry has ordered the Magen David Adom emergency medical service to significantly reduce the number of coronovirus tests that it does, due to a bottleneck caused by laboratory shortages of testing chemicals.
No data on the testing have been officially released since Thursday. Last week some 9,000 people a day were tested, but only 5,000 underwent tests on Sunday, with a similar number expected on Monday.
The ministry schedules and regulates the daily scope of testing based on the ability of the labs to carry them out, and supplies Magen David Adom accordingly with swab kits for drive-through testing stations and for tests conducted in homes. Recently the drive-through stations have been working only part time, as a result of the testing backlog. In addition to the Magen David Adom tests, the labs handle coronavirus tests for hospital patients, which are given priority.
Facing an economy expected to contract more than 5% this year, the Bank of Israel said on Monday it was lowering its benchmark interest rate to 0.1% from 0.25% in its first rate cut in five years. It said it was buttressing the cut with two other measures aimed at mitigating the effects on the pandemic.
In the first, the Bank of Israel said it would for the first time ever provide up to 5 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) in three-year loans to banks with a fixed interest rate of 0.1%. The goal, it said, was to increase the supply of bank credit to small businesses as they struggle with an economy paralyzed by lockdown.
In the second, the central bank said it was expanding its repo transactions so that they can include corporate bonds, in addition to government bonds, as security. A repo, short for repurchase agreement, is a form of short-term borrowing, which the Bank of Israel began in mid-March.
Large number of US citizens demonstrated against the war in Iraq (and the possible war in Iran) during this October weekend. Massive turnout in Boston and San Fransisco, and also in Chicago, LA and DC people took to the streets. The message was: NO more war in Iraq! NO to a war with Iran!