Keeping up morale in the Corona crisis

How can I post a Good News Friday post amidst this unprecedented worldwide quarantine which has confined millions to their homes, shuttering businesses and places of entertainment and leisure, and bringing the world economy to its knees? There are more unknowns than knowns, and the worst is the not knowing.

Are the experts right that the virus is not airborne? (There is a corona hospital 5 minutes walk from my house).

How long will the quarantine last?

Will the pandemic resume if quarantine restrictions are lifted after the numbers of infected flatten out?

Will the virus mutate into something worse? Or will it become less dangerous?

Will we develop some kind of herd immunity? When will a vaccine be developed?

Will there be enough food in the shops to sustain us through this closure?

And yet… and yet…

Here are some bright sparks amongst the fear and paranoia:

It started in Italy with “balcony singing”: the quarantined residents stepped out onto their balconies and enjoyed some “distance social interaction” by singing together:

Here is another “show”:

There were several such events and I think they are a marvelous idea to help keep people’s spirits high and preserve the feeling of neighbourliness in an impossible situation.

The idea spread to Israel of course, and I am proud to say that this took place in my home town, Petach Tikva:

There was even a Hebrew newspaper article about it, which I roughly translate below:

The balcony singing that began in Italy has now reached the Hadar Ganim neighborhood of Petah Tikva. Today, Pirchei Yerushalayim, hosted by Hanan Avital, a resident of Hadar Ganim, became part of a balcony party in the neighborhood. The musical celebration was organized by a member of the neighborhood committee Arik Hamo, when he and his wife Idit hosted Pirchei Yerushalayim on their balcony. “I was approached with a proposal to do balcony singing,” says Hamo. “Just as we were setting up in the complex there was a wedding in one of the gardens and we decided to do it on the balconies and to raise their spirits. We organized quickly and got started. We publicized it in the neighborhood’s WhatsApp group and all the neighbors came out with flashlights and it was a lot of fun. It was an amazing experience, the neighbors all sang with us and applauded and it was very moving.” Hamo says that this is a seven-tower complex in the form of a U so everyone can see each other.
“Initially we considered doing it in the plaza, but in the end, in light of the current situation, we decided to do it on the balcony of our apartment. We also broadcast it Facebook Live and received lots of warm reactions.” Hamo further adds that, in light of the reactions, they are considering doing this again: “We got very good feedback. People said it made them happy and warmed their hearts. Pirchei Yerushalayim also sang a song written specifically about the coronavirus, and we’re definitely considering doing this again.”

Kol hakavod on the initiative of the Hadar Ganim residents, and the wondeful response by the Pirchei Yerushalayim band. What a heart-warming gesture to raise the residents’ spirit and bring joy to the wedding party too!

But here is one of the most moving, spine-tingling balcony “events” of them all. Instead of singing, the quarantined residents poured forth their voices in prayer to G-d:

The words are from the end of the Yom Kippur prayers and are at least as emotional. May G-d hear their prayers and ours and remove this evil plague from our midst speedily in our days.

Another beuatiful gesture was demonstrated by the israeli public, locked away in their homes, while the medical staff on the frontlines are sacrificing their family life and potentially their safety to fight this deadly disease. The Isaeli public stood on their balconies and at their windows all around the country at 6 pm on Thursday night and applauded the medical staff loud and clear! It was incredibly moving!

Israelis on Thursday evening held a demonstration of appreciation for and solidarity with health care workers battling the coronavirus by applauding from their balconies.

The applause was heard across the country, including in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva and Nahariya, as well as many other communities.

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also participated in the demonstration.

Rivlin commented, “Thank you our dear ones — the medical teams and volunteers who are working day and night in order to give all the citizens of Israel a medical response in this difficult time.”

The gesture was sponsored by retail chain owner Rami Levy and publicized by multiple Israeli news outlets, as well as the international Reuters news service.

Guy Choshen, an expert on infectious diseases at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, told N12 as he listed to the applause that the gesture “warms the heart” and “gives support” to the enormous number of health care workers currently involved in battling the disease.

Just watch this amazing video!

Kol hakavod to everyone who participated, and to Rami Levi for the brilliant idea! This is the essence of Israel – coming together to support each other in a crisis. Sadly we have lots of experience in crises, but this one is on a totally different level.

I want to wish everyone, wherever they are, whether in quarantine or simply waiting the crisis out at home, whether G-d forbid they are sick or hopefully recovering, refuah shlema, a speedy and complete healing, may Hashem watch over us and protect us and help us find a treatment and a vaccine for this terrible plague.

Meanwhile a very strange Shabbat is about to approach, one where almost every synagogue in the world will be closed, something that has probably not happened ever in our entire history. And those synagogues that are still operating are allowing in only 10 men, sitting far apart, all under age 60 with no health problems. If anyone had told me 2-3 months ago that this is what we would be doing and this is how we would be living 2 weeks before Pesach I would have laughed. No horror movie or science fiction book could have thought up this pandemic.

But we have to keep up hope that this will end, with G-d’s help. We must pray and not lose hope or despair.

Shabbat Shalom and wishing you Chodesh Tov, may the approaching month of Nissan, traditionally the month of Geulah (Redemption) bring us a true Redemption.

Shabbat shalom everyone.

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Slice of Israeli life | 8 Comments

Corona, political infighting, is there any Good News for Friday?

The news has been inexorably bad for the last few weeks and I have been in no mood to write anything (in case you hadn’t noticed). The 3rd round of Israeli elections yielded exactly the same results as the second and first rounds (surprise!), i.e. a stalemate. This time Netanyahu and Likud received a marginally higher number of seats but they still can’t form a government. The Blue & White-Labour camp similarly can’t form a government.

However the good news is that the corona virus has knocked some sense into our leaders and it seems very possible that a national unity government will be formed. At this stage any government at all would be good news, after a whole year of no government at all.

Meanwhile the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the entire world, and Israel is no exception with 126 cases as of this writing.  The country gradually closed itself off from the world. First foreigners from certain European and Far Eastern countries were banned from entry, then returning Israelis from those countries had to go into quarantine, while Israelis returning from other countries only had to avoid crowds of more than 100 for 2 weeks (including my own hubby). As of this week, the quarantine net was widened. No foreign citizens are being allowed in at all unless they can prove they have a place to self-quarantine for 2 weeks (hotels not allowed), and Israelis have to self-quarantine at home.

Outgoing flights are gradually being halted as other countries catch up and stop entry to outsiders.

Meanwhile the government has closed down schools and universities, municipal gyms, cinemas and theatres.  Other leisure centers like cafes and restaurants, as well as synagogues, must not hold more than 100 people. Weddings and funerals too must not include more than 100 people.

This new rule – which goes completely against the Israeli grain of “the more the merrier” with huge weddings of 500-600 people being the norm, and large synagogue congregations – has birthed some creative solutions.

Last night my nephew attended a large wedding, which took place in four (!!) halls: the friends of the bride in one hall, family of the bride in another, friends of the groom in one and family of the groom in another! The management went round with a clicker to count the participants. Kol hakavod to the families and the hall for their clever solution.

Here is another wonderful solution to a large wedding which was planned in Italy. The wedding indeed took place, but on a much smaller scale, as Sivan Rahav Meir writes:

וריה זעירא מקהילת “ראש יהודי” בתל אביב שלחה את הוידאו עם הסבר: “אני משתפת בהתרגשות. יוסף מנדה עלה ממילאנו שבאיטליה לישראל לפני שש שנים. הוא היה אמור להתחתן עם אמונה, גם היא מאיטליה, באולם פאר איטלקי עם מאות מוזמנים. אמונה הגיעה לארץ לפני שבועיים, ונכנסה ישר לבידוד… הם הבינו שכל התוכניות משתנות, חוץ מהעיקר – להתחתן. אתמול אמונה יצאה מהבידוד, והיום עמדה מתחת לחופה עם יוסף. מעכשיו לעכשיו, התארגנה חופה צנועה, פשוטה ומקסימה ברחוב גורדון בתל אביב, ששודרה בשידור חי למשפחה באיטליה. חיתן אותם הרב אריה לוין, הנכד של הרב אריה לוין זצ”ל, ואז כולם (פחות ממאה איש, לא לדאוג!) רקדו ושמחו איתם בדרך למסעדה של חבר איטלקי, פה בדיזינגוף. הקורונה לא תנצח את השמחה, האהבה והקדושה”.

Translation of the post:

Moria Zeira from the “Rosh Yehudi” community in Tel Aviv sent the video with an explanation: “I share this with great excitement. Joseph Manda immigrated from Milan, Italy, Italy to Israel six years ago. He was supposed to marry Emunah, also from Italy, in a fancy Italian hall with hundreds of invited participants. Two weeks ago, Emunah arrived from Italy and went straight into isolation … They realized that all their plans have to change, except the main thing – to marry.  Yesterday, Emunah came out of isolation, and today she was under the canopy with Joseph. From one minute to the next a modest, a simple and charming chupah was arranged on Gordon Street in Tel Aviv, which was broadcast live to the family in Italy. They were married by Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the grandson of the famous Rabbi Aryeh Levin zt”l, and then everyone (less than a hundred people, don’t worry!) danced and rejoiced with them on the way to the Italian restaurant of a friend of theirs, here on Dizengoff Street. The Corona will not defeat the joy, love and holiness. “

What a beautiful and moving post, showing the Israeli skills of improvisation and resilience, and giving us a great dose of optimism in these difficult times. Mazal tov to Moriah and Yosef, may they enjoy long and happy and healthy lives together ad 120!

Another happy story with an Italian connection relates to the barmitzvah of an Italian boy which had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus havoc. Who came to save the day? Aboud Dandachi, a Syrian Muslim living in Canada!

Ruben Golran has had an outpouring of support since word spread about how the Milan teen had to curtail his bar mitzvah celebration because of the coronavirus. (Courtesy of the Golran family)

(JTA) — Aboud Dandachi isn’t Jewish. Or Israeli. Or Italian. Or sick with coronavirus.

He’s a Muslim from Syria living in Canada.

But when he read the Jewish Telegraphic Agency story about an Italian boy whose bar mitzvah was curtailed because of the rapidly spreading virus, Dandachi responded in a way he figured Jews might appreciate: He donated $18 in honor of Ruben Golran to the Canadian branch of the Jewish National Fund to plant a tree in Israel in the teen’s honor.

“This is what I know how to do,” said Dandachi, 43, of Toronto. “I’ve had friends in Canada, Jewish friends who have children, and they seem to appreciate it. That’s how I know how to commemorate such an occasion.”

This is far from Dandachi’s first encounter with Israel.

After fleeing Syria as a refugee in 2013, he has been an outspoken supporter of Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Dandachi, who moved to Canada in 2017, even supports Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. An IT specialist by profession, Dandachi founded an organization called Thank You Am Israel in appreciation of Israeli efforts to aid Syrian refugees.

Ruben’s bar mitzvah in Milan last week was supposed to have 600 guests. But Milanese authorities banned large public gatherings due to the spread of coronavirus in northern Italy, so the celebration became much smaller.

His father, Elia, told JTA that he has been moved by the response to his son’s predicament. In addition to Dandachi’s gift, Golran heard from a Jewish person in New York who plans to send a painting to the family in honor of the bar mitzvah.

“I was in tears next to my computer,” Golran said. “To see that there’s a Muslim from Syria who donated a tree in our land, you understand that this is something special, special, special.”

What a beautiful inspiring gesture from a very unusual and very inspiring figure. Kol Hakavod to Aboud Dandachi, and Mazal Tov to Ruben Golran on his Barmitzvah. Please G-d he will be able to celebrate many bigger smachot in the future.

One final item of good news connected to the coronavirus is that the most seriously ill of the Israeli patients hospitalized, a bus driver who drove a tour group of Greek pilgrims around Israel, has started to improve.

Checking for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Israel

Here is the Hebrew followed by my own translation:

שיפור נרשם במצבו של נהג האוטובוס שהסיע את הצליינים היוונים שאובחנו כחולים, ומאושפז בבית החולים פוריה בטבריה, וכעת הוא נושם בכוחות עצמו, כך נמסר הבוקר (שישי) מבית החולים. עוד נמסר כי הוא מקבל טיפול תמיכתי ולצידו טיפול נגד הקורונה. מצבו מוגדר כעת כבינוני.

ד”ר מתן משה, מומחה טיפול נמרץ, בבית החולים ציין כי מדובר בחולה הראשון המקבל בארץ את התרופה הזו, אשר נוסתה ברחבי העולם לטיפול בנגיף. בנוסף, בשעות הצהריים הנהג אף שוחח בקצרה בטלפון עם הוריו המודאגים.

בסוף השבוע שעבר חלה החמרה במצבו והוא הורדם והונשם. בבית החולים ציינו אז כי החל טיפול בתרופות על פי פרוטוקולים המתאימים לנגיף, כפי שנוסו במדינות אחרות.

An improvement was noted in the condition of the bus driver who drove the Greek pilgrims who were diagnosed as sick, and is hospitalized at Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, and is now breathing on his own, the hospital said Friday. He was also reported to receive supportive treatment and anti-corona treatment. His condition is now defined as medium.

Dr. Matan Moshe, an ICU specialist in the hospital noted that this is the first patient in Israel who has received the treatment, which has been tried out elsewhere in the world.

In addition the driver spoke to his worried family in the afternoon by phone.

Last weekend, his condition worsened and he was sedated and ventilated. The hospital then stated that drug treatment was started according to protocols appropriate to the virus, as tried in other countries.

The treatment that was given to the patient is apparently Remdesivir, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health Telegram updates. EDIT: This drug is not to be confused with the one that has been developed by the Israeli Migal Galilee Research Institute, which I reported about in my previous post, in cooperation with health authorities around the world.

If this drug is really what has brought about the patient’s improvement, and not simply his own immune system, this is fantastic news as the world struggles to find a treatment and a vaccine. Halevai (if only) it should be so!

Wishing you all a quiet, safe and HEALTHY weekend. Please look after yourselves, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and abide by the rules of your authorities for everyone’s sake.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Good News Friday

Apologies for the long hiatus in blogging. Family life, crises and dramas keep getting in the way.

But now it’s time to catch up on some good news for a change, so here is my latest Good News Friday post.

My first item is davka related to all the bad news about the spread of the coronavirus. It has unfortunately reached Israel via travellers to the Far East as well as Italy. However these Israeli patients have helped researchers find a viable diagnostic tool and possible treatment.

A Magen David Adom worker wears protective clothing as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, outside the special emergency call center in Kiryat Ono, on Thursday. (Flash90)

The Israeli-researched diagnostic tool for the detection of coronavirus is already being produced in Italy:

An Israeli firm said Thursday it has developed a kit to test for the coronavirus, sending its stocks soaring as the world hunts for an effective way to confirm who is carrying the fast-spreading contagion.

Hod Hasharon based BATM said production on the quick diagnostic kit was underway at a facility in Rome owned by Adaltis, which manufactures various medical testing devices.

Health officials have urged the development of rapid testing devices to screen who may have the virus, as questions have arisen about current diagnostic tools’ ability to flag carriers. Health officials have also worried about overtesting and deluging health systems with false positives that will lead to public panic.

BATM said in a statement that its test’s ability to successfully screen those carrying COVID-19 had been verified by several labs and hospitals, and that customers in several countries had expressed interest. It did not provide details.

It said the test met criteria set out by the US-based Centers of Disease Control and that it was working with European research institutions to develop “a price point suitable for large scale production.”

The company’s stock rose 16.4% on the London Stock Exchange and 9.3% in Tel Aviv’s boursa Thursday, making it one of the few winners on an otherwise brutal day on the trading floor.

As for the treatment of this deadly virus, the Israeli research firm Migal Galilee Research Institute has developed a breakthrough:

A group of researchers in northern Israel said Thursday they had achieved a “scientific breakthrough” in treating coronavirus. At a press conference, researchers of the Migal Galilee Research Institute said that the breakthrough had come while they were doing research on coronavirus in birds. A treatment had been discovered which cured the birds infected with coronavirus, and clinical trials at Israel’s Volcani Agricultural Research Institute had confirmed the treatment’s viability.

The basic coronavirus in birds is very similar in patterns of infection and effect of the virus in humans, and the genetic structure of the virus in both humans and birds is very similar, the researchers said. As a result, the treatment developed for birds could be applicable to humans – and they believed that an effective treatment could be developed for humans within three months, they said.

David Zigdon, Chief Operating Officer of the Institute, said that “there is a great need for an immediate solution to human infection of coronavirus, and we have been working to do that nonstop. The solution we are developing against COVID-19 virus has proven effective, and we believe a version for human treatment can be ready within eight to 10 weeks. That would be followed by a 90-day test period to ensure safety. The treatment we developed for birds is given orally, and the treatment we are developing for humans will also be given orally.”

Huge kol hakavod to the Israeli researchers of both the diagnostic tool and the treatment! The world community owes our little country a huge vote of thanks. What a pity the treatment is not being created in Judea and Samaria – because then all those “human rights supporters” could boycott the treatment.

Someone who most definitely appreciates Israel, and especially the prayer service which was held at the Kotel last week and was dedicated to healing those people in China afflicted by the coronavirus, is this young Chinese man who speaks perfect Hebrew (the “Chinese Itzkik”) with almost no accent at all!

Itzik, known in Israel as “Itzik HaSini” (Chinese Itzik) is a Chinese citizen living in Beijing who speaks fluent Hebrew and works for the China Radio International (CRI) in the Hebrew department and also teaches Hebrew at a university.

Recently Itzik posted a video on his YouTube channel telling viewers how people in China responded to the tefillah at the Kosel for the coronavirus crisis. He showed how the video of the tefillah was posted on various Chinese websites. On one website the post about the tefillah received 634,187 likes and over 18,000 responses.

Just watch this video, if only to appreciate his perfect Hebrew 🙂

Kol hakavod to the Rabbanim and other Israelis who organized and participated at the tefila at the Kotel, creating a great Kiddush Hashem, and thank you to “Chinese Itzik” for his beautiful video.

Another person who appreciates Israel and what our little country has accomplished is a Syrian journalist, of all people. He said “Jews ‘make miracles out of the impossible’:

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network recently hosted a debate about Israel and the Arab countries.

Syrian journalist Thaer Al-Nashef, who took part in the debate, said that the claim that Israel is thwarting democracy in the Arab countries is completely unfounded, arguing that all of the dictatorial and authoritarian Arab rulers had been a product of their own Arab societies.

Al-Nashef mocked the conspiracy theories that Israel grooms Arab citizens to become leaders of their countries, and said that Israel is not responsible for the progress or backwardness of Arab societies. Rather, he said that Arabs are responsible for their own development and that they might learn something from the Jews and their ability to “make miracles out of the impossible.”

Furthermore, Al-Nashef said that the often-repeated claim that Israel’s goal is to expand from the Nile River to the Euphrates River is false, and that the two blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent the Jewish prayer shawl, and not these two rivers.

Watch the video:

Kol hakavod to MEMRI for finding this clip and translating it. But the greatest kudos go to this brave journalist. I hope he stays safe.

Despite all the tensions in this region, and the enormous balagan in our country with the upcoming THIRD round of elections on Monday (on which I will not express an opinion because I’m so fed up), these items remind us of how proud we can and should be of our crazy little country.

Shabbat Shalom everyone! May you have a warm, dry, safe and peaceful Shabbat.

Posted in International relations, Media and journalism, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Trump Deal, Palestinian war-crimes, and a UN boycott of Israel

The background to this post is the “Deal of the Century” peace deal from President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and several other Administration officials.  Their hearts were in the right place, and the initial reaction of most Israelis was that this is practically Mashiachzeit – the days of the Messiah. Here we have the most powerful government in the world recognizing not only the right of the State of Israel to defend itself – that goes without saying – but recognizing our right to the entire Land of Israel by historic right.

Most importantly, the peace deal also changed the language, the received wisdom, of all the “peace processors” of past decades, and instead of putting the onus onto Israel to provide peace by giving territory to the Palestinians, it puts the onus onto the Palestinians, saying that they must recognize Israel’s historic right to the land, they must immediately stop all violence, and must stop undermining Israel at international institutions.

The feeling of euphoria however did not last long, as Israelis realised that the deal also involves eventually (IF the Palestinians get over themselves and comply with the conditions of the deal) granting the Palestinians valuable territory which will form a Palestinian state in the heartland of Israel. There were also assorted surreal suggestions for linking Gaza to the “West Bank” either by tunnels or bridges or other methods, all of which will endanger Israel.

And even if the Palestinians under this regime or any other do comply with the conditions to enable the establishment of a state, they cannot be trusted, given past behaviour, to continue complying with these conditions under another leadership, and then Israel will have to face a hostile entity in its midst, bringing us back full circle to square one (please excuse my mixed metaphors).

In any event, by the time the ink was dry on the paper of the Deal of the Century, the Palestinian leadership was showing its true colours by inciting yet more violence against Israel, and counter to the instructions of the peace deal, Abbas ran to the UN where he presented the “maps that lie” trying to show that the peace deal will rob them of territory.

Since the festive announcement of the deal there have been dozens of rockets and countless explosive balloons launched at southern Israel. The balloons are no longer “just” incendiary devices because it has been raining too hard and the ground is too wet for fire to take. Instead the perverted minds of Hamas have invented the idea of attaching IED’s, grenades, and other explosives to bunches of balloons and have launched them over the border. Many of these flying bombs have been hidden inside children’s toys, e.g. footballs and dolls, to encourage Israeli children to pick them up and G-d forbid get blown up.

Thank G-d until now there have been no serious injuries from these balloons, but since our pathetic (lack of) government have done nothing but bla bla talk, the likelihood keeps growing every day.

Just look at some of these “balloon bouquets” and their “gifts” of explosives which have landed all over the south of Israel, some landing as far north as Ashkelon, Dimona and Beer Sheva:

Judea and Samaria too have not been peaceful lately. Since the peace deal announcement, the incidents of rock throwing and rioting have increased exponentially.

I’m sure you will all agree with me that every one of these balloons and rockets is a war crime, especially since they are aimed at civilians, particularly at children.

So where is the UN Human Rights Council in all this? I’ll give you three guesses, and no prizes for the right answer.

The UNHRC this week issued a blacklist of all the companies doing business in Judea and Samaria!  That’s right – not a word of condemnation, not even a mention, of the rockets and explosive balloons aimed at Israeli civilians. The only condemnation is of businesses in Judea and Samaria – territory which has now been recognized by the US as legitimate Israeli territory. Here is UN Watch’s press release:

The office of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet today released an unprecedented blacklist of companies doing business with Israelis living in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and other areas over the 1949 Green line claimed by Israelis and Palestinians.

Bachelet’s office had postponed release of the list, acknowledging “legal, methodological and factual complexity.”

The controversial database of companies doing business with Israeli settlements, which Bachelet’s office has yet to produce on any other state, was mandated by a March 2016 resolution of the UN Human Rights Council that was sponsored by Kuwait on behalf of the 22-member Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the 56-nation Islamic group, along with Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, and Libya.

“Dictatorships initiated this blacklist not because they care about human rights, but to divert attention from serial rights abuses committed by council members like Venezuela, Libya, and DR Congo, by scapegoating the Jewish state,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based watchdog organization.

UN Watch has published a detailed Myth & Facts on the Blacklist.

“Doing business in disputed territories has never been prohibited under international law, nor, until today, subject to a UN blacklist. For example, the EU has business and financial dealings in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus,” said Neuer.

“Curiously, out of more than 100 territorial disputes in the world today, including in Tibet, Kashmir, Crimea, Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, the UN chose only to blacklist companies doing business in Israel’s disputed territories,” he added.

“As several major democracies wrote the UN, the world body has no legal mandate to tell companies where they should or should not operate. Moreover, if this were really about human rights, then the key factor would be a consideration of whether Palestinian human rights are actually violated, yet that’s ignored.”

“Sadly, this is one more example of the Palestinian hijacking of UN bodies to promote a one-sided political agenda that fosters conflict instead of advancing peace.”

“High Commissioner Bachelet, who should be standing up for the UN Charter principles of universality and equality, has now allowed her office to become a tool for the discriminatory anti-Israel BDS movement, which singles out the Jewish state for boycott, divestment and sanctions. With the blacklist, the UN has now become Ground Zero for global BDS.”

Here is the pro-Israel activist organization StandWithUs condemning the perverted UN blacklist:

(Geneva — February 12th, 2020) — StandWithUs strongly condemns the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) discriminatory blacklist targeting companies that do business with Jews in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria released on February 12, 2020.

“Many U.S. states have passed laws against contracting or investing in companies that comply with such an anti-Israel blacklist,” said Peggy Shapiro, StandWithUs Midwest Executive Director & Director of Legislative Education. “As Airbnb has already learned, being complicit in the UNHRC’s discrimination is bad for business.”

Despite its mandate to promote human rights, the UNHRC has chosen to blacklist businesses where Israelis and Palestinians work and shop together, along with companies that help keep civilians safe from terrorist attacks.

The blacklist has also been widely criticized because the UNHRC has done nothing with regards to the many other disputed or occupied territories around the world. This is further evidence that the UNHRC is engaging in discrimination against the Jewish state.

The UNHRC is continuing a destructive pattern of one sided condemnation and pressure against Israel. The UN has yet to take any meaningful action to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for promoting and rewarding terrorism, inciting hatred, and oppressing their own people. This approach only fuels more injustice and conflict, rather than a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Interestingly the UNHRC boycott is going to fall afoul of US Treasury laws which ban boycotts:

I wonder how the UN will square that circle.

Michele Bachelet didn’t even make a pretence of consulting Israel or warning her about the impending blacklist publication:

Sources in Jerusalem said that Israel was given only an hour notice prior to the publication of the list, learning of it via the Americans. They added that OHCHR and/or High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet had not spoken with Israel about it.

Rachel Risby Raz, whose family owns a firm that provides security guards, said that no one from the UN had been in touch with the company before publication of the list, which she heard about only from the media.

She knew that her company could be on it, because it had been contacted two years ago by OHCHR. She went on line and found her company on the list on the UN web site.

“It seems quite ridiculous the whole concept of the list,” particlurly the concern that people like her self who offer an important service to save lives were somehow profiting by allegedly breaking international law.

President Reuven Rivlin read out the names of some of the companies at an event at his residence in Jerusalem.

“I am proud to give these businesses a platform. Proud to be Israeli. I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace. Although we do not promote private businesses here in this house, when Israeli businesses are under the threat of boycott, we will stand with them,” Rivlin said.

“Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides. We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative which reminds of dark periods in our history,” he added.

Anne Herzberg, legal adviser and UN Liaison at NGO Monitor said,”These companies have done nothing wrong, and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

“This list was made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs,” Herzberg said. “The maligned companies should begin assessing plans to take legal action against the UN officials who prepared the list and those who will propagate its false claims.

Shame on the UN, particularly the UNHRC, for this illegal, immoral and illogical blacklist. Shame on UNICEF for doing nothing to protect the lives of Israeli children. Shame on the Palestinians for their rejectionism and violence.

And shame on the Israeli government for doing nothing to protect the residents of the south. All they do is talk talk talk. Netanyahu promises and threatens surprises and retaliation, but …. we are still waiting.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Good News Friday

Another week has rushed by and it’s time for another Good News Friday post.

Let’s start with the weather – as I have mentioned previously, it has been raining almost non-stop for the last couple of months, dropping almost unprecedented amounts of rain all over the country. The temperatures have plummeted too, bringing loads of snow to Mt. Hermon and other high peaks in the country.

The blessed result of all this rain? The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is rapidly filling up and if it continues at this rate, the authorities will have to open the dam at the southern end of the lake to prevent it overflowing into Tiberias. Opening the dam will allow the water to flow into the River Jordan and from there to the much-depleted Dead Sea.

It’s not a simple decision to open the dam – the timing must be right, and it’s something the Water Authority is mulling:

srael’s Water Authority met Wednesday to set a series a critical water level points at which to give the order to open the Degania Dam which sits between Lake Kinneret — also known as the Sea of Galilee — and the northernmost point of the Jordan River.

The decision is facing Israeli environmental authorities in the remaining months of the winter season, between February to April. This is the time when the final possible chance that rain might fall comes to an end, just as Jews around the world conclude recitation of the blessing for winter rains in the daily services, and begin instead the blessing for morning dew.

The Degania Dam is to be opened only if the level of the lake reaches the upper red line — meaning the lake has reached full capacity.

On Tuesday morning, the level of the lake stood at 210.01 meters below sea level. The upper red line is 208.8 meters below sea level, and the lower red line is 213.0 meters below sea level.

At present, the water level is just 1.22 meters before the point at which the lake will reach full capacity.

Opening the dam would prevent the possible flooding of the communities located near the lake, and would replenish the waters of the Jordan River and onward south to the Dead Sea.

However, there is also a concern that should there be too much water moving too swiftly, it may cause damage to infrastructure and agricultural areas downstream of the Jordan River, in the Yarmouk River and more.

One of the biggest concerns in the danger of waiting too long, because the rise in the level of water may move faster than the speed at which the water can be released from the lake via the Degania Dam.

We have been blessed to have such “problems” as the possibility of the Kinneret overflowing. It is not only the rain that will raise the water level. All that snow on the Hermon will begin to melt as the temperatures rise towards Pesach and that water too will flow down to the lake as well as to the Jordan and its tributaries.

Thank G-d for giving us such rains of blessing this year, and kol hakavod to the Water Authority for managing the water resources in the Kinneret, preventing over-pumping and building desalination plants.

Changing theme completely, Israel’s education system has begun adopting a fantastic new initiative, “80 plus 4″, pairing kindergartens with old age homes. It was based on a similar UK program and Israeli TV has been broadcasting some of the meetings between children and seniors.

It is such a brilliant idea, and the results so heart-warming, so I am extremely proud that my grandson’s kindergarten in Karnei Shomron has joined the 80+4 program together with the Golden Age Center in the community.

Here are some pictures of the first meeting this week (and yes, my grandson is in those pictures 🙂   )

Huge kol hakavod to the local council of Karnei Shomron, their welfare services, the Golden Age center and the Brosh kindergarten and its teachers for taking part. I am sure everyone, from every age group, will benefit hugely from this program.

With these happy thoughts in mind I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, a quiet, peaceful and dry (for a change!) weekend.

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Good News Friday

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of my Good News Friday posts, but I think it’s time to attempt a return to normal programming.

My first item is about yet another treatment, if not actual cure, for Type 2 diabetes, that has been developed by an Israeli team:

A new drug being developed in Israel could be the answer to treating the main cause of Type 2 Diabetes, insulin resistance.

According to Concenter BioPharma co-founder and CSO Prof. Mottie (Mordechai) Chevion, “the unique property” of the drug, called Zygosid-50 “is that it cancels out insulin resistance.

He said that it’s “devastating and alarming that there is no cure and generally diabetes worsens with age. All these numbers are those with full-blown diabetes, and for every person that has contracted it, there are two or three pre-diabetic people.”

“With Zygosid-50, we are proposing the use of the new drug and are developing it into an oral pill, as a monotherapy drug, to treat diabetics and prevent in pre-diabetic patients,” Chevion said. “For many years, people didn’t recognize that the root cause of diabetes is insulin resistance – this has become very clear fact.”

Asked about how Zygosid-50 works, he said that it “almost completely reduces insulin resistance and normalizes all diabetes-associated parameters to the normal range.

“If you take care of the insulin resistance, you take care of the symptoms,” he said.

He stressed that they have not found any adverse side effects during their testing.

“What we found about Zygosid-50 allows us to go into clinical trials,” he said, explaining that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved clinical trials, after supplementary TOX studies,  based on evidence from earlier testing in animal models for Type 2 Diabetes.

“It was proven as  ‘safe’,” Chevion told the Post. “We found that it restores the normal insulin sensitivity, it restores blood glucose levels, it also normalizes the glucose tolerance test,” which measures the body’s response to sugar, “and suppressed systemic inflammation,  which is a component of diabetes.”

This sounds like a brilliant invention with the very real potential to save millions of lives and improve the lives of even more people. Kol hakavod to Prof. Mottie (Mordechai) Chevion and his research team. May they have huge success in this project.

From the shining future to our glorious past, Israeli researchers have grown new date plants from 2,000 year old seeds! (via DavidPT).  I have previously reported about the first of these date palms (nicknamed Methuselah) to be grown from ancient seeds, but now six friends have joined him. From the first link:

Israeli researchers revealed Wednesday that they successfully grew extinct date plants from ancient seeds found at archaeological sites in the Judean Desert.

Dozens of seeds were gleaned from archaeology collections gathered at locations in the dry Dead Sea area, including the Masada hilltop fortress built by King Herod the Great in the first century BCE and the ancient site of Qumran, famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s.

Six saplings grew from 32 seeds sown and the plants have been dubbed Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, and Hannah.

Ages in months at time of photograph (A to C) Adam (110 months), Jonah (63 months), and Uriel (54 months). (D to F) Boaz (54 months), Judith (47 months), and Hannah (88 months). Photo credit: Guy Eisner.

“Germination of 2000-year-old seeds of Phoenix dactylifera from Judean desert archaeological sites provides a unique opportunity to study the Judean date palm, described in antiquity for the quality, size, and medicinal properties of its fruit, but lost for centuries,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the peer-reviewed Science Advances journal.

“The Kingdom of Judah (Judea) that arose in the southern part of the historic Land of Israel in the 11th century BCE was particularly renowned for the quality and quantity of its dates,” the researchers noted. “These so-called ‘Judean dates’ grown in plantations around Jericho and the Dead Sea were recognized by classical writers for their large size, sweet taste, extended storage, and medicinal properties.”

Radiocarbon dating revealed the seeds used for the project came from a period spanning the fourth century BCE to the second century CE.

“A date variety ‘Taali’ cultivated in both Judea and Babylon is mentioned in the Talmud,” they wrote.

Dr Elaine Solowey, Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the Arava Institute in southern Israel, who in 2008 successfully germinated a 1,900-year-old date palm seed that took the name Methuselah after the long-lived Biblical character, told the Times of Israel that while Methusela germinated in just six weeks, this latest batch of seeds took up to nine months.

“You have to hydrate them very gently,” she said. “If you just dump them in water, you’ll probably kill them, if they’re alive. I used an old baby bottle warmer to help rehydrate them.” After adding gibberellic acid — a hormone found in plants — and a seaweed based fertilizer to encourage root growth, she planted them in sterile soil, locked them up in the greenhouse, and “just hoped. I only had one chance with each seed.”

She named the first one to germinate Eve, but had to change that to Adam after genetic tests revealed the seedling to be a male. Adam, now 1.5 meters high (1.6 yards), and Jonah have already produced flowers. Judith, and Hannah are the great hopes for supplying dates. They will be fertilized by Methusela.

“Dates were an enormous export from Judea and they were famous,” Sallon noted. “Herod even used to present them to the emperor in Rome every year.”

Methusela, Adam, Jonah and Hanna have been planted out at Kibbutz Ketura and can be viewed. The others are still in the greenhouse.

“Methusela has grown into a big boy,” said Solowey. “He’s around 3.5 meters (3.8 yards) high and very stout. He doesn’t look like the kind of date we know today.”

I find this whole project very moving as well as fascinating for its scientific knowledge. Growing these trees from ancient seeds gives us a very real, concrete link to our past, even more than uncovering ancient archaeological sites. Kol hakavod to Dr. Elaine Solowey and all the researchers at the Arava institute for their very successful endeavour. I look forward to seeing these old-new dates on the market!

On a similar subject, but more in the present, Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees, falls this coming Monday. This year “my” almond tree, that traditionally bursts into blossom on Tu B’Shvat, opened its annual show early and is already in glorious bloom. It’s very cheering to see these blossoms in the depths of one of the coldest, wettest winters on record here in Israel

My almond tree – the Shkedia – blossomed early this year.

May the almond blossoms signify the approach of spring and warmer weather.

And one final item for this week. Yesterday a terrorist rammed a group of soldiers with his car in Jerusalem, seriously injuring one and injuring several others, Yet our brave IDF soldiers did not let this “minor detail” stop them from turning up for their swearing-in at the Kotel later in the day, even if they were on crutches!

Kol hakavod to the soldiers and wishing refuah shlema to their injured colleague.

Wishing everyone Shabbat Shalom, a warm, dry, quiet and above all safe and peaceful Shabbat.

Posted in History, Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life, Technology, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments