News From Israel

No. 121, April 1, 2020

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Inside Israel
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Inside Israel
Netanyahu and Gantz are forming unity government; Blue and White collapses. Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz is set to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a unity government, serving initially as foreign minister but then taking over from Netanyahu as prime minister in September 2021. Gantz’s decision to join forces with Netanyahu immediately led to the collapse of Blue and White, with the party’s No.2 Yair Lapid rejecting the move.

Coronavirus.

  • As of March 29, some 4,247 Israelis had been diagnosed with coronavirus, almost 10 times more than 2 weeks ago. 15 died from it, 13 were over the age of 70. The greatest challenge is within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhoods, where many continue to ignore certain guidelines and the rate of infection is several times higher than in secular communities.
  • Close to 6,000 people are tested daily, and the government has committed to increasing coronavirus tests per day to 30,000 within two weeks.
  • 500 people who tested positive for COVID 19, were found through Shin Bet’s controversial mass surveillance program. The program identifies people who have been in contact with known coronavirus carriers. Shin Bet says that this proved the necessity of the tracking effort, despite deep concerns over violations of personal privacy and a lack of parliamentary oversight.
  • The unemployment rate skyrocketed, jumping from 4% to 21%, and the number is expected to reach a mind-boggling 1,000,000 by next month. The initial stages of an economic recovery are only expected in the fourth quarter of 2020.
  • The fall in economic activity and in particular car journeys and public transport use has significantly improved Israel’s air quality, the Ministry of Environmental Protection reports.

Coronavirus can’t stop aliyah: 961 immigrate to Israel in March. Among the new olim are 72 Ethiopian immigrants from the Falash Mura community and 26 Russian Jewish immigrants sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. All olim enter a 14-day quarantine upon arrival to ensure they are not infected with corona.

Sales of consumer products in Israel are up 45%. The numbers behind the frenzied shopping in Israel in the past weeks are piling up, with the public fearing that the coronavirus will force people to stay at home for a prolonged period. More sanitizer and antiseptic wet wipes have been sold in Israel in recent weeks than in all of 2019, and Israelis are buying more toiletries than even food.

For the first time in 17 years, Sea of Galilee is nearly full. While Israel and the rest of the world have been focusing on battling the coronavirus pandemic, the Sea of Galilee has reached the highest level in years. The Water Authority reports that Israel’s main water source is only 19 inches short of its maximum level, thanks to a winter of heavy rain.


Culture and Lifestyle
Israeli coronavirus-themed humor is unrestrained and hilarious. While many of the jokes are universal, Israeli humor, specifically, is in full throttle — from satire television shows taking on the virus to meme-makers posting new puns and photos about our new surreal reality.

WATCH: Young Israeli musicians fill balconies and rooftops with song. Israelis help their neighbors overcome loneliness and isolation in quarantine by delivering rooftop musical performances. A group of young Israelis, with the blessing of the Tel Aviv municipality, are taking to the rooftops and balconies of their city to serenade neighbors with the sweet sound of music.

Israel’s first female Muslim police lieutenant. Sabreen Saadi is about to become the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to attain the rank of lieutenant in the Israel Police. Saadi is from a traditional Muslim family in a Bedouin town in northern Israel. There are currently 55 Arab women in the Israel Police.

Science and Technology
Hebrew University professor wins world’s top honors in math. Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters names Hillel Furstenberg winner of the prestigious Abel Award “for pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory, and combinatorics”. The prize is directly modeled after the Nobel Prizes. It is one of the most prestigious math awards in the world.

Teva donates potential coronavirus treatment to hospitals across the US. Hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets are used against malaria, lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis but could be effective against COVID-19. The tablets are currently under investigation and US government officials have asked for their immediate availability and use. Teva, the giant Israeli pharmaceutical company, has announced that it will donate more than six million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets to hospitals across the United States.

Virus protection masks. Israel’s Sonovia is now in full production of its face masks that protect the wearer from the coronavirus. Sonovia will donate the first 120,000 of the new masks to the Israeli government, for use by medical workers, patients and key employees. More will be donated to other countries.

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