Israel was one of the first countries to impose strict restrictions and shut its borders, which significantly curbed the spread of coronavirus, as evidenced by Israel’s relatively low death rate. The country is now re-opening in rapid phases. Recreational and commercial facilities in Israel, like shopping malls, universities, and parks, are set to open their doors again later this week. The government has given schools in the country permission to reopen on Sunday, the first day of the workweek in Israel, but some are wary to do so. The last-minute nature of the government order to reopen the schools has caused discomfort among school officials and others who believe the decision does not allow for a safe reopening.
Though air travel is still heavily restricted in Israel, Jewish bodies are still flying to Israel for burial to secure their final resting place.
In a significant breakthrough, Israel has isolated a key coronavirus antibody in its quest to find a treatment to the disease.
Plumbing data? The toilet flushes of Israelis may help prevent the spread of a second wave of the virus, scientists say. The virus is found in feces, which shows up in communal wastewater. Scientists are able to run tests on the wastewater to gauge the concentration of the virus in various populations. It’s much cheaper than testing the entire population on a regular basis, though swab testing will still be needed to gather precise information.
Jewish giving in times of need: The Jewish community is continuing to make large contributions to fighting the virus, financially and otherwise. PM Netanyahu announced an Israeli investment of $60 million to go towards research and development for a vaccine. Natan Sharansky, author, Israeli politician, human rights activist, and winner of the 2020 Genesis Prize, announced that he will donate the $1 million prize money to help fight the pandemic and assist those most affected. Additionally, IsraAid, a humanitarian relief organization, is helping to combat hunger in the U.S. by packing and distributing boxes of food in Los Angeles, helping to fill the void caused by a decrease in volunteers combined with huge need for food.
U.S.-China tensions rising: Tensions are rising between the U.S. and China. Despite providing no evidence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that there is “enormous evidence” to support coronavirus origination was from a laboratory in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not from a wildlife market, and that the U.S. vows to hold those responsible accountable. Pompeo accused China ofa “history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories.”
The U.S. is stepping up efforts to pull manufacturing out of China, in an attempt to reduce the reliance of the U.S.’s supply chain in China. President Trump has launched mounting bully pulpit attackson China and is weighing new tariffs to punish Beijing for the handling of the virus’ outbreak.
Historically, times of hardship show the highest prevalence of antisemitism and scapegoating of Jews. Antisemitism has continued to rear its ugly head in lockdown protests across the U.S. Horrifying antisemitic signs were photographed in the hands of protestors from Ohio, Idaho, and Illinois. In Illinois, a protestor held a sign with the phrase “arbeit macht frei,” (translated as ‘work sets you free’), the phrase written over the gates of Auschwitz death camp. When asked about her overtly antisemitic sign, the protestor replied: “I have Jewish friends.” The antisemitic vitriol continuing to propagate at these protests are the physical manifestation of what the Anti-Defamation League says is mushrooming antisemitic content online.
A textbook publisher in the United Kingdom recalled its textbook which was accused of anti-Israel bias. Rather than paint an even-handed picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the textbook appeared to unfairly condemn Israel and used incorrect terminology when referring to the ancient Land of Israel.
U.K. Labor Party: The U.K. Labour party is being investigated by Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over allegations of institutional antisemitism within its party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. An 860-page report compiled by the Labour Party, intended to be submitted as an annex to the inquiry was never submitted to the EHRC because of intervention by Labour’s lawyers. However, it was leaked to the press in full. Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) has appointed a four person panel to investigate the leaked internal report, which reignited Labour’s handling of cases of antisemitism. Labour Party General Secretary Jennie Formby resigned from her post following the leak.
Unity government: better for the LGBT community? Knesset member Itzik Shmuli one of five openly gay lawmakers currently serving in the Knesset, succeeded in introducing a clause in the unity government for the state to provide for financial support for male same-sex couples who enter into a surrogacy agreement abroad. In order to avoid ultra-Orthodox objection, the change will not be anchored in legislation, but rather presented as an assistance program for same-sex couples in their quest for parenthood. In February 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israel must amend the current law enabling surrogacy since it discriminates against single men and same-sex male couples by only enabling surrogacy for straight couples or single women. The Court gave the State a year to change the existing law.
Israeli Tech: Intel is in talks to acquire Israeli mobility start-up, Moovit, for $900 million. Intel purchased Jerusalem-based Mobileye in August 2017 for $15.3 billion, which is a record exit for an Israeli company to date. The addition of Moovit will accelerate its plans to transform Mobileye into a “complete mobility provider.” Moovit assists individuals in planning and navigating travel in urban areas, displaying public transportation and rideshare options. It also provides analytic platforms to cities and transit authorities.
Annexation: Netanyahu spoke of annexation at a conference of pro-Israel Christians, the European Coalition for Israel (ECI), in honor of the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference, in which the Allied powers of World War I divided up the territory that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. Netanyahu stated: “Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s right in all of Judea and Samaria… President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley. In a couple of months from now, I’m confident that pledge will be honored, that we will be able to celebrate another historic moment in the history of Zionism.”
The Trump peace plan, “Peace to Prosperity,” would allow Israel to annex 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the entire Jordan Valley, while providing the Palestinians with a huge economic aid package to support their demilitarized state if they meet certain conditions. The coalition agreement allows for annexation to be brought for a vote in the cabinet or Knesset on July 1 at the earliest. There is broad concern worldwide of the ramifications of Israel’s proposed annexation, including undermining already strained ties with the Palestinians and damaging Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR AND NOT SO FAR
Jordan: A 25-year-old Israeli lease of Jordanian land on Israel’s southern border has ended, with Jordanian King Abdullah II refusing to renew the deal. The lease was expected to be extended but in light of strained relations between Israel and Jordan, Jordan ended the arrangement last year. The land functioned as a farming Moshav for Israelis to grow crops. The Central Arava Regional Council head, Eyal Blum, said it was painful to leave the area which Israelis had farmed for so many years and which should have continued as a showcase for Israeli-Jordanian collaboration and peace.
Germany done with Hezbollah: A German Jew filed a lawsuit to stop an Al-Quds rally from taking place in Berlin in mid-May, after the city-state of Berlin declined to take action. Shortly thereafter, Germany designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization, a move some say was long overdue. Hezbollah, based in Lebanon and funded largely by Iran, acts as an Iranian proxy in the ongoing Iran-Israel conflict. It has long been recognized as a foreign terror organization by many countries and groups of countries, including the Arab League.
Germany’s designation of Hezbollah as a terror organization prompted raids of multiple sites within Germany and the cancellation of the Al-Quds day rally. Iran was deeply upset by the action, saying that Germany had fallen prey to the “propaganda machine of the Zionists,” invoking age-old antisemitic tropes. For his part, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed Berlin had “surrendered to [a] U.S. wish.”
Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, gave Berlin information on Hezbollah operations within Germany before the ban, including information about money laundering and warehouses in which Hezbollah stores hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate to make explosives.
Gaza’s border with Egypt: Egyptian Army Spokesperson Tamer Al-Refai revealed in an interview with an Egyptian news channel that Egypt has destroyed more than 3,000 tunnels along its border with Gaza in the past five years. The Egypt-Gaza border is only 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) long. Al-Refai explained on television that the tunnels were used to “threaten Egypt’s national security, including the infiltration of terrorists, smuggling of weapons, ammunition, goods, narcotic drugs and vehicles.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Let’s celebrate Arab-Jewish cooperation in the fight against coronavirus! U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Cherith Norman Chalet told the U.N. Security Council: “Israeli and Palestinian ministries of health have been coordinating regularly to mitigate the spread and impact of the coronavirus.” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon has reported close cooperation with East Jerusalem Palestinian activists in the fight against the coronavirus, with representatives on both sides meeting several times a week on a regular basis. Moshe Leon even asked the air force to change course of its flyover to salute medical teams, to include St. Joseph’s Hospital, a hospital serving the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, which was a historic and moving event, symbolizing unity. This recent engagement speaks to the power of dialogue that is so desperately needed.
Today in 2000, ABC broadcast the final episode of “Boy meets World” a sitcom starring Ben Savage.