VFI News March 10, 2020

Rays of Hope in Coronavirus Outbreak

"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." Ps. 34:7

Health system professionals have been responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus with stringent measures to prevent the spread of the disease in Israel. The procedures being taken in the country during the past month as the virus spreads across Europe and elsewhere do not differ much from the cautionary moves being taken by Western countries. There are now over 98,000 coronavirus cases globally and more than 3,300 people have died, according to a Reuters tally on Friday 6 March 2020. The coronavirus has produced one positive result for the time being: the security arena in the Middle East is relatively quiet. While the outbreak is not the only reason behind this, there was exceptional calm last week. Iran is one of the countries being hardest hit by the virus; apparently, visitors to the holy city of Qom were the main source of its spread. On Thur. 5 March 2020, there was a report about the first cases of people contracting the coronavirus in a district governed by the Palestinian Authority. The city of Bethlehem was put in a quarantine Thursday under an order from Israel's Defense Minister Naftali Bennett after seven COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the area. In the following hours, nine more patients were confirmed as infected, raising the overall count to 16. The Gaza Strip, which is more isolated is less exposed to the virus, but once it strikes there, it will be difficult to stop its spread. Good news emerges, however: More than half of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. It’s retreating in China, where it first emerged, and in nearby South Korea. China over the weekend reported just 99 new cases, the first time it has had only a double-digit increase since 20 Jan 2020. Overall, China now counts 22,177 patients currently in treatment, while it has released 55,404. (VFI News)

"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thes. 5:17

Israel Expands Coronavirus Regulations

Israel on Wed. 4 March 2020 announced new procedures to curb the spread of coronavirus. All Israelis returning from Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Austria were instructed to enter self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. Foreign citizens arriving from those countries will not be allowed into Israel. Israel had previously announced bans against east Asian nations such as China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam when the spread of the novel coronavirus first began to make headlines in early Feb. 2020. Gatherings of over 5,000 people will not be permitted, and PM Netanyahu advised Israelis to avoid shaking hands. The Palestinian Authority has barred tourists and closed all mosques and churches in Bethlehem for the next two weeks after identifying cases of coronavirus in a Bethlehem hotel. In a rare joint press conference, including Israel's Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and other health ministry officials, Netanyahu said, "We had to undertake extreme measures in order to slow down the infection rates in Israel and that’s what happened. We must stress the importance of personal hygiene and to avoid shaking hands,” he said. As of Friday 6 March 2020, seventeen coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Israel, with thousands more quarantined to prevent the virus from spreading. The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as SARS, MERS, and Ebola. The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which results in up to 5 million annual severe cases around the world and from 290,000 to 650,000 deaths annually, according to WHO. (VFI News)

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isa. 41:10

Israelis, Palestinians Unite to Battle COVID-19

As coronavirus continues to appear in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the IDF and the Palestinian Authority have launched a joint effort to stop its spreading and prevent a massive outbreak, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reported over the weekend. According to the report, 250 COVID-19 testing kits were delivered to the Palestinian Authority. Joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical staff were set up to provide information on personal protection while handling a person thought to carry the virus. COGAT also provided the Palestinian public in PA-ruled Judea & Samaria and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with an Arabic translation of the Health Ministry's instructions on self-quarantine, designed to prevent a massive outbreak of the disease. The digital instructions were made accessible on various online platforms. A possible scenario feared by Palestinians is an outbreak of the virus in the Gaza Strip. Home to roughly two million residents, the strip of land is controlled by Hamas terrorists. Gaza's health crisis may make such an outbreak deadly and put in direct danger millions of people on both sides of the border. After hotel employees from Bethlehem were infected with COVID-19 upon coming into contact with Greek visitors who had the virus, the IDF, along with Palestinian security forces, isolated the city, populated by nearly 30,000 residents. Since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a national emergency after 16 residents were diagnosed as carriers of the virus, approximately 3,000 tourists have found themselves in quarantine at various hotels in Bethlehem, including fourteen USA tourists. (J.Post/VFI News)

Iran Plagued With Plagues

Iran is dealing with a deadly outbreak of coronavirus. As of the weekend, 4,747 had been confirmed of which 124 were fatal. COVID-19 has affected every Iranian province, with the largest number of cases recorded in Tehran. A recently re-elected member of the Iranian parliament, Fatemeh Rahbar, died on Saturday 7 March 2020. Rahbar becomes the latest senior Iranian official to have died from coronavirus. Some 23 lawmakers tested positive for the illness as of late last week. In addition to the virus that has hit thousands in the Islamic Republic, massive swarms of desert locusts have been arriving in Iran’s southern regions. Government officials say the invasion is too huge to counter except with the use of pesticides. Reza Mir, Spokesman of Plant Protection Organization, said last week that the locusts have invaded the provinces of Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchestan, Bushehr, Fars and Khuzestan. “The density of locusts in the swarms is so high that a 10-15 centimeter layer of dead locusts forms on the ground after spraying pesticides,” he said. (VFI News)

USA Plans to Approve Israeli Annexations Soon

White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner told senators in a meeting last week that the Trump administration is pressing ahead with its Middle East peace plan, even with the Palestinians boycotting the process. The administration is urging the Palestinians to negotiate, warning that its current plan will move forward without their input if they don't. Kushner said the mapping and demarcation process will take months, and that the Palestinians could improve the proposal by negotiating. Otherwise, the USA will move ahead without their involvement. A joint American-Israel mapping committee convened in Jerusalem two weeks ago to begin discussing the demarcation of areas in Judea & Samaria to be recognized as part of Israel. The White House feels that because PM Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, his main rival, both support the plan, it can move ahead. The Palestinians have stated their refusal to accept the Trump administration's peace plan well before the plan was even unveiled, and since then have refused to budge on the issue. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has been cracking down on any perceived efforts of "normalization" of ties with Israel in the months since the plan was unveiled. (VFI News)

"I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war." Ps. 120:7

France Records 51,816 Anti-Semitic Incidents in 2019

A new online tool is being used to measure anti-Semitism on social media in France an organization for French Jews has revealed. In 2019, 51,816 incidents were picked up by the device. Of the anti-Semitic posts recorded, the majority (52%) referred to anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred featured in over two-thirds of posts (38% and 39% respectively). Some 13% of posters denied the Holocaust. In a media interview, the organization said the tool helped “to have a more complete picture of anti-Semitism in France,” adding that “it was necessary to identify, quantify and qualify the hateful content present on the internet.” In Jan. 2020, a survey by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) found that a staggering 70% of French Jews say they have been victims of anti-Semitism, 59% suffered physical abuse in school and 46% suffered verbal abuse at work. More than 8 out of 10 young French Jews have suffered at least one anti-Semitic incident, and 39% have been the victims of physical violence. Attempting to avoid anti-Semitic attacks, more than a third of French Jews refrain from wearing Jewish symbols in public, and a quarter avoids revealing their Jewish identity at work. Some 52% of French Jews have considered leaving France while Israel has seen several large waves of Aliyah of French Jews in recent years. Between the years 2000 and 2017, 10 percent of the French Jewish community, the largest in Europe, immigrated to Israel. (VFI News)

Pray according to scripture for the Jewish community in France: “Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me.  Fight against those who fight against me.”  Ps 35: 1

Innovative Method to Improve Memory While Sleeping

Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Weizmann Institute have developed a method to influence the process of memory formation in one of the two hemispheres of the brain during sleep. The technique, which uses scent to stimulate memory, could help those who have suffered brain damage to strengthen their memory. It could also restore brain balance for people suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder. "We know that during sleep, the process of memory consolidation takes place, during which memories recently accumulated in short-term memory located in the hippocampus are gradually transferred into long-term memory located in the cerebral cortex", explains Prof. Yuval Nir from the School of Neuroscience at TAU. "In this study, we sought to examine in depth the process of memory formation in the brain during sleep, by comparing brain activity between the areas where it occurs and others. Participants were asked to memorize the locations of words that appeared in front of them one after the other on a screen, some on the right and some on the left. The odor, linked in the brain of the participants in the learning task previously carried out, came from the nostril in which it was injected into the part of the brain situated on the same side. We compared its effect on the memory consolidation process on the side affected by the odor versus the side, which had not received the scent pulses. In particular, they found that sleep on the side of the brain that absorbed odor was lighter at that time, and the lighter it was, the better the subject's memory. The method that we have developed makes it possible for the first time to compare the process of memory consolidation in the two hemispheres of the brain," concluded Prof. Nir. (i24/VFI News)

See What we are Doing at VFI

Take a few moments to review the projects we continue to undergird, and the accomplishments that are taking place as you give to Vision for Israel. To see our many areas of outreach, including those to terror victims, children at risk, Holocaust survivors and lone soldiers, go to https://www.visionforisrael.com/en/outreach. There, click on one of the four categories and view the list of the projects with which we are actively involved in that category. Thank you and please continue to give generously to those in need in Israel. You can do so with easy instructions on the VFI website page. 

VFI RECIPIENTS, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK: Our official Facebook address is: Vision for Israel. Follow us there and please hit “like” if you like us.