14 days of coronavirus in Israel

In a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman took part in a video conference with European officials on March 9.

In a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman took part in a video conference with European officials on March 9. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman took part in a video conference with European officials on March 9.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
CONTAINING CORONA
In a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman took part in a video conference with European officials on March 9. Netanyahu gradually announced increasingly stringent measures, from a halt to most flights from abroad to an almost total shutdown of the economy, with Israelis urged to stay at home except for those who provided essential services, as well as extensive testing and isolation of anyone who contracted the virus. Calling it “a war against an invisible enemy,” Netanyahu also said Israel would employ digital tools previously used in counterrorism to track COVID-19 carriers, which he conceded infringed on personal privacy rights.  Israel’s first death from coronavirus was reported on March 21: Aryeh Even, 88, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who died at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
GANTZ TAPPED
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was given the mandate to form Israel’s next government from President Reuven Rivlin on March 16 at the President’s Residence, receiving four weeks to build a coalition. Rivlin said he was giving the mandate to Gantz, because he had received 61 recommendations to form the government, compared to 58 for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Rivlin urged Gantz to form a broad government as soon as possible, and Gantz responded that he would seek to establish a “patriotic” coalition that would “represent all citizens of Israel and defend the rights of residents of Judea and Samaria, Arab citizens and residents of the periphery and the center of the country.”
AIDING PALESTINIANS
Israel delivered 200 coronavirus testing kits to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, after several Palestinians in Bethlehem tested positive for the disease, and another 200 to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Israel and the PA set up a joint operations room to combat the virus, and Israel also transferred 20 tons of disinfectant material from Israeli factories to the Palestinian health sector. “We will continue working to help the Palestinian authorities curb the spread of the virus, both as an Israeli interest and for humanitarian reasons,” said Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa.
TRIAL POSTPONED
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on charges of corruption was postponed on March 17 until May 24 under an emergency order issued by Justice Minister Amir Ohama amid the coronavirus crisis. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who ordered the indictment of Netanyahu in November 2019 for alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust, did not oppose the delay of the trial. Netanyahu, who had been due to appear before a three-judge panel of the Jerusalem District Court on March 17, has denied any wrongdoing.
ITALIAN LOSS
Michele Sciama, a former secretary-general of the Jewish Community of Milan died of coronavirus on March 16 at the age of 79, according to the Italian-Jewish news site, Moked. Known to his friends as Mickey, Sciama was deeply involved in Jewish education and fundraising, and his death was a “great loss for the community,” Claudia Bagnarelli, a former principal at the Jewish school of Milan, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
MATH HONOR
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced that Prof. Hillel Furstenberg from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Grigory Margulis of Yale University were being awarded the Abel Prize, known as the Nobel of mathematics. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters cited their “pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics.” The German-born Furstenberg, 84, a Kristallnacht survivor, is the first Israeli to win the prestigious prize.
ISRAEL PRIZE
Among the Israel Prize Lifetime Achievement laureates announced by Education Minister Rafi Peretz in March was Naomi Stuchiner, the South African-born founder of Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, named after her late father, which offers innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for children and adults across the range of disabilities impacting on over half a million people annually. The other lifetime achievement award, to be handed out on Israel’s 72nd Independence Day (April 29) will be given to Prof. Avishay Braverman, an acclaimed economist and former Labor party politician who served as president of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev for 16 years.