3 million donated surgical masks to be given to MDA, other institutions

The donation was made by Russian-Israeli tech investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry.

Three million surgical masks arrive in Israel aboard El Al's "Jerusalem of Gold" Dreamliner
A new shipment on board a dedicated El Al cargo flight arrived Thursday night at Ben-Gurion Airport, carrying three million surgical masks to be transferred to Magen David Adom (MDA) and other essential institutions and facilities in the country, MDA said in a statement.
The shipment arrived from Shanghai on a dedicated El Al cargo flight coordinated by the ICL-Israel Cargo Logistics, which also was responsible for leasing the "Jerusalem of Gold" Dreamliner aircraft for the purpose. Though the aircraft is a passenger plane, the boxes of surgical masks were stacked on top of plastic-wrapped seats and were stuffed into the overhead carry compartments. ICL personnel were waiting on the runway to secure the shipment of masks.
Several boxes filled with surgical masks are seen Thursday night on board an El Al flight. (Credit: Foreign Ministry)Several boxes filled with surgical masks are seen Thursday night on board an El Al flight. (Credit: Foreign Ministry)
The masks were donated by the Milner Foundation, a nonprofit established by Israeli-Russian tech investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner alongside his wife Julia.
Based in Silicon Valley, Milner made a fortune as an early investor in many giants of the tech industry, including Facebook, Airbnb, Spotify, WhatsApp and Twitter, and has spoken up about the importance of wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“If we want to maintain our way of life, I would urge business leaders to consider adopting this practice even after the current acute phase of the crisis, and to provide their employees with masks for daily use in the office,” he said, adding that “wearing a mask – covering the mouth and nose – needs to be the new norm when we’re outside of our homes.
“In conjunction with hand-washing, social distancing and other measures, this should be our strategy to get through the current crisis until the scientists come to the rescue, and develop a reliable vaccine or treatment.”
Though he no longer resides in Israel, Milner is still very attached to the Jewish state, and has contributed significant funding to Israeli institutions working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Israel. Over the past month, the Milner Foundation announced a donation of $3 million to MDA, Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and George S. Wise Life Sciences and Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv for their efforts.
"Julia and I are honored to help Israel in a small way during these difficult times," Milner said.
Milner's donation was made possible through the efforts of the Foreign Ministry and Israel's Consul-General in San Francisco Shlomi Kofman.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz praised Milner for his help, calling him "a true friend of Israel."
“During these times, the Foreign Ministry is serving as a central actor, assisting in the acquisition of essential equipment for fighting coronavirus – whether that be acquiring medical equipment, or securing contributions that assist Israel in coping with the crisis,” Katz added.
“It is moving to see Israelis across the ocean supporting their country during this difficult period, and it is rare to see private foundations operating in this capacity,” Kofman said.
“Thanks to the Milner Foundation’s donation, thousands of Israelis, and public servants who are serving the general public during the crisis, will be able to wear masks – an essential and necessary item now in global shortage.”
The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and has since spread across the world, infecting millions of people and killing hundreds of thousands of victims. The virus is highly contagious, and many countries have instituted lockdown measures to help prevent the spread. However, it has also resulted in a major shortage of medical supplies, including surgical masks.
“The masks are an important tool in ensuring the safety of medics, paramedics and doctors, and no less important, the safety of ill patients that come into close contact with medical staff,” MDA director Eli Bin said.
“I would like to thank Yuri and Julia Milner and the Milner Foundation for their generous and significant contribution to Magen David Adom and to medical personnel across Israel. The donation will assist in the national struggle against the spread of coronavirus.”
Several institutions and facilities throughout the country are expected to receive masks aside from MDA. These include government institutions such as the Foreign, Transportation, Finance, Economy, Immigration and Religious Services ministries; national organizations such as Israel Railways, the postal service, the airports authority and essential security personnel; and several hospitals.
Regarding hospitals, efforts have been made to ensure that masks are sent hospitals in cities outside of Israel's central region. This includes Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center in the South, as well as Hadera's Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Haifa's Carmel Medical Center and Afula's Emek Medical Center in the north.