14 days: from the corona crisis to the 14th happiest country

A compilation of Israel's news, both good and bad, in the last two weeks.

Yuli Edelstein (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yuli Edelstein
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Edelstein quits:
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein defiantly announced his resignation on March 25 rather than accede to a High Court of Justice to hold a vote to replace him. It marked the first resignation of a parliamentary speaker in Israel’s history. The High Court ruled two days earlier that Edelstein must hold a vote for the Blue and White party to put someone else in his place. In a dramatic move, the Knesset replaced him with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who was due to hand over the position of Speaker under a unity deal reached with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 


Corona lockdown:

Under a nationwide shutdown that went into effect on the night of March 25 after being approved by the government, Israelis were banned from walking more than 100 meters (109 yards) from their homes to avoid the spread of coronavirus, with the threat of fines. In addition, they were ordered only to leave home for vital work and essential purchases, especially those over the age of 60. By March 30, 13 Israelis had died of COVID-19 and more than 4,000 diagnosed with it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Mossad Director Yossi Cohen to lead a National Emergency Team to oversee efforts to purchase medical equipment, especially ventilators, to treat patients.

Corona deaths:

Several leading figures in the Jewish world died of coronavirus in March: New York Rabbi Avraham “Romi” Cohn, who recently led the US House of Representatives in prayer and saved 56 families as a young partisan during the Holocaust, was 91; Chabad Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson, who led the Jewish community in Leeds, England, for more than four decades, was 73; Rabbi Neil Kraft, the US-born rabbi of Edgware in the UK, was André Touboul, a French Chabad leader who served as principal of the Beit Hanna secondary school in Paris, was 64; and Michele Sciama, a former leader of Milan’s Jewish community, was 79. 

Comptroller report:

The Israeli healthcare system was “not fully prepared” for an influenza epidemic that could infect a quarter of the country’s nine million citizens, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman warned in a report published on March 23. Englman highlighted the lack of a detailed program to deal with a shortage of medical staff and supplies, beds and equipment needed to cope with such a situation. “Given that this is a real threat to the State of Israel, the Health Ministry – in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the National Emergency Authority – must determine a possible and appropriate way for Israel to prepare for an influenza epidemic,” he said.

Lung operations:

In the first operation of its kind, surgeons at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus recently removed a patient’s cancerous lung, cleared it of a tumor, and placed it back into the body. After the lung was reattached, the patient - a man in his forties – began a rehabilitation procedure and was reported to be in good condition. “The new method may change the way patients treat cancer in the world,” said Prof. Dan Arav, director of the Heart and Chest Department, who performed the surgery alongside Dr. Yuri Faisschowitz, director of the Chiropractic Unit. “The idea has now been shown to be effective in lung cancer and may later be applied to other organs and other forms of cancer.”

Happy country:

Israel was named the 14th happiest country in the world by the United Nations’ eighth World Happiness Report. The rankings – headed by Finland, Denmark and Switzerland – were based on Gallup World Poll surveys from 2017-19. “Time and again, we see the reasons for well-being include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments and health lives,” said Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. In the first ranking of cities, Tel Aviv was ranked the eighth-happiest city in the world, while Jerusalem came in 33rd place. Helsinki was in top place, while Gaza City was said to be the unhappiest. 

Parrot's warning:

Luca, a 22-month-old gray parrot in Kiryat Shmona, conveyed a message in Hebrew for a world gripped by the coronavirus crisis. “Don’t go out!” she squawks. “There is corona. It’s dangerous.” Luca’s owner, Zehava Shabat, told Reuters that she and her husband had spent several days teaching their talking bird the new words, adding that it might help children cope with the crisis. “For kids, when they see a parrot, the message is positive. They will understand it, in a positive way.”