Audio for 4-3-2020

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Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-3-2020

News Update

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Deaths from the coronovirus in Israel have risen to 37. There are currently over 7,030 people known to be infected with the virus, 95 of whom are on ventilators. At least 357 patients have recovered.

The government has decided to lockdown the city Bnei Brak – a center of ultra-Orthodox Judaism – as the number of infected has surpassed 1,000 and continues to rise. IDF Border Police set up barricades and roadblocks to enforce the lockdown, allowing people to leave the city for medical reasons only. The government ordered the evacuation of around 4,500 people aged 80 and over from Bnei Brak to a hotel outside of the city.

Medical experts estimate that as many as 38% of Bnei Brak’s 200,000 residents are infected with coronavirus and that the city could soon account for as many as 30% of cases in Israel’s 8.7 million population. This is primarily due to Bnei Brak’s population density, which officials say is almost 100 times higher than the national average, and because many residents ignored the social distancing regulations.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (71) and his wife were diagnosed with coronavirus and are in isolation. PM Netanyahu and other senior officials, including the head of the Mossad, are also isolating as a result of having been in contact with Litzman.

Litzman, who is ultra-Orthodox, reportedly prayed at a synagogue with a minyan on March 28, three days after the Health Ministry’s directive that “no person should pray in a place other than his place of residence unless prayers are being conducted in an open space.” Testimony by residents in the haredi neighborhood in which Litzman lives suggests he violated the directives several other times.

Moreover, when the Knesset was being sworn in three weeks ago, Litzman was the only one who refused to have his temperature taken before entering the building.

Litzman denied all of the allegations.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-1-2020

News Update

To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)

Deaths from the coronovirus in Israel have risen to 21. There are currently over 5,591 people known to be infected with the virus, 76 of whom are on ventilators. At least 226 patients have recovered.

According to the latest data, while in most Israeli cities the number of coronavirus patients over the past 24 hours have increased by less than 15 cases, in Bnei Brak – a center of ultra-Orthodox Judaism – the number of infected is up by 159 to a total of 730. In Jerusalem the number of new cases over the past 24 hours has risen by 131, bringing the total number to 781. The dramatic rise in cases is likely a result of a lack of social distancing among many members of the ultra-Orthodox community, which included attending schools and yeshivas, synagogues and large weddings and funerals, while the rest of the country had already ceased those activities. The community is implementing social distancing measures now, for the most part, but the damage has, tragically, already been done.

For the first time in the country’s history, more than one million people in Israel – 24.1 percent of the workforce – are currently unemployed. 46% of these are under the age of 35.

The Defense Ministry said that it has converted a missile production facility to mass produce ventilators.

National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat and Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov have announced the outline for Israel’s exit strategy once the COVID-19 spread stabilizes, towards the end of April.

At the initial stage the restrictions will be lifted for at least two weeks, following which officials will assess the measures needed going forward. Schools and kindergartens, however, will remain closed for these first two weeks. Young people with no underlying health conditions, or those who have recovered from the virus will be allowed to return to their workplaces. The amount of coronavirus testing is also set to be significantly increased.

Ben-Shabbat said that his policy had four objectives:
1. Curbing the epidemic
2. Improving preparedness for the continued spread of coronavirus
3. Creating proper conditions to lift the current restrictions
4. A careful, slow and gradual forming of a daily routine that would be completely different to what the Israeli public has been accustomed to

Syrian media is reporting that Israeli plans attacked a Syrian military airfield near Homs last night. The Syrians claim to have intercepted several missiles. The airstrikes were reportedly launched from Lebanese airspace. There was no comment from Israel.

Audio for 4-1-2020

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Audio for 3-30-2020

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Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-30-2020

News Update

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Deaths from the coronovirus in Israel have risen to 16. There are currently over 4,300 people known to be infected with the virus, 69 of whom are on ventilators. Health Ministry officials warn of a shortage in ventilators, estimating that over 5,000 people will need them. There has been a 46% increase in severe cases needing ventilators in the past 24 hours.

An advisor to the PM has tested positive for the coronavirus. Rivka Paluch, who advises the PM on issues concerning ultra-Orthodox affairs, denies that she had any close contact with Netanyahu during their meeting at the Knesset and doubts she transmitted the disease to anyone.

The Prime Minister’s Office says they will follow Health Ministry guidelines in responding to this development. If Netanyahu spent more than 15 minutes with Paluch in the same room, he may be forced into a 14-day quarantine. Benny Gantz might also be forced to quarantine, since he met with Netanyahu over the weekend.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused IDF soldiers of deliberately spreading the coronavirus among the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Gantz are working on finalizing their agreement to form a unity government by negotiating the appointments of cabinet ministers. The number of cabinet ministers could reach as a high as a whopping 36. That’s because as more parties join the coalition, from both the right and left, the more ministerial prizes need to be doled out as rewards.

Gantz will most likely become defense minister, and it is assumed that Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Gantz’s partners, will be foreign minister. Labor party leader Amir Peretz will become the economy minister. Likud will get the finance ministry and the speaker of the Knesset. The other cabinet portfolios will be divided between right, left and ultra-Orthodox ministers.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-27-2020

News Update

To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)

Benny Gantz became the new speaker of the Knesset on Thursday with the support of the right-wing bloc. The vote in the Knesset was 74 to 18 with the rest abstaining. Yair Lapid, Gantz’s partner in Blue and White, instructed members of his Yesh Atid party to abstain in the vote.

Yesh Atid will remain in a political partnership with Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party. The two parties will work as one faction – and have already submitted the request dissolve Blue & White.

Gantz, who is close to reaching an agreement to join his Israel Resilience party (15 seats) in a unity government under PM Netanyahu, cited the coronavirus epidemic as the reason for his decision.

During the election campaign Gantz had ruled out serving with Netanyahu, but he lacked the support to form a center-left government. Under the proposed agreement between Gantz and the PM, Netanyahu would step down as prime minister within an agreed period, with Gantz then taking over.

The proposed unity government could possibly leave Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party out of the government.

In a speech after being elected Knesset speaker, Gantz said:

“These are not normal days. In these times of emergency, hundreds of thousands of citizens, who have lost their livelihood in recent days, are looking up to us. This emergency is also the climax of the worst and most complicated governmental and parliamentary crisis since the conception of the state. The only reason I decided to nominate myself for Knesset speaker today is to exhaust all available options to form a national emergency government.

I established Blue & White and I am very proud of that. I meant and would still be happy to do everything in my ability so we can keep walking down the same road. I call on all my possible political partners to act in the same way. Let’s not be mistaken, I will not settle for the principles that over a million citizens voted for. Netanyahu knows it well and we’ve proven in the last days. We will not compromise on democracy.”

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel has risen to 10. All of the fatalities were between the ages of 67 and 93 and had pre-existing health conditions. The total number of virus cases rose to 3,035.

The cabinet is deliberating whether to impose a total closure. The IDF will deploy 500 armed soldiers to accompany police to enforce Health Ministry regulations.

El Al has decided to halt all flights from Israel until April 4th.

The PM is set to review an NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) aid package for the Israeli economy drawn up by the Finance Ministry to confront the corona crisis.

The package will include billions in unemployment payments to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have registered with the National Employment Service in recent weeks, billions more in funds for the health system, an aid fund for small businesses affected by the pandemic, grants for freelancers, grants for workers over the age of 67, and more.

The Bank of Israel and retail banks have said they will take a series of policy measures to mitigate damage to the economy, including buying government bonds, offering repo transactions, delaying mortgage payments, offering loans to small and mid-sized businesses, expanding digital services for remote transactions, and providing courier services to customers in quarantine.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-25-2020

News Update

The number of deaths in Israel related to the coronavirus has risen to 5, with the total cases rising to 2030. The health ministry has conducted 32,346 coronavirus tests. Stricter government guidelines to enforce social distancing will come into effect today. The restrictions include shutting down public transportation and prohibiting people from walking more than 100 meters from their homes.

Over 800,000 workers, 90% of whom are employees placed on unpaid leave, have filed for unemployment benefits. According to Bank of Israel estimates, current measures to contain the coronavirus are likely to result in an unemployment rate of approximately 7% – an overall increase of 150,000 people – by the end of 2020. Unemployment stood at about 4% prior to the outbreak.

A group of 14 sefardic orthodox rabbis have issued a ruling permitting people to use video streaming software Zoom to share their Passover seders with elderly relatives who cannot join them in person. The software must be opened before the holiday begins. Many rabbis, including Israel’s ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Tzohar head Rabbi Stav, have called the ruling wrong and irresponsible.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) resigned from his post today after being ordered by the High Court of Justice to convene the parliament to hold a vote on his replacement. Before resigning, Edelstein adjourned the Knesset until Monday. He plans on appealing the court’s decision.

The resignation effectively ends any hope of a unity government being formed as Blue & White prepares to replace the speaker with a member of their own party, a condition that Likud finds unacceptable.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-20-2020

News Update

There isn’t much “new” to tell you about today. Coronovirus cases are at 1,238 and continue to rise. More businesses are cutting back or shutting down, including McDonald’s and Amazon delivery.

Meanwhile, the Knesset will come into session today, with only 6 MK’s being allowed to vote at a time, to maintain social distancing. Knesset Speaker Yuri Edelstein has shut down the Knesset last week to prevent the opposition from voting him out of his job and replacing him. Will he close down the Knesset again to keep himself and PM Netanyahu in power indefinitely? To read more about the present political situation, click here.

IDF troops opened fire on 2 terrorists who threw rocks at vehicles on the 446 highway in the Binyamin region. Both terrorists were wounded. One died and the other managed to flee.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-20-2020

News Update

Israel’s government has placed the country under lockdown for at least 7 days. The lockdown will be enforced by police. Israelis must stay at home, except for the following reasons:

1. Getting to and from a workplace, subject to the fact that the workplace can operate in accordance with the regulations separately laid down for that purpose.

2. Equipping and purchasing of foods, medicines, products and other basic or essential services.

3. Getting medical service.

4. Blood donation.

5. Demonstration.

6. Legal process.

7. Individual sports activity, except for members of the same family unit.

8. Exiting a place of residence for a short time and going to a place nearby by a single person or persons of the same family unit staying together in one place.

9. Leaving for a religious ceremony, including a wedding or funeral, as well as a prayer service for up to 10 people keeping a distance of two meters from each other.

10. Leaving in order to provide assistance to another person who has a medical problem or other difficulty requiring support.

11. Leaving for another essential purpose.

Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov warned that the battle against the coronavirus has only started and there is a long way ahead.

There are currently 705 Israelis known to be infected with the coronavirus. Of that number, 662 have light symptoms, 18 are in moderate condition, 10 are in serious condition and 15 have recovered. There are 271 people in hospital, 149 are being treated at home, 58 are being treated in a specially designated hotel and 212 are awaiting a decision on how they will be treated. Health officials expect a significant rise in cases as the rate of testing for the virus increases.