Israeli tech fights climate change

timesofisrael.com

World Bank envoy: Israeli tech to help build greener future in pandemic recovery

Israel’s history of coping with environmental challenges and its creative startup culture have sparked the interest of the World Bank and put Israeli firms in a good position to secure lucrative investments and make an impact

By Luke Tress

The developing world’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity for a greener, more sustainable future, and Israeli technology will play a key part in the process, said Israel’s envoy to the World Bank, Yovav Gavish.

Israel’s history of coping with environmental challenges and its creative startup culture have sparked the interest of the World Bank and put Israeli firms in a good position to secure lucrative investments and make an impact, Gavish said.

“There is huge potential there because Israel has faced many of the challenges that developing countries are now facing. Drought, water shortages, energy dependency,” he said.

 

Gavish spoke with The Times of Israel shortly before he accompanied the bank’s president, David Malpass, on a Wednesday visit to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials.

The bank, founded in 1944, counts 189 countries as members and seeks to alleviate extreme poverty and promote sustainable prosperity by providing financial assistance to poorer countries, among other measures. It is one of the leading sources of financing and knowledge for developing countries.

COVID-19 rolled back years of progress in the developing world, pushing roughly 100 million more people into extreme poverty in 2020, 161 million more people into food shortages and 1.6 billion children out of school, the bank said in a recent report. Over 100 million more people are expected to fall into extreme poverty, living on under $1.90 per day, in 2021.

The vaccination rate for many developing countries remains in the single digits, and governments lack the resources for the kind of hefty stimulus packages that have spurred economic recovery in wealthier nations.

Brazilians wait in line for food donated by the Covid Without Hunger organization in the Jardim Gramacho slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

The World Bank has deployed $157 billion to combat the pandemic’s toll and is working in 142 countries. The bank defines a country as low income if it has a gross national per capita income of under $1,045, while lower-middle-income countries earn up to $4,095 per capita. Twenty-seven countries are designated as low-income economies, and 55 are considered lower-middle-income.

The pandemic, alongside the climate chaos of the past year, has opened some opportunities, said Gavish, who holds a board position with the bank, where he deals with international projects and handles bank issues related to Israel, including investments and international cooperative efforts.

The bank has developed a plan, dubbed the Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) strategy, for pandemic recovery.

Israel’s envoy to the World Bank, Yovav Gavish. (Courtesy)

“We look at it as an opportunity because, first, it’s a wake-up call for many how important the green agenda is, and we see it today with all the climate-related cases, whether it’s fires, flooding, hurricanes, drought,” Gavish said. “Since we have to start the economy again we see it as an opportunity for increasing investment in a more climate-friendly and inclusive way.”

The plan is in accord with the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change and aims to help fulfill the agreement’s sustainable development goals.

Reaching those goals would cost over $3 trillion per year, necessitating private sector investment and new technology, Gavish said.

“We cannot rely on traditional technologies. There needs to be some kind of a disruption, and this is where we see Israel and Israeli solutions come into play,” he said, adding that Israel has coped with many of those issues with innovativeness  and creativity in the fields of agricultural technology, water technology, digital health and other areas.

Farmers watch an encroaching fire after digging trenches to keep the flames from spreading to the farm in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides loans, equity and advisory services to boost private sector investments in developing countries. The IFC is one of the world’s leading investors in emerging markets; it made $22 billion in long-term financial commitments in 2020. Around $1.5 billion of that sum went to startups and disruptive technologies for smaller firms with both higher risk and greater potential.

The organization has become more interested in Israeli technologies, mainly in the fields of agriculture, water and digital health, which all intersect with the climate crisis, along with energy technology.

The World Bank has focused its attention on Africa more than any other area, with around 30 percent of its portfolio in the region, since poverty will grow the most there in the coming decade. Many startups are eager to work in Africa, where there is less competition but significant capital investment from governments, multinational companies and aid organizations that work with small farmers.

Digital health has become a focus for the IFC, and although Israel is a leader in the field, most of the Israeli technology is geared toward countries with more advanced infrastructure, limiting its usefulness in developing countries.

For startups, investments from the IFC provide funding, prestige and opportunity, Gavish said.

“It’s not only the environmental impact, but there’s a huge business opportunity for technologies that can do carbon capture, for renewable energies, agriculture, water, you name it,” he said.

World Bank President David Malpass speaks during a news conference at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

World Bank president Malpass met with Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and a roundtable of digital health startups to discuss regional cooperation, trade facilitation and collaboration on health and technology during his whirlwind visit on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, he visited Sudan, Jordan and the West Bank.

IFC investments in Israel so far include the agriculture technology companies SeeTree and Netafim.

SeeTree provides services to farmers, powered by artificial intelligence, that identify the health and growth rate of trees and provide information for growth plans, including tracking for pests and diseases and the best time to harvest. The technology greatly improves yields, which in turn increases farmer income and allows for better planning and marketing. The IFC invested $8 million in the company.

The organization committed $69 million to Netafim, a global leader in irrigation technology, to help the company expand into sub-Saharan Africa, China and Turkey. Netafim’s drip irrigation enables greater agricultural yields with less water, which will help water-scarce areas better meet food demands, become more resilient to drought and boost income.

At the IFC’s Transformational Business Awards event for 2020, 11 of the 35 finalists were from Israel, and in 2019, six Israeli startups were chosen out of 270 global firms for awards in a number of categories.

Israel has also funded a program the IFC managed called TechEmerge that matches innovative technology solutions with emerging markets. Eight Israeli firms have been shortlisted for pilot programs through the initiative.

“The trend globally for impact investing is growing, and in Israel there are so many opportunities emerging, so I think there is a huge opportunity to be an impact nation and not just a startup nation,” Gavish said.

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Palestinians promote hatred

Palestinians Promote Hatred and Revisionist History

Many Palestinians have been so successfully radicalized by their leaders that they want to see Israel removed from the face of the earth. Hate has been embedded so successfully that they would rather see their people suffer and die than accept any accommodation with Israel.

  • Reprinted from Daily Alert,  September 9, 2021
  • Why U.S. Aid to the PA Will Not Bring Peace – Khaled Abu Toameh
    As the Biden administration steps up its efforts to bolster the Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinians seem to be increasingly losing faith in their leaders. Many are even saying that they support the annulment of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and that the only peace process they would support is one that leads to the elimination of Israel.
    U.S. financial aid may prop up the PA in the short term. In the long term, however, U.S. dollars will not restore the Palestinians’ confidence in Abbas or the PA leadership. U.S. dollars will not drive Palestinians to accept Israel’s right to exist. The same applies to similar Israeli gestures.
    According to the latest polling, many Palestinians have been so successfully radicalized by their leaders that they want to see Israel removed from the face of the earth. Hate has been embedded so successfully that they would rather see their people suffer and die than accept any accommodation with Israel.
    The only way to change this brutal reality is by halting the messages of hate and the delegitimization of Israel. Until that happens, Palestinians will continue to pocket money from the U.S. and other Western donors, while at the same time moving closer to Hamas and further from any peace with Israel. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Palestinianism and the New Anti-Semitism – Richard L. Cravatts
    A current propaganda campaign seeks to enshrine Palestinianism, in which the suffering of Palestinians trumps the historic suffering and dispossession of the Jews. It is based on the wholesale, deliberate appropriation of the language and symbols of the Jews by the foes who wish to eradicate not only the Jewish past, but the very existence of the Jewish state. Thus, the actual genocide of European Jewry during the Holocaust is either minimized or denied by the Arab world at the same time that Israel is denounced for committing a new “holocaust” against the Palestinians.
    While Arab aggression and homicidal impulses against Jews have been unrelenting, before and since the creation of Israel, Palestinianism has been successful in casting the Arab Palestinians as the perennial victim of Jewish supremacism, even though the aims of the Islamists to establish a Muslim-only state in historic Palestine is the very form of self-determination that is repeatedly decried on the part of Israel for being racist, inhumane, internationally criminal, and morally unacceptable.
    The writer is President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). (Times of Israel)

 

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World will suffer from Afghanistan debacle

jpost.com

Afghanistan: ‘America will pay a price for years to come,’ say experts

“The news and images so far suggest considerable damage to the moral leadership of the US in the world,” Henderson said. “The decision to withdraw after 20 years was at least explicable. The implementation has been a disaster.”

By OMRI NAHMIAS   AUGUST 16, 2021

WASHINGTON – The US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan has cast a shadow over the Biden administration’s foreign policy. That the Taliban easily drove through Kabul to recapture the presidential palace is a blow for the administrations’ assessment.

On July 8, Biden was asked whether he believed a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable. “No, it is not,” he said. “The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped – as well-equipped as any army in the world – and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.”

“Do I trust the Taliban? No,” Biden continued. “But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”

It turned out to be yet another miscalculation by the US in Afghanistan. How didn’t the US see this coming? What could be the regional implications of the withdrawal?

The White House didn’t see this coming, “but the intelligence community almost certainly did,” Simon Henderson, a Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, told The Jerusalem Post.

“President Biden seems to have seen the withdrawal as important to his political reputation,” he said. “Perhaps, but he has made a huge mistake for the reputation of the United States. We will have to wait for leaks about which of his advisers suggested caution and who encouraged him.”

“The news and images so far suggest considerable damage to the moral leadership of the US in the world,” Henderson said. “The decision to withdraw after 20 years was at least explicable. The implementation has been a disaster.”

Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in US defense strategy, the use of military force and American national security policy.

“Some did see it coming,” he told the Post. “But President Biden decided it was okay to run this risk.”

“I disagree with him strongly and yet suspect that the damage for broader US foreign policy will be limited,” he said. “This was a special case.”

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said there is a significant disconnect between policy-makers and the military regarding the situation in Afghanistan, to say nothing of intelligence.

“Anyone with their eyes open could see this outcome coming from a mile away,” he told the Post. “But the political leadership wanted their withdrawal. This is a sign of poor interagency coordination, to put it mildly. To put it more bluntly, this is policy malpractice that was preventable. It will cost thousands of lives.”

“America will pay a price for this botched withdrawal for years to come,” Schanzer said. “The resurgence of the Taliban will have an impact on the global jihadist movement, which is now energized. The perception of a feckless America will embolden revisionist powers like China and Russia.

“Meanwhile, America’s allies in the Middle East are watching nervously, wondering when the next withdrawal may take place and whether that will leave them more exposed. This will prompt consideration of new alliance structures.”

According to John Hannah, a senior fellow at JINSA and a former US official, “As soon as President Biden announced last spring that US troops were abandoning Afghanistan, the final chapter that we’re watching unfold of a complete Taliban takeover was written.”

“Almost everyone inside the US government who studied Afghanistan closely understood this was coming if the US military very rapidly withdrew all support for the Afghan security forces, especially close air support and logistics,” he told the Post. “I don’t believe this was a major intelligence failure by the US military and intelligence agencies. They fully understood this could happen. It was purely a political decision by President Biden to ignore these warnings.”

“Biden has considered Afghanistan a lost cause and drain on US resources for more than a decade,” Hannah said. “He saw in former president [Donald] Trump’s commitment to have all US troops out by May 1, which he inherited, as a unique opportunity to fulfill his long-standing desire to end America’s military involvement in Afghanistan, and he jumped on it.”

“Biden made a conscious decision to accept that risk and the potential damage it could inflict on American foreign policy, as well as on his political support in the United States,” he said. “He likely believes that while the majority of the American people will feel badly about the horrors that now await the Afghan people, they will ultimately be supportive of the decision to finally end this forever war and stop pouring more US blood and treasure into what they consider a lost cause.”

“The total collapse of Afghanistan and return of the Taliban is a foreign-policy disaster for the United States,” Hannah said.

“The risk of Islamist terrorism will very likely increase, not just against governments throughout the Muslim world, but against the West as well,” he said. “American adversaries in places like Iran, Russia and China will be emboldened by the US defeat and humiliation and will seek to take advantage by filling the perceived vacuum of US leadership.

“American allies in the Middle East and around the world, who have hitched their own deterrence and security to US power and credibility, will shudder in concern and fear over what America’s abandonment of its long-standing allies in Afghanistan means for them,” Hannah said.

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Vaccines are not the answer

sciencemag.org

A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta

In Israel, the current surge is so steep that “even if you get two-thirds of those 60-plus [boosted], it’s just gonna give us another week, maybe 2 weeks until our hospitals are flooded.”

By Meredith Wadman,  Aug. 16, 2021

Medical staff at a COVID-19 isolation unit in Ashkelon, Israel, last week. Officials worry a steep surge in cases will soon fill Israeli hospitals.  Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua/Getty Images

“Now is a critical time,” Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz said as the 56-year-old got a COVID-19 booster shot on 13 August, the day his country became the first nation to offer a third dose of vaccine to people as young as age 50. “We’re in a race against the pandemic.”

His message was meant for his fellow Israelis, but it is a warning to the world. Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine. Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.

The sheer number of vaccinated Israelis means some breakthrough infections were inevitable, and the unvaccinated are still far more likely to end up in the hospital or die. But Israel’s experience is forcing the booster issue onto the radar for other nations, suggesting as it does that even the best vaccinated countries will face a Delta surge

“This is a very clear warning sign for the rest of world,” says Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services (CHS), Israel’s largest health maintenance organization (HMO). “If it can happen here, it can probably happen everywhere.”

Israel is being closely watched now because it was one of the first countries out of the gate with vaccinations in December 2020 and quickly achieved a degree of population coverage that was the envy of other nations— for a time. The nation of 9.3 million also has a robust public health infrastructure and a population wholly enrolled in HMOs that track them closely, allowing it to produce high-quality, real-world data on how well vaccines are working.

“I watch [Israeli data] very, very closely because it is some of the absolutely best data coming out anywhere in the world,” says David O’Connor, a viral sequencing expert at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Israel is the model,” agrees Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research. “It’s pure mRNA [messenger RNA] vaccines. It’s out there early. It’s got a very high level population [uptake]. It’s a working experimental lab for us to learn from.”

Israel’s HMOs, led by CHS and Maccabi Healthcare Services (MHS), track demographics, comorbidities, and a trove of coronavirus metrics on infections, illnesses, and deaths. “We have rich individual-level data that allows us to provide real-world evidence in near–real time,” Balicer says. (The United Kingdom also compiles a wealth of data. But its vaccination campaign ramped up later than Israel’s, making its current situation less reflective of what the future may portend; and it has used three different vaccines, making its data harder to parse.)

Now, the effects of waning immunity may be beginning to show in Israelis vaccinated in early winter; a preprint published last month by physician Tal Patalon and colleagues at KSM, the research arm of MHS, found that protection from COVID-19 infection during June and July dropped in proportion to the length of time since an individual was vaccinated. People vaccinated in January had a 2.26 times greater risk for a breakthrough infection than those vaccinated in April. (Potential confounders include the fact that the very oldest Israelis, with the weakest immune systems, were vaccinated first.)

At the same time, cases in the country, which were scarcely registering at the start of summer, have been doubling every week to 10 days since then, with the Delta variant responsible for most of them. They have now soared to their highest level since mid-February, with hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions beginning to follow. How much of the current surge is due to waning immunity versus the power of the Delta variant to spread like wildfire is uncertain.

What is clear is that “breakthrough” cases are not the rare events the term implies. As of 15 August, 514 Israelis were hospitalized with severe or critical COVID-19, a 31% increase from just 4 days earlier. Of the 514, 59% were fully vaccinated. Of the vaccinated, 87% were 60 or older. “There are so many breakthrough infections that they dominate and most of the hospitalized patients are actually vaccinated,” says Uri Shalit, a bioinformatician at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) who has consulted on COVID-19 for the government. “One of the big stories from Israel [is]: ‘Vaccines work, but not well enough.’”

“The most frightening thing to the government and the Ministry of Health is the burden on hospitals,” says Dror Mevorach, who cares for COVID-19 patients at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and advises the government. At his hospital, he is lining up anesthesiologists and surgeons to spell his medical staff in case they become overwhelmed by a wave like January’s, when COVID-19 patients filled 200 beds. “The staff is exhausted,” he says, and he has restarted a weekly support group for them “to avoid some kind of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] effect.”

To try to tame the surge, Israel has turned to booster shots, starting on 30 July with people 60 and older and, last Friday, expanding to people 50 and older. As of Monday, nearly 1 million Israelis had received a third dose, according to the Ministry of Health. Global health leaders including Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, have pleaded with developed countries not to administer boosters given that most of the world’s population hasn’t received even a single dose. The wealthy nations pondering or already administering booster vaccines so far mostly reserve them for special populations such as the immune compromised and health care workers.

Still, studies suggest boosters might have broader value. Researchers have shown that boosting induces a prompt surge in antibodies, which are needed in the nose and throat as a crucial first line of defense against infection. The Israeli government’s decision to start boosting those 50 and older was driven by preliminary Ministry of Health data indicating people over age 60 who have received a third dose were half as likely as their twice-vaccinated peers to be hospitalized in recent days, Mevorach says. CHS also reported that out of a sample of more than 4500 patients who received boosters, 88% said any side effects from the third shot were no worse, and sometimes milder, than from the second.

Yet boosters are unlikely to tame a Delta surge on their own, says Dvir Aran, a biomedical data scientist at Technion. In Israel, the current surge is so steep that “even if you get two-thirds of those 60-plus [boosted], it’s just gonna give us another week, maybe 2 weeks until our hospitals are flooded.” He says it’s also critical to vaccinate those who still haven’t received their first or second doses, and to return to the masking and social distancing Israel thought it had left behind—but has begun to reinstate.

Aran’s message for the United States and other wealthier nations considering boosters is stark: “Do not think that the boosters are the solution.”

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Energy budget must be balanced

theconversation.com

Earth’s energy budget is out of balance – here’s how that’s warming the climate

Our climate is determined by these energy flows. When the amount of energy coming in is more than the energy going out, the planet warms up.

By Scott Denning

You probably remember your grade school science teachers explaining that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. That’s a fundamental property of the universe.

Energy can be transformed, however. When the Sun’s rays reach Earth, they are transformed into random motions of molecules that you feel as heat. At the same time, Earth and the atmosphere are sending radiation back into space. The balance between the incoming and outgoing energy is known as Earth’s “energy budget.”

Our climate is determined by these energy flows. When the amount of energy coming in is more than the energy going out, the planet warms up.

That can happen in a few ways, such as when sea ice that normally reflects solar radiation back into space disappears and the dark ocean absorbs that energy instead. It also happens when greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere and trap some of the energy that otherwise would have radiated away.

Scientists like me have been measuring the Earth’s energy budget since the 1980s using instruments on satellites, in the air and oceans, and on the ground. It’s an important part of the new climate assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released Aug. 9, 2021.

Here’s a closer look at how energy flows and what the energy budget tells us about how and why the planet is warming.

Balancing energy from the Sun

Virtually all the energy in the Earth’s climate system comes from the Sun. Only a tiny fraction is conducted upward from the Earth’s interior.

On average, the planet receives 340.4 watts of sunshine per square meter. All sunshine falls on the daytime side, and the numbers are much higher at local noon.

Of that 340.4 watts per square meter:

  • 99.9 watts are reflected back into space by clouds, dust, snow and the Earth’s surface.
  • The remaining 240.5 watts are absorbed – about a quarter by the atmosphere and the rest by the surface of the planet. This radiation is transformed into thermal energy within the Earth system.

Almost all of the absorbed energy is matched by energy emitted back into space. However, a residual now accumulates as global warming. That residual has increased, from just under 0.6 watts per square meter at the end of the last century to 0.79 in 2006-2018, according to the latest data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The vast majority of that is now heating the oceans. While it might sound like a small number, that energy adds up.

Illustration of how energy flows to Earth's surface and away from it.
Earth’s energy budget. New measurements shows the accumulated residual has increased. NASA

The atmosphere absorbs a lot of energy and emits it as radiation both into space and back down to the planet’s surface. In fact, Earth’s surface gets almost twice as much radiation from the atmosphere as it does from direct sunshine. That’s primarily because the Sun heats the surface only during the day, while the warm atmosphere is up there 24/7.

Together, the energy reaching Earth’s surface from the Sun and from the atmosphere is about 504 watts per square meter. Earth’s surface emits about 79% of that back out. The remaining surface energy goes into evaporating water and warming the air, oceans and land.

The residual between incoming sunshine and outgoing infrared is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the air. These gases are transparent to sunlight but opaque to infrared rays – they absorb and emit a lot of infrared rays back down.

Earth’s surface temperature must increase in response until the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation is restored.

What does this mean for global temperatures?

Doubling of carbon dioxide would add 3.7 watts of heat to every square meter of the Earth. Imagine old-fashioned incandescent night lights spaced every 3 feet over the entire world, left on forever.

At the current rate of emissions, greenhouse gas levels would double from preindustrial levels by the middle of the century.

Climate scientists calculate that adding this much heat to the world would warm Earth’s climate by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 C). Preventing this would require replacing fossil fuel combustion, the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, with other forms of energy.

Earth’s energy budget is at the heart of the new IPCC climate assessment, written by hundreds of scientists reviewing the latest research. With knowledge of what’s changing, everyone can make better choices to preserve the climate as we know it.


Read more: IPCC climate report: Profound changes are underway in Earth’s oceans and ice – a lead author explains what the warnings mean


This article was updated Aug. 9, 2021, with details from the new IPCC report.

Disclosure statement

Scott Denning has received funding from NOAA, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Energy.

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Ice Cream becomes controversial

Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott

The Ben & Jerry’s controversy isn’t about ice cream. It’s about terrorism and bigotry and the worst type of double standards that demonize the Jewish homeland and the people who live there.

Reprinted from Daily Alert, July 29, 2021

    • Ben and Jerry’s Rejected Pro-Peace Alternatives to Israel Boycott – Shiryn Ghermezian
      Susannah Levin, a graphic designer for Ben & Jerry’s for 21 years, told StandWithUs on Sunday that when she learned that the company was considering divesting from the West Bank, she proposed an alternate plan to a company executive. Levin suggested supporting a grassroots organization that promotes peace and coexistence, or backing Israeli and Palestinian educational organizations fighting hatred and incitement. She also proposed opening a partner shop in Ramallah and Jewish West Bank areas for both Palestinians and Israelis.
      Levin quit after the company moved forward with boycotting Israel. Since then, she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received. “People are calling me a hero. I’m just a Jew. I’m a person with some integrity. I decided to start speaking up because…I want people to know that other Jews or other people who care deeply for the Jewish people, you can speak up….Maybe I had an effect. At least I know that they heard something from the other side.”  (Algemeiner)
    • The Ben and Jerry’s Dispute Isn’t about Ice Cream – Dan Schnur
      The Ben & Jerry’s controversy isn’t about ice cream. It’s about terrorism and bigotry and the worst type of double standards that demonize the Jewish homeland and the people who live there. It’s the latest front in the ongoing battle that uses the threat of economic boycott and sanctions to pressure Israel into agreeing to empower its enemies and expose its citizens to an even greater threat of danger and death. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
    • BDS and Jerry’s – Editorial
      We’re not clear how exactly removing Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from grocery stores in the West Bank will benefit the Palestinians. The move appears to be primarily an act of guerrilla theater and a demonstration of base prejudice. The most common expression of anti-Semitism is the application of double standards to Jews and the Jewish state.
      There is no comparison between Israeli policy in the West Bank and the practices of the world’s greatest human rights abusers. Unilever happily does business in Northern Cyprus, occupied Tibet, and Xinjiang, home to Uyghur concentration camps. We won’t hold our breath for the ice cream boycott of China. But hey, there are no Jews in Xinjiang. We urge friends of Israel and the Jewish people to vote with their spoons. (Washington Free Beacon)
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Haredim don’t represent Judaism

blogs.timesofisrael.com

God doesn’t wear a Borsolino

Let’s not allow the Haredi community to kidnap the Judaism, which belongs to the entire Jewish people. That would be a tragic theft. The idea that haredi’ut defines Judaism is historically false and religiously wrong — and it does violence to our Jewish identity. The truth is that many of the central practices of the Haredi community run squarely against what God, the Torah, and the talmudic rabbis demand of Jews, and what will sustain Israel going forward.

Eugene Korn
Eugene Korn
Times of Israel, July 14, 20121

God may be in Bnei Brak, but He is also in Israel’s policy-making government offices, pushing justice, fairness, and well-being for the entire Jewish people

In her July 9 blog post, Shulamit Magnus pronounced that the staunch secularist, Avigdor Liberman, is “doing God’s work.” The finance minister has decreed that Israel will no longer give child care subsidies to families in which one parent does not hold paid employment of at least 24 hours a week. The measure targets the Haredi sector — specifically married men who claim to study Torah all day. If Liberman’s plan holds, the families of such kollelniks will be denied these subsidies.

Magnus’ formulation accomplishes a quiet, but highly significant, linguistic and conceptual shift. Note that she did not argue on nationalist grounds that extending state subsidies to kollel families is unfair and wrong, she did so on religious grounds. God may be present in the study halls of Bnei Brak, but God is also present in the Knesset and government offices that make policy for the Jewish state. God is at work in these “secular” ministries because of the Torah’s commitment to justice, fairness and the welfare of the entire Jewish people. Tsedek, tsedek tirdof! (“Justice, justice you shall pursue”) commands the God of Israel.

In other words, Haredim and their politicians should not define Judaism for us. There is a widespread dangerous illusion, particularly among secular Israelis, that even if you do not agree with Haredim, they ”keep Israel Jewish,” and so the Jewish state should accede to some of their demands. This is a bit like Golda’s myopic statement, “I don’t go to shul, but the shul I don’t go to is Orthodox.”

Let’s not allow the Haredi community to kidnap the Judaism, which belongs to the entire Jewish people. That would be a tragic theft. The idea that haredi’ut defines Judaism is historically false and religiously wrong — and it does violence to our Jewish identity. The truth is that many of the central practices of the Haredi community run squarely against what God, the Torah, and the talmudic rabbis demand of Jews, and what will sustain Israel going forward.

The Mishna (Avot 2:2) cites R. Gamliel, who counsels Jews to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, warning us that not having an occupation brings about sin. Elsewhere, the Talmud (Kiddushin 29a) quotes Rabbi Yehuda: A father who does not teach his son a trade in effect teaches him thievery because when a person has no profession he is likely to turn to stealing. Maimonides concurs, adding that one who studies Torah exclusively and lives on handouts “profanes God’s Name” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Talmud Torah 3:1). It is important to recognize that the talmudic rabbis and those thereafter worked for a living. For example, Shimon ben Shetach was in the flax tradeR. Yehoshua was a tailor, Rashi was a vintner, Rambam and Ramban were physicians, and the Chofetz Chaim ran a store. So working Israelis who contribute to Israel’s social and financial structure are the ones following Jewish tradition and doing a religious deed, while Jews who refuse to work are bringing sin to Israel. The Talmud (Yoma 86a) condemns the Torah scholar who buys merchandise and pays later, because it appears to others that he is taking without paying. That scholar, says the Talmud, cannot repent for his sins because, through his behavior, he has caused people to despise the Torah. If so, what are we to say of the current practice of some Jews who benefit from government defense and subsidies, but pay no taxes and do not contribute to larger Israeli society? Judaism demands that those who take also give, that those who benefit also contribute.

Last week’s Torah reading provides another essential criterion of correct Judaism: “Will your brothers go out to war while you remain here?” asks Moses rhetorically (Bamidbar 32:6). He was stunned by such an irresponsible request by the two tribes that asked to settle on the other side of the Jordan River, and would not countenance some Jews risking their lives, while others remained comfortably ensconced in their safe homes, far from the battlefield.

Judaism demands that all of us defend our people. It is more than a civic duty; it is a religious obligation. Jewish religious law is clear: when the people of Israel fight an existential defensive war (“milkehemet mitsvah”) everyone—without exception—must fight. Even a bride is required to leave her chuppah to contribute to the national defense. So when Israelis serve in the IDF, they should understand their service not only in nationalist terms, but also as a truly Jewish religious act, a mitzvah.

The Mishna also demands that Jews not separate themselves from society (Avot 2:4). Being a responsible and integral part of the Jewish collective is a religious and moral imperative. Maimonides even rules that someone who separates himself from the community has no share in the world to come. Ultimately, the Talmud and the traditional rabbis categorically rejected Shimon bar Yochai’s model of leaving the community to live a solitary life in a cave and learning Torah to the exclusion of any practical knowledge. They knew that such monastic isolation serves only yourself, not God. Separatism is a selfish sin.

This is not a new insight. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook understood it 100 years ago when he claimed that the early secular halutzim were doing holy work by returning to the land God promised them, and that religious quietists who stayed in the study halls of the diaspora were actually contravening God’s plan for His people.

Similarly, all Israelis today — religious and non-religious alike — should appreciate the dedication and toil of those who serve in the IDF and those in government who demand fairness and justice in Israeli society. They are “doing God’s work,” whether or not they wear kippot. And as the prophet Micha tells us, following God’s demands does not mean growing payot, wearing long coats, or voting for religious parties. God’s work means doing justice, being compassionate, and acting humbly before God.

Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn is the former Academic Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding in Jerusalem, and senior research fellow at Bet Morasha of Jerusalem’s Institute for Religion and Society. His forthcoming book, “To Be a Holy People: Jewish Tradition and Ethical Values” will appear in 2021.

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who is getting sick from COVID

jpost.com

Who is most likely to develop severe COVID-19 even after a second jab

“Overall, we can say that the main thing is that these are not healthy people,” Brosh told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. “Almost all of them (96%) had comorbidities: heart disease, lung disease, renal disease, dementia, cancer, or other common ailments. So, people who get breakthrough infections and are admitted are sicker than a usual person.”

.By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN   JULY 14, 2021
Reprinted from Jerusalem Post

Older individuals with many underlying medical conditions and immunosuppression are more likely to contract coronavirus and would develop a severe case of COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated, according to a world-first study conducted in Israel.

A minority of vaccinated individuals will contract coronavirus and a small percentage of those will end up hospitalized because of the virus. This is called a breakthrough infection.

But who are these people?

A team of Israeli doctors led by Prof. Tal Brosh, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, studied 152 fully vaccinated patients from 17 hospitals who developed COVID-19 more than seven days after they received their second vaccine dose and required hospitalization before the end of April.

The cohort was small because not many vaccinated people who contract coronavirus develop a severe infection, as the vaccine is 97% to 98% effective against the standard variant – and is proving to be almost as effective against the Delta variant. So far, despite a rapid spike in coronavirus cases in Israel, the number of serious cases seems to be climbing slowly.

“Overall, we can say that the main thing is that these are not healthy people,” Brosh told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. “Almost all of them (96%) had comorbidities: heart disease, lung disease, renal disease, dementia, cancer, or other common ailments. So, people who get breakthrough infections and are admitted are sicker than a usual person.”

Of those who ended up in hospital, 38 had what were defined as “poor outcomes,” meaning they were mechanically ventilated or had died.

Specifically, 71% had hypertension; 48% diabetes; 27% congestive heart failure; 24% chronic kidney disease; 24% chronic lung disease; 19% dementia; and 24% cancer. Only 6% did not have any underlying medical condition.

Moreover, the study showed that 40% of patients were immunocompromised.

“If your immune system does not function well, you are at higher risk for not developing protection from vaccination,” Brosh said, adding that some 35% of patients had no detectable antibodies – meaning they had failed to mount an immune response to the vaccine.

The median time that elapsed from the second dose to hospitalization was 40 days. The median age of the patients was 71. In most cases the source of the patient’s infection was unknown.

Brosh said that although this study was conducted when the Alpha variant was active in Israel and the majority of cases had that virus strain, he said it is likely that the characteristics still apply currently – to those who are infected with the Delta variant that now accounts for more than 90% of infections in Israel.

He said that the Delta variant seems to break through the vaccine more than its Alpha predecessor, but it is still unclear if the variant causes more severe infections – despite some suggestions of this by the Health Ministry.

Still, he said there is an important message that the public should heed:

“If you are older and have comorbidities – and definitely, if you have a lot of comorbidities – or are immunocompromised, you cannot assume you will be well protected by the vaccine,” Brosh said. “When there is a lot of transmission in the community, you should take care of yourself.”

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