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Israel to Implement 4-Stage Reopening of Economy

By World Israel News
Israel's government is discussing significant steps for a graduated return of the economy to near full activity. At the top of the list is a lifting of the ban on going more than 100 meters from one's home except for food, medicine or work and the opening of parks and other public places. "Starting off this week with some good news. There are less than 50 new daily Covid-19 infections in Israel at the moment," tweeted Ofir Gendelman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesman for Arab affairs. "Some hospitals even closed their coronavirus wards. Let's hope this trend continues in Israel and around the world as well." With the infection rate under control and the number or those hospitalized and in serious condition dropping almost daily, the finance ministry is pressuring health officials to ease restrictions and get people back to work. Also on the agenda is the reopening of shopping malls and a limited opening of hotels and bed and breakfasts. Cabinet ministers will discuss easing restrictions on the number of people who can attend family events and allowing people aged 67 and above who are healthy to return to work. A health ministry official said that Netanyahu is expected to participate in an online conference of world leaders on Monday to discuss the pandemic. Police said they would continue to enforce health regulations and hand out fines to businesses that opened without permission and to people outdoors not wearing protective face masks. Television news reports over the weekend showed throngs of people in streets and parks, many of them without masks and congregating together without social distancing. Health officials said people had to understand that the easing of restrictions did not mean a "return to normal," but that the new normal was dependent on Israelis constantly maintaining social distancing rules and hygiene. In the first phase of a four-stage process to opening the economy starting May 17, the finance ministry wants indoor shopping malls and major markets to reopen and will return tens of thousands of Palestinian workers to jobs in Israel. Universities and colleges will be able to return to limited study, and national parks will reopen their gates to the public. As well, some hotels, gyms and health studios, swimming pools, libraries, museums and cultural institutions will be opened. The health ministry is also recommending opening beaches for surfing and bathing and is expected to recommend an end to the ban on visits with second-degree relatives, including grandparents. However, the ministry is still objecting to the reopening of gyms and some other venues it feels are problematic for potentially spreading the virus. Israel's professional soccer and basketball leagues will be able to resume their seasons, but without fans. Community centers will be able to resume activities, and students in Grades 4-6 will return to schools. The next phase of the program starts May 31 and will include opening of restaurants, cinemas, theaters, event halls, bars, as well as classes for grades 7-10, with all places limited to 50 to 100 people and with social distancing. On Sunday, students in grades 1-3 and 11-12 returned to classes but with some confusion as class sizes were limited and school buses were not yet operating. A number of municipalities delayed opening altogether. In a related story, a study by American and British scientists discovered a mutation in the original coronavirus that may mean the virus has become more contagious, an official at Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed Sunday. Researchers at the laboratory in New Mexico, Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Sheffield in England investigating the COVID-19 virus discovered a mutation labeled Spike D614G. Viruses with the Spike D614G mutation have been replacing the original Wuhan form of the virus and spreading rapidly around the globe. The study was published on the biology research platform bioRxiv and has yet to be peer-reviewed, but the findings indicate the mutation makes the virus more contagious. However, the researchers did not yet find any evidence that the mutation leads to more hospitalizations or deaths, but the increased possibility of infection might make it more difficult to control the pandemic. In simple terms, the mutation allows the virus to more easily bind to human host cells and then prevents the body's antibody functions from trying to attack it. As a result, the D614G mutation increases the virus' capacity for transmission and also may make illness more severe. One worrying aspect of the report is that people infected with the original D614 strain of coronavirus might be more susceptible to being reinfected with the newer, mutated G614 form of the virus.

Schools in Israel Reopen With No Solution for Teachers at High-risk of Contracting Coronavirus

By Haaretz

Classes resumed Sunday morning for grades 1 to 3 and 11-12 in some localities, even though there is still no arrangement for teachers who are either members of high-risk groups who must avoid coronavirus exposure, or who have small children who aren't returning to school. The Education Ministry hasn't issued any guidelines about this. Teachers' unions have told teachers who are themselves at risk, or who have a nuclear family member at risk, to get doctors' notes so they can stay home and take sick days. Doctors, however, are insisting that they cannot issue sick notes to people who aren't actually sick. Teachers' Union chairman Yaffa Ben David last week asked Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto to "issue clear guidelines to assure the health and safety of teachers and the whole system." She asked him to define exactly who is considered at-risk and to decide if pregnant women are included. She said family doctors were refusing to issue sick notes to teachers and were referring them to occupational physicians "for whom you have to wait half a year for an appointment." Or, a second-grade homeroom teacher in the Tel Aviv area, told Haaretz that she had gotten such a message from her school. She and the other teachers were told that only an authorized occupational physician could confirm that they belong to a risk group, and that underlying illnesses or pregnancy were not sufficient grounds to excuse them from coming to school. The Israel Association of Family Physicians explained that they cannot give sick notes to teachers who are at risk because they might get infected. "Sick notes are given in accordance with the medical condition of the person, not based on their risk of getting sick," the association said. "Since at this time it is not known how much time will pass until a coronavirus vaccine is developed, there is no way to assess the time frame for the sick note and coming to the community doctors will only create extra pressure on the system. Decision makers have to make a clear decision on this issue and not roll the ball to the doctors." Teachers who belong to risk groups told Haaretz that they were asked to continue with the online teaching. Another homeroom teacher wrote on social media that even though she was planning to go on sick leave because she belongs to a risk group, she was told she must still send lesson plans to her pupils every day, as well as the Zoom links from the teachers of other subjects. The teachers' unions also addressed the problem of teachers who have children at home who aren't returning to school. According to Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association, such teachers should remain at home on unpaid leave. He wrote that they could ask their school's principal to continue to provide online teaching, but made it clear that they may not be paid for it. The Tel Aviv Municipality said it would make some 130 babysitters available to teachers who have small children and who are meant to return Monday to work. The city had announced Friday that it would not open schools on Sunday.

Israeli Court Hears Petitions against Netanyahu

By VOA News
Israel's Supreme Court began hearing petitions against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forming a government while under criminal indictments. A large panel of 11 justices, are considering the issue of whether a politician is would be entrusted to form a government in such circumstances, for which the Israeli legal code is not explicitly clear. Although Israel is under the coronavirus restrictions, protesters gathered outside the parliament to watch the proceedings that were broadcast live. A wide banner reading in Hebrew: "Saving the country fighting corruption" was highly visible. An Israeli court indicted Netanyahu earlier this year on charges of breach of trust, fraud, and accepting bribes. He has denied any wrongdoing. If the court rules that Netanyahu should not serve as prime minister, Israel could likely hold election again, the fourth in just over 12 consecutive months. Following another deadlocked election, Netanyahu signed a power-sharing deal with main rival, Benny Gantz. Under the deal Netanyahu serves as prime minister for the first 18 months while Ganz serves the next 18 months.

German Bishops' Conference says Catholic Church in Germany was `complicit' in Nazi Crimes

By JTA

Pope Catholic bishops in Germany "made themselves complicit" in Nazi crimes according to a report by the German Bishops' Conference. At a video news conference last week, the president of the conference, Bishop Georg Baetzing, presented the findings of a 23-page report, "German Bishops in the World War." "Inasmuch as the bishops did not oppose the war with a clear `no,' and most of them bolstered the [German nation's] will to endure, they made themselves complicit in the war," the document said, according to a report in Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur. The report also said that while the bishops did not share Hitler's racial ideology, they still helped support "both soldiers and the regime," The Times reported. Hundreds of bishops provided spiritual guidance on the German front lines during the war and thousands of church properties were converted into military hospitals, staffed by Catholic nuns, the report noted. One prelate described the report to The Times as a "confession of guilt." Critics have long accused Pope Pius XII, who led the church from 1939 to 1958, of having turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis. His role during the Holocaust has been a bone of contention for years. On March 2, the Vatican opened its archives on Pius to scholars. The archives were closed a week later due to the spread of the coronavirus, but in that short window researchers already found documents showing that Pius knew about the Nazi death camps and that the Vatican hid that information to protect Pius's image, the Religion News Service reported.

Pentagon Confirms UFO Videos, Marking Return of Biblical Extraterrestrials

By Breaking Israel News

"The stars fought from heaven. From their courses they fought against Sisera." Judges 5:20 (The Israel Bible™) The Pentagon released three videos taken from U.S. Navy fighter jets, confirming the videos showed "unexplained aerial phenomenon", seeming to admit for the first time that the Earth has been visited by alien species with advanced technology. This should not come as a surprise to Biblical scholars and according to Jewish tradition, the appearance of aliens may be a harbinger to the Messiah. Last Monday, Susan Gough, a Defense Department spokesperson, released a statement confirming that the videos, which had appeared on the internet, were authentic. The footage seems to show wingless aircraft traveling at hypersonic speeds with no visible means of propulsion. The official confirmation was intended "to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as `unidentified'", the statement said. The Department of Defense has authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos. One video taken in November 2004 and another in January 2015 were recorded by F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots during military training exercises in restricted airspace. Another was also recorded in January 2015. The videos have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017. "After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena." Two of the videos were included in a December 2017 New York Times article that explained how the U.S. government ran a program for investigating reports of unidentified flying objects until 2012. The third video was released in March 2018 by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, a private scientific research and media group.

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