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Thirty Israeli COVID-19 Hotbed Towns consigned to Lockdown

By DEBKAfile

The coronavirus cabinet that convened on Thursday, Sept. 3 under the shadow of a record 3,074 infection spike, consigned 30 towns and regions to lockdown as of next Monday in an attempt to limit the pandemic's spread. The coronavirus director Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that failing a turnaround in infection figures by Sept. 10, the rest of the country will also face broad restraints that could extend to the festival season in the second half of the month. The director will use this week to assess the impact of the reopening of schools on Sept. 1 on the soaring infection graph. The 30 hotbed towns are to shut down schools, public institutions and retail stores, barring food and pharmaceuticals. Residents may move no more than half a kilometer from their homes. Ingress and exit from these towns will be prohibited except for essential services. Public transport will be suspended. Police backed by soldiers are to enforce these restrictions. On the Gamzu "red" list are Bnei Brak, Tira, Bet Shemesh, Kafr Qassem, Umm al-Fahm, Elad, Betar Illit, Laqiye, Dalyat al-Carmel, Maale Iron and Taybeh. About one million people are affected. While Jerusalem the city is not listed, some of its neighborhoods are. Most of the "red" towns have either predominantly ultra-Orthodox or Arab populations, partly due to cramped, crowded living conditions and partly because they tend to flout the rules by staging large weddings and other events. Gamzu presented figures showing that the Arab sector was responsible for 28% of infections in the country and the Haredi sector was responsible for 22%. The ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers accuse the authorities – and especially Gamzu – of discrimination and report that their communities have no confidence in government policies. They and also Arab leaders ask why the weekly mass demonstrations against the prime minister are allowed, when their celebrations are barred. These anomalies present the coalition government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with political dilemmas. This lack of trust has permeated wider circles as well, amid charges that politics are tainting decision-making that should focus solely on public health concerns. It is manifested in social gatherings without the mandatory distancing and frequent disregard of masks. Some health experts insist that unless these fundamental rules are painstakingly enforced by the authorities down to grass-root levels, lockdowns will not succeed in curbing the COVID-19 contagion. Although the number of serious cases has stayed relatively steady at 400 plus per day, hospital directors are warning that unless the general infection figures are brought down quickly, they will soon inflate their seriously ill caseload. The updated infection figure for Thursday was boosted by a record 3,074 in 24 hours to 122,539 with 23, 698 active cases and 418 in serious condition. The death toll rose to 969.

Davidic Dynasty Symbol Found in Jerusalem

By the Jerusalem Post
A "once in a lifetime" find is how the City of David described three immaculately preserved 2,700-year-old decorated column heads, or capitals, from the First Temple period that indicate a connection to the Davidic Dynasty. Archaeologists from the City of David did not expect to find anything this special when they began digging near what is now the Armon Hanatziv Promenade. "I'm still excited," said Yaakov Billig, an archaeologist with the City of David who began exploring the Armon Hanatziv area about 30 years ago. He was working at the site when the sound of a spade scraping a stone slab surprised him. After a careful excavation, archaeologists at the site uncovered the capital, whose style is found in royal and official buildings in the kingdoms of Israel and Judea during the First Temple period. "I thought, `Yaakov, maybe you've been in the sun too long.' But I looked again, and it was still there," Billig told The Jerusalem Post. While lifting the capital out of the ground, they were stunned to find not only that the stone was decorated on both side, but that there was yet another identical capital directly underneath it. A third identical stone was found nearby. The stones seem to have been hidden intentionally due to their seemingly careful placement. It may have been the only thing that saved them from being destroyed, as the rest of the site was "just about leveled," with many of the surviving stones being recycled in other buildings, Billing said. Why the stones were so carefully hidden may never be known, he added. The capitals are linked to the Davidic Dynasty because such designs from the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea have only been found within the areas they ruled. The design has been found from later periods in other locations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Besides the capitals, additional artifacts found at the site indicate a royal or noble building as well, including a toilet, which was only found in the homes of the wealthy in that period, Billig said. Using evidence from artifacts found at the site and the level at which they were found, archaeologists dated the capitals to the seventh century BCE, between the rule of King Hezekiah and the Babylonian conquest and destruction of Jerusalem. The location of the site seems to indicate a sort of "exit from the walls" of Jerusalem, showing that the people felt more secure in their surroundings after the Assyrian siege of the city failed. The biblical story of the siege describes the defeat of the Assyrians as a miraculous event against all odds, which may explain why the residents of the city suddenly felt secure enough to settle outside the walls, Billig said. Archaeological findings are usually revealed to the public only after a long process of research and study. But the City of David and the Israeli officials decided that these findings were too important to keep hidden. "This discovery is really a once-in-a-lifetime discovery," City of David Foundation vice president Doron Spielman said. "It's not every day that we're able to discover something that four billion people around the world – who have some type of identity to the Bible, to ancient Jerusalem, to the idea of discovering the Bible and unearthing the archaeology underneath the ground and connecting it to the actual place" – can relate to. A large number of additional artifacts from the same period were found at the site as well. But the capitals may be some of the greatest treasures, connecting the site to the stories of the Davidic kingdom in the Bible. The additional artifacts found at the site are being studied and will be revealed to the public at a later date.

Raining Marijuana? Drone Drops Hundreds of Bags of Pot in Tel Aviv

By JTA

A drone hovering over Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon dropped hundreds of tiny bags containing cannabis mostly centered on Rabin Square. Tel Avivans rushed to scoop up the bags bearing the label with the words Free Love inside a green heart. The drop is courtesy of a popular Telegram group named Green Glider that calls for the legalization of recreational drugs. An announcement of the "Cannabis Rain Project" drops on the Telegram channel said that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cannabis, divided into 2 gram bags, will be dropped each week in a different part of the country, Israel's Channel 12 News reported. The drone drops were conceived as part of an effort to figure out how to get marijuana to consumers in a new way because of the coronavirus crisis, the announcement said. Police arrested two men in their 30s who allegedly operated the drone and are accused of drug trafficking, the daily Maariv reported, citing a police spokeswoman.


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