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"It is our moral obligation to contribute to coping with the coronavirus pandemic" declares BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz

BEER-SHEVA, Israel, March 12, 2020 – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz launched the BGU Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force on Thursday morning to harness the University's brain power and ingenuity to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic. During a meeting attended by over 50 scientists from departments across the University, Chamovitz declared that the University would set aside resources to bring the most promising projects to fruition.

"It is our moral obligation to contribute to coping with this pandemic," President Chamovitz wrote in the letter urging all BGU researchers to join the task force.


During the launch meeting, over a dozen ideas were raised by members of departments from different faculties who then broke off into working groups. Several researchers contributed ideas via video conferencing from self-quarantine. In some cases, ongoing projects were quickly repurposed. In others, new collaborations sprung up around the discussion tables this morning.

As everyday life around the world has been affected, the effects of the coronavirus extend beyond the search for a vaccine. In addition to the University's virologists, BGU scientists and students will address the public health, public policy, engineering, information systems, economic, psychological, technological, tourism and educational challenges.


"Since the outbreak of this coronavirus, it has become an international crisis that affects individuals, families, communities and countries around the world," President Chamovitz wrote, "I am turning to you, our researchers, to make the coronavirus crisis and its repercussions your top priority, to be creative and practical in order to achieve significant contributions to the national and international challenges that stand before us."


About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

In Israel’s Negev desert, BGU does the remarkable. Marking 50 years of cutting-edge science, BGU tackles humanity’s greatest challenges in the 21st century.







Photo Caption: BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz launches the BGU Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday morning on the Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva. (Photo Credit: Dani Machlis/BGU)





Israel Ministry of Defense Launches Expedited Procurement of Medical Equipment to Fulfill the Urgent Needs of the Defense Establishment

The Directorate of Production and Procurement in the Israel Ministry of Defense has launched an expedited procurement operation worth approximately NIS 50 million, to equip the IDF with medical equipment.


The acquisition is intended to support the defense establishment’s preparedness to cope with the COVID-19 virus and it includes: face masks, protective equipment for medical teams, medical technology and more.

The Directorate of Production and Procurement, through its Logistics Procurement Unit headed by the Deputy Director, initiated the expedited procurement of medical equipment for the IDF and the Ministry of Defense, in accordance with the instructions of Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett. The acquisition is worth approximately NIS 50 million and is the largest logistical procurement initiative since Operation Protective Edge.


The directorate has acquired face masks, gloves, personal protective equipment for medical teams, technology such as defibrillators and medical monitors, disinfectant materials and more. The procurement is based on the IDF’s demands in order to support its preparations for various scenarios.


Deputy Director General and Head of the Directorate of Production and Procurement in the Israel Ministry of Defense, Avi Dadon: “The Directorate of Production and Procurement is committed to supporting all of the operational needs of the IDF and the defense establishment. We are operating within the procedural framework of expedited procurement for emergency scenarios, in order to supply the IDF with medical equipment in the shortest possible timeframe. We are working to ensure that the majority of the procurement will be carried out in Israeli shekels in order to support the Israeli economy during this period.”




.Newsweek once again  selects The Chaim  Sheba Medical Center as one of the  WORLD'S 10 BEST HOSPITALS 

For the second year in a row, Newsweek magazine has chosen Sheba Medical Center as one of the Top 10 Hospitals in the world. 

This unprecedented achievement, which showcases Sheba as the 9th best hospital in the world, moving up one slot from last year, comes at a time when the hospital is advancing medical innovation on all fronts including dealing with the coronavirus crisis using ground-breaking telemedicine solutions to treat coronavirus patients who are quarantined at a special hospital complex. 

"I am especially proud to be on the Newsweek list once more. This achievement denotes another year of innovative medical achievements which are impacting the world," said Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, Dir. Gen. of Sheba. "I am especially proud of our 9100 medical professionals who wake up each morning and come to work dedicating themselves to thinking outside the box, creating new ways to giving patients the best care and dealing with crisis like the coronavirus by employing game changing technologies such as telemedicine. At Sheba we use the phrase...hope has no boundaries. And this is what motivates us."




The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer is a university-affiliated tertiary referral hospital that serves as Israel's national medical center in many fields. 

Adjacent to Tel Aviv, it is the most comprehensive medical center in the Middle East, renowned for its compassionate care and leading-edge medicine. It is also a major medical-scientific research powerhouse that collaborates internationally with the bio-tech and pharmaceutical industries to develop new drugs, treatments and technologies, and a foremost global center for medical education.

Today, the Sheba Medical Center combines six major facilities: 

  • a vast medical research complex

  • medical education academic campus

  • acute care hospital

  • children's hospital

  • women's hospital

  • the country's main rehabilitation hospital





Llamar 03-530-3030



Affiliated with the Tel-Aviv University Sackler School of Medicine







Purim, one of Judaism's more colorful and popular holidays, is celebrated this year between sunset on Monday, 9 March, and sunset on Tuesday, 10 March, in most of Israel – excluding Jerusalem where Purim will be celebrated from sunset on Tuesday, 10 March, until sunset on Wednesday, 11 March (see below). Purim is not a public holiday in Israel, but many offices, shops, and public institutions (including the GPO) will operate on a reduced basis. Schools will be closed, but public transportation will operate as usual, and newspapers will be published.

Background to Purim

Purim commemorates the events described in the Book of Esther. In Esther 3:8, the anti-Semitic Haman, Grand Vizier of the Persian Empire, tells Persian King Ahasuerus that, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among all the peoples... in your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every people, neither do they keep the king's laws. Therefore, it does the king no profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed...” Thus, Haman coined one of the most infamous anti-Semitic canards: That the Jews are a clannish and alien people who do not obey the laws of the land. At Haman's contrivance, a decree is then issued for all Jews in the Persian Empire to be massacred. But, as the Book of Esther subsequently relates, Haman’s plot was foiled and, “The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor...a feast and a good day.” (8:16-17)

Throughout the centuries, Purim – which celebrates the miraculous salvation of the Jews and the thwarting of Haman’s genocidal plot – has traditionally symbolized the victory of the Jewish people over antisemitic tyranny. As such, Purim is a happy, carnival-like holiday.

The Fast of Esther

The day before Purim (Monday, 9 March this year) is a fast day known as the Fast of Esther, commemorating (inter alia) the fact that Queen Esther – the heroine of the Book of Esther – and the entire Persian Jewish community fasted (4:16) in advance of Queen Esther’s appeal for King Ahasuerus not to implement Haman’s genocidal plot. The fast will extend from before sunrise in the morning until sunset. Special prayers and scriptural readings are inserted into the synagogue service.

When the day before Purim falls on Shabbat, the Fast of Esther is brought forward to the preceding Thursday.


After sunset on Monday evening, 9 March, festive prayers will take place in synagogues, where the Book of Esther will also be read aloud. It is customary for people, especially children, to come to synagogue dressed in costume. During the reading of the Book of Esther, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, congregants traditionally make as much noise as possible in order to drown out his name – a reflection of God’s promise (Exodus 17:14) to, “blot out,” the Amalekite nation, of which Haman was a descendant; special Purim noisemakers may be used for this purpose. The Book of Esther will be read again during morning prayers on Tuesday, 10 March. A special Purim prayer is inserted into the daily prayers and the blessing after meals.

On Purim, Jews are enjoined by the Book of Esther (9:22) to send gifts of food to each other, make special contributions to the poor, and have a festive holiday meal in the afternoon. To this end, the day is also marked by collections for various charities, and by people visiting neighbors and friends to deliver baskets of food, prominent among which are small, three-cornered, fruit-filled pastries known as Oznei Haman in Hebrew (Haman’s ears) or Hamantaschen in Yiddish (Haman’s pockets).

At the festive meal, some maintain the custom of becoming so inebriated that they cannot distinguish between, “Blessed is Mordechai,” (Esther’s uncle and the hero of the Book of Esther) and, “Cursed is Haman.”

Shushan Purim

In Jerusalem, Purim is ordinarily celebrated one day later than it is in the rest of the world; accordingly, all Purim-related observances are postponed by one day. This practice originates from the fact that an extra day was prescribed for the Jews of Shushan (the modern Susa, one of the Persian Empire's four capitals) to defend themselves against their enemies. This second day is known as Shushan Purim. As mentioned in the Book of Esther itself (9:16-19), Jews living in walled cities (later defined by rabbinical authorities to mean walled cities at the time that Joshua entered the Land of Israel) celebrate Purim one day later than Jews living in unwalled cities. There are several other such cities in Israel where Shushan Purim is celebrated. In some cities whose status is in doubt, the Book of Esther will actually be read on both days.

In many places in Israel, Purim is marked by special parades; the most famous of these takes place in Tel Aviv. Many kindergartens, schools, synagogues, and towns will also host special Purim parties and carnivals.

Purim in Film

Following are clips from six films (courtesy of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive) that depict the various ways in which Purim has been celebrated:

Adloyada 1960 – Color scenes of the colorful procession in Tel Aviv 55 years ago.

Faces of Freedom (1960) – New immigrants are absorbed into Israeli society at the beginning of the 1960s. The film begins with a Purim carnival.

Springtime in Palestine (1928) - Comprehensive survey of the developing country in the 1920s. Includes a Bukharian Purim feast and scenes of the 1928 carnival in which Baruch Agadati appears with Tzipporah Tzabari, the first Purim queen of Tel Aviv (from 11:33 min).

Eretz Yisrael: Building Up the Jewish National Home (1934) – The film begins with scenes of the Adloyada in Tel Aviv. It continues with agricultural scenes in Kibbutz Ein Harod, Deganya A and the women’s agricultural school in Nahalal.

Edge of the West (1961) – A color film surveying Jewish life in Morocco in the early 1960s, including Purim celebrations (from 28:35 min.)

Hassidic Music (1994) – From the series “A People and Its Music” which depicts various Jewish music traditions. Includes scenes of Lubavitch Hassidim celebrating Purim (from 23:22 min.) 



Purim Events in Jerusalem 

Purim Events in Tel Aviv

Hebrew University Purim Experts



Dr. Leore Grosman, Archaeology


Dr. Grosman, author of Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World and Neolithic Masks in a Digital World, can speak on the role masks play in religious practice and culture since the beginning of time.


Prof. Israel Yuval, Jews in Middle Ages


The Book of Esther mentions charity for the poor and food baskets to friends, yet Purim is best known for its costumes and merrymaking.  When did these customs develop?  Answer: Not in Persia of 486 BCE but 1,100 years and 2,000 miles later in Christian Europe of the Middle Ages.  Similar to the Carnival/Mardi Gras celebrations that precede Lent, so too does the excess of Purim precede the austere holiday of Passover which follows 30 days later.


Prof. Noah Hacham, Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry


It’s an old story: Jewish communities in the diaspora try hard to fit in and pledge allegiance to the king, only to be accused of separatism and be run afoul by local mobs.

The Book of Esther establishes this pattern of “Judeo-phobic suspicion and hatred”, revealing how Jewish loyalty to local leaders is often the very thing that drives gentiles’ hatred of them.  Further, the Book of Esther portrays how antisemitism often masks peoples’ hatred of the king but that would be too dangerous a path of revenge so they express their discontent against the king’s protected class, the Jews.


 Photo Silvia Golan





In January, students from eight cities and schools around Israel traveled to Yale MUN as part of the second annual Debate for Peace delegation to YMUN. The students competed in one of the largest MUNs in the world, with over 1600 students in thirty nine committees. In addition to conventional countries like Italy and Germany, some students participating in specialized committees received placements like Facebook, the Admiral of the Austro-Hungarian navy, NGOs, and a member of the US Congress.

The delegation members spent weeks preparing for the conference, including a study day at the US embassy, before meeting in Holon for the pre-trip briefing. In addition to the competition, the delegation included several days in NYC, for meetings with NGOs, community leaders, and diplomats.

The delegation was hosted in New Jersey by the Hoboken Jewish community, and had the honor of speaking at the United Synagogue of Hoboken as soon as they arrived in NY.

In NYC, the delegation visited the UN headquarters, and met with the Mission of Cyprus to the UN, the US Mission to the UN, and the European Union mission to the UN. They also met with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, and Immigration Equality, which helps LGBTQ immigrants, as well as talking to Sheikh Musa Drammeh, and singer Josh Blanco. 

The highlight of the NY visit was a panel held at the UN, organized by the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development as the first UN75 discussion, in which the delegation members led an intergenerational discussion on how to use diplomacy and discussion as tools for peace and progress in 2020.


At YaleMUN, the delegation enjoyed lunch and a discussion with the Yale Council of Middle East studies, including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students and academics, and were hosted for a meal by a local Jewish organization, JLIC. They also met with Yale professors Nathaniel Raymond and diplomat Charles Hill.

During the conference, the students three days in intensive negotiations, representing their respective countries, organizations, and characters, and responding to various international crises. The conference is one of the largest, and highest level Model UN conferences in the world, and there were 110 delegations present, included over 40 international delegations.

Yoad Hershkowitz, from Be’er Tuvia regional high school, told Diplomacy “The delegation to YMUN was an amazing experience, I have met people that have taught me so much about the world we live in. I learned a lot from my fellow participants in the delegation, and I was very happy to be a part of it.” Husni Grere, from Atid Lod MUN club, added that “as a person who's been done a plethora of MUN conferences, I can safely say that the YMUN delegation was one of my favourites, even with the very tight schedules that we've had, we were able to find times to bond, times to get to know new people, and just times to laugh a stressful day out. A truly unique and unforgettable experience.”

Debate for Peace expresses its gratitude to the many wonderful individuals and organizations who made this delegation a success, the various NGOs, diplomats and communities who met with the delegation, Rabbi Rob, Rabbi Naomi, and the United Synagogue of Hoboken community, and the Kinrot family for hosting the pre-trip meeting. 

A very special thanks to Hassan Hassan for helping lead the delegation, to Samantha Glass for all of her help, to the YMUN Secretariat for helping make this delegation possible, and to Margo LaZaro, President and Chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable

Development-NY, for empowering youth and connecting MUN to the UN. For more information please see DebateforPeace.org

Photo credit: Debate for Peace