ANALYSIS: Why Israel is the safest place to be during the current coronavirus crisis

There are many factors to Israel's effective control of the pandemic, but the most telling one is its attitude to preserving life.

Yochanan Visser ,

El Al from Lison motzaei Pesach
El Al from Lison motzaei Pesach
INN:YV

Israel is ranked the number one country for safety during the COVID-19 crisis by both Forbes and the research group Deep Knowledge and this is largely due to the country’s wide experience with crises and wars.

Israel also scored high when it comes to treatment efficiency with the country ranking place eight after Taiwan but before Japan.

When we take a good look at how this could happen in a country that has one of the lowest number of beds and hospital staff in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we will see that Israel is uniquely positioned among the nations.

Israel spends less on healthcare than comparable states in the OECD, a mere $2780 per citizen annually whereas the United States, for example, spends more than $10,000 on healthcare for each citizen.

The OECD average is $4,000 per citizen annually.

Dmitry Kaminskiy of the Deep Knowledge Group told Arutz 7 that budget, though important, doesn’t say everything about the quality of a healthcare system.

Kaminsky said in an email interview that half a year ago his group conducted Longevity Governance Progress Big Data comparison analysis of 50 countries (a comparison of the effectiveness and level of advancement of healthcare systems).

Deep Knowledge also made the special case study "Longevity in the US" half a year ago, Kaminsky said.

“Whereas Singapore along with Israel was among the leaders, the US was assessed as one of the most inefficient countries in terms of spending budget and achievements in the field of health longevity,” he noted.

Israel does face a severe shortage of hospital beds with only three beds per 1,000 citizens whereas Japan, for example, has 13 beds per 1,000 citizens. Russia and Germany have 8 hospital beds per 1,000 citizens and even Poland has seven hospital beds per 1,000 Poles.

Roughly the same picture emerges when one looks at the quantity of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals: not enough nurses and the same situation when it comes to physicians.

So, how is it possible that Israel is now the safest place to be when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak?

-First of all, the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, started early on in the pandemic to enforce what then were regarded as draconian measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Netanyahu halted all flights to China and banned the entrance of foreigners to Israel altogether, at a point in time when other countries were still in denial about the scope of the virus outbreak and the dangers it posed.

Netanyahu even pushed other leaders such as Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz to introduce the same regime of restrictions and it worked in the central European country as well.

-Then there is the fact that health workers in Israel are used to working under tremendous pressure and are often more highly educated and better trained than their counterparts in other OECD countries.

There is, however, much more to the story.

-In Israel during times of national crisis the population always works together with the Home Front (Civil Defense) Division of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who in this case correctly say that the citizens are the home front and not the division.

-The various security and emergency forces in Israel are, furthermore, used to working cooperatively together in containing a crisis and have, tragically, huge experience in dealing with disasters.

-In this case, Netanyahu, with the permission of the Israeli High Court of Justice, even enlisted Israel’s espionage agency Mossad to bring medical equipment and protective gear to Israel and also allowed the internal intelligence service, the Shin Bet (ISA), to use cyber tools that are usually used to track terrorists for tracking down people who had come into contact with known coronavirus carriers.

-Then there is the unique fact that Israel’s finest minds in times of crisis come together to help the country and in this case the world at large.

Many of these people have served in the IDF where they use a bottom-top model for taking crucial decisions about combat in real-time.

The majority of these IDF commanders and soldiers now form the backbone of the huge high-tech industry in the Jewish State and they are working feverishly to develop better and cheaper test kits as well as a vaccine for, and medicine to combat, COVID-19.

-One of the best examples of this trend is the Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a company that normally produces sophisticated weapons and drones.

IAI is now building respirators for coronavirus patients.

-The efforts to produce better and cheaper test kits has already yielded results with a team of scientists at Hebrew University now testing a new device that “is up to 10 times faster and more cost-effective than the methods currently used to analyze samples,” according to the innovation news site No Camels.

-Universities and scientific research centers such as the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot have been enlisted in the effort to do more testing and have already succeeded in nearly doubling the number of tests conducted daily in Israel.

-Israeli start-up Datos has, furthermore, accelerated the introduction of a “hospital-grade remote care platform that offers a fully automated approach to patient care and data handling.”

This device is now used to treat coronavirus patients in Israel and enables medical staff to treat these patients without approaching them.

-Israel also appears to have developed an effective method of treatment of seriously ill coronavirus patients.

Six critically ill coronavirus patients in Israel were treated with the placenta-based cell-therapy product of the Haifa-based Israeli firm Pluristem and are now recovering while their situation was critical before the treatment.

All patients had experienced organ failure and other acute problems such as complications stemming from inflammation and acute respiratory failure.

All in all, Israel has already developed 13 innovative solutions to help the world fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and ranks fifth on the list of nations to have developed innovative devices and methods to combat the virulent epidemic.

But there is yet another aspect that explains Israel’s unique position in the coronavirus crisis.

The country’s most important principle is to preserve life, rather than to protect of the rights of the individual as is the case in Western countries.

This principle is derived from Jewish law and the Torah that commands us to take good care of our souls and our bodies, while Jewish law (Halakha) teaches us that pikuach nefesh - saving a person in life threatening danger - is an overriding principle that overrules everything, including Shabbat observance.

These principles were on full display on Wednesday, the last day of the Passover festival, when Israel sent an Israir plane to Lisbon in Portugal to airlift stranded Israelis to their motherland.

Israelis who traveled abroad before or during the epidemic arrived from countries as far-flung as New Zealand to reach Lisbon and board the rescue flight.

My daughter was one of them and she and her partner escaped from the United Kingdom that is now in freefall as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The entire endeavor reminded the two of what is called in Hebrew ‘HaBricha m’Europa,’ the historic exodus of 250,000 Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe, to Israel in the years between 1944 and 1948 when the state of Israel was founded.

Those Holocaust survivors had the same difficulty in reaching Israel, though the roughly 70 Israelis in Lisbon received help from an expert team that was flown into Portugal by Israir.

There was no typical Israeli ‘balagan’ (the chaos that typifies Israel in non-crisis bureaucratic situations) at the airport in Lisbon or at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The IDF soldiers who now, together with the police, run the national airport in Israel, behaved as if this new task was already a daily routine for them long before the coronavirus tried to attack Israel. They assisted the new arrivals with passion and compassion.


top