“Be Afraid” is the wrong message

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

That appears to be the message of various arms of the Israeli government, warning their people in panic-stricken terms about a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections, with “thousands of deaths.” ahead.

Some say we can keep that under control by following the rules–wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Others say it doesn’t matter–sooner or later, most of us will catch the disease, and then old folks will die by the thousands.

I’ll admit straight out that I’m not a mathematician, and I don’t have a degree in statistics. I do have some basic knowledge of both, and that’s all I need to declare that the numbers we’re getting at this time do not justify the five-alarm fire we’re hearing about.

Here are the latest statistics I have:

Total number of cases in Israel: 20,533

Total active cases now: 4,598

Total patients in serious condition: 39

Total on ventilators (part of the 39): 29

Total deaths from COVID-19: 305

Total new cases on last full day of testing: 349

You can note that the 349 new cases is the highest daily total we’ve had since April. You can note that the death toll is rising by one or two a day. You can hear the warnings about exponential increases in new cases unless we take immediate action.

OR…

You can note that of the nearly 4,600 active cases, only 39 are in serious condition–amounting to a tenth of one percent. The death toll of 305 is 1 1/2 percent of total cases.Indeed, 324 new cases is 10 times the daily amount from the height of the lockdown. The increase in new cases is linked to several developments: First, the easing of restrictions, allowing people out of their houses and back to work. Second, the reopening of schools. Third, significant increase in testing, especially asymptomatic school kids who happened to be within shouting distance of an active case.

It’s actually a wonder that the numbers of new cases aren’t significantly higher, because of the last two items on the list–which point to discovery of active cases that might well have gone unnoticed before the reopening of schools and mass testing of classmates.

People my age don’t like to go here–but the fact remains that we golden agers are the ones who suffer the most from COVID-19 infections. A stat from a few days ago showed that the average age of fatalities in Israel is 80.7. There are horrendous cases of younger people becoming extremely ill with ongoing, lingering effects, but the breathless news reports are anecdotal, because these cases appear to be exceptionally rare.

This is the place to recall that the original goal of the measures like social distancing and lockdown was to “flatten the curve”–not to eradicate the disease, which is impossible. We have lost sight of that goal. Instead, we have Health Ministry people warning of the system being overrun with thousands of critically ill patients, and not enough ventilators for them.

The reality is quite different. Israel has several thousand ventilators available now and several thousand more on order, set to arrive by mid-summer, though of course there could be delays. But look how many patients are on ventilators now–29. So there’s a lot of room for expansion here if we need it.

So is the prime minister’s threat of a new lockdown warranted? No, and that’s not even the direction the government itself is taking. The new approach is to lock down specific places where there’s a significant outbreak, close schools where there are cases (anyway, summer vacation is upon us), and quarantine people who might have been exposed. As we learn more and more about this new disease, it’s becoming clear that the best measures are the ones we’ve been told to take all along: Wear masks, wash hands, and maintain social distancing where possible. Simple, mundane, boring–and effective.

None of this is meant to even hint that the crisis is over. It’s not going to be over. What it’s intended to show is that we need to learn how to live with it. If we take a breath, examine our lives, and figure out how to live, not just survive, in a new reality that is not going to go “back to normal,” then we can begin to plan with cool heads for a new way of life.

front cover

I understand that scare tactics are a way of getting people to comply with government policy. But they backfire. When it doesn’t all hit the fan, people are liable to conclude that the

whole thing was overblown, and they can just go back to the way they lived before.

I wrote this book before the COVID-19 crisis, and its lessons are not derived from the pandemic–but the conclusion is the same: In the long run, keeping the people afraid is destructive, depressing, and counter-productive.

 

Israel ending Shin-Bet Corona spying

Israel is stopping surveillance of its population by the ISA, better known as Shin-Bet domestic spy agency, as part of its program to limit the spread of COVID-19. This move was predicted on this page when the surveillance program was started, in response to the cries of foul and dire warnings about erosion of civil rights . The Israel Democracy Institute, a veteran watchdog, praised the decision by the Cabinet not to pass a law to allow the surveillance to continue.
“It is heartening that there are voices of reason in favor of discontinuing the ISA (Israel Security Agency) tracking,” said Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, in response to the decision to halt the ISA surveillance of Israelis who have tested positive for COVID-19. “The ministers understood that there are alternatives, in use by democracies around the world.”
“We now have to prepare for a routine that includes corona, and develop voluntary apps that can benefit our society in these trying times, while simultaneously protecting both public health and personal privacy.” the statement from IDI read.
The proposed law to allow Shin-Bet tracking is still around, and it can be implemented if the Israeli leadership sees a necessity–but clearly, Israel has rejected in principle this kind of internal non-criminal espionage. Now the Shin-Bet can go back to its primary job, anti-terror activities among Palestinians–and that’s already controversial enough.

Numbers don’t add up to Corona wave #2

The trouble with numbers…

Israeli headlines scream about an “Outbreak” of corona virus cases “spreading through the school system,” “hundreds” of new cases, and the inevitable “second wave.”

It could very well happen if people aren’t conscientious about wearing masks and maintaining social distance–but we’re not there yet. A closer examination of the numbers under those headlines shows why:

Indeed, there are a few hundred new active cases. This follows a decision to reopen schools, and start testing asymptomatic classmates and teachers in schools where an active case was discovered. So–more testing, more cases. That’s an easy one.

Corona numbers1Now let’s look at the schools. The table below ran in an Israeli newspaper. It shows the dispersion of new cases in the schools. There’s a total of 303, out of two million kids. And look at the top: Jerusalem, 213. So 70 percent of the new cases are in Jerusalem. Here’s what’s not in the table: At least 130 of the cases came from a single school. There’s no explanation yet as to why that happened, but the fact is–half the new cases in Israel over the week before the table was published on Friday came from a single school. Tel Aviv schools had 19 new cases, and all the other cities and towns show single figures.

This is the place to emphasize that we need to learn how to live with Corona. A permanent total lockdown is unfeasible. We need to learn what we can open, and what needs to remain closed, who can resume semi-normal or “new normal” lives and who can’t. A leading Israeli educator noted that none of the new cases on that list have proved to be serious, and we need to get used to the idea that there will be a handful of cases, a handful of schools that are closed for a short time, and incorporate that into our reality.

It has been shown that young people are less likely to develop serious effects from Corona than old people. That’s not to say that we can sacrifice old people. It means that we can afford to be less stringent about young people. We need answers about what to do concerning teachers who are over 50 or 60. We still need many answers. But here was my reply to a friend who posted a picture of a school being closed down and wrote, in all caps, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!”

“Folks, we have to learn how to live with this. It’s not going away. It means some trial and error. So far, taken in a larger context, opening the schools isn’t an error. There are localized outbreaks among thousands of schools, and they’re being dealt with locally. Two of my grandkids are in isolation, so it’s not as if I’m writing this from Alaska. Closing the schools means closing down the economy, and we can’t do that indefinitely. With each step, we’re learning more about the virus and how it acts, and we’ll be able to make better decisions. Stiff upper lip, friends…and meantime I’m staying home because I’m old and I can 馃榾”

Which brings us to us old folks.

Corona numbers2The same newspaper carried some statistics about people who have died from the disease. Each death is a tragedy, and up to now Israel has had 295 fatalities. My home state of Indiana, which has 3/4 the population and four times the territory, just crossed the 2,000-fatality “milestone.” That’s the perspective aspect. Now the figures from Israel’s Health ministry: The average age of victims here is 80.7. 57 percent had high blood pressure. 35 percent had heart disease. 37 percent had diabetes.

Clearly, then, many had more than one underlying illness. More importantly, these figures do not (that’s “do not”) show that the accompanying conditions necessarily contributed to the deaths. An expert quoted in the accompanying article will go only so far as to say that the occurrence of the above conditions was higher among the dead than in a comparable group that did not catch the disease. That’s all. So we’re still working on it.

And that’s the key. We’re still working on it. This is a new disease. We are still learning. As more data becomes available, the experts know more and more, and we can get better instructions from them. The fact that they change their instructions from time to time does not mean they were wrong and therefore don’t know what they’re talking about–it means they can update their conclusions as new knowledge becomes available. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

Keep in mind the main point. We need to learn how to live with Corona. It is not going away. Neither are we.

 

 

Israeli hospital award masks weaknesses

Israel’s Sheba Medical Center (aka Tel Hashomer) has been rated the world’s 9th-best hospital by Newsweek. That’s a great honor. But there’s another side.
I need to do a medical test–not a particularly unusual one–but in Israel, it’s done only at Sheba. I made an appointment yesterday–and the first available date is JULY 21!
That’s more evidence, if we needed any, that while Israel’s medical system is one of the best in the world, it is lagging badly behind population growth. Every family has stories about someone who spent hours and hours in an emergency room, waiting for initial treatment. In our family, we have a case of someone who was waiting for 15 hours in an emergency room, and that’s where he had his heart attack.
HOW IS THIS NOT THE TOP ISSUE IN TODAY’S ISRAELI ELECTION? Are we threatened more by Iran or Hamas than by government neglect of our own social infrastructure? Isn’t it time to reorder Israel’s priorities to deal with real issues, instead of exaggerated “security” threats that, anyway, the army would deal with no matter who the prime minister is?
CAN WE START DOING THIS TODAY? CAN WE AFFORD NOT TO?

Soleimani assassination: Right, but wise?

A wise teacher once said, “Everything depends on where you start your history.”
So here’s my take on the Suleimani assassination, followed by a series of tweets from the rightfully respected former ambassador to israel, Dan Shapiro.
Certainly he deserved to die. But there is a saying on Hebrew: “Better wise than right.”
Read his whole series of tweets, and then ask if the policy of confronting Iran militarily, instead of implementing the nuclear accord and attempting to bring Iran back into the family of nations with economic incentives, is really such an enlightened concept. https://brokenshttps://brokenspring.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/cancelling-the-iran-deal-a-dangerous-i-told-you-so
Here’s Shapiro’s view:
“Qassim Soleimani had the blood of many thousands on his hands: Americans, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Israelis & many, many others. Truly one of the most evil men on the planet. Seeing his smiling mug in selfies with terrorists across the region was hard to take. Good riddance.
“That he deserved this fate, a fate he authored for so many others, is not in question. The ability to carry it out is also impressive, as an intelligence and operational achievement.
“To take a decision like this has major strategic consequences. Iran has capabilities far
beyond al-Qaeda or ISIS when their leaders were eliminated. And they will have many opportunities to respond. The question is, will the US and our allies be ready?
“To state the obvious, careful, strategic, fact-based planning is not a hallmark of our current President. So there is plenty of risk in this moment.
“Immediate challenges will include keeping our embassies, troops, and personnel safe in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf. Dealing with political blowback in Iraq, possibly to include demands that US forces leave, will be a major challenge.
“Allies will want to know if the US will stand with them against blowback that may land on them. Previous decisions after attacks in the Gulf and on pulling troops out of Syria have raised many questions in their minds. They will be looking for reassurance now.
“It鈥檚 a major decision. Soleimani richly deserved his fate. The strategic consequences can last months, or years. Time to breathe deeply, prepare seriously, and give our personnel and allies all the support they need.
“But one can鈥檛 help but be concerned about the current administration鈥檚 ability to think strategically several steps ahead. We are going to find out.”
Yes, we will find out. It won’t be pretty. And the tragedy is–we didn’t have to go this way at all, but we never gave the other way a chance.

How to prevent a massacre

Here’s news of a Texas church under attack, and the hero who stopped it before more people were killed.

At a time when attacks against religious institutions, especially Jewish ones, are becoming a near-daily occurrence, we need to think seriously about how to react. Then we need to think about how to stop it. The first is an immediate necessity. The second, while potentially more important, is a long-term goal.

This isn’t an endorsement of random worshippers packing heat and opening fire inside a crowded church or synagogue. Just the opposite. This person is the “deacon of security” at his church, highly trained, and doing his job. THAT’S what we need to emulate. Unfortunately, that’s 21st century reality, and it doesn’t matter who’s to “blame.”

诪讻转讘 诪砖讬 驻讬专讜谉

聽砖讬 驻讬专讜谉 讻讛谉 讻砖专 讛讞讬谞讜讱 诇转拽讜驻讛 拽爪专讛 诪讚讬. 讛讜讗 诪讛讜讜讛 拽讜诇 砖拽讜诇 谞讚讬专

聽 .讘拽专讘 诪谞讛讬讙讬 讛爪讬谞讜转 讛讚转讬转

聽聽

1. 诪专 谞转谞讬讛讜,
讗驻砖专 诇讗讛讜讘 讜诇讛注专讬讱, 诇讛注专讬抓 讗讜转讱. 讗驻砖专 诇讘讜讝, 诇讞诇讜拽 讜诇专讗讜转 讘讱 专讗砖 诪诪砖诇讛 专注. 注诇
讻讱 讬讞诇讬讟讜 讛讘讜讞专讬诐.
讗讘诇 讗诐 诇讗 转专讚 诪讛讘诪讛 讘讝诪谉, 讬砖讻讞讜 讗转 讻诇 讛讚讘专讬诐 讛讟讜讘讬诐 砖注砖讬转 – 讜注砖讬转. 讻诇 诪砖拽诇讱
讛讛讬住讟讜专讬 讬住转讻诐 讘诪砖驻讟, 讘谞讗讜诪讬讱 讛诪住讜讻谞讬诐, 讘讗诪讬专讜转 讞住专讜转 讗讞专讬讜转. 讬砖 诇讱 诪讜专砖转,
讬砖 诇讱 讛讬砖讙讬诐. 讗诇 转讛专讜住 讗讜转诐.
2. 砖专讬 讛诇讬讻讜讚.
讗谞讬 诪转讞讬诇 诇讞砖讜讘 砖讻驻讬 讛谞专讗讛 讻诪注讟 讗祝 讗讞讚 诪讻诐 诇讗 诪转讗讬诐 诇讛谞讛讙转 讛诪讚讬谞讛. 讗祝 讗讞讚
诪讻诐 诇讗 讗讜诪专 诪讬诇讛, 诇讟讜讘 讗讜 诇专注; 讘注讚 讗讜 谞讙讚?! 讗转诐 诪谞讛讬讙讬诐?
3. 诪讜住专.
讗讬谉 砖讗诇讛 注诇 讛注讜讘讚讜转 讛诪讜住专讬讜转. 讗讘诇 讝讛 讛驻住讬拽 诇讛讟专讬讚 讗讜转谞讜 讻讞讘专讛. 讜讝讛 讻讜讗讘.
注讝讘讜. 诇讗 诪转讗讬诐 诇讻转讘 讗讬砖讜诐?! 讘住讚专. 讗讘诇 诪讜住专讬转? 注专讻讬转? 讛转谞讛诇讜转讬转? 讝讛 诪讛 砖讛讬讬谞讜
专讜爪讬诐?!
讘注讬谞讬, 诪讜住专讬转, 转讬拽 1000 讛讜讗 讛讞诪讜专 讘转讬拽讬诐 诪驻谞讬 砖讛讜讗 诪爪讘讬注 注诇 讛转谞讛诇讜转 讗讬砖讬转
诪讜住专讬转 拽诇讜拽诇转. 讜讗谞讞谞讜 – 诪诪砖讬讻讬诐 诇讚讜谉 讘注讜爪诪讛 讛诪砖驻讟讬转 砖诇 讛转讬拽. 讛讗诪转 驻讞讜转
诪注谞讬讬谉 讗讜转讬. 诪讟专讬讚讛 讗讜转讬 讛注讜爪诪讛 讛诪讜住专讬转 砖诇 讛转讬拽.
4. 注诐 讬砖专讗诇 讞讬.
讝讛 诇讗 讬注讝讜专.
诇讗 诇诪专 谞转谞讬讛讜 讜诇讗 诇讞讘讜专讛 砖诪住讘讬讘讜.
讗谞讞谞讜 讞讝拽讬诐.
诇讗 谞转驻专拽. 谞诪砖讬讱 诇讞诇讜拽, 诇讛转讜讜讻讞. 讬讛讬讛 诇谞讜 砖诪讗诇 讜讬诪讬谉, 讚转讬讬诐 讜讞讬诇讜谞讬讬诐 讜讬讛讜讚讬诐
讜注专讘讬诐.
谞转讜讜讻讞 注诇 讚诪讜转讛 砖诇 讬砖专讗诇 讗讘诇 诇讗 谞讬转谉 诇讗讬砖, 讻讜诇诇 专讗砖 讛诪诪砖诇讛, 诇驻专拽 讗讜转谞讜. 诇讗
转讛讬讛 讻讗谉 讛驻讬讻讛, 诇讗 讬讛讬讛 诪专讚 讘专讞讜讘讜转.
讝讛 讛专讙注 砖讘讜 讻讜诇谞讜 爪专讬讻讬诐 诇讛讜讻讬讞, 讗讞讚 诇砖谞讬, 砖讬砖 诪砖讛讜 砖讗谞讜 讗讜讛讘讬诐 讬讜转专 诪讻诇 –
讗转 诪讚讬谞转 讬砖专讗诇.
5. 讜诇住讬讜诐 – 讗讻讝讘讛.
讝讛 诇讗 住讜讚. 讗谞讬 砖讬讬讱 – 讘诪讛讜转讬 – 诇爪讬讜谞讜转 讛讚转讬转. 讙讚诇转讬 讘讛 讜讘诪讜住讚讜转讬讛. 诪讗诪讬谉
讘注专讻讬讛.
讛注讜讘讚讛 砖讻诇 诪谞讛讬讙讬讛 – 讻讗讬砖 讗讞讚 – 诪讙谞讬诐 注诇 专讗砖 讛诪诪砖诇讛 讘砖注讛 砖讬砖 住驻拽 诪砖驻讟讬
讜讜讜讚讗讬讜转 诪讜住专讬转 – 讛讬讗 讞专驻讛 讚转讬转. 讗谞讬 诪砖讜讻谞注 砖讛讬讗 诪讝讬拽讛 诇转讛诇讬讱 讛讞讬谞讜讻讬 讜诇讗诪讜谉
讛注转讬讚讬.
拽专讗转讬 驻注诐 讗讞专 驻注诐 讘转谞”讱. 讗谞讬 讬讜讚注 砖”注诇 讻诇 驻砖注讬诐 转讻住讛 讗讛讘讛”.
诇讗 砖诪注转讬 砖”注诇 讻诇 驻砖注讬诐 转讻住讛 讬诪谞讬讜转”.
砖讘讜注 讟讜讘
砖讬

聽IDI-讛住拽专

 

“Embattled” Bibi’s failed demo

Now the foreign media have begun to call him “embattled.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out all the stops to drag people to his rally tonight in Tel Aviv: Free bus rides from all over the country, pressure on politicians, pressure on parties, pressure on Cabinet ministers. All he got was loudmouth Miri Regev and, depending on which estimate you see, between 8,000 and 20,000 demonstrators.

Even the highest estimate amounts to a failure. After such efforts, reminiscent of the Likud emptying out settlements with shuttle buses for pro-government rallies in past decades, anything less than 100,000 would have been a failure. Does that mean that Bibi is finished? Not at all. Many have made the mistake of underestimating his political skills. He could still survive this. I don’t see how…but believe me, he does.

First read the US statement. Then we’ll talk.

It’s worthwhile, as always, to read what you’re commenting about before you comment.
Here’s a link to the US statement about Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Please come back after you read it.
So it’s not a green light for unlimited Israeli construction in the West Bank, nor is it a thumb in the eye of those who favor evacuating some or all of the settlements for the sake of peace.
settlements mapIn other words, both the apoplectic left and the ecstatic right have it wrong.
Now that you’ve read it, you see that it is a recognition of the facts on the ground–the settlements exist, and no legal status will change that. The only thing that could change that is a negotiated agreement. (I differ there, because there is no hope for a negotiated agreement, but that’s another issue.)
So if you thought all along that building settlements was a mistake, the US has not totally undermined your position. And if you believed all along that Israel has the divine right to build all over Eretz Yisrael, the US has not endorsed that.
All the US has done is recognize reality as it exists. There are settlements, and they are not going to disappear. Similarly, Israel has held the Golan Heights for five decades, and there is no Syria to “return” it to, even if that were warranted. And Jerusalem is, indeed, the capital of Israel. We decide that, no one else does. The US has recognized those realities,
Does this trend of recognizing reality torpedo the chances of peace? Conversely, does it reinforce peace efforts? No and no.
Recognizing facts is a good basis for progress–but progress on what? Israel has twice offered the Palestinians a state, according to their own demands. but the Palestinians turned down the offers. So measuring every step as if it’s a part of a “peace process” is outdated thinking. One day there will be a regional forum that redraws borders, including finally setting a border between Israel and the Palestinians. When that day comes, the parties will have to deal with the reality on the ground. Like it or not, intentionally or not, the US is, by stages, recognizing that fact.
No less, but also no more.