Off the Media’s Radar: How Israel Is Helping Combat the Global COVID Pandemic
HonestReporting has successfully countered (see here, here, and here) various false media narratives about Israel’s ongoing battle against the coronavirus. Perhaps most pervasive has been the accusation that Jerusalem was preventing the Palestinians from obtaining vaccines. However, the Jewish state has now become the first nation in the world to share COVID-19 inoculations with any external population. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister has announced that tens of thousands of additional jabs would soon be arriving in Ramallah.
Lost in the mix are the multitude of ways in which Israeli ingenuity and innovation are benefiting the world amid the pandemic.
Last April, the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, located near Tel Aviv, announced the signing of an “emergency agreement” with the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct applied scientific and clinical research studies in order to develop coronavirus-related treatments.
The hospital committed to supplying the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center with blood samples, plasma, and the COVID-19 virus itself from infected patients in Israel. This was all made possible due to a series of clinical trials the hospital was conducting on possible treatments, including those being developed by major pharmaceutical companies.
In June, the Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service announced that it had developed software for managing a drive-through coronavirus testing facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The number of drive-through centers in the DRC has subsequently increased, and now include a training program with videos and written procedures devised by MDA and shared with medical professionals in the central African country.
According to MDA Director General Eli Bin: “In the light of the fight against coronavirus, we have gained extensive experience in obtaining thousands of samples a day, efficiently and safely, and now we are happy to share knowledge with other medical entities around the world for the sake of saving human lives.”
Before the signing of the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel Aerospace Industries in July launched a historic project with Group 42, an Abu Dhabi-based company. The partnership is aimed at developing ways to leverage artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, including lasers and sensors, to fight COVID-19.
The solutions, as well as the joint medical and technological initiatives, are meant to help not only the populations of both Israel and the UAE, but also those of the entire Middle East.
A grant from a Google fund promoting “AI for Social Good” was in September awarded to Tel Aviv University (TAU). Using data from government ministries and the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, researchers at the university are creating a high-resolution model of the spread of the coronavirus in order to facilitate the planning and testing of various methods for curbing the pandemic.
The interdisciplinary research team brings together TAU scientists from the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, the School of Public Health, the Department of Statistics and Operations Research, the Blavatnik School of Computer Science, the School of Electrical Engineering, and the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research.
A mobile app called Hamagen (The Shield) was developed by Israeli authorities in collaboration with tech experts. Hamagen can be used to identify the whereabouts of people in the Health Ministry’s database who have been infected with coronavirus. The app then notifies users if they have been in the vicinity of those who contracted the contagion.
The personal and location data of users is not uploaded to or stored on any servers or cloud platforms, and they can at any time stop providing information. The Health Ministry has enabled governments across the globe to use Hamagen’s open-code technology for free. The app has already been translated into Arabic, Russian, French, and English.
The above-mentioned initiatives are but a small sample of the many ways that Israel is helping to combat the coronavirus. Yet, they go largely unreported outside of local media outlets. All the while many international news organizations have perpetuated a false, if not malicious, narrative about the Jewish state.
In doing so, they have left their readers in the dark by failing to emphasize that even during a crisis of the magnitude of COVID-19, Israeli projects geared toward saving lives are pressing ahead full steam.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone. After serving in an IDF infantry unit for two-and-a-half years, Gidon returned to the United States before settling in Israel, where he aspires to raise a brood of children who speak English fluently — with an Israeli accent. In addition to writing for the Algemeiner, Ben-Zvi contributes to the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, and CiF Watch, and blogs at Jerusalem State Of Mind.
A version of this article was originally published at HonestReporting.