Despite pandemic, Israel’s death rate dropped 12% in March compared to last year JONATHAN S. TOBIN It’s a little late for Jews to get even with St. Louis and Unique Hydro-Print Tech Lets You Photoshop Your Actual Body and Rationalist Judaism: When Classical Judaism Bothers Rabbis and Left-wing lobby group calls for new nationwide US lockdown and Three Countries much bigger than you think, with a continent, you never heard of!
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Love Yehuda Lave
Three Countries much bigger than you think, with a continent you never heard of!
First is India:
India: I used to ask people if Texas was bigger than India, and a lot of them said that yes. Texas is way smaller than India.
As you can see, India is about 5x bigger than Texas. Just look at how small Texas is compared to India
Brazil: A lot of people think that Brazil is just another country with one or two big cities. Brazil is huger than people think it is though. Here take a look.
Technically, Europe is bigger than Brazil, but by only 20%. That's crazy because one country is almost as big as a whole continent!!!
New Zealand is a tiny country to many people, but actually is huge. There's a hidden part of New Zealand called Zelandia, and it's huge:
It's covered by ocean water. Not many people know about this fact. Well, now you know!!
A microcontinent is a landmass that has broken off from the main continent. Zealandia broke off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then from Australia about 80 million years ago.
Zealandia is about half the size of Australia, but only 7 percent of it is above sea level. Most of that terrestrial land makes up the two large islands of the country of New Zealand, the North Island and the South Island. Stewart Island, just south of the South Island, and many smaller islets are also a part of Zealandia. New Caledonia, a collection of islands governed by France, makes up the northern tip of Zealandia.
Zealandia generally enjoys a mild, temperate climate. Its largest islands have glaciers, the largest being Tasman Glacier on the South Island. Activity from the last glacial period also carved out many fjords and valleys. The tropical climate of New Caledonia, on the other hand, has more in common with Oceania and the South Pacific.
Zealandia is a very tectonically active region. Part of the microcontinent is on the Australian plate, while the other part is on the Pacific plate.
The northern part of Zealandia is very volcanic. There are six major areas with active volcanoes, the largest being the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the North Island. Geothermal activity caused by the interaction of the Australian and Pacific plates also means there are many natural geysers and hot springs scattered throughout Zealandia.
Both the North and South Islands have volcanic mountain ranges running through their centers. The North Island is dominated by the North Island Volcanic Plateau, while the primary mountain range of the South Island is the Southern Alps. Both mountain ranges are slowly getting higher through a process called tectonic uplift.
The submerged part of Zealandia is rich in mineral deposits, although New Zealand's government strictly controls undersea mining activity. There are also many natural gas fields scattered throughout Zealandia. The Maui natural gas field in the Tasman Sea is the largest.
Underwater Zealandia is of value to science as well as business. During glacial periods, sea levels fell, and more of Zealandia was above water. Zealandia's submerged fossils provide valuable clues to life during those time periods.
Rationalist Judaism: When Classical Judaism Bothers Rabbis
You can't do mitzvos and transfer their credit to other people, whether they are alive or dead. I've written about this before, both in blog posts and in my detailed monograph "What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?" You can't pay someone to honor their parents and transfer the reward to you. You can't separate challah and transfer the reward to someone who is sick (though it may help you be especially inspired in your prayers for them). And you can't learn Torah and transfer the reward to someone who has passed away (except when it's your parents and perhaps other people of significant influence upon you, where everything that you do is automatically a credit to them.)
My favorite story regarding this is one that I heard from a friend who was in a shiur with Rav Tzvi Kushlefsky shlita. One student asked if the shiur could be given l'iluy nishmas his grandmother. Rav Tzvi was apologetic, but explained that this was impossible: "How does my giving a shiur create a credit for your grandmother? It might be a credit for my grandmother, but how can it be a credit for yours?"
There are several grounds on which it can be stated that you can't transfer the credit for mitzvos to other people:
1) Reason. The reward for mitzvos - at least, according to the dominant classical tradition - is the relationship that is created with the Divine. It's not some spiritual gold that can be transferred to a different bank account.
2) Explicit Sources. The sources in the Geonim, Rishonim and early Acharonim to discuss this - and there are several - all state that such a thing is impossible, precisely for the reason given above. To give but one example, Maharam Alashkar cites Rav Hai Gaon who firmly rejects the notion that one can transfer the reward of a mitzvah to another person and explains why this is impossible: "These concepts are nonsense and one should not rely upon them. How can one entertain the notion that the reward of good deeds performed by one person should go to another person? Surely the verse states, 'The righteousness of a righteous person is on him,' (Ezek. 18:20) and likewise it states, 'And the wickedness of a wicked person is upon him.' Just as nobody can be punished on account of somebody else's sin, so too nobody can merit the reward of someone else. How could one think that the reward for mitzvot is something that a person can carry around with him, such that he can transfer it to another person? (Maharam Alashkar, Responsa #101). The only sources that allow for such a thing - such as those cited in an unfortunately uncritical article on OU Torah - are within the last 150 years, and they are baseless innovations.
3) Implicit Tradition. If transferring the reward for mitzvos were to be possible, there are many stories and directives in the Torah and Gemara which would read very differently. When people needed a certain thing from God - either for themselves, or for others - they prayed for it. They didn't do mitzvos or learn Torah and have the reward credited to someone else. Likewise, Chazal taught us how to try to get what we want from God, and even how to help the souls of the dead, and nowhere do they mention the notion of outsourcing mitzvos to others; in fact, in one case of someone trying to help the deceased, they explicitly state that it can't be done.
(And to preempt the inevitable question - no, Yissacher and Zevulun do not demonstrate otherwise. Aside from the fact that the tribe of Yissacher were also working - Zevulun were merely marketing their produce - the idea is that Zevulun received the reward for helping people learn, not for actually learning.)
Recently I came across some discussion of this topic from Rav Asher Weiss, shlita. Rav Weiss is a wonderful person, a leader with integrity, and an important talmid chacham. But in the past I have pointed out that, for all his breadth, he is nevertheless a product of the charedi/ non-rationalist worldview. In the previous instance, it was when he declared that Torah protects from missiles (though only after he ascertained that he was in a fortified room). The topic of transferring mitzvah rewards to other people is another example.
In his discussion of this topic, both in a shiur transcribed online and in Responsa Minchas Asher II:58, he acknowledges the problem with the notion that you can do mitzvos and credit the reward to other people. Rav Weiss notes that Maharam Alashkar and others state clearly that the reward for mitzvos cannot be transferred to other people, and that they give powerful reasons why. However, he takes the approach that it simply cannot be so. Why? Because everyone does it!
That is actually his position, and he says it explicitly in his responsum. If everyone does it, it can't be that it doesn't make sense! He tries to come up with a way of making it work even according to Maharam Alashkar et al., but is forced to admit that there is no convincing way to do so. And he tries to find earlier sources who defend it, but they are extremely limited (as they are referring specifically to charity) and tentative. Accordingly, Rav Weiss concludes that it simply does work, albeit inexplicably, and that it is one of the secrets of Divine providence.
It's simply astonishing. It means that Rav Weiss is saying that all the Geonim and Rishonim and Acharonim who said that it doesn't work, are wrong. But he would rather do this than say that the conventional practice today is baseless. There are many cases where we defend historical tradition, even on weak grounds, shelo lehotzi la'az al ha-rishonim (so as not to cast aspersions on the earlier generations), but this is the opposite; discarding the historical tradition, shelo lehotzi la'az on what people do today.
This is how classical Judaism gets reformed. And it's not a good reform. Because when you allow for mitzvos to be outsourced, you teach people that they can buy Heaven instead of earning it, and you commercialize the mitzvos instead of having them as means for personal growth. The classical view, still maintained by people such as Rav Tzvi Kushlefsky, needs to be taught and strengthened, not discarded.
Left-wing lobby group calls for new nationwide US lockdown
'Shut it down and start over again,' says open letter, signed by Ezekiel Emmanuel and dozens of doctors and nurses.
A left-leaning advocacy group is calling on leaders across the US to impose nationwide lockdowns, shutting down the country to contain the coronavirus.
The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), which was founded by activist and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, penned an open letter to leaders across the US, imploring them to "hit the reset button" and shut down much of the economy.
"Non-essential businesses should be closed," the letter reads.
"Restaurant service should be limited to take-out. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air. Masks should be mandatory in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where we interact with others."
PIRG also called to ban all "non-essential" interstate travel.
"When people travel freely between states, the good numbers in one state can go bad quickly."
"If you don't take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death."
Dr. Ezekiel 'Zeke' Emanuel, brother of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and one of the architects of President Obama's sweeping healthcare law, was among the dozens of doctors and nurses who signed onto the letter.
More than 150 people in total added their names to the letter.
"ABBA" "TATTE" "FATHER"
The amazing song "Father" recreated with an entire concert hall Video from barry kaye
Unique Hydro-Print Tech Lets You Photoshop Your Actual Body
If you want to banish a blemish or add a fanciful flourish to your photograph, that's easily done with Photoshop. It's not as easily done on your actual body. Israeli photographer and industrial designer Guy Aon aims to change that.
Aon's tentatively titled BodyPiece technology could revolutionize a broad range of sectors, from makeup to prosthetics to fashion.
Say you want to cover a burn scar on your hand. Aon takes a picture of your other hand, adjusts it to perfection on Photoshop and prints it onto a special type of paper using non-toxic ink.
He immerses the paper in water. The paper dissolves, leaving behind the ink suspended on the water. Then you submerge the scarred part of your hand and the ink settles on it precisely in the correct pattern. It stays there until you scrub it off.
"The result is actually amazing," Aon tells ISRAEL21c. "It's hard to see any difference between the image and the body itself. It's a smooth continuation. And it's very elastic so it moves with your skin."
A combination of the ancient Japanese suminagashi marbling method and modern hydro-printing, Aon's technique can work on just about any material.
You could submerge a thermoplastic prosthesis in the floating ink and come out with a leg or arm that matches your remaining limb perfectly. Unlike on skin, the ink transfer would be permanent.
"Some prostheses are skin-toned but still look unrealistic. We would create a continuum between the body's own skin and the prosthesis," Aon says.
He showed a demo of his technique to doctors and medical investors, mainly in New York. They were intrigued by its potential not only for lifelike prosthetic limbs but also for prosthetic nipples.
"Nipples are very hard to reconstruct after surgery," Aon explains.
But medical aesthetics is hardly the only area of interest.
Aon envisions his revolutionary technique, for example, disrupting the movie makeup industry.
"Instead of spending two hours on a movie set creating a special makeup effect, in a matter of seconds you'd have something more precise without spending so much time and money."
He is working with a fashion designer and a jewelry designer to explore yet another application for BodyPiece.
"My ambition is to create wearable photography, something new in fashion," he says.
"You could print on fabric, metal or plastic. Or you could print on your own body. Instead of wearing fabric you'd be wearing the BodyPiece photograph as a substitute for a piece of fabric or as a continuation of the garment."
He hopes to start a couture collection in collaboration with the designer. "I learned that in order to become mainstream you have to start with high fashion," he says.
"In terms of fashion the idea is creating something fringe and colorful and innovative to look at. In medicine or in movie makeup the idea is to create something that looks realistic and feels realistic, resembling the body as perfectly as possible."
Aon gives lecture performances on his technique at venues such as the Design Museum in Holon. Photographs of his process were turned into an exhibition, "Image Prêt-à-Porter," on display at the Faculty of Physics of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.
Aon hopes to open a research lab in the coming months to perfect his technique for all these different applications.
"The beauty of this technology is you can do so many different things. The way I work allows me to go into very different areas, but the development doesn't change much from one area to another."
These two areas of expertise led to his curiosity about transposing photography onto 3D objects.
During his master's studies he spent time in the materials science and nanotechnology lab of Prof. Shlomo Magdassi at Hebrew University. He discovered materials and techniques that could help him create freestanding photographic images.
"I did this first with circular objects and then I developed masks. I took a mold of my face and designed a mask very similar to my actual face because it uses the pixels from the original picture. If I could transpose a picture onto an object with precision, why not use the same technique to transpose pictures onto the body?"
Aon hopes his first products will hit the market in 2021. "The innovation in this technique is that it gives advanced aesthetic solutions without invasive intervention, using photography and water printing."
Worst of Israel's Economic Fallout From Coronavirus Is Yet to Come
The world economy is in its worst state in decades and joblessness is here to stay. A depression isn't out of the question
The worst of the coronavirus crisis is still ahead of us. The signs are accumulating in Israel and globally that not only is the worst of pandemic not behind us but that it may grow worse. The prospects for a rapid recovery don't appear to be on the horizon.
In Israel, the worst of those signs are in the labor market. The number of Israel joining the ranks of the unemployed is worrying. It's quite possible that what we're seeing now is a drizzle before the downpour.
In normal times, about 1,000 Israelis lose their jobs every day, but most of them find work quickly. But the economy's revolving door is broken – these days it is letting workers out but it's not letting them in. Many employers say they plan to make more layoffs.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced Sunday the extension until the middle of August of unemployment benefits for workers who were laid off or placed on unpaid leave. It will also apply to employed people of retirement age, who ordinarily aren't entitled to jobless benefits.
The decision came amid the recognition that some 262,000 Israelis would lose their benefits at the end of June without any prospects of finding work. The extension gives them an economic lifeline of another few weeks. But some 100,000 self-employed people are getting no such help.
Netanyahu and Katz said they would consider further extensions later on and for good reason. Many of those unemployed were able to get their mortgage payments suspended until September, after which they will have to begin repaying again with the added cost of covering the frozen payments. That involves about 137,000 people.
Governments all over the world are wrestling with these same dilemmas. Economists estimate that about 40% of all jobs in the United States that were lost due to the coronavirus will not come back. Consumers are changing their shopping habits, households prefer to save rather than spend and many families are at risk of losing their homes due to non-payment of rent or mortgages.
The coronavirus virus has created the most risk-laden economic environment in 70 years.
Recession or depression?
Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revised their outlooks for the world economy this month. The IMF now sees global gross domestic product contracting by 4.9% and the OECD by 6% in 2020. If they prove true, it will be the biggest drop in economic output in modern times.
The OECD estimates that Israeli GDP will shrink an even sharper 6.2% this year, and that assumes that's there's no second coronavirus wave. If there is, the world economy will shrink 7.6% and the Israeli economy by 8.3%. The previous forecasts for a recovery in the second half of this year have been shelved and the recovery in 2021 will be more modest than previously expected.
During the Great Depression of 1929-32, global GDP contracted by 15%. By one definition a recession becomes a depression when GDP declines 10% over a period of more than two years. We still face too much uncertainty to say the world is heading into a depression, but the decline in output is already big enough to make the concerns palpable.
A protest by workers in arts and culture, who say the government has not done enough to help them stay afloat, in June 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
David Shulman, an economist at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, believes the crisis has reached the scale that it could lead to a depression. "To call this crisis a recession is a misnomer. We are forecasting a 42% annual rate of decline in real GDP for the current quarter, followed by a 'Nike swoosh' recovery that won't return the level of output to the prior fourth quarter of 2019 peak until early 2023," he said in an essay titled "The Post-COVID Economy" published last week.
Millions of people of jobs in restaurants ad personal services will disappear. "For too many workers, the recession will linger on well past the official end date," Shulman wrote.
Shulman published his essay before the number of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 rose by about 40,000 a day, which suggests that the economic fallout of the coronavirus will be even bigger than what he spoke about. Even if a vaccine is developed, it will take time for consumer to return to their normal behavior, Shulman predicted.
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office predicts that U.S. GDP will only return to its pre-coronavirus level in another decade because if its impact on the structure of the economy. That will be felt all over the world because so many economies rely on U.S. consumption for their exports, among other things.
In the second quarter, world trade contracted an unprecedented 18.5%, according to the World Trade Organization. For all of 2020, it expects trade to drop between 13% and 32%. It's not just the coronavirus but trade tensions between the U.S. and China and among other countries.
Export-oriented economies like Israel are being hurt badly. The developed economies being harmed most by the decline in trade are France, Italy, Spain, Britain and the U.S. – all of them major export markets for Israel. Israeli manufacturing continued to operate during the lockdown, but export demand dried up.
Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reports that merchandise exports fell 16% in January-May from a year earlier to 70 billion shekels ($20.3 billion). Service exports dropped 8.8% in March, mainly due to the drop in tourism (which is deemed a service export). for the second, quarter exports are expected to show a 10% drop.
The lockdown factor
Sweden and Denmark each adopted different policies to contend with COVID-19. But in Sweden, which kept its economy open, consumer spending still dropped by 25%, just a little less than the 29% in Denmark, which adopted a more conventional approach. In both countries, unemployment rose by two percentage points. New-car sales plunged 49% in Sweden and 40% in Denmark.
Without entering into the debate over which is more important, health or the economy, no one can ignore than consequences of figures like these. They show that economic activity didn't decline just because of the lockdown but because of the public's fear about the coronavirus. So long as the virus is with us, economic activity will remain constrained, even if there are no lockdown restrictions.
"Even without the lockdown, people would have stopped shopping because people will change their behavior while there is a pandemic around," Dhaval Joshi, chief strategist for European investment strategy at BCA Research, told CNBC News last week. Even in Japan, where the rate of contagion has been among the lowest in the developed world, GDP is forecast to drop more than 5% this year.
In Israel, purchases done with credit cards have grown impressively since the end of the lockdown. Average weekly spending in mid-June was 1.05 billion shekels, slightly above the 1.04 billion in February before the onset of the pandemic locally. Spending for restaurant meals was about the same in June as it was in January. Sales of apparel, electronics and furniture are doing well. Only tourism is suffering big time.
Nevertheless, restaurants report that their turnover is down 60% from its pre-coronavirus levels. Chain stores at the big malls want to reduce shopping hours because they say there is not enough business to justify staying open for so much of the day.
One possible explanation for the seemingly contradictory trends is the "uncorked battle" phenomenon after an extended lockdown period. Israelis are spending big now after building up so much patent-up demand.
A depressed labor market
In any case, even if the credit card figures continue to remain strong, they don't present the full picture. The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry says that the number of people registering with the Employment Service was 68% higher in the first three weeks of this month than a year ago – 4,900 a week versus 2,900. That is three straight months on immensely elevated figures, which is bound to depress consumer spending going forward.
The labor market is the biggest source of fear. Employment figures in many countries are being biased higher because governments have spent heavily to preserve jobs and subsidize salaries. In practice, many of these workers are not really working. Their employers may discover they don't really need them and their jobs won't come back.
Research at the University of Chicago estimates that 42% of those laid off during the pandemic will become long-term unemployed because the coronavirus crisis is causing long-term changes in the structure of the economy.
In Israel, a survey by the Manpower placement firm found that employers expect the local labor market to contract 7% in the third quarter. Employers in finance, industry, retail and other segments have discovered that they can manage with fewer employees. There's no reason to recall workers they put on unpaid leave.
In addition, companies face declining demand. Israel insurance companies were the first to recognize this and cut back, but others are sure to follow, even in high-tech, where before the coronavirus there had been a severe labor shortage.
The transition to work from home, which was supposed to take years but accelerated sharply during the lockdown, will have strong knock-on effects. In high-tech, for instance, where work-from-home has ballooned, each job generates two or three others. Cleaning companies have already announced layoffs since emptier offices don't need to be cleaned nearly as often.
If tech and other companies decide to dispense with much of their office space, the impact will reverberate through sectors running from commercial real estate to small businesses that deliver lunches or sell office supplies. CofaceBDI predicted early in the pandemic that 70,000 businesses will go under in Israel this year, compared with 45,000 in a normal year.
What to do
In the face of the deteriorating global economic outlook, the IMF recommended policy makers act by continuing budgetary and monetary support for their economies while preserving central bank independence. In places where the coronavirus is severely restricting economic activity government must keep paying unemployment benefits and subsidize salaries for workers while providing grants and loans to businesses. To help workers in developing countries with big informal economies, governments should provide cash grants, medicine and basic large via local authorities.
In economies that have begun to reopen after lockdowns, governments need to encourage workers to return to their jobs. To those whose sectors haven't recovered and may not for a long time, governments should provide retraining so they can join growing sectors. They must also help companies restructure, and when needed, writ off, debt.
On top of these specific measures, the IMF says governments should also be stepping up green investment and improve their social safety nets. The international community must help developing countries cope with rising debt.
Indeed, debt is a problem for the entire world. This year it will reach historical highs both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP. But the IMF says that bringing the level down is a long-term goal, not a short-term one that would undermine efforts at economic recovery.
JONATHAN S. TOBIN It's a little late for Jews to get even with St. Louis
There's no statute of limitations on anti-Semitic hate, but the effort to tear down a statue of a French king and rename the gateway city is another terrible woke idea.
Who says Jews and Muslims can't work together? In St. Louis, an Israeli-American restaurant owner and a pair of Muslim activists have joined forces in order to exact retroactive justice against a historical figure that hated both groups.
Their target is King Louis IX of France (1214-1270) who was canonized by the Catholic Church as St. Louis, after whom a great American city was named. But as the St. Louis Jewish Lightreports, Ben Poremba (the Israeli), and Umar Lee and Moji Sidiqui (his two Muslim colleagues) have launched an effort to not only remove a famous statue of the king/saint that has stood in front of the city's art museum since the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, but also want to rename the city.
It's just the latest example of the surge of iconoclasm that has gripped the country since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer inspired nationwide protests. The initial targets of demonstrators who took to the streets to oppose racism were statues of those associated with the Confederacy. But it didn't take long for mobs of vandals to move on to a broad array of villains, including those explorers who exploited Native Americans like Christopher Columbus, and Founding Fathers who were slaveholders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Not satisfied with those relatively narrow categories of bad guys, the protests have now also been extended to other presidents who were racists—namely, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson—or justified manifest destiny like Theodore Roosevelt.
In some cases, the new Jacobins have had no real rhyme or reason for tearing down a statue—like the one of an opponent of slavery and a Union soldier that was trashed in Madison, Wis., on the grounds of the state capital. When groups get the urge to destroy things in the name of their righteous anger at the hate they claim to see in others, any statue will do.
But as I pointed out earlier this month, why shouldn't Jews get into the act, too? The list of historical anti-Semites is long as are the monuments that are associated with anti-Jewish prejudice. And if the figure in question is someone that Muslims have good reason to despise as well, then that's even better since it also fosters an exercise in good community relations.
In Louis IX, this trio of activists has found someone who isn't easy to defend. Even in an age in which anti-Semitism was commonplace, he stood out as a particular foe of the Jews and Judaism. He presided over "trials" of Jewish sacred texts that resulted in the public burning of the Talmud, and singled out Jews for humiliation and expulsion. Moreover, he was ardent crusader—going on two futile expeditions to the Middle East, both of which ended disastrously—causing pointless suffering to their Muslim targets, Christian participants and Jewish bystanders.
There would be a certain delicious irony were Louis to be retroactively put on trial for his misdeeds. But dredging up the 800-year-old sins of a man who is now seen as a symbol of faith by Catholics won't do a thing to address contemporary anti-Semitism.
Like all the other efforts to purge our public squares of symbols and history that we are suddenly officially disavowing, this particular effort isn't really about what we think about the lack of religious freedom in 13th-century France. Nor is it a referendum on the various bad things said and done by just about every figure in American history up until the woke present.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't care about the persecution of Jews in that era. Nor should we ignore the catastrophes wrought by the various Christian crusades. In King Louis's time that wasn't so much about throwing Muslims out of present-day Israel as it was a matter of waging war on all Muslims anywhere, even if their opponents operated under a similar mandate about expanding the territory under Islamic control.
But taking the attitude that evidence of ideas and people we now rightly condemn must be erased isn't a manifestation of liberalism or support for tolerance. It's actually the opposite. It's the same totalitarian instinct to destroy that was shown in the worst excesses of revolutionary France, Maoist China and every other tyranny operating under Orwellian rules. That's especially true with respect to public art, which in the case of "Apotheosis of St. Louis" has itself become an important piece of that city's heritage.
It also leads to unfortunate and unnecessary conflicts with other communities. Lee, who is a leader in the city's Black Lives Matter movement, likened the Catholics who came to pray at the statue to members of the KKK and confrontations between those who wished to keep the monument and protesters inevitably turned violent. Lee also called for a demonstration to be held outside of the Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis's home in the middle of the night in order to harass him into silence over their plans. That is not something in which Jews should be participating.
Whatever harm Louis IX did in his time has nothing to do with anyone's suffering today. His statue doesn't hurt Jews who walk past it on their way into the museum. Nor will renaming St. Louis—or any place named after Columbus, Washington or some other target of the BLM movement—make it a better place.
Justice for George Floyd has nothing to do with St. Louis unless what you're really interested in is a fundamental challenge to all of Western culture, warts and all. The search for enemies to cancel is about the impulse to destroy rather than to heal or uplift. Overthrowing these statues, even the ones that are associated with unsavory characters, is part of a "reimagining" of America not into a less racist country, but into one in which the past is thrown down the Orwellian memory hole. Anyone who thinks Jews will benefit from such an atmosphere knows nothing of Jewish history.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
Despite pandemic, Israel's death rate dropped 12% in March compared to last year
Some experts attribute oddity to canceled surgeries and reduced hospital visits, but warn trend will be reversed in the long-term and ultimately lead to more fatalities
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel's overall deaths per month dropped to the lowest rate in four years, in a curious discrepancy that some experts attributed to reduced surgeries and hospital visits.
Despite the coronavirus, the month of March saw a 12 percent drop in the number of deaths compared to last year and a five percent drop compared to the average monthly rate (4,066) from the past decade.
A total of 3,875 people died in March 2020, compared to 4,398 in March 2019, according to The Times of Israel's Hebrew-language sister site Zman Yisrael, which cited Interior Ministry statistics. That's the lowest figure recorded since March 2016.
Israel saw just 20 of its 237 virus deaths in March, but most elective hospital treatments and surgeries were scrapped as medical services geared up for mass hospitalizations of virus victims.
While Israel's local authorities and experts don't have an official explanation for the figures, one of the hypotheses being raised is that these steps contributed to the lower death rate nationwide.
"Much of the decrease in deaths likely stems from the decreased medical treatments, including the cancellation of surgeries, check-ups, and hospitalizations in wards that were cleared as part of preparations for treating coronavirus victims," said Prof. Nadav Davidovitch of Ben Gurion University, an epidemiologist and public health expert.
Prof. Nadav Davidovitch. (Ben Gurion University)
"But the death toll in March is not finalized and occasionally it later emerges that there were others who died and [whose deaths] were not yet reported to the local authorities," he continued, adding, "but the change is significantly large enough to try and draw conclusions."
"Our experience from similar situations in which elective procedures [were canceled], primarily over doctors' strikes and wars, shows that these cancellations cause a drop in death rates in the short term, because many people die from infections while hospitalized, after undergoing surgery or invasive testing."
But, he added, in the long-term, many more will die as a result of delaying these treatments.
The reverberating long-term effects, he said, are similar for suicides.
He said that "in emergency situations and [when] anxiety over survival [is high], like during wars, fewer people will commit suicide than during normal times. However, when the emergency situation ends, it leaves behind people with traumas and depression, and the number of suicides rises. This time, [the suicide rate] will likely increase, because of unemployment and the financial crisis."
Medical workers treat a patient at the coronavirus ward at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
In a letter to the Health Ministry and National Security Council, Davidovitch and 14 other senior doctors warned of the effects of delaying elective procedures.
"The result will be a future rise in death rates, in disabilities and disease," they wrote. "The State of Israel is headed toward a long period of living with the infectious virus, during which we must see public health in its entirely and work to reduce the overall death and illness rates."
More die at home in March
Citing hospital data, Zman Yisrael said the number of those seeking emergency treatment at Israel's hospitals has dropped by 50%-80% amid the pandemic.
The report also noted that the difference in death rates was not explained by a drop in car accidents amid a lockdown on much of the country, which slid from 25 road deaths last March to 16 this year. Some 95% of deaths in Israel are due to illness.
Meanwhile, the Magen David Adom emergency service recorded a 22% rise in the number of those who died at home between March 12 and April 12, as compared to a year earlier.
A Magen David Adom medic and a hospital worker wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on April 30, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
It said 1,115 people died at home that month, compared to 909 the year prior.
Magen David Adom attributed the rise to fears of seeking emergency treatment due to the coronavirus, while some of the home fatalities could be undiagnosed victims of the pathogen.