Christians and Jews Gathered to Learn about Israel’s Response to the Coronavirus
New York, NY (April 7, 2020) – The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) held an important digital event: Israel’s Response to the Coronavirus Crisis and Rising Anti-Semitism, attracting over 35,000 Christians and Jews from around the world.
The invocation for the event was delivered by Senior Pastor, Dr. Dean Haun – First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tennessee. Keynote speakers from Israel included Ambassador Dani Dayan, medical experts including Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korac and Aviv Shoher, and leading Middle East scholars, including NGO Monitor Vice President Olga Deutsch and Alma Center CEO Sarit Zehavi. The event included inspirational stories from Juliana Taimoorazy and Darion Ouliguian who, as Christian leaders, lent their support and inspiration to Jews around the world. A wonderful musical concert given by award-winning musician Aaron Shust closed out the 90-minute session. Over 35,000 people streamed the online event from locations around the world. The event can be watched at this link here.
Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, spoke of the response of Israeli society to the crisis, saying “As always in Israel in times of crisis and in times of need, our ingenuity and sense of contribution reaches its apex. As we speak now, dozens and dozens of Israeli firms and researchers, institutions, governmental and private, are working together to find a cure and to find something that will lower the deaths or at least, mitigate the suffering.
Israeli medical professionals discussed the effects of the pandemic on Israeli society and gave a behind-the-scenes-look at hospital realities and cutting-edge healthcare solutions that are currently being developed and implemented. More than two dozen healthcare technology projects related to COVID-19 have launched within the past three weeks in Israel.
Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach, Director-General of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center shared her experience as a hospital executive in preparing for the pandemic. “Once the coronavirus started, healthcare and the government picked up really quickly the magnitude of what’s going to happen. At the Shamir Medical Center, we took three departments which are a little remote from the rest of the hospital and made them the corona center. We protect staff by minimizing their exposure including through robots that can bring patients medication.”
While many new technologies are in experimental stages, Israel is leveraging its innovative thinking to help the world cope with the coronavirus crisis. The impact of these inventions were discussed during the event by Aviv Shoher, CEO of Ichilov Tech at Tel Aviv Medical Center. Shoher told viewers “We’re seeing two overarching themes with healthcare in Israel during the coronavirus: the first is a collaborative approach amongst all stakeholders in Israel and the second is the development of a long term effect on the delivery of care. Things like hospitalization-at-home and telemedicine are taking on quickly and we will see them after the pandemic.” For more detailed explanations of the latest healthcare innovations known to Mr. Shoher being developed in Israel to combat Covid-19 click here.
Dr. Zvika Slovin, Director of Rafael Development Corporation, further explained Israeli advanced technological solutions to combat the virus. “We have 29 companies in our portfolio in different aspects of the healthcare system.” Specific examples of the healthcare innovations known by Dr. Slovin can be found here.
Other speakers shifted gears and addressed Israel’s regional challenges including how the country’s enemies are using the pandemic to fuel hateful anti-Semitic attacks against Israel, its allies, and the Jewish people as a whole.
Olga Deutsch, NGO Monitor Vice President, spoke about the rise in anti-Semitism associated with coronavirus around the world. “In the time of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re not surprised but nevertheless shocked to see a sharp spike in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and narratives that have been inspired by the pandemic. Too many NGO’s instead of promoting human rights promote BDS and anti-Semitism against Israel. Different groups are blaming Israel for coronavirus or comparing Israel to coronavirus.” See the linked PowerPoint here for further detail.
Sarit Zehavi, CEO of the Alma Research & Education Center, expanded on the theme of coronavirus related anti-Semitism in the Middle East saying that “In the Middle East in general anti-Semitism has not gotten stronger following the coronavirus crisis, because in the Middle East anti-Semitism is common and well rooted already. Here was one example shared from Syria. Today, we see an uptick of anti-Semitism in Turkey, Iran and in also in the BDS and Pro-Palestinian movements who blame Israel, the Jews, and the United States for spreading the virus. Anti-Semitic expressions are a planned effort from these regimes to draw the attention away from their own inadequate responses to the pandemic.” An example of recent anti-Semitic expression in Middle Eastern media can be found here.
Christian faith leaders then discussed their personal connections to Israel and their solidarity with the Jewish people during this difficult period.
Turning to build interfaith relationships between Jews and Christians, Juliana Taimoorazy, President of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, shared her personal story of fleeing persecution in the Middle East and spoke of her love for Israel stating “My love for Israel was planted in my heart by my father who taught me to love the Jewish people, not because Jesus was a Jew but because of who the Jews are and what they stand for and what they have suffered, which is very similar to what we, the Assyrians, have gone through. For me as a Christian, as an Assyrian, it’s just natural to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism.”
Darion Ouliguian, a Christian Zionist student leader at UCLA shared how he came to be a supporter of Israel through his family’s story and his own faith journey. “I have been blessed to become the first non-Jewish president of our campus’s premier pro-Israel organization, Bruins for Israel. I have faced backlash from my communities on campus. I have lost friends. I’ve been called names and been told I was a fake Armenian. But my personal connections to Israel and the Jewish people made these hardships worth it. As an Armenian, I understand what it’s like to be a people in diaspora, surrounded by hostile enemies. And as a student who values truth, I know that the realities on the ground are much complex and nuanced than they are made out to be on campus.”
In addition to being hosted by CAM and ICEJ, the event was co-sponsored by twelve CAM coalition partners including American Christian Leaders for Israel, American Pastors Network, Belgian Friends of Israel, Faith Wins, Forecefield Human Rights, IMPAC, Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the Lawfare Project, the Philos Project, Stand In The Gap, Stand Firm and Sweden Israel Alliance.
Following Thursday’s event, Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement Director said convening these Israeli and Christian leaders together now was crucial, commenting “The spread of coronavirus is providing fertile ground for the spread of anti-Semitism. Just as the coronavirus knows no borders and does not discriminate, anti-Semites are willing to attack with increased venom in their hate and conspiracy theories, especially at this dire time. Now more than ever the Jewish people and the Jewish State are grateful for and rely on our Christian and interfaith allies to help defeat anti-Semitism. Israel continues to pursue its mission of making the world a better place for all people and is helping currently to lead the world’s response to the coronavirus through groundbreaking healthcare technology.
Susan M. Michael, USA Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem spoke of the ICEJ’s important work in Israel, commenting that “The ICEJ has been in Israel for over 40 years. We’ve been with them for other crises and we’re with them during this one. We heard today how the technology in the medical field is going to change the face of medicine in Israel and eventually around the world. As Christians, we should respond to anti-Semitism with acts of love and kindness towards our Jewish brethren in our local communities. It lets the Jewish people know that they are not alone.”