“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.”
Psalm 68:19-20 (NIV)

As we move closer to Purim, I hope you know how much I treasure you and your partnership. It is critical that we, as Believers in Jesus, stand with Israel and the Jewish people and I’m so thankful that you do!

Purim is about celebrating God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction. Throughout history, from Haman of ancient Persia to Herod, and from Hitler to Hamas, the enemy has attempted to annihilate the Jewish people. But God has faithfully delivered and sustained His people time and time again. As it says in Psalm 68, “Our God is a God who saves!”

I encourage you to celebrate Purim next week (February 25-26). Read the book of Esther and consider the many ways God has rescued the Jewish people and also how He has saved you – and then rejoice and tell others!

I have very good news to report this week concerning COVID-19 in Israel. The lockdown is easing considerably, and more than 25% of Israelis have received both vaccine doses. Two drugs from Israel are also showing promising results in treating the virus.

You’ll also read about Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants making aliyah to Israel even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Thank you for staying up to date on what is happening in Israel and the Middle East, and for your love for Israel and the Jewish people.

Stores, Gyms, Hotels and More Set to Open in Israel on Sunday

On Monday, Israel’s cabinet ministers approved the reopening of stores, gyms, hotels and other venues on Sunday, February 21. The coronavirus cabinet also gave the okay for synagogues and other houses of worship to reopen Friday with attendance limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

Street-front shops, malls, markets, museums and libraries will be open to all Israelis. Only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to use gyms, enter sporting and culture events, hotels and swimming pools.

Purim Gatherings Worrisome Because of Last Year

Concern has been expressed by health officials that festive gatherings will spark another wave of COVID-19 infections. Last year’s Purim is believed to have been a major contributor to Israel’s first wave of infections, according to The Times of Israel.

The coronavirus cabinet said no to festivities and other gatherings over Purim this coming weekend and is restricting attendance at holiday meals to immediate family members.

More Than 25% of Israel’s Population Has Received Both Doses of Vaccine

Nearly 4 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2.5 million - more than a quarter of the population - have received both doses. However, reluctance among Israelis below the age of 50 to get the injections, including among teaching staff, has been noticeable.

Pfizer Vaccine Effectiveness at 93% in Israel

Only 544 people of the half a million who have been vaccinated with both does of the Pfizer vaccine in Israel have subsequently been diagnosed with the coronavirus – that is 0.1%. Four cases were severe. Zero people have died.

That puts the effectiveness rate at 93%, Maccabi Healthcare Services announced last Thursday and The Times of Israel reported. Those vaccinated were compared to a “diverse” control group of unvaccinated members.

It is believed that full protection against COVID-19 for people who have been vaccinated kicks in a week after the second shot.

“This data unequivocally proves that the vaccine is very effective, and we have no doubt that it has saved the lives of many Israelis,” said senior Maccabi official Dr. Miri Mizrahi Reuveni after the new data release.

Reuveni said that among those who have been vaccinated and become infected, the vast majority have experienced the coronavirus lightly.

Has Israel Found the Cure for the Coronavirus?

Even with vaccines being rolled out, drugs to treat the worst coronavirus symptoms are still desperately needed around the world.

Clinical trials for two drugs developed in Israel are showing great promise: EXO-CD24 and Allocetra, reported ISRAEL21c, an American online magazine focused on technological and scientific advances by researchers in Israel.

EXO-CD24

In a Phase I clinical trial for EXO-CD24, an experimental inhaled medication developed at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, all 30 moderate-to-severe cases were cured. EXO-CD24 specifically targets the “cytokine storm” responsible for serious breathing issues in COVID patients.

“To date, the preparation has been tried with great success on 30 severe patients, in 29 of whom the medical condition improved within two to three days and most of them were discharged home within three to five days. The 30th patient also recovered but after a longer time,” the hospital reports.

Allocetra

Last week, Enlivex Therapeutics reported positive results from a multi-center Phase II clinical trial of its experimental COVID-19 immunotherapy drug Allocetra in severe and critical COVID-19 patients.

In October, five COVID-19 intensive care patients were discharged from Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem after treatment with Allocetra.

Nine severe and seven critical COVID-19 patients were treated with Allocetra in the Phase II clinical trial. Fourteen of them recovered and were discharged from the hospital after an average of 5.3 days.

Altogether, 19 out of 21 Phase II and Phase Ib Allocetra trial patients recovered and were discharged from the hospital after an average of 5.6 days. Most of the patients in both studies had pre-existing risk factors, including male gender, obesity and hypertension.

“The Phase II patients who have been discharged from the hospital are currently healthy. We believe that these compelling results have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Allocetra in these complicated patients…” said Professor Vernon van Heerden, head of the General Intensive Care Unit at Hadassah and lead investigator of both clinical trials.

Despite Airport Closure, Ethiopian-Jewish Immigrants Make Aliyah to Israel

Last Friday, more than 300 Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants flew into Israel on a chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). They were able to make aliyah – the immigration of dispersed Jewish people to Israel – despite Ben-Gurion Airport being closed and the borders sealed off to lower coronavirus infections.

The new immigrants had to show negative coronavirus tests before boarding the flight and are now in quarantine in Israel for two weeks, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, but we are so grateful that these Ethiopian immigrants were granted special permission to make the journey home to Israel last night,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jurgen Buhler. “They have endured very tough conditions in Gondar and were expecting to come to Israel any day now, only to see their hopes dashed by the recent airport closure.”

ICEJ has sponsored flights for more than 2,700 Ethiopian Jews to date. About 7,500 members of the Jewish community still remain in Ethiopia. Israel has made arrangements to bring over the next couple of years all Ethiopian Jews who wish to come to Israel and have the right and means to do so.

Let Us Pray Together

Please pray with me for:

  • The easing of Israel’s nationwide lockdown to have a positive effect on the people and the economy while keeping down the virus infection rate
  • Wisdom for Israel’s leaders regarding the opening of schools
  • Continued success for new treatments and vaccines to fight the coronavirus
  • More Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants to be able to make aliyah to Israel
  • Continued success in rolling out coronavirus vaccines in Israel and around the world, especially among the younger generation
  • Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, the God who saves

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