UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — As I prepared to fly out of Tel Aviv to speak at the AIPAC conference here in Washington last week, Israel’s Health Ministry issued an unprecedented warning. The government urged Israelis not to travel internationally unless absolutely necessary, due to concerns over the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
Given that I was about to begin a six-week book tour for The Jerusalem Assassin, I decided to fly anyway and trust the Lord (and good hygiene) to keep me healthy. But wherever I go, the coronavirus is the number one topic. And for good reason.
As of Friday night:
- The number of cases has shot past 100,000 in at least 81 countries.
- More than 3,300 people have died from the previously unknown virus.
- President Trump just signed a law designating $8.3 billion in emergency funds to combat the virus and protect American lives.
Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly says Israel cannot take any chances but must take extraordinary measures to protect lives as well as Israel’s globally-connected economy.
“It must be understood that we are in the midst of a global pandemic,” Netanyahu said this week. “They do not call it this, but this is the truth and it needs to be said. It could be that it is among the most dangerous of such pandemics in the past 100 years.”
Netanyahu noted that “Israel is in the best situation of all other countries, together with another two or three Western countries,” but added that “we are in the midst of a global epidemic, the most dangerous of these epidemics in the last 100 years [and] have had to take tough, even very rigid steps, to slow the spread of the disease in Israel.”
- Israel first banned all flights and foreigners from China — and those who have been in China in the last 14 days — from entering the country.
- Israel then banned citizens and recent travelers from Thailand, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong from entering the country.
- Israel then warned Israelis specifically not to travel to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, and Taiwan, unless absolutely necessary.
- Next, Israeli authorities ordered anyone coming from Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland to go into a two-week quarantine, just as it has done with any Israeli coming from Asia. This prompted Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Austrian Airlines to stop flying to Israel in March.
- Israel has also banned any large gatherings inside Israel, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has urged people to stop shaking hands, hugging or have other physical contact to limit transmission of the virus.
- Now, Israeli officials are actively considering preventing Americans and those coming from the U.S. from entering the country — however, this has huge political and economic implications and no final decision has yet been made.
So far, so good — the measures have contained the virus as best as we can tell.
Yes, Israel does have an estimated 100,000 people in quarantine.
Yet as of Friday night, only 21 people in Israel have contracted the virus, and no one — thank God — has died.
Please pray for both Israelis and Palestinians as we combat the virus. Please pray for world leaders and health authorities to have the wisdom — and God’s mercy — to save lives and quickly and effectively stop this virus before it becomes a worst-case scenario. And please pray that the Lord would be gracious to those whose jobs and businesses are being adversely affected by the virus.
Finally, I would encourage Evangelical Christians to continue traveling to Israel on tours, pilgrimages, study opportunities, prayer trips, volunteer opportunities, and so forth. Israel is a very safe country. Officials are taking the challenge very seriously. And it would be a real blessing for Evangelicals to stand with Israelis and Palestinians, pray for us, and help the Israeli and Palestinian economies by visiting at this time. The only reason not to come is if you are sick or have recently been in countries on the restricted list.
Thanks so much, and I’ll keep you posted on these and other developments on this blog and on Twitter.
- To pre-order my next thriller, THE JERUSALEM ASSASSIN, which releases on March 17th, please click here.
- Announcing 9-city book tour — click here to learn more and register to attend one of the events.
- To buy copies of THE PERSIAN GAMBLE in paperback, please click here.
- To buy copies of THE KREMLIN CONSPIRACY in paperback, please click here.
- Give your family a trip to Israel & Egypt in 2020! Join Lynn and me on The Joshua Fund’s “Prayer & Vision Trip” next October. Here are all the details and prices. Register today.
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