05/05/2020, 17.26
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Jerusalem Catholic leader: Israeli and Palestinian doctors united against COVID-19

Bernard Sabella sees “no discrimination in this emergency”. People are respecting social distancing and separation; masks and gloves have become ordinary things. The Church and Christians are playing a role in easing the confrontation and promoting dialogue. An Israeli laboratory has taken the first step towards monoclonal antibodies in the fight against coronavirus.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Like in other countries, from Egypt to Iraq where Christians and Muslims work together, even in one of the most disputed and controversial areas of the world, efforts are underway to join forces against the common enemy: COVID-19.

Bernard Sabella, a Fatah representative for Jerusalem and executive secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, can bear witness to the climate of solidarity that has emerged in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"I have a nephew who works as an oncologist in the largest hospital in Jerusalem,” said Sabella speaking to AsiaNews. “He tells me about Israeli and Palestinian doctors working side by side during this emergency without discrimination. There is a shared commitment of all parties involved, Jews and Arabs, even those who come from the West Bank".

During the lockdown and quarantine ordered by Israeli and Palestinian authorities, people have generally "followed instructions to the letter and stayed home. Occasionally, you see someone in the supermarkets of Arab Jerusalem without a mask, not behaving correctly, but in general, people at risk follow the rules,” especially those over 65 who “stay away from their kin and acquaintances; distancing and separation are followed.”

“Ministerial authorities on both sides are working together,” he explained. “Doctors are committed to saving lives. This is a sign of hope, hope that politicians can learn from doctors.”

With respect to the coronavirus "we are all in the same boat, even though seas are different according where we are in the world. COVID-19 teaches us that, despite differences, we can solve problems in a reasonable way without confrontation, divisions, or war.”

For Prof Sabella the pandemic is an opportunity “to rethink our way of life, how to go to church, mosque or synagogue. Illness has a lot to teach us and future generations.” It underlined the “role of the Internet, its importance in keeping ties alive. Everyone must have seen the images of Holy Week, an empty St Peter’s Square. We all identified with Pope Francis standing alone. Now the question is how can we think about the future.”

“I have always been afraid that Israel and Palestine might be struck by a devastating earthquake. Now, the novel coronavirus has been a devastating earthquake for life, society, the economy and faith everywhere in the world. But now we can hope to begin with more sharing, starting right with the earth’s resources, instead of turning inward in a narrow and narrow space.

“The Church, with its charisma and leadership, here at the local level as well, can play a role in the post-pandemic period. As Christians our task and responsibility are to go knocking on all doors, to seek exchange and dialogue with everyone.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 research in Israel is showing promising signs. Although there is a long way to go before a drug and a vaccine can be truly effective against the virus, the Israeli Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) appears to have isolated a key coronavirus antibody. After the development phase, scientists say that the production of this antibody on a global scale is "possible".

For Sabella, “On a personal level, the emergency did not turn my life upside down because most of my work is spent in front of a computer. However, now I always go out wearing gloves and mask, especially when I go shopping or to the pharmacy.

“What is certain is that, this time, time has been valuable for reflection, understanding that too often we have taken for granted the beautiful things we have; like the opportunity to see grandkids and give them a hug, like yesterday. Nothing should be taken for granted; this is a good thing to keep in mind. "

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