A Swine Flu virus (H1N1) breakout has been declared in Israel, with 13 people already infected, nine in serious condition. One woman in her 50s has died after contracting the virus. Three pregnant women and a four-year-old girl are among those infected.
Hadassah Hospital reported that 27 percent of its flu checks on patients have resulted in positive outcomes, with 80 percent of the flu cases indicating Swine Flu.
Israel’s Health Ministry has issued emergency guidelines, recommending to the public immediate vaccinations, which are being offered for free via all major health insurance companies. Thousands of Israelis have responded by getting vaccinated in the past week.
The infection is caused by several different strains of Swine Influenza viruses, some of which are endemic in pigs and can pass over to humans. The disease cannot be acquired by eating pork, which is proscribed by Judaism and Islam and not widely consumed in Israel. Pregnant women and those in the first four weeks after giving birth are at higher risk for developing Swine Flu.
During the last outbreak of Swine Flu in Israel in 2009, which saw over 2,000 cases of the disease, two prominent rabbis, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called for a day of fasting due to the epidemic. In a letter they published, they said the “evil” swine flu had spread from Mexico over the entire world “because of our many sins.”
Other rabbis also took it upon themselves to save the nation of Israel from this “pork-based” threat. Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Batzri led a group of 50 Kabbalists on a chartered flight that circled Israel while they prayed and blew shofarot (rams horns). Rabbi Batzri was quoted in Ynet as saying, “We are certain that, thanks to the prayer, the danger is already behind us”.
Breaking Israel News contacted Rabbi Batzri about his efforts to help Israel through prayer. He noted that shortly after his flight, the epidemic began to disappear. When asked if he intended to do another Kabbalistic flyover, Rabbi Batzri responded, “Not yet. The situation is not so critical. But if, in the future it becomes worse, we will surely undertake to help the sick people in Israel, one way or another.”