Mendy Dickstein, Beis Moshiach
Just three months ago, the corona virus was an exotic story about an illness that emerged from the Chinese wet market in China. The epidemic quickly moved from there and spread around the world, wreaking havoc wherever it went, including and especially the frum and Chabad world.
It was only natural for many among mashpiim and Anash to look for the connection between corona and the Geula. Even the cynics, those who usually smirk at the belief in the Geula, understand that this global process which is shaking up the world is somehow connected with the Geula process.
Who can divine the machinations of Hashem, yet we can’t help but see the Geula thread wending its way through everything having to do with the redemptive promise, “and they will grind their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” We can’t help but see how weapons developers and military personnel are busy inventing and coming up with solutions to help and heal people.
DRASTIC DROP IN VIOLENT CONFLICTS AROUND THE WORLD
One of the most famous sichos was said on Shabbos parshas Mishpatim 5752 when the Rebbe focused on the prophecy of Yeshaya the prophet, “and they will grind their swords into plowshares,” showing how this is happening in our times with the dismantlement of nuclear weapons and the diverting of military resources toward education and economic purposes.
At the time, the intelligence apparatuses in Israel and the United States did not believe that the process to dismantle nuclear weapons would actually happen. However, the Rebbe’s prophetic words were fully realized.
What the Rebbe said is finding whole new real-world expression these days when there is a drop in armed conflict tensions in all countries of the world, as military forces and defense industries are directing their resources toward health and civilian aid instead of war and destruction.
Indeed, a report from the Security Council of the United Nations which recently came out, concluded that there is an ongoing and consistent diminution in the total of military operations and violent conflicts around the world. The day this article was written, there was a news item that President Macron was joining a push to implement the call of the Secretary General of the U.N. Security Council for a global ceasefire to help fight the corona virus pandemic. The French president said he was close to a consensus among the five permanent members of the Security Council who are the five most powerful countries in the world: the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain. It is possible that we will see such a resolution come to fruition in the near future.
According to the Secretary General of the U.N., those countries where there is armed conflict: Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Yemen, already agreed to join the initiative.
From information on the ground, it appears that there already has been a significant slowdown on all fronts. Saudi Arabia and the coalition that it leads in its war in Yemen already announced a temporary ceasefire in that country. In Syria, confrontations between the Turkish army and the Syrian army have decreased dramatically. Even in Ukraine it seems that the intensity of the fighting has let up. In Eretz Yisrael there have been few reports of attempted terrorist attacks.
From reports coming from Lebanon, it seems that Hezbollah is working assiduously to help in the struggle against the spread of the virus among Lebanese citizens. It has made its medical resources available, enlisted many volunteers, assigned their medical personnel doctors and built facilities to help deal with the virus. Even members of the infamous Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia groups in Iran, internationally recognized as full-fledged terrorist organizations, are turning their energies and resources to civilian aid.
Big things are happening in Eretz Yisrael too, some more public and others less so, as far as dedicating military forces to benefit civilians. For example, it was amazing to see soldiers of elite units spread across Bnei Brak around Pesach and give out food baskets to needy families and the aged who are not going out of their homes to shop these days. The soldiers worked along with the relief agencies of the city of Bnei Brak to add goodness and light to the world.
“It was a really nice and moving event,” said a soldier from a combat unit who participated. “You go into homes of people while wearing your army uniform, something not that common in Bnei Brak, and are received so nicely, with smiles and lots of positive comments.”
Elad Edery of the Command Unit of the Home-front Command, and commander of the unit’s military school, added that the soldiers were spread out to five locales around the country – regular service troops as well as reservist units – with the goal being to help the local municipalities manage the corona virus and enable residents to continue to live their lives despite the difficult situation.
Other sectors of the IDF have been working in recent weeks to find technological solutions to handling the virus. Various units of the army are testing equipment that the soldiers use in battle to see whether it is possible to use them in the battle against the virus too. For example, the military materiel department of the infantry forces came up with an original way to support those soldiers working on the civilian front.
“Upon the entrance of Brigade 98 to Bnei Brak, we realized that the fact that the alleyways and roads in the area are relatively narrow, creates a situation in which the soldiers have to drag around a lot of equipment on their backs. We brought our equipment, tested it out in the field and we saw that these items really make it easier for the soldiers and increase their output significantly,” said Colonel Arik Avivi.
Among the efforts provided by the infantry forces is a scooter with four wheels on which a soldier can stand and will be moved by an electric motor.
According to Colonel Avivi, the scooter has a weight bearing capacity of a pickup truck. “We also brought wagons that attach to it upon which another 500 kilograms (1102 pounds) can be carried. It can climb the terrain amazingly well, mountains and rocks.” Avivi added that these vehicles are usually used to carry weapons and military equipment in the alleyways of hostile cities.
In addition, the department developed drones with arms that can carry sacks of medication and deliver them directly to the hospitals that need them. “The drone throws the medication precisely at the entrance of the right building,” explains the colonel. “The drone can fly not only medication but whatever is needed. The medium is functional and works, and now we are waiting to work out the permits with the aviation agency. This development makes it a lot easier on the soldiers and it saves a lot of time walking through the streets of the city.
“The command center of the infantry instructed us to assist and help wherever we can in the most comprehensive manner. We are proud of the achievements we have made within a very short time. From an inspection tour among the soldiers during the operation, we can see that the improvement and effectiveness are drastic,” he concluded.
WEAPONS SYSTEMS TURNED INTO MEDICAL DEVICES
Not many notice, but right under our noses, programs for the development of advanced technological “smart” weapons systems have been redirected towards developing medical advances, with the best and most talented minds enlisted for these goals and so they are becoming pioneers in the fight against corona.
You surely haven’t heard about Maf’at (Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, an arm of the Israel Ministry of Defense – Directorate of Defense Research & Development). This organization is the implementation arm of the Defense Ministry that coordinates all the research projects and security developments in Eretz Yisrael. The administration coordinates the collaboration among the various defense services in Israel including the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the various defense industry contractors, and other relevant agencies like the Israel Institute for Biological Research. In normal times, the responsibility of the administration is inventing advanced weapons systems, smart bombs, etc.
With the outbreak of the corona virus, when the full scope of the threat was realized, Maf’at was enlisted for something else entirely. The heads and experts of the administration sat with the directors of hospitals and the Health Ministry, studied the needs and deficiencies of the health system in Eretz Yisrael and since then, the best minds that are responsible for top-secret military inventions have been enlisted to fill the gaps for the health of the public.
As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Within a short time the drawing boards and top-secret laboratories began to churn out brilliant ideas for developing medical devices for civilians. In a special campaign initiated by the International Center of Technology in the Fight Against Corona (apparently with the help of covert intelligence obtained by the Mossad), a production line for ventilators was started in the aircraft industry plants within days as part of the national effort to increase the number of ventilators in the country. For example, Invitech in Raanana, which specializes in manufacturing emergency medical equipment, collaborated with the aircraft industry for the purpose of setting up the production line of ventilators.
Rocket and space engineers from the military aircraft facility were also mobilized in the effort, and they are developing the plans for more efficient production of these vital life-saving machines.
Already in the beginning of April, the top-secret facility completed their first run of assembling and testing the first dozens of ventilators. The military aircraft industry assigned to the cause its top minds and production facility capacities, which are normally used for the manufacture of missiles.
VENTILATORS MADE LOCALLY
Concurrently, the IDF continued work on developing ventilators through collaboration between the Medical Corps and hospitals in the country. After proper testing, a hundred new ventilators were manufactured in rare cooperation between the army and Sheba hospital as part of a special project. These machines have already been transferred to the hospital.
Due to the global shortage, the main efforts are going toward manufacturing ventilators locally. “Recently, someone somehow brought vital intelligence information to Eretz Yisrael about how to manufacture these ventilators. Our goal is not to be dependent on any agency in other countries of the world,” says C, the head of the technology branch of the Mossad.
“We want to reach the capacity to manufacture hundreds of ventilators a week,” says Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem, the director of research and development at Maf’at of the Defense Ministry. “We are not there yet; we are working on it. This is our goal.”
The development team with about 150 people were able to transform home-use ventilators into highly advanced emergency-use ventilators.
NAVY SPECIAL FORCES ON THE JOB
Another way that weapons are being transformed into tools for saving lives was discovered by members of Shayetet 13, the special forces commando unit of the Israeli Navy, which trains experienced divers and therefore, has a great deal of experience in under-water breathing technologies and oxygen tanks.
The Shayetet 13 development teams have converted their operational production line into a medical oxygen compressing system, in accordance with the civilian required standards and protocols.
Through intelligence sharing with foreign armies, it was discovered that the new systems developed by the commando unit could be applied in many ways towards the effort to supply civilian populations in need of emergency oxygen. The Israeli discovery was shared with other armed forces around the world by means of a short film and manuals, and they expressed great interest in the new development.
ISRAELI SPY SERVICES ON THE JOB
Along with the regular forces of the IDF, the spy networks led by the Mossad have been enlisted in their holy work of saving lives, mainly by their finding and locating medical equipment needed for those worst hit by the corona virus.
In complete opposition to the usual work of the Mossad, whose job it is to neutralize enemies around the world and to remove various threats, this time, even the Mossad has been enlisted in a series of secret operations to help in the fight against the corona virus.
In recent times, media outlets were invited into the sealed work area where the Mossad, Aman (Military Intelligence), Department of Defense Production and Procurement, set up a joint command post in the Tel Hashomer Hospital, and they got to see the procurement operation up close. In this case though, it was members of the Intelligence agencies leading the effort instead of the official procurement division of the Ministry of Health. Hundreds of Mossad agents have set up a “war room” unlike anything ever seen before, for civilian purposes.
“My central goal is to be properly equipped and prepared for the worst case scenarios,” said the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, in a rare interview. He explained that the main effort is in procuring ventilators for which there is a global need, even as there is a relatively limited supply.
The one who runs this joint operations “war room” is C, who until eight days ago did not know what a ventilator looks like … “I’ve carried out many missions in my life,” he said in an interview that he gave to the media, “and I never dealt with such complicated logistics.”
C says that the Prime Minister’s office and the Health Ministry told him and his staff to try and obtain more than 130 million items that are lacking in the war on corona, starting with N95 masks, testing kits, medications, protective gear, medicinal applicators, and above all else, ventilators which are the object of a cutthroat international hunt by all nations of the world.
Is it possible that in the near future, factories and companies around the world will wake up and discover that they are missing parts and won’t understand how that is possible?
“No, we don’t operate like that. We use connections we have to win the competition and to lay hands on supplies that someone else ordered.”
C tells of what goes on behind the scenes in the world of medical procurement during this time of pandemic. “There are thousands of online merchants who are trying to sell us various products. Just this morning we had over 2000 different offers, some of them from charlatans and some of them genuine but someone quicker than us managed to get his hands on it.”
C also offered a small glimpse of the tremendous Intelligence efforts on the part of the Mossad, about the surprises as well as the disappointments:
“There was a European country where our trucks arrived at the door of the factory to pick up the merchandise we had agreed upon, but another European country preempted us by a few hours and took it. There was also an instance in which medical supplies that we already bought were in the belly of the plane but because of an embargo we had to take off this important merchandise from the plane. Today, the entire world is looking out for itself.”
RADAR SYSTEMS FOR MEDICAL DETECTION
Despite the difficulties, by the end of Pesach, according to top tier military (!) leaders, another million and a half N95 masks arrived in Israel that are needed for those who treat people sick with corona; another 700,000 surgical masks, two million medical smocks and protective goggles; 50,000 doses of medication for corona and perhaps the most important item of all, another 180 or so ventilators. Whoever knows the field knows that this is the battle which will determine the war on corona, i.e. making sure that the health-care system does not collapse under patients whose condition will deteriorate and there won’t be ventilators for them, as was the case in Italy and Spain.
The most advanced and developed military technology, which is usually dedicated to developing missiles, weapons and modern methods of warfare, is now enlisted in all out fashion to fight corona.
Developing new advanced ventilation machines is not the only issue being tackled, but also special medical devices that can identify and monitor those infected by the corona virus, without endangering the lives of medical staffers. We are speaking of “smart” technology that is the first of its kind in the world.
Towards that end, the center for technology to battle the corona virus that the government set up, led by Maf’at of the Defense Department, has turned advanced top-secret radar systems into tools to identify and monitor those who are ill with the virus.
The team has recently successfully concluded an experiment in which two systems developed by the defense production industry were tested, which will now be used to take physiological measurements from a distance from those who are possibly sick. The new systems enables distance measuring of the person’s pulse rate, body temperature and rate of breathing. This will allow the medical staff to wait in a sterile area far from the person being examined, thus significantly reducing the number of medical people contracting the virus and having to be quarantined. Eventually, this system will make it possible to perform triage and decide order of treatment based on an analysis of the readings.
One of the advanced systems used in the test was from Elbit Systems, a hi-tech Israeli defense company that usually deals with developing and manufacturing advanced warfare systems. The other was a special system designed by the Elta company, and just to think that in normal times, Elta is a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries and one of the leading companies in the world of electronic warfare, especially in the field of radar. These systems which were developed by honest-to-goodness military corporations, will be put to future use in the ICUs of hospitals.
Mr. Yoav Turgeman, Vice President of IAI and CEO of Elta said at the launch ceremony that “Israel Aerospace Industries is proud to provide support in the fight against the corona virus. The advanced radar systems of Elta which are usually used to for military discovery and intelligence gathering, were diverted to monitoring the body temperature of potentially sick people and to protect the medical staff without any need for human involvement. We will continue to support the national effort in finding effective and innovative solutions and together, we will win.”
PHONE APPS CALLED TO DUTY
Here is another example of using the vast technological experience acquired in Eretz Yisrael and redirected towards medical treatment and diagnosis. In Rambam Hospital in Haifa they will be testing a new tech solution to monitor and diagnose corona patients from a distance by analyzing their speech diction via a phone app. This unique technology is meant to provide advanced capabilities for managing patient care of those diagnosed with the virus and who are in quarantine, not in a hospital setting.
The new technology is based on proven technology that was developed to monitor and diagnose from a distance the conditions of sufferers from heart failure. The system analyzes speech recordings of a sick person on his cell phone and identifies differences in the balance of fluids in his lungs, indicators of an imminent deterioration of their heart conditions. It has already been proven to work among hundreds of patients in ten hospitals including: Rambam, Beilinson, Barzilai, HaGalil, the public health system and others. It has proven itself in predicting up to ten days in advance of a hospitalization for a worsening of heart symptoms, with an accuracy level of more than 80%.
This solution is also being used for corona patients to identify a deterioration characterized by the onset of pneumonia which is accompanied by a buildup of mucus in the lungs. It will do so by identifying minor changes in the fluid levels in the lung and signs of early infection, even before the patient will feel it himself, and will be done through an analysis of a recording of his speech!
MELECH HAMOSHIACH ON THE JOB
When we hear of all the aforementioned developments, and there are many more which haven’t been publicized yet, it rings a bell. It sounds like the fulfillment of the Geula prophecy of “and they will grind their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” It is not only the transforming of weapons into tools of healing for the benefit of mankind, but also the redirecting of the best minds that have been toiling for years to improve weaponry towards advanced medical devices, among the best in the world. The light of redemption is apparent here. Even a brief contemplation of what this all signifies should be enough to lift the spirits in these challenging times.
In that sicha of Mishpatim 5752 referenced above, the Rebbe spoke about the significance of the reducing of the world’s weapons and redirecting those resources towards civilian use. The Rebbe maintained that this was no ordinary “international agreement” like many agreements that were signed to in the past, but part of the work of Moshiach in the world.
True, over the years, the Rebbe spoke about various events taking place in the world, but it was always within a sicha that dealt with divrei Torah from which the Rebbe derived lessons in avodas Hashem. This “swords into plowshares” sicha is definitely unusual in how the point was to show us how the world is ready for the Geula, and how everything happening in the world is connected to Torah, connected to Geula and Moshiach, and connected to the Rebbe as the final redeemer.
There are twinkling lights within this pandemic; lights of Geula.
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