Hundreds gather at Western Wall to pray for end to coronavirus

Hundreds of Israelis gathered to pray at the Western Wall, the “center of the world,” for patients stricken by the coronavirus outbreak and for an end to the current spread of this epidemic.

“As Jews, we believe that God has the power to send healing. We are not doctors, but we can pray,” said Rabbi Avi Berman, executive director of the Israeli branch of the Orthodox Union.

Several Chinese officials in Israel attended the ceremony and were grateful for the spiritual support given by the Jewish state.

“The Chinese Embassy in Israel would like to extend its sincere appreciation for the sympathy, support and solidarity expressed by the Jewish people,” the embassy said. “We will never forget it.”

Israel has been affected by the coronavirus from a distance. More than a dozen Israelis were quarantined with hundreds of other passengers on a cruise ship docked on Japan’s coast for two weeks. They will be back in Israel by Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said, but will then spend 14 days in isolation in a special hospital unit built at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer specifically for coronavirus cases.

Three Israelis who contracted the virus on the cruise ship will remain hospitalized in Japan, however. I was supposed to be in Singapore right now ministering at two different conferences but they both were canceled. The senior pastor of the main church was recently diagnosed with the virus and is recovering.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is uniquely equipped to handle the virus and has begun implementing measures including a quarantine for any non-Israeli passengers arriving from specific Asian countries.

“The State of Israel remains better prepared than any other country,” Netanyahu said. “Neither the Israeli economy nor its foreign relations will be harmed by the government’s decision to ban citizens of Thailand, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong from entering the country without first going into a 14-day quarantine.”

Israel also banned all flights from China from entering the country while El Al, Israel’s national airline, has suspended flights to and from Hong Kong until Feb. 20 and is considering flights to Thailand.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry instructed Israelis returning from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau to voluntarily quarantine themselves for two weeks while previously, only travelers coming from China were asked to do so.

The virus has infected more than 75,000 people around the world and killing over 2,000 — the vast majority of cases in China.

At the Western Wall, Berman said that although “we are not doctors… we believe that God has the power to send healing.”

“We look at our forefathers and see how when they saw trouble in the w