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Rachel Gemara

Rachel Gemara, a 32-year-old Jerusalem oncology nurse at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, saw the first fatality from the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Israel, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even, take his final breaths. 

Israel’s second victim of coronavirus—a 67-year-old woman who suffered from “a serious pre-existing medical condition”—died on Tuesday at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

Israel’s first coronavirus fatality was 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even, who was living in Jerusalem at the Nofim Tower senior home. Born in Hungary, Even moved to Israel alone as a teenager in 1949 after hiding under the protection of Swedish diplomats and later working as a foreign diplomat. Survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Even passed away on Saturday as the number of those infected rose in Israel.

Rachel Gemara, a 32-year-old Jerusalem oncology nurse at Shaare Zedek Medical Center who volunteered to work in the hospital’s special COVID-19 ward, described in a Facebook post watching Even take his last breaths. Two other coronavirus patients reportedly rushed to his site to recite the “Shema” prayer.

After her second shift in the COVID-19 ward, she wrote, “The number of patients is rising, and with it the severity of the critical patients. Protocol says we need to minimize contact with the patients as much as possible, very difficult but necessary to protect the staff. Today I watched the young moderate patients go to the critical-care elderly patient on their own, adjust his position, cover him with a blanket, readjust his oxygen and helped him call his family. They go in constantly to let him know he’s not alone.”

The “kindness and compassion” that the patients show each other, despite the fact that before arriving to the hospital they were strangers, Gemara told JNS, is a “Jewish and Israeli concept.”

“All of Am Yisrael [the ‘People of Israel’] is one body, and if one part of the body is sick, your whole body feels it,” she said. “If one person doesn’t feel well, they are there to help. … It strengthens the idea of how we are all in this together, the fact that everyone has to do the social distancing and quarantine, to do it for the people who are more vulnerable … we are all one body and it only works if we are doing it together,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Health’s latest figures released on Tuesday morning, there are 1,656 confirmed cases, a rise of 214 cases since Monday evening. According to the Ministry, 31 patients are in serious condition, 47 in moderate condition and 1,528 in mild condition. There have been 49 recoveries to date and just the two recorded deaths.

The post Coronavirus death toll rises to two in Israel, both over 60 appeared first on JNS.org.