Israel’s Vital New Defense Weapon: An Underground Blood Bank

Slated to open in 2020, Israel's National Blood Services Center is a high-tech insurance policy to ward against existential threats such as chemical attacks.

Israel’s Vital New Defense Weapon: An Underground Blood Bank
Fabiana Magrì

RAMLA — Half an hour's drive from Tel Aviv, bulldozers and excavators are hard at work on a new high-tech facility that will become a centerpiece of Israel"s national defense strategy. Located in the central city of Ramla, the Israeli National Blood Services Center will store blood for the country's growing population and serve as an underground bunker in case of a hostile attack.

In her office at the Tel Aviv headquarters of Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, the renowned hematologist Eilat Shinar monitors the progress on a live satellite feed of the construction site. "We need to dig 15 meters into the ground, but the digging is almost done," she says. "The new facility will be at the vanguard of blood banks around the world."

In the eyes of Israel's security apparatus, the Middle East is a cyclone and Israel is in the eye of the storm, surrounded by threats on all sides: Hezbollah to the north, Hamas to the west, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stationed in Syria to the east. They want the country to be ready for every scenario, from land wars to natural disasters. That includes the possibility of missiles tipped with chemical warheads, which has emerged as a threat since Syria's chemical weapons sites were exposed to the chaos of civil war and Hezbollah acquired sophisticated Fateh-110 missiles from Iran.

The center's primary goal will be to keep Israel's population safe in the event of an emergency. After the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000, the MDA urged the country's authorities — particularly the army, the civil defense force, and the Health and Defense ministries — to build adequate infrastructure to protect civilians in a range of emergency situations. Wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and with Hamas in 2008, 2012, and 2014 gave the plan more urgency, along with a steady 2% annual rise in Israel's population.

We haven't been losing any time.

According to Israel's national statistics agency, the country's population could hit 10 million before the scheduled inauguration of the National Blood Services Center in 2020. The MDA's current facility was built in the 1980s when the agency provided only 175,000 units of blood a year, compared to the 250,000 units it must procure today. The new center will be able to increase its capacity to half a million units within its first 30 years of operation when Israel's population is projected to reach 20 million.

Israel must also contend with rising numbers of tourists, which the MDA is committed to protect during their stay. "We haven't been losing any time," says Shinar. "We visited similar facilities around the world to learn from them and collect data, including the UK, US, Australia, and Italy."

Designed by Mochly Eldar Architects, an architectural firm that specializes in public healthcare and industrial projects, the National Blood Services Center will serve two functions. The state-of-the-art blood bank will double as an armored underground bunker that can secure the high-tech laboratories in the event of an attack on Israel. Out of a total cost of $130 million, the MDA has raised $90 million so far, drawing from a variety of donors at home and around the globe.

Photo: Magen David Adom/Facebook

"The building was designed with sustainability in mind, and will provide a safer home for our technologies," says Shinar. "The floors above ground will house an auditorium, lecture halls, offices, blood donor rooms, and a cafeteria, but they can be shut down and abandoned during an emergency."

The most vital labs will be built underground, where work can continue uninterrupted even if a catastrophe were to occur. That includes labs for blood analysis, communications and logistical support for ambulances, and the facility's core asset: the blood bank.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.


South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.



In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.


Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️


"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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