Out of Gratitude: Chinese Alumni of Israeli University Ship Medical Equipment to Israel

Hashem is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him. I was helped, and my heart exulted, so I will glorify Him with my song. Psalms 28:7

China was initially the country in big trouble, but now Israel needs additional equipment to fight COVID-19, even though its death rate is among the lowest in the world. Now, Chinese former students at Bar-Ilan University have offered help to BIU’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in the northern Israeli city of Safed,

“We remember our studies at Bar-Ilan as a life-changing experience and strongly wish to give something in return,” wrote the alumni in a letter to BIU president Prof. Arie Zaban.

Over the next few days, three shipments of lifesaving medical equipment – including protective suits, face shields, eye goggles, N95 masks, and surgical masks — will arrive in Israel from China.  Some of this vital equipment has been donated by the Bar-Ilan University Alumni Association in China and will be headed to the medical school in Safed.  

As the number of coronavirus cases in Israel continues to grow beyond 8,000 and deaths have nearly reached 50 (at press time), along with concern that the situation might become worse, the Bar-Ilan Alumni Association in China came together to organize this significant contribution of medical equipment to Bar-Ilan medical-academic personnel and Azrieli Faculty of Medicine students who have been volunteering on the front lines throughout the crisis. 

In a letter to Zaban, the alumni – headed by Prof. Rentao Liu, a former postdoctoral student in the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and Betty Xi, who received her MBA from BIU’s International MBA Program and is now a PhD student in the Louis and Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work – offered their assistance in raising the necessary funds to purchase the equipment.  

The group, comprised of former post-doctoral, doctoral and master’s students, wrote that they remember their studies at Bar-Ilan as an unforgettable experience. “We greatly appreciate Bar-Ilan University for providing the opportunity for us to study there, the welcoming hospitality and every one of us is deeply influenced by the academic spirit of Bar-Ilan… We can fully understand your feeling now and our hearts is there with Bar-Ilan University, as well as with all the people of Israel.” 

At this hard times, they continued, “we Chinese alumni of Bar-Ilan discussed the situation and jointly decided that we strongly wish to give something in return and provide some support to BIUIt is our way to express our sincere concern, and more importantly, as appreciation, to give back the help we had received from the university when we needed it,” they wrote.

The initiative was warmly welcomed by Zaban and Prof. Karl Skorecki, dean of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine. “I was tremendously uplifted by the generosity of spirit of the Bar-Ilan Alumni in China and the concern and willingness to support us. This is a tremendous demonstration of human affinity, caring and appreciation for Bar-Ilan,” Skorecki responded to the organizers. “The success of China in containing and overcoming this epidemic is also a source of inspiration and hope… Since our faculty serve all of the medical centers and clinics of the entire Galilee and north of Israel – our students, teachers, and researchers are fully engaged… I express heartfelt gratitude to the Chinese alumni

for the most thoughtful and generous donation of personal protective equipment to enable our students to care for the public during the current COVID-19 epidemic.  We have much to learn from the way in which the epidemic has been managed and investigated in China, and we are deeply grateful for the thoughtful support.”

Skorecki appointed Dr. Lilach Malatskey of the medical school to coordinate with Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, the former director of the BIU International office-Asia who established the alumni organization a few years ago; together they defined the required equipment, as well as the quantity.

“Our team of researchers and medical students is scattered in emergency rooms, hospitals and community clinics and frequently exposed to patients,” Malatskey explains. “We suspect that at this point some of them are suffering from non-diagnosed corona infection. This is a high-risk group because of its exposure to the virus. Unfortunately, the availability of equipment is insufficient and students do not always get top priority in receiving the protection they need to do their jobs. Because our faculty and students have not had enough protective equipment during this difficult time, we have been forced to send them home so as not to endanger them.  This assistance will save lives and is critical to our continued efforts,” she added.  

“his initiative is an extraordinary gesture of generosity. From the moment they received Zaban’s approval, over 50 alumni raised more than NIS 36,000 in three days, said Gurevitch. “In coordination with medical personnel, we identified the necessary equipment so that the alumni could make the purchase. The delivery itself was also made possible thanks to Consul Limor Ganon and the entire Israeli Consulate in Shanghai. As it seems that simultaneously additional Chinese people with a lot of goodwill and love for Israel organized medical equipment shipments to Israel worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, the Israeli Consulate in Shanghai undertook the responsibility to organize several cargo flights for this purpose.  Fortunately, our equipment was included in these shipments. We are so grateful for their support.” 

In expressing her appreciation to the alumni association, vice president for Global Resources Dr. Sharon Goldman wrote, “I want to express deep appreciation for everything you have been doing. Not only are the actual shipments incredibly meaningful, but so is the effort and care you put into organizing them. Truly, when I saw the way you signed your note, and the sticker you are putting on the packages, it brought tears to my eyes.  These types of powerful connections are so critical in trying and difficult times.”