Note: we will not be sending our usual Friday newsletter. See you next week! Today we’re diving into:
Inside Israel: Israel headed to new elections; Kushner honored ahead of historic Morocco flight; Israel shuts borders; and possibility of a third lockdown
Terror & Rising Tensions: Murder of woman in the West Bank; attempted terror attack in Jerusalem; protest over death of Israeli teen; Arab-Israeli protest over neighborhood violence; and release of IDF soldier after freezing during terror attack
Israel’s Neighbors: Chief Rabbi’s visit to UAE; Pakistani PM’s denial of normalization talks; Israeli submarine in Suez Canal; and Al Jazeera hack
Inside Europe: Life sentence for Halle synagogue attacker; Miss France contestant targeted by antisemitic attacks; Britain’s Chief Rabbi on Uighurs; and Portugal FM’s planned trip to Jerusalem
Inside the U.S.: Tufts University antisemitic referendum; Dartmouth menorah attack; and Brooklyn Yeshiva vandalism
Celebrate & Remember: New immigrants to Israel; and the history of Hatikvah
Israel headed to elections on March 23; election prevention bill fails
Lawmakers vote against a bill to delay the budget deadline on December 22, 2020 (Source: Danny Shem Tov/ Knesset Spokesperson)
Israel heading to 4th elections in two years: A proposed bill aimed at delaying Knesset dispersal and new elections failed to pass on Monday night, which means Israel will have its fourth elections in two years on March 23, 2021, barring a highly improbable reconciliation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Defense Minister Benny Gantz before midnight tonight. Earlier yesterday, Gantz made a list of demands from Netanyahu in order to vote for the bill to delay elections, to which Netanyahu did not agree. New polling shows ex-Likud member Gideon Sa’ar’s new party, A New Hope, at 19 Knesset seats, while Netanyahu’s Likud party is the largest at 28, down significantly from the current 36. The same poll has Blue and White only reaching five seats, an abysmal showing for what just two years ago tied for the largest party in the Knesset. Sa’ar is promising to pass an eight-year term limit on the position of prime minister, which currently has none. Netanyahu has served as prime minister for over 14 years.
Kushner honored in Israel ahead of historic Morocco flight: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner arrived in Israel Monday ahead of a historic flight from Israel to Morocco today to sign the first documents that are part of the Israel-Morocco normalization deal. At a press conference covering the delegation on Monday, Kushner urged global audiences to “take the time to understand Israel’s perspective” rather than “scapegoating” Israel for actions in the Middle East. Kushner and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of potential future normalization deals, but it is unclear which deals, if any, will move forward under the incoming Biden administration. Also Monday, Netanyahu dedicated the U.S. Embassy courtyard in Kushner’s honor, in recognition of his “relentless pursuit of peace,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and his advancements of normalization deals across the region. While boarding the plane to Morocco, Kushner said, “The state we have lived in for the last 75 years where Jews and Muslims have been separated is not a natural state.” Jews and Muslims have a long history in this region of living together, he said.
Third lockdown possible; vaccine campaign commences: Due to rising coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to be seeking the implementation of a third, strict national lockdown in Israel within days. However, the vaccine campaign has officially launched in Israel, with Netanyahu being the first to receive a dose. On Sunday, 10,000 medical personnel received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, while medical hotlines across the country were overwhelmed with the number of patients seeking to book their own vaccinations. Some minority populations will take more convincing, though. Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash visited the primarily Arab-Israeli town of Reineh to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated. Other prominent figures, like ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, said his followers “must” go get the vaccine.
TERROR & RISING TENSIONS
Israeli mother of 6 found dead in suspected terror attack
Esther Horgen (Source: courtesy of the Horgen family)
Murder in the West Bank: An Israeli woman, Esther Horgen, was found dead near her place of residence in the West Bank in a suspected terror attack. The mother of six reportedly went for a run and never returned home. The settlement where she lived, Tal Menashe, is on the very northwest tip of the West Bank. The head of the Samaria Regional Council, a Jewish-Israeli governmental organization in the West Bank, said Horgen was “violently murdered.” Esther’s husband, Benjamin Horgen, said yesterday: “We should give the appropriate Zionist answer to acts of destruction and killing: more life, more building, more creativity, and more work on the ground for the sake of our children and the people of Israel.” The Horgens’ youngest child just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah three months ago. Esther Horgen was 52.
Attempted terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City: A Palestinian 17-year-old from a northern West Bank village opened fire at police officers near an entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday evening. The police returned fire and killed the shooter after a brief chase. No police officers were hit, though one was lightly injured during the chase.
40 arrested at Jerusalem protest over death of teen: Some 200 protestors tried to break into the police headquarters in Jerusalem over the death of a 16-year-old Israeli, Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed in a car crash while fleeing police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the West Bank. Sandak was from the southern West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. While fleeing police, the suspects lost control of their vehicle which flipped, killing Sandak and injuring four others. The others were apprehended and taken to Hadassah Hospital with light to moderate injuries. Honenu, a legal aid group that often represents far-right settlers, claimed the police car “hit [the settlers’] vehicle with force from behind, and the force of the impact caused their car to run off the road.” The demonstrators were protesting what they said was police brutality. Police said 40 demonstrators were arrested, as some threw stones at police.
Arab community demands protections after deadliest year: Following a triple murder this weekend, the Arab community in Israel has officially had its deadliest year in at least two decades, with 95 murders. A protest on Monday traveling from northern Israel to Jerusalem stopped traffic on roads and demanded action from the government. One prominent Arab-Israel activist said: the protests will continue “until the government responds to the most legitimate and humane issue in Arab society – personal safety.” The protesters are demanding that the government crackdown on illegal arms sales and combat criminal organizations. Despite a 2019 government plan to combat violence in the Arab sector, it has yet to be fully funded.
IDF relieves soldier from combat duty after freezing in terror attack: Following an attack in which a terrorist hurled a Molotov cocktail at an IDF soldier, the soldier has been relieved of combat duty for not responding in the moment. “Although it was a complicated situation, the soldier was expected to operate according to the [IDF’s] rules of engagement and to respond until the terrorist is neutralized,” the IDF said Monday. Because of the complexity of the incident, his reinstatement to a combat roll will be reassessed in several months, it added. Right-wing Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich criticized the justice system in Israel in response to the news, calling the soldier “afraid to shoot a terrorist” in self-defense for fear of prosecution and media vilification.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Israeli Chief Rabbi visits UAE and gives his blessing to inaugurate new school
Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, center, writes part of a Torah scroll at the JCC in Dubai on December 19, 2020 (Source: courtesy of the Dubai Jewish Community Center)
Chief Rabbi visits UAE: The Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, traveled to the UAE over the weekend, in the first-ever visit by a sitting chief rabbi of Israel to an Arab country. Over the course of his Shabbat visit to the UAE, Yosef met with Emirati officials and inaugurated a Jewish preschool. The rabbi also opened a mikveh (a ritual bath), attended a synagogue in Abu Dhabi, and visited a new kosher restaurant in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The president of the JCC in Dubai said: “The visit of the Chief Rabbi, I hope, will go a long way to cementing the good faith and warm friendships between the Jewish and Muslim peoples of the region.”
Pakistani PM denies normalization talks: In an interview with Samaa TV, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan denied engaging in normalization talks with Israel, calling it “fake news.” The Pakistani foreign ministry also released a statement saying, “No visit has been undertaken by any Pakistani delegation to Tel Aviv.” Khan said that Pakistan would not recognize Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. This came after reports that there is an effort underway to normalize relations between Pakistan and Israel and that a senior Pakistani official had traveled to Israel in late November. The reports of negotiations had created controversy in Pakistani, with substantial backlash among the general population.
Israeli submarine crosses Suez Canal in show of force: An Israeli military submarine crossed the Suez Canal last week in a very rare operation by the IDF’s navy, likely a show of force against Iran. The submarine, under Egyptian authorization, surfaced once it crossed the canal and faced the Persian Gulf, according to Arab intelligence officials, in order to “send a message” to Iran. Tensions with Iran have been high since last month’s assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, for which Iran has blamed Israel and vowed revenge. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned Iran on Monday against attacking Israel, saying that “If Iran and its partners…carry out actions against Israel, they will discover their partnership to be very costly.”
Al Jazeera hack attributed to Saudi and UAE using Israeli spyware: Dozens of cyber-attacks against Al Jazeera journalists over the course of this year have been linked to an Israeli spyware company called NSO Group. The attacks against the Qatari-funded publication are attributed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab. The countries have united against Qatar over its close relationship with Iran. NSO has repeatedly been criticized for selling its technologies to authoritarian regimes.
German neo-Nazi sentenced to life in prison for Yom Kippur Halle synagogue attack
People place flowers at a makeshift memorial in front of the synagogue in Halle, eastern Germany, on October 10, 2019
Halle synagogue attacker sentenced to life in Germany: A German court sentenced the neo-Nazi responsible for the Halle synagogue shooting to life in prison. The attacker attempted to barge into the synagogue on Yom Kippur and commit a wholesale shooting, but was luckily prevented by a bolted door. However, he went on to kill two passersby. During the trial, the prosecutor said: “The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II.” During his five-month trial, the neo-Nazi denied the Holocaust in open court — a crime in Germany — and expressed no remorse.
Miss France runner-up faces droves of antisemitism: The runner-up to Miss France, April Benayoum, is facing a wave of antisemitic attacks online after she spoke at the competition about her father’s Israeli nationality. Online commentators jumped on the reveal, writing things like “Hitler forgot to exterminate you, Miss Provence.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin expressed his support for Benayoum, and the Israeli embassy in France said: [we condemn] “in the strongest possible terms the surge of antisemitic and anti-Zionist hatred on social networks last night.” The winner of the competition also offered sympathy and one French politician, the Interior Minister, said: “I am deeply shocked by the rain of antisemitic insults against Miss Provence. The police and gendarmerie services are mobilized.” Parisian prosecutors are investigating what they deemed the “instigation of race hatred.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi speaks out on Uighurs: Britain’s head rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote an impassioned essay on the Chinese government’s treatment of the Muslim-minority population the Uighurs. Mirvis wrote: [the Uighurs face] “forced imprisonment, the separation of children from their parents and a culture of intimidation and fear.” He continued: “It is clear that there must be an urgent, independent and unfettered investigation into what is happening.” The reason for his insertion into current events? “Let no person say that the responsibility to act lies with others.” It is highly unusual for the Chief Rabbi to get involved in any political or social issues that do not concern British Jews or Jewry more generally.
Portugal FM in Jerusalem prior to EU Council Presidency: The Foreign Minister of Portugal, Santos Silva, is visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah this week prior to when Portugal will take the helm of the European Union Council Presidency. The country will lead the EU Council Presidency for the first half of 2021. This will be Silva’s second time in Israel as foreign minister; he last visited in 2016. Silva differs most prominently with Israel with respect to Iran. Silva has spoken favorably of the Iran nuclear deal and does not support strict sanctions against the Iranian regime. In Israel, Silva will speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Tufts University students pass antisemitic referendum spearheaded by SJP
Tufts passes modern-day blood libel referendum: The Tufts University student body has certified the results of a November referendum that some are calling “modern-day antisemitic blood libel.” The referendum, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, puts the blame for Tufts Police violence on Israel, including any and all past violence. It passed with 68% of the voting student body approving. The group Real Reform at Tufts said: “We strongly believe that voting for a referendum based on mistruths that propagates a modern-day antisemitic blood libel will not fix a broken policing system in America or get us closer to racial justice.” University officials have already said they will not take action as a result of the referendum. CAMERA’s Hali Spiegel told JNS, “The vile referendum manages to be both anti-Semitic and racist, and it’s an absolute embarrassment to Tufts. The referendum not only lies about Israel but also uses those lies to exploit the black community’s concerns about policing in America.”
Dartmouth menorah attacked: A public menorah at Dartmouth College was vandalized over Hanukkah in an antisemitic incident. The menorah was shot at, which Chabad Rabbi Moshe Gray discovered as he prepared to light the candles for the seventh night of the holiday. A nearby Christmas tree was untouched by the vandals. Gray said: “Nothing like this has ever happened. It was pretty shocking to come to the realization that somebody, on purpose, shot the menorah.” The president of the Ivy League college said to students in an email: “To the Jewish members of our community, at Dartmouth and beyond, we stand with you in anger and sadness at this despicable act.” Gray also said that “next year, we’ll probably get a bigger menorah.”
Brooklyn Yeshiva vandalized: Two men vandalized a Brooklyn yeshiva with swastikas last week in an antisemitic hate crime. The yeshiva, called Mesilas Bais Yaakov, is in South Slope, a heavily Orthodox neighborhood of the borough. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasion said: “To the Mesilas Bais Yaakov community: your city stands with you. We denounce this vile act of anti-Semitism with one voice.” The NYPD Hate Crimes unit is investigating the vandalism.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Source: @pnina_tamano_sh / Twitter, December 14, 2020
Today we celebrate 252 new immigrants to Israel from the Jewish “lost tribe” of Bnei Menashe, hailing from northeast India. The Bnei Menashe community is said to be descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel – specifically, the tribe of Menashe – that scattered across the globe after being exiled at the end of the First Temple period in the eighth century BCE. According to the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, 2,437 people from the Bnei Menashe community have immigrated to Israel from northeastern India since 2003. “As we celebrate the festival of Hanukkah and the miracle of the flask of oil, the aliyah of the lost tribe of Bnei Menashe after 2,700 years of exile is itself a modern-day Hanukkah miracle,” says Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.
Today in 1878, Naftali Herz Imber, (1856-1909) a Hebrew poet born in Złoczów (now Zolochiv, Ukraine) penned the poem “Tikvatenu” (“Our Hope”), which was later published in 1886. When modern Israel was established in 1948, the words of the poem unofficially became the national anthem of the State of Israel (“Hatikvah”), and it took until November 2004 before the Knesset made it official. Its nine romantic stanzas evoked Biblical scenes and reiterated a hope of a national return to Israel, “that only with the very last Jew” disappears. After Imber published the poem, it quickly disseminated among Diaspora communities, but the poem’s length prohibited easy recitation. Within years, Zionist groups in Israel and abroad adopted Tikvatenu in a truncated, two-stanza form as an ad hoc anthem. In its modern rendering, the official text of the anthem incorporates only the first stanza and refrain of the original poem. A BBC recording of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp survivors singing Hatikvah shortly after their liberation in 1945 features the original lyrics. Imber died penniless in New York City on October 8, 1909 from the effects of chronic alcoholism, nonetheless beloved by the local Jewish community. He was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, but re-interred at Givat Shaul Cemetery, also called Har HaMenuchot Cemetery, in Jerusalem in 1953.