Inside Israel: UAE furious at Netanyahu; Israelis already voting; artificial uterus scientific breakthrough; new dead sea scrolls discovered; and IDF upgrades Iron Dome
Coronavirus: Vaccines produce fetus immunity; and Supreme Court’s ruling on airport reopening
Israel’s Neighbors: Abbas rival hints at Palestinian election run; Iraq’s last Jewish doctor dies; Jordan faces internal trouble; and Iran continues to break nuclear deal
Inside Europe: Israel’s president tours Europe; FIFA stadium named for Nazi collaborator; British professor investigated; Iceland adds Judaism to state-recognized religions; Greece to head Holocaust organization; and Amsterdam mayor condemns Netanyahu
Inside the U.S.: Biden to restart Palestinian relationship; Marjorie Taylor Greene visits Orthodox communities; Jews support Asian-American community; white supremacist propaganda explodes in U.S.; and Holocaust-education bill passes in Wisconsin
Celebrate & Remember: Duolingo’s new Yiddish course; and first American Bat Mitzvah
UAE calls off Netanyahu’s trip; enraged at PM’s ‘electioneering’
Netanyahu angers Emiratis: Only six months after establishing relations with the Emiratis, Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to have infuriated Israel’s new ally in the Gulf. After Netanyahu made clear his visit to the UAE was going to be something of a national election advertisement back in Israel, an advisor to the UAE’s president, who was recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote: “The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever.” In fact, the UAE is so mad at Netanyahu that it apparently canceled (or postponed?) a previously unannounced summit with Israeli and American officials. Barak Ravid, Israel’s top award-winning journalist, said: “It’s hard to overstate the anger towards Netanyahu in the UAE right now.” It was also revealed that Prime Minister Netanyahu prevented Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi from visiting the UAE because Netanyahu wants to be the first high-level Israeli official to visit.
Israelis already voting: Israel’s election is right around the corner, in 4 days! Diplomatic missions across the world have already voted and IDF soldiers in Israel are voting early this week. Soldiers vote earlier because they use a “double envelope” system to ensure their anonymity which takes the votes longer to be counted. 330 ballot boxes have been placed throughout the country in military bases for the soldiers to use. With a little bit of wind at his back, Netanyahu may be able to once again retain leadership of the country. He is claiming to have potential defectors in both Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett’s conservative parties, which would help him cross the 61-seat threshold. (His bloc is currently polling between 58 and 63 seats.) Sa’ar, however, said the Prime Minister is “lying as usual.”
Scientific breakthrough in Israel, artificial uterus: Scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel announced their successful development of mice embryos grown in artificial uteruses. Around the world, members of the scientific community hailed the achievement, calling it “a breakthrough,” “amazing,” and “a major milestone.” The technology will be very useful in conducting experiments on mice embryos, as they could now be produced artificially. One day, this development could lead to an entirely artificial uterus that carries a human fetus to term. According to one scientist, that will have to be a discussion for ethicists, regulators, and society to come to grips with.
First in 60 years: New Dead Sea Scrolls! For the first time in 60 years, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of new Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Judean desert. The fragments of Jewish texts date back over 2,000 years and their author(s) remain shrouded in mystery. These most recent texts included portions of the books of Nahum and Zecharia, two of the 12 prophets in Twelve Minor Prophets. Although some of the Dead Sea Scrolls at large are written in Aramaic or Hebrew, these 2021 texts are all written in Greek. The archaeologists also discovered other treasures, including a 10,500-year-old basket, likely the oldest in the world. Dr. Haim Cohen with the Israeli Antiquities Authority said: “We do not know yet which type of plant was used to make it, but we are looking into it. However, we can already say that two people wove it, and that one of them was left-handed.” Additionally, the researchers found the remains of a mummified child, about 6,000-years-old, and coins from the Bar Kochba revolt of 133-135 C.E. All these artifacts are able to survive in the caves due to the climate’s unique arid quality which prevents decomposition.
IDF upgrades Iron Dome: Israel’s Iron Dome defense systems which locates and destroys rockets in midair has been upgraded to target multiple threats at once. According to the Ministry of Defense: “[the Iron Dome] dealt with difficult and complex scenarios, striking down test threats… simultaneously shooting down several unmanned aerial vehicles, missile salvoes and rockets.” The Ministry said that the upgrade constitutes a “qualitative technological leap” in being able to analyze and prevent multiple complex simultaneous threats. The IDF also announced the development of a “groundbreaking” laser-guided mortar, which they’re deeming ‘Iron Sting,’ that can “combat against enemies who hide among civilian populations, while complying with the legal and value standards set by the State of Israel.” The technology will be used “to provide accurate fire in the open field and crowded urban areas while reducing collateral damage in injury to non-combatants.”
Israeli research: vaccination of pregnant women could protect babies
Vaccines produce fetus immunity: An Israel study by Hadassah Medical Center showed that vaccination of pregnant women immunizes the fetus as well. The study looked at dozens of women who were vaccinated during their third trimester of pregnancy. The women and their fetuses all showed similar antibody levels in the wake of the vaccination. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed. One of the researchers, Dana Wolf, was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying the group will now start looking at how long the antibodies triggered by the vaccinations will last in the babies.
Ben-Gurion must reopen: Perhaps one of the most contentious issues over the course of the final days of Israel’s election campaign—namely the shutdown of Israel’s airport—has been resolved by the Supreme Court. The shutdown had come under increasing criticism from advocates who argue that it prevented Israelis abroad, who are barred from voting abroad, from returning to cast their ballots. The court ruled that the initial closure of the airport, in addition to its closure during the election, were both illegal, saying: “[the closure] violate[s] the basic constitutional right to enter and exit Israel, and others rights at the core of the democratic fabric of life.” Instead, returners will have to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. They also may be tracked via their cell phone data. The coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, said the ruling would allow “dangerous variants” into the country.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Exiled Mahmoud Abbas rival may run in Palestinian presidential election
Source: @Palestine_UN / Twitter, September 25, 2020
Mohammed Dahlan may run in PA election: In an interview with Al-Arabiya News, exiled former official Mohammad Dahlan, who belonged to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and is now based in the United Arab Emirates, hinted that he plans to run as a presidential candidate in the upcoming Palestinian elections. Dahlan, an ex-Security Minister for the Palestinian Authority, used the broadcast to criticize current Abbas’s 15-year term, stating Abbas did not accomplish anything during his tenure and instead only “[normalized] despair among Palestinians.” Dahlan says his new party, Democratic Reform Current, will represent those “who refused to serve as slaves of Abbas and his regime.” Though he is not yet as popular an Abbas alternative as Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist who is currently serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison, Dahlan has seen his support grow in Gaza after years of funding humanitarian aid projects from the UAE.
Iraq’s last Jewish doctor dies: Thafer Eliyahu, the last Jewish doctor in Iraq, died at the age of 61 this week. Eliyahu, an orthopedic doctor, was called “the doctor of the poor” because he treated for no cost those who couldn’t afford medical care. Even during the American invasion in 2003 Eliyahu continued to treat patients. Although Jews once constituted 40% of the population of Baghdad, Eliyahu was one of the few remaining Jewish residents. The Iraqi government began to dismantle the millennia-old Jewish community with violent pogroms beginning in the 1940’s. The overwhelming majority fled the country in the early 1950s for Israel and some estimates say there are only four Jews left in the country. With him ends an eternity of Jewish medicine in Mesopotamia.
Jordan faces internal trouble: Jordan’s recent spat with Israel over Prince Hussein’s canceled visit to the Temple Mount and the country’s subsequent block of Netanyahu’s flight to the UAE may be rooted in internal disquiet in Jordan. King Abdullah II visited a hospital in Salt (between Amman and Jerusalem) which is at the center of a political and social firestorm over coronavirus deaths. Due to a shortage of oxygen, at least seven patients died in recent days. The catastrophe only highlights the collapse of Jordan’s medical care system which is “exhausted” by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the crisis is only getting worse with cases skyrocketing since the first week of February. The numbers are “terrifying” and leading to mass protests in the streets. All this is to say, Jordan, which is always in a precarious balance between liberal authoritarianism and Islamic populism, is teetering. As has historically been the case, Arab regimes in jeopardy try to direct the public’s anger somewhere else, like at Israel. It remains to be seen if it will work this time.
Iran continues to break nuclear deal: Citing a document from the UN watchdog agency, Reuters is reporting that Iran is using centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant, which reportedly has yet to fully recover from the explosion last July. The enrichment is a further violation of the Iran nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, demanded that Iran stop violating the nuclear deal, as Israel and the United States are setting up a team to share intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. In an interview with Politico, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif continued to press that the Biden administration needs to rescind sanctions before any new talks can begin about rejoining the deal. Both sides are locked in a standoff, as Secretary of State Tony Blinken has repeatedly said the U.S. will not lift sanctions prior to any such talks, especially while Iran is accelerating its breaches.
During European tour, Israeli president asks for help against Iran and ICC
Rivlin tours Europe: On Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin kicked off a diplomatic tour of Europe at the invitation of the presidents of Germany, Austria, and France. Rivlin, who is accompanied by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is stressing to the European countries that Israel needs help combating the threat that Iran poses in the Middle East. Rivlin also urged Germany, Austria, and France to oppose the International Criminal Court’s investigation of war crimes in the Palestinian Territories and Israel, which was formally announced to Israel in a letter this week, calling it “legally, morally corrupt.” On Wednesday, Rivlin and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen participated in a Holocaust-remembrance ceremony in Vienna. It is also under discussion for Rivlin to come to the U.S. and address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu famously outraged Democrats across Washington when he addressed Congress in 2015 in an effort to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal, which was seen as a brazen snub of then-President Barack Obama who had not invited his counterpart.
Stadium named for Nazi collaborator: The Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote to FIFA after a football stadium in Ternopil, Ukraine was named after a Nazi collaborator, Roman Shukhevych. The SWC noted that Shukhevych was “an active participant in the mass murder of Jews and Poles in World War II.” They continued that although he was known for his fight against communism, he cannot be honored without recognition of “the mass murder of innocent fellow citizens.” A spokesperson of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry defended the naming as “preserving the national memory.”
British professor investigated: The UK’s Bristol University has launched an investigation into political science professor David Miller over comments Miller made about Israel and Jewish students. Miller, who previously called for the “end of Zionism,” recently claimed that Israel was seeking to “impose [its] will all over the world,” and that Jewish students at Bristol were part of a “drive to stop anyone speaking out about Palestine.” Last month, Miller’s conduct was questioned in Parliament, and the government stated that it finds Miller’s statements “wholly reprehensible” and “wholeheartedly rejects” them. In a letter to the university, the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism urged officials to “act before any further damage is done,” accusing Miller of “inciting hatred against Jewish students.”
Iceland adds Judaism to state-recognized religions: Iceland’s approximately 200 Jews will now be able to officially register as such with the government. Earlier this year, Iceland’s Interior Ministry added Judaism to its list of state-recognized religions, which will allow Jewish organizations to receive funding from the government’s church tax, which is collected from every Icelander over 16 years old. Rabbi Avi Feldman, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who immigrated to Iceland in 2018 with his wife, said, “When we moved to Iceland, we knew that recognition was important to our community, and we were determined to make it happen.” He added, “this is a story decades in the making.” For now, Rabbi Feldman is Iceland’s sole rabbi.
Greece to head Holocaust organization: Next month, Greece will take on the rotating presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance\, its foreign ministry announced. A foreign ministry spokesman said that “we attach particular importance” to the presidency of the IHRA. On the same day of the announcement, a mural in Thessaloniki, Greece honoring that city’s Holocaust victims was vandalized. The local community said: “Racism and antisemitism remain a serious problem and an open wound for our society.”
Amsterdam mayor condemns Netanyahu: The mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for his attacks on the International Criminal Court. She said that the Prime Minister’s comments hurt the fight against antisemitism. In an address to a conference of mayors fighting antisemitism, she said: “If someone says for political gain that a legal investigation by the International Criminal Court of a state actor in Gaza is anti-Semitism, then you deeply undervalue the meaning [of] anti-Semitism and the dark outcomes of anti-Semitism.” Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, though, wrote that: “one should speak about threats to the Jewish state rather than using this as another opportunity to criticize it.” The conference was established by Frankfurt’s mayor, Uwe Becker, who said that the pandemic has “worked like an incubator, speeding up the spread of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
Memo details Biden administration’s plans to reset U.S. ties with Palestinians
Biden wants to restart Palestinian relationship: The Biden administration is planning to reset relations with the Palestinians, according to an internal draft memo titled “The U.S. Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” said sources. Under Trump, the relations were completely severed from both ends. The State Department memo is in a “working stage” and is likely to criticize Israeli settlements in the West Bank (also known as Judea and Samaria) and Palestinian pay-for-slay payments to terrorists. It reportedly mentions efforts “to obtain a Palestinian commitment to end payments to individuals imprisoned (by Israel) for acts of terrorism.” The text will also include a two-state solution along the borders of the 1967 lines that include territorial swaps, something that has been tried in other peace plans. Jalina Porter, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We don’t have any comments on that specific memo.”
Rep. Greene visits Orthodox communities: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was stripped from her House committee assignments for antisemitic comments and promotion of QAnon’s baseless theories, visited Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Long Island on Monday. She was invited by the brother of a Jewish man who was arrested for participating in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Nachman Mostofsky, the executive director of Chovevei Zion, an Orthodox conservative group based in Brooklyn, took Greene to a yeshiva, matzah bakery, kosher supermarket, and restaurant. Mostofsky said his group has been hosting several Republican members of Congress. “Knowing the congresswoman for a bit now, she has been nothing but a friend and all for our community,” Mostofsky told The Forward. He continued: “from government interference, education, religious freedom, we share what is commonly called Judeo-Christian values.” Greene also gave an interview to an Orthodox magazine, Ami Magazine, in which she made her case to drastically limit immigration in the country.
Jews support Asian-American community: After the massacre in Atlanta in which a gunman killed eight people, including six Asian women, Jewish groups are declaring their support for the Asian-American community. Georgia’s new Jewish U.S. Senator, Jon Ossoff, said: “I express my love and support and stand in solidarity with the Asian American community, which has endured a shocking increase in violence and harassment over the last year.” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “it is our civic and moral duty to speak out to [stop hatred against Asian Americans].” Similarly, David Harris, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said: “As Asian Americans are attacked and, yes, killed, this Jew won’t be silent. As the larger fabric of our diverse society is threatened, this Jew won’t be silent.” Lastly, Bend the Arc, a Jewish progressive group, wrote: “As Jews, we know that freedom and safety for any of us depends on the freedom and safety of all of us.”
White supremacist propaganda in U.S. highest on record: The Anti-Defamation League released a report showing that white supremacist propaganda, which includes racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ messages, hit a record in the United States in 2020. The ADL said that the propaganda appeared in every state except Hawaii. The ADL wrote: “The barrage of propaganda, which overwhelmingly features veiled white supremacist language with a patriotic slant, is an effort to normalize white supremacists’ message and bolster recruitment efforts while targeting minority groups including Jews.” Physical propaganda also increased massively last year according to the report. Jessica Reaves, who’s a director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said that the extremists use physical propaganda because: “They want people to feel fear.” It also drives attention to their online presences, she said.
Holocaust-education bill passes in Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday which would require Holocaust education in schools. The bill requires that students study the Holocaust and other genocides during both middle and high school. The bill passed Wisconsin’s Assembly unanimously last year but was not voted on in the Senate due to the coronavirus pandemic. State Senator Alberta Darling, who wrote the bill, said in a statement, “Unfortunately, we are losing voices of firsthand accounts of Holocaust survivors…This bill will help make sure those voices are preserved forever.” State law requires the bill be voted on again in the State Assembly before it is sent to Governor Tony Evers to be signed into law, where it will join 17 other states which require Holocaust education in schools.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Judith Kaplan Eisenstein at the 70th anniversary of her bat mitzvah in 1992
Today we celebrate Duolingo launching a Yiddish course! Duolingo, the popular language learning app, is scheduled to launch its first Yiddish-language course on April 6th. In a statement to Jewish Insider, Duolingo’s lead community specialist Myra Awodey said: “For Yiddish, we were getting a lot of interest, mostly from people who were heritage learners or who wanted to pick up the connection.” The development of the Yiddish course has taken longer than expected because of differences in dialect. Yiddish, which primarily combines elements of German, Hebrew, and Aramaic, has dialects corresponding to different regions of Europe where they emerged. The differences in pronunciation and grammar are subtle, but for native speakers they carry meaningful information about identity, culture, and religious affiliation. The course uses a standardized version of Yiddish developed in the 20th century. There were 13 million Yiddish speakers before the Holocaust; today the number hovers at around half a million.
On this day in 1922, Judith Kaplan, became the first American to publicly celebrate a bat mitzvah, the feminine version of a bar mitzvah. Kaplan’s father was Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, a Lithuanian immigrant who was the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. However, elements of conservatism remained. For example, Kaplan was not allowed to read from the Torah at her bat mitzvah. Nevertheless, the tradition gained popularity and by the 1960s it was a staple across the liberal Jewish streams. Even today, Modern Orthodox congregations celebrate bat mitzvahs, but some do not allow girls to read from the Torah.