Inside Israel: Hezbollah fires rocket barrage at Israel; Bennett’s neighbors file suit; Rabbinate ignores law; Western Wall is inspected; Knesset members propose outlawing prime ministers under indictment; and Israel reduces gender reassignment wait time
Israel’s Neighbors: EU Rep attends Iranian presidential swearing in with terror heads; and Iran warns Israel ‘don’t test us’
Inside the U.S.: ADL head accuses Rep. Rashida Tlaib of ‘antisemitic dog whistling’; pro-Israel Democrat wins key race; Herzog to be ambassador to U.S.; George Washington University offers Israel education; and Weissman to be White House Jewish liaison
Celebrate & Remember: Israeli coronavirus treatment breakthrough; and remembering Harry Houdini
Hezbollah attacks Israel: For the second time this week, rockets were fired toward northern Israel from Lebanon this morning, prompting the Israel Defense Forces to retaliate, in a new flare-up after days of tension across the region. Rocket alert sirens sounded Friday in a number of towns in the Golan Heights area, sending residents scrambling to shelters. Israeli defense officials blamed Palestinian terrorists in the area for the rocket fire on Wednesday, but Hezbollah took responsibility for this morning’s attack, which the terror group said is in response to Israel retaliating for Wednesday’s attack. Israel said yesterday it held “the country of Lebanon” responsible for attacks. The IDF said on Twitter yesterday, “Not only is rocket fire from Lebanon at Israeli civilians an act of terrorism, it also is indicative of the Lebanese government’s lack of governance of terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is responsible for all attacks from Lebanon.” Avi Mayer, Managing Director of Public Affairs for American Jewish Committee, said, “Israeli officials reportedly want to prevent the situation from escalating further and are weighing a response to the Hezbollah rocket fire that will contain the incident.” He went on, “Israeli military says Hezbollah intentionally targeted open areas in northern Israel, avoiding populated areas for fear of harsh retaliation; Israel mulling response.”
Bennett’s neighbors file suit: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s neighbors are petitioning Israel’s supreme court to order the prime minister to move to the official residence in Jerusalem. Bennett has continued to live in his private residence in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, since taking over the prime minister’s office in June. His neighbors, who have been protesting outside his home, say that his living situation violates 70 years of precedent. It also is costly; estimates say the very fact that Bennett is not living in the official residence will cost the state about $4 million dollars. Bennett has said he wants to stay in Ra’anana so his children can continue to attend their schools. Additionally, Bennett would not have been able to move into the residence until weeks after he took office since former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not vacate the property.
Rabbinate ignores law: Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, the country’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish supervisory authority, said that it would not cooperate with state reforms to reduce its monopolistic control over kashrut standards (Jewish food requirements). The rabbinate called the reforms “the destruction of kashrut and Judaism in Israel.” Last month, Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana put forward small, but significant changes to kashrut operations in Israel. No longer would a supervising rabbi have to get specific permission from the rabbinate to authorize his kashrut approvals, but would just need to be a rabbinate-approved rabbi (in a general sense) to do so. It was the first such move to shrink the power of the rabbinate since the Bennett administration took office with some coalition parties, like Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteynu, pledging to do just that.
Western Wall is inspected: The stones of the Western Wall are going through an extensive safety review before next month’s High Holidays, as they have for years. The stones are inspected by an expert crew with supervision of a rabbi twice a year, before the High Holidays and before Passover, when throngs of visitors visit the sacred site. The Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said: “Each stone has an identity card based on which we keep track and inspect it twice a year.”
Members propose outlawing prime ministers under indictment: The A New Hope party, which was founded by Likud breakaway Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar last year, has put forward a bill to prevent a person under indictment from serving as prime minister. Sa’ar left Likud, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, after Netanyahu was indicted by the Attorney General but continued to serve in his role and ran for reelection. The member who submitted the legislation said it was intended “to rectify the absurd situation” of a sitting prime minister being under criminal indictment, while Sa’ar said: “We’ve seen that leadership of the country by a person under indictment creates a preference for personal interests over the good of the country.” The legislation is not likely to become law due to its strict parameters, but it’s expected to be used to pressure other coalition members to support less severe legislation. For example, another version of the bill proposed by Sa’ar would disallow the President from tapping a person under indictment to form a government, thereby practically preventing someone under indictment from entering into office.
Israel reduces gender reassignment wait time: Nitzan Horowtiz, the gay leader of the liberal Meretz party who is also Israel’s Minister of Health, launched an effort to reduce the wait time for those seeking gender reassignment surgery. Horowitz said: “These are life-changing and life-saving surgeries. We will expand the number of surgeries and shorten the queues for these important surgeries here in Israel. We will improve the medical service and adapt it to the needs of the LGBT community, and the trans community in particular.”
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
EU Representative attends swearing in of Iran’s new president with terror group heads
Iran’s new president sworn in: Yesterday, Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, was sworn into office. He has long opposed engagement with the West and is a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His swearing-in solidifies the loyalty of all government branches in Iran to anti-Western sentiments. Raisi has a record of grave human rights abuses and was reportedly part of a four-person “death panel” that oversaw the mass execution of up to 5,000 political prisoners toward the end of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq. To the shock and horror of many abroad, right next to terror group heads from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad was an EU representative at Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony. Israel’s foreign ministry said on Twitter: “It is unfathomable that a murderer who has been accused of crimes against humanity will take the seat as the President of the Iranian regime, as representatives from the international community sit by and watch.”
Iran warns Israel ‘don’t test us’: The United Nations Security Council will reportedly be meeting again today discuss last week’s deadly attack on an Israeli-linked tanker near Oman, which left a Romanian and a Briton dead, and was blamed on Iran. On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel is prepared to militarily engage directly with Iran. Israel, he added, is nevertheless focused on an effort to mobilize the international community to rein Tehran in, “because we can’t tag Iran as solely an Israeli problem and absolve the rest of the world from this issue.” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman responded that “ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response.” “Don’t test us,” he warned.
INSIDE THE U.S.
ADL head accuses Rep. Rashida Tlaib of ‘antisemitic dog whistling’
Tlaib spreads libel: While speaking at the Democratic Socialists of America National Convention, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) invoked antisemitic conspiracy theories, saying that “if you look behind the curtain, the same people” who are responsible for “the occupation of Palestine” “made record profit off of racism” in the U.S., which she said was “exposed during the pandemic.” She also said they are “the same people” are responsible for “cut[ting] off water from Gaza to Detroit” and urged others to recognize “how the [Israeli] occupation interacts with structural racism.” The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called the comments “stunning” and said: “We’ve heard this kind of ugly antisemitic dog whistle before, but it’s appalling when it comes from a member of Congress.”
Pro-Israel Dem wins key race: A pivotal Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th Congressional district on Tuesday resulted in a resounding win for mainstream Democrats and Jewish groups. The race pitted Nina Turner, a far-left candidate who is critical of Israel, against Shontel Brown, a county councilwoman. Turner was endorsed by national far-left figures, like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while Brown received the endorsement of more established figures like Hillary Clinton, Representative Jim Clyburn, and the mother of Marcia Fudge, who previously held the seat until she was appointed to be Labor Secretary by President Biden. The Democratic Majority for Israel supported Brown, and was criticized by Turner supporters. In fact, after losing the race, Turner blamed the influence of “evil money” on her defeat, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to say the antisemitism watchdog organization was “extremely troubled by Nina Turner’s comments. Intentional or not, they echo long-standing antisemitic tropes.” (In reality, Turner vastly outspent Brown.) On election night, Brown thanked her “Jewish brothers and sisters,” while the Democratic Majority for Israel said: “This is a tremendous victory, not only for Councilwoman Brown personally, but also for the pro-Biden-Harris, pro-Israel majority in the Democratic Party.” The winner of the primary is expected to easily win the general election later this year.
Herzog to be ambassador to U.S.: The brother of Israeli President Isaac Herzog will be named Israeli ambassador to the U.S. by Prime Minister Bennett. Michael Herzog, Isaac’s older brother, is currently a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and served in the Yom Kippur War. As with Isaac, Michael’s father, Chaim, was president of Israel and his uncle, Abba Eban, was ambassador to the U.S. and the U.N. According to reports, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was involved in the choice of envoy to the U.S., since Lapid will become prime minister according to the government rotation agreement and Bennett and Lapid agreed to jointly choose the nominee out of regards to continuity.
GW offers Israel education: George Washington University is now the first major educational institution in the United States to offer a master’s program in Israel Education. The two-year master’s program “brings together cohorts of Jewish educators, leaders and changemakers to learn new methods and techniques for Israel education,” according to a news release by the school. The Marcus Foundation donated $2.7 million to fund the program with additional support from the Center for Israel Education.
Weissman to be WH Jewish liaison: President Biden has chosen Chanan Weissman to be the administration’s Jewish liaison. Weissman is 37-years-old and served in the same position in the Obama administration. The post remained vacant during the Trump era. The Biden team has been under pressure to fill the post since holding a State Department call with Jewish leaders in June that inexplicably excluded the heads of the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox religious movements. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League who served with Weissman in the Obama administration, said: “He is an incredibly talented public servant who knows the Jewish community extremely well but also has a mastery of the policy process.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Harry Houdini, 1907
Today we celebrate an Israeli coronavirus treatment breakthrough! Some 93% of serious coronavirus patients treated with a new Israeli drug in a Phase II trial were discharged in five days or fewer. The Phase II trial confirmed the results of Phase I, which was conducted last year in Israel. Phase II was conducted in Greece because Israel did not have enough relevant patients. The drug was developed based on a molecule that the lead professor of the study had been researching for 25 years called CD24, which is naturally present in the body. It serves many functions, including regulating the mechanism responsible for the cytokine storm (the over activation of the immune system in COVID-19 patients). The team is now ready to launch the last phase of the study. If the results are confirmed (and they are expected to be by the end of the year), the treatment could be made available relatively quickly at a low cost.
Today in 1926, Harry Houdini, who was the son of a Hungarian rabbi, performed a magic trick to best an Egyptian spiritualist, Rahman Bey, who claimed that only through supernatural means was he (Bey) able to perform such feats. Houdini sealed himself inside a coffin which was subsequently submerged under water for one and a half hours. Unrelatedly, Houdini died within months of the trick, on October 31, 1926, at age 52.