Today we’re diving into: the historic first ever Israel—U.A.E. flight; Israel’s budget chief’s resignation; Uman Jewish pilgrimage crisis; Netanyahu’s deteriorating relationship with ultra-Orthodox; Hamas’ ceasefire announcement; UN vote on Lebanon peacekeepers; Lebanon’s new prime minister; Abbas’ meeting with Hamas & Islamic Jihad; proof that Pope ignored Holocaust; Brooklyn hit-and-run attack; Jewish protest against China’s persecution of Uighurs; Kenosha synagogue vandalized; Jewish “Black Lives Matter” New York Times ad; Biden’s condemnation of Chabad arson; and Israel’s help with CA fires. Thank you to Smadar Harpak and Nimrod Eisenberg for joining us to discuss medical clowning in Israel and their work with the Clownbulance and Dream Doctors!
Historic firsts: Israeli commercial flight flies over Saudi Arabia and lands in the U.A.E., cementing normalization agreement
David Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 31, 2020. Source: @elalisrael / Instagram.
Historic Israel—U.A.E. flight cements peace deal: For the first time, a commercial Israeli El Al passenger flight flew directly from Israel to the United Arab Emirates, adorned with the words for “peace” in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Safely landing on Monday, the flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi crossed the entire length of Saudi Arabia in another historic moment. The plane was equipped with a system to protect against aerial threats, such as ground to air missiles. The travelers were no ordinary citizens. In addition to the throngs of press aboard, the plane carried an American and Israeli delegation of officials to the U.A.E., including Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. A banquet was held after the official meetings, where kosher food was served to those who observe the dietary laws.
U.A.E. abolishes Israel boycott law: The U.A.E. formally did away with its law mandating a national boycott of Israel in a move that was hailed by both American and Israeli officials. Similar laws exist in much of the Arab world. The Palestinians, however, announced their public upset at the trilateral gathering in Abu Dhabi; Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the agreement “pains” them. And Israel has designated the U.A.E. as a “green state,” one from which travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Israel.
Israel’s Finance Ministry budget chief quits: The head of the Finance Ministry’s budget department has resigned in a stark signal to the government over the economic crisis and budget impasse. In his resignation, Shaul Meridor criticized Israel’s Finance Minister, Israel Katz, saying: the “ability to perform my duties has become impossible.” Meridor blasted that, “blatant disregard is shown toward staff work, policies are rash and normal budgetary tools and norms are ignored.” Prime Minister Netanyahu launched personal attacks against Meridor on social media, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “He did this in a complicated economic period and his departure is unfortunate.”
Pilgrimage crisis causes ultra-Orthodox to join protests: The standoff over a Hasidic pilgrimage to Ukraine is continuing to embroil Israel’s government in political turmoil. The saga over the ultra-Orthodox Rosh Hashanah journey to Uman, Ukraine has led to the trip’s cancellation and reinstatement multiple times. Currently, Ukraine has shut its doors to the Hasidic travelers, causing some Orthodox Israelis to become stranded in Ukrainian airports. Although Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky said that the decision was at the request of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Netanyahu has rejected that assertion and established a new team to find a way to appease the Orthodox groups, an important Netanyahu constituency. The controversy has so upended Orthodox support for Netanyahu that some have joined the anti-Netanyahu protests—20,000 people strong this weekend—raging across Israel, further hastening Netanyahu’s attempt to solve the crisis.
Israel debates shutting down High Holidays: Another decision that could add to Netanyahu’s deteriorating relationship with the ultra-Orthodox: what to do about gatherings during the High Holidays. The head of the second-largest ultra-Orthodox party, Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), has reportedly said that should Netanyahu allow the reimposition of coronavirus restrictions during the High Holidays—as urged by coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu—UTJ would quit the government coalition, potentially bringing down the whole government. Litzman said, “The approval for mass demonstrations [outside the Prime Minister’s Residence] alongside the opening of cultural centers, but with continued restrictions on synagogues and the prevention of travel to Uman, have destroyed public confidence in the system.”
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
After weeks of tensions during which hundreds of explosive and incendiary balloons were launched toward Israel, Hamas announces Qatar-brokered ceasefire
Hamas agrees to ceasefire with Israel: With Gaza facing a potentially devastating outbreak of coronavirus that has already caused the territory to shut down, the ruling terrorist organization Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire with Israel. The truce was brokered by a Qatari representative who had been shuttling back and forth between Gaza and Israel in an effort to avoid further escalation in tensions. Prior to the announcement, Hamas had launched hundreds of balloon bombs at Israel, sparking fires across Israel’s south, and Israel had retaliated with airstrikes and blockades. Hamas said: “an understanding has been reached to avoid an escalation and stabilize the situation. Several projects were announced that will serve and alleviate the situation for our people in Gaza, given the coronavirus crisis that has struck us.” Israel had said that with the understanding of a ceasefire, it would be willing to provide Gaza with badly needed medical supplies to combat coronavirus.
UN forces demand access to Hezbollah: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a cut in the UN’s peacekeeping force on the Lebanese-Israeli border that also mandates the force’s increase in access to areas of the terrorist organization Hezbollah activity. The proposal, which cuts the force from 15,000 troops down to 13,000, was put forward by France. It also includes the notice that the Lebanese government must allow “prompt and full access” to sites requested by the UN, like Hezbollah tunnels. The United States said: “Today we halt a long period of Council complacency [from the UN security force] and the growing and destabilizing influence of Iran and its client, the terrorist organization Hezbollah.” Israel’s ambassador to the UN called the move its “final warning” to Hezbollah.
Lebanon appoints new prime minister: At the insistence of France, Lebanon has appointed a new prime minister, Mustapha Adib, the country’s former ambassador to Germany. Adib has broad backing by factional groups, including Hezbollah, and is a Sunni Muslim. According to Lebanon’s government structure, Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim. French President Emmanuel Macron had set a September 1 deadline for the country to decide on a new prime minister after its last resigned in the wake of the Beirut explosions. Adib is expected to take the country in a pro-Western direction.
Abbas chairing meeting of Palestinian leaders, including terror groups: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will chair a meeting of factional Palestinian groups this week, including the terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to Abbas’ Fatah party, the meeting’s intent is to “launch [sic] a joint national position to thwart the Deal of the Century,” the peace agreement put forward by the Trump administration. Despite Israel ceasing its plans to potentially annex parts of the West Bank, the Palestinians are refusing to restart cooperation with Israel that it severed in a pressure campaign to avert annexation. The Palestinians’ tactic has shifted from opposition to annexation to opposition to the Israel—U.A.E. peace agreement. The Palestinians view that agreement as sidelining their concerns and breaking a unified Arab stance of nonrecognition of Israel.
New Vatican documents: Pope ignored the Holocaust: New, previously unpublished documents uncovered by Brown professor Dr. David Kertzer further confirm that the Vatican under Pope Pius XII turned a blind eye to the Holocaust and rejected public denunciation of the Nazi regime. Pius XII was long accused of doing so, without proper evidence. Included in the records are the urgings of Vatican Secretariat of State Angelo Dell’Acqua for the Pope not to call attention to the roundup of Jews for deportation to concentration camps, not even the ones in Rome. “Among historians, my piece I think will be fairly explosive,” said Dr. Kertzer.
INSIDE THE U.S.
In another hate crime against Jews in New York, two religious men are injured by hit-and-run attack
Two Jewish men injured in hit-and-run attack in Brooklyn: Two religious Jewish men were injured in a targeted hit-and-run attack in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this weekend. A video of the attack shows a Chevrolet Camaro speeding ahead and going up on the sidewalk to hit the two men. The victims were lightly injured and are expected to make a full recovery. Yaakov Hagoel, Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization said of the attack, “This attempted murder in Williamsburg is a warning sign to authorities around the world. The next murder motivated by antisemitism is around the corner… I call on governments around the world to increase the protection of Jewish institutions and the punishment for hate crimes.” More than half of all hate crimes in New York City last year were attacks on Jewish people.
American Jews protest Chinese persecution of Uighurs: A handful of Jewish Americans staged a protest outside of UN headquarters in Manhattan to raise awareness of China’s persecution of its Muslim minority population, most especially the Uighurs. One of the attendees, a rabbinical student said, “We’re here to say ‘wake up from your sleep,’ Congress [and] pass meaningful legislation.” Perhaps a million Uighurs are thought to be held against their will in Chinese detention or concentration camps.
American Jewish groups say “unequivocally, Black Lives Matter”: Approximately 600 American Jewish organizations representing a majority of American Jews posted a full-page advertisement in the New York Times declaring that “Black Lives Matter.” The open letter read in part: “We support the Black-led movement in this country that is calling for accountability and transparency from the government and law enforcement. We know that freedom and safety for any of us depends on the freedom and safety of all of us.” Included among the signatories were a number of Orthodox Jewish organizations. The open letter was published on the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. One of the organizers from the Bend the Arc organization said: “I was shocked that we didn’t get one edit request from an institution. It showed how committed people in this moment are to supporting Black liberation.”
Kenosha synagogue vandalized: During protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city that has been consumed by racial protests in recent days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a synagogue driveway was vandalized with the words “Free Palestine.” The synagogue’s rabbi, Dena Feingold, said the vandalism did not lessen its support of the protests. She said, “What’s happened these last few days is not about us and what’s happened to us. It’s about the issues of systemic racism that plague our society. About police policy, about implicit bias, white privilege and those bigger issues is what this is about. It doesn’t change anything at all.”
Biden condemns Chabad arson attack: The Democrats’ nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, released a statement condemning the arson attack on the University of Delaware’s Chabad house. Biden said the attack “is deeply disturbing — as an alum of [the University of Delaware] and as an American.” President Donald Trump did not comment on the antisemitic attack.
Medicine for the soul: Israel’s medical clowns do what doctors cannot
Tune in for our conversation with two Israeli medical clowns: Smadar Harpak and Nimrod Eisenberg! Smadar and Nimrod joined Eden last week to talk about the power and philosophy behind therapeutic clowning, life in Israel as a country of trauma and great resilience, their work with the amazing Clownbulance, Dream Doctors, and more! Help them make more dreams come true by making a donation to the Clownbulance campaign here!
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Source: @CAgovernor / Twitter.
Today we celebrate Israel’s aid to California amidst a wave of wildfires. An Israeli team of fire and rescue experts flew to California to help battle its raging wildfires. Despite the outbreak of fires in Israel as a result of Hamas terrorist activity, about 10 top experts traveled to California to help stem the massive and out-of-control fires raging in that state. So far, over 1.2 million acres of land have been burned in California. Governor of California Gavin Newsom, said, “Mutual aid is a beautiful example of people from all backgrounds and communities coming together to help one another. Grateful for the strong partnership between California and Israel, and for this crew of Israeli firefighters who came to CA to help battle these historic fires.”
Today in 1939, we mark the anniversary of the start of World War II, which lasted until September 2, 1945. Roughly 9 million Jews lived in countries that were occupied by Germany during World War II and by the end of the war, two out of every three Jews would be dead by Adolf Hitler’s “final solution”—now known as the Holocaust or Shoah. Of the six million Jews that were killed, more than one million of them were children.