Inside Israel: Israel seeks foreign medical staff; Jewish Agency vote postponed; Crusader sword discovered in Israel; committee to review tech regulations; and Bennett to attend COP26
Inside Europe: Slovenia’s prime minister accused of antisemitism; Swedish foreign minister visits Israel; German planes fly over Jerusalem in 1st since WW1; antisemitism reaches youth through social media; and Jewish toddler taken off life support
Israel’s Neighbors: Hamas sentences Israel “collaborators”; and Morocco, Israel to advance ties
Inside the U.S.: Anonymous Google, Amazon workers condemn deal with Israel; Jewish burial societies apologize to dead; and Nazi-stolen van Gogh to be sold
Celebrate & Remember: Spain searching for descendants of Jews saved by ‘Spanish Schindler’; and remembering Reed v. Reed
Israel seeks Jewish doctors (really)
Source: @NitzanHorowitz / Twitter, October 18, 2021
Israel seeks foreign medical staff: Due to a shortage of medical workers in Israel, the country is seeking to relax immigration for doctors and nurses to the country. The Knesset voted to establish a committee to fast-track immigration for doctors from the former Soviet Union, North America, and Argentina in particular. The new regulations would make it easier for medical professionals to transfer their credentials to Israel and also guarantee them a job upon immigration (Aliyah). Israel’s shortage of medical workers has been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw hospital shifts increase dramatically for workers, many of whom went on strike in response to unworkable conditions.
Jewish Agency vote postponed: After the leading candidate to be the next chair of the Jewish Agency withdrew his name from consideration, the Agency announced it would postpone its decision on the matter for two months. Elazar Stern, a member of Knesset, had been set to replace Yitzhak Herzog, now the President of Israel, in the prestigious post, but withdrew after making controversial comments concerning the treatment of complaints of sexual assault. The resulting opportunity for a new candidate has led to speculation that the post could be filled by a woman for the first time, including by former Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni or other well-known members of Knesset like Omer Yankelevich or Michal Kotler-Wunsh.
Crusader sword discovered in Israel: An Israeli diver fished a 900-year-old sword, almost certainly from a Crusader, off the coast of Israel. The diver, Shlomi Katzin, turned over the artifact and other finds to the Israel Antiquities Authority. An expert said: “The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight.” The sword is currently covered by barnacles and other marine life, but will be cleaned and shown to the public.
Committee to review tech regulations: Justice Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, is establishing a committee to review potential regulations for social media and new technologies. Sa’ar said the committee will be responsible for “formulating measures and actions to bridge the ever-widening gap between technological developments and existing regulatory and legal arrangements in Israel, and to address the negative social influences of various phenomena inherent in this gap.” He continued: “[the committee will] probe the appropriate balance between encouraging innovation and technological developments in which Israel excels, and the need for smart, measured regulation that will minimize the risks and the negative expressions.”
Bennett to attend COP26: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed he’ll be participating in and attending the United Nations climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland next month. His office said that Bennett will “present the Israeli initiatives on climate change and hold a series of meetings with foreign leaders.” Bennett’s delegation will include Israeli Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg and Energy Minister Karin Elharrar.
Slovenia’s prime minister accused of antisemitism
Source: @jjansasds / Instagram, September 21, 2021
EU condemns Slovenian antisemitism: After the populist Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Jansa, posted antisemitic messages on social media, the European Union, of which Slovenia is a member-state, reiterated that antisemitism “has no place” in the coalition of nations. Jansa had accused members of the EU’s legislature of being “puppets” of Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros. The government of The Netherlands also weighed in, saying it denounced the “tasteless” message “in the strongest possible terms.” In response, a European official also said antisemitism is not “only a threat to Jewish communities but also to an open and diverse society.” A majority Catholic country that is the birthplace of former First Lady Melania Trump, Slovenia has only about 100 Jewish residents.
Swedish FM visits Israel: In a sign of warming relations between the new Swedish and Israeli governments, the Foreign Minister of Sweden visited Israel for the first time since ties were significantly strained in 2014. Israel’s ambassador to Sweden said: “The future is bright. There is a mutual understanding that we agree on many more issues than what we disagree on.” The Foreign Minister is also visiting the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, taking a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
German planes fly over Jerusalem in 1st since WW1: German aircraft, alongside Israeli planes, flew over Jerusalem for the first time since the First World War. The Israel Defense Forces said: “The flyby expresses the strong partnership and connection between the air forces and the countries, as well as the commitment to continued cooperation in the future.” The German-Israeli exercise was the start of a larger, multinational overfly that took place above Israeli skies between Israel, Germany, France, Greece, India, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. The event comes one week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Israel on a farewell tour as she retires from German politics.
Antisemitism reaches youth through social media: According to a new analysis by Britain’s Hope Not Hate, Germany’s Amadeu Antonio Foundation, and Sweden’s the Expo Foundation, elements of antisemitism are “rife across every social media platform.” Although antisemitism is most prolific on fringe sites, hate speech is more frequently crossing into the mainstream. The groups calculated millions of antisemitic messages across Instagram and TikTok in particular, where users are most likely to be in their teens and 20s. One lead researcher said: “A new generation of social media users have been introduced to antisemitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere.”
Jewish toddler taken off life support: A Hassidic toddler was taken off of life support following a prolonged battle with the United Kingdom High Court. Two-year-old Alta Fixsler, who was born with severe brain damage, was removed from the medical equipment keeping her alive against the wishes of her parents. Not wishing to go against their beliefs, her parents appealed the High Court ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, which was denied last August. Israel’s then-president Reuven Rivlin had petitioned the UK’s Prince Charles to allow Fixsler to be treated in Israel. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer even secured Fixsler a visa to be treated in the United States. May her memory be a blessing.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Hamas hands Israel “collaborators” death penalty
Source: @TimesofIsrael / Twitter, October 17, 2021
Hamas sentences Israel “collaborators”: Hamas authorities sentenced two Palestinian men from the Gaza Strip to death by hanging and two others to hard labor over allegations that they had ‘collaborated’ with Israel. The sentences in Gaza came as a Palestinian Authority court in the West Bank city of Bethlehem sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for attempting to sell land to Jewish Israelis. Figures show that terror group Hamas has sentenced seven people to death this year in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, has long criticized Hamas for carrying out executions without the approval of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has not given his official blessing for an execution since 2006.
Morocco, Israel to advance ties: Morocco, which normalized relations last year with Israel, is preparing to approve aviation, culture, and sports agreements with Israel. The agreements had been signed by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart in August. It was reported that Morocco had been hesitant to expand ties with Israel until it received assurances from the Biden administration that the U.S. would not reverse the Trump administration’s recognition of Western Sahara as part of Morocco, which it did in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Anonymous Google, Amazon workers condemn deal with Israel
Tech employees criticize Israel: In an open letter published by The Guardian, several hundred anonymous workers at Google and Amazon said that they did not support their employers’ decision to build and provide cloud-based regional data centers and services to Israel. The letter is referring to the Nimbus cloud project, which will enable Israeli government ministries and other public entities to transfer servers and services into the cloud, provided by the two tech firms. The letter notes that the contract was signed with Israel in May, “the same week that the Israeli military attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – killing nearly 250 people, including more than 60 children.” The letter does not note that the Israeli strikes were in response to Gaza-based terror groups firing thousands of projectiles toward civilians in Israel, causing a number of casualties. A day after the letter was published, several groups which promote the Boycott Divest and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel, including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), announced a campaign to amplify the efforts of the tech employees called #NoTechForApartheid. Apparently, some of the organizers of these BDS groups also signed the letter.
Jewish burial societies apologize to dead: Some Jewish burial societies are ritually apologizing to the dead after reneging on Jewish communal practices during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The rituals involved community gathering or touching of dead bodies, two things that were highly in flux last year at the crux of the COVID-19 pandemic. One burial society (referred to as chevra kedisha) in Pittsburgh is reciting the following words: “While the decisions we made were taken with every consideration of pikuach nefesh — saving lives from danger — they nonetheless had consequences that made many of us feel we, and the meitim (deceased) we cared for, had lost something precious. It is to acknowledge this loss that we gather here today.”
Nazi-stolen van Gogh to be sold: A painting by Vincent van Gogh titled “Wheatstacks” is set to be auctioned off in New York for a price of over $20 million and perhaps as much as $30 million. The work was stolen by the Nazis from Alexandrine de Rothschild who purchased it from Max Meirowsky, who fled Germany in 1938 in the face of Nazi persecution. An art critic said of the painting: “Everything is breathtaking: the iconic subject, the perfect condition of the gouache, the intensity of the ink in the trademark cross-hatchings and twirls defining the landscape, the ambitious scale of the composition.” The proceeds of the sale will be split among the current owner of the painting and the descendants of its two previous Jewish owners.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Ángel Sanz-Briz saved 5,200 Hungarian Jews from being deported to Auschwitz in 1944
Today we celebrate “Spanish Schindler”! Spain is releasing the name of 5,200 Jews who were saved during the Holocaust by Ángel Sanz Briz, the “Spanish Schindler.” Although Briz was honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations, Spain, under its then-dictator Francisco Franco, refused the honor and hid the names of the Jews Brizhe rescued. Briz served during the Holocaust as a Spanish diplomat in Hungary, forging fake immigration passports for Hungarian Jews and even shielding them in nominally diplomatic buildings under the Spanish flag. If you have information about descendants of Briz’s rescuees, the email to contact the Spanish organization looking for information is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this day in 1971, lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg submitted the primary brief for Reed v. Reed, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case. The case held for the first time that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. The decision was delivered unanimously by the all-male panel of Supreme Court justices.