Israel in the News Jan/Feb 2016
UNESCO Rewrites History
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has adopted a resolution declaring the Jewish Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Muslim site.
It is the Cave of Machpelah that Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver (Gen. 23) and where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are buried. UNESCO also contends Rachel’s Tomb, where Jacob’s wife Rachel is buried outside Jerusalem, is also Muslim. Muslims didn’t claim that site until the 1990s.
“The Cave of the Patriarchs,” reported The Jerusalem Post, “is the most ancient Jewish shrine in the world and the second holiest site of pilgrimage in Judaism.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall and holy places, condemned UNESCO. “Centuries of documented history,” he wrote, “prove not only the deep and strong connection between the Jewish nation and this tomb, . . . but also that there has never been a Muslim claim to the site. I find it hard to understand how a body like UNESCO, whose stated purpose is preservation of cultural and heritage values of the nations of the world, takes such a clear stand behind such an imaginary claim.”
The resolution initially sought to redefine the Western Wall as “the Buraq Plaza” and “an integral part of al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif,” but the clause was withdrawn after objections by the United States and others, the Post reported.
German, Israeli Armies Train
The German and Israeli armies recently collaborated to conduct joint exercises in urban warfare as part of the largest ever cooperative training held between the two nations.
More than 100 German soldiers went to Israel for several weeks to train at the Tze’elim army base, bringing with them five heavy military vehicles. “We’ve had experience in that over the past 10 years—in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The Israeli army also has experience,” said German Brig. Gen. Ernst-Peter Horn, who accompanied the soldiers to Israel, according to Haaretz. The exercises were held despite the ongoing violence in Israel.
Training brought camaraderie between the two armies, as Israelis invited German soldiers to Friday night Shabbat dinners with their families. One German soldier commented, “I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t different from my family back home.”
Israeli Consulate Opens In Munich
A new Israeli consulate opened in Munich, Germany, in close proximity to Adolf Hitler’s former office and the former headquarters of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party.
Israelis will now be able to apply for visas and renew their passports at the new consulate building, which was rented out to the State of Israel. “There is no place for xenophobia or anti-Semitism in this country,” Bavarian State Minister Horst Seehofer said at the opening ceremony, the German TV news channel Bayerischer Rundfunk reported.
Kuwait Airways Rejects Israelis
The Arab airline Kuwait Airways has been discriminating against Israeli passengers. Recently the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has sought legal action to address the airline’s denial of a ticket to Israeli citizen Eldad Gatt from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Kuwait Airways defended its position by arguing that Kuwaiti law prohibits the carrier from selling tickets to Israeli passport holders. DOT replied, “This is not a proper justification for the denial of transportation….We know of no authority that would allow an airline to discriminate based simply on penalties that might be imposed under the foreign law that…mandated the discriminatory code.”
If Kuwait Airways continues its discriminatory policy, DOT will pursue further administrative and/or judicial action.
U.S. Urges Europe To Protect Jews
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution urging European nations to do more to protect Jewish communities amid a surge in anti-Semitism. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who spearheaded the resolution, said, “The number of violent anti-Semitic attacks has increased from 100 to 400 percent in some European countries since 2013.”
House Resolution 354 urges the U.S. government to work with its European counterparts to “formally recognize and partner with Jewish community groups to strengthen crisis prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and responses related to anti-Semitic attacks.” Several leading Jewish organizations supported the resolution.
Archaeologists Discover Fortress
Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believe they have uncovered the location of the Acra fortress from the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks in Jerusalem’s City of David.
The fortress, built by Seleucid Greek Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes, played a significant role in the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucids and was destroyed by Simon Maccabeus in 141 BC. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus wrote of its location, but archaeologists have been unable to find it for more than a century.
According to the excavation directors, this discovery will enable them “for the first time to reconstruct the layout of the settlement in the city, on the eve of the Maccabean uprising in 167 BC.”
Sound Ventures Invest in Moovit
Moovit, an Israeli-based public transit application serving more than 700 cities worldwide, recently secured a new investment from Sound Ventures, a firm cofounded by U.S. celebrity Ashton Kutcher. Moovit offers real-time public transit information and GPS navigation for buses, trolleybuses, trams, trains, and ferries.
Moovit’s mission is to make transportation more ecofriendly by encouraging people to use public transportation. Moovit plans to use its new funds to accelerate its growth in India and China.
Israeli cofounder Nir Erez stated, “We’re extremely proud to have Sound Ventures behind us….Investments like these help us to bring more public transit options to markets in need.”
Obama Says No
The Obama administration will not accept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a senior White House official told Haaretz.
“I think that it was clear the U.S. is not going to change its position about the future of the Golan. We always said it has to be negotiated in line with [U.N. Security Council resolutions] 242 and 338. This has been and remains our position and it will not change,” a U.S. official stated.