News Digest — 2/8/19

Trump Tackled Anti-Semitism In State Of The Union, Honors Holocaust Survivors – Joseph Wolkin

US President Donald Trump tackled anti-Semitism in the midst of his second State of the Union address, Tuesday night (5th).

Not only did the American president underscore America’s strong ties with Israel, but he reunited a Holocaust survivor with an American hero who liberated concentration camps.

“One of the most complex set of challenges we face and have for many years is in the Middle East,” Trump said.  “Our approach is based on principled realism – not discredited theories that have failed for decades to yield progress.  For this reason, my administration recognized the true capital of Israel – and proudly opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Trump also attacked Iran for calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.  He said America “will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ and threatens genocide against the Jewish people.”

The president spent several moments addressing the rise in anti-Semitism by sharing the story of Timothy Matson, a SWAT team officer who responded to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

“Just months ago, 11-Jewish Americans were viciously murdered in an anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” President Trump said.  “Swat officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times chasing down the killer. And he was very successful.”

Trump spoke of the danger of rising anti-Semitism in America.

“We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed,” he said.  “With one voice we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”

He also spoke of Judah Samet, who narrowly missed being caught in the middle of the Pittsburgh attack, arriving minutes late to services and witnessing the shootout from the parking lot.  Samet is also a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp.

“Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train, and told they were going to another camp,” Trump said.  “Suddenly the train screeched to a halt. A soldier appeared. Judah’s family braced for the worst. Then, his father cried out with joy, ‘It’s the Americans.’”

Making things more special was that it happened to be Samet’s 81st birthday.  When the president made note of that, the entire House chamber broke out into song, singing “Happy Birthday” to a man who narrowly escaped death multiple times.

Another survivor of Dachau, Joshua Kaufman, was also in attendance at the invitation of the president.

Trump said, “Joshua remembers watching through a hole in the wall of a cattle car as Americans rolled in with tanks.”  

Kaufman was seated next to one of the soldiers who liberated Dachau.



Arabs Pave Illegal Parking Lot Over Archaeological Site To Collect Fees

Arabs have seized control of an archeological site, and have begun to illegally pave a parking lot, according to Regavim, an Israeli nonprofit that specializes in land rights issues.

The Tomb of the Prophet Samuel, is considered a holy site, and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.  From the top of its building a panoramic vista of Jerusalem is breathtaking.

The area was declared a national heritage site and the rich archeological remains, dating back to the Second Temple era, as well as the ancient oak trees that cover the hilltop, are all protected by National Park status.

The archeological finds at the site bear witness to Jewish settlement, from the First Temple period through the Hasmonean Era, up to modern times

Recently, Arab residents of the nearby village Nabi Samuel broke into the archeological garden and used heavy machinery to pave a huge plot, apparently as the first stage in creating a parking lot, as a means of collecting parking fees from visitors to the site.

The area is under full Israeli jurisdiction, only a short walk from a northern Jerusalem neighborhood, and the Har Shmuel and Givat Zeev communities.

In a letter to the Civil Administration, Attorney Avi Segal wrote in part, “The Palestinian Authority’s negligence has caused a major blow to the archeological finds as well as to the rule of law, regarding this site.”

“It is difficult to assess the damage…or the potential damage to the still-unexplored, ancient sub-strata,” Yishai Hemo, Regavim Field Director for Judea and Samaria said  

“We have said it before.  People who care about the Land of Israel don’t cause harm.  The government must stop the destruction,” Hemo added.



Iran To Increase Range Of Land-To-Sea Missiles

Iran plans to increase the range of its land-to-sea missiles, a senior Iranian commander said Wednesday (6th).

“We did not have coast-to-sea missiles before the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but today, the range of our missiles has increased to over 186 miles and it will increase further in the future,” Iranian Army Deputy Commander for Operations Rear-Admiral  Mahmoud Moussavi was quoted by Iran’s Fars News as saying in Tehran Wednesday.

“The army has put the reconstruction of defense capability and equipment on its agenda after the Holy Defense period, and upgraded Iran’s deterrent power by forming a sub-surface unit that is highly strategic and did not exist before the Islamic Revolution, and on the other hand by designing and building different missiles,” Moussavi said.

Despite new US sanctions placed on Iran meant to pressure Tehran over its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program, Tehran is continuing to improve its missile arsenal.

During 40th Anniversary celebrations last week, Iran unveiled its Hoveizeh cruise missile, which claims a range of over 838 miles.

The Islamic Republic possesses over 1,000 short-and medium-range ballistic missiles and has the ability to proliferate weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hizbullah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.



First German Air Force Pilots Arrive In Israel To Train On Advanced Drone

Two German Air Force pilots are in Israel to train on the Heron TP at the Tel Nof Airbase outside Tel Aviv, before operating the advanced drone in Mali.

The German pair – one pilot and one sensor operator – are in Israel for an eight-week training course which began in late January to learn the surveillance capabilities of the drone, which is built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Defense News reported.

Thirty-five two-person teams are scheduled to undergo training at a special compound within Tel Nof over the course of the next two years.

German Air Force Col. Kristol Conrath, whose squadron will operate the HeronTP, was quoted by Defense News as calling the beginning of the training program “another milestone” in German-Israel air force cooperation.

“Our Israeli partners have far-reaching expertise in this area, and the necessary airspace environment.  That’s what we are getting out of this,” he said.

The Heron TPs are IAIs most advanced UAVs, with a 40-hour endurance, maximum take-off weight of 12,500 lbs and a payload of 5,950 lbs.  They can be used for both reconnaissance as well as combat and support roles, and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets.

In 2009, IAI delivered Heron-1 systems to the German Air Force that became operational six months later and have since been used extensively in collaboration with Airbus, which handles upkeep of the drones.



Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Passes Away

Rabbi Yechiel Zvi Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, passed away Wednesday (6th) from heart failure at the age of 67.

The fellowship under his chairmanship raised about half a billion shekels each year for the State of Israel and for various Jewish causes.

Eckstein was a philanthropist and author who served on the boards of various Jewish organizations.  He wrote seven books, mainly on Christian-Jewish relations.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews established by Rabbi Eckstein in 1983, raises funds from both Diaspora and Israeli Jews and Evangelical Christians who support Zionism in the United States and around the world.

Rabbi Eckstein”s funeral will be held in Jerusalem on Thursday (7th).