News Digest — 1/12/23

Israeli Man Stabbed And Wounded; Attacker Shot Dead

An Israeli man in his 30s was stabbed and moderately wounded in a terror attack in the South Hebron Hills area of the West Bank on Wednesday (11th), the military and medics said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the victim was stabbed in the head at the Yehuda Farm outpost, and the attacker was shot.  The Rescuers without Borders emergency service said the suspect succumbed to his wounds.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics took the victim to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba where he was being treated in the trauma ward.  He was identified as Elyashiv Nahum, the owner of the wildcat farm adjacent to the outpost.

The stabber was named by the Palestinian Authority health ministry as Sanad Muhammad Othman Samamreh, from the nearby city of ad-Dhahiriya.

The IDF did not immediately provide further details of the attack, which came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank.

Earlier on Wednesday (11th), Palestinian gunmen fired dozens of bullets at a military base and nearby checkpoint on the security barrier in the northern West Bank, the Border Police said.

According to a police spokesman, no injuries were caused by the gunfire at Salem base, close to a crossing between Israel and the West Bank and an Arab-Israeli town of the same name.

No officers or soldiers were hurt in the incident, and Border Police officers fired back at the gunmen, who fled toward the Jenin area.

Police said officers and IDF troops launched a manhunt for the suspects.

Also on Wednesday (11th), a Palestinian gunman was shot in clashes with Israeli troops in Nablus, the military and Palestinian health officials said.  He was identified as Ahmed Abu Junaid, 21; he died of his wounds.



Report: Iran Building Air Defenses In Syria In Wake Of Israeli Strikes

Iran is building aerial defense capabilities in Syria to deal with Israeli airstrikes, which have been increasing in numbers, Newsweek Magazine reported on Tuesday (10th).

The magazine quoted an unnamed intelligence source from a country allied with the United States, who estimates the cost to Iran at millions of dollars.

The decision to promote such defenses was made after repeated strikes attributed to Israel, on Iranian assets in Syria since the Islamic Republic began its entrenchment efforts in that country, according to the report.

“The promotion of these capabilities is carried out as a project shared with the Syrian army and possibly even with the aim of enabling independent Iranian operation of the aerial defense systems from within parts of Syria.” the source said.  “In addition, the Iranians assisted the Syrians in upgrading their radar array, designed to aid in detection and prevention of Israeli attacks – mainly against the Iranian establishment in Syria.”

According to the source, Iran has transferred Sayyad (Hunter) 48 solid-propellant surface to air missiles, with a range of more than 186 miles, and a radar range of more than 280 miles.

The unnamed source named seven strikes over the past two years targeting the Iranian network, including in Palmyra, and Tartus in October 2021, Damascus in March 2022, an additional strike in Tartus in July 2022, and two more strikes in Homs in November and December of 2022.

The report quotes the source as saying that 10 Iranians had been killed by Israeli strikes over the past few years, including air defense engineers, whose deaths were confirmed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which vowed revenge.    

The source told Newsweek that IRGC Aerospace Force deputy commander Brigadier General Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei serves as commander of the air defense project.

The magazine asked the Iranian mission to the UN for comment but was denied.



The Turkish Ambassador Assumes Post In Israel For First Time Since Renewal Of Ties

President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday (11th) accepted the credentials of Ankara’s new ambassador to Israel, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, who was named to the position in October.

The Turkish diplomat, who served as consul general in Jerusalem (and “ambassador” to the Palestinian Authority) between 2010 and 2013, will assume the position for four years after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew Turkey’s ambassador from Israel and ousted Jerusalem’s top envoy amid fighting between the IDF and Palestinians along the Gaza border.

“It is no secret that the State of Israel attaches great importance to our historic relationship with Turkey, as do I personally.  It is a relationship that has known crises in the past but is now, to our delight, on a very encouraging trajectory.  Israel and Turkey can and must cooperate in many fields that will bring progress and growth for both countries and both nations,” said Herzog during a ceremony at his official residence in Jerusalem.

“President Erdogan has underscored, in the past year, including in conversations with me and publicly, how deeply he recognizes the importance of the partnership between Israel and Turkey, and I would like to take this opportunity, as president of the State of Israel to invite President Erdogan to visit Israel, which I am sure will contribute to deepening the ties and cooperation between our countries,” Herzog added.

Jerusalem and Ankara announced in August the restoration of full relations, with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid saying that the move would “contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economics, trade, cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability.”

In December, Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Irit Lillian presented her credentials to Erdogan, taking up a post that had been vacant for four years.

Herzog was also slated on Wednesday (11th) to receive the credentials of the new ambassadors from Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and El Salvador.



Gush Etzion Ranked As A Top Destination For New Immigrants

Gush Etzion was selected by the Ministry of Absorption as a top 10 destination for new immigrants to Israel.

In order to help new immigrants choose a place to live, the ministry published a list of suggested regions in the country on their website (in six languages), based on areas which do the most to help with absorption and integration into Israeli society.

In the last few years, Gush Etzion has received three separate awards recognizing its contributions towards the successful absorption of new immigrants.

Gush Etzion offers new immigrants: Hebrew ulpan classes, special gatherings and events, trips, and events focused on the 60+ community.  In addition, each community has an immigration and absorption committee to welcome new residents.

The other areas of the country recognized by the Ministry of Absorption as prime locations for new immigrants include: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Katzrin, Migdal Haemek, Nof Hagalil, and Tiberias.

Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman and Yesha Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman, an immigrant to Israel from Russia – who worked for the Jewish Agency on Aliyah issues,  and was a former advisor to the Minister of Immigration and Absorption said: “Immigration and absorption are important challenges facing Israel – the national home of the Jewish people.  We are proud that Gush Etzion was recognized as a top immigration and absorption destination in Israel, representing Judea and Samaria.  Thank you to the Aliyah and Absorption division within the Gush Etzion Regional Council who assist in this important endeavor.”



Indonesian School Curriculum Shows Jews In Positive Light, Report Says

A first-ever analysis of the Indonesian curriculum showed that the world’s largest Muslim country is showing Jewish people in a positive light.

The report was conducted by an Israeli-British organization IMPACT-se that analyzes education around the world for biases and tolerance.  They evaluated 169 textbooks taught in state-run schools, which makes up 85 percent of all students in the country.  These included textbooks on religion, civics, history, social studies, environmental studies, globalization and geography, according to the organization’s statement.

Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se, said that although there is not a lot of information about the Jewish people in Indonesian textbooks, it is “neutral or actually sometimes positive” and “mainly objective.”

“It is a tolerant ‘outstretch of arms’ to Jews and Judaism.  When they talk about the Jewish religion it is absolutely within the realm of being tolerant,” he noted.

“Violence against Jews is absolutely discouraged,” Sheff stressed.

He explained that Indonesia is implementing a concept of tolerance called Pancasila, a state philosophy integrated into all school subjects.  According to IMPACT-se, “it is based on a shared belief in the one and only God, within the framework of six major world faiths, and promotes the acceptance of unity within diversity.”

While the depiction of Jews is mostly positive, the attitude toward Israel is not “necessarily friendly,” Sheff said, due to Indonesia’s support for Palestinians.

“Israel is considered to be an occupier, a colonizing country in the words that they use.  On the other hand, there is a recognition of the Israeli-Jewish indigenous status and I think this is important,” he underlined.

“That begs the question whether the Indonesians might, as has been talked about over the last year, be looking at the possibility of normalization with Israel,” Sheff concluded.



Thessaloniki Holocaust Mural Vandalized With Nazi Symbols For 2nd Time

A Holocaust mural commemorating the deportation of Jews from Thessaloniki to concentration camps has been defaced for the second time, according to the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

“Antisemitic vandals roam freely and stain undisturbed, any attempts to preserve Holocaust memory in Thessaloniki,” the organization said.

The mural commemorates the deportation of the port city’s Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The mural was created in 2021 by the “Vardaris Neighborhood Group” with the help of local residents, and is affixed to the outside wall of the new Thessaloniki railway station.

The mural was defaced in blue paint with swastikas, racist symbols and antisemitic statements.

According to the Central Board, the incident was the second time in the last few days that a Jewish memorial was desecrated.  Earlier in the week, the monument dedicated to the old Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was vandalized.

“We state once more: tolerating antisemitism means tolerating neo-Nazism and the abolition of the values of a democratic society, of a lawful state,” the Central Board said.  “Because anti-Semitism begins with actions against Jews but never stops with Jews.”

“Statements of condemnation are not enough,” they added.  “It is unacceptable that those responsible for the vandalism of memory remain at large.  Once again we call upon the authorities to take all necessary measures in order to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”