News Digest — 1/15/21

It’s National Bagel Day!

Friday January 15 marks what is surely the most popular day of the year – National Bagel Day!

Yes, those beloved, ringed bread products have their own national holiday, and it gives us a chance to show our appreciation. 

A mainstay of Jewish cuisine for hundreds of years, the bagel is thought to have originated in Poland in the 17th century with Yiddish writings from the 1610s mentioning “bagels.”

A staple of the Eastern European diet, the bagel moved to America with the great waves of immigration of Ashkenazi Jews in the 19th century.

With thousands of Jewish immigrants settling in New York, particularly Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the bagel soon became a common sight around the city, and hundreds of small bagel bakeries were set up, and it is the New York style bagel that is most famous around the world.  Bagels even had their own union until the 1960s – Bagel Bakers Local 338.

Traditionally enjoyed with cream cheese and smoked salmon (lox), tuna, or salt beef, bagels can come topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion, garlic and even cinnamon.

Historically celebrated across the United States on February 9, recent years have seen the date moved to January 15, but if one day isn’t enough, you can always celebrate both.

So celebrate the festivities, and get yourself a bagel!



Suicide Drones Deployed In Yemen By Iran Within Striking Distance Of Israel

The Houthi movement that controls almost all of northern Yemen has received so-called “suicide drones” from Iran that could strike Israel, Newsweek reported in an exclusive on Wednesday (13th).

The extremist Shiite group, officially called Ansar Allah, has as its slogan, “Allah is Greater, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”  Its years-long attempt to take over Yemen has been steadily supported by Iran while being opposed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The Iranian Shahed-136 loitering munitions are said to have a range of 1,240 to 1,370 miles, putting the Jewish state within striking distance.

The Houthis have also used Iranian-made UAVs to attack Saudi Arabia over recent years.

The report said that an anonymous expert on Iran’s doings in the region confirmed images of the drones that the weekly had received.

“What the Iranians are trying to achieve is plausible deniability,” the expert said, “as in being able to strike either a U.S., Saudi, Gulf, or Israeli target and then having the strike traced back to Yemen, and hoping for deniability against any kind of retribution.”

As the closest U.S. ally in the region, Israel has been on high alert for weeks in case Tehran decides to avenge the Jan. 3, 2020 American assassination of one of its most senior military commanders, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.  The mullahs also blame Israel directly for the November assassination of its top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Israel has not admitted any responsibility for the targeted killing.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned Iran weeks ago not to try attacking Israel either directly or through any of its terrorist proxies.  He said the army was prepared, whether for infiltration attempts by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, or missile strikes from further afield, such as the Houthis.

On Sunday night (10th), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would be designating the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.

The latest attack attributed to the Houthis was a Dec. 30 missile strike on the airport in Aden meant to kill the Yemini prime minister and cabinet members of a new government, who had just landed in the country.  At least 25 people were killed and 110 wounded in the attack.



Tel Aviv Top Destination For New Immigrants For Third Straight Year

For the third year in a row, Tel Aviv-Yafo was the city of choice for new immigrants to Israel.

According to the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, some 2,305 new Israelis, known as olim, settled in Tel Aviv-Yafo in 2020, which accounts for more than 10% of the 21,109 immigrants to Israel.

Amir Dor, director of the department of immigration and absorption at the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, told The Media Line that Tel Aviv is a “living” city that draws new residents attracted to its culture, nightlife and “tolerance for everyone to live how they want to live,” as well as its status as and economic hub.

A little over half of the olim, or 1,140, who settled in the city hailed from Russia.  The second most common countries of origin were the North American bloc of Canada and the United States at 359.  France followed with 339.

Over the last ten years, 30,038 new citizens have made Tel Aviv-Yafo their new home.

Dor said that new immigrants are given many personal services.  “We give a lot of support in six languages to make a better aliyah to Israel,” he said.  Among the languages are Russian, English, French, and Spanish, as well as Hebrew.

Elsewhere in Israel, Jerusalem was the second most popular destination for new immigrants followed by the coastal city of Netanya.



Hamas Bars Patients From U.S. Charity Hospital In Gaza

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Wednesday (13th) they would bar patients from the Palestinian territory from going to a field hospital opened by a U.S. charity in protest of what they say are insufficient services.

The hospital, located on no-man’s land along the Israeli border, is meant to support the overwhelmed health system in the blockaded enclave.

Medical workers access the site from Israel, while patients must cross through a Hamas-run checkpoint to reach the area.  The idea of the hospital came under an informal truce between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, to mitigate dire living conditions and prevent further cross-border violence.

Initially, Hamas and Israel – bitter foes that have fought three wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes – saw a common interest in the project.  Gaza’s overburdened  health system has been gutted by numerous conflicts and inter-Palestinian divisions.

The Evangelical Christian group FriendShips, which quietly built its “Camp Gaza” tent hospital over the past year and a half, said this week it was “ready to receive patients.”  With a photo of a smiling medical worker on the project’s Facebook page, it added that “We anxiously await the coordination of patients from the Ministry of Health in Gaza.”

But the ministry now says it will not send patients, claiming the hospital is not providing services that were promised.

“We have concluded that without offering the needed services, cooperation with the new hospital is unwelcome,” said Abdeltaif al-Hajj head of international cooperation.  “It’s not providing the services we hoped it would provide when the idea was discussed.”

Ran Ichay, a consultant for FriendShips, said that beside the outpatient family care, the center will provide dental treatments and mental care for the time being.  But he said, more volunteer staff is expected in May and “the next steps will be hopefully, oncology and rheumatology.”

He said the plan is to operate the hospital for 10 years.

Al-Hajj said they would be resolving the issue, through Qatari mediation, but gave no timeline for a resolution.



Germany’s Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial Demands End To ‘Disrespectful’ Tobogganers

BERLIN, Germany–The German memorial at former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald Thursday (14th) demanded an end to visitors playing winter sports at the site – some were even spotted sledding over mass graves.

Criticizing “disrespectful” behavior, the foundation asked guests to refrain from leisure pastimes at Buchenwald and the former subcamp Mittelbau-Dora in eastern Germany.

“Sporting activities are a violation of visitor rules and disturb the peace of the dead,” it said in a statement, warning that its security staff would be stepping up patrols and trespassers would be reported to the police.

The director of the foundation, Jens-Christian Wagner, told news website Der Spiegel that “masses” of day-trippers had gathered at the site over the weekend and most seemed to have come for fun in the snow.

“Some of the sled tracks were at the mass graves,” he said.

Wagner said he could understand that many families with children wanted to spend time outside, particularly during a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, but that the memorial expects appropriate behavior from its visitors.

“As time passes, historical sensitivity is fading,” he said.

More than 78,000 men, women and children died at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora during World War II.  They were either killed by the Nazis or perished through illness, cold or starvation.  Thousands of Jews were among the dead.