News Digest — 1/23/24

President Isaac Herzog: ‘An Unbearably Difficult Morning – In A Just War’

President of Israel Isaac Herzog  released a message on Tuesday morning (23rd) regarding the disaster in Gaza in which 21 reservists were killed.

“An unbearably difficult morning, during which more names of the best of our boys – a silver platter in every sense – are added to the list of heroism, in a just war which is more just than any,” the President wrote.

“Behind every name there is a family whose world was destroyed in a moment, a family that we adopt to our heart with sorrow and pain, and at the same time with pride – for the heroism of this generation, for the duty and the comradery, for the determination and for the love for nation and country,” he added.

“The fighting in Gaza takes place in a very challenging area, we send support to the IDF troops and security forces who are working with endless determination to obtain the war’s objectives.  On behalf of the entire nation, I send condolences to the families and pray for the recovery of the wounded.  Even on this difficult morning, we are strong and remember that together we will be victorious,” the President concluded.

“Israelis must remain united in the wake of yesterday’s combat deaths of 21 IDF servicemen in Gaza,” Minister Benny Gantz declared, sending his “heartfelt condolences to the families of the fallen and wishes of recovery to the wounded,”

“On this difficult morning, we must be united, remembering the heavy price we are forced to pay for such a just war and the lofty goal for which our heroes fell – to secure our future, to return our daughters and sons, and to take care of Israel forever,” the former IDF chief of staff and current member of the war cabinet said in a tweet.

“Especially today, we are sending strength to all IDF soldiers and their commanders.  We are all behind you.”




Police Arrest Two Eastern Jerusalem Men Said To Be Planning ISIS-Linked Attack Near Knesset

For the second time this month, police announced on Monday (22nd) the arrest of two eastern Jerusalem residents accused of supporting the Islamic State terror group, who were allegedly planning to carry out bombing attacks near the Knesset in the capital.

The pair purchased chemicals including hydrogen peroxide to make explosive devices that were to be used to kill civilians and security forces in Jerusalem, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service said in a joint statement.

An investigation was launched after the Shin Bet uncovered the suspects’ plans and they were arrested before they could carry out any attacks.

According to the charge sheet presented at the Jerusalem District Court, the suspects regularly consumed ISIS materials online, such as videos on religious sermons and executions, including beheadings.

Police said that Mustafa Abd Al-Nabi and Ahmad Natasha, aged 19 and 20, were arrested on December 26 at their homes in Ras al-Amud in eastern Jerusalem.  During a search, security forces found chemicals that were believed to be intended for bomb-making, along with a notebook with formulas for preparing explosive devices and ISIS material.

Prosecutors added that Mustafa had planned to carry out a terrorist attack by detonating a truck bomb filled with gas tanks near the Knesset, with the aim of murdering Jews and causing excessive damage.

The charge sheet also said that in October Natasha hung flags of the Hamas terror group in Ras al-Amud for about a week.

The statement noted that over the past year, security forces had foiled dozens of attacks and attempted attacks in the Jerusalem area.

Earlier in January, two other eastern Jerusalem residents, also linked to ISIS were arrested under similar circumstances, and were to be indicted for planning to carry out bombing attacks in the capital.

The pair, residents of the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood, allegedly intended to use explosive devices against security forces, according to police.

In October, three Arab Israelis allegedly affiliated with ISIS were arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out “terror activities,” the Shin Bet said.  They were residents of Sakhnin and Arraba in the north of the country.

Last year, ISIS called for Arabs in Israel to carry out attacks throughout the country.

Security tensions have ramped up in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem in the shadow of the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel.



International Prosecutors Arrive In Israel To Document Hamas Crimes Against Humanity

A delegation of prosecutors from countries that had citizens murdered or kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 gathered in Israel on Monday (22nd), in what could be a precursor to a criminal case against the Palestinian terror group.

The Israeli Justice Ministry announced the trip on Sunday (21st), which features representatives from the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria, Japan, Australia and Denmark.

“Following the efforts that the Justice Ministry has been leading in the international legal arena since the events of Oct. 7, the arrival in Israel of senior members of the legal and prosecution systems operating in the international arena is another pillar in the efforts to promote the use of enforcement measures against senior Hamas officials and operatives,” said the Director General of the ministry, Itamar Donnenfeld.

On the trip, representatives toured kibbutzim that Hamas rampaged to see the scale of the damage and conducted meetings with family members of those currently being held hostage in Gaza.  Donnenfeld said it “will be an opportunity to present a clear, accurate and unmediated picture of the heinous crimes that Hamas has committed, not only against Israelis, but against all of humanity.”

The group also met with leading officials in the Justice Ministry, the government at large, and Israeli representatives fighting the International Court of Justice’s genocide case against the Jewish state.

Hamas terrorists entered Israel on Oct.7, taking over villages and military bases en route to slaughtering more than 1,200 civilians and kidnapping more than 240 people from Israel and the countries represented in the visiting delegation.



Global Jews Seek Home In Israel: Is The Nation Ready?

A rising trend: Despite the challenging times we face, with the war escalating and anti-Semitism rampant worldwide, there is also a growing awakening of Zionism.  Jews around the world are now seeking a home in Israel, with Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption data showing a substantial increase in the number of new immigration files opened since the war began.  This surge is also reflected in the rising interest of foreign residents in new housing projects in Israel, moving beyond luxury apartments for vacations and holidays.

However, as we celebrate the strengthening of the global Zionist movement, an important question arises: Will there be enough apartments in Israel to accommodate this influx of immigrants?  This concern arises as the rental market faces limitations, construction declines due to the war, and young couples remain undecided, waiting for the opportune moment to purchase their first home.  Though the recent decline in prices may be temporary due to foreign residents investing substantial funds, it remains uncertain if it can adequately address the housing demand.

The Ministry of Aliyah report states: “After a significant decrease in the number of immigrants to Israel in 2023, mainly due to the war in Ukraine, approximately 62.5 thousand new immigrants arrived in Israel in 2022, with the majority coming from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.”  It highlights the notable growth in new immigration cases since the outbreak of the war, including a significant increase in applications from France and North America, with approximately 500% and 120% respective rises in the number of opened immigration cases.  From the beginning of the war with Hamas until the first week of January, Israel received 4,783 new immigrants.

While the data suggests that the primary driving force for immigration is Zionism rather than fear of anti-Semitic events, it acknowledges that the latter is undoubtedly a significant catalyst for the process.  This emphasizes the need for readiness on the part of the state and contractors to accommodate the increasing number of Jews seeking a home in Israel.



3 Israelis Beaten By Mob In London For Speaking Hebrew

Three Israelis were beaten by a mob in London’s West End during the weekend because they were speaking Hebrew to each other, as reported by News 12 in Israel.

One of the three Israelis had grown up in the UK and accompanied two other Israelis on an outing in Leicester Square, an area of London often crowded with tourists.

One of them decided to take his kippah off and the three walked down the street together speaking Hebrew.

Three strangers approached them and asked if they were Jewish.

When one of them, who identified herself as Tehilla, answered “Yes, I’m Jewish” the assailants yelled “Free Palestine” and anti-Semitic slurs while hitting them with bottles.

The three Israelis ran away to a nearby shop but were pursued by the assailants.

When they attempted to defend themselves, the shop owner demanded that the Israelis pay for the damage caused by the attackers.

One of them called the police, but was told, “We are busy, first calm down.”

One of the victims of the attack who called himself G told Channel !2 News, “Suddenly from three people they became five and their numbers kept increasing.  They would not leave.”

He added, There were 30 people in a circle.  Suddenly we felt blows to the face.  Dry blows.  Luckily there was no blood.”

Tehilla said, “I tried to stop them and stood in front as I was sure they would never hit a woman.  They couldn’t care less, they hit me as well.”

On its X account, the London Metropolitan Police posted that they arrived on the scene 28 minutes after they were initially called and added, “of course, we wish we could have come to their aid sooner.”

The police also said they are treating the incident as a hate crime and added “tackling anti-Semitic crime is a priority for the Met.  There is no place for hate in our city.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the over three months since the October 7 attack, 2,039 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Britain.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in the United States increased 388% during the same period.



Why Most American Jews Oppose An Immediate End To The War In Gaza – Eric  H. Yoffie

At a time when American Jews have mostly rallied to Israel’s side, Jewish parents and grandparents are wondering what can be said to kids and grandkids who challenge them about Israel.  My advice is, First remind them that the Oct. 7 attacks were a methodically planned act of attempted slaughter; the terrorists came with computers filled with instructions, took pictures of their butchery, and in a ghoulish, sickening PR campaign, uploaded the pictures to the internet.

Second, stress that Israel’s war is a war for survival.  No society can survive with a terrorist threat like Hamas on its doorstep.  Crossing the border fence and killing Jews was the plan.  Therefore, Israel must put an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.  Failure to do so will lead to the end of the Jewish state.

Third, because Gaza is one of the most fortified places on earth and Hamas has embedded itself in every crack and crevice of civilian life, there is no way to get at Hamas without a civilian death toll that is tragic.  Still, Israelis know that morality begins with security, and the first responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens.

Fourth, who doesn’t want the shooting to stop?  Yet for Hamas, a ceasefire is an opportunity to prepare for the next attack.  And when it does, Israelis will die and Gazans will die.  Hamas is not fighting for a two-state solution.  They are not freedom fighters but a death-cult, committed to nihilistic jihad.

The writer is a former president of the Union for Reform Judaism



Accusing Israel Of Genocide Is A Perverse Moral Inversion – Ephraim Mirvis (Daily Telegraph-UK)

• The difference between the tragic loss of civilian life in a just war and the crime of genocide lies in the purposeful annihilation of a people as an objective in and of itself.  It is a crime in which no distinction is made between the combatant and the non-combatant.  It is a crime characterized by the absence of any objective beyond the erasure of the victims.

• It should be obvious that if Israel’s objectives were genocidal, it could have used its military strength to level Gaza in a matter of days.  Instead, it is placing the lives of its own soldiers at risk in its ground operations, securing humanitarian corridors and providing civilians with advance notice of its operations, even to the detriment of its military objectives.

• To make the case that genocide is taking place, one would have to ignore the scores of military lawyers, engineers and humanitarian aid coordinators working within the Israel Defense Forces, who spend hours every day planning how they might strike targets in a way that minimizes collateral harm, facilitating the entry of aid into Gaza, collecting intelligence about civilian presence around targets and aborting attacks accordingly.  These are not the actions of a state motivated by murderous intent.

• If there is indeed a genocidal force in this conflict, it must surely be Hamas, whose rape, sexual mutilation and cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians, which it proudly broadcast to the world, is clear evidence of its dehumanization of Jews.

The writer is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth