News Digest — 1/3/20

Israeli Politicians From Left To Right Praise US Killing Of Iranian Commander

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi together with other leading security officials, convened at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Friday morning (3rd) to discuss security information in the aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Athens for the signing of a major three-way gas pipeline agreement, with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece, returned home ahead of schedule Friday morning (3rd) following confirmation of the killing.  Bennett was serving as acting prime minister in his absence.

Netanyahu has requested that the ministers and security officials not make public statements on the assassination.

However, Knesset members representing both left and right tweeted praise for the US strike.  Condemnation came only from the predominantly Arab Joint List, noted Times of Israel.

“I congratulate President Trump and the entire Middle East on the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani,” tweeted Yair Lapid, second to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.  “He planned and led deadly terror attacks from Damascus to Buenos Aires and is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians. He got exactly what he deserved.”

MK Keti Shitrit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party tweeted: “Congratulations to the United States on the eradication of an arch-terrorist, the biggest terrorist in the Middle East.  The US landed a hard, significant blow to Iran. We woke up to a new Middle East.”

Amir Peretz, head of the Labor-Gesher party, said he “welcomes the elimination of the Suleimani terror architect,” while Labor Gesher MK Omar Barlev tweeted, “congratulations to President Trump and the US military for the successful execution and the elimination of the Suleimani snake head – it is a better day for humanity.”

Quoting from the Book of Judges 5:31, MK Moti Yogev of Bayit Yehudi tweeted, “So may all your enemies perish.”

“Blue and White MK Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy Mossad head, told Army Radio that Soleimani’s killing was on the same scale as Israel’s targeted killing in 2008 of Imad Mughniyeh, the deputy commander of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah,” the Times said.



Shin Bet Head: Don’t Allow Hamas To Turn Into Hezbollah

As Israel moves toward a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Nadav Argaman, has warned the Security Cabinet against allowing Hamas to turn into a second Hezbollah by not limiting the terror group’s military buildup as part of the agreement.

According to a report by Yediot Aharonot, during the security meeting on Wednesday (1st) that was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Argaman read an article that discussed Israel’s failure to stop Hezbollah’s intensive military buildup following the Second Lebanon War and warned of a similar possibility in Gaza.

Most of the clauses in the ceasefire moderated by the Egyptians are reported to have already been agreed upon by defense and government officials and it is expected to be signed before Israel once again goes to the polls in March.

So far, the ceasefire agreement does not require Hamas to return the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, which they have held since 2014, or Israeli civilian captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayad.

Hamas, for its part, will commit to ending rocket fire and gunfire along the border fence and gradually stop Great Return March protests.



Greece, Cyprus, Israel Sign EastMed Natural Gas Pipeline Deal

Greece, Cyprus and Israel on Thursday (2nd) signed an agreement for a huge pipeline project to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe despite Turkey’s hostility to the deal.

The move comes amid tensions with Turkey over its activities in the area and a maritime deal with Libya expanding Ankara’s claims over a large gas-rich area of the sea.

The 1,200 mile EastMed pipeline will be able to carry between nine and 12 billion cubic meters of gas a year from offshore reserves held by Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a scramble for the energy riches and a row between Cyprus and Turkey, which occupies the northern part of the Mediterranean island.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades joined the ceremony at which their respective energy ministers signed the deal in the Greek capital.

It could also help counter Turkey’s effort to extend its control to the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey already faces European Union sanctions over ships searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, whose government in Nicosia is not recognized by Ankara.

The cost of the installation from the eastern Mediterranean to Italy is estimated at $6.7 billion.



Rabbi Proposes That Robots Should Write Torah Scrolls

The head of an Israeli institute that devises technological solutions to enable the observance of Jewish law has suggested that robots could be used to write Torah scrolls, Israel Hayom reported Thursday (2nd).

Rabbi Menachem Perel of the Zionist Institute wrote an article for the organization’s Sabbath bulletin this week that compares the issue of writing a Torah by hand to the baking of matzos for Passover, according to the Hebrew daily.

Just as machines were invented and accepted by rabbinical authorities to make unleavened bread in factory-size quantities, today’s technology can be harnessed for the writing of holy Scriptures.

Perel’s suggestion is that a sofer (scribe), could use a robot to write most of the scroll, by typing each letter and having the machine form the actual words.  His one caveat was that the name of God would have to be written by hand.

This would significantly reduce the price of a Torah, which today can easily cost between tens and hundreds of thousands of shekels, depending on the scribe, the size of the scroll, and the enhancements that can be provided.

It would also reduce production time by 75%.  A Torah contains over 300,000 letters which with automation can be written in three months, versus a year that it ordinarily takes for a human being.

For over 30 years, Zomet’s researchers and engineers have concentrated on devising practical innovations that allow such institutions as the IDF, Ben Gurion Airport, Tnuva Dairies and hospitals to use products on the Sabbath day that ordinarily would be forbidden by halacha, or Jewish law.

Rabbi Perel’s version of an automated sofer (scribe) would break new ground – and revolutionize the world of Torah writing.



Polish School-Show Gives Horrific Nod To Nazi Gas Chambers

A school in eastern Poland recently put on a play with children in concentration camp uniforms being executed in Auschwitz gas chambers.

The play was shown on December 10 in the village of Labunie, near the Ukrainian border, as part of a dance recital in honor of the school being renamed after a group of Polish children deported by the Nazis during World War II.

During the recital, the children, some as young as seven-years-old, laid down on the stage in prisoner uniforms while a smoke machine mimicked Zyklon-B gas to represent their execution.  Standing next to them were two older students dressed in Nazi uniforms, inspecting the process with barbed wire behind them.

In the show’s climax, the “good guys” appear to defeat the Nazis and resurrect the children.

Yaakov Hagoel, the vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, said: “The ‘touching rendition,’ as the play was described by the local Polish press, is nothing less than the cheapening of the Holocaust and the six million who were murdered in it.  The fight against anti-Semitism needs to start as early as elementary school and with education toward tolerance and acceptance of the other. I demand that the Polish government condemn the tasteless play.”



Hasidic Man Assaulted In Brooklyn, Attacker Yells ‘I Will Kill You Jews’

Two women shoved a Hasidic Jewish man to the ground and yelled ‘We will kill you Jews’ in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood on Wednesday (1st), according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).  One of the assailants grabbed the victim’s cellphone and punched him in the throat, JTA reported.

Last week on December 24, another Brooklyn attack was caught on video.  The New York Police Department (NYPD) released the clip on January 1, which showed a group of teenagers assaulting a 23-year-old Hasidic man in Brooklyn.  The NYPD said he was struck in the head with a chair and punched in the face. Police are asking anyone with information about this attack to come forward.

This comes days after a woman was arrested in Brooklyn for attacking three Jewish women, who said the assailant slapped them and cursed them out, according to the Algemeiner.

On Saturday (12/28) five Hasidic Jews were attacked with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration at the home of Rabbi Ghaim Rottenberg in Monsey, New York.  One, a 71-year-old-man, was severely injured and is still unconscious.