News Digest — 10/10/19

As U.S. Leaves Syria, Netanyahu Reiterates: Israel Can Rely Only On Itself

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mention US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria at the annual Yom Kippur war memorial on Thursday (10th) but seemed to have it in mind when he said that Israel can ultimately rely only on itself.

“We do not aspire to be a nation that dwells alone, but that is how we were forced to stand at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War,” he said at the ceremony at Mount Herzl, noting that American assistance arrived only toward the end of the war.

“As in 1973, we also appreciate the United States’ important support, which has greatly increased over the years, and also the United States’ enormous economic pressure it is exerting on Iran,” he said.  But he added, “We always remember and apply the basic principle that guides us: Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

Netanyahu said that the IDF is prepared – offensively and defensively – to deal with any threat, and has “overwhelming power” to do so.  He said this power includes fire power and the spirit of the people, which is something inherited from the Yom Kippur War generation.

Netanyahu said that the current focal point of aggression in the region is Iran, which is constantly arming itself, has recently downed an American drone and attacked Saudi oil facilities, and threatens constantly to “wipe us off the map.”

“Time after time Iran tries to attack us,” he said, “and therefore we must stand ready to protect ourselves against this danger.”



2 Shot Dead, Several Injured As German Synagogue Targeted in Yom Kippur Attack

At least two people were shot dead on a street in the German city of Halle on Wednesday (9th), police said with witnesses saying that the gunmen tried to enter a synagogue as dozens of Jews marked Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

A woman was said to have been killed near the synagogue, and a man was killed at a Turkish kebab shop, a Halle police spokesperson told the BBC.

Several people were injured in the attack, with two people hospitalized in serious condition.

“We have two people injured with gun wounds,” Jens Mueller, spokesman for the Halle clinic, told AFP.  “They are in surgery.”

Max Privorotzki, who heads the Jewish community in Halle, told Spiegel Online that the perpetrators had apparently sought to enter the synagogue in the Paulus district, but security measures in place helped to “withstand the attack.”

A camera at the entrance to the synagogue showed an assailant shooting at the door and throwing several Molotov cocktails, or grenades to force his way in.  But the door remained closed.

He added that between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue at the time.

One suspect was captured, but a manhunt is ongoing for other perpetrators.  Security has been tightened in synagogues in other eastern German cities while Halle itself remained in lockdown.

“Early indications show that two people were killed in Halle.  “Several shots were fired.” police said on Twitter, urging residents in the area to stay indoors.

Police said the “perpetrators fled in a car,” adding later that one had been caught.

Police said that shots were also fired in Landsberg, 10 miles from Halle.  It wasn’t clear whether the two shootings on Wednesday (9th) were related.

“It is terrible news from Halle and I hope very much that the police will manage to catch the perpetrator or perpetrators as quickly as possible so that no other person will be in danger,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference Tuesday (9th).



World Reaction To German Attack: Like Darkest Periods Of Jewish History

The attack in Germany, Tuesday (9th), elicited expressions of shock and concern by leaders in Israel and around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the event, which left two dead, is another indication that anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise.  Foreign Minister Israel Katz added that it brings to mind the “darkest periods in Jewish history.”

Also in Israel, President Reuven Rivlin responded to the attack describing himself as “stunned” and “pained” by the murders.

Jewish groups and world leaders expressed similar sentiments about the attack, which took place as Jews were gathering in a synagogue in the city of Halle to observe Yom Kippur.  

The World Zionist Organization vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel condemned the attack and what he termed “relentless anti-Semitism” on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris wrote on Twitter, “As we’ve been warning for years, #anti-Semitism is real & lethal.”

The Anti-Defamation League called the attack “heartbreaking.”  The ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “Today we mourn those lost in Pittsburgh, Poway and now Halle. Pray for the victims and their families.”

Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. said the news of the attack was “shocking” and “heartbreaking” and that “Germans are mourning the victims of this infamous crime.”

The terrorist attack on the Halle synagogue comes days after an attempted attack by a Syrian man on the Berlin Jewish community center and synagogue in the district of Mitte.  The man who was armed with a knife shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he attempted to enter the building.  



Hamas Said Waging ‘Secret War’ To Purge Jihadist Groups From Gaza

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been waging a “secret war” against followers of the Islamic State and other Salafist groups in the Strip, according to a recent report in the Lebanese daily, Al Akhbar.

Officials told the pro-Hezbollah daily Thursday (3rd) that Hamas in recent months has arrested four Salafist cells in Gaza that were planning to carry out attacks on the group’s security forces and top officials.  Hamas forces also confiscated weapons, including long-range rockets capable of hitting major cities in Israel.

The effort was said to have been launched in August, after a suicide bomber allegedly linked to ISIS killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza along the border with Egypt, in a rare attack against the controling group.

The paper said the cells were looking for opportunities to carry out suicide attacks against the terror group that rules Gaza while simultaneously seeking to ramp up tensions with Israel.  The Salafist cells were allegedly responsible for launching long-range rockets at Tel Aviv during fragile ceasefires between Hamas and Israel. Gaza officials said they believed the young fighters were radicalized online, and were trying to provoke Israel into launching a broad military offensive in the Strip that would cripple the Hamas rulers.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group avowedly seeking to destroy Israel, has run Gaza for over a decade but it has been challenged by small, more hardline factions, some of them inspired by ISIS, that advocate a stricter, Salafist interpretation of Islam.

Last year the Islamic State’s Sinai branch declared war on Hamas, calling the group and its supporters “apostates.”

In recent months, the groups have launched sporadic rocket attacks into Israel in defiance of an informal truce agreed to by Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid an escalation in Gaza, but he has faced calls for strong action from his electoral opponents. 



Study: American Jewish Population Rises To 7.5 Million

In the past seven years, the American Jewish population has grown 10%.

It remains a population that is mostly left-leaning, college educated and overwhelmingly white.  And it’s not getting any younger.

This is all according to a new American Jewish Population estimate of the 48 contiguous U.S. states put out by Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute.  The center published similar studies in 2012 and 2015.

“The cynicism about American Judaism, and this belief that we are a shrinking population, we are a vanishing population, is incorrect,” said Leonard Saxe, director of the Steinhardt Center.  “The prophecy of the vanishing Jew has not come to fruition.”

The study is based on data collected from approximately 150 independent surveys that sampled about 234,000 adults, including 5,300 Jews.  The authors provided no margin of error for their findings, though each estimate has a range.

The study found that as of 2018, there are approximately 7.5 million Jews in the contiguous United States.

That’s only about 2% of the U.S. population, but it’s enough to make the United States home to the largest Jewish community in the world.  According to recent government statistics, Israel has 6.7 million Jews.

People who say their religion is Jewish account for some 1.8 percent of all U.S. adults, or 4.4 million people, according to the study.  There are an additional 1.5 million or so adults who “consider themselves Jewish by background and other criteria.” And there are 1.6 million children being raised Jewish in the U.S.

These numbers are up from the 2012 survey, which found 6.8 million total Jews in the United States.