News Digest — 10/15/19

Sukkot: Fire Breaks Out Near Jerusalem, Rains And Unstable Weather For Most Of Week

A natural fire broke out on Monday (14th) the first day of Sukkot, in the Itamar Spring area, southwest of Jerusalem.  Hundreds of acres were burned.

Eight firefighting crews accompanied by a quartet from the Elad firefighter squadron operated in the area for three hours to gain control of the fire.

Fire Chief Lahav Shlomi Harush said the fire had “consumed hundreds of acres of vegetation and natural woods.”  He said, “The firefighters were prepared ahead of time for the possibility of holiday fires due to a combination of warm and dry weather accompanied by strong winds, as well as a multitude of hikers on the ground.”

“This regular preparation, combined with a quick and professional response from the firefighters from the Jerusalem stations and the JNF, we were able to preserve severe damage to nature, hikers and communities near the fire area,” Harush concluded.

Rain and thunderstorms were reported in Jerusalem and other parts of the country Monday night (14th), the second night of Sukkot.  This despite the heat that prevailed during the holiday in most of the country.

On Tuesday (15th), according to the meteorological service, rainfall and thunderstorms are expected – but temperatures will remain high. Continuing into the Sukkot holiday week, on Wednesday (16th), rain and unsettled weather is expected and is reported to continue through the end of the week.



Netanyahu Will Formally Call On Putin To Release Imprisoned Israeli, Says PM Confidant

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will officially request on Tuesday (15th) that Russia release Naama Issachar, 26, an Israeli woman who was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half year prison term last week after authorities said that they had found about 9.5 grams of cannabis in her luggage in a stopover in Moscow in April, as she was on her way back home to Israel from India.

Issachar argues that the drug was not hers and that she does not know how it wound up in her luggage.

Netanyahu will officially submit a request to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (15th), according to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a confidant of the prime minister, speaking in an interview on Israeli Kan public radio.

Naama’s mother, Yaffa, told Kan that she had visited her daughter in the Russian jail on Monday (14th) and that “she was emotionally and physically exhausted,” and said that she couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to get out of prison.

“She obviously fell victim to something unrelated to her,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz in an interview on Israeli Channel 12 News on Saturday (12th).  “We are working on this issue as the State of Israel,” he noted.

“Her situation became more complicated as reports emerged that Putin requested a swap deal involving Naama and Russian hacker Alexi Borkov, who has been detained in Israel for the past four years and is wanted by the United States for suspected cyber offenses,” reports the Israel Hayom daily.

In August, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Borkov extraditable to the U.S., in spite of his request that he be extradited to Moscow rather than Washington.  Borkov was arrested at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Dec. 13, 2015, at the request of the American government,” it adds.

Another Netanyahu cabinet confident, Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, warned that Israelis should think twice about visiting Russia.

Regarding the incarceration of the Israeli woman, Elkin, who was born in the former Soviet Union, in what is currently Ukraine, told the Israeli public broadcaster: “Anyone travelling to Russia should ask himself if he wants to wind up in a situation like that of Naama Issachar.”

Elkin added that once the Israeli Supreme Court issued its ruling, the extradition of Borkov to the U.S. cannot be rescinded.



Trump Reassures Israel After Leaving Kurds To Their Fate

“We are standing with our close friends and partner the State of Israel,” President Donald Trump said at the annual Values Voters Conference in Washington D.C. on Saturday night (12th).

Trump noted his strong support for the Jewish state, including his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The president’s comments may allay concerns among Israeli politicians after Trump decided to pull U.S. support from Kurdish forces in Syria, which are now under attack from Turkey.  While expressing support for the Kurds, Israeli officials have been apprehensive in criticizing Trump’s decision directly.

Trump defended his move in the same Saturday (12th) speech, saying “In Syria we were supposed to be there for 30 days and we have been there for ten years.  These wars, they never end. We have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars.”

“A military engagement where we send young men and women to fight and die must have clear objectives, vital national interests and a realistic plan for how the conflict will end.  We don’t want to be in 10-year wars where we serve as a policing agent for the whole country,” Trump said.

He said, “I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria, when we can’t guard our U.S. borders at home.  I don’t think so.”

Trump tweeted following the speech, “The same people that got us into the Middle East Quicksand, 8 trillion Dollars and many thousands of lives (and millions of lives when you count the other side) are now fighting to keep us there.  Don’t listen to people that haven’t got a clue. They have proven to be inept.”

Israel sees the Kurds as an ally.  On October 10, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office released a statement: “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”



Thousands March Against Anti-Semitism In Berlin

Thousands of people in Berlin on Sunday (13th) protested against anti-Semitism, days after the attack on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle.

About 10,000 people participated in the march through the German capital reported The Associated Press.  Several thousand others protested Saturday (12th) in other cities including Hamburg and Marburg, according to local news agencies.

Two people were killed in the attack which took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, outside the synagogue in Halle.

Sunday’s march began at a symbolic landmark, Berlin’s Bebelplatz Square, where the Nazis burned thousands of books by Jews, weeks after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933.

The marchers carried Israeli flags and banners with slogans like “No Nazis,” or “Far-right terror threatens our society,” according to AP.

The march was organized by the civil rights group Unteilbar, or “indivisible” under the slogan “We stand united” and ended at the city’s New Synagogue with its famous golden dome topped by a Star of David.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned on Friday (11th) that there is an “elevated” risk of more far-right attacks in Germany following the Halle attack.

Seehofer said there are an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in Germany.  He added that half of them are considered potentially violent with “a high affinity for firearms.’



Michigan Synagogue Vandalized With Anti-Semitic Posters

The Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, MI got an unwelcome surprise as he pulled up to the temple on Sunday morning (13th) before Hebrew school classes began.

Rabbi Michael Schadick found anti-Semitic posters sprayed with an adhesive stuck to the glass doors of the synagogue that face the parking lot.  These doors are the ones all the students walk through to get to their Sunday school classes each week.

There is never any security at the synagogue except during High Holiday services.

After Schadick saw the posters, he called the police, who are investigating the incident as a hate-crime.

The posters had the white supremacy logo in each corner.  One had a photo of Adolf Hitler with the words,”Did you forget about me?” sprayed across it.  While the other said, “A crusade against Semite-led subhumans.”

The Temple is continuing with their Sukkot celebrations as normal and did not cancel Sunday school activities.

“We believe this was a cowardly act done by anti-Semites who are afraid to show their faces,” said Edie Landman, temple president.  She added that she hopes to see the Grand Rapids community rally behind the temple and show those who committed the crime that their community is bigger than hate.