News Digest — 10/17/19

Sukkot: Mass Priestly Blessing Event At The Western Wall

Tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday morning (16th) for the traditional mass Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim) during the Sukkot festival.

Roughly 40,000 people were estimated to have joined the morning mass prayer service, which included appearances by the Chief Rabbis of Israel, who hailed the mass prayer-event  as a “tangible” testament to the connection between the Jewish people and the site of the ancient Temples.

The traditional Priestly Blessing ceremony includes hundreds of priests, descendants of the Kohanim (priests), from the tribe of Levi.  The priests wear prayer shawls as they bless the Jewish people in the holiest place on earth for Jews.

The commandment to bless the Jewish people and the words of the blessing are found in the Bible (Numbers 6: 22-27).

The blessing is recited by Kohanim every day in Israeli synagogues, while in the Diaspora it is said only on festivals.  On Sukkot and Passover the tradition of a mass blessing is held at the Western Wall each year.

The words of the biblical blessing read: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, May He shine His face upon you and grant you grace, May He turn His face to you and grant you peace.”



Pompeo Heading To Israel To Discuss Turkey’s Syria Invasion

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Israel on Friday (18th) for talks with senior officials on Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria, the Axios website reported.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday (16th) played down the crisis in Syria touched off by Turkey’s incursion against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, saying the conflict was between Turkey and Syria and that it was “fine” for Russia to help Damascus.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said imposing US sanctions on Turkey would be better than fighting in the region and that it was up to the countries themselves to “work it out.”

Later Wednesday (16th), Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Vice-President, Mike Pence were to travel to Ankara to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday (17th), with the goal of seeking a ceasefire from the Turkish government.

Meanwhile, Erdogan who was invited to the White House in November, said he is reevaluating the Washington visit and may visit Russia instead.



All Sides Agree Palestinian Elections Would Be A Disaster

Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority don’t agree on much, but they do agree that Palestinian elections will mean the rise of Hamas in Judea and Samaria, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday (16th).

Between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman there is complete consensus and rare agreement that arranging PA elections in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared in his UN speech last month, would be a disaster.

“It will bring about the victory of Hamas over Fatah and the control of the organization over the rule of the Palestinian Authority with the swift and brutal ousting of Fatah people from all the ruling institutions, government authorities and security and intelligence apparatus of the PA.”

Israel Hayom reported PA officials saying that recent polls show that if elections were held for the Palestinian Parliament, Hamas would beat Fatah and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas for PA leader.

The last time elections were held in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria, in 2006, Hamas won a majority.  Fatah and the international community refused to recognize the results and boycotted Hamas. Since then, Abbas has built up his own power-base in Ramallah.

According to Israel Hayom,  the ‘Arab Street’ is angry at Abbas and Fatah, blaming them for the lack of reconciliation between the two sides.

The newspaper says the reasons are that eight Palestinian organizations from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip developed a plan of reconciliation which Abbas rejected but Haniyeh accepted.  Therefore Abbas is blamed for the continued hostility.

One PA official told Israel Hayom that “General elections in the Palestinian Authority won’t happen, especially so long as Mahmoud Abbas is there.”



Gen. Kuperwasser: The US Commitment To Israel Is Different From Its Commitment To The Kurds – Yaakov Lappin

→ IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence research division, told JNS that the strengthening of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated extremist Sunni forces in northeast Syria “shouldn’t disturb us.”  He stressed that Turkey had launched its offensive with problematic, radical forces.”

→ Kuperwasser predicted that “if the Kurds feel distressed, and American pressure can’t stop the Turks, they will try to link up with Assad, as well as with the Russians and the Iranians.”  The Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) signed a cooperation agreement with the Assad regime on Sunday (13th).

→ While Israel can provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Kurds and also apply diplomatic pressure, military intervention is out of the question, said Kupperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

→ Kuperwasser insisted that the events in northeast Syria will have no direct repercussions on US-Israel relations.  “The depth of the US commitment to Israel is very different” from its commitment to the Syrian Kurds.

→ He added that while Israel “is acting decisively to prevent an Iranian base in Syria, what is important in this context is that the American economic pressure on Iran continues.”

→ “Despite pinpoint Iranian achievements on the ground, the infrastructure of Iran is still eroding.  They can’t hold on for a long time without money. It all costs money in the end.”



Israelis Advance To Treat ‘Aging Eyes’ With Drops, Not Glasses

Orasis Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli clinical-stage pharmaceutical company, announced in a statement on Thursday (17th) that its attempt to treat presbyopia with an innovative eye drop is progressing successfully.

“CSF-1 successfully demonstrated statistically significant improvement in distance-corrected near visual acuity of a 3-line or greater gain.  In addition, CSF-1 demonstrated an exceptional safety and tolerability profile,” the statement said.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, presbyopia is a condition in which the eyes gradually lose the ability to see objects clearly up close.

It is said to occur as a result of the natural aging process and usually begins shortly after the age of 40.  There’s no way to stop or reverse the normal aging process that causes presbyopia according to experts. Currently, presbyopia can only be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery.

“We are pleased with CFS-1’s clinical performance in our Phase 2b study, as demonstrated by the positive efficacy, safety and tolerability results,” said Ron Neumann, M.D., chief medical officer at Orasis.

We look forward to presenting additional details at an upcoming ophthalmology meeting.  In the meantime, we are moving forward as quickly as possible with our preparation for Phase 3,” he added.  The Mayo Clinic says that presbyopia is caused by a hardening of the lens of the eye, which occurs with aging.  As the lens becomes less flexible, it can no longer change shape to focus on close-up images. As a result, close-up items appear out of focus.

“The successful completion of the Phase 2b study is a significant milestone for Orasis.  We are encouraged by these results and CSF-1’s potential to improve the quality of life for people with presbyopia,” said Elad Kedar, chief executive officer of Orasis.

CSF-1 can potentially alleviate the burden of reading glasses and offer a meaningful solution for billions of people living with age-related farsightedness worldwide,” said the CEO.