News Digest — 10/26/20

Number Of Jews In Europe Falls To 1,000-Year Low

The number of Jews in Europe, including Britain, Turkey and Russia, has fallen to a 1000-year low, according to a new study conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London, published on Sunday (25th).

According to the study, there are only 1.3 million people currently living in Europe who define themselves as Jews. This is the same number counted by famous Jewish traveler and scholar Benjamin of Tudela in 1170.

The study shows that since 1970, Europe has lost some 60% of its Jewish population.  In 1970, there were 3.2 million Jews living in Europe.  According to the study, 1.5 million Jews left Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Apart from that emigration, Jews have been leaving countries in western Europe, such as France.  In 1970, France was home to 530,000 Jews as opposed to only 449,000 today.  A total of 51,455 French Jews moved to Israel, while others emigrated to Canada, largely in response to rising anti-Semitism in France.

The study also found that 40% of Germany’s 118,000 Jews are over 65, with only 10% of the country’s Jewish population under the age of 15 – meaning that Germany’s Jewish population is beginning to disappear.

The Institute’s study is based on data from the 2018 European Union census as well as in-depth research conducted by Jewish communities on the continent, and presents a less rosy picture of current-day Jewish life in Europe than statistics cited by other Jewish organizations.  The European Jewish Congress, for example, cited the Jewish population of Europe at over 1.9 million, whereas the World Jewish Congress puts it at 1,438,000.

Researchers from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research note “quiet” Jewish emigration from many European countries, both because of growing anti-Semitism and other reasons, including communities that collapse because of assimilation.  In 1970, there were 39,000 Jews living in Turkey, whereas only 14,000 Jews call Turkey home today.  Of those, many are leaving in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies.  Intermarriage is also having an effect on Jewish communities — in Poland, 70 percent of Jews marry non-Jews.  In Hungary, that figure stands at 50%.  Half of Jews in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden also marry outside the Jewish community.  In France, 31% of Jews marry non-Jewish partners.  In Britain, that figure is 24%.  Belgium, home to a large haredi community, is seeing an intermarriage rate of 14%.

Another interesting figure the study brings to light is that despite reports in Israel, only 70,000 Israelis have chosen to make Europe their permanent home: 18,000 in Britain; 10,000 in Germany; 9,000 in France; and 6,000 in the Netherlands.



Israel To Send $5 Million Worth Of Wheat To ‘Our New Friends In Sudan’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Sunday (25th) that Israel is sending $5 million worth of wheat to Sudan following the announcement of normalization between the two countries.

“We are looking forward to a warm peace and are sending $5 million worth of wheat immediately to our new friends in Sudan,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.

“Israel will be working closely with the USA to assist Sudan’s transition,” it said.

Economically crippled Sudan is said to have agreed to normalization chiefly to enable it to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terror and to receive financial aid, and the country’s economic well-being is seen as critical to the deal’s success.

The deal with Sudan will also include aid and investment from Israel, particularly in technology and agriculture, along with further debt relief.  It comes as Sudan and its transitional government teeter on the edge.  Thousands have protested in the country’s capital Khartoum and other regions in recent days over dire economic conditions.

In a televised address on Saturday (24th), Netanyahu praised the normalization deal, saying it would contribute to a “new dawn in the region.”

“We brought the three peace deals in six weeks.  It’s not luck, it’s not coincidence but the result of clear policy, and our efforts,” he said, expressing certainty that other countries will follow suit.

Israel last month signed normalization agreements with both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

Netanyahu has made it a priority to forge ties with formally hostile countries in Africa and the Arab world in the absence of any progress with the Palestinians during his more than a decade in office.  The deal is also aimed at unifying Arab countries against their common adversary, Iran.

Netanyahu said that an Israeli delegation would head to Khartoum “in the coming days” to finalize the accords.

He added that Israel had already agreed with Sudan for Israeli flights to fly over the African nation’s territory – an agreement “made before we announced normalization” – and said planes from Israel can from now on head west over Africa via Sudan and Chad – “with which we also established diplomatic relations” – to Brazil and South America.

Noting the historic significance of Friday’s (23rd) breakthrough, Netanyahu stressed that Sudan was once an enemy state that fought against Israel in 1948.  In 1967, it hosted the Arab League summit in which the so-called “3 No’s” were announced, he added: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

“But all our relations with them have started to change in recent years – secretly, openly, and now with the normalization agreement,” he said.

The new accords were being reached “despite all the experts and commentators who said it was impossible,” he said.  “Israel was completely isolated and they told us we were heading into a political tsunami.  What’s happening is the absolute opposite.  Israel is now connecting to the whole world.”

The new deals, moreover, brought peace “without withdrawals” and “without uprootings” – a reference to what he has touted as a shift away from previous “land for peace” policies to new peace efforts that do not involve  land concessions from Israel for ties with its former enemies.

Before the recent accords with the UAE and Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab nations formally at peace with Israel.



‘Lethal Arrow’: IDF Launches Major Exercise Simulating War With Hezbollah

The IDF on Sunday (25th) launched the “Lethal Arrow” military exercise simulating a war on Israel’s northern border with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.

In what the military called a “multi-arena scenario” that will continue until Thursday (29th), thousands of soldiers including reserve forces are participating in operations focusing on the northern arena, but also involving other areas of the country, the IDF said in a prepared statement.

Israel last fought a major war against Hezbollah in 2006, sparked by an unprovoked Hezbollah cross-border-attack against Israeli civilian areas during which an IDF patrol was ambushed.  Hezbollah forces killed three soldiers and kidnapped two others who subsequently died in Hezbollah captivity.  During the war, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, in compliance with the terror group’s policy of attacking civilian targets.

The army emphasized that the exercise was planned in advance as part of the overall training plan for 2020, noting that “special health procedures” are being used to guard the health of the soldiers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Thousands of regular and reserve soldiers will take part in the Lethal Arrow exercise in the north this week.  This is a critical exercise in maintaining the operational capability of our forces that we must fulfill,” tweeted Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a former top commander of the IDF.

“Along with the mobilization of the defense establishment and the IDF for the war on corona, we are constantly preparing for the threats and challenges facing the State of Israel within its borders and away from them,” Gantz said.

Lethal Arrow appears to involve most branches of the military with the IDF saying regular forces and reserve forces in the army, navy and air force will be working with intelligence, technology and logistics, cyber defense and defense divisions.

The IDF warned the public that the exercise will see movement of fighter jets, helicopters and aircraft all over the country along with heavy movement of ground forces and vehicles, including vessels on the sea, including at the strategic ports of Haifa and Ashdod.

Armed, trained and financed by Tehran, the Hezbollah terror group continues to refuse to comply with UN Resolution 1701, which called for the “private army” to disarm in 2006.  Instead, it has grown and continues to operate as Iran’s proxy military force in Lebanon and for the past several years has fought in Syria to help prop up dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah parrots, Iranian policy, under which Tehran’s political and military leaders say their goal is the “total annihilation of Israel.”



In Shift, Netanyahu Approves US Sale Of F-35s To UAE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Saturday (24th) announcing that after “precise evaluation by professional elements in the Defense Ministry, it was decided that Israel had no opposition to the supply of certain weapons systems to the UAE, when the matter is anchored in an agreement with the US that upgrades Israel’s military advantage and ensures it in the Middle East in the coming decades.”

The statement was issued after an announcement Friday (23rd) that the government would not object to the sale of “certain weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates in an apparent reference to the F-35 jets.  The move by Netanyahu comes after he had initially opposed the US sale of the advanced fighter jets to the UAE as part of the normalization deal with Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz traveled to Washington last week for an “urgent” visit with top US defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon.

While the initial subject of the visit was reportedly tied to developments related to the expiration of the UN arms embargo on Iran, a defense compensation package for Israel in return for its approval of the US sale of F-35s to the UAE was also discussed.

Under law, the United States must maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME)  in the Middle East; any changes must be approved by Congress.



Israel Reopens Eilat/Dead Sea, Declares Them “Green Tourist Islands”

The Tourism Ministry’s initiative to define the city of Eilat and the Dead Sea area as “green tourism islands” was approved on Sunday (25th) at a cabinet meeting.

According to the outline, the coronavirus cabinet will be allowed to declare the city of Eilat and the hotels complex surrounding the Dead Sea as ‘special tourist areas.’

Entry into the green tourist areas, which house around 30% of the country’s hotel rooms, will be conditional on the presentation of an up-to-date negative coronavirus test.  The outline will allow the opening of hotels in the aforementioned areas while adhering to Health Ministry distancing guidelines.

Gradually at a later stage, the law that will be enacted will allow the opening of more businesses in the areas, which will serve the hotel guests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained the decision during the cabinet meeting, saying “a considerable volume of our tourism is concentrated there.  We have made special arrangements for them because they are remote, they are separated.  This is a very important announcement for the residents of these areas, and also for the citizens of Israel, who want to go to defined and safe places.”

The rationale underlying the law rests on two main aspects:

Health – The uniqueness of the Dead Sea allows for the existence of a ‘sterile area’ to which vacationers who are negative for COVID-19 can gather, thus minimizing the risk of the virus spreading.  The Dead Sea Hotels Complex does not have a local population, which may come into contact with hotel guests.  The geographical characteristics of the city of Eilat and its relative isolation from nearby towns also give it the status of a ‘tourist island’ that allows people to monitor the entry into the city.

Economic Need – Eilat and the Dead Sea Hotels make an almost exclusive living from the tourism and hotel business.  The implementation of the decision is expected to reduce unemployment in Eilat and the Dead Sea, and is part of a plan to rehabilitate the tourism industry, which was severely damaged during the corona pandemic crisis.