News Digest — 10/9/19

Israel Closed Down For Yom Kippur

Israel closed down on Tuesday night (8th) for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

All flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport ceased at 1:35 pm Tuesday (8th). The airport will reopen Wednesday night (9th).  Also, border crossings that closed Tuesday will reopen Wednesday evening.

As sundown approached, all local radio and television broadcasts fell silent.

Public transport also halted with buses and trains stopping their routes until after the fast day.  

Driving during the Day of Atonement is considered taboo, so many secular Israelis will be turning the day into a biking holiday, taking advantage of the car-free roads. 

A recent poll found that this year some 60% of Jewish Israelis will be fasting on Yom Kippur, but only 23% of those surveyed said that they would attend all the day’s lengthy synagogue services.

Security and rescue services remain on high alert throughout the country.

The weather was forecast to be sunny and warmer than usual Wednesday (9th) with a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Yom Kippur will end at sundown Wednesday (9th).



Golda Meir’s Letter To Bereaved Families On The Eve Of Yom Kippur Uncovered

A letter of condolence to bereaved Israeli families written by then-prime minister Golda Meir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, was recently discovered.

During the years following the establishment of the Jewish state, it was customary for the prime minister to have contact with the families of killed soldiers, including sending letters for holidays and official occasions.  Meir was scrupulous about the custom and frequently corresponded with bereaved families both privately and publicly.

On the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Meir sent a letter, dated October 5, to bereaved families in which she wrote,”Your pain is the pain of the entire nation…Our main concern is achieving peace for Israel.  The memory of our loved ones motivates us to do anything in our power so that there are no more casualties and no more bereavement.”

A day later saw the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, which claimed the lives of 2,500 soldiers.  Meir resigned in April 1974, amid public criticism and a loss of confidence in the government.

The letter will be offered for sale at the Kedem auction house in Jerusalem in December.

Maron Aran, owner of Kedem, said in a statement that the letter “unexpectedly” came to the auction house in the run-up to Yom Kippur this year.  “It evokes, more than anything else could, the tragedy that the State of Israel suffered 46 years ago. A few hours after the Prime Minister shared in Israel’s national mourning for the victims of previous wars, a new war broke out, adding thousands of families to the rolls of the bereaved.”



Cyprus Buys Israeli Drones Amid Tensions With Turkey

Cyprus has acquired four Israeli-made drones, according to the defense ministry, amid tensions with Turkey over gas exploration in the island’s waters.

Kathimerini Cyprus website said the drones, bought at a cost of $13 million in a first for the country, will be used to monitor its exclusive economic zone where international energy companies are searching for natural gas despite opposition from Turkey.

Israel’s Aeronautics that makes the Aerostar Tactical UAS (TUAS), a drone with a wingspan of 28 feet, contacted by AFP, would not confirm the sale, citing company policy to not divulge the identity of clients.

EU member Cyprus last week accused Turkey of defying the bloc by sending another drill-ship to operate inside its waters.

Nicosa said Turkey sent the drill-ship Yavuz inside Block 7 of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, a zone licensed to Italy’s Eni and France’s Total in an agreement signed last month.

According to the Cyprus government, the area where the Turkish vessel is operating is clearly defined under international law as Cypriot territorial waters.

Washington and Brussels have urged Turkey to withdraw the vessels from Cypriot waters, without the EU imposing sanctions on Ankara.

Turkey, which has now sent three drill-ships off Cyprus, is opposed to Nicosa’s energy exploration plans and wants a say in the development of hydrocarbons in the region.

Ankara also demands Turkish Cypriots on the divided island have their share of the profits from natural gas but argues a Cypriot solution must be found first.

Turkey has had troops stationed in Cyprus since 1974 when it invaded and occupied the northern third of the country after a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.



Iran Unveils Kit To Convert Artillery Rockets Into Guided Missiles

The Iranian military says it has produced a new conversion kit to upgrade artillery rockets to surface-to-surface missiles, technology that Israel has accused Tehran of attempting to deliver to the Hezbollah terror group.

The Iranians unveiled the new guidance system upgrade, called Labeik, at an event over the past few days at which a number of new military technologies were showcased, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Jane’s reported that Labeik appeared similar to the guidance systems on the Fateh-110 series of rockets, many of which are believed to be in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.  According to the report, the new system also looks to be compatible with Zelzal heavy artillery rockets.

Video footage of the new conversion system, aired on Iranian television, shows a short body featuring four inverted fins that can be fitted between the rocket and its payload.

According to Iran’s Fars News, the “anti-armor Labeik-1 missiles… enjoy precision-striking power.”  

“There’s nothing new in the conversion itself, they have been doing this for years, and they already showed conversion kits for the Fateh-110 family of missiles,” Uzi Rubin, one of the pioneers of Israel’s earliest attempts at missile defense, told Israel news media.

“What’s new here are the aerodynamics of the winglets – very unique, unseen in Iran to date and unseen in any other country.  Going to indigenous design rather than copying others indicates self-confidence. The purpose of the new and unique aerodynamics is probably for increasing maneuverability of the converted rockets.”

Asked if the development of the new system had any implications for Hezbollah’s missile program or how Israel deals with the terror group, Rubin replied that it “definitely” did.

“This is exactly the ‘precision rocket’ project that Netanyahu and the IDF regard as a Red Line,” he said.

Hezbollah is believed to have over 150,000 missiles, but only a small number of them can be guided to specific sites.  Israel is concerned that in a future war, the Lebanese terror group could use a barrage of precision missiles, were they to obtain them, to attack sensitive facilities and overwhelm its air defense array.



Arab Plumbers Refuse To Charge Client After Learning She’s A Holocaust Survivor

Two Arab Israeli plumbers in the northern city of Haifa waived a $285 service fee after learning their client was a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Simon and Salim Matari, who are brothers, were recently called to the home of Rosa Meir to fix a major leak, according to Channel 12.

“When we got there, we saw there was a large blast of water and we started fixing it,” said Simon.  “At some stage, while working, my brother Salim started to talk to Rosa about her life. She told us she’s 95, a Holocaust survivor, and that she has a daughter.”

“Her life story touched my heart.  At that moment, I decided I won’t take a cent from her.”

After the work was completed, he removed his notepad to bill her, and wrote: “Holocaust survivor, may you have health until 120 years old, from Simon and Salim Matari,” adding that the cost of the service was “0 shekels.”

Rosa was brought to tears, the report said.

“The brothers really surprised me,” she said.  “It was so moving and uplifting, and I thanked them a lot.”

Simon Matari said they did it “from their hearts.”

He also left her a parting gift: “If you should need anything else,” he said, “we would happily come fix it for free.”



Israeli Tourism Skyrockets: September’s Year-Over-Year Number Jumps 44%

Approximately 405,000 tourist entries into Israel were recorded in September, 44% more than in September 2018 and 46% more than September 2017, the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday (3rd).  Between January and September 2019, nearly 3.3 million tourist entries were recorded, compared to 2.9 million in the same period last year, an increase of 13%.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport saw its busiest month ever in August, with 2.6 million passengers buzzing through, the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) announced last month.  In September, approximately 2.3 million passengers traveled through the airport, while October will see an estimated 2.28 million travelers.

The most popular destinations for flights leaving Israel’s main airport are Turkey, Greece, the U.S., Italy and Russia, the IAA said.     

The airlines that flew the most passengers last month to and from Israel were Israel’s national carrier EL AL , which flew 541,000 passengers, low-cost airline WizzAir, which flew 121,000 passengers, and Turkish Airlines, which flew 107,000 passengers.