News Digest — 11/1/21

Israel Opens To Vaccinated Tourists

On Monday (1st) Israel opened to individual vaccinated tourists, arriving not as part of a tour group.

Several hotels, which had remained closed throughout the pandemic, reopened in honor of the incoming tourists, Israel Hayom said.  Among them were the Indigo in Ramat Gan, the Galei Kinneret in northern Israel, and others.

Under the new rules, tourists who are fully vaccinated, one or two weeks after the second dose (depending on the vaccine) and less than six months after the second dose,  are allowed to enter Israel.  Those who received the second dose over two months ago are required to receive a booster dose before entering Israel.  Tourists who can prove coronavirus recovery are allowed to enter with proof of having received a single dose of a vaccine.

Until now, Israel only allowed entry of organized tour groups and first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens and permanent residents, requiring that each individual be pre-approved before entry.

Not everyone is happy with the change: Many in the tourism industry claim that the policies do not allow for a full reopening, since most of the world’s vaccinated people received their second dose over six months ago and have not yet received the booster dose, and therefore are not exempt from quarantine under Israeli law.

Amir Halevi, Director General of the Tourism Ministry, is counting on the American tourists.

“This is our biggest and most central market, and we have an excellent staff which has brought us to record heights and will know how to get us out of this crisis,” he told Israel Hayom



IDF Launches Surprise Reservist Drill Amid Month-Long Exercise Series In North

The Israel Defense Forces launched a surprise readiness exercise on Monday morning (1st), calling up reserve units as part of a month-long series of drills in the Northern Command.

The drill simulated a sudden outbreak of war on the Lebanese border.

“During the exercise, calls were made and text messages were sent to reserve troops, some of whom were asked to report to their units, in accordance with the orders they received,” the military said.

The exercise, which was ordered by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, was meant to test how well and how quickly the reservist units responded to a sudden conflict.

The call-up came as part of a month-long series of exercises that began Sunday (10/31) that are meant to improve the military’s preparedness for a war against the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

The drills – known collectively as “Hewn Stone” (“Even Gazit”) – will “simulate multi-front, intensive and drawn-out combat, with conscripted and reservist troops taking part, from all headquarters of the Northern Command, in collaboration with the General Staff directorates, the Ground Forces, Air Force, and Navy,” the IDF said in a statement.

All levels of the IDF Northern Command were due to participate in the exercises, up to entire divisions.  “The goal of the exercises is improving the defensive and offensive capabilities of the IDF against a variety of scenarios,” the military said.

The Hewn Stone exercise was held alongside a major nationwide home front exercise, which also launched Sunday (1st), that is meant to simulate a war against Hezbollah, but from the standpoint of emergency services, rather than combat troops.

The IDF said the drills were planned in advance as part of the 2021 training schedule.



Syrian Report: Rare Daytime Israeli Strikes Target Hezbollah Sites Near Damascus

The IDF carried out rare daytime strikes near Damascus in Syria on Saturday (10/30), according to Syrian media.

The strikes reportedly targeted ammunition depots and advanced weapon systems heading toward Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in the region.

Two Syrian soldiers were reportedly injured in the attack, which, according to Syrian state media outlet SANA, was carried out by surface-to-surface missiles fired from northern Israel.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Saturday’s (10/30) raid targeted an area that stores several warehouses used by Hezbollah and other terror groups, as well as a headquarters used by the Syrian army.  The report noted that the strikes killed several Hezbollah operatives, a claim that has been disputed by Israel according to Ynet.

Daytime strikes carried out by Israel in Syria are rare but not unheard of.  Similar attacks have taken place before in cases of military intelligence pointing to an urgent operational necessity.

Iran has focused on developing an advanced missile and arms industry in underground compounds across Syria in recent years.  According to Israel and Western intelligence sources, this is part of Tehran’s broader objective of developing a sophisticated arsenal capable of reaching Israeli populated areas.

As such, Israel has said time and time again that it will maintain the ability to defend itself against threats from Syria and elsewhere, despite repeated opposition voiced by Russia to Israeli strikes in Syria.

In a recent meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin that was described by the Israeli premier as warm and fruitful, the two leaders reportedly reached mutual understandings regarding Israeli operations in Syria, while agreeing to maintain close coordination.

Later on Saturday (10/30), the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit reported that Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorted an American B-1 heavy bomber above Israeli skies as it headed toward the Persian Gulf.



Pure Evil: Police Seize Nazi Flag Flown Near Synagogue On Shabbat

Brisbane Jews were shocked to see a Nazi flag flying from an apartment window in the downtown area near their synagogue on Saturday (10/30).

“That flag and that symbol, the Nazi swastika symbol, represents one of the most evil moments in human history,” said Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies vice president Jason Steinberg on Saturday (10/30).  “For that to appear in 2021 in Brisbane over a synagogue is just atrocious.”

Police entered the apartment, seized the flag and issued the owner, a 45-year-old man, a notice to appear for a “public nuisance.”

The flag renewed Jewish calls for the state of Queensland to ban Nazi symbols.

“The state parliament is reviewing the hate crime legislation as we speak,” Steinberg said.  “We called on the banning of the swastika to be displayed and Nazi flags like this because at the moment…it doesn’t breach the serious hate or vilification law.”

The state of Victoria is already in the process of passing legislation to ban the public display of Nazi symbols.  That legislation is expected to be completed and passed next year.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner tweeted that the flag was “pure evil” and echoed the call for its ban.

In recent weeks, Australians have seen an uptick in anti-Semitic vandalism.

Parks in Melbourne and New South Wales were vandalized with swastikas and epithets against Jews.  A Kosher restaurant in Bondi was vandalized with the words “Free Palestine.”  And a video surfaced in mid-October of an Islamist rally in Sydney with the crowd chanting, “Destroy the Jews.”  In September, also in Brisbane, a Jewish man was assaulted while walking with his son to synagogue by a man shouting “Heil Hitler.”

COVID-related anti-Semitism has also made unfortunate headlines in Melbourne.

In August, a hospital worker was fired for posting on Facebook that Jews violating COVID lockdown laws “should be put in a gas chamber.”  More recently, vaccine protesters in Melbourne painted the words “vaxx macht frei” along with swastikas on a traffic barrier.



Israel’s United Nations Envoy Tears Up UNHRC Report In General Assembly Address

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan tore up the United Nations Human Right Council’s annual report at a special General Assembly hearing in New York Friday (10/29).

“Since its establishment 15 years ago, the Human Rights Council has condemned Israel 95 times compared to the 142 against all other countries in the world combined,” Erdan told those in attendance at the assembly.

“It was on this stage at this very body that the very right of the Jewish people to have a national home was itself declared to be racist – a decision that was justly overturned, a decision that Israel’s ambassador at the time, Chaim Herzog, tore up at the United Nations [in 1975 when the world body passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism].  And this is exactly what should be done to this anti-Semitic, distorted, one-sided report,” Erdan said.

He said the report belonged “in the dustbin of anti-Semitism” before ripping it up and leaving.

In a statement, the UNHRC said it had convened three special sessions this year to address Myanmar, Israel and Afghanistan.



Israel Thanks New York For Divesting From Ben & Jerry’s Over Its Anti-Israel Boycott

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the State of New York’s announcement that it was withdrawing its investments from Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, over its anti-Israel boycott.

Unilever stated in July that it was ending sales in Israel as “we believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian territory.”

Avi Zinger, the Israeli license owner, refused Ben and Jerry’s demand to withdraw his sales from Judea and Samaria.

New York State’s pension fund is pulling $111 million in investments out of Unilever because of the ice cream maker’s boycott of Judea and Samaria.

Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in Judea and Samaria violated New York’s policy against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.

“Thank you to the State of New York, which complied with our request and withdrew $111 million from its investments in Ben & Jerry’s because of the boycott of Israel.  We will continue to fight BDS and anti-Semitism everywhere and without hesitation,” Lapid stated Friday (10/29).

Some 35 states in the US have anti-Israel boycott laws, and so far four, including Arizona and Texas, have announced they are taking action or considering divesting from Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company.

New Jersey has announced that it was on the path to follow suit, and Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Rhode Island have launched similar proceedings.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated in July that “the boycott against Israel is a new type of terrorism, economic terrorism, which seeks to harm Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy.  We must oppose this boycott and terrorism of any kind.”