News Digest — 11/17/21

Israel Fires Missiles Towards Building South Of Damascus

The IDF fired two missiles from the Golan Heights towards a building south of Damascus on Tuesday night (16th), the Syrian state news SANA reported.

It is unclear yet if the missiles were fired from an aircraft or were surface-to-surface missiles.  There were no reported losses.

There was no comment on the strikes from the Israel Defense Forces in line with its policy of ambiguity regarding its specific activities within Syria. 

This latest strike comes a little over a week after two Syrian soldiers were injured and material damage was caused in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting sites along the coast of Syria, including ones in the center of the country.

A military source told SANA at the time that an Israeli airstrike was carried out from north of Beirut, targeting sites in the central and coastal region of Syria.  Initial reports by Syrian sources indicated that the strikes targeted locations in Homs in western Syria and Tartus on the coast.

Some of the targets in the airstrikes last week were reportedly located near the Shayrat Airbase near Homs.  The ALMA Research and Education Center reported in October that Iranian UAVs were being transferred to the Shayrat Airbase.

Less than a week before that airstrike, an alleged Israeli airstrike targeted a site in the Zakya area, southwest of Damascus, causing material damage according to SANA news.  Opposition-affiliated media reported that the airstrikes targeted sites belonging to Iranian militias.

Earlier in October, Iranian militias warned of a “harsh response” after a number of Syrian and Iranian-backed forces were killed and wounded in an alleged Israeli airstrike in the central Syrian, Palmyra area. 

Over the past year, while Israeli strikes have intensified in Syria, the response time by Syrian air defense batteries has become quicker, leading the IAF to change how it acts during such operations including having larger formation positions during operations so that more targets can be struck at once instead of having jets return to the same target over again.

Iran has begun deploying advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries to the region in an attempt to challenge Israeli jets.



Will Israeli Students Soon Study And Visit The Temple Mount?

The Knesset on Tuesday (16th) debated the need to teach students more about the Temple Mount in schools, including having children visit the holy site.

“Find a way to ensure that every student studies and visits the Temple Mount,” said former Knesset Member Yehuda Glick at the session.

The committee discussion was attended by MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and MK Amir Ohana, among others.  The group was also addressed by Lt. Col. Nati Gur, who oversees the area for the Israeli Police.

“Schools can go to the Temple Mount without any exceptional conditions,” Gur clarified, after several MKs expressed concern that children had not been on the mount.  “The police secure any group that ascends the Temple Mount and there is no need for private security there.  The security guard that accompanies the class can wait for them at the entrance and guide them following their visit, through the Muslin Quarter.”

For his part, Ben-Gvir said he believes that the topic of the Temple Mount is “swept under the table” and that most students do not understand that it is as sacred and relevant today as in the past.

“The place of the Temple Mount needs to be understood,” stressed MK Nir Orbach.  “Even if there is disagreement on the sides of Jewish law and politics, everyone should know that the Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people.”

“We flock to the Western Wall, but we should know that it is of a lesser significance than the Temple Mount,” he added.  “There is public confusion and a lack of knowledge on the subject.  I hope there will be a change in the education system on the subject of the Temple Mount.”

No conclusion was reached by the end of the meeting.

The Temple Mount has been a point of contention lately, as more Jews have ascended to pray on the mount, which is overseen by the Muslim Waqf.

In 1967, when Israel triumphed over its Muslim enemies and reunited Jerusalem, it also gained control of the Temple Mount.  However, it allowed the Waqf to maintain religious authority over the holy site and the Waqf did not allow Jews to pray there.



Bennett: No Matter What Happens With Iran Talks, We’ll Defend Ourselves

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stressed that Israel would defend itself, no matter what happens in the nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, during a visit to an exercise being carried out by the IDF in northern Israel on Tuesday (16th).

“We are surrounded by security challenges and want to take advantage of periods of relative quiet to build strength.  So, we are preparing for various scenarios, both near and far,” said Bennett.  “We are dealing with Iran and its affiliates in Lebanon and Syria.  No matter what happens between Iran and the superpowers, (and we are certainly concerned that there is not enough toughness in the face of Iranian violations) Israel will defend itself on its own.”

During the visit, Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that “We are of course following everything happening on all fronts.”

“We are currently seeing Iran’s policy in the nuclear context, within Iran, as well as its strengthening itself outside Iran, with its influence in Syria and Lebanon,” added Gantz.  “The world must act against Iran, and Israel must continue to do what it needs in every front in general and in the northern front in particular.”

Last week the IDF began a drill in northern Israel, in which reservists in the 36th Division, also known as the Ga’ash Formation, were called up.

About 3,000 soldiers from the Golani Brigade, Armored Corps, artillery and reserve brigades took part in the drill, along with intelligence and the Israeli Air Force.

“Here we found a very cohesive and trained system that has gained more and more capabilities, and I am very happy with what we have seen here,” said Gantz about the drill.

“The state budget has been approved and this is especially important for the IDF, which can now properly plan its resources, train continuously and intensively and invest everything needed for preparation in any future war,” said Bennett.    



Visitors To Sde Boker Will Soon Be Able To Walk In Ben Gurion’s Footsteps

In honor of the anniversary of the passing of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, recently, the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council decided to build a new promenade in his memory along the path that the late leader walked on his way from his cabin to the Midreshet Ben-Gurion (Sde Boker) School.

The Tourism Ministry and the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council laid the cornerstone for the project under the auspices of the “Southern Product” tourism project, which the Tourism Ministry is promoting through the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company Ltd.

The Ben-Gurion Promenade is planned to extend the 2.1 miles that Ben-Gurion traversed daily.  The path will end at his final resting place.  The walkway is slated to include a number of design elements that point to Ben-Gurion’s personal, group, and family activities.  Each of the stops will include a shaded resting place, a water fountain and explanatory signs.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said “I am happy about having the privilege of laying the cornerstone of this historic promenade, thereby taking another step toward making the desert bloom into a reality.”

Ramat Hanegev Regional Council head Eran Doron said, “Apart from his physical steps, we are without a doubt asked to commemorate the path of his values.”



Luxembourg To Pay One Million Euros In Reparations For Holocaust Survivors

The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) announced on Monday (15th) that its Claims Conference has started distributing EUR 1,000,000 from the Luxembourg Fund for Holocaust survivors who currently live in Luxembourg or lived there during the Nazi occupation.

Each recipient will be granted an initial EUR 5,000 payment by the end of November and the second payment in March 2022.  Those eligible will be selected from people who apply for the restitution before the extended deadline of January 31, 2022.

The reparations come after Luxembourg’s government signed an agreement with members of its Jewish community, and the Luxembourg Foundation for the Remembrance of the Shoah on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2021.

In addition to securing restitution for Luxembourgish Holocaust survivors, the agreement allocates resources for Holocaust education, memorialization and research.

“We are pleased that survivors will soon be receiving their first payments,” Gideon Taylor, Chairman of Operations of the WJRO said.  “These funds provide a small measure of justice and will help survivors live their lives with the dignity they deserve,”

Laurent Moyse, Acting President of the Luxembourg Foundation for the Remembrance of the Shoah, added that “the payments are especially important as Holocaust survivors age and they demonstrate Luxembourg’s commitment to their welfare.”

The announcement of the payments was met with gratitude from Holocaust survivors.

“I was born in Luxembourg.  When the war began, we left for southern France where the Nazis captured both of my parents,” 82-year-old Haya Nevo said.  “I was taken to live with a Christian family while my brother was brought to a place for children in the mountains – a hidden camp.  My parents were exiled to the Auschwitz  concentration camp, never to return.  We moved to Israel in 1949 with our grandmother.  We built our lives in Israel.  Although we are not starving for bread, we are thankful for Luxembourg’s government decision.”