News Digest — 11/23/22

Two Blasts Rock Jerusalem Leaving Teen Dead, 19 Injured, 3 In Critical Condition

Jerusalem was hit by two explosions on Wednesday morning (23rd) at two bus stops, one at the western entrance of the city and one at a junction in northern Jerusalem, leaving a teenager dead.  The 16-year-old teen was identified as Aryeh Shtsupak, resident of Har Nof, who studied at a yeshiva close to the entrance of the city.

At least 19 people were wounded in the attacks, including several in critical and serious condition.

The police statement said the explosions occurred 30 minutes apart at separate Jerusalem bus stops and are suspected Palestinian terror attacks.  The explosive devices were said to have been placed in bags near the bus stops and detonated remotely using cellphones.

Shortly after the attack, the Jerusalem District Police began extensive searches at bus and light rail stops as well as other locations with large concentrations of people.  Sniffer dogs, patrol officers and police cavalry are participating in the searches, while at the same time the security forces are trying to track down the terrorists who planted the explosives.

“The goal is to prevent the next explosion,” said Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.  “This means bringing all the forces out, not only here, but also to other areas.  It could be one terrorist that placed the two explosives, or it could be two.  All intelligence services will focus on this issue.”

Magen David Adom emergency services said they received a report about the first blast at 7:06am.  Six people were treated at the scene, two in critical condition, two in serious condition and two in mild to moderate condition.  They were evacuated to the Hadassah Ein Kerem, Hadassah Mount Scopus and Shaare Zedek hospitals in the city.

“It was a crazy explosion.  There is damage everywhere here,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene when the blast occurred, told Israel Army Radio.  “I saw people with wounds bleeding all over the place.”

Shortly after the first blast was reported, a second one was reported at Ramot Junction in the northern part of the capital.

Many were wounded from shrapnel as a result of the explosion.  The medical teams of the Ichud Hatzalah provided first aid at the scene.   

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Otzma Yehudit lawmaker who has called for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and who is set to become the minister in charge of police under Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, said the attacks gave him impetus to take a tougher stance on Palestinian terrorist attackers.  “It’s time to take a hardline against terrorists – it’s time to make order,” he tweeted.

The spokesman for Hamas, Abd Latif al-Kanou, welcomed the attacks: “The Zionist occupation is paying the price today for its crimes and aggression against our people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we have warned about this repeatedly.  Our people will not remain silent in the face of this, and the outrage of Al-Aqsa will explode and spread in all regions”

Highway 1 from the Cedar Tunnel to the West was closed to traffic following the attacks.



“Murder:” Uncle Of Israeli Snatched In Jenin Says Teen Was Still Alive When Taken

The uncle of an 18-year-old Israeli who was snatched by Palestinian gunmen from a hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday (22nd) said his nephew was still alive and connected to a ventilator when he was taken.

“This is murder.  It’s a terrorist attack.  He was sedated and on life support, he was alive,” Edri Fero said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday (23rd).

Tiran Fero from the Druze-majority town of Daliyat al-Karmel was critically injured in a car crash in Jenin and take to a hospital in the Palestinian city due to his severe condition.

Initial reports by Palestinian media indicated that Fero had already died when he was snatched by unidentified gunmen.

His uncle’s testimony, however, suggests otherwise.

“They were shooting in the air and shouting in Arabic…nobody dared to stop them,” he told Kan.  “They disconnected him from the machines and tossed him in a car.”

In an earlier interview with Kan, Edri Fero described 20-30 gunmen storming the hospital.

“We saw them with our own eyes.  They were armed, they came as if it was the intifada,” he said referencing Palestinian violence in the 1980s and early 2000s.

“If we hadn’t complied, we would have been kidnapped ourselves.  We barely escaped and hid somewhere until Israeli security forces got us out.  We were lucky.  It was hard to describe,” he said.

Addressing the car crash his nephew was involved in, Edri said Tiran “had traveled to Jenin to fix his car with a friend,” adding that “he must have lost control of the vehicle on the way there.”

A senior Palestinian official told local new media that the suspects snatched the body, thinking Tiran was an undercover Israeli soldier.

Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials are involved in the efforts to return Fero’s body to his family, said the Mayor of Daliyat al-Karmel, the Druze community’s spiritual leader and the mayor of Jenin.

Tiran’s father Hussam said Israeli officials “are doing everything to get him out – he’s just a boy – he hasn’t even finished school yet.  He’s not a soldier.”

Another uncle of Tiran, Rafik, told Kan that the family is placing all responsibility for the incident on the Palestinian Authority.

The Jenin area has been seen as a major hotspot for terror in recent months.  Palestinian gunmen, mostly in the northern West Bank, have repeatedly targeted troops conducting arrest raids, as well as military posts, soldiers operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

This latest incident in Jenin came as as the Israeli military presses on with a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on Jenin and Nablus, in response to a series of Palestinian attacks that left 29 people in Israel dead since the first of the year.   



One Of Israel’s Oldest Former Irgun Members Dies At 101

A veteran of the Zionist paramilitary pre-state Irgun organization died on Monday (21st) at the age of 101, his family said.

Born in Jerusalem in 1921, Yaacov Aharoni was among the last surviving warriors of the underground movement, led by Menachem Begin in the years leading up to the establishment of the state.

He formed the Irgun’s special units and was part of the group’s attack on Nazi oil refineries in Iraq and fought to protest the Jewish community.

He was abducted by the Haganah forces, who represented the leadership of the emerging state, who tortured him and turned him over to the British Mandate forces.  The British regarded the Irgun as a terror organization and subsequently sentenced him to exile in Africa for four and a half years.

Upon the establishment of the State of Israel, Aharoni joined the IDF’s Artillery Corps and trained young recruits.  When he was discharged, he worked for many years as an educator, having earned a degree in Bible studies from Tel Aviv University.

His daughter Michal Aharoni, one of his five children, said her father was a hero who risked his life for the country he loved.

Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, whose family supported the right-wing underground, eulogized Aharoni calling him a brave warrior.

“I was saddened to hear of his death and felt great pain,” Netanyahu said.  “Despite the many difficulties he endured, the independent State of Israel was his reward.”



After 2,700 Years: Bnei Menashe Inaugurates First Synagogue In Israel

Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, the first-ever house of prayer in Israel for Bnei Menashe immigrants from India, was inaugurated last Shabbat (November 19) in the northern Israeli city of Nof Hagalil.  About 150 worshipers, most of them members of the community, attended.

The Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization; which has promoted the Aliyah (immigration) of the Bnei Menashe to Israel for two decades, advanced the plans for the establishment of the synagogue.

The synagogue will be used by immigrants from Mizoram, a state in northeastern India.  A second synagogue, located in a separate neighborhood of Nof HaGalil, will be opened for Manipur, another northeastern Indian state.

“The opening of the first synagogue in Israel for the Bnei Menashe is an historic and exciting event.  Just like any other Jewish community the Bnei Menashe have their own unique customs, traditions and hymns, which are worthy of preservation.  We are delighted that the Bnei Menashe immigrants will now have a synagogue of their own in which to keep these traditions alive,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s chairman and founder.

The Bnei Menashe, or Sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.  Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India.  Throughout the sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity.  They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors – the Land of Israel.

Thus far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah possible for over 5,200 Bnei Menashe.  There are still 5,000 Bnei Menashe still in India, awaiting their return to their Jewish homeland.



Palestinian Christians In Bethlehem/Ramallah Fight Over Christmas Festivities

The Palestinian Authority has been forced to call off a press conference that was supposed to take place in Ramallah later this week regarding the upcoming Christmas festivities, after protests by the Bethlehem Municipality and Christian leaders.

Several Christian residents of Bethlehem accused the PA of attempting to “hijack” their holiday and marginalize the city’s role in organizing and overseeing the celebrations.  Announcements about Christmas festivities have always been made from Bethlehem, they said.

The dispute between Bethlehem and Ramallah over Christian holidays is unprecedented.

The PA’s Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs in Palestine had issued an invitation to local and foreign journalists to attend a press conference at PLO Headquarters in Ramallah to announce the launching of Christmas festivities in Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank.  The press conference was supposed to take place on November 24.

The committee is headed by Ramzi Khoury, a veteran Palestinian official who also serves as director-general of the Palestinian National Fund, which was established in 1964 to finance PLO various activities.

The invitation to hold the press conference in Ramallah angered many Christians in Bethlehem, who said their municipality and local leaders and organizations have always been responsible for announcing plans for Christmas celebrations.

Several Christians took to social media to express outrage over the PA’s attempt to shift attention from Bethlehem to Ramallah ahead of Christmas.

“Who gave the Palestinian Authority the right to hijack our holidays?” asked a Christian businessman from Bethlehem.  “Our city is the only party authorized to do so.  This is extremely ridiculous.”

A Christian tour guide from the town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, said: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Ramallah.  What the Palestinian leadership is doing is an insult not only to Bethlehem but to all Christians.”

Bethlehem Municipal Council members held an emergency meeting on Monday night (21st) to discuss repercussions of the PA committee’s decision to hold a press conference in Ramallah regarding the upcoming Christmas festivities.

“Over the past few decades, the Bethlehem municipality has been the only party entitled to arrange and launch Christmas festivities in the Holy Land,” the Municipal Council Members said in a statement after their meeting.  The municipality was planning to hold its own press conference on Christmas Eve, as has been the case for several decades, they said.

“The [Bethlehem] Municipal Council strongly rejects attempts to circumvent the legitimacy and historic right of Bethlehem to arrange and hold the Christmas celebrations in its capacity as the birthplace of Jesus,” the statement read.

Earlier, the Bethlehem Municipality issued its own invitation for a press conference on November 26 to announce plans for Christmas festivities in the city.

Several Christian organizations and institutions in the Bethlehem area issued statements in which they expressed full support for the Bethlehem Municipality in its standoff with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority leadership.