News Digest — 11/4/20

Malawi To Be First African State With Embassy In Jerusalem

Malawi plans to open an embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, making it the first African state to do so, Malawian Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka announced during his visit to Israel on Tuesday (3rd).

Mkaka said that Malawi, which does not have an embassy to Israel, plans to open one by summer 2021.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called Malawi a “pioneer” and said the decision is “further proof of the ties between the country and the widening of the circle of peace.”

Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the State of Israel, will be a bridge of peace for the whole world, and I call on more countries to follow in Malawi’s path and move their embassies to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Ashkenazi stated.

The US and Guatemala are the only countries that currently have embassies in Jerusalem, though several others have said they would open one, such as Brazil, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Honduras, Moldova, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Malawi is one of the few African states with which Israel has continuously had diplomatic relations since its founding in 1964.  Israel has provided Malawi with aid, especially in the area of agriculture, for many years.

In a joint statement, Ashkenazi committed to have an Israeli development expert posted in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, and to introduce courses for Malawi from MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s development agency.  Mkaka thanked Israel for its support through initiatives that “will contribute towards the country’s food security strategy and accelerated and sustained socio-economic development of the people of Malawi.”



Israeli Blackhawk Makes Emergency Landing With IDF Chief of Staff For Second Time

An Israel Air Force Blackhawk helicopter carrying the commander of Israel’s armed forces encountered technical problems in the air, but managed to make a forced landing, Israel Hayom reported Monday (2nd).

The report said that following a minor technical malfunction in an engine, the Blackhawk made an emergency landing Sunday (1st) at a base other than the one where it was supposed to land.  There were no casualties in the incident and no damage to the helicopter.

After the landing, the chief of staff continued his journey by vehicle to the base he was supposed to reach and the IDF spokesman announced that an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the incident.

It is the second time this year that a Blackhawk carrying IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has been forced out of the sky by a malfunction.

In a July incident the helicopter carrying Kochavi and other top IDF brass suffered engine failure and dropped to about 100 feet off the ground, but also managed to make a safe landing at a nearby base.

Following a series of other technical glitches, the air force grounded its entire fleet of an estimated 48 Blackhawks in August.  The IDF said at the time that the Air Force would conduct a technical investigation of the helicopters and subsequently returned them to service.

Helicopter problems are not the only challenges that have grounded Kochavi this year.  Israel’s top general has twice been forced into quarantine after coming into contact with people infected with the coronavirus.  Kochavi tested negative for the virus both times, and isolated himself in his office where he continued to work at full speed until the quarantine period was over.



ISIS Claims Responsibility For Vienna Shooting

The ISIS terrorist organization on Tuesday (3rd) claimed responsibility for Monday night’s (2nd) deadly shooting attack in Vienna, Austria.

The announcement follows confirmation from authorities that one of the shooters was a 20-year-old man who had been previously convicted of seeking to travel to Syria and join ISIS but was released from prison early due to his young age.

Four people were murdered and 15 were wounded in the shooting, which began near the SeitenStettengasse Temple, the largest synagogue in Vienna.

Two men and two women were killed in the attack, an interior ministry spokesman said, while about 15 more have been injured, seven seriously.  Police also said an officer had been hurt. 

The terrorist who had been released from prison was killed in a shootout with police.



Florida Board Reverses Decision on Holocaust-Denying Principal And Refires Him

The school board of Palm Beach County, Florida, voted unanimously Monday (2nd) to rescind an October 7 vote to rehire William Latson, a high school principal who was fired last year after telling a parent, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual historic event.”

Board members Marcia Andrews, Chuck Shaw, Barbara McQuinn, and Debra Robinson reversed their previous positions and voted not to approve an administrative law judge’s recommended order to reinstate Latson.

Board members Frank Barbieri, Karen Brill and Erica Whitfield voted against Latson’s reinstatement for the second time.

“As a school board, we missed the point a long time ago in getting this right,” Andrews said.

“I rescind my vote today, and we are going to fix this,” she said.  

Barbieri quoted Latson’s 2018 email which said, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I’m not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

Barbieri said, “I find it repugnant and absolutely unacceptable that a principal in one of our schools would use his employment with the Palm Beach County school district as an excuse for this absurd statement.”

He said that after Latson made the statement, “He not only doubled down on it, but he tripled down on it.”

Latson was not present at the meeting.

Following the vote that rescinded Latson’s reinstatement, the board discussed modifications to a final order.

The board is scheduled to vote on November 10 on the approval of a final order which is expected to include suspension without pay and termination of Latson’s employment. 



Headstones Smashed At Jewish Cemeteries In Moldova And Hungary

Headstones were smashed and graves defaced at Jewish cemeteries in Hungary and Moldova.

At least five headstones were destroyed at a cemetery in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau on Saturday (10/31), the Jewish community of Moldova said in a statement.  Swastikas, a pentagram and the number 666 were spray painted on other headstones. 

The same cemetery has been targeted by vandals for three years straight, the statement read.

In a separate incident in Kecel, south of Budapest, three tombstones were smashed and human feces were found on another headstone nearby on Sunday (1st), the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish Communities reported on its website.  

Police are investigating both incidents.



Israel: People Trapped In Flooded Building Following Overnight Storm

Rescue teams were working to free people trapped in a flooding building in Ashdod after storms overnight caused flooding across Israel on Wednesday (4th), Ynet news reported.

A couple was taken to the hospital suffering from mild hypothermia after being trapped in their flooded car according to Israel Hayom.

Police in the city received multiple calls to assist those stuck in flooded cars, elevators and homes, according to the police spokesperson.

Flooding caused traffic lights to malfunction near Yagur junction and opened a sinkhole in a road in Bnei Brak.  Trees fell near Zichron Ya’acov blocking Highway 653.  Vehicles were stuck in floods and mud in multiple places across the country, according to Walla.

Rescue services were called to assist residents of Hadera in 15 different locations.  One location found a minibus full of people stuck in a flooded area who had to be rescued by boat.  There are no reports of injuries caused by the storm.

More rain is expected throughout the day, causing concern that there will be flooding in the center of the country.  There is also expected to be an increase in wind speeds and a drop in temperatures to lows not typical of the season.