News Digest — 12/12/19

It’s Official: Israel Heads To Third Election

The gears of Israel’s political system continue to grind in place as the 22nd Knesset, serving for only three months, voted to dissolve itself at midnight Wednesday (11th) after a deadline passed to form a new government.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a motion earlier to hold elections on March 2, hours after a deadline to form a coalition government expired with a 14-0 vote.

The public reaction has been described variously as shock, disappointment, numbness and disbelief.

“This nightmare, in which we’re heading into elections once again, the third within the space of a single year, is neither a parable or a dream.  It is completely real,” wrote Sima Kadmon in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s second-largest daily.  “There aren’t words left that can express the public’s disgust with and mistrust towards its elected representatives,” he wrote.

Israel now faces a nearly three-months long campaign ahead of the vote that most polls predict will not produce dramatically different results that led to the current logjam.

The politicians were unable to decide and so it goes back to the people.

During government negotiations, both sides—Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and (Blue and White) Benny Gantz—professed eagerness to reach a power-sharing understanding, but could not agree on its composition nor who would lead it.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu will continue serving as prime minister, and Israel will be awaiting new elections in three months.



Dozens of UN Ambassadors Visit City Of David

Dozens of United Nations ambassadors from around the globe visited the City of David – ancient Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon (11th) as the guests of Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon.  The ambassadors toured the three-thousand-year-old archaeological excavations and recently uncovered Pilgrimage Road together with Moshe Lion, Mayor of Jerusalem. The visit comes as a new wind of change is felt at the United Nations with many countries beginning to change their traditional voting patterns and support Israel.

Ambassador Danny Danon explained the significance of the visit to the City of David: “I brought dozens of United Nation’s ambassadors here to the City of David to see where it all began.  Three thousand years ago, this is where King David established his capital city. The Land of Israel is our ancestral homeland and Jerusalem is our eternal capital. We will continue to bring United Nations ambassadors and diplomats here to the City of David, because there is nowhere better on earth to demonstrate the Jewish people’s ancient roots in this land.”

The City of David is Israel’s largest active archaeological site, situated upon the ancient city of Jerusalem.  It is the place recorded in the Bible upon which David established his capital 3,000 years ago, and which remained the seat of the Davidic dynasty for centuries thereafter.  The City of David is an Israeli National Heritage Site with over half-a-million visitors annually, where some of the most compelling personalities and seminal events of the Biblical period unfolded, rich with significance to both Jews and Christians alike.  



Are You Jewish? Don’t Show It – Dudi Caspi

“It’s better to hide it.  I know who I am and I’m proud of my identity, but who knows who will look at me wrong,” a Jewish American friend told me without hesitation, just a few days ago.  We were heading for a night out and as he got out of the car, he tucked the Star of David pendant he always wears inside his shirt.

But what he presented as a minor action that was supposed to head off any potential trouble is actually a warning light about an increasingly dark, troubling reality in the land of freedom and opportunity: If you’re Jewish you’d better not show it.

As someone who was raised in Israel, I remember the friendly advice before my trip abroad not to speak Hebrew and to lie and tell my curious taxi drivers that I was from somewhere else.  But living as an Israeli and Jew in the US today demands the same level of caution on a daily basis, which is a constant reminder of the threats that are lingering just around the corner and showing no signs of disappearing.

The people who hate us haven’t gone, and we must never take the calm for granted and make the mistake of thinking that we are not in danger.  In America, the new normal is constant threat.

I recently visited the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh to attend the one-year anniversary of the shooting there.  The rabbi and his staff took care to repeat the mantra “Stronger than Hate,” but they also admitted that on the High Holidays, worshipers had to reserve places ahead of time and go through security on their way to pray.  At the synagogue at Poway, California, which was targeted by an anti-Semitic shooting in April, I was told that they are focusing on strengthening the community after the tragedy and avoiding requests for media coverage out of fear for their safety.  Hatred of foreigners is once again raising its ugly head and reminding us how we have forever been in the sights of those who loathe us. Times change, technology marches forward, and the world never stops turning. But anti-Semitism is here to stay.



Netanyahu Phones Israeli Badly Beaten In Paris Subway Attack

News of a vicious attack on a Paris subway emerged on Tuesday (10th) when French-Israeli politician Meyer Habib posted to social media disturbing images of the victim’s bloody face.

Identified only as “Yogev,” the young Israeli boarded the Metro early Tuesday morning (10th) and was attacked by two assailants after he began leaving a phone message for his father in Hebrew.

According to Habib, the student is in a university exchange program and reportedly lost consciousness as a result of the assault.

On Tuesday evening (10th), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video to Twitter of his phone conversation with Yogev.

“The police seemed very surprised.  The officers don’t understand why a prime minister and member of parliament is calling me.  To them this is a normal event,” Yogev said.

“It’s not normal,” responded Netanyahu.  “And we’re not prepared to accept such attacks.”

“The most important thing is that you should be healthy.  Take care of yourself physically and spiritually. This is not an easy thing,” Netanyahu concluded.

According to Habib, the assailants were “two individuals of African origin.”  The French lawmaker lamented the frequency with which anti-Semitic attacks are accepted in France, with Habib estimating that the incidents are a daily occurence.

Yogev required stitches and suffered broken bones in his face.



Palestinian Teen Suicide Bomber Honored With Plaque At Bethlehem School

A Palestinian teen suicide bomber has had a plaque in her honor placed at a school in Bethlehem.

17-year-old Ayyat al-Akras murdered two Israelis and injured 28 others when she blew herself up near a supermarket in Jerusalem on March 29, 2002.  One of her victims was also a teenage girl and the other was a 55-year-old security guard who prevented al-Akras from entering the supermarket, saving many lives.

Her attack was part of the Second Intifada of 2000-2005 in which more than 1,100 Israelis were killed, including in a number of suicide bombings.

Now she has been commemorated as a role model for children at Bethlehem High School for Girls, with a plaque in her honor placed at the entrance to the school, a recent  Facebook post by the school has revealed.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, the text on the plaque reads: 

“This memorial was established in cooperation between the Education Directorate [a branch of the PA Ministry of Education] and the Fatah Shabiba [Youth Movement] organization, in order to commemorate the Martyrs of the Al-Aqsa Intifada at Bethlehem High School for Girls, for the anniversary of the outbreak of the Palestinian revolution.  MARTYRS:  Ayyat al-Akhras, and Nida Al-Izza”

Nida Al-Izza apparently died during the Intifada also.

The entrance on which the plaque is placed is flanked to the left by a drawing of Yasser Arafat, while to the right is the logo of the Fatah Shabiba Youth Movement which includes a map of Palestine covering the whole of what is currently Israel with the colors of the Palestinian flag.

Palestinian Media Watch, a non-profit Israeli research center which reports on Palestinian matters, noted that promoting violent jihad to children is not uncommon in Palestinian-authority run schools.  

“Telling teenage girls that a suicide bomber of their age is an honored ‘Martyr’ on a prominent plaque they see daily at the entrance to their school, sends two morally deplorable messages: First, that murdering Israelis is not only acceptable but honorable and second, that killing oneself in order to kill Israelis is likewise heroic,” they commented.