News Digest — 12/13/21

Immigration Minister Reports 27,000 New Arrivals To Israel, Jump From Last Year

By the end of the year, the number of new immigrants to Israel in 2021 is set to reach 27,000, a rise of 30 percent compared to the year before, Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said at a conference in the United States, according to Hebrew-language media reports Sunday (12th).

At the annual conference of the Israel American Council in Florida, Tamano-Shata said the numbers surpass the target she had set of 25,000 new arrivals.

Tamano-Shata called it “a very good year, even when compared to regular years when there was no coronavirus,” according to a report by the Ynet website.

The figure matched that of 2016.  In 2017 there was a slight climb to 29,000 and that continued into 2018 with 30,000, reaching a record of 36,000 in 2019.  However with the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions it caused to international travel, numbers tumbled.

In 2020, there were just 22,000 who moved to start a new life in Israel.

Tamano-Shata highlighted increased immigration from North America and France.

There was a 34% increase in immigration from the US, with 4,000 arriving this year.  France saw a 41% leap, with 3,380 arriving so far in 2021 and over a hundred more expected by the end of the month.  There were 7,000 immigrants from Russia and 2,800 from Ukraine this year.

Other countries also saw an increase, with 800 arriving from Argentina – a 50% increase compared to last year – and 500 from Brazil.

Among those who arrived, 30% are under the age of 18, and 60% are under 35, Tamano-Shata told the Makor Rishon newspaper.

“They are the future generation of Israel,” she said.

The national campaign to encourage immigration, called Israeli Horizons, has a budget of $11.4 million, according to the report.

Tamano-Shata attributed the rise in immigration to improvements her ministry has made in removing obstacles to immigration, digitalization of the process, and better cooperation with consulates abroad.

The minister was in Miami ahead of a campaign scheduled next year aimed at returning expat Israelis to their homeland.  The drive will include advertisements in Israeli media targeting those abroad, based on the assumption that they are continuing to follow events in Israel in Hebrew media.  Returnees will be granted certain rights as an incentive to bring them back, according to reports.

Tamano-Shata is herself an immigrant and is the first Ethiopian-born minister in the Israeli government.



Gaza Boy, 11, Becomes 6,000th Child Saved By Israeli Humanitarian Group

An 11-year-old boy from the Gaza Strip, Maven, this month became the 6,000th child saved by the Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). 

Shortly after Mazen was born, doctors in Gaza diagnosed him with a complicated congenital heart condition that would require multiple medical procedures.  As Mazen grew older, he suffered difficulty breathing.  To survive, he needed emergency surgery.

There are no centers for interventional cardiac treatment in the Gaza Strip, and the caseload of patients in critical condition has worsened under the COVID pandemic.

Two Gaza-based doctors, Abdalraheem Said and Hany Al Faleet, are responsible for screening all Gazan pediatric cardiac patients from the southern part of Gaza at the European Gaza Hospital.

“A major challenge for us is that we are not only responsible for ‘doing the medicine,’ but for helping patients cross borders for care,” said Al Faleet, who referred Mazen to his Israeli partners at Save a Child’s Heart in Holon, Israel.

In Israel, Mazen was treated at the SACH International Pediatric Cardiac Care Center at the new Sylvan Adam’s Children’s Hospital at Wolfson Medical Center.  Upon arrival, Mazen was examined by Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld, director of Pediatric Cardiology, and then treated in the center’s catheterization lab by Dr. Sagi Assa, head of the Interventional Pediatric Cardiac Care Unit.

Assa and his team are pioneering the use of closure devices that enable complex cardiac catheterization procedures to close holes in hearts without any need for open heart surgery.  The SACH center and the Pediatric Cardiac Care Center are the only medical institutions in the region currently using this technique on cases such as Mazen’s.

The mission of Save a Child’s Heart is to improve pediatric cardiac care in developing countries around the world through surgery, medical missions and medical training.  SACH has saved the lives of 6,000 children from 63 countries, 50% of whom are Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank.

Each week, SACH holds a weekly cardiology clinic for Palestinian children at its facility in Holon.  In 2018, SACH received the UN Population Award in recognition of its role in helping transform pediatric cardiac care in Africa.



At Least Four Killed In Gunfight During Hamas Funeral In Lebanon

Armed clashes broke out on Sunday (12th) in a Palestinian town during a funeral of a slain Hamas militant, killing at least four people.

According to local media, several others were also wounded in the gunfight at Burj Shamali near the port city of Tyre, reportedly instigated by members of rival Palestinian faction Fatah.

“Fatah gunmen deliberately opened fire against people taking part in the funeral march,” one Hamas official said, asking not to be named.

Speaking to Reuters in Ramallah by phone from Beirut, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabour, rejected Hamas’ allegations.

“This is a rejected and condemned action… investigation committees will reveal who stood behind it,” Dabour said.  “We have made contacts with Hamas leaders and demanded they wait for investigation results.”

The funeral was held for Hamza Shaheen, who was killed after an alleged Hamas weapons depot hidden underneath a mosque in the town, blew up last Friday (10th).  Among the attendees were several high-ranking Hamas officials.

Hamas said the explosion – which resulted in several dead and wounded – was caused by oxygen tanks for coronavirus patients which caught fire.

“Hamas condemns the misleading media campaign and the spread of fake news that accompanied the incident,” the terror group said in a statement.  It added that reports about the cause of the blast and the “deaths of dozens” were baseless.

However, a Lebanese security official said that the explosion in the town was clearly caused by ammunition, not oxygen tanks.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinians.  Many are scattered across the small Mediterranean country in various areas.

This most recent disaster comes in the midst of an ongoing and contentious investigation into a massive port blast, over a year ago, that decimated Beirut and flattened large swaths of the city, leaving hundreds dead and tens of thousands homeless.



At Founding Rally Friday, Hamas Said It Won’t Relinquish “An Inch” Of Sought Land

At a massive rally Friday (10th) celebrating the 34th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, co-founder of the terror group Mahmoud al-Zahar said Palestinians will not relinquish “an inch” of the land they view as theirs.

“The participation of thousands in these marches commemorating the launch of the Hamas anniversary, confirms that the Palestinian individual cannot give up his right, and he refuses to forfeit an inch of his land,” Al-Zahar said, according to Palestinian media reports.

Hamas does not recognize Israel and often declares its intention to set up a state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, eradicating Israel.

The anniversary comes amid a string of recent Palestinian terror attacks, with four taking place in Jerusalem alone, including a deadly shooting committed by a Hamas member.

Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said at the rally that Jerusalem would remain at the center of the conflict with Israel.

“It is a red line, and defending it is a sacred duty,” al-Masri said according to a statement released by the terror group.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, having extended sovereignty throughout the city after capturing East Jerusalem from its Jordanian occupiers in the 1967 War.

Previous unrest in Jerusalem was seized upon by Hamas to fire rockets at the city in May, sparking 11 days of intense fighting that saw more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israel and the IDF carrying out some 1,500 strikes on Gaza.

Since a ceasefire was declared on May 21, the Egyptian military has led an effort to negotiate a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, including a prisoner exchange.

Hamas has warned that events in Jerusalem could see a resumption of hostilities. 



Bennett Offers Israeli Assistance To US States Amid Devastating Tornadoes

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett offered Israeli assistance to the communities in Kentucky and other states ravaged by deadly tornadoes over the weekend.

“Sending thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the devastating tornadoes that hit several states, especially the people of Kentucky,” the premier tweeted,  “Israel is ready to offer any assistance needed.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog joined the call, tweeting, “Our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones in the Friday night (10th) through Saturday (11th) storms, sending wishes of a speedy recovery to the wounded.  Israel stands together with the American people and is ready to offer any assistance needed.”

Rescuers are combing through fields of wreckage after the tornadoes outbreak roared across the middle of the US, leaving reportedly 100 dead and communities in despair.  Many fear the death toll will continue to rise.

One twister carved a track that could rival the longest on record as the stormfront smashed apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home and flattened an Amazon distribution center.

The weekend tornadoes tore through six states including, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma.