News Digest — 12/17/20

Maccabees Won, Jews Still Speak Hebrew, Future Generations Stand Strong – Samuel Rabinowitz

While lighting Hanukkah candles, my thoughts wander to a time many years ago, in the village of Modi’in where Matityahu, surrounded by his five sons, faced dozens, perhaps hundreds of soldiers – and declared war on the Greek empire.  Looking back on this event it seems crazy.  What was Matityahu thinking?  That he could beat the great Greeks?  That he could topple the entire empire?  It was a hopeless war!

In my imagination, I can picture the huge army standing across from this small group, their fortresses and fortifications, the elephants of war and all their ammunition.  Many against few in a war with seemingly no chance of victory.  What was the Maccabees’ secret?  How did they beat the Greeks?  To understand this, we have to understand who the Maccabees were.

When Matityahu called out “Whoever is for G-d, join me,” he did not intend to expand his land or build himself a kingdom.  The war waged by Matityahu and his sons, the Maccabees, was never about control.  The Maccabees did not fight to conquer land or property.

They stood alone in the face of the strongest empire in the world and fought for one and only one reason – for the right to stay who they were, to remain the sons of their parents and the grandchildren of their grandparents.  They fought to be part of the Jewish chain of generations that reached up to them and whose existence was now wholly in their hands.

That’s what they fought for and that’s the war they won.  How big was their victory?  I challenge you to find one child in Greece who speaks, reads and writes ancient Greek.  Or to go to Rome to find one person who still worships Roman gods.  But here, at the Western Wall, and everywhere you find Jews in the world, we speak the language of our ancestors.  We read and write Hebrew.

We continue our ancient tradition and it gives us the strength to join together in our shared future.

There are those who explain the name Maccabees as standing for the Hebrew words “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?”  The Maccabees offered a contrast to the popular Greek gods, a different faith and a proud and independent Jewish identity.

This identity was preserved and passed from father to son and from mother to daughter throughout the generations until today.

During these days of Hanukkah, we are grateful to the Maccabees, who faced a tremendous culture and persevered.  Thanks to them, we can all see ourselves as those for whom that same miracle happened.  This is our generation’s time to preserve the miracle of the rebellion, to preserve Jewish identity and to keep the light of the Jewish nation burning for generations to come.



Israel Open To Joint Missile Defense With Gulf States

The head of Israel’s missile program in the Defense Ministry said Tuesday (15th) that he is open to cooperation on missile defense with Gulf Arab countries that would benefit both sides.

“From an engineering point of view, of course there is a lot of advantage.  That information can be shared, like sensors that can be developed in both countries because we have the same enemies,” said Moshe Patel, the head of the Missile Defense Organization that is part of the Defense Ministry.

Although Patel said the United States would have to first approve if any cooperation involved systems that include US proprietary technology, Gulf countries have previously talked to Israel about obtaining missile defense systems.

In October, sources told Israel’s Globes business newspaper that several Gulf states were interested in buying electronic missile defense systems from Israel, as well as actual military hardware to defend oil installations against missile attack.  Those contacts came following several attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen and missile attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf.

Israel’s military technology is famous for its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, which has a proven success record in shooting down incoming rockets.  The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two countries repeatedly threatened by Iran, are the prime customers, but there is most likely interest from Saudi Arabia as well.

A suspected Iranian missile attack on Saudi Arabian oil installations in September 2019 knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production capacity for several days, Globes reported, adding that repeated attacks on oil facilities “played no small part in pushing the Gulf states towards rapprochement with Israel and in their desire for an official alliance against the common enemy Iran.”

“Since we have the same enemies, maybe we are going to have some mutual interests.  I think that there is a potential to enlarge our defense partnership in the future,” Patel told Defense News last month regarding cooperation with the Arab countries.



Next Gaza Conflict Will See IDF Deal Terror Groups Crushing Blow

Israel’s defense establishment does not project an armed conflict with the Gaza Strip-based terrorist groups in the near future, but the Israeli military is gearing up for a possible flare-up that could potentially spiral out of control and plans to deal a crushing blow to Hamas in case war does erupt.

According to a report on Maariv, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has set a goal for the fighting forces to eliminate 300 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists per day of fighting, with the aim of severely disrupting enemy operations, thereby significantly decreasing the duration of combat.

The IDF has recently begun drilling various war scenarios concerning the Gaza Strip, under these objectives.

According to the report, the extreme-case-scenario options of seizing control of the enclave and toppling Hamas rule are off the table, the IDF is working under the assumption that it could achieve a clear victory against the Islamist organization.

In recent days, there have been reports of a breakthrough in negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a potential prisoner swap.  But Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Tuesday (15th) that Hamas has rejected Israel’s offer to release hundreds of security prisoners in exchange for two Israeli captives and a pair of fallen IDF soldiers held in Gaza.

The terrorist group told intermediary Egypt the proposal fell short of its demands and that it is ready to continue talks.



Report: Sudan Revokes Citizenship Of Former Hamas Leader Khaled Mashaal

Sudan has revoked the citizenship of former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and some 3,000 other foreign nationals, Arab media sources reported on Wednesday (16th).

The move comes after the United States formally removed Sudan from a blacklist of state-sponsors of terrorism on Monday (14th), less than two months after the African country reportedly agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

The Sudanese transitional authorities, in place since mid-2019 after a revolution that ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir from power, welcomed this decision which should end nearly three decades of isolation, and raise hopes of better economic conditions.

On October 23, US President Donald Trump announced his decision to remove Sudan from the list of states supporting terrorism after Khartoum reportedly agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

The United States imposed the sanctions in 1993 after accusing Omar al-Bashir of having relations with “terrorist organizations,” in particular the Al Qaeda network, whose leader Osama bin Laden sought refuge.

Mashaal, 64, stepped down as Hamas chief in 2017, and has been living in exile over three decades in numerous Arab states including Jordan and Syria for fear of Israeli assassination.

In late 2019 it was reported that he was mulling a political comeback.  The bid was said to be supported by Qatar, where he resides, and Turkey, which offers top Hamas officials a safe haven in Istanbul.



Rabbis, Imams Release Doves In Dubai

DUBAI–The newfound peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates was celebrated on Wednesday (16th) with a ceremony in which white doves were released heavenward by three rabbis and two imams.

The ceremony took place at the Isra Dubai Business Forum, a conference at the Marriott Marquis Dubai Hotel organized by businessman Haim Weizman.  Dozens of businessmen, rabbis and public figures from Israel, UAE, France, Pakistan and other countries came to the conference, which was sponsored by Weizman and the business of his sons, Weizman Properties.

“This peace here is real,” Weizman said.  “The peace deals with Egypt and Jordan are just peace between politicians.  There is barely any business with them.  Here we do business with people across the Arab world – all of the ‘cream of the crop’ of the Arab world is here.”

Weizman lauded the cooperation between Arabs and Israelis in Dubai.  When he sold many apartments in a building owned by a Syrian developer, the developer gave him a room in the building for a synagogue and permitted a kosher restaurant and Shabbat elevator to be added.

“A Syrian contributed a synagogue in Dubai to Israelis – that is something that has never happened before in the world,” Weizman said.

“Hanukkah is a time of miracles and strength for the Jewish people,” Weizman said.  “On Hanukkah last year, no one could have imagined that we would be lighting candles this year in Dubai with new friends from the UAE.  We are building friendships and close business ties that will open a variety of different opportunities for investors from Israel and other countries.”



Long Island Jewish Day School’s Website Hacked With Anti-Semitic Messages, Nazi Imagery

Parents and students at a Jewish school in Long Island, New York, were left deeply shaken on Monday (14th) after trackers using the name “K-ke Slayer” defaced the institution’s website with Nazi imagery and anti-Semitism invective.

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon (14th), visitors to the website of the Great Neck North Shore Hebrew Academy High School were bombarded with “Nazi songs, imagery and messages,” according to the online watchdog, which monitored and recorded the hack in real time.

The watchdog reported that the hackers had also “leaked students’ and teachers’ addresses and credit card information.”

More Nazi imagery was also reported on the “About Us” page, which was hacked to read “The K-ke race.”

“North Shore Hebrew Death Camp,” another page read.

A different page included details of a “field trip” to Auschwitz, which listed the application deadline as “January 1945” and said students would have to “walk into an SS office and declare themselves as Jews.”

By late Monday afternoon (14th), the school’s site read: “Under construction.  Please check back soon.”

Headmaster Daniel Vitow told the New York Post, “We are aware of the situation and are actively working with law enforcement.”