News Digest — 12/18/19

Ambassador Ron Dermer: ‘Jews Are Both A People And A Faith’ – Omri Nahmias

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer thanked US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order to fight anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“Last week, President Trump used his executive authority to confront Jew-hatred on college campuses, which have become ground zero in the shameful attempt to defame and demonize the Jewish State and where many Jews feel unsafe to express their identity,” Dermer said on Tuesday (17th) during a candle lighting event ahead of Hanukkah at the Embassy of Israel in Washington.

“I found it interesting that when President Trump made that decision, a debate broke out on social media about whether Jews are a people.  Anti-Zionist Jews have denied that Jews are a people out of a genuine fear that non-Jews would persecute them for being part of a separate nation,” he continued.

“Anti-Zionist non-Jews have denied that Jews are a people in order to deny the Jewish people the right of self-determination that all peoples enjoy.  Either way, regardless of what one’s motives are and what nonsense goes on in the Twitter-sphere, the fact is that the Jews are both people and a faith,” he remarked.

Community leaders, members of Congress and administration officials both from the US and Israel attended the event, in which Dermer invited nine guests to light the menorah.

The ambassador explained to the audience that the menorah was made of Kassam rockets that were fired from Gaza to Israel.

“Tonight, we will light a menorah made of material from Kassam rockets, showing once again how Israel transforms death into life and darkness into light,” he concluded.

Hanukkah begins Sunday (22nd) at sundown and concludes on Monday evening (30th).



Immigration To Israel Surging, Asylum Seekers No Longer Arriving – State Report

Israel is on pace for a 20 percent surge in immigration in 2019 over the year before, according to new figures released on Monday (16th) by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In 2019, some 27,300 people immigrated to the Jewish state between January and the end of October, the CBS report said.  The state report said the figure was 20% more than the same period last year.

Over 28,000 new immigrants moved to Israel in 2018, according to the report.  The 27,300 figure would put Israel on pace to break 32,000 new immigrants for the entirety of 2019, though figures are expected to slow for the winter months.

The bureau reported that more than 37,000 people in total moved to Israel in 2018, including 3,500 “returning citizens.”

The largest chunk of migrants in 2018, about 10,500 people, came from Russia while 6,400  hailed from Ukraine, 2,400 from the United States and 2,400 from France.

The official report also spotlighted the sharp drop-off in asylum seekers from Africa entering the country, with not a single person in the category in 2018.

According to the report, more than 3 million people have immigrated to Israel since the establishment of the state, with around 44 percent arriving after 1990.  



F-35 Can Identify And Destroy Cruise Missiles – Lockheed Martin

Amid concerns that Iran might launch an attack against the State of Israel with cruise missiles, a senior Lockheed Martin representative revealed that the Stealth F-35 Adir fighter jet can be used to detect and intercept such threats.

Gary North, Vice President for Customer Requirements, Aeronautics for Lockheed Martin, told reporters on Tuesday (17th) that the AN/APG-81 AESA radar allows the advanced jet to be capable of identifying and intercepting airborne threats flying at a low altitude and at high speeds like cruise missiles.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the jets have an extremely low radar signature allowing the jet to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like the S-300 and S-400 missile defense systems which have been deployed in countries such as Syria.

“Against a high-threat environment, the F-35 is absolutely the weapon of choice.  Stealth allows the pilots to go wherever they have to go,” North said, adding that the pilots “are confident in carrying out their missions.”

According to North, the jet also has the most advanced electronic warfare capabilities.

The Israeli Air Force currently has 20 F-35 Adir aircraft and is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024.  

North said that the IAF, which is set to decide on a third squadron of F-35s or advanced F-15is, is examining the improvements made to the capabilities of the aircraft such as improved weapons-carrying-capacity and has sent a request for information with specific requirements.

Israel’s Air Force is leaning towards a mix of both the F-35s and F-15is, allowing the IAF to carry out a number of complex operations, including any confrontation with Iran.



Panel Approves Sixth Desalination Plant To Serve Western Galilee

Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee on Monday (16th) green-lighted construction of a desalination plant in the Western Galilee – Israel’s sixth.

The new plant will be erected in two stages on agricultural land near kibbutz Shavei Zion.  Each stage will provide 100 million cubic meters of water annually.

The Western Galilee has suffered from years of low rainfall and has been unable to receive desalinated water from plants further south because of the difficulties and cost of building infrastructure to move the water over the Carmel Ridge.

To meet the challenges of reduced rainfall and multi-year droughts as the climate warms, Israel has built five desalination plants – in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Palmachim, Sorek and Hadera.  These supply around 80 percent of the country’s drinking water. Mekorot, the national water company receives the water from the plants and channels it into the national water carrier.

A contract for a seventh plant, alongside the Sorek facility, is expected to be awarded soon.



Trader Joe Boycott Fizzles As Customers Buy Out Chain’s Israeli Cheese

Trader Joe’s Israeli-made “Pastures of Eden” feta cheese has been on the BDS list for some time.  BDS has called upon its supporters to boycott the cheese because it’s owned by the Tnuva group – the largest dairy producer in Israel.

A Muslim lecturer at UC Berkeley has taken heed to the call by tagging renowned anti-Semite Linda Sarsour in his Facebook post which petitions for locals to stop shopping at Trader Joe’s.

“Trader Joe’s is having Israeli feta cheese on its shelves!  One more reason to stop shopping at the store,” Hatem Bazian wrote last week.

Joe Zevuloni, who heads the “Israeli Army of Publicity” organization, took to Facebook on Tuesday (17th) to defend the Jewish State’s cheese.

“This Israel-hating anti-Semitic professor from UC Berkeley tagged Linda Sarsour in his post and called on everyone to boycott Trader Joe’s supermarket chain because it sells Israeli feta cheese,” Zevuloni wrote in one post.

“Go to his page and don’t forget to tell him thank-you for the fact that in his merit, we’ll all buy specifically from a brand that sells Israeli products.  Tag the Population and Immigration Authority in your comments and help me show him Israel just in Google.  Then ‘like’ this post and ‘share,’ if you’re with me.”  

“Am Israel Hai (the nation of Israel lives on)!” he wrote in another post.

The call to counter the boycott worked, according to Israeli news media.  Pro-Israel customers cleared Israel feta cheese off the shelves and then moved on to buy other Israeli products.

Zevuloni also shared a video of a store manager at a Florida-based Trader Joe’s happily restocking the delicious Israeli-made feta cheese.



Six And A Half Foot Tall Menorah Lands At The Western Wall Ahead Of Hanukkah

The preparations for Hanukkah at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem kicked off on Tuesday (17th) with the installation of the traditional massive menorah which will be lit every night during the holiday.  It is made of bronze, reaches over six-feet high and about six-feet wide, according to a statement by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a governmental body established in 1988 to preserve and run the Wall and its tunnels.  The artifact weighs about one ton and took seven months to make.

A public lighting with distinguished guests will take place every night from December 22 to December 30.

The ceremonies will be live-streamed through the Kotel webeams at www, or the Western Wall Heritage Foundation Facebook page.

Among those who lit the menorah last year were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Hanukkah begins at sundown Sunday evening (22nd) and is celebrated through sundown Monday (30th).