News Digest — 12/22/20

Israel To Airlift Citizens Home Before Drastic Quarantine Rules Go Into Effect

Israel is organizing a mass airlift to return its citizens home before new, draconian quarantine rules go into effect that would force all returning Israelis to enter special hotels for a period of 14 days.  The new rules go into effect on Wednesday (23rd).

The airline, or “air railroad,” as newspaper Maariv has termed it, will be at the service of Israelis who wish to beat the deadline and pass the quarantine time in the more comfortable setting of their own homes.

It has been reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted the new rules to go into effect immediately but legal reasons required a 48-hour period to pass.  The government did move quickly to ban foreign nationals from the UK, Denmark and South Africa from entering the country.  That went into effect on Sunday (20th).

Israir, Arkia, El Al and Flydubai will arrange dozens of flights for returning Israelis.

Maariv reports that Oz Berlowitz, deputy CEO of Arkia, said: “Arkia is preparing for an airtrain from Dubai in light of the high demand from passengers to return before being instructed to isolate in hotels.  The company is preparing for flights around the clock.”

The paper reports that a group of tourists at Ben-Gurion International Airport who were on their way to Dubai on Monday (21st) cancelled their flights, turned around and went home.

The new regulation is in response to a mutated coronavirus first reported in the UK.  The novel strain has 17 mutations, most connected to the spike protein that allows the virus to infect humans.  The virus is said to be much more contagious than the original.

It is not known if the new variant is more deadly or less susceptible to the new vaccines that have just been distributed,  For that reason, countries have moved swiftly to contain the virus in the UK until more is known.  Germany, France, Canada and Denmark have all banned entry to travelers from Britain.



Coronavirus Has Now Reached 7 Continents

Antarctica is no longer the only continent without the novel coronavirus after up to 36 cases were reported at the Chilean Army base on the icy continent on Monday (21st).

“Thanks to the timely preventive action,” the Chilean Army said in a statement, according to the Spanish-language news outlet, 24 Horas, “it was possible to relieve the personnel.  The suspected army crew was isolated and given a PCR test, which turned out to be positive for Covid-19.”

All 36 patients have been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Southern Chile.  Some of the patients experienced symptoms before testing positive according to the Associated Press.  New personnel who were quarantined and tested have replaced the infected crew.

The Chilean Navy also reported on Monday (21st) that three crew members on a ship that provided logistical support to the base had tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a mission, according to Newsweek.

Usually between 1,000 and 5,000 individuals, mostly scientists and support staff, are present in Antarctica.  Some countries lowered the number of individuals they sent to the continent this year due to the virus.



Terror Attack At Lion’s Gate In Jerusalem

An Arab armed with a submachine gun opened fire at Israeli police officers near the Lion’s Gate where the Via Dolorosa begins in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday evening (21st).

The Arab was neutralized after Israeli regular police and border police gave chase and shot him.  One Israeli officer was injured when she fell to evade the terrorist’s gunfire.  She was treated at the scene by paramedics.

Magen David Adom reported it received news of an incident around 7 p.m.

The terrorist used a Carlo-style submachine gun, a weapon common to Arab terrorists in Judea and Samaria and manufactured illegally.

Channel 20 reported that according to the initial investigation, the terrorist fired his weapon at a security post manned by police, resulting in a foot-chase interspersed with gunfire ending in the terrorist being neutralized by Border Police.



More Than 250 Immigrants From ‘Lost Tribe’ Arrive In Israel

Immigrants from the Jewish “lost tribe” of Bnei Menashe landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport this week to build a new life in Israel.

Hailing from Northeast India, the Bnei Menashe community is said to be descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel – specifically, the tribe of Manasseh – that scattered across the globe after being exiled at the end of the First Temple period in the eighth century BCE.

The 252 new immigrants, who made their way to Israel this week with the help of the Ministry of Aliyah and integration and the Shavei Israel organization, joined the 3,000-strong Bnei Menashe community already in the country.  Some 7,000 more community members await immigration in India.

This week’s immigrants include 50 families, and 24 single individuals, four infants under the age of two; 39 children up to age 12, and 19 seniors 62 or older.  They underwent a quick absorption process at the airport and were sent to quarantine according to government Covid-19 regulations.

“As we celebrated the festival of Hanukkah and the miracle of the flask of oil, the aliyah of the lost tribe of Bnei Menashe after thousands of years of exile is itself a modern-day Hanukkah miracle,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.

“The story of this unique community that maintained its connection to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel down through the generations is powerful and inspiring, and I fervently hope that we will soon see all the remaining Bnei Menashe make aliyah as well,” he added.



Hamas Slams PA For ‘Politically Motivated’ Arrests

Efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift suffered yet another blow as Hamas said on Monday (21st) that the Palestinian Authority was continuing its crackdown on supporters of the Islamist movement in the West Bank.

Hamas accused the PA security forces of launching “politically motivated” arrests and pointed out that the move coincided with the Palestinian leadership’s decision to resume security and civil coordination with Israel.

In July, Hamas and Fatah announced that they had reached an agreement to work together to topple Israel and US “conspiracies” against the Palestinians.  The announcement came as PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas entrusted senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub with the task of negotiating with Hamas to end the rivalry between the two sides and reach an agreement on holding long overdue presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Fatah-Hamas talks ended after the PA announced its decision last month to resume security and civil relations with Israel.  Hamas officials said that the decision “sabotaged” efforts to end the dispute with Fatah.

“The campaign comes as a continuation of the policy of suppressing freedoms and chasing resistance fighters and activists practiced by the PA security services against our people in the West Bank,” Hamas said in a statement regarding the recent arrests.   

It warned that the arrests would “undermine national resistance against US President Donald Trump’s plan for Mideast peace, the Deal of the Century and the annexation decisions.”

The “annexation” refers to Israel’s temporarily shelved plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to portions of the West Bank.

Hamas called on the PA security forces to “stop these repressive practices and policies, and for the immediate release of all political detainees.”

It further called on the PA to end its “dangerous” security coordination, renounce all agreements with Israel and work toward achieving Palestinian “national unity.”

In the past few weeks, PA security forces arrested eight Palestinians on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas, Palestinian sources said.



Jewish Ritual Bath From Jesus’ Time Discovered At Gethsemane In Jerusalem

A Jewish ritual bath dating back 2000 years was uncovered near the Garden of Gethsemane, near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday (21st).

The bath was found by archaeologists working with the IAA and scholars from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a Franciscan research institute near the modern Church of Gethsemane.

According to the IAA, this is the first archaeological evidence of its kind to exist in Gethsemane during the Second Temple period.

Remains of an unknown church, which was built at the end of the Byzantine period and continued to be used during the Umayyad period were also found in the excavation.

Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton said, “Gethsemane is one of the most important holy places, remembering the sincere prayer of Jesus and His betrayal.  Every year, millions of pilgrims visit and pray here.  Recent excavations at this site have confirmed the ancient Christian tradition of this place.”

He added: “This is very important for us and for the spiritual significance connected with these archeological findings.  I am very pleased to welcome this fruitful collaboration between the Custody of the Holy Land, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum and the Israel Antiquities Authority, and I hope we can join our scientific competences for further future collaborations.”