News Digest — 12/28/22

Netanyahu Taps Amir Ohana As Speaker Of The Knesset

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is expected Wednesday (28th) to bring for the Likud faction’s approval, his appointment of Amir Ohana as Speaker of the Knesset.

Earlier Tuesday (27th), Interim Speaker of the Knesset MK Yariv Levin, resigned after serving in the position for only two weeks and ahead of the expected swearing in of the government on Thursday (29th) in which he will be appointed Justice Minister.

Levin’s resignation will take effect within 48 hours and his replacement, as mentioned, will be Amit Ohana.

This appointment will allow Netanyahu to appoint Israel Katz to the position of Foreign Minister, apparently as part of a rotation, allowing him to deal with some of the criticism he has faced within the Likud party for giving too many ministerial positions to other parties rather than members of his own party.

Wednesday (28th), Netanyahu will invite most of the Likud MKs to personal meetings where he will inform them what position they will receive in the government or in the Knesset.



CAPTURED: Jerusalem Terrorist Arrested, Another Deadly Attack Thwarted

The perpetrator behind the deadly twin bombing attacks at Jerusalem bus stops in late November has been arrested by the Shin Bet, the security agency said in a statement on Tuesday (27th).

The Shin Bet named 26-year-old Islam Faroukh, a native of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood Kfar Aqab who holds Israeli residency rights, as the terrorist responsible for the bombings, which killed a 17-year-old dual Israeli-Canadian citizen and a 50-year-old father of six who had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.

An additional 18 people were wounded in the attacks.

Faroukh had reportedly pledged allegiance to the ISIS terror group and downloaded material affiliated with radical Islamic ideology, and is believed to have acted alone.  A recent graduate in engineering from an Israeli institution, Faroukh created the bombs based on instructions he found online.

The Shin Bet said it had identified Faroukh by fingerprints he had left behind, which were found on the explosive devices detonated near the entrance to Jerusalem and at the Ramot Junction.

An additional bomb in Jerusalem planted by Faroukh, which he planned to activate once security forces arrived at the scene of the bombing, failed to detonate due to a technical malfunction.

He reportedly planned out the attacks for weeks in advance, plotting a route which saw him reach the scenes of the bombings on an electric scooter at 6 a.m.

Faroukh then fled to a cave in the Judean desert, where he had prepared a change of clothes and stored food, water, and weapons.

The Shin Bet and Israeli police discovered additional explosive material in the cave, suggesting that Faroukh intended to carry out additional attacks.

During the Shin Bet interrogation, Faroukh said “Islamic ideology” was his motivation for the attack.  He did not express remorse, the security agency said.

“I commend the ISA, the Israel Police, the IDF and all the security forces for their investigation that led to the apprehending of this terrorist,” said outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid in a statement.

“We will continue to fight terrorism and deal with terrorists and those who dispatch them to the fullest extent of the law.  The State of Israel will do its utmost to deliver security for its citizens.”

“I send condolences, on my behalf and on behalf of the Government of Israel, to the families of young Aryeh Shechopek and Tadasa Tashume, who were murdered in the double bombing, may their memories be a blessing.”

While the Shin bet was tracking down Faroukh, they learned that a close friend of his was plotting a major suicide bombing attack at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station,

Hamad Othman, 23, was arrested several weeks ago and charged on Tuesday (27th) for that plot.

Two American citizens living in Israel, including an international law professor, who shared radical Islamic material with Othman were also arrested and interrogated during the course of the investigation.

Both have been deported to the U.S., the Shin Bet said in a statement.



Holocaust Survivor, Among Last Prisoners Of Auschwitz, Passes Away

Mordechai Papirblat, prisoner number 46794, one of the last prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, died on Tuesday (27th) at the age of 99 – he was laid to rest the same day. 

Papirblat was born in 1923 in the city of Radom, Poland, to a Jewish tradition-keeping family.  When he was 10-years-old, he immigrated with his family to the capital city of Warsaw, where he attended school until being forced into the city ghetto at the outbreak of World War II.

Together with his brother and sister, he managed to escape from the ghetto and reached the village where their family members lived, but their parents stayed behind and died.

Papirblat was captured on July 10, 1942, and taken to the Auschwitz labor camp where he received his prisoner number.

As a prisoner, Papirblat worked in hard labor for a period of 900 days until he managed to escape from the death march at the end of January 1945.  He was one of the few who managed to survive “the very long period’ in the camps.

“I survived several selections,” Papirblat said in his testimony, “I worked in very difficult jobs.  In January 1945, the German guards took all the camp prisoners on a death march towards Germany.  About a week later, on the verge of exhaustion, I managed to escape.”

“I wandered for two weeks on the way back to Poland, to my hometown Radom.  After not finding any of my family members alive there, I joined a group of war survivors and by illegal immigration, we arrived in Palestine, in January 1946,” he said.

In the country, he was hired as an apprentice at a printing house.  When the War of Liberation broke out in 1948, as a member of the Haganah, he was recruited to the Givati Brigade and was wounded in one of the operations in the south of the country.

After a long recovery, he began working at Yediot Aharonot and over time reached the senior rank of a permanent position on the front page of the newspaper, a position that was common in the country at the time.

In 1954 he married Sima and they had two sons, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  In recent years, Papirblat told mainly teenagers about his survival journey, which he also recorded in the book “The Carp Smuggler.”  His book was later also translated into German and distributed for sale in Germany.



Israel To Excavate City Of David’s Historical Pool Of Siloam

The City of David Foundation will begin excavating the Pool of Siloam and open it to the public, the Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday (27th).

The Pool of Siloam is an archaeological and historical site within the City of David which was part of the Jerusalem water system during the reign of King Hezekiah and was constructed some 2,700 years ago.

The pool served as a reservoir for the Gihon Spring from which water was diverted and stored in underground tunnels.  Some archaeologists believe that it was used as a ritual bath (mikveh) for pilgrims to purify themselves before continuing their journey toward entering the Temple area.

In 1880, an inscription written in ancient Hebrew recording how the water was diverted to the pool from the Gihon Spring was discovered at the site and is currently located at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.  The inscription dated back to the times of Hezekiah.

Over time, the Pool of Siloam became a target for research and excavations by archaeologists around the world, but the IAA’s excavation aims to fully expose the pool for the first time since it was built.



Israel Completes Project To Pump Desalinated Water Into Lake Kinneret

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, and the Water Authority, on Monday (26th) launched the largest water infrastructure project of its kind in northern Israel, which includes a new water transmission system that will pump desalinated seawater from the Mediterranean Sea to lake Kinneret.

The NIS 1 billion project, one of the most significant infrastructure projects in recent years, will maintain the level of Lake Kinneret even in years when the natural rainfall is lower than average.

The concept of pumping desalinated seawater northwards, in the opposite direction of the national water carrier’s route, came about following a series of drought years (2013-2018) in which the amount of precipitation was lower than average, and the level of Lake Kinneret declined steadily until it reached the “black line,” the threshold from which water was no longer pumped.

Mekorot, together with the Water Authority, led a project that would meet several challenges – the first being the ability to maintain the level of the Kinneret, a natural water source that also serves as a national water reservoir for emergencies, as well as a source of water supply throughout the year for various economic needs, including agriculture.

The second challenge was geopolitical: Even during years of drought, Israel continued to supply water from the Kinneret to the Kingdom of Jordan, under the peace agreements signed between the two countries.  Recently, the water supply to the Kingdom of Jordan doubled to 100 million cubic meters per year, highlighting the need to maintain the level of Lake Kinneret in routine and emergency situations.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Metorot, Yitzhak Aharonovich said, “This is an historic project that will be recorded in the annals of the Israeli water sector.”  Mekorot CEO Amit Lang added that “Mekorot together with Mekorot Shacham, have once again proven that they can initiate, plan and execute innovative and groundbreaking solutions, and there is no task that cannot be performed.”