News Digest — 12/8/20

Coronavirus Cabinet Decides Hanukkah Night Lockdown Starting Wednesday

Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet decided Monday night (7th) to institute a nighttime lockdown over the Hanukkah holiday in an effort to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus over the eight-day festival.

According to the decision, all trading businesses will be closed during the evenings and nights.  However, the hotels in the Green Islands in Eilat and the Dead Sea will be able to continue operating as usual.

At the same time, it was confirmed after a successful pilot program, that the malls will be open to the general public.

The decision to institute a nightly lockdown over Hanukkah was made as the first part of a three-part plan by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat.  If the morbidity levels do not decrease by December 20 and the daily number of new infections is 3,500 or more, the second phase will begin, which will include the closure of all trade and all workplaces where public reception takes place.

If by January 2 there is no decrease in morbidity and the daily number of infections reaches at least 4,500, a full lockdown will be imposed on the entire population.

Coronavirus Czar Prof. Nachman Ash opposed the idea of a nightly lockdown and claimed that this step will have little effect.

Meanwhile, Hanukkah will begin at sundown Thursday, 10th, and will conclude on Friday night, 18th.



Menorah Engraving May Date To Era Of Maccabees, Archaeologist Says

A rare engraving of a menorah, the seven-branched lamp which stood in the Temple in Jerusalem, may date back to the Maccabean Revolt of the Hanukkah story, according to a paper by Dr. Cvir Raviv of Bar-Ilan University published recently in the archaeological journal, In the Highland’s Depth.

The menorah graffito, which is about 15.7 inches wide and 11.8 inches in height, was discovered in the 1980s during the Benjamin Regional Survey at a tomb on the outskirts of the village of Mukhmas, northeast of Jerusalem.

Due to the rare use of the Temple menorah as an artistic decoration during the Second Temple period until the Bar Kokhba revolt, and based on an examination of its features, Raviv believes the graffito to be related to the Temple priests.

Raviv suggests that a priestly settlement stood at the site during the Second Temple period and/or during the period between the two revolts against Rome (70-132 CE)

Due to the difficulty of accurately dating the menorah graffito and the lack of clear references to the presence of priests in Mukhmas in the days of the Second Temple, it is possible to attribute the decoration of the menorah to a family of priests who settled there after the destruction of the Temple until the Bar Kokhba revolt, Raviv said.

While Mukhmas is an Arab village, its existence as a Jewish village long before the Arab occupation is mentioned in ancient texts.

In the Mishnah, a written collection of Jewish law, in Menachot 8:1, the place is called Mikhmas.  It is said that the choicest flour for offerings in the Temple came from this area, a clue that priests may have resided there in ancient times.

Another source that may hint at the presence of priests in Mukhmas as early as the Hanukkah story is the description of Jonathan, the brother of Judah Maccabee settling in Mikhmas as described in I Maccabees 9:73.

“It is possible that Jonathan’s choice to settle in Mukhmas and establish his status in Judea, was related, among other things, to the fact that the locals were priests who formed a singular part of the social elite there during the Second Temple period,” Raviv said.



Iran Claims Satellite-Guided Technology In Nuclear Mastermind’s Assassination

Iran on Sunday (6th) alleged that “advanced satellite-controlled technological tools” were used in the November 27 assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the country’s military nuclear program.

The state-backed Tasnim news agency cited Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps spokesperson Ramezan Sharif as saying Israel, which Iran alleged is responsible for the hit, should “expect retaliation.”  He claimed that 2,800 “elites of regional Islamic nations” were murdered by Israel over the past 70 years.

Previous reports said the attack was carried out using a remote machine gun attached to a car about 150 yards from Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle. 

According to Tasnim, the entire operation was carried out remotely and without a human presence on the ground.

Separately, Israeli intelligence services, in the past, recruited an Iranian official close to the nuclear physicist and recorded a conversation in which he spoke of his efforts to produce “five warheads” on behalf of the Islamic Republic, Israel media reported Friday (4th).

Senior Arab intelligence officials told Israel Hayom that the fact that Iranian officials provide different and sometimes contradictory versions of the events concerning the assassination of such a high-profile nuclear scientist indicates the great embarrassment prevalent among the Islamic republic’s leadership over the incident.

“As time goes by, frustration grows in Tehran over the fact that they have no clue about who was involved in the assassination and how it was executed,” one official said.  “What is clear is that these were professional, highly skilled assassins.”

He further dismissed reports that Mujahedin-e-Khalq, an Iranian militant organization that recently made explicit threats against Fakhrizadeh, was involved, saying, “There is no chance that this organization has the ability to carry out such a professional operation.”



In First, 200 Israeli Companies Take Part In Major Tech Expo In Dubai

In yet another first in Israeli-Arab relations since the Abraham Accords were signed on September 15, some 200 Israeli companies are taking part in the GITEX Technology Week in Dubai – the third largest tech event in the world and the only one to be held live in 2020.

The majority of international events in the business world have been canceled or replaced with virtual symposiums over the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of GITEX Technology Week, two UAE ministers will meet the heads of the Israeli delegation, and several prominent figures from both countries will hold private meetings as well.

Another Israel-UAE conference is being held against the backdrop of GITEX Technology Week, Titled, “Beyond Business,” a symposium sponsored by the Israel Export Institute and Bank Hapoalim.  Some 400 Israeli businesspeople are taking part in the symposium, Globes reported.

The GITEX Expo drew over 70,000 people in 2019.  This year, participation was slashed by half over the coronavirus, but the conference remains one of the largest in the world, featuring hundreds of exhibitors from the Gulf, South America, Europe and Asia.

The Israeli pavilions are said to have garnered extensive interest, as many potential business partners and clients were exposed to the Israeli offerings for the first time.

Export Institute Chairman, Adiv Baruch said that the Abraham Accords had brought about swift economic breakthroughs: “This is a historic moment for us.  This is the first time an Israeli delegation is taking part in such an event in the UAE and the fact that 200 Israeli companies are participating gives us hope about what we can achieve together in the future.”

He further estimated that the business opportunities presenting themselves for Israeli companies during GITEX Technology Week could potentially translate into $1 billion in trade.



Ben-Gurion Letter Outlining His Vision For Israel Discovered After 69 Years

A previously unknown letter written by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion describing his vision for the nascent state was recently discovered, approximately 69 years after it was first sent.

The 1951 missive to a Swedish journalist was kept by the recipient’s granddaughter, who is the current Swedish Ambassador to Finland, Nicola Clase.

Clase shared the letter with Israeli Ambassador to Finland Hagit Ben-Yaakov at a meeting between the two.

In his letter, Ben Gurion wrote in Hebrew: “In establishing the State of Israel, the dream of generations of Jews for a national revival has been realized.”

“We are at the beginning of our journey, the state was established not only for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in the country before – but for all the masses of scattered Israelis, who need and aspire to an independent homeland…Most of all, humanity needs at this time peace, cooperation and friendship between peoples.  True friendship will thrive solely on the basis of mutual recognition.”

Clase’s grandfather was a journalist in his youth who worked for the Swedish magazine Varidshorisont,” said Ben-Yaakov.

“The magazine wrote a special issue on Israel at the time and sent a draft of it to David Ben-Gurion, then the prime minister of the young state of Israel.  Ben-Gurion wrote back to the magazine with a letter in which he presented in Hebrew, his vision.”

According to Nicola Clase, her grandfather framed the letter and hung it in his home.  After his death, she took the letter, which now accompanies her wherever she goes.

“I held the letter in my hand and began to translate Ben-Gurion’s words for her,” said Ben-Yaakov.  “When I finished reading, we were both teary-eyed from excitement.”