News Digest — 2/25/21

For First Time, Gulf Jews Will Celebrate Purim Together

For the first time, the Jewish communities of the Gulf countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – will celebrate Purim together.

The event will include a keynote speech by Dr. Sh. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Co-existence in Bahrain.

Thoufeek Zakriya, the Arabic-Hebrew calligrapher living in Dubai, will take part in the event, creating a piece of Purim artwork live.

The Purim Megillah (Scroll of Esther) will be read by the Rabbi of AGJC, Rabbi Elie Abadie.

“When we began creating the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, our vision was to create a people-to-people network of Jews in the Gulf who are developing Jewish life in the region.  With this in mind, it was important for us to kick off with an event right away and what better time to do so than for Purim,” said Ambassador Houda Nonoo.

“As we prepared for this event, it was very important to us that we incorporate elements and interfaith and co-existence which is what makes the Gulf so unique and special.”

“On behalf of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, we would like to wish you all a chag sameach (happy holiday) and we look forward to celebrating Purim with you,” a statement read.

The event will be live-streamed  in Israel Thursday evening (25th).  Those who would like to join can register on the AGJC website.

Purim begins Thursday evening at sundown (25th). 



Diplomatic Doses: Israel Shares Vaccines With Allies

After jumping out to a quick start in its vaccination campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday (23rd) that Israel has decided to share a small surplus of its coronavirus vaccines with several friendly countries.

Both Russia and China have developed their own vaccines and used their supplies to wield global influence.

While Israel does not produce vaccines, Netanyahu has moved aggressively to secure enough vaccines for Israel’s 9,3 million people in deals with Pfizer and Moderna.  In just under two months, Israel has vaccinated roughly half its population, one of the highest per capita rates in the world, and is aiming to have virtually all of its adults fully vaccinated by the end of next month.

“Our supply is beyond what is needed by the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters.  “We have more than enough to help where we can.  It is mostly symbolic.”

Netanyahu’s office said some vaccines would be shared with the Palestinians.  But it refused to identify any of the countries it planned to assist.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said the countries included Guatemala, Honduras, the Czech Republic and Hungary – nations that have all provided strong diplomatic backing to Netanyahu’s government in recent years.

The report said the vaccines were purchased from Moderna.

In Prague, the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, said Israel was donating 5,000 doses to his country after a request for assistance.  He said the Moderna vaccines would be given to 2,500 soldiers assisting in Czech hospitals.

In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernandez tweeted that about 5,000 doses would be coming from Israel.  He said they would be reserved for health workers.

An Israeli official confirmed deals with Guatemala, Honduras and the Czech republic.  He said the vaccines were in response to requests from friendly countries, and not in exchange for diplomatic favors.

Israel this month delivered 2,000 doses of Moderna vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for frontline medical workers in Judea and Samaria, and has pledged to share a total of 5,000 doses.



Gantz: IDF Prepared To Take Action To Stop Iran From Obtaining Nukes

The IDF is preparing in case it needs to take action against Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers on Wednesday (24th).

“The IDF is currently working to build up our forces and is preparing itself for any scenario, including one in which we would need to take operational action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said.

Gantz emphasized the need for Israel to work with its allies to counter the Iranian threat.

“Iran is a global and regional problem before anything else.  Although, it certainly also threatens Israel,” he said.  “That’s why we need to work together with our allies, with the US, with Europe, and with our new partners in the Middle East.”

Any agreement between world powers and Iran should be “one that ends its nuclear project, enables long-term effective oversight and inspection, and puts a stop to Iranian entrenchment in Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” Gantz stated.

Even with an agreement, the knowledge and experience Iran has accumulated in violating the 2015 nuclear deal cannot be reversed, he pointed out.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi warned that “the Iranian policy is a declaration of intent to continue developing hidden nuclear capabilities.”

Both Gantz’s and Ashkenazi’s remarks came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report on Iran, which said the country has produced 17.6 kg. of uranium enriched up to 20%, as it said it would earlier this year.

The report also said that uranium particles were found in at least four undeclared sites, and Tehran did not report where the nuclear materials are currently located.

“Israel sees this as a threat that cannot be left without a response,” Ashkenazi said.  “We will never allow Iran the capability to attain a nuclear weapon.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iran’s violations of additional inspection arrangements in the Iran deal are “extreme steps that cross all red lines that the international community set and conclusively empty the nuclear deal of any meaning.”

The spokesman called on the world to wake up and react determinedly and practically.

“Without supervision, Iran will continue to act in the dark to promote its nuclear plan,” the Foreign Ministry warned.   



“We Are Hitler’s People:” Violent Hatred Of Jews Exposed Among Students At Elite German University

Students at an elite German university fraternity regularly greeted each other with the words “Heil Hitler” and used the word “Jew” as a pejorative, according to one of its former members in explosive revelations published this week by the German news magazine Spiegel.

The fraternity in question – Normannia – has been under German police investigation following an outrage at a party held by its Heidelberg University members at their mansion on Aug. 29, 2020.  A 25-year-old student in attendance who spoke about his Jewish ancestry was berated with anti-Semitic abuse, whipped with belts and pelted with metal coins by several assailants.

On Monday (22nd), the Heidelberg public prosecutor announced that the investigation into the attack would now be concluded by the middle of March – another delay following a promise at the beginning of this year that a conclusion would be reached by the middle of February.

News of the latest delay coincided with the Spiegel exposure of the anti-Semitism and glorification of Germany’s Nazi past that prevailes at the Normannia fraternity.

One of its former members, Karl Stockmann, told the magazine that he had spent two years with the fraternity before quitting in August, 2019, spending long periods living at its Heidelberg mansion.  He confessed that he had been “repulsed” by the behavior of fellow members of the fraternity, citing as an example their habit of drinking heavily while listening to recordings of Hitler’s speeches.

“Almost every day, somebody greeted me with ‘Heil Hitler,’” Stockmann revealed.

Stockmann stressed that the attack on the Jewish student at the fraternity party could not be regarded as an isolated incident.

“When I was at Normannia, the word ‘Jew’ was considered a common swear word in the mansion,” he said.

Another commonly heard slogan was “We are Hitler’s people, then and now,” Stockmann said.

Stockman said that the fraternity was a component of the right-wing nationalist Deutsche Burschenschaft (DB),  founded in the 19th century.  The DB’s slogan is “Honor, Freedom, Fatherland.”

Meanwhile, nine men and one woman are currently being investigated for their roles in the attack at the fraternity party.

Another witness to the assault on the Jewish student is due to give evidence to investigators in Heidelberg this week – the official reason for the further delay in bringing the case to a conclusion.



Fisherman’s Eye Saved After Being Caught By His Own Hook

Israeli surgeons at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center near Tiberias saved the eye of a man who accidentally speared himself with his own fishhook Sunday (21st) when he was trawling at the Hula Lake.

The 32-year-old fisherman was rushed to the hospital with the sharp metal piece embedded in his right eye.  Emergency room doctors managed to fix the hook in place so that it wouldn’t move and do even more damage, and then he was rushed into surgery.

Director of the Retina Service Dr. Nakhoul Nakhoul and corneal specialist Dr. Yomna Abu-Aita performed the delicate operation to remove the hook.

“At the first stage we managed to cut off the part of the hook that protruded from the eye,” Nakhoul explained.  “Only after that we released the tissue around the hook in an extremely controlled way and then took quick action to save the eye… We had to repair the eyeball very creatively and close the wound.”

By Tuesday (23rd) the grateful resident of Kiryat Shmona was already feeling well and could see at least light and shadows out of the damaged eye.

“Thanks to the quick operation, we managed to save the eye and part of his vision,” Nakhoul said.  “He still has a long rehabilitation process ahead of him, but we’re optimistic both in terms of the aesthetic appearance of the eye and face, and regarding the visual function of the injured eye.”

Fish hook accidents might seem rare to some, but there have been other cases in the past.  In 2018, two fishermen were brought to the Terem emergency care facility in the seaside city of Ashkelon because they had been impaled by hooks.  In the more serious case, a 37-year-old got one stuck in his neck, perilously close to a main artery.  In the second case, a man hooked himself in his hand.

In both instances, the hooks were extracted successfully with the aid of a local anesthetic.