News Digest — 3/1/23

‘I Thought It Was A Prank:’ Israeli Hiker Discovers Inscription Of King Linked To Purim

A rare inscription bearing the name of the Persian king Darius the Great has been discovered in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed this week.

The discovery comes at a special time as Darius the Great and his son King Ahasuerus are both mentioned in the Book of Esther, read every year on the holiday of Purim, which is just around the corner.  Ahasuerus is widely considered the biblical Achashverosh, the husband of Esther.

The 2,500 year old ostracon – a pottery sherd that was used for writing – was discovered by a hiker at the Tel Lachish National Park in central Israel by chance.  It reads the Aramaic inscription “Year 24 of Darius,” dating to 498 BCE.

Darius the Great reigned from 522-486 BCE –  during which he vastly expanded the Persian Achaemenid Empire – and this is the first ever inscription bearing his name unearthed in Israel.

The hiker, Eylon Levy, who is the international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog, said of the accidental discovery, “When I picked up the ostracon and saw the inscription, my hands shook.  I looked left and right for the cameras because I was sure someone was playing an elaborate prank on me.”

He immediately reported it to the IAA, who after conducting several examinations and tests, confirmed its uniqueness.

Dr. Haggai Misgav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explained, “The British Archeological Expedition that carried out excavations at Tel Lachish in the 1930s uncovered an elaborate administrative building from the Persian period, built on top of the podium of the destroyed palace-fort of the Judean kings.”  It had elaborate halls and courtyards with a majestic Persian-style columned portico entrance.

IAA Director Eli Escuzido said, “It’s amazing that visitors to the site come across such a rare inscription ‘reviving’ the Persian King Darius known to us from the sources!  His son King Ahasuerus … could never have imagined that we would find evidence of his father in Israel 2,500 years after the dramatic events in his royal court.”

Purim is celebrated in Israel this year on March 7th and on the 8th in Jerusalem.



Judicial Reform: Judicial Review, Override Clause Passes Committee Vote

The legal reform bill on judicial review and override clause passed its first reading in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in a Wednesday morning session (1st).

While the vote passed with nine committee members in favor, the opposition had decided to boycott the vote.

“Knesset members won’t vote in this forced debate,” said Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovich. 

Some opposition members were removed from the room over the course of the session by Chairman Simcha Rothman in what he deemed interfering with the proceedings.

The bill, an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, changes the conditions for judicial review, the ability of the High Court of Justice to strike a law it decides is in contradiction with Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.  Judicial review of regular legislation would be limited to conditions in which 80% of an extended bench of justices unanimously agreed in the power’s use.

A previous set of judicial reform bills, sent back from the Knesset plenum after an affirming vote for further discussion, barred the judicial review or indirect validation by the court of Basic Law.

The bill approved in Wednesday’s (1st) vote also contained provisions for an override clause.  The Knesset would be able to overrule the striking of legislation with a simple majority of 61 votes.  Further, the Knesset would be able to preemptively immunize a law from judicial review in a similar process.  The protection of the override bill would expire a year after the Knesset that implemented it had dissolved.



President Herzog To Bereaved Family: ‘You Set A Powerful Example’

President Isaac Herzog arrived Tuesday afternoon (2/28), together with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, at the home of the Yaniv family who are sitting Shiva for their sons Hillel and Yagel, who were murdered in a terrorist shooting attack near the Arab community of Huwara in Samaria on Sunday (2/26).

The parents, Esti and Shalom Yaniv, told the President of their sons and their love of the people and the Land of Israel.

President Herzog praised the bereaved parents for the message of national unity they conveyed during the funeral of their sons on Monday (2/27).

“People, we are brothers,” Esti Yaniv said on Monday (2/27).  “We love the country, we love the army and we want security.  The army is everyone’s and we shouldn’t use it for anything political.”

The president told them: “You set an example whose power is hard to describe – what you projected to the people of Israel is the only way we will win.”

Turning to Esti, he said: “The messages you sent about unity are significant these days.  Perhaps they will help calm the people of Israel and bring about the unity for which we have long-waited.”

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan told the President: “These days, the entire nation of Israel has witnessed these heroic people, Rabbi Shalom and Esti, in the midst of all this sorrow.  Unfortunately, we have endured quite a few serious attacks, and we, as you said, will be strengthened together with them, and from their strength we will be strengthened in the building of the country.  We must build more settlements in Har Bracha and all of Samaria.  Together with the Yaniv family we will provide the civilian response to terrorism and we will build Samaria.”



Critically Wounded Father Of Young Terror Victims Wakes Up From Coma

Avraham Paley, the father of two young boys murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on February 10, and seriously injured himself, is now awake, the Hadassah Medical Center announced Monday evening (2/27).

After more than two weeks in a medically induced coma, Paley’s condition has improved and he is “communicating with his surroundings,” said Dr. Vernon Van Heerden, head of the intensive care unit at the hospital’s Ein Kerem branch.

Paley, who nevertheless remains in serious condition, has undergone several operations due to complex injuries to his legs after being rammed by the terrorist’s car.

His wife, Devorah, told religious radio station Kol Barama, “My husband is now out of life-threatening danger, thank God, and there is great improvement in his condition.”

“He has not yet been informed of his sons’ deaths, however.”

“Of course, he knows about the great disaster,” she added.  “It will be complicated but we will get through that too.”

Terrorist Hossein Karaka, 31, rammed his car into a bus stop in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon (2/10), instantly killing Paley’s six-year-old son, Yaakov Yisrael,  His eight-year-old son Asher Menachem succumbed to his injuries over the Sabbath, as did newly wed Shlomo Alter Lederman, 20.

Three others were injured in the attack, including a third Paley boy, who was slightly hurt.



Report: Russia Recruiting Palestinian Arabs To Fight In Ukraine

Russia is attempting to enlist the help of Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon for the ongoing war in Ukraine, The Media Line reported on Tuesday (2/28).

The report cited a security official in the Lebanese government who said that Russian entities are offering $350 to each Palestinian Arab willing to join Russia’s ongoing military campaign against Kyiv.

The recruitment campaign is reportedly orchestrated by activists linked with the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic mission in Lebanon.

The PA mission in Lebanon declined to respond to the report.

Palestinian Arabs living in Lebanon are particularly suited for service as mercenaries, the report said, since all those who were born in any of the 12 designated Palestinian camps after 1969 are not registered with Lebanese authorities and therefore cannot easily be tracked.

A number of Palestinian Arabs from Lebanon have already been recruited and deployed to the frontlines of the war in Ukraine, with most of the soldiers coming from Ain al-Hilweh outside of Sidon.

The recruits, according to the report, are mostly affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah movement, which is the ruling faction of the Palestinian Authority.

Other known terrorist groups are also represented in the ranks of the mercenaries serving on Russia’s behalf, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The pro-Iranian Hezbollah terrorist organization has helped to facilitate Russian recruitment efforts, the Lebanese official said, adding that Hezbollah is actively searching for drone operators and mercenaries with guerrilla warfare experience to assist the Russian military in Ukraine.

While the precise number of Palestinian Arabs currently serving in Ukraine is unknown, the report estimated that roughly 300 have already been deployed, with an additional 100 mercenaries being organized in Ain al-Hilweh.

Palestinian Arabs living in Syria have also been recruited to fight on Russia’s behalf, said Muhammad Sarmini, director  of the London-based Abaad Center for Strategic Studies.

An entire special forces division of the Syrian military has been deployed to Ukraine, Sarmini said, adding that the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization, has recruited soldiers from northern Syria, operating out of a Russian-controlled enclave near Latakia.



Swiss Jewish Leaders Warn Of Increase In Antisemitic Attacks

In the wake of a troubling report showing that antisemitic attacks increased in Switzerland in 2022, the main group representing Swiss Jews called on the government to monitor antisemitism and to enact new laws to limit hate speech.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and GRA Foundation Against Racism and Anti-Semitism “Report on Anti-Semitism 2022” examined antisemitic incidents in the country in the last year.

The study found that the number of reported antisemitic incidents, online and in the real world, increased significantly.  The report blamed “an emerging subculture and not typical trends of left-and right-wing or Islamist extremism.”  It said the subculture is particularly obsessed with conspiracy theories of all kinds” and that the “Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has only broadened the pool of conspiracy theories and intensified their spread.”

“This subculture is extremely heterogeneous, both in its political orientation and in its radicalism.  What the members have in common is that they see a secret power behind everything and everyone, which wants to dominate, enslave or even exterminate mankind.  This secret power is seen as a ‘small elite class’ with many faces.  As so often in the past, the connection to ‘the Jews’ (or alternatively ‘the Rothschilds’ or ‘the Zionists’) is quickly made.  It is apparent too that a general increase in conspiracy theories also leads to an increase in antisemitic conspiracy theories,” the report said.  

Based on their findings, the report called for the Swiss government to monitor antisemitism and racism, and to examine legal methods of tracking and limiting hate speech.

“It is unacceptable that these tasks should be the sole responsibility of NGOs and associations,” the report said.

It urged politicians to call on social media companies to prevent the spread of antisemitism and hate content on their platforms.

“The Catalog of measures against anti-Semitism in general must be broad,” the report recommended.

It also demanded a ban on Nazi symbols, noting that a report by the Federal Office of Justice in late 2022 demonstrated that a ban on “symbols, gestures and flags is possible in principle.”

“It is now up to the Parliament to act and push for such a ban,” the report said.