News Digest — 3/23/22

At Least Four Dead And Others Hurt In Stabbing Attack In Beer Sheba

At least four people died and others were hurt, some critically in a ramming and stabbing attack in Beer Sheba on Tuesday (22nd).

A man drove up to a gas station near a large shopping center in the industrial park in the city – he ran over a bicyclist and killed him and then exited his car and proceeded to stab people around him, killing at least four and seriously injuring others.

The man ran to a second and then a third location nearby and stabbed people there before he was shot dead by a passing bus driver.

The assailant who was identified as a Bedouin from the Negev city of Hura, was a citizen of Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett summoned a meeting with police and security agencies to discuss the attack and concern over possible outbreaks of violence during the holy month of Ramadan.

According to initial reports, the perpetrator of the attacks, had recently been released from prison and was known to have been a sympathizer of the Islamic State (IS).  Some reports claim he had in the past tried to join IS forces in Syria.

Police forces set up a roadblock and entered Hura as part of their investigation to find another man, who possibly got away.   

Prime Minister Bennett expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying “the civilian who shot the terrorist showed resourcefulness and courage and prevented further casualties.”  He added that security forces are on high alert and that the state would operate with a heavy hand against terrorists and those assisting them.

Negev Bedouin authority leaders issued a statement condemning the attack, saying “Violence is not our way and we completely disapprove of any violence and extremism.”

“At the same time, we call on our Jewish brethren not to believe that what happened today is general to all of Bedouin society,” said the leaders.  “What the stabber did today hurts and wounds all the residents of the Negev, both Jewish and Bedouin.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog responded to the attack Tuesday evening (22nd) as well, saying, “my heart is torn and pains as innocent souls pay the bloody price of hostility and hatred.  Terrorism will not overwhelm us or undermine our right to exist in our country.”

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanou welcomed the attack, saying “the crimes of the occupation are met only with heroic stabbing, ramming and shooting operations,”  Tuesday (22nd) was also the anniversary of the assassination of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror movement congratulated the attack, saying “the operation comes in the natural context of responding to the crimes of Zionist terrorism in the occupied Negev.”



‘Doors Are Opening:’ MKs Visit World’s Largest Muslim Country For First Time

Members of Knesset Avi Dichter and Nira Shpak made history when they participated Monday (21st) in the 144th Assembly of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference in Bali, the first time MKs visited Indonesia, a country with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.

Israeli flags were displayed in the halls of the conference, which was attended by 197 countries from around the world, including Arab countries.

The IPU is an international organization of national parliaments. Its primary purpose is to promote democratic governance, accountability, and cooperation among its members.

At the conference, Avi Dichter was elected deputy chairman of the High-Level Advisory Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, only five months after he was elected to serve on the committee.

During the conference, an emergency resolution on peacefully resolving the war in Ukraine, respecting international law, the Charter of the United Nations and territorial integrity, was passed.   

Submitted by the delegation of New Zealand, the emergency resolution received a large majority of the votes cast in a system based on criteria including country population, number of delegates present and gender inclusion.

Dichter stated Monday (21st) that “we have smashed another glass ceiling.  We are forging ties with many delegations, including Arab countries.  It is increasingly easier for us to convey Israeli messages, also on political and security issues.”

Shpak added that “doors are opening and collaborations are being created, and all this in Bali, Indonesia.”



Singapore To Open Embassy In Israel 53 Years After Establishing Ties

Singapore is set to open an embassy in Israel some 53 years after the two countries established relations, it was announced on Monday (21st).

The proclamation was made in a meeting in Jerusalem between Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry of Affairs said in a statement that the embassy in Tel Aviv will be a focal point and “support Singapore companies seeking to expand their collaboration with potential Israeli partners.”

Also on Monday (21st), Balakrishnan and Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Israel’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, signed a Moratorium of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in artificial intelligence between the two countries.  The MFA said that during Balakrishnan’s stay in Israel he will also visit the technology investment platform OurCrowd and “meet prominent personalities in Israel’s tech industry.”

Israel and Singapore established diplomatic ties in 1969.

The Singapore-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation is also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  It has funded roughly 190 projects and provided about $120 million to projects between Singapore and Israel.



2,000 People Participate In The ‘Never Again, Thessaloniki-Auschwitz’ March

To commemorate the first deportation train with 2,800 Jews from Thessaloniki, 79 years ago, the Jewish community together with the municipality, the March of the Living Network and three local universities organized Sunday (20th) a joint silent memorial march.

More than 2,000 people led by the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulo, the European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greek officials, Jewish community leaders and the director of the European March of the Living network, marched down the same road from the Jewish neighborhood to the Old Train Station from where they were deported to Auschwitz.

In her address the Greek President stressed that “Only if we pass on historical knowledge to the new generations, if we preserve historical memory, if we feel as our own the pain and suffering of the victims, if we understand that the Holocaust is a universal historical heritage, we will equip ourselves against a new onslaught of evil, possibly in another form, but always threatening and abhorrent.”

Based on that strong commitment, Michel Gourary, the Director of the European March of the Living invited the Greek President to lead a large delegation of young Greeks to the 2023 March of the Living which will highlight the 80th Commemoration of the deportation and the annihilation of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki.

Also, seen this week was a freshly-painted street mural in the western Greek city of Patras that was inaugurated and is already drawing renewed attention to the courageous deeds of two “Righteous Among the Nations” heroes who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

The public art display, an initiative of Artists 4 Israel, in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), honors two Greek citizens, the late Zakynthos Mayor Loukas Karrer and Metropolitan Dimitrios Chrysostomos, who, at great personal peril, protected all the Jews of Zakynthos after the Nazis occupied the island in 1943.

The mural was painted by Kleomenis Kostopoulos, the creative director of Patras-based Art in Progress.  He commented, “Murals are one of the most important forms of contemporary expression and communication in public spaces.  Today, more than ever, we must revisit our history in Greece by bringing it to the streets, and putting it in their faces.”

CAM CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa said: “Even as we commemorate the deportations, we must also remember those Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.  It is vital that we recognize and increase awareness of the actions of those who stood by the Jewish people to incentivize standing against hate and evil today.”

International March of the Living is the largest annual international Holocaust education program which, until the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, has taken place in Poland and Israel without interruption, since its inception in 1988.  To date, close to 300,000 International March of the Living participants have marched en masse along the 3.2-kilometer path from Auschwitz to Birkenau, in tribute to the greatest loss in the history of the Jewish people and all humanity.  



IDF Surprised By Iranians’ Response To Nowruz Greeting

After Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wished the Iranian people a happy Nowruz (Persian New Year) which was celebrated Sunday (20th), IDF spokesperson Brig General Ran Kochav sent out his own Nowruz greetings on Twitter and Facebook in Farsi.

Like Bennett, Kochav mentioned the many similarities between the Israelis and the Iranians, and wished the Iranian people a spring of hope.

“Missiles and drones do not solve Iran’s major water crisis.” Kochav pointed out.

The IDF was surprised to find that many Iranian social media users responded with their own cordial messages, although a few comments called for “death to Israel.”

One user wrote, “The Iranian and Israeli nations are brothers and sisters.”  Another thanked Kochav “for his honor and best wishes.”

Some commenters even voiced opposition to the Iranian regime.

“We bless the IDF spokesman and hope that we Iranians may have a year without the Islamic Republic,” one woman wrote, alongside an emoji of an Israeli flag.

Another user urged the IDF to “tear the [Iranian] religious people to shreds.” Yet another commenter wrote, “Long live Iran, Long live Israel.”