News Digest — 3/7/19

Jerusalem Court Orders Closure Of Islamic Structure Set Up On Temple Mount

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court has decided to issue a closure order against a structure set up by the Waqf Islamic Trust on the Temple Mount if the Trust does not respond to a petition submitted by the police and district attorney’s office within a week.

The structure in question is at the Gate of Mercy in the Old City.

Israeli officials accuse Islamic and Jordanian authorities of wanting to use the structure as the home of a joint Waqf-Jordanian council that would establish facts on the ground and sabotage any plans that the US administration might have for  the contentious area as part of President Donald Trump’s peace plan that is expected to be announced after next month’s Israeli parliamentary election.

The council seems to have started working inside the structure a few weeks ago.

Israel had closed the area of the Gate of Mercy in 2003 because it said that a Hamas-linked organization had taken control of the site and was acting against the interests of the Jewish state.

Jordan, as the country which was granted custodial rights over Muslim holy sites in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, recently added Palestinian members to the Islamic Trust.

The new Waqf leadership, comprising officials from Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, breached the gate about three weeks ago, and thousands of worshipers have already prayed there despite the Israeli ban.

Last week, an Israeli government official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had given instructions to enforce the court’s order to shut down the Gate of Mercy site “without compromise.”

“The political echelon won’t allow the site to become a mosque.  This directive was passed on to the police and this message was delivered to certain authorities and to Jordan as well,” the official said.

The “Gate of Mercy” is the “Golden Gate” of Jewish history.



Analysis: Hamas Is Once Again Negotiating With Explosives – Yaakov Lappin

Recent days have seen a spike in the number of Hamas-orchestrated explosive attacks on the border with Gaza, and Israel’s reply has been to increase airstrikes on Hamas outposts in retaliation.

A dangerous dialogue, with bombs and IEDs carrying messages across the volatile border, is once again underway and threatens to escalate into a wider conflict.

Hamas is applying pressure on Israel, as well as Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, to arrange millions of dollars for its cash-starved government.  According to a Kan news report, Hamas is demanding 20 million dollars for its officials in Gaza, in exchange for a cessation of grenade-throwing rioters and balloons carrying explosives over the border into southern Israeli communities.

Hamas is also reportedly demanding a widening of the fishing zone around Gaza, an increase in the flow of goods via Israel’s land crossings with the Strip, and an easing of Israeli restrictions on the import of “dual-use-materials,” which can be used for both civilian and hostile military and terrorist activities.

Hamas has a rich history of cynically misusing past measures, intended to assist Gazan civilians, to build up its military wing and organize deadly terror plots on Israelis.


Hamas is telling Israel that if a solution to its distress is not found soon, it will prefer war to passively watching Gaza’s economy crumble, and risking an uprising by Gazans.

However, Hamas is also showing a reluctance to rush into conflict.  It has not fired any rockets so far this week in response to Israeli airstrikes, which shows that Israel’s deterrence has not vanished, despite what some have claimed.

Still, the situation appears to be facing an explosive dead end at this time, and comes at an especially sensitive time, as Israel’s election season gets into full swing.



Selfie From 23,000 Miles Away: Israeli Beresheet Snaps First Shot In Space

The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, which was launched off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, two weeks ago on its way to a planned Moon landing next month, took its first selfie in space.  The selfie – which was taken some 23,000 miles away from Earth – shows the Southern Hemisphere, and Australia can clearly be seen in the background.

The image was taken as the spacecraft slowly orbits the Earth.  In a month or so, it will be pulled by the gravitational force of the Moon and the landing process will begin.  Beresheet is scheduled to land on the Moon on April 11.

In the image, a plaque that was installed at the front of the spacecraft is seen, featuring the Israeli flag and the message “Am Yisrael Chai” (lit. long live the nation of Israel).  An additional inscription also reads “Small country big dreams,” a reference to the founder of modern Zionism Theodor Herzl who was noted for his famous quote, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

“The selfie of the spacecraft is proof of the technological power of Israel,” Israeli Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis said.  “Despite the small size of the spacecraft Beresheet, it brings us great joy. The spacecraft is proof of the technological strength and power of Israel, and its success passes on an educational message as well to the children of Israel: You need to dream big,” he said.

“I am proud of the decision of the Science and Technology Ministry to be a partner in this project,” Akunis said.



French City’s Rabbi Says Half Of His Congregants Have Left Over Anti-Semitism

Half of the regular members of the Jewish community in the city of Grenoble in eastern France have left due to anti-Semitism, their rabbi said.

Rabbi Nissim Sultan of Grenoble, a city of 160,000 residents near Lyon with several hundred Jews, said this during an interview last week with the French Bleu Isere radio station.

“It’s a troubling phenomenon that began about 15 years ago,” he said.  “The people who make up the core of our community have left, including young families with children and pensioners.  They left for Israel, elsewhere in France, the United States and Canada,” he said.

“The anti-Semitic graffiti,” he said, “raises awareness to a global reality that means we fear for our children at school and on the street.  So as responsible parents, we take measures.”

Approximately 20,000 French Jews have left for Israel since 2014, a major increase over the previous four years.  Thousands more have emigrated elsewhere amid a substantial increase in anti-Semitic hate-crimes.

Last month, authorities shut down Grenoble’s Al-Kawthar Mosque due to the preaching of hate and incitement, including against Jews, by imams there, The Le Dauphine news site reported.

In France, the number of anti-Jewish crimes rose 74% last year.



Swastikas Drawn In Blood Near LA Holocaust Museum Spark Manhunt

Los Angeles police said they were searching for an injured man Monday (4th) after a trail of blood and what appeared to be bloody swastikas were discovered near the city’s Holocaust museum, according to several Southern California media reports.

The blood spatter was discovered Monday morning (4th) at a bathroom in Pan-Pacific Park in the city’s Fairfax District, not far from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, KABC  reported.  Police said the situation is being treated as a potential hate-crime, according to the TV station.

Police said they are reviewing surveillance camera footage and cordoned the area off as bloodhounds hunted for a possibly injured person.

The Los Angeles Police Department said that video footage captured from the air also showed swastikas painted in blood on a cement wall near a playground.

“There was a huge amount of blood in the bathroom,” LA police spokesman Tony Im said.  “The swastikas appear to have been done in blood, and were 12 inches by 12 inches.”

Meghan Aguilar, a Los Angeles detective, said it’s possible someone was hurt in the incident, according to KTLA TV.

The different media reports were compiled by the California-based McClatchy newspaper chain.