News Digest — 4/11/19

How To Watch The Beresheet Spacecraft Land On The Moon Today

With the elections in the rearview mirror, Israelis are now focusing on the moon.

The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, or Genesis, is scheduled to touch down on the moon’s surface on Thursday night (11th) in Israel.  And the country has Beresheet mania.

Watch-celebrations are planned throughout Israel, including exhibitions, dancing and space themed parties.

Tens of thousands of Israelis stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to watch the lunar lander’s launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Feb. 21 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

This time the hour will be more civilized, with Beresheet expected to touch down on the moon’s surface sometime between 10-11: p.m. in Israel.  A successful landing will make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon.

For those outside Israel, Space IL, the nonprofit organization that founded the Beresheet program, will livestream the landing on its Facebook page and on You Tube.

Beresheet has traveled over 3.4 million miles in its orbit around the earth and another 1 million around the moon.



Trump Congratulates Netanyahu

US President Donald Trump, who gifted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights just two weeks before the elections, congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory on Wednesday (10th).

“I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu, it looks like that race has been won by him.  It may be a little early, but it looks like he won it in good fashion,” he told reporters at the White House.

Trump called Netanyahu a “great ally” and “a friend,” and characterized the campaign as “a well thought out race.”

Later on Wednesday (10th), President Trump called Netanyahu to congratulate  him and the State of Israel.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for his support for Israel, including the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as well as the US stance against the Iranian armed forces.

The two leaders reiterated the deep connection between the two countries and agreed to continue to work together in the coming years for the good of Israel and the US.

Trump was among a number of international leaders who sent congratulatory messages to Netanyahu, primarily from some of his closest allies including, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, and others.



Nasrallah Says US-Israel Ties ‘Unprecedented’ After Netanyahu Election Win

The head of Hezbollah’s terror group on Wednesday (10th) weighed in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in Israeli elections, saying it would likely herald even closer ties between Israel and the United States.

In a speech honoring the Iranian-backed organization’s wounded fighters, Hassan Nasrallah also ripped the US designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military organization as a terror group, a move that came on the eve of the Israeli elections.

“Netanyahu will likely form a new right-wing Zionist government and we are before a new stage of unprecedented cooperation between America and Israel represented in Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump,” Nasrallah was quoted as saying by Lebanese news site Naharnet.

Nasrallah also said the election results did not make a difference to him and “if we wanted to influence them, we could have done so,” according to Israel’s Ynet news site.

Though he did not weigh in directly on the election results, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani slammed the US blacklisting of the IRGC as a ploy to help Netanyahu in the polls.

”The Israeli prime minister clearly stated that this action in the US had been taken at his request, in other words, all crimes and improper actions by the US have been meant to help someone win the elections in the occupied territories,” he said, according to Iran’s Tasnim news outlet.

In a separate statement, the IRGC threatened to “give the enemies unforgettable, regrettable lessons,” according to the regime’s IRNA news sites.

The IRGC is the main backer of Hezbollah, which plays an influential role in the Lebanese government and has already been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US.

Speaking to his supporters in a speech broadcast on a large screen in Beirut, Nasrallah said, “So far we have not reacted to the enemy…This doesn’t mean we have no important power cards.”

Earlier Wednesday (10th), the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has received support from Iran, vowed it would continue to fight against Israel regardless of the election results.



Egypt’s Mubarak: Golan Could Have Been Syria’s If It Recognized Israel

Syria rejected an Israeli offer to return the Golan Heights in exchange for normalization of relations and the opening of embassies in the two countries, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak told Egyptian media this week.

“I contacted the Israelis to try to recover the Golan Heights, but they demanded the opening of an Israeli embassy in Damascus and a Syrian one on their land as a recognition of the Israeli state,” he told al-Hayat.

According to the report, the discussions with Israel, in 1998, led at the time by Benjamin Netanyahu, was rejected by former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights by US President Donald Trump on March 25 “was the result” of the failed talks, the former Egyptian strongman said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights in 1967 during the Six Day War and unilaterally annexed the strategic plateau in 1981.



Israeli Lightly Hurt As Hammerhead Is Hurled Through Windshield In West Bank

A 45-year-old Israeli driver was injured Wednesday (10th) when a metal hammerhead smashed the windshield of his car near the settlement of Tekoa, the IDF said.

The man was taken to the hospital for treatment while soldiers combed the area for suspects, the military said in a statement.

The hammer was suspected of being thrown from a nearby Palestinian school, the Walla News site reported.  It shattered the windshield and landed inside the car.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service reported 89 attacks in February by Palestinians in the West Bank, down from 116 in January.  Those attacks included 80 firebombs, 11 pipe bombs, one stabbing, two grenade attacks and one attack using an IED.

However, the security agency does not report on rock attacks against Israeli drivers and those attacks are not included in the monthly totals.

In February, the Shin Bet announced the arrest of three Palestinians suspected of involvement in a rock-throwing incident in which a 9-month-old Israeli baby was injured.



Before Passover: Prayer Notes Removed From Western Wall

Employees from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation removed prayer notes from the Western Wall on Wednesday (10th).  The notes had been left between the stones and in the cracks of the 2,000-year-old Herodian structure over the last six months.

Every year millions of notes are placed in the Wall by Jewish and non-Jewish worshipers, together with notes sent through the website of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, as well as by fax and mail.

Since the last cleaning, 672,210 notes have been sent to the Western Wall through the website of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation alone.

The notes were removed under the supervision of the Western Wall Rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, using wooden tools as opposed to metal due to the sanctity of the stones.

In order to preserve the privacy and dignity of the worshipers, the notes were kept in a blocked-off area until the collection was completed, then all the notes were placed in sealed bags, for burial on the Mount of Olives.

The notes are removed twice a year – in the Fall before Rosh Hashanah and in the Spring before Passover.

Passover begins Friday, April 19 at sundown and ends Saturday night, April 27.