News Digest — 4/11/22

President Herzog Talks To Israel’s Man In Space Eytan Stibbe

President Isaac Herzog on Sunday (10th) spoke via video-call with Eytan Stibbe, Israel’s second astronaut and the first Israeli to ever make it to the International Space Station (ISS).

Stibbe’s arrival on the ISS was widely anticipated by the groundbreaking Rakia mission, which will see the 64-year-old astronaut undertake 35 different experiments in his short stay in orbit.

“I slept very well,” Stibbe said when asked about his first night in space.

Floating in the space station with the Israeli flag hung up behind him, the astronaut held up a glass cube engraved with a prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel written by Herzog’s grandfather, Ray Isaac Halevy Herzog, the first chief rabbi of Israel.

He further showed off his zero-gravity environment by somersaulting in mid-air, to which he was met with a round of applause.

“We are seeing history with our own eyes,” Herzog declared.

The joyous launch of Stibbe to the ISS comes amid the ongoing wave of terrorism that has beset Israel – something Herzog was keenly aware of and commented on.

“During these difficult times on the ground, this project [the Rakia mission], the exciting launch and experience that the whole House of Israel is watching, is a point of light in the sky.  These are moments that fill us with inspiration and excitement,” the president said.

Herzog noted the recent terrorist attack on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street and said that this was an opportunity to comfort the bereaved families and say that life will go on.

“We do not succumb to terrorism or anything else, not when it hits us on the streets of Tel Aviv or elsewhere in the country, and of course not when it strikes holy sites like Joseph’s Tomb,” Herzog added. 

Herzog was referring to an attack by 100 Arab rioters who desecrated Joseph’s Tomb, a holy Jewish site near Shechem (Nablus) in what initial reports suggest was an act of retaliation for the IDF’s anti-terror operations in Jenin.

Army Radio reported that the rioters broke into the tomb overnight Saturday (9th), setting multiple fires inside the site and smashing the headstone marking the grave of the revered biblical figure.



Three Victims Of Tel Aviv Terror Shooting Laid To Rest

The funerals of the three victims of Thursday evening’s (7th) terrorist shooting in Tel Aviv were held on Sunday afternoon (10th).

Over a thousand mourners accompanied 27-year-old Tel Aviv University student, Tomer Morad, on his final journey in Pades Haim Cemetery in his hometown of Kfar Saba.

The funeral of his childhood friend Eitam Magini – who was also killed in the attack in central Tel Aviv – got underway shortly after.

Morad and Magini were childhood friends who went to the same high school.  Both 27-year-olds were students at Tel Aviv University.  Tomer recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and Eitam was studying for a bachelor’s in neuroscience, psychology and computer science.

Both were shot and killed on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv by Palestinian terrorist shooter Ra’ad Hazem, 28, from Jenin, at close range.

Hazem was ultimately shot and killed after a manhunt of nine hours by Israeli security forces.

The third victim of the attack, Barak Lufan, a 35-year-old father of three, was laid to rest on Sunday (10th) in Kibbutz Ginosar in northern Israel where he was born and raised.

He died at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon (8th), a day after the attack, where he succumbed to critical injuries he sustained in the shooting.

Lufan was once considered one of Israel’s leading kayakers.  He served as a coach for Israel’s Olympic and Paralympic kayaking teams. 



Hamas Slams Bahrain, Turkey For Condemning Tel Aviv Terror Attack, Claims It Was ‘Self-Defense’

Gaza-based terror group Hamas blasted Turkey and Bahrain for their statements condemning the Tel Aviv terror attack last Thursday (7th) that left three Israelis dead, saying that the shooting spree was  an “act of self defense” for the Palestinian people.

“The attack was a deplorable terrorist operation and Bahrain sends its condolences to the families of the murdered and wounded,” the Gulf kingdom’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter. “We reiterate the Kingdom of Bahrain’s position that opposes all forms of terrorism and violence no matter the motives and the justifications,” the statement concluded.

“We condemn the terrorist attack that took place on the night of April 7 in Tel Aviv,” the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv wrote on its Twitter account.  “We are concerned about the recent increase in attacks.”

“We convey our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, as well as the government and the people of Israel.  We also wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has a long history of antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks, has recently shown a desire for warmer relations with the Jewish state.

In a statement to Arabic-language media, Hamas spokesman Hazen Qassem specifically criticized Turkey and Bahrain for their statements against the attack, alleging that the majority of people in those countries support the deadly shootings.

“The resistance of the Palestinian people is an act of self defense and a defense of their sanctities – a right guaranteed by international law,” Qassem said.

He added that “the aggressive policy of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people is a form of terrorism and racism in the world.”



Report: Rare Daytime Israeli Strike Targets Northwest Syria

A rare daytime alleged Israeli airstrike targeted sites near Masyaf in northwestern Syria on Saturday afternoon (9th), according to Syrian reports.

The airstrikes were carried out from over northern Lebanon, with Syrian air defenses responding, according to Syrian state news site SANA.  It also reported material damage was done in the area.

Video reportedly from the scene showed large plumes of smoke rising from hillsides in the vicinity.

The Step News Agency reported that the strikes targeted sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias and scientific research sites in Masyaf.

The area of Masyaf has been a target in several attacks in recent years, mostly attributed to the Israel Air Force (IAF).  The last time an airstrike attributed to Israel targeted the area of Masyaf was in early June, when an alleged Israeli strike targeted chemical weapons facilities in the city and other locations, according to The Washington Post.  At least eight Syrian soldiers were killed in those strikes, according to opposition-affiliated media.

A site belonging to the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) also located in Masyaf, was targeted by Israeli strikes in the past.  In 2017, two soldiers were killed in an airstrike blamed on Israel, according to the BBC.  The SSRC site in Masyaf was used to produce chemical weapons, according to the report..

The last Israeli airstrike in Syria was reported on March 7 when an alleged Israeli strike targeted sites near the Damascus airport and the Al-Assad suburb, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reporting that two of its officers were killed in the strike.

The IRGC warned a few days after the attack that “the Zionist regime will undoubtedly pay the price for such a crime.”

Last month, Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Efimov warned that Israeli strikes in Syria are “provoking” Russia to react, in one of the strongest Russian condemnations of Israeli operations in Syria.

Efimov additionally complained that the Israeli strikes  aim to “escalate tensions and allow the West to carry out military activities in Syria.”



Israel’s Largest Matzah Displayed At President Herzog’s Residence In Jerusalem

Ahead of the Passover holiday, which will commence on Friday night (15th), President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal welcomed representatives of the factory that produced the biggest matzah in Israel.

The record-breaking matzah is 20 feet long, forty-two inches wide, and weighs over 13 pounds.  The matzah, with over 119,000 perforations, was produced from 15 pounds of flour, many quarts of water, and took three hours to bake.

Joining the special event was David Wolf, a fifth-generation matzah baker, son of the factory’s deputy CEO Roie Wolf, and his children, the next generation of matzah bakers.  They told Herzog about how they baked Israel’s biggest matzah and about the history of the family factory’s founders.

Herzog said that he has “a special liking” for matzah brei during Passover and asked the children about their favorite ways to eat matzah.  Itamar, 11, said that he loves the chocolate-coated matzah that his father makes, and Rom, 8, said that he too is especially fond of chocolate matzah.

Alma, 8, said that every year the family distributes matzah to the faculty at her school in honor of Passover.

“You’re the seventh generation at the factory: You’re the future.  It’s incredible,” the president told the children.

The giant matzah was baked by some 20 workers at the factory.  It required custom changes to the production line to suit its gigantic proportions

The president was amazed by the huge masterpiece and said that “we are very happy to see the longest matzah in Israel and maybe even the world, as you at your factory celebrate 138 years of matzah-baking.  I want to wish the people of Israel a wonderful Seder night, good matzah-eating, and a kosher and happy Passover.”