News Digest — 4/18/22

Thousands Gather In Western Wall Plaza For Priestly Blessing

Thousands of worshipers flocked to the Western Wall Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem Monday morning (18th) for the Priestly Blessing (Birkat HaKohanim) ceremony.

Held during morning prayers, Monday’s (18th) ceremony is the first of two mass Priestly Blessing gatherings slated for Passover.  This year’s gathering was split into two days amid concerns of excessive crowding at the Western Wall Plaza.

Both of Israel’s chief rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, took part in the ceremony Monday (18th), along with the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch.

“I invite the masses of people of Israel to come to the Birkat HaKohanim ceremonies during the Intermediate Days this Passover,” said Rabbi Rabbinovitch.  “Our presence at the Western Wall is the winning answer to those terrorists and violent rioters who pretend to act in the name of faith.”

Monday’s (18th) ceremony was held amid rising tensions in the capital, following days of Arab riots, as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Passover festival.

Some 2,500 police officers were deployed to the Old City and its environs to secure the mass prayers Monday (18th).

On Sunday (17th) Arabs attempted to block Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount by placing stones at the passageways used by Jews. 

The violence comes following a string of Arab terror attacks across Israel, including a stabbing in Haifa on Friday (15th).



Muslims Resume Riots On Temple Mount

After the widespread Muslim riots of Friday (15th) on the Temple Mount, hundreds of Muslim rioters resumed their attacks on Israeli forces on Sunday (17th), attempting to disrupt the order and block the visits of Jews to the holy site.

The rioters launched fireworks at the police and placed obstacles on the routes which the Jews usually traverse.

Police forces on the Temple Mount worked to fend off the rioters to enable visits to the holy site to continue as usual.  Several arrests were made.

The police stated that “along with these visits by Jews, full freedom of worship will continue to be maintained for the Muslim public who worships on the Temple Mount.  The Israel Police will continue to act against lawbreakers and rioters to maintain public peace and security.”

Jewish visitors were admitted to the Temple Mount after a slight delay.  After the first group of more than 100 entered, despite the obstacles, police opened the site for the entry of Jews, via alternative routes.

Several buses on their way to the site were attacked Sunday morning (17th) by dozens of Arabs throwing rocks.  Heavy damage was caused to the buses; a few Israelis were lightly injured, and some were evacuated to a hospital for treatment.  The police said there were arrests.

The violent attacks are occurring during the Jewish holiday of Passover, when hundreds of thousands of Jews are expected to visit Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall Plaza, situated right below the Temple Mount.

Massive Muslim riots on Friday (15th), the second in the Muslim month of Ramadan, which lasted for hours, ended with 470 Muslims arrested, 130 locked up, and dozens injured.  The majority of the detainees were released under restrictive conditions.

On Saturday night (16th), dozens of Arabs demonstrated in Nazareth in protest of Friday’s (15th) clashes on the Temple Mount.  The protesters set fire to tires and blocked roads.  Police arrested seven who assaulted police officers.

Commenting on the Temple Mount riots, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that “the convergence of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter is symbolic of what we have in common.  We must not let anyone turn these holy days into a platform for hate, incitement and violence.”

“The riots on the Temple Mount are unacceptable and go against the spirit of the religions we believe in.  Israel is committed to freedom of worship for people of all faiths in Jerusalem, and our goal is to enable peaceful prayer for believers during the Ramadan holiday,” Lapid added.



Yair Netanyahu Reminds Followers: Jesus Was Jewish

The son of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded his 132,000 Twitter  followers on Sunday (18th) that Jesus was Jewish and the Last Supper was a Passover dinner.

In a two-tweet series published around 2 p.m. Israel time, Netanyahu wrote, “This year Easter and Passover are celebrated on the same day.  You might not know it, but the ‘last supper’ was actually the celebration of the ‘Passover Seder’ by Jesus and His disciples (all of whom were Jewish).  The supper took place in Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the place where the word ‘Zionism’ comes from.

“In many European languages, the word for ‘Easter’ is similar to ‘Passover,’” Netanyahu continued, “for example – Paske in Norwegian.  This shows the ancient connection and common root of Easter and Passover and of Judaism and Christianity.”

Tens of thousands of Jews and Christians celebrated their holidays in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday (18th) at the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious sites.   



Emirates Airlines To Take Part In Israel’s Independence Day Flyover

For the first time in Israel’s history, aircraft from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will take part in the traditional Independence Day flyover, which this year falls on May 5.

Organized by the Israel Air Line Pilots Association, the flyover will feature planes from all of Israel’s airlines: national carrier El Al, Israir, Arkia, Kal, and Ayit.  This year, the civilian companies are expected to be joined by their Emirati counterparts, Etihad, and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi.

Captain Maydan Bar, chairman of the IFALPA said, “First and foremost, this is a pilots’ flyover, which proves that regional cooperation is achievable, and not only as announcements.  I welcome with all my heart the pilots from the Gulf states who are taking part in our peace flyover and hope for continued, even increased cooperation.”

“This flyover proves once and for all the strength of Israel’s civilian aviation sector.  The companies that for the past two years have been forced to deal with the challenges of COVID are now returning to full operations,” Bar said.

The civilian flyover is scheduled to take off at 12:45 p.m., when the Israeli Air Force completes its own Independence Day event.  The civilian flyover will begin at Acre on Israel’s northern coast and fly south to Ashdod, and turn around and fly toward Netanya, where it will fly from west to east.

The flyover is planned for a very low altitude of 1,000 feet, which will give the audience a chance to see the aircraft close up.  The event is scheduled to end at 1:20 p.m.



Israel Welcomed Over 40,000 New Immigrants Since Passover 2021

Israel welcomed over 40,000 new immigrants since Passover 2021, a report published by the Aliyah and Integration Ministry ahead of the holiday this year said.

Of the 40,869 new olim, around 7,000 were children (ages 0-12), 2,000 teenagers (13-17), 24,000 adults (18-60), and 10,000 over the age of 60.

The ministry noted it was continuing “Operation Coming Home” – emergency efforts to help new immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine – having already welcomed over 13,000 Ukrainians eligible to make aliyah under the Law of Return.

New immigrants who arrived in Israel ahead of Passover were also hosted by the ministry for a major Seder night celebration.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata called the event “a very exciting moment” and a “private Exodus” by Ukrainian immigrants.

“The new immigrants integrate into Israeli society thanks to the extensive efforts of the ministry, but more importantly, the country embraces them warmly and with open hearts,” she said.  



Antisemitic Flyers Target LA Jews On Passover

Residents of heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills woke up on Saturday morning (16th), the first day of the Passover holiday, to anti-Semitic flyers on their doorsteps that blamed the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine on Jews.

“Every single aspect of the Ukraine-Russia war is Jewish,” the flyers begin, accompanied by a list of Ukrainian and Russian government officials who are allegedly Jewish or of Jewish heritage.  The flyers included an image of a yellow star reading “Jude,” which Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, and images of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodoymr Zelensky wearing skull caps.

The timing of the distribution of the flyers appears to be intentional.  Antisemitic flyers blaming the COVID pandemic on Jews were disseminated in the same area on the first night of Hanukkah in December 2021.

The flyers were sealed in plastic sandwich bags with rice, to keep them from blowing away in the wind.

Residents first began notifying police about the flyers in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles beginning about 7 a.m. Saturday morning (16th).

“It’s still pretty fresh, – we’re still figuring out where they all are,” Beverly Hills Police Sgt. Ryan Dolan told the Los Angeles Times.

He added that the flyers did not explicitly mention violence against Jews and said “there is no credible threat to people right now.”

The Los Angeles area has seen a massive uptick of antisemitic assaults and vandalism in recent years.

Jeffrey Abrams, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Los Angeles, told the La Times that his organization has noted a 40 percent increase in antisemitic attacks since 2017.

In May 2021, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters attacked Iranian-American Jews who were eating at a sushi restaurant during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

After asking if the men were Jewish – to which they answered yes – the protesters began violently beating the diners in an unprovoked attack.