News Digest — 4/21/20

Sirens Wail As Israel Remembers Victims Of The Holocaust Amid Pandemic

On Tuesday morning (21st), Israelis stood in silence while a two-minute siren was heard across the country in remembrance of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

At 10 a.m. all pedestrians, traffic, and public transport still operating under the restrictions meant to combat COVID-19 stood in place with their heads bowed.

In homes and businesses still open under the Health Ministry’s restrictions, people stopped what they were doing to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of world Jewry was annihilated.

This year, testimonials from survivors will be streamed online throughout the day, in pre-recorded ceremonies at Jerusalem’s memorial center.

The Knesset also held its annual “Every Person Has A Name” ceremony for the first time without an audience.  The event where all the names of the victims are read out loud, was pre-filmed in the Chagall Lounge in the Knesset.

The same ceremony usually held at Yad Vashem has been cancelled this year due to health restrictions.



PM At Holocaust Memorial: Unlike Nazi Genocide, We Spotted Coronavirus Danger In Time

The Jewish world may not have been able to recognize the threat of Nazi genocide before it was too late, but the Jewish state was able to take timely action, against the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday evening (20th) as Israel marked the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Unlike the Holocaust – this time we saw the danger in time,” Netanyahu said at the annual ceremony hosted by Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, this year held digitally due to the virus outbreak.

“ I heard the late Israeli writer, Yehiel De-Nurj and other Holocasut survivors say, ‘You will never understand what we went through.’  They were right – we can never understand because there is nothing like the Holocaust,” he said.

“The same is true of the coronavirus crisis, which some consider to be humanity’s greatest challenge since World War II,” Netanyahu said.

“During these times, the hardships are many, but it can not compare in any way to the systematic, diabolical annihilation of six million people.”

“Today we are dealing with one deadly epidemic, while in the ghettos they dealt with an innumerable number of epidemics, due to pushing tens of thousands of Jews into small spaces, causing countless to die of dysentery.”  

Netanyahu added: “Unlike during the Holocaust – we identified the danger of the coronavirus in time, made important decisions such as closing the country’s borders, while harnessing the entirety of the country’s systems to the cause.”

Due to the epidemic, the state ceremonies for this year’s memorial were held digitally.  The annual laying of wreaths at Yad Vashem was also held without an audience and without the participation of the president, prime minister and other elected officials.

The Yad Vashem ceremony was filmed in advance, while the annual “Everybody Has A Name” event in the Knesset  also took place without an audience.

Adhering to Health Ministry’s coronavirus regulations, many cities around Israel were commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day through technology or small intimate ceremonies dedicated to survivors.

The Holocaust opening ceremony on Monday night (20th), normally hosted by Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also took place virtually, with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin and a handful of Holocaust survivors and their families.



Kochavi: IDF’s Mission Includes Protecting Holocaust Survivors 

In his traditional “order-of-the-day” to IDF soldiers at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the commander of Israel’s armed forces told his troops Monday (20th) that their job was to keep those who survived the Nazis alive.

As the annual Memorial Day was set to begin Monday evening, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said the coronavirus crisis had placed a special obligation on the military’s shoulders.

“The present reality does not allow us to meet with the survivors, but requires us to support them, and draw inspiration and power from them,” Kochavi said in a statement released by the IDF.

“At this time our mission is to guard them.  As part of the IDF’s corona efforts, we are also concerned about them.  We will always remember them – the life they rebuilt, the communities they founded, the traditions they preserved and their adherence to Jewish identity.”

IDF troops have been deployed across Israel in areas hit hard by the coronavirus, helping to distribute food to citizens, including Holocaust survivors.

The chief of staff opened his remarks with comments about Jewish soldiers in a British army brigade who helped liberate some of the Nazi death camps.

“When the soldiers of the brigade entered the extermination camps with the Allies – the survivors could not believe their eyes – soldiers with a Star of David symbol,” Kochavi said.

“In those days to their eyes, a Jewish soldier was a conundrum, a reality that did not exist and a fact that was impossible.  Into the heart of darkness and the depth of moral depression came the Star of David.”

Kochavi said today’s soldiers are privileged to belong to a “self-defense-generation,” saying it is important to remember that the IDF is the face of victory.

“The Star of David is no longer carried as a sign of disgrace, but is fixed in the IDF’s emblem as an expression of power,” he said.

“We will continue our way and be vigilant so that we will never be at the mercy of anyone.  We will continue to tell their story, ensure that their testimonies are forever etched, and we will capture in our hearts those who fell victim to the sheer evil of the Nazis.  Memory is a source of power, spirit and values.”



Syria Claims Israel Carried Out Airstrike

Syrian media reported on Monday evening (20th) that Israeli aircraft carried out an airstrike near the city of Palmyra in central Syria.

According to the reports, the country’s air defense system was activated and several missiles were intercepted with anti-aircraft fire.  The Syrian new agency added that not all the missiles were intercepted.

Israel did not comment on the report.

Monday’s (20th) incident comes five days after another airstrike attributed to Israel which targeted a Hezbollah vehicle traveling on the Beirut-Damascus Road transferring weapons from Lebanon to Syria.

The reports claimed the attack was carried out by an Israeli drone near the border between the countries.

Last month Syrian media claimed that Israeli aircraft fired missiles from Lebanese skies toward an area near the city of Homs in western Syria.

Syria said Monday night’s airstrike was the fifth such attack from Israel this year.



Israeli Drones Pollinate Date Plantations As Coronavirus Cuts Manpower

The future of agriculture and the date plantations in the Arava region and the Jordan Valley were at risk during these days of coronavirus (COVID-19) which generated a shortage in labor, but Israeli drones came to the rescue and are efficiently pollinating them from the air.

Blue White Robotics (BWR) in collaboration with the New York-based Dropcopter is providing an innovative solution for pollination of the date plantations in the Jordan Valley and the Arava using specially programmed drones.

“Pollination solution through drones saves time, labor, and increases yields,” said Alon Ascher, BWR’s VP of Business Development.

BWR described its innovation as a “global agricultural breakthrough” that addresses crop pollination concerns that are growing worldwide.  The natural pollination process is done using bees, but the bee population is declining globally.

Manual pollination is typically done using low-efficiency fans attached to tractors.

Dropcopter developed an innovative pod to store and dispense pollen from the air, suitable for a wide range of drones.

In Israel, date plantations total around 15,000 acres.  Pollination is typically a four-week process and is performed from February through April.

Each tree is pollinated four times during the pollination period and usually requires both manpower and time.