News Digest — 4/7/22

Highest Level Of Alert Ahead Of Ramadan Friday Prayers

Police are on the highest level of alert ahead of Muslim prayers Friday (8th), the first Friday prayers to fall during Ramadan this year.  Over 100,000 Muslims are expected to visit the mosques on the Temple Mount this week.

For two years the Temple Mount was closed for public prayers due to the coronavirus epidemic and last year, the number of worshipers permitted to enter was restricted due to Operation Guardian of the Walls.

According to a media report, by the last week of Ramadan, a quarter of a million Muslims are likely to visit the mosques for Friday prayers.  The increased numbers this year are partly due to a decision made by the security establishment to permit entry to Palestinian Arabs: both women and children, including men over the age of 50 who will all be granted free entry without a special permit.

Generalized warnings regarding terrorist attacks are received all the time, but currently there are also specific warnings.  “The central threat is that of possible hostile terrorist activity,” said deputy police commissioner Sami Marciano.  “We are preparing for scenarios involving a lone terrorist, and vigilance is extremely high.”

“Police do not have a specific profile for an attacker,” Marciano added.  “There’s a broad range of possible attackers, which means we have to suspect everyone.  On the one hand, suspect everyone, but also treat everyone with respect.”

Meanwhile, in recent days police and the GSS have made several arrests of suspects who gave indications that they intended to perpetrate terrorist attacks.  Some were apprehended within Jerusalem, others on the outskirts of the city, and still others before they reached the capital.

Police reinforcements are being sent to the Old City of Jerusalem and specifically the area around the Damascus Gate – both regular police and undercover units – in light of recent disturbances there, and due to concerns that a recent string of terrorist attacks could prompt a worsening of the security situation.  So far, only relatively minor disturbances have occurred.

“The main lesson we’ve learned this year is to make a distinction between the normative population that wants to celebrate Ramadan and those who want to disrupt things,” Marciano said.  “That’s not to say that in previous years we didn’t make such a distinction, but things have been more explosive in the past and when that happened, it was hard to maintain control.  This year we have made better preparations, and have talked with local merchants and with leaders.  We are adopting a more restrained approach, but if we do detect any disturbances, we will clamp down hard.”

Deputy Commissioner Ronen Hazut added that this year, the climate is less intense.  “Local merchants tell us that they’re fed up with the young hotheads disturbing the peace, and that they’ve asked them to stop.”



“Jew Hatred!” WJC Head Ronald Lauder Calls Antisemitism What It Really Is

In a pre-recorded video address broadcast to attendees at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, on Thursday, March 31st, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, discussed a wide range of topics, including antisemitism, the war in Ukraine, the Iranian threat to Israel, and the importance of maintaining the unity of the Jewish people.

Lauder suggested that “Jew-Hatred” is a more apt and accurate term than antisemitism.  “Antisemitism is a holdover from the 19th century,” said Lauder, and it has lost its meaning.  No one cares when they hear antisemitism.  From now on, let’s all call it what it really is – the Hatred of Jews, or Jew-Hatred.”

Turning to what he termed the Conference’s elephant in the room – the war in Ukraine – Lauder said that no one could ignore the destruction and devastation occurring there, noting that the war has created more than 10 million refugees seeking food shelter and safety.

Lauder praised the response from surrounding countries in the area, such as Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia, who have found homes, shelters and jobs for refugees.  He added that the Lauder Jewish school network in Europe has returned young Ukrainian children to classrooms in Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw,  Budapest and elsewhere, while in Israel, refugee families have found jobs in the Negev.

Lauder cautioned that were Israel to be attacked by its enemies, other countries would do little to stop such an attack.  “When Iran continues to stage “Death to Israel” demonstrations for over 40 years,” said Lauder, “we know that the only people who will protect Israel are the Israeli people.”



DM Gantz, FM Lapid Brief 80 Ambassadors On Security Issues

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday morning (6th) held a diplomatic-security briefing for 80 foreign ambassadors.

“The Negev Summit is the right model for regional cooperation to fight terror and strengthen diplomatic ties which will guarantee regional stability,” Lapid said.

Both men were involved in the briefing for the foreign leaders serving in Israel, focusing on security and diplomatic topics against the backdrop of a wave of terror, and other issues.

Lapid presented the group with an overview of the Negev Summit and the importance of regional security and economic cooperation.  He emphasized the steps which Israel is taking in order to enable freedom of religion amidst the holidays.

Additionally, Minister Lapid provided the ambassadors with information on the humanitarian aid that Israel is providing to Ukraine, and repeated Israel’s condemnation of the Russian invasion and of war crimes which were exposed in recent days.

At the start of the remarks, the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister emphasized Israel’s condemnation of the Russian invasion as well as Israel’s humanitarian aid efforts, and also Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s mediation efforts with the goal of bringing an end to the fighting.



Demographic Shifts In Syrian Golan Raise Israeli Concerns 

Demographic shifts on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are raising Israeli concerns of further Iranian entrenchment across the border, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday (6th).

“As the distress of Syrian civilians increases,” the paper reported, “Iran and Hezbollah will exploit the situation to recruit Shiite youth, like they did in Lebanon.”

When the Syrian civil war first broke out in 2011, Syria’s population of 21.3 million was 59 percent Sunni Muslim, 11% Alawite Muslim, and only 4% Shiites.

Today, however, in territories under Bashar Assad’s control – only about 60% of Syria – the overall population is around 10 million.  Of that number, 10% are Shiite and 30% are Alawite.

“In other words, if Alawites accounted for some 15% of the Syrian population a decade ago, they now account for some 40% of the population in areas under Assad’s control,” Israel Hayom  reported.

Widespread poverty makes Alawite youth especially susceptible to being recruited by Shiite Iran and its Hezbollah proxy, a blueprint Hezbollah succeeded with in Lebanon, Israel Hayom noted.

In Lebanon’s Shiite strongholds, Hezbollah runs schools and youth groups, as well as an extensive welfare network which provides food, health care and financial support.  It’s not known how much of this is subsidized by Iran.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claimed in 2011 that the terror group had 100,000 men ready to fight, a figure which Israel and the West dismiss as exaggerated.  In 2017, Jane’s defense news assessed that Hezbollah had more than 25,000 full-time fighters and perhaps 20,000-30,000 reservists.



Holocaust Memorial In Lithuania Vandalized With Russian Military Symbols

A Holocaust memorial in Paneriai, Lithuania was vandalized twice in just four days, Israel Hayom learned Wednesday (6th).

In both cases, the monument was spray-painted with the letters Z and V, which are military symbols used by the Russian military, which invaded Ukraine.  The first incident occurred on March 31, and the second on April 3.

The memorial was erected in memory of the 70,000 Jews who were massacred in Paneriai during World War II, along with 30,000 other victims.

Although authorities have no suspects at this time, they say the vandalism was most likely committed by Lithuanian nationalists or as a provocation by supporters of Russia.

A member of the local Jewish community told the news media that the incident occurred at a particularly sensitive time as Jews worry about the situation in Ukraine, wondering if Lithuania could be next.

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, condemned the vandalism, saying, “The attempt to link the local Jewish community to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is completely disjointed and false.  It might encourage antisemitism and attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.

Zuroff said the incident was eerily similar to how the Bolshevik government accused the Jewish community of wrongdoing in 1917 to recruit volunteers to join the killing of Jews.

“We call on local authorities to apprehend and bring the perpetrators of these ugly incidents to justice as soon as possible,” he said.