News Digest — 5/23/23

Israeli Firefighters Battle Dead Sea Blaze For 2nd Day – Arson Suspected

Over 20 Israeli firefighting teams continued attempts to gain control of a wildfire blazing next to the Dead Sea on Tuesday morning (23rd).  Preliminary investigations determined that the fire may have been caused by arson.

Firefighting teams from the West Bank, Central, South and Dan districts, as well as volunteer firefighters are taking part in the efforts.

The fire began on Monday (22nd) near Kibbutz Kalia, north of the Dead Sea.

“The firefighters are working with determination to contain and extinguish the fire in light of the weather conditions,” said Shiko Bar Dov, the commander of the West Bank district of the Fire and Rescue Services.  “We will continue to operate in the field with the help of engineering tools and water supply from the IDF, the local authorities and Israeli police officers.”

Bar Dove stressed that dry and windy conditions are expected in the coming days, and called on Israelis not to light fires in open areas and not to carry out maintenance work involving fire or flames such as welding, cutting iron or work that causes sparks.

On Sunday night (21st), acres of date palms in Kibbutz Kalia were burned in a fire.  While firefighters were able to gain control of the situation, a renewed fire was reported in the area on Monday afternoon (22nd).



Gallant Reveals Iran’s ‘Floating Terror Bases’

On Monday evening (22nd), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivered remarks at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy  of Reichman University in Herzliya, During his remarks, he shed light on a new field that the IRGC naval forces are attempting to infiltrate, by constructing ‘floating terror bases.’  In his discussion, Minister Gallant also addressed the measures required to contend with Iran’s regional aggression and the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program.

Minister Gallant detailed the Iranian strategy of converting trading vessels into military vessels armed with offensive equipment such as UAVs and missile systems, as well as with advanced means for intelligence gathering.  Showing images of six repurposed Iranian vessels, five of them named, Gallant told the conference that one of the floating terror bases recently sailed toward the Gulf of Aden.  He also addressed their intention to station the vessels at high distances from Iran, for extended periods of time.

Minister Gallant said : “The Iranian plan is a concerning, ‘pirate policy.’  Iran is conducting itself like a collection of criminal organizations and not a modern state.  The floating terror bases are an extension of Iran’s ongoing maritime terrorism, as seen in its actions in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.  Iran aims to expand its reach to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and even the shores of the Mediterranean.  This is a structured plan designed to threaten trade and flight routes – both military and civilian – and to create a permanent threat in the maritime arena.”

Gallant added: “The way to confront Iranian terrorism in the air, at sea and on land is through international cooperation and the creation of coalitions. 

There was no immediate response from Iran concerning Gallant’s report.  

The last two years have seen Iran and Israel trade blame over a series of attacks on their ships in the Gulf.



Terror Attack On Car In West Bank, Shooter Not Caught

Shots were fired on Monday evening (22nd) at an Israeli vehicle in the West Bank, with a woman and her four daughters inside.

The IDF reported that there were no casualties and identified two hits on the vehicle, which was driving on the road between Tapuah junction and Midgalim.  The shooter has not been caught yet, and security forces are conducting searches in the area.

In footage from the attack, the shots at the vehicle are heard, as the woman shouts to her daughters, “Take cover, take cover… Girls, are you okay?”

“Time after time we encounter the growing wave of terrorism led by the Palestinian Authority, with the leading terrorist Mahmoud Abbas,” said Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council, who arrived at the scene immediately after the incident.  “Unfortunately, the national government has not changed its policy, and this could cause a lot of bloodshed.”

Dagan added: “I demand from the prime minister, the defense minister, and all the government ministers to embark on an urgent military operation against the Palestinian Authority and to close the checkpoints immediately.  We will not stand by the blood of our brethren.  We can not turn the residents of the Shomron into sitting ducks.  We demand security, we demand action from the government.”

On Sunday (21st), a soldier was moderately injured after being hit by a vehicle driven by a Palestinian terrorist in a ramming attack in Nablus.  The terrorist fled the scene, and the soldier was evacuated to the hospital.

Early Monday morning (22nd) the IDF raided Balata near Nablus, where they operated to confiscate weapons and destroyed an explosive  manufacturing laboratory.  During the fire exchanges in Balata, three terrorists were killed when they fired at Israeli forces.  The IDF forces went on to confiscate weapons, conduct searches, and arrest suspects.  In total, 13 wanted individuals were arrested overnight in various locations.   



Israel Encourages Immigrants To Settle In Jerusalem To Strengthen Capital

Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer announced a new initiative to strengthen Jerusalem and its Jewish character through aliyah, or immigration to Israel.

Speaking at a special cabinet meeting Sunday (21st) marking last week’s Jerusalem Day, Sofer announced his ministry’s new plan to invigorate and strengthen the city, titled “Young Aliyah to Jerusalem.”

“The plan will strengthen the city’s economy, social fabric and Zionist character,” Sofir said in a statement.  Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion stated that: “The young immigrants are integrating into the city’s economy and are a significant contribution to Jerusalem.” 

According to the plan that was drawn up in collaboration with the Jerusalem Municipality, and with the assistance from the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, it will encourage young immigrants ages 18-35, single and married, to move to Jerusalem and act as a key factor in the further development of Jerusalem both in terms of population numbers and all other areas of life.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), since 2018 more than 18,000 new immigrants chose to first settle in Jerusalem, about half of whom were between the ages of 18-35.  The numbers also show that among the young people who first moved to Jerusalem, about 30% of them left the city in the last five years.

The program was formulated with the goal of promoting the optimal integration of immigrants in all sectors, while strengthening their connection to Israel and Jerusalem.

The Aliyah and Integration Ministry has joined with the Education Ministry, Culture and Sports Ministry, Settlement and National Missions Ministry, Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the National Civil Service Authority, which together will commit a budget of approximately $26 million over the next three years.

The Jerusalem Aliyah plan will work on several levels.  In order to strengthen and encourage aliyah to Jerusalem, the ministry will run special events overseas promoting aliyah, establish youth centers for young immigrants in Jerusalem together with the Jewish Agency, and launch special programs to integrate new students in finding their  way to Israeli institutions.

Additionally, the Aliyah Ministry will work in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality to assist immigrants in occupational training, professional licensing and proper job placement that will help them fulfill their potential.

Further, special educational programs will be set up for children of families who have made aliyah to Jerusalem.  The Education Ministry will hold training programs for teachers in Jerusalem so that they can be prepared to help children who made aliyah feel comfortable and integrate into Israel schools.

Alongside these efforts, the Aliyah and Education ministries will hold after-school study groups and programs to help new immigrants better acclimate into their schools and develop important skills. 

The government decision also focuses on projects to promote integration into Israeli communities, which will include cultural events and tours of Jerusalem and the holy sites especially for immigrants, and overseen by the Integration and Aliyah Ministry.

It was further determined that the National-Civic Service Authority will set up a dedicated office that will promote national service volunteers in Jerusalem, with a special focus on volunteering new immigrants in particular, who will work in Jerusalem to assist others in the integration process.

“This program aims to draw young people, students and new families to the city.  The Young Aliyah to Jerusalem program will strengthen the city’s economy, social fabric and Zionist character, and I’m happy about the important partnership we facilitated with Jerusalem’s mayor in this matter,” Sofir added.

“Jerusalem is the largest receiving city of immigrants in Israel,” Mayor Lion said.  “We invest heavily in them and encourage aliyah from all over the world.  The young immigrants are integrated into the city’s economy and make a significant contribution in all areas of life.”

“Together with Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer  and other government ministers, we initiated a three-year-plan with a budget of NIS 95 million, which I intend to invest in encouraging aliyah and integration in the coming years.  I thank the government and Minister Sofir for their support and investment in Jerusalem, its residents and new immigrants,” Lion concluded. 



The Nakba Narrative Is Nonsense – Dr. Alex Safian – CAMERA

→ In the years since Israel’s rebirth in 1948, a narrative has taken root that portrays well-armed and financed Jews overrunning peaceful Palestinian villages, brutally expelling Palestinians from their homes and their country, summed up in the Arabic word nakba, or catastrophe.  Yet this narrative contradicts basic historical facts.

→ Even as early as 1937, Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, wrote: “We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places.  All our aspiration is built on the assumption proven throughout all our activity…that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.”

→ On Dec. 13, 1947, Ben-Gurion said, “In our state there will be non-Jews as well – and all of them will be equal citizens; equal in everything without exception….The attitude of the Jewish state to its Arab citizens will be an important factor – though not the only one – in building good neighborly relations with the Arab states.

→ In 1948 the Arab states launched a brutal war against the Jews, in which more than 1% of the Jewish population was killed.  When the Arab armies began to fall back from their initial victories (to within 21 miles of Tel Aviv), the local Palestinians panicked and began to flee, thus creating the Palestinian refugee problem.

→ Had the Palestinians accepted the UN-approved partition plan, a Palestinian state would have been created side-by-side with Israel in 1948, and there wouldn’t have been a single Palestinian refugee.

→ The Palestinian nakba narrative is a massive collection of blatant falsehoods that stand history on its head and turn the victim into the perpetrator.  Western acceptance of these falsehoods encourages the Palestinians to keep rejecting compromise and peace, guaranteeing more suffering and death, especially for the Palestinians themselves.

The writer is associate director and research director of CAMERA.



Historic Hartford Jewish Cemetery Vandalized

Authorities are investigating after a historic Jewish cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut was vandalized.

The Zion Hill Cemetery, which was established in the 1840s, has had a Jewish section since 1886.  Around 400 Jews are buried there.

“On a personal level it was very troubling.  You feel the emotions of something that was taken away,” Leonard Holtz, president of the Congregation Ados Israel Organization, told WFSB.

His family has managed the maintenance and operations of the historic cemetery for multiple generations.

“There needs to be an attitude that we honor the living and we honor the dead,” Holtz said.

He described the vandalism as the worst case he had seen at the cemetery.  He said he recently saw a homeless couple using the burial monuments as a fireplace according to a report. 

“There is homelessness but there is also the criminal element,” Holtz said.

The vandalism, which resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage, is being investigated by the Hartford police.

Holtz added that he is looking into increasing security cameras and lights at the cemetery.