News Digest — 5/27/22

Israeli Security Forces On Alert Ahead Of Flag Day Sunday

Israeli security forces are on high alert ahead of Sunday’s (29th) flag march, with additional mobile shelters deployed to cities in the south, and an increase in police presence in Jerusalem and other mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

While the military is still unsure if the flag march in Jerusalem will pass quietly, the IDF has deployed additional mobile bomb shelters, including in the college town of Sderot, in case terror groups from the Gaza Strip fire rockets toward the south.

The IDF later clarified that the additional bomb shelters were placed in the south not because of Jerusalem Day, but as part of a pre-planned deployment by the Home Front Command in an attempt to fortify the south.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered a high alert in Jerusalem, including deploying 3,000 additional police officers there and hundreds more to mixed cities.

The decision on Wednesday (25th), taken in conjunction with the Shin Bet (Israel security agency), comes as both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have threatened to launch rockets, warning Israel against allowing Jews to “storm” the Al-Aqsa compound during the flag march.

Some world leaders voiced concern, to which Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Noa Furmen, took issue, accusing them of adopting a narrative promoted by anti-Israel terror groups such as Hamas.

“This is a yearly event” that goes along a route that has largely unchanged for 30 years, Furman said, and has nothing to do with issues of the status quo on the Temple Mount.

“This is a peaceful event,” Furman stated, “that has been twisted into an attack on the status of Jerusalem by a terror group.”  “Unfortunately,” she said, “there are some in the international community who have rushed to adopt the sick narrative of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.”

“By promoting the lies of Hamas and Hezbollah, they are legitimized,” she said, explaining that once this narrative is legitimized, “violence will occur.”



Iraq Approves Death Penalty Bill For Normalization With Israel

Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday (26th) passed a bill criminalizing normalization of ties and relations, including business ties, with Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The legislation says that any violation of the law is punishable with death sentences or life imprisonment.

The law was approved with 275 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 329-seat assembly.  A parliament statement said the legislation is “a true reflection of the will of the people,” according to the report.

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year, called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate “this great achievement.”  Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country’s formation in 1948.  The two nations have no diplomatic relations.

Four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain and Morocco – established diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020.

Iraqi lawmakers are adamant that Iraq will not join the Abraham Accords despite calls on it to do so.

This past September, prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders held a conference in the city of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, in which they openly called for peace with Israel.

The Iraqi government condemned the conference, and a Baghdad court later issued warrants for the arrests of two people who participated in it.



In Davos: Herzog Outlines Vision For Renewable Middle East

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday (25th) gave an overview of his vision for what he calls a “renewable Middle East” during his address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“An outburst of energy is sweeping through the region – energy of change – which will dictate how the next generation grows up,” Herzog told the crowd.  

“Together, we can shape not only a new Middle East but a renewable Middle East: a new regional alliance for a stable and sustainable future,” the president said in an address at the high-profile gathering.

A Middle East that thrives as a global hub of sustainable solutions in food, water and health: that serves as a source of energy, mostly solar energy, to Europe, Asia and Africa.” 

The president mentioned his country’s recent normalization of ties with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates under the Abraham Accords and recent warming relations with regional allies Egypt and Jordan as measures that are “realigning the Middle East”

Herzog described this “renewable Middle East”  as “a region that is not only new, in the sense of different, but is sustained by its own positive momentum, developing collaborative defense systems, common infrastructure and shared technologies to improve the world.”

The Israeli president also warned against the rise of incitement to violence and antisemitism online, citing conspiracy theories that blamed the COVID pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Jews.

“There is always someone blaming the Jewish people,” he said.



Israel Water-From-Air Technology Will Be Produced In India – For India

Israeli Watergen, a world leader in Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG), and India’s SMV Jaipuria group signed a contract on Wednesday (25th) for a strategic joint venture to bring Watergen’s GENius patented water-from-air technology to India.

Through this joint venture, a factory will be built in India to produce AWGs that create safe-drinking water out of air. 

The technology comes to India as the country suffers continuous problems with its water supply.  While having 15% of the world’s population, India only has 4% of the world’s freshwater resources, with over 30% of districts reporting critical or overexploited groundwater levels.

As a result of the continuing crisis, three-quarters of rural Indian families do not have access to piped or potable water and must rely on dangerous sources.

Watergen entered the market in India in August last year and has seen very promising results.

Watergen’s products have capacities of producing from 20 to 6,000 liters a day.  They can be installed using a standard connection to electricity or other renewable energy sources.

Watergen’s devices are cost-effective, as a five-gallon bottle of water is at least eight times more expensive than the cost to produce high-quality drinking water with an AWG.  With devices deployed in more than 90 countries around the world, Watergen also helps reduce plastic waste and eliminates carbon-intensive water supply systems.

Dr. Michael Mirillashvili, Watergen’s President and CO-CEO, noted that “drinking water scarcity is a global crisis and one of the most pressing issues of our time.  At our Watergen company we have set a goal to provide everyone with access to clean drinking water from air, and we are overjoyed to be able to expand our operations to India and provide our solutions to more people in need.”



Aliyah Minister: Over 100,000 Immigrants Moved To Israel In Last 4 Years

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata heralded the growing number of Diaspora Jews who have come to the Jewish state in recent years.  Yet if she had her way the influx would greatly continue. 

Speaking at a press conference with Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart on Monday (23rd), she said that more than 100,000 new immigrants have moved to Israel from other countries in the last four years.

“It’s a huge achievement,” she said, noting that “our destiny is as one people, bound together.”

Last year, more than 4,000 Jews from the United States made aliyah.  They were among the more than 27,000 Jews worldwide who moved to the Jewish state in 2021, marking a 30% increase in immigration overall. 

“I believe we can do even more,” stated the minister, noting that Israel expects to end the year “with more than 60,000 olim from around the world.”

Tamano-Shata knows what it feels like; she herself came from Ethiopia in 1984 when she was a toddler.

While it is up to the Jews to choose where they want to live, she believes that it is also Israel’s job to fulfill an important mission, “to continue with the Zionist movement and motivate Jewish people to go to Israel in bad times, in routine times and in urgent times.”

Urgent times means Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which has brought thousands of refugees to Israel, as well as an expected upcoming flight of Jews from Ethiopia, where a war is being waged in the area of Tigray.  The minister noted that there is a small Jewish community in Tigray that Israel is trying to help and she believes that all 3,000 Ethiopians with first-level relations in Israel will ultimately be able to come.

Once different communities of Jews – geographically, religiously – are in Israel, it is vital that they be integrated into the society as a whole, she said, highlighting the importance of education and learning Hebrew to make that happen.

In the 74 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, she said, “We have built a cohesive society” with a strong infrastructure that includes homes and roads, “but we have to build a strong society, and you can’t do that if you build – “tribe by tribe” – with each living separately as in ancient Israel.

The press conference was held in part to discuss the role of Nefesh B’Nefesh in helping North American Jews make aliyah over the last 20 years and how it has changed.

One of the new programs sponsored by Nefesh this year in Israel, is a summer camp for children whose families have arrived in the country when school is not in session.  The three week program will pair youngsters with other children who have already made aliyah, in addition to Israeli-born children.

Fass said 125 kids are expected to take part in the inaugural summer session.

While there, the kids will learn some Hebrew, have a chance to make friends and experience a softer landing in a new country while parents are busy setting up their new homes.