News Digest — 5/29/20

Jewish Holiday Of Shavuot – May 28-29

In the Bible Shavuot (also known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) was an agricultural festival and celebrated at the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest.  Along with Passover and Sukkot, it was one of the three pilgrimage festivals.

On Shavuot, two loaves of wheat bread from choice first wheat crops were baked and offered by priests at the Temple in Jerusalem as offerings of Thanksgiving.  Shavuot is also called Yom Habikkurim (Day of First fruits) to commemorate the bringing of firstfruits of the seven species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Today, Shavuot isn’t purely celebrated as an agricultural festival, but a spiritual one as well.  By the third century Rabbis attached one of the greatest of all historical events to the holiday festival – the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, linking it to the Exodus and Israel’s journey to the Promised Land.

Some of today’s traditions and customs associated with Shavuot are:

→ The reading of the Book of Ruth on the second day of the holiday.

→ All night Torah study.

→ The eating of dairy foods such as blintzes and cheesecakes.

→ The decorating of homes and synagogues in greenery and flowers commemorating the holiday as an agricultural one.

→ The baking of extra-long Challah loaves to commemorate the offerings in the ancient Temple.

→ Ceremonies in Israeli kibbutzim commemorate “firstfruits” with dancing, singing and performances, including special processions of wagons and tractors carrying newly-harvested produce, grains, eggs and honey, as children dressed in white carry flowers and greenery.

This year Shavuot is celebrated from sundown Thursday (28th) through Saturday evening (30th.)  Chag Sameach!!!  

(In The JEWISH TRADITION, by Judith B. Fellmer)


US Embassy Advises Citizens To Steer Clear Of Judea And Samaria

The US Embassy on Thursday (28th) advised US citizens residing in or considering traveling to Judea or Samaria and the Gaza Strip “to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”

“Violence can occur with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, government checkpoints, markets and shopping and government facilities,” the Embassy said.

“US citizens should carefully consider risks to their personal safety and security when considering visits to sites and events that are potential targets.”

US government personnel in Israel are not allowed to travel to Judea and Samaria with the exception of some main routes.  The US government prohibits its employees from traveling to Gaza.

The alert issued by the Embassy did not give a specific reason for its travel warning.  There have been several attacks in recent weeks but they have targeted Israeli citizens.

However, the Palestinian Authority recently announced it was cancelling all agreements with the US and Israel.

PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas said on May 19 that the Palestinian side is “absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements.”

The Trump administration has been a firm supporter of Israel, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, supporting Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights and most recently expressing support for an Israeli move to annex parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley.



Visiting Parents Of Slain Soldier, IDF Chief Vows To Catch Son’s Killer

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on Thursday (28th) visited the parents of a soldier killed in a West Bank operation earlier this month promising to catch their son’s killer.

Amit Ben-Yigal was killed by a block thrown from the roof of a building while his unit was making arrests in the village of Yabed.

Kochavi arrived at the family home in Beer Ya’akov with senior commanders of the Golani Brigade, where Ben-Yigal had served.

His parents, Baruch and Nava told them about their son, the military said in a statement.

Kochavi told them that “the phone call informing them that the terrorist has been caught will come,” and promised efforts to achieve that would continue as needed, according to the statement.

Amit Ben-Yigal’s parents were visited a day earlier by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he identified with their pain as a bereaved brother, having lost his brother Yoni in the 1976 Entebbe Operation.

Netanyahu ceremoniously inscribed a letter in a Torah scroll, written in Amit’s memory.

In the predawn hours of May 12, the elite Golani Reconnaissance Battalion carried out a series of arrests in Yabed.  As the soldiers were making their way out of the Palestinian village, a block thrown from a three story building struck and killed Ben-Yigal, according to the IDF.

The 21-year-old soldier was killed one month before the end of his service.  He was the first IDF soldier killed in action in 2020.  He was posthumously promoted from Staff Sergeant to Sergeant First Class.



Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah Warns Another War Would Spell ‘End Of Israel’

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Wednesday (27th) that another war between Lebanon and Israel would spell “the end” of the Jewish state.  The threat was made in an interview with the Al-Nour radio station, given on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

The head of the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group stressed that there are “no indications that Israel intends to launch a war against Lebanon,” and warned that if that should change, Hezbollah “will be ready.”  He boasted that his organization now has capabilities that it didn’t possess when Israel and Hezbollah faced off against each other in the 34-day 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Israeli Military Intelligence believes Hezbollah has upward of 150,000 missiles of different ranges, threatening the entire country.  The IDF often foils Iranian weapon deliveries to Hezbollah,  and Israel has repeatedly stated it will not allow the Islamic Republic to introduce “game-changing” weapons into the region.

Widening out the scope of his comments, the terrorist leader also provided his perspective on Israel’s airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

While the IDF has previously claimed to have carried out more than 200 airstrikes on convoys of material and other strategic targets, it most often refuses to comment on speculation.  Of these strikes, Nasrallah said that although Syria does not want to be drawn into a war with Israel, there are limits to its patience.



ADL: COVID-19 Conspiracies Highlight Need To Protect Jewish Students

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on American universities Wednesday (27th) to take “meaningful steps to ensure an inclusive campus climate for all students in response to a series of disturbing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic actions at US colleges in 2019” as the nation prepares for the resumption of classes in the coming weeks and months.

The ADL issued a series of recommendations for how institutions of higher learning should act when anti-Israel activism fuels anti-Semitism on campus.

“We anticipate a significant uptick in anti-Israel activity once students are able to return to campuses,” the ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement.

“Some of the more radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment that we witnessed last year morphed into outright anti-Semitism.  Many of these manifestations left Jewish students feeling besieged and threatened.  At a time when anti-Semitism in the US has spiked to historic levels and against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has revived old anti-Jewish conspiracies, college presidents and university administrators should take steps to prevent this prejudice from violating norms on campus and diminishing the educational experience of these students.”

The report, “Anti-Semitism and the Radical Anti-Israel Movement on US Campuuses in 2019,” provides an in-depth look at the major activities and organizations sponsoring them.

“The report notes that while most anti-Israel activism takes the form of legitimate political expression, a significant segment of the activism reported in 2019 contributed to an atmosphere in which Jewish students felt under attack – and from which anti-Semitism sometimes emerged,” the ADL said in a statement.

In September, anti-Israel activist Alison Weir, “who has a long history of employing anti-Semitism tropes and associating with anti-Semitism including white supremacists,” delivered a lecture at Clovis Community College in Califormia,” the ADL said, pointing out an example of such incidents.  “In 2009, Weir accused Israel of engaging in organ harvesting of poor and needy individuals and Palestinians.  In 2008, Weir described Judaism as such a ruthless and supremacist faith.  Given this history, Weir’s presence on campus was seen by Jewish students as legitimizing discrimination against them,” the ADL said.