News Digest — 5/31/22

Israel Boosts Air Defenses For Potential Iranian Revenge Attack

Israel has boosted the deployment of its air defense systems due to concerns that Iran could retaliate for the May 22 assassination of a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officer in Tehran, Kan News reported on Monday (30th).

The move comes after the National Security Council took the unusual step on Monday (30th) of updating a travel advisory to Turkey, citing a tangible threat of an Iranian attack on Israeli nationals there.

On Sunday (29th), Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told a weekly government meeting that “the era of immunity for Iran is over,” adding, “Those who fund terrorists, arm terrorists and send terrorists – will pay the full price.”

On May 23 the day after the Iranian officer was killed, Israel raised the alert level of its embassies worldwide out of concern over possible Iranian retaliation.

While Israel has not claimed responsibility for the killing, an unnamed intelligence official told The New York Times last Wednesday (25th) that Israel was behind the hit.

According to the report, the assassination was a warning to Iran to halt the operations of its Unit 840 – a covert group within the IRGC’s “Black Ops Arm.”



Exiled Iranians In Israel: ‘Our People Have Nothing Against You’

“The Tehran regime is a mafia of Islamist criminals who are robbing the people, but the Iranian public itself has nothing against Israel and the West” – this was the main message carried by a delegation of exiled Iranian journalists, academics, and activists who visited Israel last week.

Members of the delegation, which was led by Dr. Amir Hamidi and Zahara Mizrahi, want to call western attention to the anti-regime protests in Iran, and drum up support for them.

During their visit, members of the delegation met with several officials, including MK Yuli Edelstein and Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office.

Hamidi said that the 2015 nuclear deal was a “complete disaster” because from the start, no government should have been negotiating with a “terrorist regime.”

Mizrahi and her cohort are identified with the popular resistance to the Tehran regime, and many of them expressed support for Reza Pahlavi, the exiled grandson of the former Shah of Iran, who is considered a leader of the opposition to the Islamic Republic and who wants to return to power.

In response to a question from Israel Hayom, Mizrahi said that the delegation had put themselves at risk by publicly visiting Israel, but that they “had to speak for the over 80 million of our people who are living under oppression by the criminal regime.”

Nazenin Ansari, editor of the London-based website KayhanLife for Iranian expatriates, told the news media that “the Iranian people just want to live a normal life.  The nuclear program and the war on Israel doesn’t interest them.” 



Israeli Arab Christians Celebrate Jerusalem Day With Hospitalized Children

A group of Arab Christians and members of Israeli Police visited the oncological ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in honor of Jerusalem Day on Sunday (29th) for a special event held in memory of Officer Amit Khoury.

Khoury, an Israeli-Christian police officer, 32, was killed in March while confronting a terrorist who was on a shooting rampage in the city of Bnei Brak.  Khoury was the first to arrive at the scene of the deadly shooting attack in which five people were killed.

The group, members of the Jerusalemites’ Initiative which is active in bridging gaps between Arabic speaking Christians and Jerusalem’s Israeli society, arrived together with Khoury’s family, his fiancee Shani, his brother Michael and his mother Samiya, and police officers to give gifts to the children hospitalized in the ward and celebrate with them on Jerusalem Day.

At the conclusion of the event, Elias Zarina, a member of the Jerusalemites’ Initiative, wished “only unity to this nation – together we are strong, and we have no other country.”

Khoury, an Arab-Christian policeman from the Galilee region, made a significant impact on Israeli society as a whole and is celebrated as a hero and role model, and the Orthodox city of B’nei Brak decided to name a street after him.

“Khoury did not hesitate for a moment and stormed and stopped the terrorist’s brutal murderous campaign,” the city stated.

The Jerusalemites’ Initiative operates to empower Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians, of all denominations, who “are proud of belonging to Israel and support the full integration of Christians in the country.”

Explaining the rationale, Greek Orthodox Priest Gabriel Nadaf said in 2014 that “in the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security.”

“It is Israel, the Jewish State.  Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe,” he added.



Jerusalem Is The Embodiment Of Jewish Justice – Nadav Shragai

Jerusalem Day is a kind of Independence Day on which we were reborn.  When Jerusalem was liberated, we felt a wrong had been corrected and that two parts of a whole had finally been reconnected.  Having arguments to present to the world about our right to Jerusalem as well as our existential and security needs is important, but it is not enough.  The focus of our story is our right and connection to Jerusalem and our commitment to the city as a result.

On this holiday, we must speak of the 240,000 Jews residing in Jerusalem beyond the old checkpoints who do not represent an obstacle to peace but rather an obstacle to dangerous partition. 

If we do not go as far back as King David who purchased Mount Moriah from Araunah the Jebusite, and his son King Solomon, who built the Temple there, we will not truly be able to explain our story here to ourselves.

The sanctity of the city and the memory of its glory were woven into almost every holiday and religious ceremony held by Jews in the diaspora: In daily prayers, at circumcision ceremonies, at bar mitzvahs, in blessings over food, and even at weddings, Jerusalem was never forgotten.  Israel’s national anthem mentions Jerusalem eight times.

Islam, which now demands exclusivity and ownership of Jerusalem and its holy sites, only showed up 2,000 years after Israel became a nation, while the Palestinians began to define themselves as a people just 100 years ago.  By contrast, since the 12th century BCE, the Jews controlled the Land of Israel for a thousand years and lived continuously in it for the last 3,300 years.  In that time, Jerusalem was the Hebrew capital, but it was never the capital of any Arab or Islamic state.  Even the Jordanians did not make Jerusalem their capital when they ruled the city.

This is no foreign land that we have conquered.  We have returned home, to Zion and Jerusalem, and those who return home are not occupiers.  We liberated the city from a series of occupiers who abused us and our rights for generations.

The writer is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran Israeli journalist.



Jerusalem Day: Correcting A Historical Injustice – Ambassador Dore Gold

During Israel’s War of Independence, Jerusalem was surrounded by a coalition of Arab armies and bombarded by their military.  The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was ethnically cleansed and its great synagogues, some dating back to the 13th century, were leveled.  What the war had proved was that if Jerusalem was not under Israel’s sovereignty and protection, the consequences would be catastrophic.

On December 5, 1949, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, explained to the Knesset his decision to move Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

→ “Had we not been able to withstand the aggressors who rebelled against the UN, Jewish Jerusalem would have been wiped off the face of the earth, the Jewish population would have been eradicated and the State of Israel would not have risen.”

→ “A nation which, for 2,500 years, has faithfully adhered to the vow made by the first exiles by the waters of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem, will never agree to be separated from Jerusalem.”

In the last decade, religious sites have been under assault across the Middle East.  Only a free and democratic Israel will protect Jerusalem for all the great faiths.

From 1948 to 1967, the Jewish people were denied access to their historical capital city.  Jerusalem Day is a day in which that wrong was corrected and Jerusalem was made whole once more.

The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli Ambassador to the UN and former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 



Suriname To Open Embassy In Jerusalem

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met on Monday (30th) in Jerusalem with Suriname’s Foreign Minister Albert Ramdin, during which the latter announced that his country plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem in the near future.

During the meeting, the foreign ministers signed an agreement on political consultations between the Israeli and Surinamese foreign ministries.

Lapid offered to send humanitarian aid to Suriname to help the homeless residents there, following severe floods that hit the South American country this spring.

Israel and Suriname established diplomatic relations in 1976.

Several countries have relocated their embassies to Jerusalem or have established a diplomatic presence in Israel’s capital.

Most recently, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso announced in May during a festive ceremony at Hebrew University in Jerusalem the opening of an Ecuadorian office of innovation in the capital.

In November 2021, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque was in Jerusalem to officially open the offices of the Colombian Innovation Authority (iNNpulsa) in the capital, the first of its kind outside of Colombia.  The new office is headed by a special diplomatic envoy and is an extension of the Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Brazil and Honduras have trade offices in Jerusalem.

The US was the first country to make the historic move and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv in May 2018.  Guatemala followed suit shortly after.

Honduras inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem in June 2021, and Kosovo opened its embassy in the city in March 2021.

The Dominican Republic, Malawi, and Equatorial Guinea have announced their intentions to open embassies in Jerusalem as well.