News Digest — 6/1/20

Israel’s Health Ministry Ups Testing To Include Asymptomatic, As Infection Surge Spikes Fears

Following an alarming rise in infections, Israel on Monday (1st) launched a new policy to test anybody who was in contact with a person infected with the coronavirus, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein apparently overruled members of his own staff so the ministry now tests all immediate family members of an infected person both at the time the infection was discovered and again in five days.

Edelstein announced the change in policy Sunday evening (5/31) after everyone from a Jerusalem high school was placed in quarantine when an apparent “super-spreader” infected over 100 students and staff in the worst concentrated outbreak since restrictions were eased in May.

“So far we have conducted such tests in Jerusalem around the schools,” Edelstein said.  “From now on we will extend the tests without any symptoms to the entire country and not just schools.”

After media reports over the weekend showed huge crowds on beaches and in clubs not following health guidelines, Edelstein warned the public it had to comply and wear masks and keep social distancing or face a return to a lockdown.

“We do not want to be there, so I reiterate the importance of public cooperation,” he said.  “You all saw what happened last weekend and I don’t think that anyone would argue that the rules were strict.  Therefore, if we do not want to cross the lines and reach closure again, it is very important on our part to expand the tests and the public to cooperate.”

Edelstein decided to widen the testing policy after the Jerusalem high school incident and expectations of new outbreaks in the coming days due to weekend crowding.

Outbreaks were reported in a number of schools around the country, including Kiryat Yearim near Jerusalem.  

About 190 children in the third grade and several school staff members entered isolation at a primary school in Beersheba over fears a student contracted the virus from her parents.

As of Monday morning (1st), Israel reports 2,001 coronavirus cases, with 34 in serious condition, and 285 deaths.



Temple Mount Reopens To Jews As Coronavirus Restrictions Ease

The Temple Mount welcomed back Jewish visitors on Sunday morning (5/31) after being shut down in March due to the corona pandemic.

Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick and former Jewish Home MK Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli took charge in leading some 150 Jews to visit Judaism’s holiest site as soon as the ban was lifted on Sunday morning.

“After 70 days during which the Temple Mount was closed to visitors and prayer, tomorrow it will open,” tweeted Mualem-Rafaeli Saturday (5/30).  

“I invite you all with great excitement to join me tomorrow to go up in purity at 8:30am.  I have a strong longing for the holy place – to go up together with many people from all parts of Israeli society and especially to pray for recovery and peace for all.”

On Wednesday (27th), the Jordanian Waqf announced the Temple Mount would be reopened on Sunday provided strict social-distancing regulations were followed.

Despite capturing the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest – from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, when the Jewish state was under attack by surrounding Arab countries, Israel gave the Jordanian Waqf administrative control of the site.  As part of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty signed in 1994, Jordan was given official status as custodian of Muslim holy sites.

Part of the status quo allows Jews to visit the site in small numbers, but they are forbidden to pray there, a ban enforced by Waqf officials and Israeli security forces.

Despite the Waqf’s prohibition of non-Muslim prayer on the site, the number of Jews ascending the Mount has grown significantly in the past few years.



Israel Praises Austria Move To Ban Hezbollah From EU

Israel on Sunday (5/31) praised Austria for calling on the European Union to declare all of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization a terrorist group, saying the EU has to stop pretending Hezbollah politicians are not terrorists.

“This is an important decision,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.  “I hope that the Austrian government will adopt their parliament’s decision and will join the UK, Germany and the Netherlands who have all recognized Hezbollah in its entirety as a terror organization.”

“Israel welcomes the Austrian Parliament’s decision, calling for further measures to be taken against the Hezbollah terror organization.  The decision, unanimously adopted by Parliament, calls upon the Austrian government to act against the terror organization’s activists and supporters,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted.

Israel “also calls on the EU to change their policy that artificially separates Hezbollah’s military and political wings,” the Ministry added.

On Friday (5/29) Austria’s parliament unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the European Union to classify the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist group.  Previously, the EU had separated between the military and political wings – a move Israel previously condemned as useless since Hezbollah considers itself to be a single unified organization.

The Austrian move came after Germany last month banned all activities by the Shiite terrorist organization in Germany.  

Armed, trained, and funded by Iran, the Hezbollah terror organization parrots Tehran’s policy of seeking the “total annihilation” of Israel.  Widely suspected of being behind the deadly 1990s bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, three South American countries have severed all ties with the terror group.

Hezbollah for years has been trying to take over Lebanon and complete what is called the Iranian Shiite Crescent – a path of countries controlled by the ayatollahs in Tehran that stretch from Iran across Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon, spreading Iran’s philosophy of “death to America, death to Israel.”

Earlier this year Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on followers of Iran to kill “every [American] soldier and every American officer in the region.”



Rabbis Return To German Military For First Time Since 1930s     

The German army is allowing rabbis into its chaplaincy this year to provide support for around 300 Jewish soldiers serving the country in missions abroad.

The move marks the first return of rabbis to the German military since they were kicked out under the Nazis in the 1930s, according to a report in The New York Times on Saturday (5/30).  Around 12,000 Jewish soldiers died fighting in the German army during World War II.

An agreement reached last year between the government and the country’s Central Council of Jews was unanimously approved on Thursday (5/28), allowing up to 10 rabbis to serve.

“With this, Jewish life is demonstratively returning to the Bundeswehr” in such a way that it serves as a “visible contribution against the anti-Semitism that is growing daily in our society at large,” said Germany’s Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The country’s Conference of Orthodox Rabbis praised the move, according to the report, as “an important signal, especially in times as these when there is again fertile ground for anti-Semitism, hate from the far-right and conspiracy theorists.”

Statistics published in May showed that anti-Semitism in Germany reached its highest level last year since the country started recording the data, with 90 percent attributed to the far-right, the report said.



Al Jazeera Broadcasts Islamist Cleric’s Appeal To ‘Kill Jews’

The Qatar-owned satellite network Al Jazeera broadcast a crudely anti-Semitic interview with a leading Muslim cleric who called for the violent conquest of the State of Israel.

“Victory will not come on a gold platter.  Victory is achieved through the blood of martyrs and over the skulls of the enemies.  Victory is achieved by the sacrifice of money, life, and all that is precious,” Dr. Abduljabbar Saeed – head of the Quran and Sunnah Department in Qatar University’s Shari’a faculty – declared on Al Jazeera, May 16, in a clip translated by the Washington, DC-based think tank Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI).

“We will not accept the Israeli occupation’s existence on a single centimeter of Palestine under any circumstances,” Saeed said.

The cleric went on to quote a hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad, frequently cited by Islamists in support of their eternal enmity toward Jews.  “The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.’’  This is a promise made by Allah and his Messenger.  The Prophet Said: ‘Muslims will kill the Jews, until the rocks and trees say: O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

Qatar launched an ill-fated outreach to influential American Jews in 2017 as it sought to change its negative image in the Jewish community worldwide.  Despite the initial fanfare, the effort died out the following year.