News Digest — 6/26/20

Israel, UAE To Join Forces In Fight Against Coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday (25th) that his government and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will soon announce a partnership in the fight against the coronavirus.

The deal, which the UAE later said involved two private companies, comes despite recent warnings from UAE officials that Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty to large parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley would harm its efforts to improve its relations with Arab states.

In a speech to graduating Israeli fighter pilots, Netanyahu said an announcement was expected “in a few moments” and came after months of “intense contacts.”

“This collaboration will be in the fields of research, development and technology, in areas that will improve the confidence in health throughout the region,” he said.

The Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency later published an item acknowledging two private firms signed a deal with two Israeli companies “to develop research and technology to fight COVID-19,” the illness caused by the coronavirus.  The announcement did not name the firms.

“As a result of the pandemic’s spread worldwide, it is imperative to place the protection of humanity at the forefront of global action to overcome the unprecedented crisis,” WAM said.

It’s unclear what that research will involve.  The UAE has been working closely with China on the virus.

Israel and the UAE do not have formal relations, but they are believed to maintain close behind-the-scenes contacts because of their shared concerns about Iran.

Netanyahu has spoken of quietly improving ties with Arab states, but full normalization still appears unlikely without a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.

So far, Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries to have made peace with Israel.



Ban On Foreign Entry To Israel Extended Through Aug. 1

The ban on entry to foreigners into Israel has been extended until at least August 1, a spokesperson for the Airports Authority confirmed.

The airlines were updated on Thursday (25th) via a letter from the authority.  The statement read. “Passengers from all countries who are not Israeli citizens or residents are not permitted to enter the State of Israel, including transit flights, other than passengers who have a designated permit from the Population and Immigration Authority.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Jerusalem.  During the visit, Netanyahu said Israel was looking to open up to Greek and Cypriot visitors starting August 1.  However, since that date, the infection rate in Israel has surged.

Foreign entry into Israel has been prohibited with few exceptions since mid-March as the coronavirus spread across the state and the world.  The Interior Minister updated the list of exceptions earlier this month.  It includes first-degree relatives entering Israel for weddings and funerals or other special occasions, as well as some foreign workers and some students.

Anyone who enters Israel from abroad must enter 14 days of quarantine.

Although the Airports Authority and Ben-Gurion Airport have completed all preparations to achieve the “Blue Ribbon” required by the Health Ministry to resume flights, the ministry has procrastinated in taking any action to open Israel’s skies, people familiar with the matter told The Jerusalem Post.



Terrorist Who Murdered Amit Ben Yigal Indicted

The terrorist who murder soldier Amit Ben Yigal, Nazmi Abu Bakr, burst into tears at the courthouse on Thursday (25th) while the indictment against him was read, and shouted at the judges “I didn’t murder anyone on purpose.  That’s not true, I didn’t do that.  Who wrote this?  I told everything to the Shabak investigators – how did they write such a thing?”

The prosecution sought to extend Abu Bakr’s arrest until the end of the proceedings.  The indictment, it said, is essentially based on the defendant’s confession.

According to the indictment, “Abu Bakr was in his apartment, and toward morning, saw soldiers walking near his residence.  He ascended to the roof of the building and threw a block weighing almost 25 pounds, which hit Ben Yigal in the face, killing him.”

In addition Abu Bakr is accused of obstruction of justice.  After the act, he went into his home to his children’s bed and pretended to be asleep.

Barach Ben Yigal, Amit’s father, said at the beginning of the hearing: “This is a hard feeling – I have not slept all night.  I have full confidence in the Military Prosecutor.  I hope the terrorist who destroyed Amit’s world and ours will pay – the punishment for this needs to be a life sentence.  May he stay in prison until his dying day.”



Six Day War Ammunition Stash Discovered By Western Wall

A stash of ammunition belonging to the Jordan Army during the Six Day War was discovered at the bottom of a water cistern in the Western Wall tunnels during an archaeological dig on Wednesday (24th).

The weapons stash included 10 Bren light machine gun magazines, bayonets, and parts of a British Lee Engield rifle, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Upon further inspection, IAA archaeologist Assaf Peretz determined that the ammunition was produced in 1956 by Greenwood and Batley Ltd factories in the UK.

Speaking to Fox News  on Wednesday (24th), leading IAA archaeologist Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon said he and his partner Dr. Tehila Sadiel were very happy to find relics that provide insight into a monumental war in Israel’s history.

Usually in excavations, we discover ancient findings from one or two thousand years ago, but this time, we got a glimpse of the events that occurred 53 years ago, frozen in time in this water cistern,” Givon said.

“Apparently, this is an ammunition dump that was purposely hidden by soldiers of the Royal Jordanian Army during the Six Day War, perhaps when the Israel Defense Forces liberated the Old City.”

During the 1967 Six Day War, Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City, eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria from the Jordanians, in addition to the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

This is the second historic finding discovered by Givon and Sadiel in the Western Wall tunnels.

In May, the duo uncovered a vast network of 2,000-year-old underground chambers beneath the entrance lobby to the Western Wall tunnels.  The chambers consisted of a courtyard and rooms arranged one above another connected by staircases hewn from rock.



Concrete Slab Hurled Into Home Of 84-Year-Old Jewish Woman Near Paris

A large concrete slab was thrown through a living room window of an 84-year-old Jewish woman in what an anti-racism group called a hate crime.

No one was injured in the incident Monday (22nd) in the suburb of Gagny, but it left the victim “traumatized,” the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a statement Wednesday (24th).

BNVCA believes the woman was singled out for attack because she had a mezuzah on the door frame of her home.

French Jews, who represent less than 1% of the total population, faced more than 41% of racist acts documented in France in 2019, according to the French Jewish community’s security service, SPCJ.

The 687 anti-Semitic acts documented in 2019 constitute a 26% increase over 2018, the SPCJ report for 2019 said.



Nefesh B’Nefesh Reports Receipt Of Over 900 Immigration Applications In Less Than A Month

Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that helps North Americans immigrate to Israel, said it has received the highest number of applications since its founding nearly two decades ago.

In the first half of June, over 900 applications were submitted to the group for making the move to Israel, or aliyah, compared to 399 in all of June 2019.

The organization has scheduled 14 group flights for North American Jews moving to Israel this summer.  It signed a contract with El Al Airlines to provide the flights.

Last week, Israeli Immigration Minister Penina Tamanu-Shata told the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs that Israel can expect the arrival of 90,000 immigrants, or olim, by the end of 2021, compared to 35,463 in 2019.

The French news agency AFP reported that since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, there have been three times as many requests for aliyah from French Jews as there were last year.

Nefesh B’Nefesh was founded in 2002.