News Digest — 6/3/22

Gantz Meets Indian Prime Minister In Visit Marking 30 Years Of Diplomatic Relations

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday (2nd) met in India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit marking 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“This is an opportunity to deepen our security cooperation and increase stability around the world,” Gantz said.

Earlier the defense minister met high-ranking Indian officials including his Indian counterpart Shri Rajnath Singh.  Gantz also visited the National War Memorial in New Delhi, paying tribute to fallen soldiers.

The ministers discussed global strategic challenges, military cooperation, defense industrial cooperation, and joint R&D.

They also discussed a cooperation agreement signed between the Indian DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) and Israel’s Defense R&D Directorate, which will allow the expansion of technological collaboration between the countries by putting the focus on drones and defensive capabilities.

During the bilateral discussion, the ministers declared their intention to exploit Israel’s technological advancement and operational experience, as well as India’s extraordinary development and production capabilities.

Finally, the ministers discussed government to government partnerships, as well as military training.



Yemen’s Houthis Criminalize Ties With Israel

The Houthi rebels’ government in Yemen on Wednesday (1st) passed legislation banning any normalization process with Israel, and criminalizing any contact with the Jewish state or its citizens.

The move follows a law passed in Iraq last week, which banned any normalization with Israel, including business ties, making them punishable by life imprisonment or death.

A statement by Houthi Prime Minister Abdulaziz bin Habtoor said that the move was driven by the fact that “Palestine is the foremost and principal issue of the Muslim world.”

“We stand by the side of the Palestinian nation and its struggles in the face of Israeli threats to the Al-Aqsa compound and the occupied al-Quds city,” Habtoor said, using Jerusalem’s Arab name.

According to reports in Arab media, he further noted that “blatant Israeli provocations and violations” of Al-Aqsa – the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia – are “part of the Israeli regime’s attempt to put itself in a victorious position” in the wave of the 2020 Abraham Accords.

On Sunday (5/29), a senior-member of Iranian-backed Ansar Allah, the Houthis’ so-called umbrella organization, urged the Arab world to boycott products made in countries that maintain any ties with Israel.

“As Arabs and Muslims, we must enforce the boycott of products made by countries supporting the Zionist regime,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti told Al-Mayadeen television, a Lebanese outlet affiliated with another Iranian proxy – Hezbollah.

“Zionists have made a gross miscalculation in their assessments due to erroneous information compiled by traitors.  The Zionist regime did not expect a firm response from Palestinians and ensuing stiff resistance.  Palestinians’ resilience has had a great impact on the feelings of Arab and Muslim nations,” Bukhaiti said.

According to Iranian news agency Press TV, he also warned that “the United States, Britain, and the countries that are the main supporters of Israel will suffer a great deal through an embargo campaign.”



Report: IRGC Officer Dies After He Was Accused Of Leaking Intelligence

An Iranian Quds Force officer died under mysterious circumstances earlier this week after he was suspected of leaking information that led to the assassination of his fellow IRGC officer in May, Saudi-backed news outlet Iran International reported on Thursday evening (2nd).

The Officer, reportedly identified as Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh, died on Monday (5/30) after falling from the roof of his home in Karaj, near capital Tehran.

He was taken to the hospital after the fall, where he was pronounced dead.  As per Iran International, Esmailzadeh’s family was told by the IRGC that he killed himself due to “psychological problems caused by separation from his wife,” with an alleged letter left by the colonel backing up the claim.

News of Esmailzadeh’s death comes two weeks after the assassination of Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari in Tehran.

Like Khodayari, Esmailzadeh was reportedly also a member of Quds Force’s Unit 840, a secretive unit responsible for terrorist operations against Israeli and Western targets outside of Iran.

IRGC intelligence officers reportedly suspected that information leaked from inside the organization led to Khodayari’s assassination and were looking for potential informants inside Unit 840.

Esmailzadeh, reportedly a “close associate” of the slain officer, was interrogated and suspected of giving information to Western intelligence services.

According to Iran International, the IRGC then quickly moved to dispose of the accused officer by staging his suicide.



Israeli Arab Journalist Calls For Jews And Arabs To Live Together In Peace – Carmit Sapir Weitz

Nazareth-born Israeli Arab journalist Nazir Majali has written a new book, The Responsibility of the Minority, that calls for Jews and Arabs to live together in peace.  Majali, 70, was editor-in-chief of the Israeli Arabic-language al-ittihad daily and taught at Ben Gurion University.

He said, “Just by looking at how many Israeli Arabs work in Israel’s hospitals and study in Israeli universities, we can see that it’s possible to live and work alongside each other with mutual respect.  I’m striving to create a master plan for Jews and Arabs to work side by side, and so I’m beginning with my side – the Arab side.”

Majali writes: “Why aren’t Israel’s Arabs interested in being part of a Palestinian state?  The truth is, living as citizens of the State of Israel, we are much safer and have better lives than we would in any Arab country.”

“I don’t want to be the victim who just cries and talks about the “nakba” (“catastrophe,” associated with Independence of Israel in 1948).  It’s time we took responsibility for our own lives.  It’s in our best interest for Israel to be strong….The Arab minority must take up the mantle and promote change that will show the world that Jews and Arabs can live together in peace.”



Shavuot Festival In Israel This Weekend

Israel is getting ready for what is considered by many to be the best holiday on the Jewish calendar: Shavuot, which comes seven weeks after Passover (Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew) and begins this year on Saturday evening, June 4.  It is a one-day celebration in Israel, and a two-day celebration in the diaspora.

Not only does the festival come without prohibitions (such as fasting on Yom Kippur), but the most widespread way of celebrating it is by eating dairy foods such as cheesecake.

And it doesn’t stop there, for Shavuot in Israel comes with an abundance of fun.

Perhaps because it is usually hot on Shavuot, many Israelis, particularly under a certain age, mark the festival with a full-blown water fight.  Water guns and balloons are most people’s weapons of choice, with parks, schools and other public spaces all becoming perfectly acceptable battlegrounds.  

If you stroll through a shopping mall during Shavuot and the weeks leading up to it, you might think that Israelis only wear white.  And well, they do – for the holiday.  Kindergarten kids don white tee shirts, women opt for floaty white dresses and men wear white shirts.

While all of this white attire looks good on social media, the tradition goes way back into history, and it will be difficult to find anyone wearing color or black on this special day.

One of the cutest signs of the holiday in Israel is the sight of children going to nursery school wearing crowns of flowers  and carrying straw picnic baskets filled with fruits and vegetables and maybe a dairy dessert, perhaps having to do with the agricultural aspect of the day.

Shavuot is the holiday celebrating all the dairy products of the land of Milk and Honey.  Cheesecakes, quiches, pasta and cheese boards are all expected on the holiday table, making this the tastiest festival in the world.

Agricultural communities such as kibbutzim and moshavim make a very big fuss during Shavuot, celebrating with great ceremonies.  This being Israel, the festivities include kids riding on the back of tractors past straw bales – just having fun.

The reason for the celebration is that during the time of the Temple, farmers used to flock to Jerusalem with the first offerings of their land on Shavuot.  Modern-day farmers also use the opportunity to display the fruit of their labors for all to see.

Religious Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai in all-nighters on Shavuot, so the time is traditionally dedicated to Bible readings and Torah studies.  For others the night’s study could be  of current events, cultural reading, history and more.

As briefly mentioned, Shavuot is a unique Jewish festival in that there is no particular way to observe it.  True, there is the all-night learning and dairy desserts, but these are only traditions picked up over the centuries.

This means that unlike Passover, no food item is off the menu; unlike Hanukkah, you don’t need to rush for candle-lighting ceremonies; and unlike Sukkot you don’t need to construct an outdoor hut.

So, on Shavuot, Israelis will be eating, sitting back, relaxing, reflecting on Torah and Israel’s accomplishments, enjoying the day and thinking of the summer ahead.

Chag Sameach!