News Digest — 6/6/19

Massive Fire Rages In Samarian Hills Since Wednesday

Residents of the Jewish town of Itamar in Samaria have been unable to stop a fire that has raged since Wednesday (5th) according to news reports.

Roughly 1,700 acres of farmland and pastures have been burned so far with damage estimated at $194,000.

“This is the fourth fire to break out in four days, endangering residents and families, destroying years worth of work by farmers.  The heart breaks,” Iyar Segal, a resident of Itamar Hills said.

“We expect the Civil Administration and police to arrest the arsonists with a strong hand, and to assist the farmers and residents,” he said.

“My heart breaks to see thousands of dunams of farmland and pasture burning,” said Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council.  “We demand an investigation into the matter to find the culprits and bring them to trial. The farmers, who really sacrifice themselves to work the land and make desolation bloom, cannot be the last ones on the food chain.  They should be helped and the fires should be stopped in every possible way.”



75 Years Later: How Many Jews Fought In D-Day? – Shaked Karabelnicoff

June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.  Operation Overlord, which began the liberation of Nazi-occupied France, eventually led to the liberation of Nazi concentration camps across the Western Front.

The Jewish lives saved as a result of these operations makes D-Day particularly significant to Jews around the world.  Thousands of the Allied soldiers who stormed the beaches were Jewish themselves.

“Over 4,000 of the soldiers who landed on the Normandy beaches to fight in D-Day were Jewish,” said Walter Bingham, a German-born veteran who fought with the British Army in the Normandy landings.

The statistics which Bingham collected for his own radio show called “Walter’s World” on Israel National News. found that Jews made up 4.2 of American soldiers, one percent of the British fighters, and 1.5 percent of the Canadian forces.

52 Jewish men died in the Normandy landings,” he added.  “I took part in some of those battles, and by the grace of God survived.”

Yet Bingham notes that covert anti-Semitism was present within the British forces.

“Many Jewish fighters did not identify themselves as Jewish, often because of fear of being captured and sent to a concentration camp,” he explained.

For that reason, some Jewish soldiers changed their name upon entering the army, including Bingham, who was born Wolfgang Bilig.  

Bingham survived the Holocaust because he was brought to Britain through the Kindertransport, a rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War which placed Jewish children in British foster homes.

Since he was a Jewish refugee who had been separated from his family, Bingham fought more purposefully than other British soldiers, he explained.

“Jewish refugees had a particular reason to fight… The motivation of an ordinary British soldier is to fight for his country, but we refugees had a far stronger motive  to fight the Nazis,” he said.

“We did not fight for our country.  I did not have a country to fight for.  Certainly Germany was not my country, and neither was Britain… But I had another motive, a stronger motive to fight for my people,” he continued.

Bingham noted that throughout his time in battle he was always conscious that he was a Jew, and he never forgot his motive.

“I knew as a Jew that my father had already been deported to Poland, and I knew that my mother and other Jews were still in Germany.  So I fought to get into Germany and find my family… I didn’t do it because I had to do it, I had a reason,” he explained.



‘The Entire Country Loves You:’ Nechama Rivlin Laid To Rest At Mount Herzl

Israel’s First Lady, Nechama Rivlin was laid to rest in a state funeral on Wednesday evening (5th) at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery.  She was eulogized by her husband, President Reuven Rivlin, who began his remarks by wishing his wife a happy 74th birthday.

“My Nechama, our mother.  I got up this morning – you know that I didn’t manage to sleep – I looked at the date that is so familiar to me – June 5.  Happy birthday my dear. Sad birthday,” the president said.

Periodically dabbing his nose with a handkerchief, the president recounted parts of his wife’s life story, recalling her love of nature and farming.

“You never wanted to be in the limelight, but you understood that as the president’s wife you had a role to fill,” Rivlin said.  You chose to support children with special needs and stand alongside women without being a feminist,” he added.

Rivlin thanked his children and grandchildren, who he said did not leave his wife’s bedside “for one moment,” over the last seven months.  The president said it was a testament to the kind of mother and grandmother she had been.

“The entire country loves you,” Rivlin said between tears.

The First Lady had been eulogized earlier in the day by US President Donald Trump who tweeted that she had represented her country “with grace and stature.”

The funeral service was lad by Rabbi Benny Lau, with additional eulogies by one of the Rivlin daughters, Anat and author Haim Be’er.



Israel’s High Court: Hamas Prisoners Not Entitled To Family Visits

Israel’s High Court of Justice has rejected a petition by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, incarcerated in Israeli prisons, to overrule a decision by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to prevent them from receiving family visits.

In 2017, Erdan ordered the Israel Prisons Service not to approve family visits for Gaza terrorists connected to Hamas, in a bid to exert pressure on the organization to return Israeli citizens and the bodies of Israeli soldiers.

The court found that Erdan’s decision fell within the purview of state security and is legal, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“It is unreasonable and immoral to allow despicable terrorists to have family visits as long as Hamas holds the bodies of our soldiers and Israeli citizens,” Erdan said.  “I welcome the High Court of Justice’s ruling rejecting the petition against my decision… I will continue to act against the terrorists in prison until their prison terms fall to the minimum required by law.”

In a statement, the family of IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held captive by Hamas since the 2014 Gaza war, said, “We now expect Netanyahu to toughen the conditions of the prisoners and put effective pressure on Hamas.”

“If the Israeli government implements and fulfills the cabinet’s decisions, we will be able to bring Hadar, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed back home in the best agreement since the end of the Yom Kippur War,” the family said.



Putin Inaugurates Memorial To World War II Jewish Resistance Fighters

“The crimes of the Holocaust will never be forgiven,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday (4th) at the inauguration of a memorial dedicated to the Jewish resistance in Nazi concentration camps and ghettos.

Standing on stage next to oligarch Viktor Vekelsberg, the monument sponsor, and Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, Putin said, “Mass killings of people which turned into an industry are beastly crimes of Nazism that cannot be forgiven.  Those who voluntarily supported these evil acts also cannot be forgiven.”

Vekelsberg, who serves as head of the Russian Federation of Jewish Communities, said, “Today, opening this memorial, we want to commemorate those who personally felt how the Nazi death machine operated, but risked fighting for freedom.”

Aaron Belsky, one of the remaining resistance fighters, greeted the officials and together with Putin lit candles in front of the memorial wall.

The memorial is a creation of a Russian artist from the city of Saratov, Oleg Fandeyev, and features screens showing information about Jewish resistance to Nazism.