News Digest — 6/6/22

Hundreds Visit Temple Mount For Shavuot

754 Jews ascended the Temple Mount Sunday (5th) to celebrate the festival of Shavuot. This is an increase in the number of Jews ascending the mountain compared to Shavuot in previous years.

Those who made their way to the holy site reported exciting holiday prayers there, including special additions for the festival.  Sections of the Torah were recited by rabbis who had joined the visitors.  Some new immigrants bowed down on the Mount, an act normally forbidden, while police were attempting to keep order among Islamic worshipers.

The Temple Mount Administration provided the visitors with dairy refreshments (dairy foods are traditional at Shavuot) throughout the morning.  District Police Chief Doron Turgeman went down to the area and closely monitored the holiday proceedings.

Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount reported that police prevented Muslim rioters from entering the Temple Mount during opening hours.  It was likewise reported that other rioters had fortified themselves inside mosques in advance, plotting to disrupt the holiday.

The Temple Mount Administration estimates that many will ascend the Mount on Monday (6th) and for the coming week during special hours.

Shavuot began on Saturday evening (5th).  It is a one-day festival in Israel.



Israel Said Considering Expanded Travel Warnings Amid Fears Of Iranian Revenge Attacks

Israel is considering issuing travel warnings for additional countries amid concerns Iran may seek to attack Israelis traveling overseas, Channel 12 News reported Sunday (5th)

The network, without citing a source, reported fears that Iran may see Israelis going abroad for the summer as targets for revenge attacks.  The network did not specify to which nations the updated travel advisories could be issued.

The report comes after the National Security Council revised its travel warning for Turkey last month, saying there was a concrete threat to Israelis by “Iranian terrorist operatives” there and in nearby countries.

The warning followed the assassination of a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, which Iran blamed on Israel.  He was reportedly involved in killings and abductions outside of Iran, including attempts to target Israelis.

Since Khodaei was killed, another officer in the Quds Force – which oversees the IRGC’s overseas operations – has died in unclear circumstances, as has an engineer at a military site and a scientist who was reportedly involved in developing missiles and drones.

There were also unconfirmed reports of the death of another scientist who worked at the Natanz nuclear facility, which has twice been targeted in sabotage attacks that Iran has blamed on Israel.

According to Channel 12, Israel believes the Iranians have an increased motivation to launch attacks on Israeli targets at the moment, with the IRGC seeking to restore deterrence both within its borders and overseas.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Israel, which has not officially commented on the incident, reportedly raised the security alert level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory attack.



Iran: World Has Been Infected With The ‘Virus Of Zionism’

A senior Iranian official slammed Zionism in a Hebrew tweet Sunday (5th), following a string of suspicious deaths of Iranian officials.

General Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and a member of Iran’s Arab minority, tweeted Sunday night (5th) that the world was “infected with the Zionism virus,” and accused Israel of threatening Iran.

“Since the world was infected with Zionism virus, until today when threatening #Iran because of the fear of resistance, their calculations have been wrong.  When they know the collapse of this fake regime is imminent, it means that the resistance is moving in the right direction.”

The tweet was first posted in Farsi, with translations tweeted in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Russian.

Shamkhani posted the comments days after it was reported that an Iranian missile engineer was found dead in the city of Yazd.

The engineer Ayoob Entezari, was reportedly found dead last week, and according to some, died of food poisoning.

The reports of Enterzari’s death came on the heels of reports of another officer, Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, who died during an “incident” at his home in Karaj, Iran’s IRNA outlet said Friday (3rd).



Lebanon Warns Against Israel’s ‘Aggression’ On Disputed Waters

Lebanon warned Israel on Sunday (5th) against any “aggressive action” in disputed waters where both states hope to develop offshore energy, after a ship arrived off the coast to produce gas for Israel.

President Michel Aoun said any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of  aggression and provocation, after the arrival of the natural gas storage and production ship operated by London-based Energean.

Israel says the field in question is within its exclusive economic zone, not in disputed waters.

But in a statement, the Lebanese presidency said Aoun discussed with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati the vessel’s entry “into the disputed maritime area with Israel, and asked the Army Command to provide him with accurate and official data on the matter.”

Aoun said negotiations to delineate the southern maritime border continue and “any action or activity in the disputed area represents a provocation and aggressive action.”

There was no immediate response from the Israeli government to Aoun’s statement.  Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elaharrar welcomed the vessel’s arrival and said she hoped it would be brought online quickly.

“We will continue to work to diversify the energy market and to maintain stability and reliability,” she said.

Energean said its floating production storage and offloading vessel arrived on Sunday (5th) at the Karish field, about 50 miles west of the city of Haifa, in Israel’s exclusive economic zone.  The company said it planned to bring it online in the third quarter.

Mikati said Israel was encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth, and imposing a “fait accompli in a disputed area,” calling this “extremely dangerous.”

The United States began mediating indirect talks between the sides in 2000 to settle a long-running dispute between old foes that has obstructed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.  Lebanon is home to the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which has fought numerous wars with Israel.

Hezbollah has previously warned Israel against drilling for oil and gas in the disputed area until the issue is resolved, and said the group would take action if it did so.  Both Israel and Lebanon have made claims at the United Nations regarding their maritime border.  Lebanon says its border cuts into the sea at an angle farther south and Israel’s claim runs farther north, creating a triangle of disputed water.

Meanwhile the Energean vessel has docked in Israel.



France: Neo-Nazis Arrested For Planning “Hunt For Jews” During Soccer Match

Four neo-Nazi men in France’s Alsace region were indicted for possessing and trafficking an “impressive” amount of weapons that were intended for use against Jews, prosecutor Edwige Roux-Morizot said on Friday (3rd).

The men, aged between 45-53, were affiliated with far-right neo-Nazi groups and had intended on “hunting for Jews” during a soccer match in Strasbourg, Roux-Morizot said.

During the arrest, French police seized 18 legal and 23 illegal guns and some 120,000 bullets, as well as neo-Nazi literature, the prosecutor said.

The men were “well integrated into society,” he said according to the BBC.  They were arrested before they managed to carry out the attacks.

French Jews feel unsafe.  In a poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in February, a wide majority of the French Jewish population agreed that antisemitism is widespread in France and on the rise, with most Jews and the general public agreeing that it is a major concern in French society.

Reports of antisemitic incidents in France increased by 75% in 2021, according to the French Jewish Community Security Service, the main French Jewish Community watchdog group.

SPCJ recorded 589 hate crimes against Jews last year, including a 36% increase in physical assaults over 2020.  Incidents targeting people – as opposed to communal buildings and institutions – accounted for 45% of all incidents in 2021.  Of those, 10% were physical assaults.

The group released its annual report on Wednesday (1st).



Amsterdam Pays Tribute To Jews Murdered In Sobibor

On June 2, the city of Amsterdam held a ceremony honoring the approximately 33,000 Dutch Jews who were killed in the Sobibor death camp during the Holocaust.

The commemoration occurred At Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, at the site of a memorial installed in 2021, the Dutch language Reformatorisch Dagblad reported.

The memorial contains a plaque and a mirror.  Niels van Deuren, the creator of the monument, explained that its purpose was for people to look at themselves in the mirror, straight in the eye, and ask themselves what they can do when they detect hatred, racism, discrimination or intolerance.  The monument also drew inspiration from a speech by Dutch King Willem-Alexander’s 2020 speech at the National Commemoration on Dam Square during which he said: “Sobibor began in the Vondelpark, with a sign: ‘Prohibited for Jews.’”

The horrors of the Nazi Sobibor extermination camp became known in the Netherlands mainly through the testimony of Jules Schelvis, one of only nineteen Dutch survivors.  In the early 1980s, he began to write about his experiences and in 1999 he founded the Sobibor Foundation.  He passed away in 2016.

Sobibor Foundation President Christine Gispen de Wied said: “in Sobibor more than 33,000 Jews from the Netherlands were gassed in five months.  Imagine that.  That is a death machine.  From Sobibor you don’t come back.”

“With the war in Ukraine and refugees all over the world, we still have a long way to go for a better world,” she added.