News Digest — 6/7/19

Israel: Shavuot, 2019

Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, is celebrated seven weeks after Passover.  Although Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival, the holiday has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

It is the second of three major Jewish festivals.  The other two are Pesach and Sukkot.

In Israel, Shavuot is a public holiday for the general population and schools.  Most businesses are closed.

Many Jewish people attend special prayer services in the synagogue and eat special meals on Shavuot.

Some customs associated with the festival are:

→Singing a poem called Azharot, which sets out the 613 Biblical commandments.

→Decorating homes and synagogues with plants, flowers, and leafy branches.

→Reading the Book of Ruth.

→Consumption of dairy products such as milk and cheese.

Studying the Torah all night before walking to the Western Wall for morning prayers.

An important symbol of Shavuot, throughout history has been the Bikkurim, or first fruits.  This was a basket of gold or silver that contained the first harvest of the Seven Species crops and was carried to the Temple in Jerusalem in a procession accompanied by music.  These crops were: barley, dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranates, and wheat. Modern versions of the Bikkurim may include other crops grown in Israel or other Jewish communities around the world.  The Ten Commandments inscribed on stones or scrolls representing the Torah are also symbolic of Shavuot.

This year Shavuot is celebrated in Israel beginning on Saturday at sundown (8th) and ends Sunday evening (9th).

(In The Jewish Tradition, By Judith Fellner,


IDF Arrests Hamas Maritime Rocket Smugglers

On Friday (7th), the IDF released video showing a sting in which it caught four Palestinians embarking on a run to Egypt to bring rocket manufacturing supplies back to Gaza via sea.

The Hamas-orchestrated operation reportedly sought to covertly bring materials like fiberglass using boats, which would have allowed them to avoid inspections at land crossings.

According to the IDF, the Shin Bet-led investigation revealed that the smugglers intended to bring back 24 barrels of fiberglass to Hamas operatives to use for making missiles.

The arrested Hamas operatives were charged with conspiracy to murder in a terrorist act, training for terrorist purposes, and an attempt to provide services to a terrorist organization, in addition to other offenses.

As part of the strategy to destroy the Jewish state, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fire barrages of rockets and missiles from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian targets.  In May, these two groups fired over 700 rockets at Israel, killing four people.



Anti-Aircraft Missiles Fired At Israel’s Hermon, Fall Inside Syria

Several anti-aircraft missiles were fired toward Mount Hermon from Syria Thursday (6th), the second such incident in under a week.

“IDF radars identified a number of anti-aircraft missiles fired from Syria,” the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit told The Jerusalem Post, adding that none fell in Israeli territory or posed a threat.

The incident came just days after five Syrian soldiers were killed in an alleged Israeli attack on the T4 airbase in the eastern Homs province on Sunday night (2nd), a day after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

According to an assessment by ImageSat International (ISI), the strike on T4 likely took out an advanced weapons system that had been delivered from Iran a day earlier “probably related to UAVs and possibly including a transportable ground control structure.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for the Jewish state.

In April, the IDF announced that Hezbollah has been building a terrorist network in Syria’s Golan Heights.



Gaza Border Roads Get New Protective Walls

Defense contractors on Wednesday (5th) completed a new section of protective wall on the Gaza border intended to prevent the direct firing of missiles at farmers, soldiers, and civilians, Channel 12 News reported.

The barrier that prevents terrorists in Gaza from seeing movement on the Israeli side of the border was erected after an Israeli civilian was killed in hostilities last month when his car was struck by an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas terrorists.

The roughly $28 million project will be fully funded when a new government is formed after the September 17 elections, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the project to move ahead now, the report said.

Moshe Feder, 68, was killed as he was driving along a road near the border that remained open, despite other roads being closed and passenger train service stopped for days because of their exposure to gun and missile fire from Gaza.

The Israeli Defense Forces also plan to construct earthenware barriers, pave alternative roads and put up additional concrete walls to provide protection from missile attacks in the exposed area.

The project will also include barriers and security devices along the route of the commuter train that connects the Gaza communities with the center of the country.  The route was closed during recent hostilities because terrorists had a direct line of sight if they wanted to attack the train.

The project was apparently approved nearly a year ago , but had been “stuck,” Channel 12 reported.  A senior defense official told Israeli news media last week that  he hoped that Fedor’s death would “accelerate the construction of the barrier to completion quickly.”



Anti-Semitism ‘Sadly Irrelevant’ To Most Germans, Says Berlin Columnist

Calls by German politicians for the wearing of kippot as a gesture of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community have fallen flat with the General public, a leading Jewish commentator said on Wednesday (5th).

In an extensive interview with national broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Michael Wuliger – a columnist with Germany’s main Jewish newspaper, the Judische Allgemeine – argued that the vast majority of Germans remained unmoved by the problem of rising anti-Semitism, despite a 20% rise in offenses targeting Jews in 2018.

After Germany’s top official combatting anti-Semitism warned last month that Jews could not safely wear kippot “always, everywhere,” several politicians from across the spectrum called on ordinary Germans to don a kippah as a show of support.  The newspaper Bild even published a cut-out kippah for readers to assemble themselves.  But when asked by interviewer Gerald Beyrodt whether the kippah-solidarity-calls had produced anything concrete, Wuliger gave a blunt answer.

“Nothing,” he replied.  “Absolutely nothing.”

Wuliger said he attended last Saturday’s (1st) small counter-demonstration in Berlin against the Qud’s Day march – an Iranian-backed annual event calling for the destruction of the State of Israel – and had not seen any kippot in evidence, despite several calls beforehand by politicians for people to wear them in public.

Asked why there was such indifference toward anti-Semitism in Germany, Wuliger cited the small proportion of Jews in the population – 200,000 out of a total of 80 million – as part of the answer.

Wuliger said his Jewish friends are worried, and that he supports them.  He said somebody must stand with the Jewish community as the German population seems to feel that  “anti-Semitism is irrelevant.”



Poll: Most Americans Support Israel, Say BDS Movement Is Anti-Semitic – Jeffrey Cimmino

According to a new poll of 1,000 likely U.S. voters released this week by the Hudson Institute, 51% held a favorable opinion of Israel, while only 21% held an unfavorable opinion.  75% agreed it is in America’s interest to have Israel as its closest ally in the Middle East.

Almost 60% said anti-Semitism is happening more frequently today than 15 years ago.  37% attributed anti-Semitism in the U.S. to Muslim extremists, 28% to right-wing extremists, and 22% to left-wing extremists.  A majority considered support for the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic, while a plurality said the U.S. should support Israel in opposing the BDS movement.  Over 60% said it is not Islamophobic to criticize Rep. Ilan Omar (D-Minn.) for her views on Israel