News Digest — 7/11/22

PM: Israel Reserves Full Operational Freedom Against Iran

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday (10th) urged “resolute international action” against Iran’s nuclear program, saying he plans to discuss the issue with US President Joe Biden, who will be visiting the Middle East from July 13-16, with stops in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia. 

“On Wednesday (13th), US President Joe Biden, a friend of Israel, will arrive,” Lapid remarked ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“This visit will focus both on risks and on opportunities.  When discussing risks, we will focus primarily on Iran.  Saturday (9th) we learned that Iran was using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, in direct violation of the agreements to which it is a party.”

“The international response to this must be resolute.  The UN Security Council must employ the full force of its sanctions.  Israel, for its part, reserves full diplomatic and operational freedom in its fight against a nuclear Iran.  Israel will not stand idly by when someone is trying to harm it.”

“Our security forces know how to get to anyone, anywhere, and they will.  We will discuss the issue of expanding Israeli-American security collaboration against all threats.” Lapid asserted.

“From Jerusalem, the president’s plane will fly to Saudi Arabia, bringing with it a message of peace and hope from us.  Israel extends its hand in peace to all the nations in the region.  We call on them to establish ties with us and change history – for the sake of our children,” he concluded.



Somalia Mulling Ties With Israel

The government of Somalia may be preparing to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, according to a spokesperson for Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud.

Hebrew-language media outlets, including Channel 12 and Kan cited a spokesperson for President Mohamud who claimed that the Somali head of government is poised to launch talks with parliament to lay the groundwork for formal ties with Israel.

In June, Somali media reported that President Mohamud had been in contact with Israeli officials with some reports claiming that Mohamud made a clandestine visit to Israel.

Mohamud returned to office in late May, after serving as president from 2012 to 2017.

During his first term in office, Mohamud met secretly in Tel Aviv with then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The 2016 meeting came months after Somali and Israeli officials met in Jerusalem in December, 2015.

A report by the Times of Israel cited a Somali diplomat close to Mohamud who said following his re-election in May that his second term as president would be a positive development for Israel-Somali ties.

Somalia, a predominately Muslim nation and Arab League member state in the Horn of Africa, has never officially recognized the Jewish state.

Channel 12 also reported Saturday (9th) that an autonomous region within Somalia has sought U.S. support in opening ties with Israel.  According to the report, Bihi Abdi, president of the self-declared state of Somaliland, reached out to American officials, telling them that he had attempted to open diplomatic channels to Israel but had not received any response.

Officials representing Somaliland took part in a May conference in France, hosted by the Israeli embassy, which aimed to expand cooperation between Israel and African countries and businesses.



‘Zionist Imam’ Who Condemns Antisemitism Gives Main Hajj Address In Mecca

An imam known for his conciliatory views of Judaism and Christianity aroused fierce controversy in Saudi Arabia when he was chosen to deliver the main address during the hajj Friday (8th) in one of Mecca’s most important mosques.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, personally chose Sheik Dr. Mohammad al-Issa, overcoming the objections of senior clerics who did not want to honor a man whom they feel is too friendly to Jews.

Hundreds of others reacted angrily to the choice, including Muslim clerics in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Some said al-Issa shouldn’t be allowed to enter the Namira Mosque because his contact with Jews made him “impure.”

Al-Issa is one of the senior clerics in the kingdom who in the past has served as its justice minister.  Those close to MBS said that this provocation in stature is a further stage in Saudi Arabia becoming more open to other countries.

Younger Saudis applauded the move, calling on Twitter for MBS to continue on “the right path” of integrating more with the Western world. 

Al-Issa is the head of the Muslim World League, a non-governmental organization that promotes a moderate and tolerant version of Islam.  He consistently speaks of Islam as a religion of peace and the need for people of all faiths to work with each other instead of against each other.

He has openly acknowledged the “unconscionable crimes” of the Holocaust while leading a group of co-religionists to Auschwitz in January 2020.  He has invited rabbis to the kingdom, and has publicly condemned antisemitism.

In Saudi Arabia, he is known as “the Zionist imam.”

On Mount Ararat, the focal point of the annual hajj this year, he spoke of adhering to the five pillars of the Muslim faith and used his platform to urge his audience to “comply with values taught by Islam.”

These he said, include “avoiding all that leads to dissent, animosity, or division; and instead, ensuring that our interactions are dominated by harmony and compassion.  He said “each individual among us should love what is good for all people and strive to bring their hearts together.”   

Israeli media pundits have theorized that by choosing al-Issa to speak before US President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week, MBS was sending a positive signal to the White House regarding a possible additional thawing of relations with the Jewish state. 



US And Canadian Teens Train In Israel To Become Lifesavers

Last Thursday (7th), a group of 50 teenagers from different parts of the United States and Canada graduated from their emergency medical response (EMR) training course with United Hatzalah and participated in a mass casualty incident (MCI) training drill in the Aminadav forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  The youngsters, now all fully registered emergency medical responders (EMRs), were participating in one of the summer programs organized by the International Youth Movement NCSY.  The program, NCSY Hatzalah Rescue, is currently in its fifth installment, having taken a break in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The MCI drill simulated a bus crash with dozens of actors portraying injured youngsters.  The task of the newly minted EMRs was to provide medical treatment at the scene to the simulated injuries of the victims and to assist the ambulance teams that arrived in performing triage and transporting the simulated “injured” to the hospital.  Following the drill, the NCSY participants will now be joining regular ambulance shifts around the country and responding to medical emergencies for the  next few weeks.

Reflecting on the success of the MCI training and seeing the program participants now serving on ambulances in Israel, President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer added, “I remember when I was 16 years old and just starting out as a first responder riding on an ambulance.  I didn’t know at the time that I would be changing the way emergency medical service (EMS) was done in Israel, I just wanted to help as many people as I could.  Today, I see the same enthusiasm on the faces of these youngsters and I know that some of them may go on to shape the future of EMS in their own cities and countries, and perhaps even here.  I am inspired by the level of enthusiasm they show and I wish them much success going out and saving lives for the rest of their time in Israel and after they go back home.”



80 Years After Holocaust, Italian Family Honored For Saving Jews

Seventy-five-year-old Florence Pauli had already come to terms that her family would never be given the title of Righteous Among the Nations, although they saved Jews during the Holocaust from certain death, endangering their own lives.

Fast forward to 2022, and their courageous act has been recognized by the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center this week and the family awarded certificates of honor by Israel’s ambassador to Italy Dror Eydar.

The 80-year-long journey began during the Holocaust, when the Paulis hid the Israel family – mother Esther, daughter Lucia and son Samuele – for over a year in their attic in the town of Campi Bisenzio, in the Italian region of Tuscany.

Florence never really sought recognition, but five years ago, she visited the magnificent Florence synagogue with her granddaughter to tell her about Judaism, the Jewish people, and her family’s courageous acts during the war.  She also spoke with members of the local Jewish community, who were the ones to propose seeking the recognition.

Given that the family members involved in the rescue efforts are no longer alive, the process was complicated.  The recording of Samuele, who has also passed away, recalling the events was also not enough.

Three years ago, Israel Hayom reported on the events and the Yad Vashem Museum’s refusal to recognize the Pauli family as Righteous Among the Nations.

But the story finally came to a close this week, when the Pauli family was recognized for their bravery after an Italian historian who read the Israel Hayom article managed to find in the archives of the Italy Interior Ministry Samuele’s recorded testimony in front of a notary about how his family was saved by the Paulis.

“This is the end of a long journey, which began symbolically in this synagogue,” Florence said.  “We made this town proud, she added.”

Eydar said, “the Pauli family was among the brave Italians who understood they couldn’t hide behind orders and commands.  They didn’t do this to be awarded.  Their prize was seeing the Jewish family they saved, alive, after the horrific catastrophe.”