News Digest — 7/23/20

Pandemic Fuels Real Estate Surge As Diaspora Jewry Realizes Israel ‘Safest Place To Be’

Jews and Israelis who are living in the US are moving back to Israel in large numbers and buying real estate, despite the second wave of infections that has been hitting the country, Globes reported Tuesday (21st).

American Jews and Israelis who moved to North America  appear to agree that if they have to deal with the coronavirus, doing it in Israel is the better way, the report said.

The Jewish Agency and the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization that promotes aliyah both reported earlier this year that since the coronavirus pandemic broke out there has been a huge surge in the number of Jews who want to immigrate to Israel, especially during the success of beating down the first wave of infections in April.

At the same time, real estate companies have reported a dramatic increase in foreign residents looking to buy housing in Israel.  An Israeli identified as K has lived in Silicon Valley for 30 years, but recently bought an apartment in Ramat Gan, Globes  reported.

“Our impression is that the way Israel has dealt with public health in the context of the pandemic has been more correct than in the US,” K said.

“I have come across more and more stories of Israelis on relocation who decided to return to Israel early, or of people who decided to settle in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic started.”

K acknowledged that Israel looks like a mess with the second wave of infections, but blamed “irresponsibility on the part of the public,” and “some government officials “shooting from the hip.”

Jewish Agency officials confirmed that an increase in aliyah should spark an increase in housing sales.

Jewish Agency statistics show that in June alone the agency opened files for more than 3,000 North Americans interested in aliyah, compared with 480 in June 2019 –  numbers were also up in Latin America and France.

Real estate agents throughout Israel reported hits on their websites from outside Israel at 10 times the normal volume.

“The coronavirus was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It led them to decide that Israel was the safest place to be, and made them finally decide to come back.  They are winding up their affairs and coming here,” Tel Aviv real estate developer Moti Kozhinof, told Globes.



IDF Bolsters Troops On Northern Border As Tensions With Hezbollah Grow

The military on Thursday (23rd) announced it was sending reinforcements to the northern sector amid concerns of an attack by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

Reinforcements include one battalion as well as additional troops, who are being sent to the IDF Northern Command’s Galilee Division, the IDF said.

“Following a recent security assessment, the IDF has decided to send reinforcement of infantry troops to the Northern Command,” an IDF spokesperson said in a statement.

The move follows threats by the Iranian-backed terrorist group that it will retaliate over an alleged Israeli airstrike, Tuesday (21st) south of the Syrian capital, that Hezbollah claims killed one of its operatives, Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad.



Hezbollah Threatens Israel After Member Of Terror Group Killed In Syria

Hezbollah-linked social media accounts are mourning a member killed in Syria, on Tuesday night (21st).  Hundreds of accounts shared images of the dead “martyr” and also vowed revenge against Israel.

One account showed Hezbollah driving a car toward the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a common style iconography, suggesting the liberation of Jerusalem from Israel, among pro-Iran and Hezbollah accounts.

Statements attributed to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah also suggested Israelis “better keep an eye open in case of an attack.”  Hezbollah monitored Israeli media for responses, suggesting Israel was concerned.  “There is fear and alertness in Israel,” pro-Hezbollah media reported.

Social media accounts put up hashtags indicating it was “Hezbollah’s sincere desire to retaliate” for martyr Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad’s killing during airstrikes in Damascus in the early hours of Tuesday morning (21st), attributed to Israel.  

The loss of this Hezbollah fighter is one of several who has been killed in Syria over the past year.  Last fall Israel carried out an airstrike against a “killer drone team” and killed two Hezbollah members.  Other Hezbollah members have been killed while fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime. 



Egyptian Army Foils ISIS Terrorists In Sinai, Kills 18

The Egyptian Army announced that it foiled a terrorist attack on a military base in the northern Sinai village of Rabi’a on Tuesday (21st) that killed 18 of the attacking fighters according to a report shared exclusively with JNS by the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor.

According to the MEMRI JTTM report, army ground and air forces repelled an attack by “takfiri elements” – or Islamic State (ISIS) militants – and forced them into a nearby field where the 18 fighters, including one in an explosive suicide vest, were killed, the Egyptian army spokesman said in a statement.

Also destroyed were four vehicles, three of which were prepared as car bombs.

Two members of the Egyptian Army died, the spokesman said.  The statement included video footage of the airstrikes and of the bodies of the armed men said to be the dead attackers.

In videos circulated on social media by local residents, explosions were seen and heard plus exchanges of gunfire at an area identified as an Egyptian army base.  Also circulated were footage and photos of ISIS gunmen walking through the streets of Rabi’a.

ISIS supporters online celebrated the incident, disseminating reports that the Egyptian base had been completely overrun and destroyed by ISIS fighters.



Key Site From Biblical Kings’ Time Unveiled Near US Embassy In Jerusalem

A major archaeological site from the time of the biblical kings was unveiled near the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday (22nd).

An impressive structure built of concentric walls was uncovered during the preparation works for building a new residential area in the neighborhood of Arnona.

The size and design of the ancient facility support the public nature of its purpose.  Moreover, the archaeologists found over a 100 stamped jar handles, featuring the inscription “to the king” in ancient Hebrew script and mentioning several names of cities in the Kingdom of Judah, including Hebron, Ziph and Socho.  The stamped jars were generally used for the purpose of tax collection.

The researchers believe that the site dates back to the time of King Hezekiah and Menashe, between the 8th and the middle of the 7th century BCE.

“This is one of the most significant discoveries from the period of the kings in Jerusalem made in recent years,” IAA archaeologist and director of the excavation, Neria Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari commented in a press release.  

“At the site we excavated, there are signs that governmental activity managed and distributed food supplies not only for shortage but administered agricultural surplus amassing commodities and wealth.  Evidence shows that at this site, taxes were collected in an orderly manner for agricultural produce such as wine and olive oil.  The site once dominated large agricultural plots and orchards of olive trees and grape vines, which included agricultural industrial facilities such as winepresses for winemaking.” 

“The site is dated to a period documented in the Bible by upheavals such as that of the Assyrian conquest campaign – under the command of King Sennacherib in the days of King Hezekiah,” they added.  “It may be that the government economic provisions indicated by the stamp seals are related to these events, however, the excavation revealed that the site continued to be active after the Assyrian conquest.  Moreover, the array of stamped seals indicated that the system of taxation remained uninterrupted during this period.”

“Along with the jar handles bearing the royal seal impressions, several similar items featuring private names were uncovered: Naham Abdi, Naham Hatzlihu, Meshalem Elnatan, Zafan Abmetz, Shaneah Azaria, Shalem Acha and Shivna Shachar.  The names appear on jar handles found in other sites from the Kingdom of Judah, suggesting that the people were probably senior officials or wealthy individuals.”

“It is estimated that these were senior officials who were in charge of specific economic areas, or perhaps wealthy individuals at that time – those who owned large agricultural lands, propelled the economy of their district, and owned private seals,” the archaeologists explained.

The excavation is conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is funded by the Israel Land Authority and administered by the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation.



Spain Adopts IHRA Definition Of Anti-Semitism

The government of Spain has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain issued a statement Wednesday (22nd) thanking the Spanish government for its recent decision.

The IHRA working-definition describes various forms of anti-Semitism, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial, and sometimes expressed criticism of Israel.

Spain has been a member of the alliance since 2008.  It is one of 34 member countries.

Also, in June, the parliament of the Spanish state passed legislation declaring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel a form of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Even though Spain’s judiciary has repeatedly defined BDS as a discriminatory endeavor, legislation reflecting this view rarely passes.