News Digest — 7/27/23

Tisha B’Av: Minister Ben-Gvir Visits Temple Mount

Thousands of Jews are expected to visit the Temple Mount on Thursday (27th), Tisha B’Av, which is one of the prime days for Jewish visits to Judaism’s holiest site.

One of the day’s first visitors was National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who wished to send a message of unity, stating, “On this day, at this place, it is important to always remember – we are all brothers.  Right, left, religious, secular.  We are all the same nation.  And when a terrorist looks out the window, he doesn’t differentiate between us.  Unity is important, love is important.  This place, this place is most important to the people of Israel, we need to return and show our governance.”

Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, Yitzhak Wasserlauf visited the Mount on Thursday (27th) as well.

The police have assembled in mass to ensure safe and quick visits.

Canopies were installed in the waiting area, which was recently renovated, to protect visitors to the site from the sun.  The Temple Mount Administration suggested visitors arrive after 9: a.m. due to expected overcrowding during the opening hours.

Thousands of Jews visited the Temple Mount over the Three Weeks, the period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples and the ancient city of Jerusalem.

During this week, students and Rabbis from local yeshivas  ascended the Temple Mount.

Rabbi Shimshon Elbaum, the head of the Temple Mount Administration said: “We are seeing a great increase in desire and dedication to this place, the sorrow and grief are already channeled into great action in the holy place.  It is exciting to see the thousands who visit the Temple Mount in purity, according to the rules of Halacha.”


Report: Rocket Fired From Jenin Towards Israeli Town

A group of terrorists from the Al-Ayyash Battalion in the Jenin area, who are affiliated with the Hamas terror group, on Thursday morning (27th) fired a rocket towards an Israeli town, reports said.

The launch is the fifth that the group has tried to fire, and was aimed at the town of Ram-On in the Gilboa Regional Council.

In June, a rocket was fired from Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, but fell short of its goal of landing in Israeli-controlled territory.  Though it was the first such launch, it was not the last.  On July 8, remnants of rockets were discovered by security personnel in Ram-On.

On July 10, two rockets were launched towards Shaked, and remnants were discovered by the IDF.



Back To Jenin?  IDF Believes Additional Incursion Needed To Neutralize Terrorist Hotspots

Over 20 days have passed since the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in Jenin, but it appears a return may be necessary.  Sources in the security establishment reveal that Palestinian terrorists are attempting to rebuild their ruins, focusing on infrastructure, producing potent charges, and collecting renewed munitions.

Shortly after the IDF bulldozers withdrew from the Jenin ‘refugee’ camp, Palestinian Authority personnel promptly stepped in, seeking to establish governance.  Interestingly, this aligned with the objectives of the recent IDF operation.  Dozens of terrorist operatives were arrested and a display of governance  and enforcement of public order unfolded on the city’s streets.

The latest visit from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was the climax that bolstered the Palestinian Authority’s position in the refugee camp.  However, the IDF remains cautious, aware that it cannot rely solely on the Palestinians.  While the Israeli military has not operated in the camp since the operation, security officials clarify that they aim not to obstruct the PA’s efforts to govern Jenin again – a critical Israeli security interest – despite the growing terrorist resurgence in the camp.

“Thwarting terrorism requires periodic operations in Jenin to prevent its resurgence in the refugee camp,” according to a security official.  “While not on the scale of the latest operation, targeted short-term two-hour operations, like the recent one at Tulkarem, are imminent.”  The official said that entering Jenin again is likely in the near future.

Not to be outdone, tensions in the Nablus sector are also on the rise.  On Monday (24th), terrorists fired at an Israeli bus traveling through Huwara, but miraculously despite being hit with eight bullets, no one was injured.  

In another incident,  thanks to the swift response of IDF combat engineering fighters, a major attack was prevented.  The fighters, conducting proactive movements near a Samaritan community in the northern West Bank, identified a suspicious vehicle Tuesday morning (25th).

During a tense encounter, two armed terrorists emerged from the vehicle and opened fire on the forces.  The soldiers swiftly responded and killed three terrorists, identified as Hamas operatives by Palestinian media.  Notably one of the slain terrorists  was revealed to be the son of a senior Hamas official in Nablus.



Erdogan Hosts PA’s Abbas, Hamas Head Haniyeh To Prepare For Detente Talks

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas terror group head Ismail Haniyeh held a joint meeting in Ankara Wednesday (26th) with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ahead of a crucial summit of Palestinian factions set for this weekend.

Abbas and Haniyeh met together with Erdogan behind closed doors, the Turkish leader’s office said.

Sources close to the Fatah party and Hamas said that the Ankara meeting focused on Palestinian unity and how to end divisions.

The meeting is “very important especially in light of the continuation of the Israeli aggression in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the continuation of settlement activity,” a source said.

During the meeting, Erdogan told the factional heads that a lack of unity among the Palestinians benefited those “who wanted to undermine peace.”

A readout from Abbas’ office said he and the Turkish president discussed developing bilateral ties.  The statement did not mention Haniyeh’s presence, reflecting frayed ties between the rival Palestinian groups.

Fatah, Hamas and several other groups are slated to meet in Cairo on national reconciliation, following Israeli raids against Islamic Jihad terrorists in the northern West Bank, where the PA has largely lost control of the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin.  Islamic Jihad said earlier this week that it would boycott the meeting.

A statement from Hamas official Husam Badran said the sides discussed reconciliation efforts ahead of the two-day meeting, set to begin July 29.  He said unity was needed to confront Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also due to visit Turkey this week, but his visit was later postponed, after he had surgery last weekend and as Israel is busy over a contentious judicial makeover.

After several years of tensions, relations between Turkey and Israel have improved over the past year, with several high-level visits, including that of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog.

During a bilateral meeting with Abbas on Tuesday (25th), Erdogan promised to continue supporting the Palestinian cause and voiced concerns over the flare-up of violence in the West Bank in recent months.

“We will continue to support the Palestinian cause in the strongest way possible.” Erdogan said to Abbas.

“We are deeply worried about the increasing loss of lives, destruction, settler expansion and violence,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan also said Turkey would do its part for unity and reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.



‘Holy Jerusalem:’ Rare 2,000-Year-Old Half-Shekel Coin Found In Judean Desert

A 2,000-year-old half-shekel bearing the Hebrew inscription “Holy Jerusalem” has been discovered in the Judean Desert, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed on Tuesday (25th).

The rare coin, dated to 66/67 CE, the days of the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, was discovered at the entrance to a cave near Ein Gedi.  The find was part of a cave survey operation, now in its sixth year, that the IAA is managing in cooperation with the Israeli Heritage Ministry and an archaeology staff officer at the Civil Administration.

Recently, as part of the survey, IAA inspectors had reached a section of a cliff along one of the streams in the Ein Gedi area, and noticed the coin sticking out of the ground at the entrance to one of the cliffside caves.

Yaniv David Levy, a researcher in the IAA’s Coin Department, said, “You can see an inscription written in un-vowelized Hebrew… on this coin from the first year of the rebellion.  This may be proof of the process of formulating inscriptions… in later years of the rebellion, the ‘Holy Jerusalem’ is written in plene spelling [in which letters normally omitted are present].”  He noted that the Ein Gedi coin features three pomegranates in the center of the coin, “a familiar symbol on the Israeli pound, used by the State of Israel until 1980.”

A goblet appears on the other side, and above it the Hebrew letter alef is inscribed, indicating the first year of the rebellion,as well as the inscription “Hatzi Shekel” [half shekel], indicating the value of the coin.

The goblet was a symbol typical of the coins used by the Jewish population in the Second Temple period.  These coins were minted in values of “shekel” and “half shekel” during the first rebellion against the Romans, which took place in the Land of Israel from 66 to 70 CE.  This rebellion ended in the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Interestingly, in accordance with the biblical commandment “Thous shalt not make for thee a graven image,” the Jews engraved symbols taken from the plant world on their coins, in addition to motifs inspired by religious objects.  The pagan population, by contrast, portrayed on their coins animals and the faces of their rulers. 

As an act of defiance, Jewish rebels minted their own silver and bronze coins, engraved with Jewish motifs and symbols.  It is assumed that the coins were minted in Jerusalem – and possibly even in the Temple complex itself.  With these coins, the rebels chose to use the ancient Hebrew script that was common hundreds of years earlier – during the time of the First Temple – and not the Greek script which was used in the days of the Second Temple.

“Coins from the first year of the revolt, such as this coin, are rare,” said Levy.  “During the time of the Second Temple pilgrims used to pay a tax of half a shekel to the Temple.  The accepted currency for paying  this tax for almost 2,000 years was the Tyrian shekel.  When the revolt broke out, the rebels issued, as mentioned, these replacement coins which bore the inscriptions ‘Israel shekel,’ ‘half shekel,’ and ‘quarter shekel.”  It seems that the worship of the Temple continued even during the rebellion, and these coins were also used by the rebels for this purpose.”  Amir Ganor, director of the Theft Prevention Unit at the IAA, said: “finding a silver half-shekel coin from the first year in an organized archaeological project is a rare event in Israel in general, and in the Judean desert in particular.”

The discovery demonstrates the importance of surveying the entire Judean Desert “systematically and professionally,” he added.  “Every … item discovered in the survey adds more information about the history of our nation and country.”

“During the six years of this operation, we have documented over 800 caves and discovered thousands of valuable and important finds,” he said.

Heritage Minister Rabbi Amihai Eliyahu said: “The exciting discovery brings further evidence of the deep and indisputable ties between the Jewish people and Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.” 

IAA Director Eli Escusido said: “The coin is direct and touching evidence of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans–a turbulent period in the life of our people from 2,000 years ago, during which extremism and discord divided the people and led to destruction”

“We have returned here after 2,000 years of yearning, and the city of Jerusalem is our capital, but there is nothing new under the sun–the disputes have not ended.  Finding this coin reminds us all of our past, and why we must strive for agreement.”