News Digest — 8/11/20

Israel’s Schools To Open September 1

Despite comments to the contrary by the Health Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Monday (10th) that the school year will open for all children on September 1.

“The school year will open as planned and according to the outline formulated by Education Minister Yoav Gallant,” Netanyahu said Monday (10th) in a closed part of a Likud faction meeting.

His comments came the day after coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said the Health Ministry was considering delaying the start of the school year for children above grade four.

However, Monday morning (10th), Gallant told a Knesset committee discussing the subject that the school year will open and “whoever says differently causes panic.”  Education Minister director-general Amit Edry added that his ministry is working together with the local authorities, “with full vigor and intensity so that the gates of educational institutions will open September 1.”

Gallant presented the framework on Monday (10th) by which students will return to school in three weeks in the shadow of coronavirus.

The plan was formulated by the Education Ministry in collaboration with the Finance Ministry and is meant to allow parents to return to work after summer break and keep the economy moving.

“The education system will open…to ensure the stability of the Israeli economy,” Gallant confirmed, stressing that the framework relies on two important principles: continuity and flexibility.

He added that, “Not everything in this plan is perfect. But we are giving you 100% of our best efforts.”

Children will go to school in-person and /or learn from home depending on their age.  Students in pre-school will have a full, six-day school week and will operate without restrictions.

Grades 1 and 2 will learn as usual, five days a week in normal classroom sizes.

Third and fourth grades will study five days a week, in groups of 18 or less – each at a separate table.

The rest of the students, fifth-grade and up, will be in their classrooms twice a week and do remote-learning three days a week at home.

According to the framework, students in preschool through grade 2 and all special education students will not be required to wear masks.  Students in grades 3 will wear them during recess and only children in grades 4 and above will be required to wear masks all the time.

All students will be required to bring to school each day a signed health form. 



Israel Closes Gaza’s Kerem Shalom Crossing Except For Humanitarian Aid

Israel has closed Gaza’s Kerem Shalom crossing to all but essential humanitarian aid and fuel in response to Hamas’ rocket fire and the launching of incendiary balloons at southern Israeli communities.

“The decision was made due to the continued launching of explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel,” the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said.

Kerem Shalom is Gaza’s main commercial crossing and its closures by Israel are often signs of tensions with Hamas.

“The decision was made following security deliberations and in light of repeated terror attacks committed by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli citizens, which is a violation of Israel’s sovereignty,” COGAT said.

Such violence “will first and foremost harm the residents of the Gaza Strip, the economic growth and attempts to improve the civilian situation of its residents,” COGAT said.

“The IDF and the State of Israel will react forcefully and in an uncompromising manner to any violation of our sovereignty and to any threat imposed to our citizens,” it warned.

“Hamas is fully accountable for all that it does in the Gaza Strip, as well as for actions launched from Gaza against Israel.  Hamas will therefore have to deal with the consequences of the violence committed against the citizens of Israel,” COGAT added.

Earlier on Monday (10th), Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke about the situation in the south with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.  He said Israel’s only interest in Gaza was in the maintenance of calm and the return of two Israeli citizens and the remains of two soldiers held captive in Gaza.

“We would be happy to see Gaza develop.  I would also be happy to see workers from Gaza heading to Israel,” Gantz said.

“This can happen on one condition – that our boys are returned home,” Gantz said.  “Once we see this, we can develop Gaza,” he added.



Hamas Fires Rockets Into Sea In ‘Message’ To Israel

Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into the sea on Monday (10th) after repeated exchanges of fire with Israel in recent days, Gaza security sources and eyewitnesses said.

At least eight rockets were seen in the sky, heading toward the Mediterranean Sea, said AFP journalists in the coastal strip.

The Gaza’s Strip interior ministry called the rocket launches “an act of resistance.”

The rockets were a “message” to Israel to let it know that terrorist groups in Gaza will not “remain silent” in the face of an Israeli blockade and “aggression,” a source close to Hamas told AFP.

The source noted that Monday’s (10th) rocket fire coincided with the recent launch of incendiary balloons into Israel.

In the past week, such balloons have flown three times from Gaza into Israel, each time triggering retaliatory strikes against Hamas positions.  

The latest came Sunday night (9th) when the Israeli military announced that one of its aircraft had struck at a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza.

Despite a truce last year, backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides have clashed sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons from Gaza and retaliatory strikes by Israel.

Palestinian Arab analysts say fire from Gaza is often aimed at pressuring Israel to give the green light for the transfer of Qatari financial aid into the Strip



Anti-Semitic Houthi Rebel In Yemen Bashes UAE For ‘Building Synagogues’

The United Arab Emirates is “building synagogues for Jews,” Houthi rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said in a statement published over the weekend in Iranian media.  Iran is a major backer of the Houthi rebels who have been fighting a civil war in Yemen.

The official slogan of the Houthis contains this statement: “Death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam.”  The movement is one of the few in the region that is officially and openly anti-Semitic.  While the rebels are called Houthis, the movement’s official name is Ansar Allah.

“The UAE authorities are looking to improve their image by building a synagogue for the Jews,” Houthi said.

The United Arab Emirates also helped reunite a Jewish Yemenite family after 15 years, media in the UAE reported over the weekend.

There have been numerous reports in recent years about the robust Jewish community in the UAE, and it’s need for synagogues.  The UAE said a new synagogue will be built by 2022.    

There were concerns that the Houthis could be working with Iran to target Israel in the past.  In mid-July, the Houthis claimed they will have “targets” in Israel this year.

In 2018, The Washington Post gave op-ed space to the Houthis and the Houthi rebel leader, despite the movement’s anti-Semitism.  

Newspapers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are no friends of Iran, slammed the op-ed arguing that the Houthis “are an Iran-backed terror group.” 



USC Student VP Resigns, Says She Was Bullied For Being A Zionist – Aaron Bandler (University of Southern California)

Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Rose Ritch resigned on Aug. 5, saying she was bullied for being a supporter of Israel.  “I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist,” she wrote on Facebook.  “Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to impeach me.  This is anti-Semitism and can not be tolerated at a university that proclaims to ‘nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.’’’

“Nearly 95% of American Jews support Israel as the Jewish state, inherently connected to our religious history and communal peoplehood.  An attack on my Zionist identity is an attack on my Jewish identity.  The suggestion that my support for a Jewish homeland would make me unfit for office or would justify my impeachment plays into the oldest stereotypes of Jews,” Ritch added.

University of Southern California (USC) President Carol Folt wrote to the student community on Aug. 6 denouncing anti-Semitism after Rose Ritch’s resignation. 

Folt wrote, “In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision – specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities…. “

“Anti-Semitism in all of its forms is a profound betrayal of our principles and has no place at this university,” Folt added.