News Digest — 8/13/20

Israel, US Test Upgraded Arrow 2 Missile, Capable of Intercepting Incoming Nukes

Israel and the United States completed a successful test of the advanced Arrow 2 air defense system late Wednesday night (12th), shooting down a simulated long-range missile high over the Mediterranean Sea, defense officials said.

The system successfully intercepted the target, which behaved in a way similar to the types of weapons that Israel anticipates could be fired at it someday – like those from Iran – and was affixed with an explosive warhead, according to Boaz Levy, vice president and head of the Systems, Missiles and Space Group at Israel Aerospace Industries, which manufactures the Arrow 2.

The platform was tested by the Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization, the Israeli Air Force, IAI, and the US Missile Defense Agency.  The test was carried out late Wednesday night (12th) from the Palmachim Air Base in Central Israel.

“The test last night can be described in one word: perfect,” Moshe Patel, head of the MDO, told reporters Thursday morning (13th).

According to Patel, the incoming target was first detected by the Arrow’s radar system, then the Arrow 2 interceptor missile was fired “at the precise moment it was meant to,” and detonated its explosive payload, completely destroying the target.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said of the test, “Our elite technological unit ensures that we will always be one step ahead of our enemies.  We will defend Israel’s skies from any threat.”

With hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Israel maintains one of the world’s most advanced multi-tiered air defense systems, designed to intercept incoming short, medium and long-range missiles.

“Our enemies and those wishing us evil will know that the State of Israel is prepared for any threat,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following Wednesday night’s test.

Patel said the Arrow 2 system has been upgraded five times over the course of its 20 years in use.



Defense Establishment Thwarts Cyberattack Targeting Israeli Companies

Israel’s defense establishment thwarted a cyberattack that targeted Israeli defense companies on Wednesday (12th), the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The cyberattack was conducted by an international cyber group called “Lazarus,” an organization that is backed by a foreign country, it said.

An ongoing investigation has revealed that members of the group used various hacking techniques, including “social engineering” and impersonation.  They targeted companies in the high-tech sector by building fake profiles on the social-media platform Linkedin.

The hackers impersonated CEOs and leading officials in human-resources departments and lured employees of major defense companies in Israel with tempting job offers and business opportunities.  The purpose of the hacking scheme was to compromise the computers of the employees by sending corrupted files hidden as job offers and eventually gathering sensitive information.  

The hackers used the official websites of several companies to try to hack their systems.

The cyberattacks were identified in real time and were thwarted by the defense establishment’s Tech Unit.  No harm was done to the targeted networks, the Defense Ministry said.

The Directorate of Security has launched a joint investigation, together with the defense industries and other security bodies, according to the statement.

“The Directorate of Security for the Defense Establishment will continue its work in stopping attempts to breach the networks of Israeli defense industries and any attempts to harm the technological capabilities and assets of the State of Israel,” the statement concluded.



New Immigrants From Mexico Arrive On Charter Flight

A first-of-its-kind charter flight from Mexico carrying 230 new immigrants, a group of Masa Israel Journey volunteers, and Israelis returning home, landed at Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday (11th).

Dubbed “Operation Home,” the flight was organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hanoar Hatzioni.

The flight which took off from Mexico City, was carrying 50 new olim and 150 Hanoar Hatzioni graduates who will take part in Masa, a project co-founded by the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government.

“Operation Home” also provided air transport for several dozen Israelis who were stranded due to the limited availability of flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Aliyah has never stopped, even during the most difficult crises the State of Israel has experienced,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog.

“Even now, during a global crisis, Jews from all over the world are realizing the Zionist vision and making their new home in Israel.  This is a story that touches all Israelis, as most of us are part of our family’s first, second, or third generation here in Israel,” Herzog said.

Mexico is home to the third-largest Jewish community in Central America (after Argentina and Brazil) with approximately 50,000 Jews, most of whom live in the capital of Mexico City.  Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many of Mexico’s synagogues and other Jewish institutions have closed, while schools and youth movements have moved to virtual operations.

In the first seven months of 2020, the Jewish Agency organized aliyah for 2,269 olim from Latin America, compared with 1,839 during the same period last year, an increase of 23.3%.  In Mexico alone, the Jewish Agency has opened 493 aliyah files since January, an increase of 32% from 2019.

The new arrivals were sent directly into the two-week quarantine required by the Health Ministry.  Once released, the olim will be integrated into local communities and absorption centers throughout the country.

The members of Hanoar Hatzioni will begin Masa’s Israel Challenge and Programs, during which they will volunteer on a number of kibbutzim and work with Magen David Adom, among other organizations.



Dozens Of Jewish Headstones Discovered Under Polish Town’s Market Square

Dozens of Jewish headstones were discovered under the asphalt of a local market in Poland.  They had been placed in the heart of Lezajsk, a town located about 120 miles south of Warsaw, at least 80 years ago, according to a report Friday (7th) in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

The headstones which were uncovered during construction work that began in June, have been removed and stored by the municipality, which will consult Jewish community officials on what to do with the find.

Between 1918 and 1939, Lezajsk’s population of about 5,000 was 90% Jewish, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s National Holocaust Museum.  Many of them were saved thanks to the town’s proximity to the partition line that separated the German and Soviet occupation zones in Poland following the invasion of those armies into Poland in 1939.

The Germans sent many Lezajsk Jews to the Soviet occupation zone, where some were exiled into the heartland of Russia – a turn of events that meant they were safe from the Nazis when they opened the eastern front with the former Soviet Union in 1941.  But the Jews of Lezajsk never re-established a community there after the Holocaust, ending a centuries-old Jewish presence in the town.

Both the Nazi occupation forces and communist regimes used Jewish headstones as building material throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

About 90% of Poland’s Jewish minority of 3.3 million people perished in the Holocaust.



Paris Prosecutors Investigating Violent, Anti-Semitic Attack

French police are investigating an apparent anti-Semitic attack on a 29-year-old man in an apartment building in northeast Paris.

A group that tracks anti-Semitic violence and hate speech in France, BNVCA, sought an investigation, denouncing it as the latest in a string of scattered acts targeting Jews.

The man, identified only as David, said he was attacked by two men of African descent near his parents apartment building located at the 19th arrondissement of Paris, known as Butte-Chaumont.

According to BNVCA, the two attackers hurled anti-Semitic insults at him, called him a “dirty Jew” and threatened to kill him.  The attackers then proceeded to beat him unconscious with their fists and took his watch.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Wednesday (12th) it opened an investigation into potential charges of violent theft motivated by reasons of religion.

The man was treated for multiple injuries of his face, throat, and legs, BNVCA said.

French-Israeli Member of Parliament Meyer Habib said he had talked to the victim after the attack.  “David told me he called the police several times but they did not bother to come to the scene.  I know this neighborhood well.  I grew up in it and this event is very worrying.  It is increasingly difficult to be a Jew in France,” Habib said.

“Unfortunately there are entire neighborhoods in the suburbs near Paris that have been ‘emptied’ of Jews, and such events severely damage the community’s sense of security,” he said.

French police registered 587 anti-Semitic acts last year – from vandalism to threats to physical attacks – a 27% rise from the year before.