News Digest — 8/30/23

Message To Iran?  Israel, US To Hold Series Of Military Drills

The Israeli and American militaries will hold a series of pre-planned joint military drills in the coming months, Israel Hayom has learned.

The two will practice, among other things, defense against missiles and simulated strikes.

Despite tensions between the US administration and the Netanyahu government, there has been an increase in military cooperation between Israel and the United States in recent months, particularly since the US Central Command (CENTCOM) officially assumed responsibility for the military’s relationship with Israel, taking over from the European Command (EUCOM).

As a result, Israel has already taken part in several regional exercises alongside other Middle Eastern countries.

Israeli officials have stressed that despite some political friction with the US, the ties between the two countries remain as strong as ever.

Joint US-Israel military drills hold great significance, especially in light of the Iranian nuclear threat, as they strengthen Israel’s deterrence in the region.



Jewish Shepherds Attacked By Arab Rioters In Binyamin

Dozens of Arabs wearing masks attacked a group of Jewish shepherds Tuesday afternoon (29th) in the Binyamin region.  The shepherds were from an agricultural farm near the settlement of Rimonim.

The Arabs used rocks and clubs to attack them and even broke several phones the victims used to record the incident.

Other residents from the farm who arrived at the scene were also violently attacked.  Four shepherds were injured.

Shortly after the attack began, security forces arrived at the scene and arrested three of the attackers.  The injured were treated by Magen David Adom personnel and evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment.

One of the shepherds recounted the attack from his hospital bed.  “I was herding the flock of sheep near the farm and suddenly four masked Arabs ran toward me with clubs,” he said.  “Immediately I called the other shepherds on the farm who reported to the army and hurried to the scene.  Within a few seconds, dozens more Arab rioters came running to the scene and just started beating me with rocks and clubs from all directions.”

“There is not one place on my body that was not hit.  Another person who was with me was hit by a rock, and also had his finger broken.  The other group from the farm that came to help were also injured, one after another.  My cell phone also was hit and stopped working.  They outnumbered us six to one and arrived with a look of murder in their eyes,” the shepherd said.

Jewish shepherds have come under repeated  attack by Arab rioters in recent weeks.  In one such incident near Burqa, an attack on a Jewish shepherd escalated into a confrontation which ended with the shooting death of one of the Arab attackers by a Jewish man who suffered a serious head injury from a rock before he opened fire in self-defense.



Engineers Inspect Western Wall Ahead Of High Holidays

As Jews prepare for the High Holidays, engineers on Tuesday (29th) began getting the holy site ready for the thousands of visitors expected there.

The engineers working for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site’s daily affairs, examined the structural integrity of the Wall, removing loose stones and seasonal plants.

The inspection is performed twice a year, ahead of Rosh Hashanah and Passover, for the safety of visitors and to maintain the Wall’s structural integrity.  The work is done under the supervision of the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and in accordance with religious law.

In July 2018, a boulder weighing 220 pounds became dislodged from the wall and fell, just missing those praying there.

According to the Foundation, more than half a million people visited the Western Wall during Passover in April.

Rosh Hashanah, which kicks off the High Holidays, begins this year at sunset on September 15.

During inspections, workers also clean the Wall and remove the thousands of notes written to God that visitors place between the stones.

People unable to visit the Wall can write notes on the foundation’s website that are placed in the Wall by staff.  Notes removed by workers are burned.

The Western Wall, once known as the Wailing Wall, is a remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray.  The Temple Mount where the First and Second Temple stood is the holiest site in Judaism.

For centuries, Jews did not visit the Temple Mount because foreign occupiers would not allow them. 

But since the unification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, Rabbis have encouraged visits to the Wall to maintain Jewish connections to the Temple Mount.



Air Seychelles Flight Lands In Israel After Saudi Arabia Emergency Landing

The Air Seychelles flight that made an emergency landing in Saudi Arabia landed in Israel on Tuesday afternoon (29th), carrying 128 Israeli passengers who were stranded when their flight on Monday (28th) was forced to land in Saudi Arabia.

The flight made the landing due to a technical issue and was able to land safely in Jeddah.

The situation was closely monitored by the Department for Israelis Abroad at the Foreign Ministry who was updated on Tuesday (29th) regarding an alternate plane.

The 128 passengers, who had spent the night at an airport hotel, took off for Israel in the late morning aboard an alternate plane that had flown in from Dubai.

Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have normalization, and Israelis are officially restricted from traveling to Saudi Arabia with some exceptions.  Earlier this year, the two nations were working on an agreement to allow direct flights to Mecca, but the deal did not go through.
“When they announced on the flight that we were landing in Saudi Arabia, it was really scary,” said passenger Sharon Licht-Patren to Kan News.  “It wasn’t clear what would happen.  Every now and then, the captain updated us that we were in contact with the Foreign Ministry and the authorities, and that there still wasn’t approval to get off the plane.”

Licht-Patren went on to tell Kan that they had been stuck on the plane for three hours after it landed without electricity or functioning toilets.

“The moment it was decided that we were staying in Saudi Arabia, they received us very nicely,” she said.  “Everyone smiled and went out of their way to help, accompanying us to the hotel and arranging for rooms for everyone.”

“I greatly appreciate the warm treatment of the Saudi authorities toward the Israeli passengers whose plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Jeddah,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  “I’m pleased that everyone has returned home.  I greatly appreciate the good neighborliness.”



Hamas Defiant In The Face Of Threats Against Leadership

The Palestinian Arab organizations in the Gaza Strip are supporting Hamas deputy leader  Saleh al-Arouri  who is responsible for the wave of terrorism in Judea and Samaria in response to threats made in Israel to eliminate him.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Hamas and other branches of Iran understood very well that we will fight with all our means against their attempts to create terrorism against us – in Judea and Samaria – in Gaza and anywhere else.  Whoever tries to harm us, whoever finances, whoever organizes, whoever sends terror against Israel – will pay the full price.”

At a press conference in Gaza Tuesday (29th), the Palestinian Arab organizations stated that “being killed in battle in the way of Allah is the highest thing that every Palestinian aspires to,” emphasizing in a message to the “heartbroken enemy” that “there will be an unprecedented reaction of the opposition to the commission of some stupid act.”

According to the Palestinian Arab organizations, the settlement policy will lead to “quality resistance actions,” meaning severe terrorist attacks, which will crush the heads of the settlement and make the enemy’s life hell.

They warned that the plan to allow Jewish worship on the Temple Mount within the framework of dividing the use of Al-Aqsa Mosque on a key basis of time and place may be the explosive for an all-out religious war that will mark the beginning of the end of Israel.

“The Al-Quds sword (an expression indicating the military option) is still raised, and the unity of the arenas and the fronts is still prepared for the next campaign,” the statement of the Palestinian organizations said.



‘Distressing Hate Crime’ – UK Jewish Cemetery Vandalism Suspect Arrested

British police arrested a 41-year-old man who is believed to have smashed gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the UK about two weeks ago, and the suspect will likely face hate crime charges.

The Kent Cemetery is located on the grounds of the Chatham Memorial Synagogue on High Street in Rochester.

Photos circulating on social media showed gravestones had been broken and toppled over, with chunks of gravestones strewn about the site. Damage was estimated in the thousands of dollars.

“This type of crime is thankfully very rare, but has understandably caused a great deal of distress in the local Jewish community,” said Supt. Nick Sparkes of the Kent Police in a media statement.

“We have spoken to those responsible for the cemetery and will continue to offer advice about crime prevention measures.”

Dr. Dalia Halpern-Matthews, who is a member of the synagogue’s Board of Trustees, told local outlet PA News that the incident marked the fifth time the community had been targeted by vandals in the last 10 years.

Halpern-Matthews said that she and other community members felt “disbelief, horror, and disgust” about the incident.

“You would like to think people have respect for other religions and for the dead, and for heritage,” she told PA News.

“It’s a particularly significant cemetery – it’s the only one attached to a synagogue in this country.”

She said that the synagogue plans to upgrade its security systems, including reinforcing its fencing and adding additional CCTV cameras.

In 2019, Halpern-Matthews spoke to the Daily Mail following a previous incident at the same cemetery, in which four headstones were smashed.

“It’s difficult to describe the sense of horror at the disrespect and needless violence,” she said.

“The gate… they ripped it off even though it was bolted to the wall.  The gate was already open, but they wanted to do damage for damage’s sake,” she added.