News Digest — 8/7/20

Israeli Tourism Officials Ready For Foreign Visitors When Skies Open Up

Within weeks Israel could see the first foreign visitors arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport since the country closed its borders to non-nationals in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, health officials told the Knesset that they are working on a plan to allow international travelers to enter Israel from “green” countries with low infection rates of the coronavirus starting on August 16.  On Monday (3rd), Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, approved a plan to allow around 17,000 foreign students entry into Israel, although the Health Ministry didn’t say when.

When the skies finally open and Israel begins welcoming foreign visitors, what can they expect?  What tourist attractions will be open to them?  What coronavirus prevention measures will be in place?

“Jerusalem is not just ready.  We are keen and eager to have our foreign tourists back,” Fleur Hassan Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem in charge of foreign relations and tourism, told The Media Line.

Hassan-Nahoum said that she formed a municipal tourism committee soon after the coronavirus outbreak to begin to deal with the crisis more efficiently.

The coronavirus prevention protocols put in place for local tourism means that the Holy City is ready for an influx of foreign visitors whenever they return, according to Hassan Nahoum.

Most tourist attractions in Jerusalem have been open for weeks, she said, including popular sites such as the Tower of David and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

Last year, Israel welcomed a record 4.5 million visitors, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv also relies heavily on tourism – with 80% foreign visitors.

In Tel Aviv in 2018 there were more than 1.5 million hotel guests and over 3.6 million overnight stays, according to the Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Yafo.

“We miss tourism.  It’s sad to come to a hotel in the lobby and be by yourself.  We have great pools, we have great beaches, we have great fun, but where are the tourists? We need them – they are our bread and butter.  But we have to be optimistic in this kind of industry.” said Oded Grofman, director-general of the Tel Aviv Hotels Association.

Meanwhile, “Israel has a lot of technology in the waiting, tourist technology that can help us with crowd control, testing for temperatures, and checking-in with minimal contact with hotel staff.  We’ve got all sorts of similar technologies that we will be putting forward and encouraging to make tourists coming to Israel, safe,” said Hassan-Nahoum.

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IDF Fighter Jets Attack Hamas Targets After Explosive Balloon Attacks

IDF fighter jets attacked a Hamas underground infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip late Thursday (6th), the IDF Spokesperson confirmed.

The attack was in response to several explosive balloon attacks from Gaza to Israeli territory during the day.

Earlier on Thursday (6th), after nearly six months without incendiary balloons, five fires broke out in the Gaza border communities.  At least three of them were caused by incendiary balloons.

Another balloon carrying explosives was found in the Arad Industrial Zone.

This is the second time this week that there has been an escalation between Israel and Gaza.  Overnight Sunday (2nd), the IDF attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after the terrorist organization fired rockets into Israeli territory.

No Israelis were injured in any of these incidents, though damage was reported.



Tel Aviv Municipality Lit Up In Solidarity With Lebanese Victims Of Beirut Explosion

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai thought it would be a nice gesture to light up the face of the Tel Aviv City Hall on Wednesday (5th) with the colors of the Lebanese flag in solidarity with Israel’s neighbor after the horrific explosion on Tuesday (4th).

The sign of friendship was met with threats by some Lebanese on social media.  “We do not want you to light the Lebanese flag,” wrote user Abbas Ali in Arabic, adding in Hebrew, “We will light up Tel Aviv with our missiles.”  Another tweeted, “When we want Tel Aviv to be bright, we will light it our way.”  Another reaction on Twitter was hardly grateful for the gesture, calling it “Israeli hypocrisy.”

Conspiracy theorists even accused Israel of being behind the blast, although Lebanese officials themselves called the explosions horrific accidents.

The flag display was frowned upon by nationalist Israelis given the state of war that still exists between the two countries.

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Rabbi Rafi Peretz said that while Israel can and should provide humanitarian aid, as more than 5,000 civilians had been injured, “waving an enemy flag in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion.”

Other Israeli critics took to Twitter to mock the move, as well as Israel’s offer of humanitarian aid.

Many Israelis looked favorably on their country’s offer of medical, rescue and humanitarian aid to Lebanon.  However Jerusalem’s offer was reportedly rejected by Lebanese officials who said, “We do not take aid from an enemy state.”



‘I’m Glad We’re Finally Talking About Anti-Semitism’ – [Testimony Of Arielle Tchiprout]

“I’m a 25-year-old British Israeli woman, and I have experienced anti-Semitism my whole life.  Anti-Semitism existed long before World War II (in the form of expulsions, pogroms and blood libels) and it continues to exist now, although now its often skillfully disguised behind criticism of Israel.”

“I was the only Jew in my class at school, and I experienced anti-Semitic comments regularly.  Kids would sing Borat’s parody ‘Throw the Jews Down the Well’ song when I entered the room.  I remember a group of boys staring and giggling at me during a Holocaust Memorial assembly, while another boy leaned behind me and whispered ‘synagogue monkey’ into my ear with such venom, I felt faint.”

“When tensions flared up in Israel, my classmates would raise this with me at every opportunity, as if I, a 13-year-old girl, was somehow responsible.  During these times I would feign sickness to avoid going to school.  My mum gave me strict instructions not to wear my Star of David necklace above my clothes – she felt it wasn’t safe.  My parents received late-night phone calls saying, ‘die Jew, die.’”

“One of my sisters was called a ‘baby killer’ on her personal Facebook page, and when she called into a radio station to tell a prominent politician about her experiences, he told her that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in this country anymore and if she is experiencing it, she should leave (which she did – she now lives in Tel Aviv).”



Babi Yar: The Story Of A Lost Universe – Rona Tausinger

On September 28, 1941, nine days after the Germans conquered Kiev, the Nazis ordered every Jew in the city to convene with their belongings and documents near the cemetery at the edge of Babi Yar.  Any Jew who refused would be killed, the announcement read.  The following day 33,771 Jews arrived and were shot en masse over two days.  Throughout that year an additional 15,000 were killed in a similar fashion.  It is a known fact that the Ukrainians took part in the massacre.

Now a massive Holocaust center is set to be built in Babi Yar to commemorate events that happened 80 years ago.  Natan Sharansky, chairman of the advisory committee for the center establishment fund, said: “Babi Yar for me was a symbol not only for the Holocaust but also for the great efforts the Soviet regime went to in order to erase its memory – to erase the Jewish identity of this place.”

The museum’s artistic director, Ilya Khrzhanovsky, told Israel Hayom, “Before the Second World War, every fourth family in Kiev was Jewish.  Imagine how much knowledge, traditions, aromas, lessons, books, cultures – disappeared from the mental and emotional picture of the era.  The story of Babi Yar is not just about the murder of Jews by Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators, this is a story about a whole universe that was destroyed.”  

The online museum will be up by 2021.  The physical museum will open in 2026.