News Digest — 9/15/21

Israel Ups Security Ahead Of Yom Kippur

Israeli security forces are deploying reinforcements across the country ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, which is set to begin Wednesday (15th) at sundown.

In particular, security is being beefed up in Jerusalem, following a terrorist stabbing attack near the Central Bus Station this week.

Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman ordered extra security forces deployed in and around the capital, beyond the standard increase for major holidays, due in part to intelligence information suggesting terror groups will attempt to carry out additional attacks in Jerusalem.

Thousands of Police officers, Border Police, and volunteers will be deployed across the capital throughout the Yom Kippur holiday, police said.

Security forces around the country will be on elevated alert during the holiday as the manhunt continues for two of the six terrorists who escaped from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on the 6th of September.

While four of the six prisoners were apprehended, two remain at large, including at least one who Israeli security officials believe has reached the Palestinian Authority, and is likely in the Judean area of Samaria.

Roughly 800 officers and Shin Bet internal security agents continued their efforts to locate the escaped terrorists Wednesday morning (15th), with checkpoints put in place around Arab towns in the Jezreel Valley area.

Yom Kippur will end at sundown Thursday (16th).



Bahrain’s First Ambassador To Israel Presents Credentials

One day before the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday (14th).

Following the presentation, Herzog and Ambassador Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma held diplomatic talks and issued a joint statement.

Jalahma said that “peace is the strategic choice of the Kingdom of Bahrain…His Majesty the King believes that dialogue, understanding, and confidence-building are lofty principles and main foundations for achieving cooperation between nations and peoples.”

“I am confident that this historic step will lay a solid foundation for relations between our two countries, based on the values of tolerance and coexistence between peoples, beliefs, and religions,” he added.

Explaining the significance of the Abraham Accords and the Gulf state’s new relationship with Israel, Jalahma said, “These are not only brave and historic steps, these are giant steps into a future of peace, security, and prosperity for us all.  I am confident that the Abraham Accords will forge a path and inspire all nations to strive for a better, more prosperous and secure world.”

Wednesday, September 15 marks the one-year anniversary of the White House signing ceremony where Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (IAE) agreed to normalize ties.  Later in 2020, Israel forged similar agreements with Sudan and Morocco. 

Israel plans to open its embassy in Manama by the end of the year.  Veteran diplomat Eitan Na’eh will serve as Israel’s ambassador.  In June, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid dedicated Israel’s embassy in the UAE.

Earlier on Tuesday (14th), Herzog received the credentials of new ambassadors from Greece, Spain, Estonia, Mexico, and the Vatican.

Herzog was invited by Mexican Ambassador Mauricio Ecanero Figueroa to visit Mexico in 2022 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel-Mexico relations.  Herzog extended a parallel invitation to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.



Hamas Ordered To Pay $11.8 Million To Victims’ Families

The families of the three teenage yeshiva students who were abducted and murdered by terrorists in 2014 – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah – are to be awarded $11.8 million compensation by Hamas, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Tuesday (14th).

Civil rights organization Shurat HaDin has appealed the ruling, claiming the sum was too low.  The organization filed a lawsuit against Hamas a year ago on behalf of the families for $161.8 million.

“This is not how you deter a terrorist organization with a billion-dollar budget that continues to murder Jews and fires at Israeli civilians,” the organization stated.

Shurat HaDin, which has represented the families of the three youths, further claims this ruling belittles the lives of the victims, noting that US courts are awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to victims of terrorism.

The victims’ families have announced that they will appeal the ruling before the Supreme Court.

“A ruling granting a tenth of the amount of the compensation-claim will fatally harm Israeli deterrence and measures to eradicate terrorism through economic means,” warned Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin.

The three teenage youths were waiting at a popular hitchhiking spot next to Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem on June 12, 2014, hoping to catch a ride to their respective homes.  When a Hyundai i35 stopped, they got in and shortly afterwards realized that the driver and passenger were not Israeli.  Shaer was able to call police at 10:25 pm, whispering, “We’ve been kidnapped.”  Gunshots were heard two minutes later, and the call was disconnected.

The victims bodies were discovered 18 days later on June 30th in a shallow grave near Hebron.  Following the kidnapping, the IDF conducted Operation Brother’s Keeper to arrest Hamas leaders in the West Bank, with the Gaza-based terrorist group increasingly firing rockets into Israel.

The IDF in turn launched airstrikes and sent troops into the coastal enclave.  The resulting war – during which terrorist groups surprised Israel by using cross-border attack tunnels – lasted seven weeks and left 67 IDF soldiers dead.  The remains of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, killed in the war, are still being held by Hamas.



Technion Researchers Discover Cheap Way To Extract Hydrogen Fuel From H2O

Water electrolysis is an easy way of producing hydrogen gas.  While hydrogen is considered a clean renewable fuel, efficient electrolysis requires high electric potential, high pH and in most cases, catalysts based on ruthenium and other expensive metals.

As detailed in an article in The Journal of the American Chemical Society and reported on the university’s website, Technion researchers have developed a unique system for producing hydrogen from water using little energy and inexpensive materials.  Led by Professor Galia Maayan, head of the Biomimetic Chemistry Laboratory at the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, along with doctoral student Guilin Ruan, this is the fastest system of its kind reported to date that uses available copper catalysts.

Maayan and Ruan designed and developed a system in which the catalyst is soluble in water.  The system is based on three elements: copper ions; a peptide-like oligomer (small molecule) that binds the copper and maintains its stability; and a compound called borate whose function is to maintain the pH in a limited range.

The major innovation in this work is the researchers’ discovery that the borate compound helps stabilize the metallic center and helps catalyze it.

Maayan explained that the inspiration for the new system came from enzymes (biological catalysts) that use the protein’s peptide chain to stabilize the metallic center, and by natural energetic processes such as photosynthesis, which are driven by units that use solar energy to transport electrons and protons.

The research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy program.



Atlanta High School Defaced With Swastikas, ‘Heil Hitler’ Graffiti

A Georgia school board is investigating after anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas and the words “Heil Hitler,” were found scrawled on a bathroom wall in Pope High School in suburban Atlanta during the High Holy Days.

A spokesperson for the Cobb County District  told CNN that the graffiti was “unacceptable.”

“The principal has engaged with community groups who have been affected by this student behavior, and all applicable district policies and laws will be applied,” the spokesperson added. 

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of East Cobb’s Temple Kol Emeth said that he and six other rabbis were working to combat a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

“Students and parents are rightfully scared and concerned about what is happening,” he told CNN.  “ There are many families who reached out with similar stories, not just at Pope High School but throughout the district.”

The incident is being looked into by the school board with the principal of Pope High School ordering a full investigation.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has criticized the school’s response to the incident, noting that the school sent a letter to parents that failed to characterize the graffiti as anti-Semitic.

The principal of Pope High School, Thomas Flugum, told Sernovitz that several suspects had been identified from the student body, and that they were continuing to conduct interviews.

“As parents, we can’t begin to understand what, how, and why any of this could happen at our school, seemingly all in one day, but we can use this as an opportunity to teach our children,” wrote the Pope High School Parent Teacher Student Association in a Facebook post.  “Many will call these teenage incidents, pranks, but these are hate crimes – and destroying property and stealing from your school is a felony.”

The statement added: “We stand together with all our families and will not tolerate or accept hate.  We can do better, and we will, together.”