News Digest — 9/16/21

Israel Shut Down For Yom Kippur, But Forces On High Alert

Israel shut down on Wednesday evening (15th) for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, even as security forces remained on high alert amid a recent spike in attacks.

This Yom Kippur comes as the country is battling a fresh wave of Coronavirus and Wednesday (15th) saw long lines and a rush to get tested before most testing stations shut for the holy day.

All flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport ceased at 1:35 p.m.  The airport will reopen Thursday night (16th) with arrivals starting at 9:30 p.m., while departures will resume at 11:30 p.m.  During this period Israel’s airspace is also closed to flights passing through.

Border crossings also shut down Wednesday (15th) after noon and will reopen at 10 p.m. on Thursday (16th).

As sundown approached Wednesday (15th), all local radio and television broadcasts gradually fell silent.

Public transport also halted with busses and trains stopping their routes until after the fast-day.  Inner-city busses will gradually restart from 8 p.m., while inner-city transport will restart from 9:30 p.m. Thursday (16th).

Roads on Wednesday (15th) were largely cleared of cars by early evening as is the national tradition – and were replaced with multitudes of people on bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.

Driving during the Jewish Day of Atonement is considered taboo, and many secular Israelis are turning the day into a biking holiday, taking advantage of the car-free roads.

For religious and traditional Jews, the 25-hour period of fasting and praying began at 6:09 p.m. in Jerusalem Wednesday (15th).  It will end at 7:19 p.m. Thursday (16th).

Security and rescue service, however, will remain on high alert.

For the Magen David Adom Rescue Service, Yom Kippur is one of the busiest days of the year with hundreds of extra medics, paramedics, ambulances and volunteers deployed across the country.

Most injuries over Yom Kippur come from accidents on the roads as tens of thousands of children and teens take advantage of the deserted streets to ride their bicycles.  Another common issue is, of course, dehydration and complications from fasting.

The weather continues to be cooler than usual, although still warm, with some scattered rain and a high of 79 degrees Fahrenheit in Jerusalem.



Bennett: ‘We Will Not Allow Hamas To Accumulate More Rockets’

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged that Israel will not allow Hamas to build up a stockpile of rockets or engage in endless wars under his watch.

Speaking to reporters from various networks ahead of the Yom Kippur high-holiday, Bennett covered a range of security issues, including the threat from Hamas, and Palestinian statehood.

Discussing the threat from Hamas, Bennett told Channel 12: “Hamas is an organization that has jihad engraved on its flag and it intends to continue this thing.  My mission is to give security to the citizens of Israel and in particular to the residents of the south.”

He continued: “We will not allow Hamas to accumulate more rockets, as happened with Hezbollah.  I do not want operations of war.  Our Defense Minister, Benny Gantz has undertaken a move to regulate a long-term calm in Gaza.  If it succeeds, that’s good, if not – there are other alternatives.”

Bennett was asked by Kan News how he would respond to another round of violence from Gaza, should there be one, since his government depends on support from an Arab party, Ra’am, the Joint Arab List.

“No problem!  We do everything as usual,” explained the Prime Minister.  “I will always make all security decisions on a professional, clean basis, and think about the political consequences afterward.”

Bennett has repeatedly ruled out a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and repeated this position again in his discussion with Kan.

“I oppose a Palestinian state.  I think it would be a terrible mistake to take the horrific situation in Gaza and recreate it in Judea and Samaria.”

“My outlook is a very business-like one,” he said.  “If we create more business, strengthen the economy and improve living conditions for everyone in Judea and Samaria, that would be better.”



Jewish Leaders Bury Unidentified Holocaust Victim After Remains Found In Warsaw Ghetto

Warsaw’s Jewish community buried an unidentified Holocaust victim on Tuesday (14th) whose remains were discovered this summer in a building that was within the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

“We are here as the family for a person we don’t know,” Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said as the bones, wrapped in white cloth, lay on a wooden cart and community members gathered together.

Four men pulled the cart to the grave, where the bones were buried with soil from Israel, and Jewish leaders recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

The ceremony took place in Warsaw’s Jewish cemetery, one of the largest such cemeteries in Europe in a city that was a leading center of Jewish life until the Holocaust.

Leslaw Piszewski, chairman of the Jewish community in Warsaw, said the burial was a very emotional event for him, all the more so coming on the eve of Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred days on the Jewish calendar.

“After nearly 80 years this unknown person got his dignity back,” Piszewski said.  “This is very important.  This is the only thing that we can do for this unknown victim.”

The remains were discovered due to a water break in a building in Muranow, a Warsaw district that was largely Jewish before the war and was the site of the Warsaw Ghetto during the German wartime occupation of Poland.

A representative from the Israeli Embassy laid a wreath on the grave and Wojciech Kolarski, Secretary of State in the office of Polish President Andrzej Duda, also paid his respects at the funeral of the unknown victim.



Maine Man Threatens To ‘Kill Jews With My AR-15’ During Jewish Holidays

A man from the town of Buxton, Maine is now facing federal charges after he threatened to commit an anti-Semitic mass shooting, the Bangor Daily News reported on Monday (13th).

Brian Dennison, 24, was arrested last Saturday (11th) after he tweeted that he intended “to kill Jews with my AR-15” during the High Holidays, along with the claim that he was building a pipe bomb.

The FBI was informed of the threat, which was tweeted on Sept. 8, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and immediately dispatched agents to Dennison’s residence.

Dennison, who lives with his parents and several other family members, refused to speak to the agents, but, according to an affidavit, his parents told the agents that “Brian had been obsessed with Jews for about three years, and that he believed Jews were responsible for all of his problems.”

“They said they had many concerning conversations with Brian regarding Jews,” the agents stated.

Dennison is facing federal charges of transmitting threatening interstate communication, and if convicted could serve five years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.

In August, the FBI announced that it was launching a nationwide public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging people to report hate crimes.

The latest FBI report on hate crimes shows that the number of incidents continues to rise year after year in the US, with 7,759 hate crimes reported in 2020, as compared to 7,517 in 2019.



Morocco Strengthens Ties With Israel As Internal Opposition Grows – Sami Erchoff

Morocco’s hosting of an Israeli delegation in August, led by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, was the first high-level bilateral meeting between the two countries since 2003.

Moroccan authorities have endeavored to present the normalization as a reconciliation between two natural allies due to the “Moroccanness” of so many Israelis, with over 800,000 Jews of Moroccan origin in Israel.

Diplomatic normalization was simply an opportunity for the kingdom to recognize and strengthen cooperation that has always existed and meets essential needs – primarily in the areas of health, technology, tourism, defense, and cybersecurity.

Also, Israel intervened with Pfizer so that the Kingdom could receive a shipment of two million Covid-19 vaccination doses.

Even before the normalization, some 50,000-70,000 Israeli tourists of Moroccan origin visited the Kingdom every year.

Yet in an opinion poll by the Arab Barometer, 59% of Moroccans say they are hostile to normalization between Morocco and Israel.

Several political parties have accused the Moroccan state of “betraying the Palestinian cause by collaborating with the Zionists.”