News Digest — 9/17/20

On Jewish New Year, Israel’s Population Hits 9.25 Million

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released its annual report Wednesday (16th) showing key numbers as the country prepares for the Jewish Rosh Hashanah New Year holiday that begins this weekend.

According to the Jewish calendar, the new year of 5781 begins this Friday evening (18th), when Jews around the world celebrate the two-day holiday.  Each year at Rosh Hashanah the statistics for the previous year, in this case the year 5780, are released beforehand.

According to the CBS, the population of Israel is 9,246,000 and is expected to reach 10 million at the end of 2024, 15 million at the end of 2048 and 20 million at the end of 2065.  Israel’s current population is nearly triple the number of people who lived in the Jewish State when its last major war was fought in 1973.

The population is divided into 6.861 million Jewish residents (74% of the total population), 1.946 million Arab residents (21%) and approximately 459,000 other residents (5%).

In the past year, the population has grown by 150,000, giving a population growth rate of 1.6 percent.  There were 170,000 babies born, 44,000 Israelis died, and some 25,000 immigrants arrived in the country.

The CBS also published data from the time before the coronavirus pandemic hit, when 88.8 percent of Israelis were satisfied with life and the economic situation.  However, that was averaged between 92 percent of the Jewish population being happy with only 76.5 percent of Arab society feeling that life for them was good.

Prior to the coronavirus, 4.1 million people were employed in Israel with the highest number of employees, about 491,000, in education.  The second-largest employer is the health and welfare services which employ about 439,000 people.  The average work week per employee in Israel is 35.8 hours.



Iran Says UAE, Bahrain Will Bear ‘Consequences’ Of Israel Deals

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday (16th) that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will be responsible for any “consequences” resulting from their normalization of relations with Tehran’s arch-foe Israel.

The remarks came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed agreements establishing full diplomatic ties at a ceremony at the White House.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said “Israel is committing more crimes in Palestine every day.”

“How could you (Bahrain and the UAE) reach out your hands to Israel?  And then you want to give them bases in the region?  All the severe consequences that arise from this will be on you,” he said.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (15th) that more Washington-brokered deals are close between Israel and several other Arab nations, including Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.  

“After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Trump said.

An aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday (16th) that some Gulf states had become “puppets” of the US and Israel in the “vain hope” of getting their support.

“They have pinned their hopes on nothing and built a house on water, and they will pay for this cowardly act,”  foreign affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying by Tasnim News Agency.

Iran had previously warned Bahrain that its deal would make it a partner to Israel’s “crimes” and accused the UAE of betraying the Muslim world.

In 2016, Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Iran and the UAE downgraded relations with the country amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic.



Peace Deal Impairs BDS Movement, Says Strategic Affairs Ministry

The Strategic Affairs Ministry on Wednesday (16th), headed by Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, dispatched a memorandum to diplomatic and defense officials about the effects of Israel’s normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on anti-Israel and pro-BDS organizations.

According to the memo, the willingness to advance normalization with Israel could bankrupt the idea behind the boycott, divestment and sanction movement, which anti-Israel groups have sought to implement for two decades.  On the practical level, the UAE’s unprecedented decision to annul its boycott law, in addition to reports that Bahraini authorities intend to reel-in opposition to normalization, impede these groups’ ability to implement their boycott measures on the ground and also impair the ideology they want to perpetrate.

The groups that want to delegitimize Israel have accused the UAE and Bahrain of “betraying” the Palestinian national interest.  At the same time, they have organized numerous protests outside the White House and embassies in the US, Israel, UAE, and Bahrain, petitioned students on college campuses and launched campaigns in Arabic and English against the treaties.

According to the Strategic Affairs Ministry, their current distress will lead normalization oppositionists, chief among them the Palestinian Authority, and possibly Hamas and Iran, to tighten cooperation.  Additionally, they will focus their efforts on international institutions, specifically the International Criminal Court at The Hague and the United Nations Human Rights Council, where their views are broadly supported.

In its memo, the Strategic Affairs Ministry also suggested the current diplomatic developments provide an opportunity to pull the rug out from under these de-legitimization and BDS groups and impair their ability to implement their initiatives in the Arab and Western worlds.

“The normalization treaties are a clear message to all our enemies against hate and boycotts,” said Farkash-Hacohen.  “They prove to these organizations – which have incessantly preached against normalization and invested resources in entrenching their screed across the Arab world – that the path to stability in the Middle East only goes through cooperation and dialogue.”

She added: “I sincerely hope that our closest neighbors realize that opposition to normalization won’t lead to a sustainable peace and will only perpetuate a circle of violence.  This is a historic turning point in terms of economics, tourism, cultural and commercial cooperation, pertaining to all aspects of life in the Middle East, and it will help legitimize Israel in the minds of many. These partnerships will create the changes for which we yearn.”



First Chadian Military Cargo Plane Lands In Israel For Humanitarian Aid

The first military cargo plane from Chad landed in Israel Wednesday night (16th) to pick up humanitarian aid from a private non-governmental organization called Israel Flying Aid.

According to the group’s founder Gal Lasky, the flight landed at an Israeli Air Force base, after flying over Sudan.

Israel does not have formal relations with either Sudan or Chad, but both countries are on the list of Muslim majority nations likely to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in the near future as part of the US-backed efforts for such normalization.

According to Lasky, the flight was jointly coordinated by both countries through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office and National Security Council.

IFA is donating tents to help 12,000 people left homeless by floods in the country.

About 760,000 people have been hit by severe flooding in recent weeks in parts of West and Central Africa, out of which 188,000 were impacted in Chad.

Floods are common during the rainy season, but in recent years, a change in climate, land degradation and poor urban planning have led to more frequent disasters as rapidly-growing cities struggle with heavier-than-normal rainfall.

Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Congo Republic and Senegal are among those worst-hit this year.

Lasky said the IFA is also donating protective gear against COVID-19 to help medical personnel, and equipment to assist in spraying pesticides that kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.



Zoom Prayer Services For Alabama Jews Interrupted By Holocaust Imagery

Holocaust imagery interrupted a videoconference on Zoom for some Alabama Jews saying selichot prayers and preparing for the High Holidays last Saturday (12th).

Some 50 congregants from Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan and Mobile were on the call with rabbis Saturday night (12th) when at least three unknown people joined the meeting, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

They began to share their screens with images of “Hitler, swastikas and pornographic images,” the call’s leader Rabbi Scott Kramer of Agudath Israel Etz Ahayim in Montgomery, told the paper.

“It was chaotic.  Then voices came in screaming at everyone using bad language, anti-Semitic language, telling us ‘you should go back to the showers,’ which is of course a reference to the Holocaust,” the rabbi said.

Kramer said the group has been meeting long-distance for several months and had had no other incidents of so-called Zoom-bombing.

“It was shocking for me.  For 72 years, nothing like this has ever occurred to me,” Micki Beth Stiller, a board member at Temple Beth Or told the newspaper.  “It was just stunning.  It feels like you’ve been violated.”

The harassment continued for over 10 minutes until the rabbi was able to end the call.  Kramer later restarted the videoconference, but the harassers returned.  Eventually they were kicked off.  Leaving everyone crying, including the rabbi.  He called the incident a “gut punch.”

Kramer called the Montgomery Police but was redirected to the FBI.