News Digest — 9/19/22

Police Boost Jerusalem Presence And Terror Alerts Ahead Of Jewish Holidays

Police said Sunday (18th) that they were preparing to boost security in Jerusalem to keep Israelis and tourists safe as tens of thousands of people were expected to visit the capital during the upcoming Jewish High Holidays.

Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman said that police had received intelligence alerts of potential terror attacks in the city during the holidays, and that 2,000 officers would be deployed to protect major events during the period, while the number of cops on motorbikes will be doubled to decrease police response time to any potential incidents.

Police will focus operations on events in Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, including the traditional prayers of supplication, or selichot, in the lead-up to the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur, in addition to the priestly blessings during the week of Sukkot and the large crowds expected at Simchat Torah. Religious festivities, as this period tends to be a tense time in Jerusalem, as throngs of people descend on the city and its holy sites, increasing the likelihood of clashes between followers of different faiths.

Turgeman stressed that “there is no reason to alter plans to visit Jerusalem,” and said that “police will provide protection to all visitors.”

He said he had signed a number of restraining orders against both potential Jewish and Muslim agitators to stay away from the Temple Mount, for fear that they would cause disturbances.

The Temple Mount is the number one holy site in Judaism, and the third-holiest place in Islam, as well as a frequent flashpoint for violence.  Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site, but are barred from praying there (though quiet prayers have increasingly been allowed, to the chagrin of Muslims).  

Turgeman said that 47 potential terror attacks have been thwarted by Jerusalem police since the beginning of the year.

This year’s High Holidays arrive during heightened tensions in the West Bank, which so far have not spilled over into Jerusalem.

The Israeli military has been launching counterterrorism efforts in PA areas of the West Bank since spring, in response to the killing of 17 Israelis and 2 foreign workers, in a number of terrorist attacks between mid-March and the beginning of May.

The Jewish High Holidays begin on Sunday night (25th) at sundown with Rosh Hashanah.



IDF Chief In Europe To Discuss Iranian Threat, Forge Military Ties

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi left for Europe on Sunday (18th) with the aim of meeting officials in Poland and France, strengthening Israel’s military cooperation with the nations, and discussing the threat it faces from Iran.

Kochavi will spend three days in Poland, during which he will meet with senior military officials and Chief of the General Staff Rajmund Andrzejczak, who last week participated in the IDF’s innovation conference.  The Israeli delegation will also conduct meetings with Polish officers to foster ties between the two militaries.  They will also tour the Auschwitz concentration camp to learn about heroism during the Holocaust.

Kochavi will then travel to France to meet with his French counterpart Thierry Burkhard as well as other senior officials of the military, including Chief of the Military Staff of the President of the Republic, Jean-Philippe Rolland.

The European visit is part of Israel’s efforts to forge military ties and counter the Iranian threat.  As such, Kochavi is expected to discuss Israel’s security challenges, including the Iranian nuclear program and its proxies in the Middle East, as well as efforts to arm Hezbollah leading to a possible military escalation with Israel from Lebanon.

The chief of staff is being accompanied by his wife, Yael.  The delegation includes, among others, the head of the IDF’s international Cooperation Division, Brig. Gen. Efi Defrin, head of the Military Intelligence Research Division, Brig. Gen. Amir Sa’ar, and IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen Ran Kochav.

In Kochavi’s absence, Deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi is carrying out the military chief’s responsibilities in Israel.



Raisi: ‘It Should Be Investigated Whether The Holocaust Happened’

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday (18th) refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened, telling CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ in an interview that it should “be investigated.”

Asked by Anchor Lesley Stahl if he believes the Holocaust happened and that six million Jews were slaughtered, Raisi replied, “Look…historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians.  There are some signs that it happened.  If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”

Asked whether Israel has a right to exist, the Iranian president replied, “You see, the people of Palestine are the reality.  This is the right of the people of Palestine who were forced to leave their motherland.  The Americans are supporting this false regime to take root there and be established there.”

Raisi was also asked about the Abraham Accords, in which  Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all recognized Israel, and sought his comments about the agreements as well as about the rumors that Saudi Arabia is also talking directly with Israel.

“If a state shakes hands with the Zionist regime, then they are also an accomplice to their crimes, and they are stabbing the idea of Palestine in the back,” he replied.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, condemned Raisi’s remarks.

“Shocking to hear Iranian President Raisi’s remarks calling into question whether the Holocaust happened.  I call on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to DENY THAT DENIER a world stage to spread anti-Semitism and hatred.  The UN will reach a new low if they give the Butcher of Tehran a platform,” tweeted Erdan.

Holocaust denial is a regular occurrence in Iran.  The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei questioned the veracity of the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016.

Two years earlier, Khamenei suggested that the Holocaust “was not real,” and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust on a regular basis as well.

Prior to leaving the presidency, Ahmadinejad said he prided himself most on his denial of the Holocaust.

Iran has repeatedly held Holocaust-denying cartoon exhibits with one of them notably being announced days after the 2015 terrorist attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine which had been attacked in the past over its caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.



Israel Allegedly Targets Damascus Airport Once More In Overnight Strike

Israel carried out an overnight airstrike on Syria’s Damascus International Airport and other positions south of the capital, killing five soldiers, two of which were members of Iran-backed militias, and causing material damage, the Syrian ministry of defense said early on Saturday morning (17th).

There was no immediate confirmation of the strike affecting airport operations.

In a speech given by Hezbollah Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah hours after the attack, he sent a strengthening message to Syria, stating that “unification of all resistance forces in the region is required, because this is the only way the Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians will get their lands and gas and oil again.”

Nasrallah emphasized that “if we come to a confrontation, we are ready for it,” adding that he thinks “the Israelis, the Americans and others have enough data about the seriousness of our resistance and they know that we are not joking about these issues.”



Jerusalem-Born American Woman Makes Aliyah At 101

One-hundred-and-one-year-old United States resident Stella Rokoff became the oldest person in the past five years to make aliyah to Israel.

Stella was born in Jerusalem in 1921 and left with her family for the United States when she was five years old.  Now, 96 years later, she has returned to her place of birth accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law.

Rokoff says she is fulfilling a life-long dream, and is mostly looking forward to reuniting with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are already living in Israel.

She displayed her birth certificate issued in Mandatory Palestine in 1921 – written in Hebrew, English and Arabic. 

Rokoff’s family settled in Brooklyn upon their arrival to the US.  After marrying Rabbi Herman Rokoff in 1940, she moved to Pennsylvania, where her husband led a local Jewish community, and the couple’s four children were born.

After she was named the secretary of the Rabbinical Council of America’s board of directors, she and her family returned to New York and settled in Manhattan.

In that role, she had worked closely with American Jewish religious leaders, and was involved in the preparation of the council’s annual conferences, as well as cooperating with institutions inside Israel.  That career, she said, kept her close to her Jewish and Israeli roots.

With the help of the “Nefesh B’Nefesh” organization, and in cooperation with the Absorption Ministry, the Jewish Agency, and JNF-USA, Stella Rokoff along with her daughter Ilene and son-in-law Michael – joined 60 other immigrants on a flight to Israel.

Rokoff says that when she left Israel, the Jewish state was no more than an idea.  Now, seeing Israel become a leading player on the world stage in many fields, she says she is proud to call Israel her home.

With over 20 close family members in Israel, Rokoff said that what she was most looking forward to seeing were her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who were on hand to greet her at Ben Gurion Airport.