News Digest — 9/2/22

Israelis Ordered To Refrain From Travel To Uman For Rosh Hashanah

Israelis should refrain from traveling to the city of Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Thursday (1st) in an official warning to the tens of thousands of worshipers who traditionally travel to the site for the Jewish New Year.

Masses of Israelis travel to Uman to pray on Rosh Hashanah at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, one of the most popular Hasidic masters.

“The explosive security situation includes the danger of bombing from the air or firing rockets at civilian areas, including in the center and west of the country, which pose a real and immediate danger to life,” said the Foreign Ministry statement, which urged Israelis in Ukraine to leave the country immediately.

The Foreign Ministry said that Ukraine has been in a state of emergency since the Russian invasion in February.  In addition, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement in which it called on Israelis to refrain from traveling to Uman due to the war and the difficulty of guaranteeing the worshipers’ security.

The ministry said that the Israeli embassy in Kyiv does not have a continuous presence in the country currently due to the ongoing fighting and , therefore it will be impossible to provide full consular services in the event of an emergency.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday (1st) congratulating him on Ukraine’s Independence Day and discussing the situation concerning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lapid called of Israeli citizens not to arrive in Uman on Rosh Hashanah due to the risks, saying, “Ukraine warns Jewish pilgrims against coming to Uman this year.”

Two weeks ago, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, warned that Jews who travel to Uman would be risking their lives.

“Rosh Hashanah is coming, and no matter what we say, Orthodox Jews will try to get to Uman again,” he said in an interview from his Tel Aviv office.  “We understand your willingness to go to Uman and show your support for Ukraine, but this is not the right time.  We cannot guarantee your security.”

Last year, more than 30,000 Breslov Hasidim went to Uman – mostly from Israel but also from the US, the UK and France – and a similarly large gathering this year would attract attention from the Russian Army, which could attack the pilgrimage site, Korniychuk said.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) stressed that despite efforts by Ukrainian authorities to keep the pilgrimage site safe, Russia could use the arrival and mass gathering of pilgrims to “stage provocations.”

“Those who still dare to make the pilgrimage must strictly comply with the requirements of regime measures: curfews, response to air-raid alarms, as well as follow all instructions of law enforcement officials.  Only in this way is it possible to minimize the existing risks for believers on this important holiday for the Jewish people.”



Bipartisan Letter Urges Biden To Reconsider Renewing Nuclear Deal

A bipartisan group of 50 members of the US Congress wrote to President Joe Biden Thursday (1st) urging him to reconsider restoring the nuclear deal with Iran, warning that Tehran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “would be an enormous danger to Americans at home and abroad, and to US allies.”

Referring to the assassination attempts on author Salman Rushdie as well as former National Security Advisor John Bolton, the representatives stressed, “Amid Iran-sponsored terror plots to assassinate former US officials and Iranian-American dissidents on American soil, this is no time to remove, suspend, or dilute US terrorism sanctions on Iran or the IRGC.”

“The IRGC has directly, or though its proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Amsar Allah (Houthis), Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and scores of Shiite militias in Iraq, killed hundreds of Americans and attacked our bases and our allies in the region,” the letter said.

The lawmakers also urged Biden to consult Congress before renewing the pact.

“We are writing to respectfully request that your Administration provide Congress with the full text of any proposal to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement… including any side agreements, and consult with Congress prior to reentering that agreement,” they said.



Israeli President Herzog: ‘We Must Reclaim Zionism”

Speaking in Basel, Switzerland on August 29, 2022, on the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said:

→ “Today, 125 years after that informative moment when a handful of pioneering inspirational Zionist leaders changed human and Jewish history forever here in Basel, the cradle of political Zionism, in the hall where Theodor Herzl opened the first Zionist Congress, I stand before you as the President of the State of Israel, having come from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the nation-state of the Jewish people, the State of Israel, the fulfillment of the dreams and prayers of so many generations”

→ “Herzl was Zionism’s greatest instigator.  He translated Jewish identity into an effective political doctrine, and he opened up the possibility for Jews to experience their identity as an independent political community, as a state.”

→ “Herzl’s vision… sought to create a new space that was at once political, diplomatic, territorial and cultural.  A space in which the Jewish people could continue arguing, debating and making decisions about their great dilemmas… but without the fears… of antisemitism and persecution… and the fear of assimilation to the point of the erasure of identity, culture and spirituality.”

→ “A year ago…a major social media company had considered… whether the word ‘Zionist’ should be censored on social media… as a term of abuse… I was appalled because, inconceivably, at no point did anyone suggest that ‘Zionist’ might actually be a positive term!”

→ “We must reclaim the term ‘Zionism’ for ourselves, with our heads held high and our backs straight, as an expression of our own national identity, traditions, hopes, pride, enlightened values, justice and commitment to tikkun olam…This is the mission of our generation.”

→ “From a Jewish and Israeli perspective, Zionism means populating the Land of Israel and building Israeli society; it means…the perpetual pursuit of peace and coexistence with members of all peoples and faiths living in Israel and in the whole Middle East.”

→ “Our generation’s Zionism is expressed in its essential contribution to building whole worlds of intellect and culture, across the world… to extending assistance to people in disaster zones; to providing economic, medical and welfare support for those who need it; and to wage an all-out war on hatred and violence.”



US Inks Deal To Sell Israel Four Refueling Planes It Needs For Potential Iran Strikes

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing signed a contract with the US Department of Defense on Thursday (1st) to supply Israel with four KC-46 refueling planes, the company said in a statement.

The multi-role aircraft makes mid-air refueling possible for fighter jets and other aircraft, but can also be used for military transport.

For Israel, the aircraft are seen as necessary to conduct potential major strikes against targets in Iran, some 1,200 miles from Israel and far outside the normal flight range of Israeli jets.

The KC-46 aircraft are to replace the Israeli Air Force’s current fleet of aging refueling planes, which include KC-130 Hercules and converted Boeing 707s.

The new refuelers are scheduled to arrive in 2025 at the earliest.  Israel has asked that this date be moved up – which would require the US to give up its spot in line to receive planes from Boeing – but Washington has thus far rejected the request.

The deal will cost Israel $927 million, according to the contract, with the money coming from the $3.8 billion that Israel receives annually from Washington as part of the 10-year memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

Under the agreement, Israel has the option to purchase four more KC-46 planes in the future as well.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz hailed the signing of the contract, saying it was “further proof of the alliance and the strategic relations” between the Israeli and US defense establishments.

“The refueling planes we are purchasing, along with the procurement of a new F-35 squadron, heavy transport helicopters, submarines, and advanced armaments – will serve the IDF amid the enormous challenges, near and far, that are about to be faced,” Gantz said in a statement.    

The first KC-46 was delivered to the US Air Force in 2019 and the service has ordered 179 of the planes, set to be delivered by 2027.



France Expels Imam For Antisemitic Hate Speech

The top administrative court in France sided with the government’s decision that an imam accused of “virulent antisemitic” hate speech should be expelled to Morocco, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Darmanin wrote on Twitter that Hassan Iquioussen “will be expelled from the national territory in a great victory for the republic.”

The decision to expel the imam was made by the Council of State, with the interior minister stating that the main reason was “especially virulent antisemitic speech.”

The case went before the high court after Paris judges blocked Iquioussen’s deportation order, France 24 reported.

The 58-year-old imam holds French and Moroccan citizenship and speaks to thousands of followers on his YouTube channel and Facebook accounts from his home in northern France.

Last week, a lawyer representing the interior ministry told the Council of State that he “has for years spread insidious ideas that are nothing less than incitement to hatred, to discrimination and to violence.”

He added that the imam’s statements “create fertile ground for separatism and even terrorism,” and that he remains an antisemite.”

Darmanin told the Council that if the panel of judges ruled that Iquioussen could not be expelled, he would seek to change the law.