September 28, 2018

Sukkot: Tens Of Thousands Gather At Western Wall For Priestly Blessings

Tens of thousands of worshipers gathered at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem on Wednesday (26th) to receive a blessing from members of Judaism’s priestly caste.

The ceremony was led by Israel’s chief rabbis, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman joined the worshipers for the priestly blessing saying, “It’s a great privilege for me as a kohen (he is from the priestly line) to be able to bless the people of Israel, the nation of Israel.”

The priestly blessing is recited during the Sukkot and Passover holidays by those who are believed to be direct patrilineal descendants of the first high priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses. The commandment to bless the Jewish people and the words of the blessing are found in the Bible (Numbers 6: 22-27).

The Jerusalem District Police were on high alert Wednesday (26th) with security for the event.  Roads leading into the city were partially closed and security checks were set up to ensure worshipers’ safety.



Trump: We’re With Israel 100%

US President Donald Trump met Wednesday (26th) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Trump said the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem was something which “I guess was controversial, but it turned out to be very positive in many ways,” noting “a lot of progress is being made in many other areas.”

He expressed his support for “everything Israel is doing as far as their defense is concerned.”

“The Israelis are aggressive, and they have no choice but to be aggressive. It’s a very difficult part of the world.  So I just want to let Benjamin and all of the people know that we are with you, we are with Israel 100%.”

Netanyahu gave Trump a manifold thank you for his wide-ranging support for Israel saying: “First, I thank you for your strong words yesterday in the General Assembly against the corrupt regime in Iran, and backing them up with strong actions. Second, I thank you for the strong support you’ve shown Israel in the UN – we appreciate it.  Third, this is the first time we have met since the American Embassy has been moved. You’ve changed history, and touched our hearts. Fourth and last, I want to say how much I appreciate your robust support for Israel’s right to self-defense. Israel will continue to do whatever is necessary to defend against Iranian aggression in Syria, Lebanon or anywhere else.  We know that we will enjoy both your and the USA’s support in this endeavor.”

“The American-Israeli alliance has never been stronger, than under your leadership,” Netanyahu asserted.



The True Threat Of S-300s Is Not That They’re Powerful, But That They’re Russian

Russia’s announcement on Monday (24th) that it would be upgrading Syrian air defenses with its formidable S-300 system within two weeks marked the latest low point in Israel’s rapidly spiraling relationship with Moscow since the downing by Syria of a Russian spy plane off the Syrian coast last week.

In addition to supplying Syria with the S-300, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also said Monday (24th) that Russia would “jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft attacking targets in Syria.”

But the greater threat is not the specific tactical hurdle that the system poses for the Israeli Air Force, but rather that this episode could lead to a breakdown of Israel’s relationship with Russia.

For Israel, the S-300 would represent a significant but not insurmountable obstacle in Syria.  The IAF has reportedly trained against S-300 batteries, in aerial exercises with allies over the years.    

While the IAF may be capable of getting around Russian radar jamming and would be well within its rights to destroy a Russian supplied S-300 battery that fires on its planes, such acts would run the risk of further alienating Moscow and pushing the two countries further to the brink of a full diplomatic break.



UK Labour Passes Motion Calling To Ban Arms Sales To Israel

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party on Tuesday (25th) passed a motion strongly criticizing Israel and pledging to halt all UK weapons sales to the Jewish state if it rises to power, as a senior lawmaker warned that the party must root out anti-Semitism and persistent scandals dogging it.

Delegates at the Party’s conference in Liverpool voted to criticize Israel’s use of force against violent protests and riots on the Gaza border, urge more UK funding for the UN agency for Palestinians, and back a freeze on British arms sales to Israel.

The vote came after a heated debate that saw Palestinian flags waved in the convention hall and participants chanting, “Free Palestine.”

The motion against Israel was proposed by delegate Colin Monehen, who said in his speech, “I want to say this to every Palestinian: “We have heard you calling from the darkness and we cannot and we will not ignore you or your tragedy.”

The crisis over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has caused a major schism within its ranks and led Jews to express fears over their future in the country.

Almost 40% of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Labour Party candidate, Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister, according to a recent poll conducted by the Jewish Chronicle.



Developed In Israel, Digital Glasses Offer Hope Of Sight For Visually Impaired

Israeli company ICI Vision has developed digital eyewear with the potential to give millions of legally blind people the ability to see.

The company’s Orama high-tech glasses are the brainchild of Haim Chayet, an Israeli optic physicist who was originally creating augmented-reality goggles for motorcyclists.

Working alongside a friend who had damaged vision due to a scar on his eye, Chayet realized the technology would have greater impact as an assistive device for many people experiencing vision impairment.  Joining forces with two partners in the field and top Israeli eye doctors in advisory capacity, he launched ICI Vision in 2014.

“We approached the technology from the perspective of helping the millions of people with vision problems enjoy a new lease on life and maintain their independence, CEO Tal Lotan told Israel21c.

Globally, 340 million people have impaired or complete loss of vision due to macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases resulting in direct annual treatment costs of $157 billion in the US last year.

Orama’s “enhanced vision engine” combines artificial intelligence, eye-tracking software, computer vision and other software and hardware, including a built-in 3D camera, to fill in the gaps from loss of vision and optimize the image in front of the user’s eyes.

The eyewear is personalized to each user through eye mapping, a procedure that establishes the location of healthy retinal cells.

“Once the extent of a patient’s retinal damage has been established, we can build a set of glasses which projects images on the healthy part of the eye to enhance their central vision,” explains Lotan.  “No one else is doing exactly what we do.”

The working prototype has been tested on more than 60 patients in Tel Aviv, with many able to see for the first time.

If all goes according to plan, Orana glasses could be sold globally by mid-2020.