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Latest News in Israel – 22nd August

New film allows you to really experience the story of Jerusalem

Each year we mourn the destruction of the Bais Hakmikdash, but there is no doubt that from our vantage point in current society, where we live comfortably and enjoy religious freedom, it is difficult to mourn the loss of something that we never personally experienced. Is the loss of our holy temple nothing more than a sad chapter in the annals of history that we commemorate each year? Or even now, centuries later, is it something that truly has a place in our lives?

Silver Linings traces the roots of the Bais Hamikdash, starting long before the first stone was ever laid to rest in Jerusalem. The story begins with a single rock, a unique stone that played a pivotal role in our patriarch Jacob’s journey as, divinely inspired by a vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder, he laid the foundation for the Jewish nation. That same stone became a foundation of another kind, imbued with a special holiness as it became part of the first temple and then the second. Against all odds, that single stone survives the destruction that engulfed Jerusalem’s holiest site, not once, but twice, ultimately enduring to bear testament to the eternity of the Jewish people.

Starring Adam Margules and Chaim Leibtag, Silver Linings, a Sparks Next production directed by Daniel Finkelman, and co directed by Aharon Orian, in conjunction with American Friends of Ateret Cohanim shares the journey of the rock, from biblical times through today.

Rocket Hits Israeli City of Sderot, on Gaza Border; IDF Responds With Airstrikes

A rocket fired from Gaza hit just outside of a house in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Sunday afternoon, sparking IDF retaliation in the form of airstrikes and artillery barrages.

No casualties or damages were reported in Sderot, but Palestinian sources said that five Gazans were wounded in some 20 retaliatory strikes.

Police at the scene of the rocket attack in Sderot, Israel, August 21, 2016.Israel Police

A Gazan organization by the name of Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility the rocket fire in Israel. The group is affiliated with Salafi groups that identify with the ideology of ISIS, the Islamic State organization, and from time to time it attempts to fire rockets in a challenge of sorts to Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs the Gaza Strip.

Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. The IDF said the air force struck “a number” of Hamas targets, while Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that an Israeli tank fired six shells at a water storage facility.

Palestinian media reported that Israel had targeted sites affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another group armed with projectiles in the Gaza Strip.

Yaron Shadadi, a Sderot resident whose home suffered a direct hit in 2012, told Haaretz that he and his family were at home when the rocket was fired and ran to the shelter in their home when they heard the sirens. They then heard a dull thud, he said, and thought it was from an explosion at some distance away, but they then discovered that it had fallen near a neighbor’s home and had apparently not exploded.

Shmaryahu Nagar, who also lives very near the site where the rocket fell, said that the rocket fell next to the home of a young couple who were not home at the time. Nagar was at home with his son and the son alerted him to the rocket warning. The two ran to their secure room, he said, and then “there was a kind of noise of a strange screech and a boom.”

Last month, a rocket fired from Gaza hit an early childhood development center in Sderot. Nearby buildings were also damaged, but no casualties were reported. The Israel Air Force at the time hit what the Israeli army said were four Hamas targets in southern and central Gaza.                           (Ha’aretz)

Report: Netanyahu and Herzog’s secret meeting in Caesarea

Have unity government talks resumed? According to a report published Friday on Channel 2, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader and chairmen of the Zionist Union Isaac Herzog met in secret this week. Both sides deny the meeting, but did admit that they were in Caesarea on Thursday.

Netanyahu had a day off at home, and Herzog says he was in Caesarea, but claims he was meeting with friends. In response, Herzog’s office said: “According to a fundamentally absurd report from Channel 2 News, it is now clear that once again there are problems in the coalition; apparently the pressure from the mess that Minister Katz caused has overflowed and again false information is being spread, and again there are those who fall for it.”

Amir Peretz, a Zionist Union member, denied involvement with a unity government and accused Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid for being responsible for what he called ‘spin,’ saying “there is no chance that the Zionist Union will join Netanyahu. It seems that we’re dealing with a spin from Lapid who profits the most from it. It is possible and necessary to replace Netanyahu, and that’s our main goal and we will achieve it.”

Recall that during the previous round of negotiations regarding a unity government, which exploded at the last minute after the Netanyahu government chose to add the Israel Beiteinu party, the parties denied the existence of such a process for months. A notable change since the last round of negotiations is that Herzog secured his position as the head of the Labor Party for another year, arranged at the end of July, which enables him to commit to the Netanyahu government yet another time.

During the tumultuous July Zionist Union conference, 70% of party members voted to extend Herzog’s term. When Herzog rose to give a speech, protesters shouted “You want us to be ‘la familia’, or to act as a democratic party? We’ll protect our party against incitement, offenses, and implosions, and proceed to vote and to speak out about our overarching issues. This proves that we need to eradicate this ‘la familia’ behavior.” The protesters referred to ‘la familia,’ a Jerusalem Beitar soccer fanclub, which is infamous for being disruptive and violent.

Due to the interference, Herzog shortened his speech, the party’s secretary general informed the delegates that the vote was open and the delegates left the banquet hall at Beit HaChayal to go to the polls. Member of Knesset Hilik Bar stated, “Starting tomorrow, the party’s concern is to remove the rows of protesters.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich commented on the incident, saying “Herzog’s threats to banish party members are disgraceful, and the weeping and wailing about the booing he received are anything but leadership. The strongest ‘boo’ actually came from Herzog; at the height of his public weakness he showed 60 thousand party members that he doesn’t care about them, and that through connections he can arrange another term for himself without them. Today on stage, he kept complaining about being called a ‘dog’ a hundred times a day, but in reality, he was never called that. This is a desperate attempt to gain empathy on grounds of compassion, but you cannot build leadership by complaining.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Police arrest 6 suspected terrorists in flashpoint east Jerusalem area

Three days after rearresting an east Jerusalem Hamas operative less than 72 hours following his release from serving a 14-year prison sentence for plotting a mass murder, police on Saturday arrested six more suspected terrorists in the flashpoint neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.

On Thursday, Sufian Abdu, of Jabel Mukaber, was charged with attempted murder after allegedly planning to poison Israeli patrons at a café in the capital, days after his release from prison for plotting in 2002 to poison Israelis at Jerusalem’s Cafe Rimon, where he worked.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Sunday morning that Abdu’s interrogation led to the arrests of the six unidentified suspects in Jabel Mukaber for also plotting terrorist activity on behalf of Hamas.

“This is part of the ongoing investigation as part of the arrest that was made last week of the man who was released from prison,” said Rosenfeld after the arrests were announced.

“The names of the six suspects involved in terrorist activity were handed over, and the operation took place over the weekend.”

While Rosenfeld said he could not discuss the details of the investigation, he said it is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

All the suspects were arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, where a judge ordered their remand.

Following his release from prison, Abdu was feted as a hero during a celebration in Jabel Mukaber featuring Hamas flags.                     (Jerusalem Post)

Turkish parliament approves deal ending rift with Israel

Turkey’s parliament on Saturday approved a reconciliation agreement signed with Israel in June which has brought a six-year rift between the two regional powers to an end.

Relations between the two countries crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.

Israel, which had already offered its apologies for the raid, agreed under the deal to pay out $20 million to the bereaved and injured in return for Turkey dropping outstanding legal claims.

Both countries are to appoint ambassadors under an agreement which is partly driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals.

“I don’t think there will be a problem during its (Israel deal) implementation. Israel is dependent on Turkey’s security. Israel can’t afford to be against Turkey while being in a region surrounded by Arab and Islamic countries. Secondly, there are natural gas resources in the Mediterranean that they are pursuing and we want to be a part of it. The shortest and safest route to transport natural gas to Europe is through Turkey,” said AKP lawmaker Burhan Kuzu.

The accord, signed on June 28, was a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, also driven by mutual fears over growing security risks. Two weeks later, more than 240 people were killed in an attempted coup in Turkey.

Under the deal, the naval blockade of Gaza, which Ankara had wanted lifted, remains in force, although humanitarian aid can continue to be transferred to Gaza via Israeli ports.

Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to curb arms smuggling by Hamas, an Islamist group that last fought a war with Israel in 2014.   (Jerusalem Post)

Chabad Rabbi stabbed in Strasbourg, France by attacker yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’

A Jewish man was stabbed and moderately wounded on Friday in Strasbourg, France, in an attack for which authorities have yet to determine a motive.

According to reports, the attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he stabbed the man, who was described as “belonging to the orthodox Hasidic sect.”

The victim, described as a rabbi named Mr. Levy, was recovering at an area hospital in stable condition.

The attacker was arrested, but details of his identity have not yet been released.

The incident occurred less the half a mile from the main synagogue of the city in eastern France inside its Jewish quarter, René Gutman, the city’s chief rabbi, told AFP.

Gutman said that the same suspect was involved in an earlier assault in 2010 against a Jew in the center of Strasbourg.

The northeastern France city, home to some 10,000 Jews, is no stranger to anti-Semitism. In February 2015, several hundred Jewish graves were damaged at a nearby cemetery, garnering condemnation from high-ranking French officials.

Although the motive for the attack was unclear, and some reports suggested that the assailant may be suffering from mental health issues, France has been on edge in light of a number of terrorist incidents in recent months.

France’s government faced criticism of its security record last month in the wake of revelations that one of the assailants who slit the throat of a priest at a church altar was a known would-be jihadist under police surveillance.

President Francois Hollande met interfaith leaders in an effort to promote national unity. But his predecessor and potential opponent in a presidential election next year, Nicolas Sarkozy, said the government must take stronger steps to track known Islamist sympathizers.

The attackers in last month’s incident interrupted a church service, forced 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel to his knees at the altar and slit his throat. As they came out of the church shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is Greatest”), they were shot and killed by police.

The attack came less that two weeks after another suspected Islamist drove a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing 84 people. Opposition politicians have responded to the attacks with strong criticism of the Socialist government’s security record, unlike last year, when they made a show of unity after gunmen and bombers killed 130 people in Paris in November and attacked a satirical newspaper in January.

“All this violence and barbarism has paralyzed the French left since January 2015,” Sarkozy, who is expected to enter a conservative primary for next year’s presidential election, told Le Monde newspaper. “It has lost its bearings and is clinging to a mindset that is out of touch with reality.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Army’s Elite Rescue Unit Expands Activities for Emergency Situations

An officer in the Israel Defense Forces’ Unit 669, which traditionally rescues pilots forced to abandon their airplanes and civilians in life-threatening situations like floods, said Thursday that the unit had changed its modus operandi for emergency situations.

According to the officer, the unit has begun to evacuate the wounded from battlefields with off-road vehicles and fast vehicles from its airborne division. The IDF published images of a number of training exercises that the unit has conducted in the past year, among them the rescue of wounded from the sea and from submarines.

The first of the unit’s teams trained in the new activities saw action during Operation Cast Lead in 2009, rescuing 83 wounded. Ten such teams were in action during the Operation Protective Edge in Gaza two years ago, rescuing 276 wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

IDF’s Unit 669 IDF Israel

IDF Unit 669

Working with the airborne unit, the teams evacuate wounded to helicopters containing additional unit members. “It simply saves people,” a unit officer said. “This force was the first to arrive at any incident with multiple casualties during Protective Edge, and now these teams are participating in every brigade-level exercise.”

Moreover, unit members are also involved in locating and extracting drones that have fallen into enemy territory. According to the officer, the number of rescues has increased relative to the growing use of drones. As drones are of great importance to the air force, rescue teams will also be sent into enemy territory to rescue them.

Unit members are also requited to extract drones that have fallen into the sea, regardless of how far they have sunk.   (Ha’aretz)

Australian broadcaster fails to admit bias in inaccurate Gaza report

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) admitted and corrected on Thursday two errors it made on a report regarding Palestinians crossing into Egypt and Israel from Gaza after a complaint was made by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), according to the Australian Jewish News.

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of AIJAC, lodged two complaints on June 28 regarding the 7.30 Report by Sophie McNeill, “Rafah border crossing opens to sick Gazans seeking medical treatment in Egypt” and a PM radio companion piece on June 15.

An ABC spokesperson admitted that the broadcaster was wrong to refer to Gaza as another part of the “occupied territories” and the 7.30’s introduction was inaccurate.

7.30 is a daily current affairs news program broadcast in Australia.

ABC news management explained that references in the report were written in Sydney and not by McNeill.

ABC acknowledge the inaccuracy and added an editors note regarding the errors on the program’s website.

Rubenstein stated that he welcomed the corrections but added, “Regrettably neither of the points that were conceded related to McNeill’s actual reports.”

“We are obviously disappointed and concerned that McNeill’s reporting – which we maintain was partial, sloppy with the facts and lacking in context – was given a clean bill of health,” Rubenstein continued.

Rubenstein added: “Particularly concerning is the department’s summary dismissal of AIJAC’s complaint that there was scant investigation of Egypt’s enforcement of the [Gaza] blockade and that Cairo was essentially absolved of any responsibility, while the program strongly implied to the viewer that Israel was legally and morally culpable for Gaza’s welfare.”

“The fact that no accusation or attribution of responsibility for Gaza’s situation was made against either Egypt or Hamas was the essence of the bias of the story and part of a larger pattern with McNeill’s reporting.”

Rubenstein concluded by emphasizing the role that ABC’s Middle East correspondent, McNeill, focuses in her stories on the “occupation” and that her stories do not deviate from the bias that Israel is predominantly responsible for Palestinian-suffering.                 (Jerusalem Post)