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Latest News in Israel – 7th June


A Yom Yerushalayim Tribute: One Call Away

IDF Medical[1]

Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, a day which causes us to reflect on the marvel that is Israel and its eternal capital.

Israel is only the world’s 152nd biggest country, but it’s always one of the first to send disaster relief all over the globe. Whether its an earthquake in Haiti, a tsunami in Japan, or a typhoon in the Philippines, the Israel Defense Forces are only one call away to deliver a field medical corps hospital where it is most needed.

Israel brings children from all over the world to its hospitals for medical treatment, even from countries that are at war with Israel.

Israel also brings its advanced technology to rural African villages. Volunteers build schools, medical clinics, and provides tools for solar power and clean water.

The words of the popular song One Call Away by Charlie Puth say it perfectly….Superman’s got nothing on me, I’m only one call away.

30,000 flock to Old City for Jerusalem Day

They came with drums, hundreds of Israeli flags attached to cheap sticks, and shirts with images of a rebuilt Jewish Temple on them.

But mostly they came with songs about “Jerusalem of Gold” and “the eternal people do not fear a long journey.” Gone were the racist chants of years past, and neon-emblazoned ushers kept the masses of youth from banging on Arab shops as they made their way from Damascus Gate to the West Wall.

The annual Jerusalem Day events brought tens of thousands to Jerusalem to celebrate the Six Day War and the conquest of the city which is seen by many as an act of liberation and reunification. Bused in from across the country, many crowded onto separate men’s and women’s sections on King George Street in the mid-afternoon, to listen to speakers who reminded them about how paratroopers took back the city 49 years ago.

“We won’t bend to terrorism, we must fight for Jerusalem every day and not take it for granted,” intoned one speaker.

As marchers made their way past IDF Square a small counter- protest attended by members of Meretz, Gush Shalom, Hadash and an “anti-fascist” group was cordoned off by police.

Unlike last year, 50 meters separated the thousands from those reminding them “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

One man in his 40s, who has lived in Jerusalem since the 1980s, said that he was saddened to see such a small turnout for the anti-racist protest, and felt that the groups represent the deep divisions in society.

Down by Damascus Gate the mostly young and national-religious crowd was crushed into a slow moving mass toward the Kotel.

Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich toured the police positions that cordoned off the march. Earlier in the day officers had encouraged Arabs to close up their stands to avoid friction, and almost every Arab-owned shop along Al-Wad Street was closed.

One proprietor said that in years past Jewish youth had banged on his shop door and smashed the windows of cars in alleyways. Police were careful to prevent clashes this year, confiscating sticks and detaining youths near the Austrian Hospice.

According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, 2,000 police were involved in security in and around the Old City.

“Over 30,000 people took part in the march to the Western Wall via Damascus Gate and Jaffa Gate, no incidents were reported,” police statement said.

Jerusalem Day 1[1]

Teenager Hodaya Madhala from Rehovot, who attends a boarding school and was bused in to the parade, said it was her first time at the event.

“It was fun… I think it’s the day where we remember the paratroopers liberated the Kotel, and it’s our place, and we are Jews and we should be happy here and show the lefties it is ours and they can also take part, but not take it away from us.”

She wished more people from all over the country would attend.

Gavi Forman, an 18-year-old from Teaneck, New Jersey, who studies at Reshit Yeshiva in Beit Shemesh, was amazed by how this differed from New York’s Israel Day parade.

“It inspired me to make aliya, it’s a day of unity coming together… it’s more lively than I expected. It unifies the secular and religious,” he asserted.

His friend Zack Braverman, sporting an identical shirt from their yeshiva, said he also enjoyed it. “It’s togetherness, no fighting, and dancing, no matter who you are.” He felt that it was good the security kept Arabs behind a barrier, because of safety concerns.

In general that was the feeling among attendees, that a day of unity had been achieved, but they wished more Israelis would see this event as important to the Jewish people.

As the thousands of marchers made their way in an increasingly sweaty crowd toward the Western Wall plaza, many ultra-Orthodox Jews tried to leave the area.

Fewer than 10 percent of those in the crowd appeared secular, and most attendees seemed to be under 30, if not in their teens.             (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Yes to peace, no to dividing Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday not to divide Jerusalem in his pursuit of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

“The idea of a divided, split, wounded city is one we will never return to,” Netanyahu said as he spoke at a special ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem to mark the unification of the city 49 years ago, during the Six Day War.

“We will never abandon the Kotel and our ties to the Temple Mount will never be denied,” Netanyahu said.

Later in the evening, at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, he said: “We will not be ousted from our city or our land. I will not oust people from their homes and we will not be ousted from our homes.”

He spoke of the important of Israeli rule to the vision of a heavenly Jerusalem that provides a safe haven for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“There was no peace for the [three] religions until Jerusalem was under Israeli sovereignty. Someone was always dispossessed. It is only when, under Israeli sovereignty, we are watching over the city that there will be freedom for the three religions.”

Netanyahu spoke as the international community was hardening its stance with regard to a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Over the weekend, the French launched an internationalized peace process to lay the parameters for what a final status agreement might look like.

Separately, Netanyahu has called for a regional peace process based on a revised 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The initial plan spoke of an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in exchange for normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world.

Netanyahu has said that the best way to achieve peace is through direct talks with the Palestinians.

“Israel wants peace. I want peace. I want to renew the diplomatic process to achieve peace,” Netanyahu said at Ammunition Hill. “But peace, if it’s achieved, will come through direct talks between us and our neighbors, at the end of which they will recognize that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people.”

That peace can be achieved through direct talks has already been proved by Israel’s peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, Netanyahu said.

He recalled that a diplomatic process began almost immediately after the Six Day War.

Those same entities who wanted to broker a peace deal on Israel’s behalf “had abandoned the Jewish state when it fought for its existence against the Arab armies that surrounded it [in 1967].

“This did not bring peace then, and it will not bring peace today,” he said. “Each international dictate only distances peace,” he emphasized, “and will only strengthen the will of the Palestinians not to hold direct talks.”

The Palestinians insist that Israel must recognize their right to a national homeland, but refuse to accept a Jewish one, Netanyahu explained.

“Those who deny that Israel is the home-land of the Jews, who deny our claims to Jerusalem and turn the Temple Mount into an instrument of incitement and hatred have a long way to go before they are ready for peace,” he said.

He spoke of the wave of Palestinian violence that has claimed 34 lives since September.

“We will continue to fight terrorism and prove that terrorism will not deter us. We are in Jerusalem, not by charity, but by right,” he said.

The prime minister spoke about his memories of Jerusalem before the Six Day War, including the Jordanian snipers atop city walls, areas of no-man’s land and minefields, saying that such a situation would never return.

He described the 1967 conflict as “a war of salvation which removed an existential threat to the state,” and recalled what he described as a “great spirit” which took hold of the nation at the time, as well as the declarations of soldiers written on military vehicles, saying that there would never be another Auschwitz or another Masada.

“I remember the spirit of our fighters then, and it is in the merit of this spirit that our situation changed from one extreme to the other. And it was proved once again that the only guarantee of our existence is our ability to defend ourselves, to guarantee the safety of Israel,” he said.

The prime minister also recalled the soldiers who died in the battle for the capital, saying that Jerusalem Day was dedicated above all else to the fighters who fell in the war to liberate the city.

He also spoke of the newfound freedom to visit the Western Wall, having been limited to merely viewing it from a distance since the establishment of the state.

“I remember when I went to the Western Wall, a day or two after the liberation,” he said, ”and I remember the masses of people, and I touched the stone, and I remember the intense emotions that I felt like everyone else. This feeling was felt by the entire nation, in Israel and in the Diaspora.”

He said that Israel had a right to Jerusalem which is not dependent on international compassion.

Only because of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem did it turn into an open city to all three great monotheistic faiths, something which has not been the situation for generations.

“Israel respects all faiths, defends the holy sites of all faiths, and we are building in Jerusalem for all its residents – Jews and Arabs together – neighborhoods, parks, cultural facilities and libraries.”

President Reuven Rivlin also addressed the audience at the ceremony, saying that the city of Jerusalem reflected Israeli society in general, and declaring that bringing together all sectors of the population was a “national mission.”

The president sounded a note of criticism toward the Israeli education system, which he said failed to bring Jewish and Arab pupils together at any stage, adding that the lack of contact between the two communities had created a situation where Jewish pupils see Jerusalem as only a Jewish city and Arab pupils see it as only Arab.

“We must remember that Jerusalem is a microcosm of Israeli society as a whole, and the task of bringing together all its communities and tribes is a national mission,” said Rivlin.

“If we remember, that we are not doomed to live together, but we are destined to live together, Jerusalem will be not only a city of the past, but also a city of the future,” he said.

In his speech to the Central Rabbi Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Yeshivat Mercaz Harav, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett accused Netanyahu of being “disloyal to the Land of Israel.”

“You cannot be in favor of the Land of Israel in Hebrew and form a Palestinian state in English,” Bennett told the yeshiva students.

“Only when we will be sharp and determined will the world let us rest,” Bennett said.

Sources close to Netanyahu urged Bennett to behave more responsibly and stop attacking the prime minister.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Arrest of young Hamas operative leads to new details on Gazan tunnel network

Security forces arrested a 17-year-old Hamas operative from Gaza, and said they learned many valuable details on Hamas’s elaborate network of tunnels across the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas operative crossed into Israel last month, and took part in Hamas’s tunnel-digging program, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Sunday.

In a joint Shin Bet, IDF, and Israel Police operation, the 17-year-old suspect was taken into custody on May 16 after crossing the electronic border fence into Israel.

During a subsequent investigation, the Shin Bet learned that the youth “belonged to the Bet Lahia battalion of Hamas, and that most of his activities belonged to the tunnels,” the domestic intelligence agency said.

Details on Hamas’s attack tunnels in northern Gaza surfaced during the investigation, the agency added.

Hamas is digging attack tunnels and linking them to its defensive tunnels located in the heart of Gaza. The defensive tunnels are intended for the movement Hamas armed members, out of sight of the Israel Air Force, the Shin Bet said.

The Gazan tunnel network “includes resting rooms that are designed to serve the [elite Hamas] Nehbe [unit] during emergencies,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The tunnels contain many entrances, and some have been dug near civilian buildings across the Gaza Strip, including residential buildings, schools, and mosques. This “endangers the civilian population in the Strip,” the Shin Bet warned.

The investigation also provided details about how the youth was recruited into Hamas’s ranks, the courses and training he underwent, and his activities in Hamas’s military wing.   (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Deepening ties with Russia important for Israel’s security

The deepening ties between Israel and Russia are important for the country’s security, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday as he addressed a Jerusalem Day ceremony on the eve of his Monday departure to Moscow.

On Tuesday he will hold his fourth face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in less than a year to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries and to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations.

On the day that marks the unification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, Netanyahu could not help but reflect on what an enormous difference time makes in the relationships between nations.

Back then, he said, the Arab armies that surrounded Israel bent on destroying it, were supported and funded by the former Soviet Union.

Russia today is a world power and its relation to Israel is only growing stronger and deeper, Netanyahu said.

These ties are important “for our national security and prevented unnecessary violence along our borders,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that the two leaders would discuss terrorism, the ongoing Syrian civil war and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Russia has an active military presence in the region, particularly in Syria and it is also an arms supplier to Iran.

It is also one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Israel has worked to strengthen its ties with Moscow, alongside those of its chief ally, the United States, whose President Barack Obama, Netanyahu has met only once in the last year.

It has worked to coordinate its military air activity in the region with Russia, so that the two militaries do not interfere with one another in the Syrian theater.

Coordination between the IAF and the Russian air force continues to be good, due to the need by both countries to avoid inadvertent incidents in the crowded air space over and around Syria. Coordination between the defense establishments of Jerusalem and Moscow has been positive and fruitful, with hotlines in place that have been used to keep Russian and Israeli air platforms out of one another’s way.

Russia continues to provide air support to the Assad regime and its Hezbollah and Iranian backers on the ground. Although Moscow has reduced the number of fighter jets it keeps deployed in Syrian air bases on the Mediterranean coastline, it still keeps its air force active in the war torn country.

Despite the fact that Moscow is working closely with the Iran-led axis, which includes Israel’s most bitter, formidable enemy in the region – Hezbollah – Russia’s presence has proven to be a moderating, restraining influence on Hezbollah’s conduct vis-a-vis Israel.

Nevertheless, Russia is completing the sale of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to the Iranians, which will significantly upgrade their ability to defend their nuclear sites against any future attack.

The arrival of the F-35 jets later this year from the US, will go a long way to assisting Israel in building up capabilities to overcome such systems, as well as the advanced air defense systems that Hezbollah has managed to smuggle into Lebanon from Syria.

Netanyahu travels to Moscow with his wife Sara, Agriculture Minster Uri Ariel and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union.

In honor of the 25th anniversary, Putin has signed a presidential decree to return to Israel a tank which has been in its armory museum that was used in the 1982 battle of Sultan Yacoub, from which three Israeli soldiers are still listed as missing.

During the visit the Israeli delegation will look to increase cooperation with Russia with regard to the economy, trade and culture.

During the visit the two countries will sign a pension agreement to award benefits to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who worked in Russia prior to 1992. The signatures will not fully end the protracted bureaucratic process and payments are not likely to being until 2017.

Jerusalem and Moscow will also sign an agricultural memorandum of understanding with regard to dairy farming.

Netanyahu will inaugurate an interactive experiential exhibit on Israeli technology.

He will also meet with Jewish communal leaders, including Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt Moscow and the Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner.

Separately, while Netanyahu is in Russia, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro will meet with the Bayit Yehudi faction to discuss US-Israel ties, including issues relating to the ongoing negotiations of a new ten-year Memorandum of Understanding that would provide Israel with military aid.                           (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s President Rivlin Joins Singer Yehoram Gaon in Hebrew Version of Arlo Guthrie Classic

Earlier this month Israeli president Reuven Rivlin joined famed Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon in a rendition of Gaon’s popular Hebrew version of Arlo Guthrie’s song City of New Orleans.

The original song was composed by Steve Goodman while traveling from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad’s City of New Orleans. Goodman recorded City of New Orleans in 1970 and released it the next year on his self-titled album. John Denver released a cover of City of New Orleans in 1971 but it was Arlo Guthrie’s version – released in 1972 on his album Hobo’s Lullaby – that made the song famous.

The Hebrew version, Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet, was a big hit in Israel, with the words rewritten to describe the beauty of the land of Israel from north to south and from east to west.

Jerusalem of Gold

“Jerusalem of Gold” is a popular Israeli song written by Naomi Shemer in 1967. The original song described the Jewish people’s 2000-year longing to return to Jerusalem; Shemer added a final verse after the Six-Day War to celebrate Jerusalem’s unification under Israeli control. At that time, the Old City was under Jordanian rule; Jews had been barred from entering, and many holy sites had been desecrated.

Only three weeks after the song was published, the Six-Day War broke out. The song was the battle cry and morale booster of the Israeli troops. Shemer even sang it for them before the war and festival, making them among the first in the world to hear it. On 7 June, the Israel Defense Forces captured the eastern part of Jerusalem and the Old City from the Jordanians. When Shemer heard the paratroopers singing “Jerusalem of Gold” at the Western Wall, she wrote a final verse, reversing the phrases of lamentation found in the second verse. The line about shofars sounding from the Temple Mount is a reference to an event that actually took place on 7 June. This beautiful version is from the late Ofra Haza.