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Latest News in Israel – 29th April

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

‘Woman of Valor’ Murdered Saving Rabbi’s Life in Synagogue Shooting

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the attack at a Chabad synagogue near San Diego, is credited with jumping in front of the synagogue’s rabbi to shield him from the gunman’s bullets.

Gilbert-Kaye, 60, of San Diego, is survived by her husband and 22-year-old daughter.

“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor,” her friend Audrey Jacobs, a community activist, wrote in a post on Facebook. “You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi (Yisroel) Goldstein to save his life.”

No one was quite so thoughtful as Gilbert-Kaye, said Lisa Busalacchi, her friend since second grade.

“It’s not like she gave a million dollars for a building, but if someone was sick or someone died, she was the first one there with food or asking what she could do,” Busalacchi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview.

Busalacchi said that Kaye was deeply committed to the congregation, and had recently traveled to New York to attend the wedding of Rabbi Goldstein’s daughter.

“It made sense that she was [at Chabad]; it was her whole life,” she said.

The rabbi was shot in both of his index fingers and required surgery. He reportedly continued speaking even after being shot, and prayed for unity and peace, and talked about remaining strong in the face of adversity and hate, Chabad.org News reported.

The rabbi also serves as a Jewish chaplain at the San Diego Police Department.

“Anti-Semitism is real and is deadly,” Jacobs also wrote. “Hate crimes are real and are deadly. Lori would have wanted all of us to stand up to hate. She was a warrior of love and she will be missed. May Lori’s memory be a blessing.”

Gilbert-Kaye was in synagogue on Saturday morning, the last day of Passover, to remember her late mother during Yizkor, a memorial service held on major Jewish festivals, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Her husband, a physician, was in synagogue with her. When he started to perform CPR on a victim and realized it was his wife, he fainted, according to the report.

“God picked her to die to send a message because she’s such an incredible person,” her friend, Dr. Roneet Lev, told the newspaper. “He took her for a higher purpose to send this message to fight anti-Semitism.”

The rabbi told Lev that Gilbert-Kaye saved his life, according to the report.

Apropos of nothing, Gilbert-Kaye would drop off gifts at her friends’ homes, Busalacchi said. And she didn’t send one card for a birthday or anniversary, she sent three or four.

“Literally it was no less than three cards for every occasion,” Busalacchi said

Rare was the Friday night that the Kayes did not have Shabbat guests — often there were 10 or more people at the table. She would invite friends to the family’s sukkah on Sukkot, and host a break the fast after Yom Kippur. She made her own challah, and recently forwarded a Passover carrot kugel recipe to Busalacchi.

Gilbert-Kaye loved to garden — “we’re talking eight different kinds of lettuce and five different kinds of tomatoes” — and to talk politics, her friend recalled.

“She was a devout Trump supporter,” Busalacchi said. “When he was running for office, she would toast” the president, “and after he won she would toast to that.”

“Lori Gilbert-Kaye z’l [of blessed memory] is a Jewish hero, and will be remembered as a hero in Jewish history,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of Diaspora Affairs, said in a statement. “She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the Rabbi. But it is clear that such heroism and good deeds are not only characteristic of dear Lori in death, but this is the way she lived her life — at the heart of her community, constantly doing charity and good deeds for those in need.”

Bennett also called her “a true Hero of Israel.”

Gilbert-Kaye’s Facebook page is filled with posts raising funds for groups and individuals in need. Dozens of people, mostly strangers, left messages of condolence on her latest post raising funds for the Jewish charity Chai Lifeline, where her sister works as West Coast director. (JTA)

Rabbi recalls being face-to-face with synagogue shooter during attack

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein says he was in the middle of his Saturday sermon at the Chabad of Poway when he heard loud noises. Goldstein says during a phone interview Sunday on “Today” he was “face-to-face with this murderer, this terrorist” when he turned around.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, just out of surgery for a gunshot wound, continues to speak about the synagogue shooting. “As soon as (the gunman) saw me, he started to shoot towards me and I just sort of put my hands up and my fingers got blown away

“He was holding the rifle and was looking straight at me, and as soon as he saw me, he started to shoot,” he says.

Goldstein says he put his hands up to protect himself and lost one of his fingers in the shooting.

One person, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, was killed in the shooting. The rabbi remembered her as a “pioneering, founding member” of the congregation and says he is “heartbroken” by her death.

Three others, including Goldstein, were injured. (the Times of Israel) Staff

Netanyahu: Attack at Chabad Synagogue ”a blow to the heart of the Jewish people”

Saturday’s attack at the Poway Chabad Synagogue is a “blow to the heart of the Jewish people,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. “We send condolences to Lori Gilbert-Kay’s family, and send our best wishes for speedy recovery to the wounded. The international community must step up the fight against antisemitism.”

Gilbert-Kay, 60, was killed trying to protect the rabbi of the congregation. Three others were wounded in the attack.

Netanyahu said that in light of an increase in antisemitic attacks around the world, he will convene a meeting this week of all those who deal with the issue.

Netanyahu spoke to Israel’s consul in Los Angeles, Avner Saban, within an hour of the shooting, and was updated on the attack. According to a statement issued by the PMO, Netanyahu directed the consul to provide any assistance possible to the synagogue, and to continue to update him on the developments.

Politicians and thought leaders from across the spectrum took to Twitter and Facebook to express their sorrow in learning about the Sabbath shooting attack on the Chabad of Poway, a city in San Diego County.

Outgoing deputy minister Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US, said in a Hebrew twitter comment that Israel “must declare war against rising antisemitism around the world, including in the United States.”

Oren said that as the nation-state of the Jewish people, “Israel has the responsibility to protect the Jews against antisemitism from both the left and the right. It is not enough to fight against the BDS but also against antisemitism as a whole. It is not only our moral obligation but also our security one.”

“We were shocked and grieved to hear of the shooting at the Chabad of Poway,” said President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday. “The murderous attack on the Jewish community during Pesach, our holiday of freedom, and just before [Holocaust Remembrance Day], is yet another painful reminder that antisemitism and hatred of Jews is still with us, everywhere.”

He said that the Jewish people will never allow antisemitism and hatred to triumph.

“We are strong and we are proud of our heritage, and our identity of love for each other and our fellow humans,” the president added.

Paraphrasing the Passover Haggada, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that “in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, but we will fight antisemitism in all its forms and wherever it raises its head.”

Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon took a different approach, insinuating that the attack was made possible by the antisemitic language used by certain left-wing members of Congress and by the antisemitic cartoon that ran that morning in The New York Times, the latter portraying a blind US President Donald Trump being led by the guide “dog” Netanyahu.

“The words, the demonstrators and the cartoons turn into shootings against worshipers in synagogues,” Danon said. “This is the time for action – for a determined war and not for weak and hollow condemnations that allow the forces of hate to revive dark periods in history.”

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz issued a statement expressing Israel’s sorrow at the attack, saying that “We are here to assist the local Jewish community however and whenever necessary.”

American politicians also opened up on social media, calling out antisemitism and baseless hatred as having no place in the United States.

“My deepest sympathies go to the people that were affected,” Trump said immediately after the shooting, adding: “It looks like a hate crime” and that authorities will “get to the bottom of it.”

Despite the numerous accusations on Twitter calling out Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent statements as a catalyst for the attack, she herself spoke out in support of the victims.

“My heart is breaking after today’s deadly shooting at Chabad Congregation in San Diego – on the last day of Passover and six months to the day after the Tree of Life shooting,” she said on Twitter. “We as a nation must confront the terrifying rise of religious hate and violence. Love trumps hate.”

Similarly, Vermont’s Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said:  “We must work every day to eradicate all forms of hatred and bigotry, and take serious action to protect Americans from gun violence.”

Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, described herself as “heartsick for the victims.”

Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt called on the people to “gather and fight” the scourge of antisemitism.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “On the last day of Passover, we grieve with Jewish communities in the San Diego area & around the world after today’s attack at a synagogue.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass issued a statement condemning the attack, saying “The attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue is an attack on all of us.”

Likewise, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted his shock, saying, “We need to continue fighting antisemitism and protect the right of all to worship in safety.”

Jewish organizations – including the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) – offered condolences.

“There is absolutely no justification or explanation for such violence, and it is inconceivable that, yet again, innocent people have been targeted simply for their religion and for choosing to attend a place of worship,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.

“From Charleston to Pittsburgh to Oak Creek, and from Christchurch to Sri Lanka, and now Poway, we need to say ‘enough is enough,’” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “Our leaders need to stand united against hate, and address it both on social media and in our communities.”

“These murders did not occur in a vacuum,” said the Israeli-American Council in a statement. “They are the product of an age-old hate that continues to infect millions around the world. Today’s events sound yet another alarm about the growing danger of antisemitism in our country.”

“History’s lessons call on us as to act together with strength and unity to fight antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head,” the statement continued.

Jewish Agency for Israel chairman Isaac Herzog also responded with a statement that included the simple phrase, “It must be stopped!”(Jerusalem Post) Herb Keinon

First swastikas, then synagogue attack: US no safe haven for Israeli family

For one family caught up in the California synagogue shooting, a move from Israel to the United States in search of a safer life has been a journey “from fire to fire.”

Israel Dahan and three of his five children were at Sabbath services at Congregation Chabad in Poway, near San Diego, on Saturday when a gunman opened fire, killing a woman and wounding three others in what local authorities deemed a hate crime.

Dahan, speaking on Israel Radio on Sunday, said his family was no stranger to violence, having lived in Israel in Sderot, a town on the Gaza border that has been a frequent target of Palestinian rocket attacks.

“We came from fire to fire,” he said. “We left Sderot because of the shelling. My house was hit several times. My mother’s house, my mother-in-law’s house were hit several times. I was also wounded several times. … We wanted to move far away.”

Dahan’s 8-year-old daughter, Noya, was wounded in the synagogue shooting, on the last day of Passover, as was his brother-in-law.

“I began to shout that people should flee,” Dahan said about the initial moments of the attack. “Thank God his gun jammed.”

Eden Dahan, Noya’s mother, said her brother Almog saved the lives of her daughter and the other children in the synagogue. Eden said her neighbor’s 5-year-old daughter Yuli began to run toward the shooter and Almog had been hit by a bullet when he ran over to her and picked her up.

“He grabbed her and ran toward my girls. He found Noya, my daughter, grabbed her hand with Yuli still in his arms and as soon as he grabbed Noya, he sustained shrapnel from the bullet. She sustained it near her eye and was wounded in the leg. With all of the mayhem and the blood, he ran with them toward the synagogue’s emergency exit.” She said Almog took all the children to the rabbi’s house next door.

According to Eden, it was at this point that Almog realized his niece Leanne was missing and he risked his life to go back into the synagogue to look for her. Eden noted that Leanne had gotten locked inside a bathroom stall and had been unable to get out.

“Almog saved my daughters, he saved all the children. He just didn’t think about anything except how to save the children. He’s a hero. It’s just crazy.”

Authorities identified the alleged gunman as a 19-year-old San Diego resident and said his weapon apparently malfunctioned after the first rounds he fired.

Israel Dahan said his family had been living in Poway for the past three years, and that it was not the first time they had been the victim of a hate crime.

In 2015, the Dahans were residing in Mira Mesa, about 10 miles from Poway, when swastikas were daubed on their house and vehicle during the Passover holiday.

A local news report at the time said the family moved to the United States in 2014 seeking a safer environment for their children.

“But that’s life,” Israel said, recalling the swastika incident and how he had briefly locked eyes with the synagogue assailant.

Asked whether he regretted their move from Israel, he said: “No. We love America. … It can happen anywhere – in any mall, and in any hospital and in any family gathering and in any place. We are strong. We were born to be strong.” (Israel Hayom) Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

Israel to release Syrian prisoners as ‘goodwill gesture’ after return of Baumel

A senior official confirmed Saturday that Israel will release two Syrian prisoners after the return earlier this month of the remains of an IDF soldier lost in a 1982 battle.

The Israeli official said the prisoner release would take place as a “goodwill gesture,” adding that the decision was only made in recent days.

Two ministers told Channel 13 news that the decision was made without cabinet discussion or approval. According to Israeli law, the release of prisoners within a diplomatic framework requires government approval, but according to Channel 12 news, this was bypassed with the consent of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

The body of tank commander Zachary Baumel, presumably killed in the First Lebanon War’s Battle of Sultan Yacoub almost 37 years ago, was brought from Syria to Israel earlier this month.

At the time, a senior diplomatic official said that Russia’s help in the return of Baumel’s remains would not have a “diplomatic price tag” linked to the situation in Syria.

The Israeli statement came after Russia’s envoy to Syria announced the prisoner release.

Russian official Alexander Lavrentiev said Saturday that the operation to recover Baumel’s remains was in Damascus’s interests as Syrian prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons.

“In Russia we are very sensitive to the search for missing and dead people, even from World War II,” Lavrentiev told Russia’s RT broadcaster.

“For this reason, when the decision to surrender the body was made, we thanked the Syrian side for their understanding,” he said.

“But this action was not unilateral — Israel made a decision, which it will have to carry out later, to release some of the Syrian citizens who are in Israeli jails,” added Lavrentiev, who serves as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria.

Lavrentiev did not go into detail about why the Syrian citizens were being held in Israel. The Haaretz daily noted that several residents from Druze villages in the Golan Heights are currently being held for security offenses.

“This was an act of interest for the Syrian side. We will not do anything that is contrary to Syria’s interests, but only things that serve them,” he said.

Syria has vehemently denied Putin’s claim that Damascus aided in the search and recovery operation to return Baumel to Israel.

A Syria-based official with Palestinian terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command, said that insurgents who were in control of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus up until last year excavated graves in search of the remains of the three missing soldiers — Baumel and comrades Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz. The group has made a similar claim in the past.

Syrian Information Minister Imad Sara claimed at the time on state TV that Russia had also not been involved. “What we believe is that the entire operation was carried out between Israel and the armed terrorist groups in Syria.”

During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow earlier this month, Putin said “Russian Army soldiers found the body in coordination with the Syrian military.”

Public involvement in the return of the remains to Israel would be embarrassing for the Syrian government, which is technically at war with Israel.

Putin is a key backer of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, helping him quash a massive civil war over the last several years, and has also maintained mostly positive ties with Israel.

In 2016, Moscow gave Israel a tank which had been captured during the same June 11, 1982 battle between Israeli and Syrian forces near the Lebanese border town of Sultan Yacoub. Israel said 21 soldiers were killed and five were captured, including two later returned alive.

Tank commander Baumel, a Brooklyn-born immigrant, was one of three Israeli soldiers whose bodies were never recovered following the skirmish.

Though Baumel, Feldman and Katz were generally believed to have been killed in the battle, there was also speculation and reports that they were captured by the Syrian military in Sultan Yacoub and brought to Damascus. Feldman and Katz remain officially listed as missing in action, though they are also presumed killed.

Baumel was buried in an emotional ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. (the Times of Israel) Staff

Shin Bet prevented Hamas suicide attack on election day

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) foiled a Hamas terror attack planned to take place around the elections, the agency announced on Sunday morning.

According to the statement, the Shin Bet, along with the IDF, had uncovered a terror cell in the West Bank that had been recruited by senior Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip to carry out a car bombing attack near the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim outside Jerusalem.

Authorities arrested a cell activist and Hamas activist, 23-year-old Yahya Abu Dia, from the village of az-Za’ayyem on March 31. During his investigation, authorities uncovered that he had been recruited by senior Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip that he had been in contact with online and that he had agreed to act as a suicide bomber.

As part of his ties with Hamas operatives in the Strip, Abu Dia was asked to buy a car and rent a storage room to prepare a car bomb. He was also asked to monitor locations in the Ma’aleh Adumim area, where there was a high concentration of buses, civilians and soldiers to carry out the attack.

“Abu Dia followed the instructions of the cell, carried out observations on civilian sites, and reported to the cell about the best location to carry out the attack, while sending instructions to carry out the attack quickly,” read the statement from the agency.

The agency said that as part of preparations for the suicide attack, Abu Dia was asked by Hamas activists to film a will that he carried out the attack in the name of Hamas’s military wing. He planned to film the will before he left for the attack, wearing a Hamas military wing bandanna.

The Shin Bet said that he purchased a tripod to film the video.

“Hamas in the Gaza Strip is constantly recruiting Hamas operatives from the West Bank region to carry out murderous terror attacks in order to undermine security stability in the region,” said a senior Shin Bet source. “This activity of the Hamas military wing joins a long list of attempted terrorist attacks directed by Hamas which recruited activists in the West Bank and that have been thwarted by the Shin Bet in recent years and have thus far led to the arrest of many individuals. The Shin Bet security service and other security agencies will continue to act to prevent terrorist attacks by Hamas.”

An indictment will be filed in the coming days against Abu Dia. (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

Jewish group rejects NY Times apology for anti-Semitic cartoon

A major Jewish organization is refusing to accept the New York Times’ apology for publishing a cartoon depicting the prime minister of Israel as a dog.

The cartoon, of Netanyahu’s face with dog ears and a dog body, with a blue Jewish star and a leash held by a yarmulke-wearing Donald Trump, was published in the New York Times’ International Edition on Thursday, April 25.

The Times on April 27 said it would publish an “editor’s note” in Monday’s international edition, saying, “A political cartoon in the international print edition of The New York Times on Thursday included anti-Semitic tropes, depicting the prime minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the president of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap. The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it. It was provided by The New York Times News Service and Syndicate, which has since deleted it.”

The American Jewish Committee responded to the Times by tweeting, “Apology not accepted. How many @nytimes editors looked at a cartoon that would not have looked out of place on a white supremacist website and thought it met the paper’s editorial standards? What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”

The American Jewish Committee’s CEO, David Harris, tweeted, “The ‘cartoon’ is beyond shocking. Anti-Semitic in the extreme. No, ‘apology’ isn’t adequate. Rather, @nytimes owes readers an explanation of how this happened — after all, decision to print it involved more than one person — & what it says about the paper’s view of Israel & Jews.”

Harris wouldn’t drop the issue, following up with another tweet: “The more I think about the @nytimes “cartoon,” the more appalled I am. While #Antisemitism is rising…synagogues are attacked & Jews killed…democratic #Israel is demonized…& Jewish institutions are forced to bolster security… The ‘paper of record’ pours oil on the fire.”

In The Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman wrote, “I didn’t believe the cartoon was real when I first saw it. Many of my colleagues didn’t believe it either. I spent all day Saturday trying to track down a hard copy…. And then I found it. It stared back at me: That horrid image of a blind U.S. President Donald Trump with a yarmulke being led by a dog with the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Worse, the dog was wearing a Star of David as a collar.”

Wrote Frantzman, “an apology after the fact isn’t enough…. this cartoon wasn’t just mildly anti-Semitic. …It was deeply anti-Semitic.”

I’d respectfully suggest that anyone shocked or surprised by the publication of this cartoon in the Times hasn’t been paying close attention to the pattern of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish themes and images that I’ve documented for more than three years now in the Algemeiner.

Among a few of the more egregious problems: the Times published and awarded a gold “NYT Pick” ribbon to a reader comment describing Netanyahu as a “parasitic thug” who “likes to control the US Congress.” The Times later deleted the comment and claimed the publication had been a mistake — the same strategy it is now trying again with this dog cartoon.

The Times published an op-ed that falsely accused Jewish billionaires of trying to drag America into a war with Iran. The Times has also been blaming religious Jews and Jewish schools for spreading measles while simultaneously ignoring mumps outbreaks at non-Jewish institutions such as Temple University and Indiana University. The Times also devoted vast space and investigative resources to promoting an unsubstantiated accusation that Israeli soldiers had committed a war crime.

And the newspaper has been cheering on the effort by Israel’s enemies to impose a boycott on Israel. (WIN) Ira Stoll, The Algemeiner