Good News Friday

So the world is melting down all around us while here in Israel, things aren’t exactly quiet and peaceful. But as I’ve mentioned many times, Shabbat is still approaching and we want to read some good news to put us into a better frame of mind. With that in mind, here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

Hacking away at the Toyota Israel Tech Center event

Starting with the “Israel is not isolated” theme, Japan hosted an Israeli hi-tech delegation to promote innovation across its industries:

After running a successful hackathon in Israel in October, Toyota has decided that it wants more Israeli innovation – and this time it’s bringing that innovation to its home base.

This month, the company is holding an event during which members of an Israeli delegation are meeting some 50 representatives from the purchasing and R&D departments of the company.

The event is just one of several that the newly established Israel trade office in Osaka is setting up. The new branch, in one of the world’s leading financial centers, will open up new economic opportunities for Israeli companies, including Japan’s large automakers, said Amit Lang, director general of the Israeli Economy Ministry, who is in Osaka to inaugurate the new center as well as lead a delegation of Israeli automotive supply companies as part of his working visit to the country.

The goal of the Israeli delegation, organized with the Israel Export Institute, is to create business ties between Israeli companies and potential business partners in the field of auto services in an effort to increase exports to Japan, said Lang. It also aims at presenting Japanese companies with possibilities of investing in Israel.

“Over the past year, there has been a noted increase in the interest of Japanese companies in Israel in a variety of fields, evidenced by the arrival of Japanese companies to Israel and their willingness to host Israeli companies in Japan,” Lang said.

According to the Economy Ministry’s Foreign Trade Administration, trade between Israel and Japan reached $2.3 billion in 2014, with exports reaching $800 million and imports $1.5 billion.

This is excellent news for both Israel and Japan. Long may this mutually beneficial relationship continue and strengthen!

Speaking of the Far East, Israeli tech ties with China are also booming, and the ties are growing stronger:

China and Israel established diplomatic relations a mere 20 years ago, but the countries are steadily drawing closer over a common vision – expanding the innovation economy. Israel and China already have in excess of $10 billion in trade since the start of 2015, with China recently asking Israel to join the Asia Infrastructure bank as a founding member, suggesting that Israel may become a major economic ally.

The last year has seen a real surge in investment funds and private investors coming to Israel from the Land of the Dragon, in part due to the easy access to the Middle Eastern country’s markets and the riveting can-do attitude of local entrepreneurs that the Chinese say they can identify with.

It is Israel’s open, innovative and risk-taking approach to tech that initially attracted notable Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing to invest in ten Israeli companies, including Waze, in 2012 alone. Through his fund Horzions Ventures, Li set the stage for tech relations with Israel, showing his country’s business elite that it was financially sound and even necessary for the future of the Chinese economy to invest in emerging technologies.

According to Gigi Levi, one Israel’s top angel investors, China may even “look up” to Israel for its Startup Nation title. “Israel is a small nation that has managed to become a high-tech superpower,” he tells NoCamels, “This is something that is very appealing to the Chinese business person.”

The article reports that the Chinese are most interested in mobile phone technology and clean-tech, all of which are Israel’s specialities. It’s not all rosy of course. China comes with its own set of problems, both political and economic, but it is still a gigantic market ready for Israel.

A Tel Aviv beach

Next on my “Israel is not isolated” list is the news that a British travel group is to hold its annual conference in Israel:

While different organizations in the United Kingdom are calling for a boycott of Israeli products and institutions, the British Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) has decided to hold its annual conference in Israel of all places.

The three-day ITT Conference 2016 will take place in early June at the Hilton Tel Aviv Hotel. During this visit to Israel, the guests will tour different tourist sites such as the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi and Jerusalem.

ITT is a British institute dedicated to promoting and training professionals in the travel industry and its members include individuals involved in travel and tourism – whether employed by a travel agency, airline, tour operator, hotel, tourist office, car hire company or any other travel related business such as PR, law and marketing.

Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said ITT’s decision to hold its conference in Israel was a significant show of faith in the Israeli tourism industry.

This is really very good news, both for Israel’s tourism industry and for our trade relations with Britain. And of course it’s a very nice kick in the teeth for the BDS bigots. :-)

Kol hakavod to the ITT who made the excellent decision to hold their conference here. I’m sure the participants will have a fantastic time and let’s hope it will lead to many more British tourists visiting Israel.

On a similar theme, Jerusalem was chosen as one of the best cities in the world by the Conde Nast Travellers Readers’ Choice Awards:

Israel features in 11 categories in the Condé Nast Traveler’s 28th annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Jerusalem, El Al, and select Eilat, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv hotels were chosen as among the world’s best in their different travel groupings.

Jerusalem was named as one of the Best Cities in the World.

Goodness! El Al?? I well remember the days when El Al stood for “Every landing always late”. :-P

Seriously, well done to Conde Nast, and of course to our beloved Jerusalem.

itai adn his archeological find

Itai and his archaeological find

And now a cute archaeological story: An 8-year old Israeli “Indiana Jones wannabe” stumbled upon a 1st Temple-era figurine in Bet Shemesh:

An eight-year-old Israeli boy on a daytrip with his family in the Beit Shemesh area accidentally made an important archaeological discovery last week, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

Itai Halpern of Pardesiya was granted a certificate of honor after discovering the head of a statue from the First Temple period and turning it in to Antiquities Authorities’ officials. Halpern’s school class was also invited to take part in an archaeological dig.

Halpern was hiking with his family when he picked up a round object from the ground. He soon realized that the ceramic object was the head of a sculpture.

The family quickly reported their discovery to the Antiquities Authority. Archaeologist Alexander Glick met the family and informed them that they had made a discovery of historical significance. Itai told Glick that he had recently seen an Indiana Jones movie and wanted to be like him when he grows up. Finding the statue was a dream come true for Itai.

Alon de Groot, an IAA expert on the Iron Age, identified the finding as the head of a sculpture of a fertility goddess.

De Groot added that “these figurines serve in our research as a marker for the area controlled by the Kingdom of Judah.”

How fascinating! I’m sure that Itai will never forget that day trip!

Israeli Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Aaron Ciechanover is interviewed by Ayala Shapira

Another child prodigy, a real heroine, is Ayala Shapira who was so badly burned last year in a terror attack and who has made a remarkable recovery. She still has a way to go in her rehabilitation from the terrible burns she received, but she doesn’t let that keep her down. This week she interviewed Israeli Nobel Prizewinner Aharon Ciechanover in his chemistry lab in Haifa University. This is what she writes:

The emotional meeting took place in Ciechanover’s laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine’s building at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. This is what she wrote:

When I got to interview the Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry I expected to see an honorable man, perhaps in a suit. I was surprised when a likeable man walked in wearing jeans, with dozens of car models made of wood lying on his desk. He was as energetic and enthusiastic as a child.

Prof. Ciechanover patiently answered my questions. I tell him that I also love technology and science and mathematics, and am very interested in learning and research. I reveal to him that every time a device breaks down at home I ask to take it apart and see how it is built and how it works.

“The important thing is to do what you most love in the best way,” he advised me. “If you love literature, you could be a great writer, and perhaps one day become a Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature.”

Prof. Ciechanover is right. Ayala is truly a remarkable girl who has gret determination to recover and get on with her life. With that indomitable spirit, she will indeed go very far indeed. Kol hakavod Ayala! You are a true hero of Israel, may you continue in your recovery from strength to strength!

And finally, on a happy but bittersweet note, as I write this post on Thursday evening (Fridays are too short in the winter) the postponed wedding of Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel is taking place. Sarah is the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Litman Hy’d who was murdered in a terror attack near Otniel just two weeks ago along with his son Netanel Hy’d, Sarah’s brother, as the family was on the way to Ariel’s Shabbat Chatan.

The shiva ended earlier this week, and now the family have heroically turned their mourning into celebration. Arutz Sheva has some amazing pictures and videos. Get your tissues ready!

Sarah-Tehiya Litman had to postpone her wedding after her father and brother were murdered in a drive-by shooting near Hevron almost two weeks ago, but on Thursday night she and her fiance Ariel Beigel went from tears to joy as they got married in Jerusalem.


Noa Litman is overcome with emotion at her daughter’s wedding


Aside from those attending, yet others are donating to help, and Jews have arrived from as far as the US and Canada to take part in the mitzvah (commandment) to bring joy to the bride and groom.

Action photo of the groom breaking the glass under the Chuppah

Action photo of the groom breaking the glass under the Chuppah

Litman’s father, Rabbi Ya’akov Litman, and her brother Netanel Litman, were gunned down by an Arab terrorist as they made their way to a Shabbat Hatan – the Sabbath celebration for the groom before a wedding – at Beigel’s home.

Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel celebrate at their wedding

Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel celebrate at their wedding

Shortly after the wedding ceremony, Sarah-Tehiya and Ariel thanked the public that arrived to help them celebrate.

“Up until two weeks ago no one knew or was interested in me and Ariel, and then in one moment on Friday at the peak of preparations dad and my brother were murdered by a cruel terrorist,” said Sarah-Tehiya.

“There isn’t a moment that I don’t miss Netanel’s smile, or father’s humility and modesty, and that will always accompany me,” she said. “But precisely from the pain in the month of courage before Hanukkah we will, together with all the nation of Israel, spread a great light of joy, giving and love that the nation of Israel has inundated upon us.”

Here is Sarah as she starts on her way to her wedding, throwing sweets to kindergarten children in celebration as her friends accompany her with singing:

And here is a short video of the Chuppah:

Just as all of Israel and the Jewish people have been invited to join in this wedding, and so many people have donated gifts and money to the young couple, I’m sure you all join me in wishing Sarah Techiya and Ariel a hearty mazal tov and all the blessings in the world for a happy future together. May they build a strong home in Israel, fill it with many children, and may the whole family be comforted by the blessed memory of their father Rabbi Yaakov Litman Hy’d and his son Netanel H’yd. I am sure they are smiling down from Heaven.

May the coming week hold only blessings and peace for all of Am Yisrael. I would also like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Meanwhile, upheaval in the rest of the world

While we in Israel have been caught up with the wave of terror and violence that has been sweeping Israel in recent months, the rest of the world has not been standing idly by.

Paris, Brussels and the rest of Europe:

After the Paris massacre, the hunt for the perpetrators and associated terrorists has continued, with Brussels being the focus of the search and under a lockdown for the past few days, and even London being caught up in it for a few hours.

Belgian troops patrol Brussels as hunt for Paris perpetrators continues


AKP supporters celebrate their electoral win

With all that has been going on in our own backyard, it was easy to miss the Turkish snap elections held at the beginning of November. These elections were held because after last June’s elections, Erdogan’s AKP Party could not form a government. The election results were much more dismal than could have been hoped for, as Erdogan’s party regained his massive majority:

Turkey’s ruling party has reclaimed its majority in a stunning landslide victory, after tens of millions of people across the country turned out to cast their vote in today’s elections.

[…]  It is a huge personal victory for the 61-year-old President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s divisive strongman who may now be able to secure enough support for his ambitions to expand his role into a powerful U.S.-style executive presidency.

[…]  The party took more than 49 per cent of the vote, to secure 315 seats in the 550-member parliament with nearly all votes counted.

The Leftist pro-Kurdish HDP has also once again crossed the 10 per cent threshold it needed to secure seats in the new parliament.

Mr Erdogan called for a new election after Mr Davutoglu failed to form a coalition with any of the three opposition parties in parliament after the June vote.

Some believe, however, that Mr Erdogan never wanted a coalition government anyway and goaded Mr Davutoglu into trying to win back a majority in a new election.

The result will come as a shock to most analysts, who predicted that the AKP would once again fall short and be forced to form a coalition.

Most had predicted that the June elections had left Mr Erdogan weakened, with the main opposition and pro-Kurdish parties gaining ground against him.

The elections were preceded by two massive deadly bomb blasts in which over 100 people were killed, followed by much finger-pointing at “the usual suspects”, i.e. ISIS.  Or maybe the Kurds. Or both.  The Washington Post explains:

[…] the past few months have seen a worrying unraveling within Turkey, with the economy slumping, the decades-old conflict with Kurdish separatists flaring up, and suspected Islamist militants striking targets within the nation.[…] On Oct. 10, two bomb blasts ripped through a leftist peace rally in Ankara, the Turkish capital, killing 102 people. It was the worst terror attack in Turkey’s modern history. This week, the prosecutor’s office in Ankara pinned the blame on Islamic State militants, linking thee explosions to a deadly July bombing of a similar rally in the Turkish border town of Suruc.

Erdogan, meanwhile, declared that the Ankara bombing was possibly the work of a combined plot of jihadists, Syrian intelligence and the PKK, an outlawed Kurdish militant group that’s deemed a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States. It’s an outlandish theory that holds little water for most analysts, but it reflects Turkey’s own political divisions.

Russia and Ukraine:

A quick reminder that Russia invaded Crimea last year, preliminary to invading parts of eastern Ukraine. A civil war has been ongoing in the region ever since with several thousand casualties, and several Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response. The UN even took time out from condemning Israel in order to hold a special meeting on Russia’s invasion.


Maybe out of a sense of vindictiveness, and probably also to create and keep a Mediterranean seaport for itself in Syria, Russia went to the aid of Bashar Assad in his brutal war against the rebels trying to depose him. Putin’s ostensible excuse was that he wanted to overcoem ISIS, which is the world’s favourite bogeyman at the moment.

However instead of bombing ISIS positions, Putin’s first targets were the Western-supported Syrian rebels. This transformed Russia into the world’s second bogeyman.

Similarly, with the new Turkish government in place, it seemed the stage was set for the Western powers to take on Bashar Assad and Iran in Syria. But Turkey, like Russia, was first of all looking out for its own self interest, and has been bombing Kurdish positions – those Kurds who are best placed to defeat ISIS, as well as bombing ISIS too.

Turkey vs. Russia

Yesterday Turkey inexplicably complicated matters by shooting down a Russian fighter jet over what it says is Turkish airspace, while Russia insists the plane stayed within Syrian airspace.

Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane near the Syrian border, Moscow confirmed Tuesday, although it denied that the jet had crossed the border into Turkey from Syria.

Russian plane being shot down over Syria-Turkey border

The Turkish army said that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s. However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace.

A Russian helicopter was also seriously damaged by fire, but was able to conduct an emergency-landing in regime-held territory.

Reports said two pilots had ejected from the plane and Turkish television pictures showed two white parachutes descending to the ground.

The CNN-Turk channel said Syrian Turkmen forces fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad captured one pilot.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency broadcasted footage of what it said was Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory in an apparent search for the lost pilots.

But a video sent to Reuters in the hour after the crash – apparently of Syrian origin – shows a group of Syrian rebels of unclear origin gathered around the body of one of the pilots, announcing his death and shouting “Allahu Akhbar.”

Arutz Sheva has videos of the shooting down of the plane, pilots and helicopter:

Russia has ominously warned of “consequences” for this act without specifying precisely what it plans to do and accused Turkey of stabbing it in the back.

David Waywell on Tim Marshall’s blog, (Marshall was formerly foreign correspondent for Sky News), remarks that Turkey has done the impossible – it has given Russia the moral high ground and Putin will milk this for all he’s worth:

Turkey might be a member of NATO yet it’s Russia today claiming international legitimacy. They are sure to find people in and outside Western governments willing to agree with their assessment. Russia has cleverly positioned itself as a power fighting the threat of ISIS. Just days ago photographs emerged of bombs hanging from beneath Russian aircraft. On the bombs, written in Russian, was ‘For Paris’. It explains Putin’s calculated words today about Turkey’s actions being ‘a stab in the back’.

Turkey’s involvement in the Middle East is being quietly questioned with Western intelligence believing that there has been continued cooperation between the ISIS leadership and Turkish officials. In a choice between trusting Erdoğan or Putin, it’s not entirely sure that Western leaders wouldn’t choose Putin who rarely overplays his hand. NATO will do nothing to isolate Turkey (the alliance is older than current presidency) but it reminds us that there is more at stake than the future of Syria.


As if this was not enough, trouble has loomed once again in Tunisia, the “cradle” of the “Arab Spring” that turned into winter. An explosion hit a bus carrying Presidential guards, killing 12 people, and a state of emergency has been declared:

Tunisia’s president declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country and imposed an overnight curfew for the capital after an explosion Tuesday struck a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 others.

The government described it as a terrorist attack. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a model for the region but has struggled against Islamic extremist violence. Radical gunmen staged two attacks earlier this year that killed 60 people, devastated the tourism industry and rattled this young democracy.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack against the presidential guard, an elite security force that protects only the president.

President Beji Caid Essebsi, who wasn’t in the bus at the time, declared the state of emergency and curfew on the Tunis region. He convened an emergency meeting of his security council for Wednesday morning.


Last week Islamist terrorists besieged the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, capital of Mali, eventually killing 27 people including an Israeli citizen:

An Israeli national was among 27 people killed Friday in a siege by Islamist terrorists at a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Saturday, according to the Israeli media.

He was named as Shmuel Benalal, who worked as an educator with the Koby Mandell Foundation charity and as a consultant to various governments around the world. He was working with the Mali government as an education consultant.

Benalal, 60, lived in Tzur Hadassah, and was married with three children.

What a terrible tragedy. May his memory be for a blessing. יהי זכרו ברוך.

The Foreign Ministry also confirmed that another Israeli was rescued from the hostage-takers by security forces, the Hebrew-language Walla website reported.

Islamist terrorists stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako on Friday morning, firing automatic weapons and seizing more than 100 guests and staff.

Shmuel Benalal (Courtesy)

The siege ended after some nine hours when local and French special forces carried out a dramatic floor-by-floor rescue, according to local television and security sources. The assault was claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Murabitoun group, led by notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar.


But finally, some good news, albeit far away on the other side of the world. Argentina’s elections brought the Kirchner era to an end, bringing in the right-leaning opposition:

Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, marking an end to the left-leaning and often combative era of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who along with her late husband dominated the country’s political scene for 12 years and rewrote its social contract.

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, Fernandez’s chosen successor, conceded late Sunday and said he had called Macri to congratulate him on a victory that promises to chart Argentina on a more free market, less state interventionist course.

“Today is a historic day,” said Macri, addressing thousands of cheering supporters as horns were heard blaring across Buenos Aires. “It’s the change of an era.”

With 75 percent of the vote counted, Macri had 53% support compared to 47% for Scioli.

The 56-year-old former chairman of Boca Juniors football club is expected to be Argentina’s most economically liberal president since the 1990s and has vowed to ease foreign trade and dollar restrictions.

Cheering, dancing crowds of Macri’s supporters celebrated at a conference center on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, waving multicolored balloons and white and sky-blue Argentine flags.

For Isrel and the Jews, Macri’s election can only be a good thing, since Christina Kirchner’s government protected Iran in the Amia bombing and is felt to have had a hand in the Jewish prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s mysterious death:

Earlier this year outgoing president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was cleared by prosecutors of helping to shield Iranian officials allegedly behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.

Javier De Luca, prosecutor before the Court of Appeals, said there wasn’t enough evidence in late prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s investigation to warrant a probe.

Nisman had alleged Iranian officials ordered the bombing via Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. He later concluded that a 2013 deal between Argentina and Iran for the suspects to be investigated by a joint commission was a conspiracy designed to ensure they would never be brought to justice.

In January he filed a report accusing Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other figures close to the government of protecting high-ranking Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in exchange for oil and trade benefits.

Four days later, on January 18, the prosecutor was found dead in his bathroom with a bullet through the head.

Since Nisman’s death, initially labeled a suicide, suspicion has fallen on Kirchner’s government of orchestrating his murder.

Maybe under the new government progress can be made both on the investigation and indictment of Iran for the Amia bombing and on solving the case of Nisman’s murder.

Posted in Defence and Military, Mideast news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latest terror updates

This is just a quick posting to keep you updated on the latest terror attacks over the last 24 hours.

Yesterday, Monday, there were 3 attacks in which an IDF soldier was stabbed to death, a Palestinian man was stabbed by two Palestinian female teens, and a car-ramming in the Shomron.

Ziv Mizrahi Hy’d, murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on route 443

The worst attack yesterday took place on Route 443, one of the major highways linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Ziv Mizrahi Hy’d, an IDF soldier who had stopped at a filling station was stabbed to death by a 16 year old terrorist:

Ziv Mizrahi, who was murdered Monday in a terror attack on the road to Jerusalem, is not the first member of his family to fall to terrorism. Twelve years ago, his cousin Alon Mizrahi was murdered when an Arab terrorist blew himself up in an attack on Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem.

Ironically, Ziv lived on a street named for his murdered cousin.

Ziv, who lived in Givat Ze’ev, had been in the army for nine months when he was killed by an Arab stabber at the Dor Alon gas station on Road 443. In a statement, the Givat Ze’ev Regional Council said that the town was in mourning over the death of its son. The funeral for Ziv Mizrahi will be held Tuesday at 1 PM.

The attack occurred at about 3 PM Monday, when the sixteen year old terrorist approached a group of Israelis who were in the gas station after a small traffic accident. The terrorist managed to strike Mizrahi and wound him mortally, along with a second victim, who was injured lightly. Paramedics worked for long minutes to revive him, but were unsuccessful.

A few minutes after the attack, a woman came to the nearby IDF Modi’in Checkpoint, with injuries from a bullet. Officials said she was hit by a bullet that had been fired by soldiers at the stabber in the gas station.

The terrorist, Ahmad Jamal Ahmad Ta, from the village of Katana near Jerusalem, is the cousin of Anas Ta, a terrorist who carried out an attack at the same gas station last August.

Ziv’s late uncle, Alon Mizrahi Hy’d, was the heroic security guard at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem who tried to prevent a suicide bomber from entering the cafe:

Mizrahi’s uncle, Alon Mizrahi, was murdered in a terrorist attack at Jerusalem’s Cafe Hillel in September, 2003.

He was the security guard at the cafe in the German Colony, and died trying to prevent the suicide bomber entering the premises.

The bomber detonated the explosives as they struggled.

Seven people were killed in the attack, including Dr. David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his daughter Nava, whose wedding was to have been held the next day.

Ziv’s funeral was attended by hundreds of people and he was movingly eulogized by his father:

Mizrahi’s father, Doron Mizrahi, whose brother was murdered 13 years ago in a terror attack in Jerusalem, eulogized his son.

“They will not destroy our spirit, we will cry and we will mourn. Next Wednesday I will return to work,” said the bereaved father.

“May the names of the haters of Israel be erased, the nation of Israel lives, it won’t help them, they won’t destroy our spirit. Thirteen years ago I lost my brother and thought that I had paid the price with that. Ziv saved his officer, he shot the terrorists with a knife in his heart – that’s Ziv, a hero of Israel.”

Another terrible loss for an Israeli family and for the people of Israel. May the family know no more sorrow and be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, two female teenage Palestinian terrorists went on a stabbing spree with scissors outside Jerusalem’s busy Machane Yehdua market, but only managed to injure another Palestinian in a case of mistaken identity.

Two Arab female teens identified as attackers were shot after slashing at people near the busy outdoor market with scissors, according to police.

One victim was identified as a 70-year-old Palestinian resident of Bethlehem with stab wounds to his upper body.

Police identified the two attackers as 14 and 16 years old, from northern Jerusalem. The teenage girls were related to one another, police said

The 16-year-old died at the scene and the 14-year-old was detained, a police spokesperson said. She was taken to an Israeli hospital in critical condition, according to news reports.

Security camera footage shows how the incident unfolded:

In the video, one man who appears to be an older civilian fires at one of the girls as she lunges at him.

Then a uniformed man, who according to reports was a policeman, comes and fires at the other girl, who collapses against the wall just as another man tries to hit her with a plastic chair.

The second man then goes over to one of the girls and, it seems, kicks something out of her hand. Finally, he returns to the second girl, who is lying on the ground, and appears to fire at her again.

There was also an attempted stabbing (Hebrew link) at the IDF’s Shomron Brigade HQ, in which the terrorist was shot and wounded. There were no Israeli casualties thank G-d.

The level of attacks dropped off today, but not before a car-ramming at Tapuah Junction in the Shomron (Samaria) lightly injured 4 IDF personnel.

This evening a woman escaped injury when terrorists shot at her car near Bet El, although her car was hit.  A border police patrol was also attacked with rocks thrown by local Arabs.

Just another day in #IsraelUnderAttack.

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Jonathan Pollard – free at last, but the injustice continues

First picture in freedom: Jonathan and Esther Pollard on his release after 30 years in prison

On Friday we were greeted with the very good news that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was finally released after 30 years languishing in prison on espionage charges that would have entailed at maximum a 10 year sentence for any other spy. (You can read all about the injustice of Pollard’s sentencing and prison conditions in my posts here).

His wife Esther greeted him at the prison and flew with him to New York, where they spent Shabbat together in Manhattan.

The couple released a statement saying they were grateful to everyone who worked for his release. Pollard, who suffers from diabetes and chronic leg and ankle swelling, was examined by a doctor.

President Reuven Rivlin on Friday welcomed the news of his release.

“We all welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison after so many long and hard years,” Rivlin said. “Throughout the years, our pain was Pollard’s pain… we felt the responsibility and obligation to secure his release.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying he had been looking forward to this day for many years after repeatedly raising Pollard’s fate with many American presidents.

Netanyahu wished Pollard well and said he hoped he could enjoy Shabbat and the rest of his life with peace of mind.

However, his release is not all it’s cracked up to be. The terms of his parole are positively draconian, vindictive and cruel, as Arlene Kushner notes, and the injustice screams to the heavens:

In the end, I cannot find any rationale for how he was treated other than antisemitism. And now a hostile attitude seems to pervade the draconian terms of his parole, as well: He must check in regularly with his parole officer and cannot leave New York City (never mind come to Israel); he must wear an electronic bracelet so that he can be tracked, and is subject to unfettered surveillance of his computers (which will inhibit his ability to get a job). All of this stringency is supposed to be to prevent him from passing classified information. But he has had no access to classified information for 30 years, and anything he knew back then would be worthless now. What sort of charade is this?

Pollard’s lawyers will be challenging these terms. He is prepared to renounce US citizenship, if allowed to come to Israel; there is precedence for this.

Pollard’s lawyers are indeed appealing these terms of his parole, asserting that among other things it will be impossible for him to find a job:

According to Israel’s Ynet news website, the lawyers say that the restrictions — among them an anklet for 24-hour GPS tracking and the monitoring of his and any future employer’s computers — are illegal, and that no employer would agree to their computers being monitored in this manner.

Pollard’s attorneys also claim that there is no cause to believe that Pollard will pass on further classified information or commit any other crime, as the data he gleaned is outdated and he can barely recall it, the Walla website reported.

And today we learn that the lawyers’ fears were well-grounded, as it was announced that Jonathan had lost his first chance at a job because of those very conditions. The conditions also impinge very much on his personal life, apparently for no good reason:

An employer who had intended to give a salaried position to Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard retracted the offer Monday, because the conditions of his parole would have prevented him from doing his job.

Pollard received an offer to become a research analyst in the finance department of a respected investment firm. But his parole conditions require him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet at all times for GPS tracking of his whereabouts and to be subjected to unfettered monitoring and inspection of his computers and those of his employer.

He cannot leave his home in New York City before 7 a.m. or come home after 7 p.m., which makes it difficult to travel to and from work, to attend prayer services, or to accept invitations to dinner on the Sabbath and holidays from friends and relatives.

“The parole commission’s unnecessary conditions make it virtually impossible for him to obtain a normal job in New York City,” Lauer said. “The employer who offered him work took back the offer because federal authorities asked to install monitoring devices in the company’s computer system if it employed him.”

Some of the conditions sound almost Stalinesque:

Pollard must also answer every phone call or knock on his door in the middle of the night, because it could be a test by a parole officer that if failed could lead to him being sent back to prison.

And if he sleeps through a knock on the door? It sounds like the Americans are looking for the slightest excuse to send him back to prison.

The Israeli government is keeping a low profile in order not to complicate matters further for Pollard, and the Free Pollard campaign is acting likewise at the request of the Pollards:

( Jonathan Pollard and his family posted a notice on the Justice for Pollard website, asking his supporters to refrain from public activities regarding his release (from US parole), saying it may be harmful to his cause.

In keeping with this request, Pollard’s close circle has decided to find a way in which “the dear public who acted, prayed and fought for Jonathan’s release through the years, could send him directly a huge hug which would empower him and Esther to face the complicated challenges that still remain in their path.”

To this end, they established an mail account:, intended to receive letters (in Hebrew, too), which will be printed in the US by the staff and be personally delivered to Jonathan as soon as possible. “You are welcome to send Jonathan all that’s in your heart, tell him about your activities and your prayers for him over the years, and it is also possible to attach a photo.”

The group has also asked people to pray for his complete recovery using his Hebrew name: Yehonatan ben Malka.

And though I linked above (at the top of this post) to my previous posts about Jonathan Pollard, here is a short recap and reminder of his story:

Korb said that many people exaggerated the importance of the information Pollard gave Israel and the damage it caused to the United States. Clinton, he noted, actually did want to commute Pollard’s sentence, but senior intelligence officials feared this would send the wrong message and then-CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign, so Clinton ultimately backed down.

Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 after the conclusion of an investigation into suspicion he was spying for Israel while serving as a U.S. naval intelligence analyst. He was convicted in 1987 to a life sentence for one count of espionage.

Because his crime occurred prior to November 1, 1987, he was eligible for parole after 30 years in prison.

Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally and the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

Arutz Sheva adds more about the perfidy of the Americans in Pollard’s case:

Pollard was handed a now commuted life-sentence, unlike spies from other allied or even enemy nations that got off with a tiny fraction of his sentence.

In a previous parole hearing held in July 2014 his release was rejected on the basis of a now declassified document, that critics say revealed the largely trumped up charges against Pollard, who passed information on regional threats to Israel.

For now let us say Baruch Matir Asurim – Blessed is G-d who releases prisoners. May Jonathan Pollard merit to return to Israel to live out the rest of his days as a properly free man.

Posted in Antisemitism, Defence and Military, International relations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

4 injured in stabbing last night, one Israeli killed, several injured in 3 more terror attacks in Israel today

This is a really depressing start to the week. It just doesn’t stop. Last night (Saturday night) a Palestinian terrorist stabbed 4 people, including a 13 year old girl, seriously injuring them, in the southern city of Kiryat Gat.

Four people were wounded in the attack: A 51-year-old man, a 56-year-old woman, a 44-year-old woman, and a 13-year-old girl.

All were treated at the scene and evacuated to nearby hospitals in stable condition.

The teenage girl recounted her ordeal:

Liel Yotko, the 13-year-old girl injured in the terror stabbing in Kiryat Gat on Saturday night, recounted to Channel 2 on Sunday the harrowing moments of the attack.

Four people, including Yotko, were injured when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed them outside a soccer stadium in the southern city. They are being treated at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Yotko had been walking with a friend on Saturday evening when they noticed a suspicious-looking man behind them. “He had his hand in his pocket. He looked suspicious to me so we began to walk faster. He started chasing after us so we began to run.”

She and her friend were not able to shake the knife-wielding terrorist and he succeeded in stabbing Yotko twice in the back and once more in the stomach.

“I told my friend to run away,” Yotko recounted. “I sat on the ground and tied my [wounds] with a scarf in order to prevent the bleeding. I called the police and my mother.”

According to Yotko, after he stabbed and moderately wounded her, the terrorist tried to run after her friend, but stopped when he encountered an elderly woman. He then stabbed her as well before targeting several other people who couldn’t escape in time.

Liel’s quick thinking probably saved her life. Kol hakavod to her on her courage. I wish her an dthe other victims a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile the terrorist fled the scene and was only captured hours later when he was found hiding in the garden of a private house, much to the shock and consternation of the owner.

After stabbing the Israeli civilians, the terrorist, armed with a knife and wearing bloodstained clothes, fled and hid in the dark area of a yard belonging to local resident Ami Lahiani.

Lahiani, who had no idea the terrorist was hiding on his property, only realized something was amiss when he heard the sound of broken glass from the front door of his house.

“I heard someone trying to enter the house,” Lahiani told Channel 10 on Sunday. “I shouted ‘Who is it?’ but no sound came out.”

“I went downstairs and suddenly I saw [security forces] with their weapons drawn,” he continued. “I asked what had happened and they told me the terrorist was in my house.”

“The police told me to ‘stop,'” Lahiani also recounted to Channel 2. “I answered that I was the homeowner; then they told me to stay inside. The terrorist was hiding in the years behind the wall of the house. One wall separate us. I’m still in shock.”

The terrorist has been identified as Mohammed Tarada, a Palestinian Arab teenager from the Yatir village near Hevron who was working illegally in Israeli sovereign territory.

The violence didn’t stop there and there were three more attacks today. This morning saw a dramatic incident in which a terrorist who tried to stab two young girls was himself run over by a civilian in order to prevent the attack, and was then shot dead by soldiers. There was another attempted car-ramming and stabbing near Maaleh Adumim, and the day came to a dismal close with the murder of a young Israeli woman in Gush Etzion, at the same spot as the deadly attack on Thursday.

The hero of the first attack was Gershon Mesika, former head of the Shomron Regional Council, who ran over the terrorist to stop her reaching her targets and stabbing them:

A female Palestinian Arab terrorist attempted to stab pedestrians at Brigade Square in Samaria Sunday morning, just after 9:15 am.

Her attempt was thwarted after former Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who lives in Elon Moreh close to the intersection, plowed his car into her. Soldiers on duty then shot her, neutralizing her on-site.

Gershon Mesika’s car after running over the terrorist

The terrorist is listed as in serious condition; she was later declared dead at the scene. Mesika suffered nothing but a few scratches in stopping the attack.

There are no other injuries reported.

“I heard someone shout ‘terrorist’ and run toward a girl from Har Bracha, wielding a knife,” Mesika stated in an interview with Army Radio in the minutes after the attack. “I made a quick decision: I veered to the right and slammed into her.”

“A soldier then came and finished it.”

Death threats issued against Mesika by Palestinians

Mesika deserves a medal for his quick thinking and courage, but instead, the Palestinians are accusing him of “war crimes” for running over the terrorist and have issued death threats against him on Twitter and Facebook. The Palestinians’ chutzpah is breathtaking and outrageous. How is it that their car-rammers are celebrated as “heroes” carrying out “martyrdom operations” but an Israeli acting in defence of other civilians is called a war criminal? (Don’t bother answering, it is  a rhetorical question whose answer is “antisemitism”).

Shortly afterwards a Palestinian taxi driver tried to run over Israel pedestrians near Kfar Adumim, and when he didn’t succeed, he jumped out of his car and tried to stab them. Thankfully only one Israeli was slightly injured.

Tragically the day ended on a bitter note with the murder of 21 year old Hadar Buchris at the Gush Etzion junction, site of the murderous shooting rampage on Thursday in which 3 people were killed.

Hadar Buchris Hy’d, stabbed to death in Gush Etzion

A young woman gravely wounded in a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion Junction earlier Sunday has died of her wounds, officials have confirmed.

She has been identified as 21-year-old Hadar Buchris, a resident of Tzfat in northern Israel.

In the third such attack of the day Sunday, an Arab terrorist stabbed and critically wounded her as she waited for a ride; she was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek hospital under sedation and on a ventilator, but doctors were forced to pronounce her dead as she lay on the operating table.

Hadar’s former teacher eulogized her movingly:

Hadar Buchris, 21, the latest victim of surging Arab terror, who was murdered at the Gush Etzion Junction Sunday, studied at Zohar College for Women in Bat Ayin. The students of the college planned to convene Sunday evening and then head to the Gush Etzion Junction to protest.

Ayala Eretz Hatzvi, who was Hadar’s theater teacher at Ulpenat Nov in the Golan, said that Hadar graduated after majoring in theater. “She was a charming girl, radiant and friendly, a true woman of merit and a kind of psychologist to her friends, who could always turn to her and talk until the middle of the night.

“She was very talented at theater, both in drama and comedy,” the teacher recalled. “When energy was lacking in the group, she always managed to wake everyone up.”

What a sad loss to her family, friends and the whole nation. May her family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.

Her funeral is set for 3 pm tomorrow in Jerusalem. May Hashem avenge her blood and the blood of all the 21 victims that have been killed so far in this terror wave.

Ezra Schwartz Hy’d, murdered in Gush Etzion and laid to rest in the US

Meanwhile, Ezra Schwartz Hy’d, the other young victim of Palestinian terror who was murdered at the same spot in Gush Etzion was brought back to the US by his parents for burial.  Hundreds of people attended the ceremony at Ben Gurion airport to pay tribute to the young man who came to Israel to study for a year and gave his life in Israel’s war against Palestinian hatred.

Several hundred people were on hand at the Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv to say goodbye to Ezra Schwartz, 18, before his body was loaded on to a plane to be flown back to his native Sharon, Massachusetts on Saturday night. Schwartz was one of three people killed Thursday when a Palestinian man opened fire at vehicles outside the settlement of Alon Shvut, just south of Jerusalem.

Among the mourners, who prayed and sang the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikva,” at the airport were dozens of his fellow students at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh, where Schwartz was spending his post-high school gap year.

During the ceremony, a letter was read from Schwartz’s father, Ari.

“I cannot help but be happy for Ezra,” he wrote. “We know that he is okay right now and that gives us peace.”

The letter continued, “We have no regrets. I am happy for him because of all the places he went and all the people he was able to touch. Some people live long lives but have unfortunate circumstances that make life hard. Ezra had a wonderful life and he died a happy person, and that is more important than anything else.”

What wonderful, strong parents Ezra z”l had. Instead of expressing bitterness or demanding revenge they simply accept his terrible death and celebrate his short but good life.

Schwartz, the second of five children, was a recent graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and had been a counselor at Camp Yavneh, a Jewish summer camp in Northwood, New Hampshire.

Five other members of Schwartz’s yeshiva were lightly injured in the attack. Besides delivering supplies to soldiers, the group had also visited a nearby memorial to three Israeli teenagers killed by Palestinian terrorists in the area last summer.

The United Synagogue Youth program, which Ezra joined in 2013, released a statement saying he would be “remembered as being a warm and funny member of the… community. Staff on his trip recalled today that he used his deep experience in Judaism to teach other teens how to participate in Jewish ritual.”

At the funeral the family’s Rabbi and also Ezra’s father eulogized his son:

Rabbi Dr. Meir Sendor, the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Sharon, MA, eulogized Schwartz.

Ezra chose the yeshiva at Beit Shemesh because the program there included volunteer work and he wanted to experience Israel, according to Rabbi Sendor. He was murdered as he distributed food to the soldiers guarding over Israel against terror attacks. “Ezra would have it no other way,” said the rabbi. “He was a young man of courage and heart. He was brave. He was there to help. This is what he chose. This is who he was. This is where he had to be. He is a holy martyr.

Rabbi Sendor added: “Our Torah has profound things to say about the neshama (soul) that has suffered death for Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of God – ed.). I know that Ezra in the way he lived and the way he died is close to God. We’ve always known that Ezra is a person of holiness. His life is a meaningful life, and his death is a meaningful death.”

Ezra’s father, Ari Schwartz, held back tears as he said: “We are so proud of who he was. We are proud to be proud of the greater Jewish community that connects us throughout the world.” He thanked the Israeli and US government for calling and expressing their condolences, saying: “It made us feel that he was important. Every person is important.”

“Ezra had a great life,” he said. “We are proud of who he was and what he accomplished. He had 18 great years. We had a great son and a great brother. His grandparents and his cousins, his aunts and uncles and his friends, will miss him greatly. And he will miss you. We did great things together and he did great things on his own.” He spoke of his son’s love of sports, especially baseball, and his connection to children, which came into play when he served as a counselor in summer camp.

Ezra Schwartz and the other students who were hurt in the attack had come to help build the Oz Vegaon site, which was established in memory of the three yeshiva students who were abducted and murdered last summer.

ברוך דיין אמת. יהי זכרם של כל הקרבנות הקדושים ברוך.

May these be the last funerals of Jewish victims of this murderous Arab nationalism and antisemitism. It is getting too hard to bear. May Hashem give our leaders the strength of character to make wise decisions; may He give our army the courage and strength to successfully fight our enemies, and may He bring peace to all of Am Yisrael.

Posted in Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Guest Post: Despite it all – Good News Friday

This is a guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb. I had second and third thoughts about posting it today, after the dreadful news this week, which seems to get worse and worse. But weeping and wailing won’t help us overcome our troubles, and – as I have stated on so many occasions these last few weeks – Shabbat is still approaching and we need some good news to lift our spirits.

So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment, courtesy of Brian.

At a time like this, my inclination is to try and find the positive. However, this is increasingly hard to do, what with the mounting number of deaths and serious injuries in Israel since the start of the “stabbings”, and peaked for me last week (on 13 November)  with the massacres in Paris. Fortunately, none of my family or friends have so far been attacked, and, I hope, this will continue to be the case. Which doesn’t make the situation any the less appalling.

Less than happy Iranian Revolutionary Guards

So, after that, where’s the good news? Oddly enough, it’s not that far away, and nor is it that difficult to find. Let me start with this: it would appear that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on secondment to Syria are less that happy bunnies in the Ayatollahs chosen battleground. Indeed, some reports (such as this one linked here) are suggesting that these highly dedicated to the Ayatollahs’ desire to rule the world soldiers of the revolution are actually mutinying! Actually refusing to fight the opponents of the blessed Assad. The report asserts that:

A rising death toll within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria is leading to a mutiny among some senior commanders, who have refused to obey orders to fight in the war-torn country, according to a source close to the Revolutionary Guard

and it goes on to claim that

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the commanders, who are also joined by a number of junior officers, have now been referred to a court-marshal(sic) on charges of “mutiny and treason.”

Couldn’t, in my humble view, happen to nice clerico-fascists. Well, if they will support, with their bodies and lives people like the Ayatollahs…

Of course:

Iran, which alongside Russia is Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s main international ally, has denied it has combat troops in Syria, claiming it has only sent officers and generals within an advisory capacity to assist both the Syrian army and Hezbollah militias.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin – not such good friends after all

While still, sort of, on the subject of Syria, it would appear that not everyone is convinced that Bashar Al-Assad is Vladimir Putin’s new best friend. Who’d have thought it? Well, The Times of Israel, for one. Linking to a London Daily Telegraph article suggests that:

A senior Iranian general has hinted at a growing rift with Russia over the future of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Back to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Yet again, couldn’t happen to nicer clerico-fascists (you will gather that I rather like that label!). Indeed, the source went as far as to suggest that:

“The northern friend who came to Syria to provide military support recently [did so to serve] its interests,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari. He added that Moscow “may not care if Assad stays as we do”.

Long may dissent reign between such “friends”!

It seems that I can’t get away from Syria (journalistically speaking), because the next item keeps us in that benighted country. It would appear that Hezbollah is being drawn ever further into the war to keep Assad on his throne, at least according to this Times of Israel article, which argues that

...Hezbollah is redeploying its fighters in Syria to help embattled ally President Bashar Assad defend Damascus, Lebanese news agency NOW reported Saturday. The report says that the Assad regime is struggling to defeat opposition forces around the Syrian capital.

It’s the old argument: while they are struggling to defend Assad and Damascus, they can’t be in any state of readiness to attack Israel. The report continues:

Quoting Arabic-language pro-opposition website All4Syria, NOW says that Hezbollah fighters and Syrian National Defense Force militiamen are redeploying “en masse” from positions in the mountains west of Zabadani, a former rebel bastion near the Lebanese border that has been reclaimed by Assad-allied forces. Much of Hezbollah’s fighting had been concentrated in that area.

According to NOW, a rebel source told All4Syria that the forces were headed toward Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, where the Islamic State-allied Jaysh al-Islam has bisected the Damascus-Homs highway, and Darayya, a suburb of the capital that the regime recently failed to retake.

As many have noted on this conflict, this is one civil war that the Israelis (among many others) devoutly hope both sides lose…badly.

Moving on, I found this next article very encouraging, in that it claims that archaeological evidence for the existence of King Josiah (7th century BCE) has turned up. Why is this so interesting (to say nothing of vitally important to the likes of Anne and me)? Because it demonstrates, yet again (as if it needed demonstrating, and sadly, it does), the historicity of the Jewish people. The article, (linked above) appears to be all about the natural wonders of a site now known as Palmachim…until you get half-way through it, when you come to the following:

Settlement at Yavne Yam began about 3,500 years ago, and continued off and on until the Middle Ages. In the beginning, it was populated by Canaanites who were under Egyptian control, but during the late 7th century BCE, the region came under Judean rule. Residents were a mixed bunch, ranging from Israelites to Phoenicians.

The bathhouse at Tel Yavne Yam (Shmuel Bar-Am)

There follows a brief history of the place before coming to the Maccabees, who were responsible for:

…the Jewish Revolt against the Greeks, Yavne Yam apparently favored the Greeks. Judah Maccabee set fire to the town (according to the Second Book of Maccabees, to save the city’s Jews) but it was only conquered and finally destroyed later, by one of the Hasmonean kings.

This was, for those unaware of when this was, about 148BCE, and gives us the festival of Chanukah (the festival of lights). It’s due soon in the Jewish calendar and I’m sure that Anne will want to write about it then. However, it takes until we are at least three-quarters of the way through this article before we come to the bit that started this segment off: King Josiah!

A vastly important pottery shard was discovered immediately south of Yavne Yam, as well. Written in biblical Hebrew, it dates back to King Josiah (end of the 7th century BCE) In the shard, a field hand appeals to the governor about an unjust confiscation of his cloak and mentions finishing his work before the Sabbath (Shabbat). This is the oldest known reference to the Sabbath, outside of the bible.

Another place to visit when we next visit Israel, hopefully next year for Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

Anne noted in an earlier article that evidence had been found of mention of King David, some 300 or so years earlier than this, so here is evidence this continuity later – up to about the time of the Assyrian Chronicles, which historians of the Ancient Near East accept as both eminently datable and mostly reliable as to the events of this period.

Yet another Times of Israel article informs us that a new bridge is to be constructed across the Jordan River, connecting Israeli and Jordanian business zones:

Tenders have been published for the construction of a new bridge across the Jordan River that will connect Israel and Jordan, the Ministry for Regional Cooperation announced Sunday. The bridge is a key part the Jordan Gateway project — a joint industrial and business area spanning the river that is a natural border between the two countries.

Present Jordan River crossing between Israel and Jordan

As I noted to myself, you make peace with your enemies, but you build bridges to your friends – and this demonstrates, yet again, that despite the bumpy ride, Jordan and Israel are friends. This development is important because:

Relations between the neighboring countries have become increasingly frayed against the backdrop of violent clashes on the Temple Mount in the Old city of Jerusalem.

The Deputy Minister for Regional Development, MK Ayoub Kara, said that:

“The Jordan Gate project is one of the most important in the relations between Israel-Jordan and will greatly contribute to improving the relations between the two peoples,” Kara said.

“I am happy that the tenders are published specifically at this period, as it is proof that the peace between Israel and Jordan is stronger than any extremists who are trying to drive a wedge between the countries and damage our joint attempts to bring a better future to the peoples of the area.”

From the map provided, it appears that the bridge will be in the north, not too far from Beit Shean, while the existing bridges are both between the West bank and Jordan, hardly a  reliable site for development due to be a joint Israel/Jordan effort and to persist over time.

Ugly outside, ugly inside: anti-Semitic “comedian” Dieudonne

My reaction to the next item was a mixture of the unprintable and fist-pumping joy. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the antisemitic “comedian” Dieudonne. In a brief item reprinted from Associated press, The Times of Israel reports that:

Europe’s top human rights court has ruled against the controversial French comic Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, saying the right to free expression does not protect anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial

and continues by noting that:

Dieudonne, as the comic is known, finished up a December 2008 show by inviting a prominent Holocaust denier on stage, then having an actor dressed to resemble a concentration camp detainee offer him a prize. He was convicted by a French court in October 2009 of hate crime charges and fined 10,000 euros. He lost repeated appeals, until finally bringing it before the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

The court noted Dieudonne’s stated desire to stage “the biggest anti-Semitic meeting since the last World War” and ruled Tuesday that the show was not a show but the expression of an ideology.

Sadly. it has taken 6 years to get to this stage, but at least we know that, in some parts of Europe, antisemitism is, as with other blatant forms of racism, not a fit topic for “a show”.

Anne adds:

Brian, thank you so much for providing us with good news precisely at a time when I was not in the mood to look for such, and even had second thoughts about posting it. When I read through your post, it gave me such a lift that I feel a black cloud has lifted from me.

I want to add some other good news that I found this week, (h/t Hadassah via Facebook) similar to your item about the archaeological find on Palmachim.  An exquisite 1,700 year old mosaic was unveiled this week in the central Israeli city of Lod – which was itself found while a visitor center for another mosaic was being constructed!

A breathtaking ancient mosaic in Lod – unearthed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) while building a visitor center for another famous mosaic – will be opened to the public for the first time this week.

The find came during an excavation from June to November 2014, when IAA archaeologists worked in the Neve Yarak neighborhood of Lod where the previously discovered mosaic was found. That earlier mosaic was the living room floor of a villa some 1,700 years ago, and is being exhibited in museums around the world.

The new excavation was meant to prepare a visitor center to house the mosaic when it returns from its tour of world museums – but during the new excavation, another colorful mosaic 11 x 13 meters in dimension was found, which served as the courtyard pavement of the same villa.

“The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods,” explained Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the IAA.

“At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time.”

The previously discovered mosaic in the northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the IAA was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90.

That mosaic, which was discovered and excavated in the 1990s by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

As for the southern part of the complex where the new mosaic was found, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with the mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas – covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns.

This story demonstrates what an amazing country Israel is, with layers upon layers of history waiting to be discovered – even underneath other archaeological excavations!

I hope this week’s post brings some uplift to your souls and calm to frayed nerves.

May we have a week of better news, may the Shabbat bring comfort and solace to the bereaved and the injured.

May we all have a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace and safety.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Israel news, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments