July 10, 2018

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Israeli emergency response team heads to Japan floods

Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID deployed an emergency response team to western Japan Monday, two days after torrential rains and floods began.

JISP, IsraAID’s Japan branch, will distribute urgent relief items and is assessing the medical and post-trauma psycho-social needs. IsraAID staff is equipped to provide Psychological First Aid and mental health support for evacuees.

Over two million people were ordered to evacuate their homes during the search and rescue efforts. There are 95 reported fatalities and dozens are still missing. According to reports from IsraAID this is one of the worst weather-related catastrophes since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The severe floods have left many stranded travelers and residents, including Israelis.

One such Israeli, Dana Eisenberg, said “people walked around five streets just to cross the road. I was already soaked in water so I crossed the road in that river. People in cars looked at me with admiration for my ‘courage.’ I almost fell into the water, because the current was too strong.”

Yifat Elyashar, a Japanese pottery master who lives in Kyoto for a sabbatical year describes the scene: “It’s raging, the river is overflowing, there are traffic jams all over the city, and the JR train stopped, just let them out, we have a bus tomorrow to Tokyo to return to Israel, and I hope it will work out. There are constant alarms, like the ones in Israel [when there is a rocket].Oh God in heaven, walking from the Kyoto Station would be faster.”

IsraAID was also pivotal for providing critical post-trauma capacity-building, psychosocial and mental health support and leadership training for youth after the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s co-CEO, notes, “For the last seven years, IsraAID and our local branch JISP have worked closely to support thousands of survivors affected by the tsunami and earthquakes. The Japanese people are some of the most resilient and inspiring people we have ever worked with. We are proud of our Japanese team and will continue to support the affected communities as long as needed.”

According to forecasts, the severe weather will continue over the weekend.



Report: Hamas increases training ahead of possible war with Israel

Hamas has increased its training in preparation for a possible conflict with Israel, defense officials warned on Sunday.

According to a report by Israeli public broadcaster Kan, Hamas has upped training of its forces ahead of a possible conflict with Israel, which recently deployed Iron Dome batteries along throughout southern Israel.

Another report, on Channel 2 News, said that Hamas had redeployed its military forces along the border with Israel, after they had left the area when large protests began there in May. The deployment of the forces could be a sign that Hamas is interested in taking back control of the territory near the border and preventing protestors from instigating violence with Israel.

Last Thursday, the Defense Ministry announced that it had successfully conducted a planned missile test launch of the Iron Dome system from the Palmachim air base.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, the series of experiments were led by Rafael, the main contractor of the Iron Dome system, along with Elta and with the participation of the Israel Air Force and Navy.

During the test the various types of targets which simulate the emerging threats developing in the area were launched.



Archaeologists uncover gate to biblical city of Zer

Archaeologists have uncovered the entrance gate to the biblical city of Zer during excavations carried out in the Golan Heights over the past two weeks, the Golan Regional Council said Sunday.

In recent days, and after a year of recess, a group of 20 archaeologists from all over the world, together with director of the Bethsaida Project, Dr. Rami Arav, and under the auspices of the Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem, conducted new excavations in two different areas of Bethsaida. The ancient fishing village is mentioned several times in the New Testament as a city where Jesus lived and where he miraculously fed a multitude of people with five loaves and two fish.

Archaeologists said the size, wealth and impressive fortifications indicate that Zer was a major city.

“There are not many gates in this country from this period. Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer,” Arav said, pointing to Joshua 19:35, which says: “The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinnereth.”

Arav began carrying out excavations of et-Tell on behalf of the University of Nebraska nearly 30 years ago. In these excavations, he identified the ancient Bethsaida, and following his excavations and discoveries, masses of Christian pilgrims visited the site because of its great importance to Christianity.

Over the years, excavators have discovered in Bethsaida many remains from various periods. The excavations are conducted in the Jordan Park area, northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

Avi Lieberman, director of the Jordan Park in which Bethsaida is located said: “The staff at the Jordan Park and the Golan Tourism are happy for the tens of thousands of visitors who visit the park every day. The wonderful park is also an impressive archaeological site. I amazed each time by the arrival of thousands of evangelical visitors to Bethsaida. I am confident that the

latest discoveries will bring more visitors to the park from around the world and from Israel.”

Another finding made in the past two weeks was discovered underneath what was seemingly the floor of a Roman temple built by Herod’s son Philip, which he dedicated to Julia, the daughter of Augustus.

There archaeologists found coins, beads, jugs and house keys as well as a shield that belonged to a Roman soldier. The most significant finding was a coin dated to 35 BCE, which was minted in Acre on the occasion of the arrival of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. There is a total of 12 of these coins.

Over the years various findings made in the area have made waves in the world of archaeology. Several years ago, a gold coin bearing the portrait of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, who reigned from 138 to 161 CE, was discovered by an excavator working with Arav.



Top Iranian general: Forces in Syria ‘awaiting orders’ to destroy Israel

In a recent speech, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) boasted that the “Islamic army in Syria” in the Golan Heights was awaiting orders to eradicate the “evil regime” of Israel.

He also said the Tehran-backed Hezbollah terror group had 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel.

“We are creating might in Lebanon because we want to fight our enemy from there with all our strength,” he stated. “Hezbollah today has tremendous might on the ground that can on its own break the Zionist regime. The Zionist regime has no strategic-defensive depth.”

In the speech for the anti-Israel al-Quds Day in June, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hossein Salami said that the dangers Israel faces today are greater than at any time in history.

“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan,” he said. “Orders are awaited, so that… the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.”

Salami stressed that “the Zionist regime constitutes a threat… to the entire Islamic world. That is the philosophy of the establishment of this regime.”

He praised Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Iranian revolution, for making the destruction of Israel a goal of the regime.

Khomeini “spread the rationale of eradicating Israel as a new notion in the world’s political discourse,” Salami said. “Since then, the Zionist regime is fearful, delusional, and worried.”

Israel has for years warned of Iran’s ongoing attempts to entrench itself in Syria, and has been waging a quiet campaign to prevent Tehran from establishing a new front on its border. That campaign came into the light and shifted into more open conflict in February, when an Iranian drone carrying explosives briefly entered Israeli airspace, before it was shot down. In response Israel launched a counterattack on an air base in Syria, hitting the mobile command center from which the drone had been piloted and killing at least seven members of the IRGC.

Tehran vowed revenge after the T-4 army base strike. On May 10, the IRGC’s al-Quds Force launched 32 rockets at Israel’s forward defensive line on the Golan Heights border. Four of them were shot down; the rest fell short of Israeli territory.

In response, over the next two hours, Israeli jets fired dozens of missiles at Iranian targets in Syria and destroyed a number of Syrian air defense systems. The operation was widely seen as a success in Israel.

But Salami boasted of Iran’s success in launching the rockets, claiming the barrage silenced Israel.

“When the Zionists bombed the T-4 base in Syria and killed some young men, they thought that they would get no reaction. They thought that America’s and England’s support could frighten the resistance front. They thought that no one would respond,” Salami said. “But the response came in the Golan, and dozens of missiles were fired, along with the message ‘If you respond, we will flatten the heart of Tel Aviv into dust.’ They were silent, and did nothing further.”

Iran has been accused by Israel, the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries of supporting terrorism and instability in the region.

Salami blamed Israel for all the Middle East’s troubles.

“All the problems of the Islamic world stem from the existence of the false, counterfeit, historically rootless, and identity-less regime named Israel,” he said.

On Sunday Syrian air defenses were activated near the T-4 air base, in response to an airstrike on the facility, which Syrian state media attributed to the Israeli military, although as a rule, the Israeli military does not comment on its operations abroad.



Amid talk of early-2019 elections, Netanyahu, Kahlon squabble at cabinet table

In a sign of rising political tensions amid widespread expectations that the country is entering an election year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon bickered with unusual intensity in front of fellow ministers in the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Netanyahu is working to advance a bill that would force labor unions to take part in an arbitration process with corporate management before they could legally declare a strike. The proposal is part of an already-approved reform of the Israel Electric Corporation that has seen a significant weakening of the IEC labor union’s power.

When Netanyahu asked that the relevant ministries draft the proposed “Mandatory Arbitration Bill,” the finance minister, whose ministry is one of those that would be pushing the bill, scoffed openly.

“You know this has no political support even in your own party,” said Kahlon, a former Likud cabinet minister who now leads the Kulanu party. “This is all talk. You’re prime minister for 10 years now and you haven’t done anything on this issue.”

Netanyahu shot back, “You’re right that we need a majority for this bill, so let’s start with you saying you support it.”

Kahlon replied, “Fine, bring something [i.e., a draft bill] and then we can talk.”

According to leaks from the closed-door meeting, Kahlon then charged that Netanyahu was “a theoretician, a philosopher. You talk and you let us go and do.”

He added: “Even if you have 20 more years as prime minister, you won’t pass any serious reforms.”

The question of looming elections dominated the meeting, according to insiders.

The most immediate threat to the coalition’s stability is a bill to draft ultra-Orthodox seminary students. The bill must be passed by September to fulfill a demand of the High Court of Justice, but has faced pro forma opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, which, despite largely supporting the legislation in off-the-record conversations, have publicly come out against it.

Netanyahu said in the meeting he hopes the coalition weathers the draft bill crisis. “This is an excellent coalition,” he said, “and I’d like to keep it going almost to the end of the term.”

The draft bill passed its first of three plenum votes last week, and Netanyahu is expected to ask the High Court for an extension of several months to hammer out a compromise, especially since the September deadline will be almost impossible to keep, as the Knesset shuts down for its summer recess on July 19, returning for the fall session in October.

If the court grants the extension, as is expected, the coalition will likely remain intact for the intervening months. If the Knesset dissolves itself during the fall session, the mandatory three-month campaign season means no elections are likely before the spring of 2019.

If the 20th Knesset does not dissolve itself, the next elections will take place in November 2019. However, Israeli parliaments and governments rarely last their full terms, as coalition partners find reasons to squabble in the lead-up to election years as each party seeks to differentiate itself to the voters.

The looming political timetable also appeared to figure in Netanyahu urging his coalition partners on Sunday to back the Likud-led nation-state bill, which seeks to anchor in a quasi-constitutional basic law Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

“This law is very important to us,” Netanyahu told ministers. “Just as there are bills that are important to you, and I respect that, you have to respect the importance this bill has for us.”

The bill is expected to come up for its final plenum votes a week from Monday. It passed its first reading in May.



Galilee struck by new earthquakes, rattling northern Israel

Two minor earthquake were felt in northern Israel on Sunday night, bringing the number of minor temblors to jangle the region to four for the day.

There were no reports of injuries or damages as a result of either quake, the latest in a series of weak tremblers that have put the region on edge amid fears a larger seism could be in the offing.

The first quake, which struck just after 11 p.m., registered a 3.1 on the Richter scale. It was followed about an hour later by a 3.3-magnitude temblor.

The northern city of Tiberias announced late Sunday that it had opened an emergency hotline for residents in light of the wave of earthquakes to hit the area around the Sea of Galilee in the past week.

The city earlier ordered residents to evacuate three apartment buildings in light of the quakes.

The second earthquake of the day was felt shortly before 5 p.m. in the Galilee.

The temblor was centered on the Sea of Galilee, just off the beaches of Tiberias, seismologists at Israel’s Geophysical Institute said, and was measured at 3.9 on the Richter scale. Unlike its 3.0-Richter predecessor earlier in the day, the new quake was felt as far west as Haifa on the Mediterranean coast and on the Golan Heights plateau to the east.

It was the latest earthquake in a week of tremors in the Galilee that has left officials worried that a larger quake might be coming.

The first quake took place early Wednesday morning in the northern Galilee area, measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale. It was felt in the Haifa region and northern Israel and was followed by several aftershocks.

Weak quakes continued to rattle parts of northern Israel early Thursday morning with two minor earthquakes recorded overnight, making a total of four in less than 24 hours.

An early morning quake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale had its epicenter several kilometers northwest of the Sea of Galilee on Saturday.

Israel is situated along the Syrian-African rift, a tear in the earth’s crust running the length of the border separating Israel and Jordan, and is part of the Great Rift Valley, which extends from northern Syria to Mozambique.

Northern Israel and areas around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea are at high risk of a quake measuring 5 to 5.9 on the Richter scale, according to the World Health Organization, with the central and southern coastal areas and the Negev Desert at medium risk of a quake in the 4 to 4.9 range.

Experts have warned a large earthquake could strike Israel in the near future, and the government has begun funding projects for public buildings to be strengthened against tremors.

The last major earthquake to hit the region was in 1927 — a 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed 500 people and injured another 700.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Thursday that a new multi-year plan to protect Israel from earthquakes will be presented to the cabinet this month.

“Last year, we carried out the biggest earthquake exercise in years,” the minister said in a statement.

“We learned many lessons, one of which was the need for a multi-year home front defense plan, especially for the north. This month, we’ll present it to the cabinet and I’m sure we’ll get the green light and budget to get started.”