Israel News

News Digest — 3/15/23

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Bill Restoring Freedom Of Movement To Israelis In Northern Samaria Passes First Reading

The Knesset approved on Monday night (14th), in its first reading, a bill repealing sections of the 2005 Disengagement Law that prevent Israelis from entering or living in parts of northern Samaria.

The 2005 disengagement led to the destruction and evacuation of the Israeli communities of Sa-Nur, Homesh, Ganim and Kadim in northern Samaria, as well as 21 communities in Gaza.

The bill, sponsored by Likud Knesset member Yuli Edelstein, seeks to restore freedom of movement to Israelis in the four Samaria communities.  It passed by 40-17.

“There is no longer any justification to prevent Israelis from entering and staying in the evacuated territory in northern Samaria, and therefore it is proposed to state that these sections of the disengagement law will no longer apply to the evacuated territory,” reads the introductory text to the bill.

Knesset member Yuli Edelstein and National Missions Minister Orit Strook sponsored the measure at the request of Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, who was himself among those expelled from the Samaria communities.

The proposed legislation will now return to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to be prepared for the second and third readings required to pass into law, including a discussion on whether to change the bill’s name to reflect that it does not apply to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

All Jews were forcibly removed from the Gaza Strip, where they had established successful agricultural communities known as Gush Katif, in 2005.

“This is the start of…correcting an historical injustice.  I expect the law to be completely repealed.  This is a struggle we have been waging for 18 years and we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dagan last month as the bill was making its way through Knesset committees.

“The deportees from northern Samaria – heroes who are standing with us as the tip of the spear in this struggle – will yet see recompense for their actions.  The residents of the communities of Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur will return within their borders,” he added, referencing Jeremiah 31: 15-16.

A game of cat and mouse has taken place between the IDF and former residents and supporters since the disengagement, particularly at Homesh, where a yeshiva has operated out of caravans and tents.  Troops have dismantled the yeshiva several times over the years.

The coalition agreement between Likud and the Religious Zionism Party, led by Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, requires the government to reverse parts of the disengagement and allow for the Homesh Yeshiva to remain as a first step towards rebuilding the four communities.



Israeli Winter Returns With A Stormy Bite Following A Dry Month

After a month of dry weather, Israel’s winter made a comeback with a vengeance on Tuesday (14th), bringing with it stormy conditions that have pummeled the country with rain, hail and strong winds.

On Mount Hermon, which is located on the northernmost tip of the country, temperatures dropped to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and snow began piling up.

A commercial crane toppled in southern Israel’s Ashkelon due to strong winds, and authorities began searching for two missing individuals.  One man was found alive and was hospitalized, while the other man’s body washed up on the beach Wednesday (14th).

The southern region of Israel received a significant amount of precipitation, which also included the typically dry port city of Eilat on the northern coast of the Red Sea.

The Health Ministry issued a warning advising against swimming in the Mediterranean until authorities confirm  the sea water is safe to enter.

Stormy weather is expected to continue through Wednesday (15th) with dropping temperatures.  Periodic showers are expected in central and northern Israel, which will decrease toward evening.  No showers are anticipated on Thursday (16th) and Friday (17th).

The Mount Hermon ski resort opened to visitors Tuesday morning (14th) free of charge.  The site’s spokesperson Miki Inbar stated that this winter has been very mild.

“I cannot recall the last time January was so dry,” she said.  “Nevertheless, we can try to remain optimistic and see the positive side.”

“February brought with it winter storm Barbara, which resulted in 6.5 feet of snow virtually overnight.  So, people had almost a month to enjoy skiing.”

“Following such a dry winter, I do not anticipate consistent snowfall anytime soon, but we’re thankful for every snowflake that falls at our feet.”



Study Suggests US Aid Seen By Palestinians As ‘Opportunity To Promote Terrorism’

A non-profit Israeli Institute that researches Palestinian Society has found a troubling possible linkage between US aid to the Palestinian Authority and the scope of deadly terror attacks against Israelis.

The Palestinian Media Watch published a study this week that analyzed statistics taken from periodic reports published by the US Congressional Research Service, from 2011 (the year the non-profit exposed the PA’s terror-rewarding pay-for-slay policy) through 2022.

It found that when aid to the PA dropped, such as during the Trump administration, attacks against Israelis also decreased.  However, when such aid was high, such as during the Obama administration and now Biden administration, more Israelis were killed.

There are three types of US aid to the PA: the Economic Support Fund, the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund, and US aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA).

Between 2009 and 2017, the Obama administration provided the PA with 6.4 billion dollars in aid.  Within that time, 140 Israelis and foreigners residing in Israel were killed in terror attacks, an average of 17.5 a year.

Over the next four years, the Trump administration gradually decreased aid to the Palestinians to as little as 670 million dollars.  Within that time period, 42 Israelis and foreigners were killed in Palestinian terror attacks, an average of 10.5 people a year.

Since the Biden administration took office in January 2021, the PA has received a billion dollars in aid.  In that time, 46 Israelis and foreigners have been killed, an average of 23 a year.  In January and February this year (2023), when US aid to the PA continued unabated, 14 Israelis and foreigners were killed in Palestinian terror attacks.

Maurice Hirsch, head of Legal Strategies at the PMW, said, “The correlation is also annual.  In a year when extensive economic aid to the Palestinians flows, the number of attacks increases – and vice versa.  The Palestinians interpret American support, as far as it is expressed in financial aid, as approval for terrorism and the murder of Israelis.

“US support is ostensibly dedicated to promoting peace, but in practice, the Palestinians see its support as an opportunity to promote terrorism.  While US aid to the Palestinians flows freely, Palestinian terrorists feel empowered and kill Israelis.  Only when the US demonstrates moral clarity and stops the aid, the Palestinians will understand that terrorism does not pay.”



Ancient Ruins Obliterated: PA Arabs Pave Road Over First Temple Relics, Burial Caves

Arabs living in Judea and Samaria have been destroying ancient ruins in the area for years, but now, according to Jews monitoring the situation, the destruction is being taken to a new level, with archeaological remains wrecked and a road actually paved over them.

The Samaria National Park in Sebastia has frequently been the target of nationalist vandals seeking to erase the site’s Jewish history, which dates back millennia.  Sebastia was once called Shomron (Samaria) and served as the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.  Many ancient remains can be seen there, including pillars dating back to the First Temple period and a giant amphitheater from the days of King Herod in the Second Temple Period.

It is located just a few miles to the north-west of Shechem (Nablus), however, the Palestinian Authority has made it relatively difficult for Israelis to access but easy for local Arabs to reach.  This week, members of the Shomrim Hanetzach (Protecting Eternity) organization, accompanied by local council members, were shocked to discover that heavy machinery had been moved there and a road was paved right in the heart of the archeological site, along a route extending from Area B and 400 yards into Area C.

In order to pave the road, a wall dating back to Herodian times was destroyed and burial caves dating back to the Second Temple period were smashed, looted and obliterated.

Furthermore, people believed to be officials from the Palestinian Authority had flung the carcasses of pigs into the ancient graves in an attempt to deter Israeli archeologists from entering the area and revealing the extent of the destruction wrought.  Indeed, the Palestinian Authority has been building infrastructure in the area for the past few  months, destroying archeological remains in the process.

Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan was horrified at this latest development and appealed to the relevant authorities to intervene.  “This is an attempt to systematically and decisively destroy any connection between the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and one of our most important cultural and historical sites,” he said.  “These are unique remains from the period of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.  It’s a disgrace that Jewish history is being destroyed in such a manner, and under the very noses of the Israeli government,” he added.

“Anyone who loves Israel and who cares about cultural history must demand an immediate halt to the damage being done at the site,” Dagan continued.  “A military guard should be placed around the clock in order to protect this cultural site which is being systematically and barbarically destroyed, day after day, by this terrorist entity that calls itself the Palestinian Authority.”

Moshe Gutman, the director of Shomrim Al Hanetzach, added, “We are losing ancient Samaria.  The destruction is intensifying as the months go by with no real response, with no one being arrested for what is being done.  The Israeli government must now respond immediately and harshly, just as harshly as if attempts were being made to destroy the ancient ruins at the National Park in Caesarea.  We must not be silent.”



Jerusalem Introduces Double-Decker Sightseeing Bus Tours

A new attraction has been introduced to tourists visiting Jerusalem – double-decker sightseeing bus tours!  The tours offer visitors a unique two-hour unforgettable excursion, including panoramic views of the holy city.

This is the first time such an attraction has been successfully introduced in Israel, having become popular in tourist hotspots like London, New York, Madrid, Oslo, Barcelona, and other cities.

The double-decker’s history in Israel dates back to the summer of 1985, when shipping company ZIM’s roll-on/roll/off cargo ships brought a double-decker bus to the Ashdod port.

The bus was to be tested on Egged’s intercity public transportation lines.

But, the pilot didn’t succeed.  Another attempt was made in 2004, when three double-decker bus lines were activated by Egged, and were designed exclusively for tourists.  This also did not prove successful.

Now Jerusalem is giving it another go, assigning four double-deckers that will take passengers all over the city in two hours..

The tour will pass through the Western Wall and the Old City, a Mount of Olives viewpoint, the Rehavia neighborhood, the Sacher Park, the Knesset, Mount Herzl, and more.  The passengers will be able to choose their language of choice for the tour.

The excursion costs 75 NIS per adult, and 30 NIS per child.  A family discount price is also available – 170 NIS for two adults and two children.