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Ground Forces “An Option Which Might Take Place in the Next Few Days”

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 14:40

According to IDF Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the Israeli government is currently deciding whether to go to war with Hamas in light of the escalating tensions. “Although we have only used air force and artillery so far without ground forces, this is an option which might take place in the next few days,” he said on a phone conference. “It is clear that a ground forces operation is more complicated, as it would result in many more casualties on both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side.”

He told Breaking Israel News, that using accurate intelligence, the IDF will continue to minimize civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. “In some cases, we contact the local people so they understand their area might be bombed by Israel and because of this, there are very few casualties up till now.” However, Amidror warned, severe escalation would be problematic, as it would mean more collateral damage.

“We thank the IDF for its continued efforts in keeping Israel safe and for doing everything it can to minimize casualties and trauma, especially in southern Israel where residents have only seconds to take cover in bomb shelters,” said Dr. John A.I Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA.

“Many buildings will collapse and the number of people lost by explosions in buildings will be huge because Hamas is fighting in and underneath civilian buildings.”

Amidror, Former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and the Head of the National Security Council, analyzed the discussions taking place about Gazan tensions and escalations within the Israeli Security Cabinet. Amidror served for 36 years in senior IDF posts, including commander of the Military Colleges, military secretary to the Defense Minister, director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and chief intelligence officer of the Northern Command.

The Security Cabinet meeting occurred in the context of more than 150 rockets fired by Hamas into southern Israel overnight Wednesday-Thursday, with the IDF retaliating against hundreds of Hamas infrastructure targets, including a weapons manufacturing and storage facility.

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While ceasefire talks were being negotiated earlier this week, Thursday morning Egyptian intelligence officially informed Israel that Hamas opposes calm. According to Amidror, during and after a potential operation with Hamas, the Egyptian partnership “will be important.” He stressed that while there is dialogue between Israel and Egypt, there is no coordination and the decision whether to go to war will be the unilateral decision of Israel.

Rockets fired at Israel from Gaza (Credit: Photo via IDF Twitter)

“It is so far unknown what the policy and decision of the cabinet will be,” said Amidror, who claimed that one voice within the cabinet believes that Israel is in a strong position to enter into another round of war with Hamas, which has escalated rockets under the slogan of resistance to the ‘occupation.’ Amidror questioned why Hamas is “building tunnels and missiles instead of infrastructure” calling this resistance “illogical.”

He maintained that the fact that Hamas launched a rocket Thursday afternoon toward Beersheba, which is far from the Gaza Strip border, means that Hamas is ready to take the risk of going to war.

Another voice within the cabinet believes that Israel has more important issues to focus on, such as containing Iran in Syria.

Amidror added that there may be a rift in the current leadership of Hamas, referring to a recent photograph of Hamas leaders with the military commander of the Hamas wing missing from the photograph. “There is a question about Hamas’ ability to make united decisions in Gaza, which is part of the issues being considered by the cabinet,” said Amidror.

In light of strong American administration support for Israel over the last several months, the military analyst maintained that going to war might be easier with the Trump administration’s support, but the views of Washington are not a main factor being discussed in the cabinet. “The main questions are consequences and costs of a such operations and decisions.”

The final decision of the cabinet, he said, will depend on the understanding between the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister. He assured, “the balance of power is on our side.”

Saving Lives Under Fire: United Hatzalah Medic

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 09:56

On Wednesday night a Hamas barrage of almost 200 rockets was launched at southern Israel. In addition to the powerful response by the IDF, civilian volunteers went into action, helping victims wounded in body and soul – saving lives under fire.

Yaakov Bar Yochai, a 39-year old father of five is a volunteer United Hatzalah medic in Sderot. United Hatzalah’s success is due to its local volunteers who can and do arrive at a medical emergency within minutes, much faster than a conventional ambulance. In the case of of Bar Yochai, this meant that the same missiles that harmed his neighbors also threatened him and his family.

Bar Yochai was in the shower preparing to attend a social event in the nearby town of Netivot when the first red alert sirens sounded on Wednesday evening. He gathered his family in their shelter and as the all-clear announcement sounded, he left his home to treat the wounded.

“I knew that I was the closest medic to the missile strike because I heard it land in the next street over,” Bar Yochai told Breaking Israel News. “The United Hatzalah operator informed me that there were wounded so I jumped on my motorcycle and was there in seconds. I began to treat a man in his 50’s who was hit by shrapnel and was bleeding heavily from his arm. I put a tourniquet on it and by the time the ambulance arrived, there were already more sirens. I spent the entire night, until four in the morning, riding from one incident to another. Of course, there were sirens all the time.”

“There were a lot of rockets and mortars from Gaza but there were also a lot of explosions from the Iron Dome. We are less than half a mile from the border with Gaza so we also heard the explosions from the IDF response. All this is very frightening,” Bar Yochai explained. “Many of the calls involved shock with no physical injuries. We treat this as well. Every person reacts differently. Some people can handle it. Other people scream uncontrollably. Others freeze and become entirely unresponsive and catatonic. Some, who have been through many attacks suddenly break. We need to respond to everything.”

Bar Yochai woke early for morning prayers but at ten, the sirens went off again as more rockets fell.

“I guess this sounds like I was full of bravery or something, but that isn’t the case,” Bar Yochai said. “The truth is that the entire time, I was concentrating on what needed to be done. This is how they train us. But while I was out last night, my children were calling me on the phone to make sure I was okay.”

Bar Yochai has lived under the threat of rockets from Gaza for many years but his understanding of the source of the conflict is highly focused.

“I don’t, God forbid, hate the Gazans,” he said. “They are people, just like me and my family. I do hate Hamas. Hamas tries to hit cities with its rockets. Hamas wants to kill our people. Hamas even considers it a victory when it forces the IDF to react in such a way that endangers Palestinians. This is what I hate.”

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In addition to medics, United Hatzalah also sent out members of their psychotrauma unit to treat victims of the attack.

“Last night in Sderot, there were a lot of children affected by the first attack,” Miriam Ballin, head of United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma unit told Breaking Israel News. “No matter how many times this happens, no matter how much you prepare and practice, your body fills with adrenaline and fear. There is no way you can prepare for an actual rocket landing near you.

United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit. (Credit: United Hatzalah/ Twitter)

Ballin made aliyah to Israel from the U.S. with her physician husband six years ago. Her decision to establish a psychotrauma program for United Hatzalah came from a personal experience. One day, while walking in the street, she was struck by a motorcycle. Ballin was not seriously injured but when she returned to the scene of the accident to thank the people who had helped her, she understood that they had been deeply affected by witnessing the accident. As a social worker, Ballin was familiar with PTSD. She saw that it was not being addressed so she decided to help United Hatzalah establish a psychotrauma program.

“Treating psychotrauma is essential to medical first responders,” Ballin explained. “United Hatzalah created a team of mental health work professionals. Our 250 volunteers deal with psychological first-aid every day. Our main focus is suicide, sudden infant death syndrome, and victims of terrorism. We also train medics in psychological first aid. This also helps them better function as medics.”

“When the dispatcher receives a call that is flagged as highly traumatic, we get a call. Our closest responder is sent to the scene and our average response time is 12 minutes. Last night in Sderot, our responders went out to medical calls that turned out to be emotional issues. This includes chest pains without any physical indications of heart problems or difficulty breathing. These can be the result of psychotrauma.”

“The United Hatzalah psychotrauma unit is for psychological first-aid and does not interfere with the governmental organizations that are in place, coping with long-term effects of rocket attacks and terrorism. We respond to the call and stabilize that person.

Just as physical injuries can be internal, the same is true for psychotrauma.

“Many times, we arrive at a scene and the people who are really traumatized aren’t identified as being affected. It isn’t always the person who is screaming who is the most traumatized. Sometimes, a person can become dissociative and will be overlooked. Some people say that they are fine after the attack but will develop PTSD down the line. We help identify those people who are at-risk. There is also a strong inclination to try to suppress powerful reactions to psychotrauma. It is uncomfortable to watch someone having a powerful reaction to psychotrauma, so the natural reaction is to suppress or ignore it. In fact, every reaction is a healthy reaction to an abnormal situation.”

United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma program also focuses on collateral victims.

“We also decided it was important to train medics in psychotrauma to lower the likelihood that the medics would develop PTSD from their work” Ballin said. “There is a trauma clinic and hotline for our medics. This support is crucial for volunteers more than for professionals. A volunteer has to jump out of his life into a crisis and then jump right back in to his life.

“Of course, when a rocket falls there is a lot of damage and injury, physical and psychological,” Ballin said. “But the real damage is caused by living under the constant threat of rocket attack, never knowing when a rocket will fall.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Hit Lifelong Disabled in Emergencies

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 08:34

As rockets, missiles, kites and balloons with burning tails land in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip and residents of the north are also potential targets, the authorities worry about the physical and emotional state of children, pregnant women, psychiatric patients and the elderly.

But it seems there is another sector in the Israeli population that has been almost ignored – those with permanent physical or sensory disabilities, who have now been found at a high risk for developing post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) from terrorism and war.

A new study just published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy on The Impact of Exposure to War and Terror on Individuals With Disabilities by Dr. Carmit-Noa Shpigelman of the University of Haifa and Dr. Marc Gelkopf of the university and the NATAL Center for the Treatment of Victims of Terror and War in Tel Aviv.

They examined people who lived in a geographic area that was under massive missile attack or terrorist attacks in Israel during the past decade. “Even today, we are in a period of emergency situations – in the north and in the south, said Shpigelman, who teaches and researches at the university’s department of community mental health. “This situation is even worse for the disabled, so they and community service providers must be prepared in advance.”

People with disabilities who were exposed to war and terror were found to be twice as likely to develop PTSS. “This is the first time that stress responses as a result of war and terror have been examined in the context of people with disabilities, especially those with physical or sensory (blindness or deafness) disabilities. Today’s emergency situations along the borders are characterized by uncertainty and suddenness,” they wrote.

In previous studies, negative mental effects have been found as a result of prolonged exposure to war and terror events such as PTSS, anxiety, depression and dysfunction. But they examined the effects on the general population and minority groups such as new immigrants, Arab Israelis or psychiatric patients. The impact of war and terrorism on persons with disabilities in the community was not examined, the researchers said.

In this study, the University of Haifa researchers examined the impact of war and terrorism on a population coping with physical or sensory disabilities. They were divided into three groups – 151 disabled persons who lived in Israel in the past decade in a geographical area that was under a massive missile attack or many terrorist attacks; 138 without disabilities who lived in those areas; and 149 disabled people from other parts of the country who had not been directly exposed to the security threat. They recruited participants with lifelong disabilities through social disability-related organizations (mostly non-governmental organizations) and also used social networking, web forums, mailing lists and welfare and municipal services to find them.

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Almost a third (28%) of the disabled who were exposed to war and terrorism were at high risk of developing PTSS, which includes frequent re-living of the traumatic event, minimal conversations, sleeping problems, nightmares, emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people and activities that reminded them of the traumatic event.

This compares to 11% of disabled people who were not exposed to the security threat and to just 8% of people without disabilities who were exposed to the security threat. A “plausible explanation” for this finding might be the elevated arousal following the stress caused by the inaccessibility of protective physical environments, a lack of real-time information and having to be dependent on others.

When the researchers examined symptoms of depression, it was found that there were no differences between people with disabilities who were exposed to war and terror events compared with people with disabilities who were not exposed to similar events. Both of these groups were at higher risk than people without disabilities.

According to the researchers, people with disabilities may experience symptoms of depression from the health problem or other life events such as barriers that limit their participation in the community and not directly as a result of war and terrorism events – since there were no differences in the levels of depression among the two groups of disabled people. Shpigelman noted that the findings highlight a lack of diagnosis of stress responses among people with disabilities in times of emergency.

Professionals, she said, “often tend to project the stress responses they identify to a person’s chronic health problem rather than to the security situation. This situation was created, among other reasons, because of a lack of awareness of the needs of this population by virtue of its being a marginalized group in society,” she continued. Israeli law requires that all public services provided to the population, including emergency services of the Home Front Command and community health services, be made available in a state of emergency.

Thus, support and training programs for disabled people must be developed based on successful activities in the past, as well as providing information on emergency services that they can contact when necessary. In addition, the researchers concluded, their findings sharpen the need to develop specialized programs for professionals to identify signs of distress and provide an adequate response for disabled persons in times of emergency.

Finally, they suggest the use of existing trauma-related infrastructures and tailoring their management to provide for these services. “In cases such as Israel, where the next war always appears to be imminent, prevention measures and practices should be developed, possibly by expanding trauma-related services to support this at-risk population,
to reduce potential distress and strengthen resilience.”

Israeli Runner Wins 10,000m Gold

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 07:44

Historic Achievement: Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter is the fastest women in Europe and wins the 10,000 meters, bringing home a gold medal for Israel.

Hamas Bombards Israel With Rockets-August 8, 2018

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 06:10

Hamas terrorists bombard southern Israel with hundreds of rockets.

Israel-Hamas Headed to War Again?

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 06:08

The strains of war are being heard again in Israel. More than 150 rockets and mortars was fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza at Israel’s southern communities. The IDF retaliated, targeting mobile rocket launchers and other military targets.

"His children are afraid to leave their home, and this has become a common site here in Sderot." @ArielLW_i24 reports from the southern Israeli city that neighbors #Gaza:

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) August 9, 2018

Colombia ‘Palestinian State Recognition’ Dismays Israel

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 05:48

The Israeli embassy in Bogotá, Colombia criticised the government’s decision to grant formal recognition to a Palestinian state and said the move contradicted the good relations between the two countries. The embassy stressed that as a friendly government, Jerusalem would have expected to have been forewarned of a dramatic policy shift.

“This decision is in complete contradiction to the good relations between Israel and Colombia, and the close ties between the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and the new president of Colombia, Iván Duque… When we have a good relationship, we expect to be warned about decisions like this or changes in policy, so we were very surprised,” the embassy wrote in a statement.

The government of outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos decided to recognize “Palestine” on August 3. But the policy shift was only announced on August 8, after the inauguration of the new government. The foreign minister of the new government announced that the measure would be reconsidered.

Despite the back-and-forth policy, a local Spanish-language commentator on Latin American and Israeli affairs said the decision would have little impact, either on bilateral ties or on the international level.

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“I don’t believe this decision will not have any implications on relations with Israel,” said Dr. Gustavo D. Perednik, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina and the author of 15 books on Israel, Latin America and Jewish philosophy. “The new government is very friendly with Israel so it doesn’t really matter what the outgoing president said. Colombia will even probably move their embassy to Jerusalem, if Duque is asked to by President Trump.”

On a regional level, too, Perednik said the policy is not likely to signify a wide-spread policy shift. He noted that Bogotá was one of the last Latin American countries to recognise a Palestinian state, but added that Netanyahu’s trip to South and Central America last year was both the result of improving diplomatic and economic ties in recent years and contributed to continued expansion.

Netanyahu cancelled a scheduled trip to Colombia at the last minute last week, saying he wanted to oversee developments in the south in real time, particularly the visit of Saleh al-Arouri, the founding commander of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades armed wing who is believed to be the organization’s commander in Judea and Samaria. The premier had been scheduled to attend the inauguration of incoming President Iván Duque and to hold meetings with several Latin American leaders.


Thu, 08/09/2018 - 05:41

We often think about how grateful we would be to have wealth and abundance. This proverb points out that often, riches do not lead people to gratitude, but rather to smugness and self-satisfaction. If we have too much of a good thing, we may forget Hashem’s (God’s) hand in our lives. In fact, the Bible warns that forgetting Hashem and attributing one’ wealth to his own power is one of the dangers of the blessing of bounty in the Land of Israel. If we lack something in our lives, we may come to curse Hashem, forgetting that He has our best interest at heart. We should always hope to have just enough for our needs- not to feel the strain of lack, but also not the pride of luxury.

EU Stops Funding to NGO Targeting Israeli Right

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 05:09

The European Union will stop funding the Freedom Protection Council, the Prime Minister’s Office recently announced. The move marked an important achievement for Israel in its effort to reduce the scope of foreign-funded NGOs intervening in the country’s internal affairs.

The Freedom Protection Council, which was founded last year by I’lam – the Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research – consists of some 20 Jewish and Arab NGOs, including B’Tselem, Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Mossawa Center.

The move was spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who instructed the Foreign Ministry to ask the EU to stop supporting the NGO. The EU recently told the Prime Minister’s Office it would comply with the request and stop funding the group.

Israeli officials expressed satisfaction over the decision and said the Europeans understood they had crossed a line.

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Although the Freedom Protection Council isn’t a household name in Israel, it had set a precedent in the country because it was conceived, established and operated by official European representatives, with the express aim of combating the positions espoused by the “nationalistic-messianic” Israeli Right.

As stated, Israeli officials believe the NGO’s activities represent a blatant intervention in the country’s internal matters.

In 2016, the European Union, via the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, provided the Israeli NGO I’lam Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research a total of 365,803 euros for “The Creation of the Freedom Protection Council: Ensuring Democratic Space for Civil Society Organisations in Israel,” the watchdog NGO Monitor reported this week.

According to the PMO, the Freedom Protection Council undermines Israel’s right to exist and works to defame it across the globe.

“This is just the beginning,” Neyanyahu said in a statement. “We will continue to act with determination against organizations that work to delegitimize the State of Israel and seek to defame it and the Israel Defense Forces internationally.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu rebuked Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide, accusing Norway of overtly funding anti-Israel activity.

Gift of Challah Brings Sabbath Joy to Israel’s Impoverished Citizens

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 04:35

Everyone wants a peaceful weekend. Yet, for Israel’s impoverished citizens, there is no tranquility because of their hunger pangs. To ease this suffering, Meir Panim charity organization maintains a “Challah for Sabbath Project.”

In its second year, the successful “Challah for Sabbath Project” program aides struggling Israelis who rely on Meir Panim for a daily meal. This program ensures that impoverished Israelis have something to eat over the Sabbath.

Meir Panim free restaurant-style soup kitchens are opened Sunday through Thursday,” explained Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development for Meir Panim to Breaking Israel News. “Before this project, our daily customers were left without food on Friday and for the Sabbath.”

Challah is a sweet, braided bread traditionally eaten by Jews on Friday night and Saturday in honor of the Sabbath. Through the “Challah for Sabbath Project”, every patron who visits Meir Panim on Thursday is gifted with two fresh-out-of-the-oven challah loaves.

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“We distribute approximately 15,000 challahs a year from our soup kitchens and include challahs when delivering food to those who are homebound through our Meals-on-Wheels program,” continued Rozmaryn. “Each challah costs about $1.30 and is funded by our generous supporters.”

The “Challah for Sabbath Project” not only fills hungry bellies but also warms souls. Many of the challah recipients say that the smell of the fresh challah brings them back to happier times when their families shared a festive Sabbath or holiday meal together. “It is heartwarming to see the deep emotions a few warm challahs can bring a person,” noted Rozmaryn. “This program is, in many ways, both a spiritual as well as physical life-saver.”

The Bible is replete with references to the blessings that come with baking challah. For example, the Talmud explains that the tent of Biblical Mother Sarah was known for its special holiness, including that her dough remained fresh and nourishing all week.

“You shall further give the first of the yield of your baking to the kohen, that a blessing may rest upon your home.” (Ezekiel 44:30)

This implies that when you donate to feed others, your home will be blessed.

Meir Panim providing Sabbath challah for the needy. (Credit: Meir Panim)

Meir Panim was established over 10 years ago to help alleviate and diminish the debilitating effects of poverty in Israel. The organization serves hot, nutritious meals to hungry and lonely people in five strategic locations throughout the country. On Thursdays, they distribute 30 percent more food so that people can take home packages to sustain themselves over the weekend. The “Challah for Sabbath Project” is an addition to this standard fair.

“Though Meir Panim feeds everyone who comes to their premises, no questions asked and irrespective of their religious affiliation, we have found that the “Challah for Sabbath Project” brings a bit more tranquility to our struggling patrons over the weekend,” said Rozmaryn. “Doesn’t everyone deserve an extra touch of sweetness and care in their lives?”

To donate to Meir Panim, please click here.

Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.

Make your own traditional braided Sabbath bread-challah!

Challah recipe. (Credit: Meir Panim)

19 Israelis Wounded, 200 Rockets Fired at Israel From Gaza

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 04:02

Red alert sirens sounded nearly non-stop overnight on Wednesday and early Thursday, as approximately 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, wounding 19 Israelis. The initial barrage of eight rockets landed inside the city of Sderot, hitting a house and wounding a man and a 13-year-old boy. According to Barzilai Medical Center, six people were treated for physical wounds and nine were treated for shock.

Rockets continued to be fired into Israel Thursday morning as a fresh wave hit southern Israel just after 10:00 AM, reaching deeper into Israel than previous missiles. Red Alert sirens were heard as far away as Ashkelon, more than 26 miles from the Gaza border.

The barrage began shortly after two Hamas military personnel were killed when an IDF tank responded to gunfire targeting Israeli civilian vehicles working on the security fence.

Most of the projectiles landed in open fields. The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted at least 25 launches. The IDF is reportedly deploying additional Iron Dome Systems in southern Israel.

Israel responded by attacking more than 140 Hamas military targets. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported Thursday that IDF attacks killed three Palestinians.

These hostilities come after an announcement that progress had been made in Egyptian-brokered ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel.

“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza, told Al Jazeera television on Wednesday. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy.”

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Israel has endured in excess of 100 days of violence on its border with Gaza as a result of the Hamas-led March of Return riots. Countless aerial incendiary devices, balloons, kites and drones, have been launched from Gaza, setting fire to thousands of acres of land in Israel.

This recent exchange closely resembles the events of July 7, 2014, when Hamas fired 80 rockets into Israel. The IDF responded by launching Operation Protective Edge the next day.  Debka, an Israeli military intelligence website, reported that the IDF high-command met on Wednesday night to consider “a full-scale military incursion against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”

“This would necessitate a ground incursion,” Debka reported. “It was decided to keep the operation as short as possible, the main goal being to push Hamas back from the Israel border and deliver a blow painful enough for the terrorists to beg for a ceasefire. IDF chiefs hope that this will cure Hamas leaders of the belief that they can dictate the rules of the game, as it has done so far. The generals are taking into account that the rocket barrage will spread across other parts of Israel in the course of the operation.”

The United Nations condemned the Hamas rocket fire.

“I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel,” UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now. If the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

‘Rose of Jericho’ Bugs Middle East

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 03:23

It certainly hasn’t reached the dimensions of the Ten Biblical Plagues, but leishmaniasis – dubbed “Rose of Jericho” because of the red rash it can cause – is a potentially disfiguring but not life-threatening skin disease. It is endemic to the Middle East, Latin America, southern Europe and other hot regions and is spreading, causing concern to Israeli parasitologists and dermatologists.   

The disease is caused by protozoan parasites that belong to the genus Leishmania and is transmitted by the bite of female sand flies that bite infected furry rodents. The tiny flies, which are about a third of the size of mosquitoes, can get through regular window screens and are thus hard to keep out of homes.

The health authorities advise various ways of reducing the risk of infection: Take special care from June through October; put very-fine mesh screens on doors and windows to prevent sandflies from entering ; use air conditioners and fans; wear long, light clothing; do not sleep outside in areas where rock hyraxes and gerbils are found; and apply ministry-approved mosquito repellent with Deet on exposed skin (including the face) and on clothing.


Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most common form of leishmaniasis, while visceral leishmaniasis is a severe form in which the parasites have migrated to the vital organs. Any skin lesion that doesn’t heal within a number of weeks, especially a lesion that developed after a trip to an area known to indigenous to the parasites should be seen by a dermatologist. The most common method to diagnose the disease is through a biopsy taken from the infected area. The biopsy allows the doctor to see if the parasite is there but does not determine the type of disease. This identification be only be made with a molecular exam.

The infection appears as red sores (hence its nickname) on the skin a few weeks or months after being bitten by the sandfly. The sores can cause permanent, ugly scars if untreated, and there is no protective vaccine or a single cream, pill, injection or infusion that cures it.

Leishmaniasis is one of the diseases that, since 1949, must be reported by medical professionals to the Health Ministry so it can monitor the situation. The more veteran form of leishmaniasis in Israel is L. major, which has been known here for a century and was first identified in Jericho – one of the world’s oldest cities and of biblical importance.

But in the last quarter-century, a second type named L. tropica arrived in Israel from Afghanistan via Jordan, with the sandfly vectors – which live in the earth rather than in standing water like mosquitoes – biting, small-eared furry rodents named rock hyraxes. These mammals are legally protected animals, so they can’t be hunted or poisoned except when the authorities identify a location that has been overrun by them.

Since 2001, there has been an increase in the incidence of skin leishmaniasis in Israel in the southern region, and it spread to new places that were previously unknown, such as settlements in Samaria.

In 2017 the Health Ministry received fewer than 60 reports of leishmaniasis – or 2.3 cases per 100,00 residents, down from 4.5 cases per 100,000 in 2010. But experts in the field now call the situation catastrophic. Prof. Eli Schwartz, a veteran expert in the disease at the institute of geographic medicine and tropical diseases at Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and president of the Israel Society for Parasitology and Tropical Diseases, claims that most cases are not reported. “Either people who were infected don’t go to their doctors, or they are not diagnosed properly or the laboratory or doctor fails to report them to the ministry,” Schwartz told Breaking Israel News.

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A few years ago, the infectious disease specialist co-wrote a Hebrew-language book titled A Hidden Traveler: Narratives of Travelers With Tropical Diseases on the risks of catching a variety of diseases during treks abroad that even many Israeli doctors have never seen. For those who intend to go on a journey or trek, worried parents of backpackers, medical staffers, company workers involved in the Third World and just those who are curious and enjoy reading, the book  opens a window on the relatively new field of tropical diseases, including leishmaniasis.

“What the Health Ministry reports about leishmaniasis is just the tip of the iceberg,” Schwartz insisted. “Its officials put the blame on the Environmental Protection Ministry, which is officially in charge of prevention of infection in the hyraxes and the fly vectors. But the Health Ministry must be actively involved, because they have to pay for treatment of patients, which is very costly and often not completely effective,” said Schwartz.

“At my institute, I see many cases every month, and we are only one hospital. Patients come for treatment to half-a-dozen other Israeli hospitals as well. Leishmaniasis has reached the Galilee and the Negev in addition to Samaria. We don’t know what has caused the spread of the disorder.”

There is no vaccine to prevent infection. There are topical and systemic treatments for the scarring and necrosis of skin on the face, arms and legs. More effective than medications applied to the skin are intravenous injections of toxic chemotherapy that are given daily at the hospital for a month. Children and adults have to come in regularly and miss out on school and work, Schwartz noted. Even after treatment, scars can remain.

“The Health Ministry’s statistics refer to rates per 100,00 Israelis. Instead, they should calculate them according to regions where leishmaniasis is endemic,” said Schwartz. “Rose of Jericho is a tropical disease, which means that it is found mostly in poor countries. Unusually, Israel – with a strong, powerful economy – is among the warm countries that are affected, but the government has not spent enough money for research, prevention and treatment.”

Asked to comment, Health Ministry associate director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto declared that “we have dealt extensively with this matter. We know that there is under-reporting of leishmaniasis, but we are involved in a number of large studies that examine the level of reporting and the real morbidity. The largest study received funding from the Israel Science Foundation, in which we evaluate intervention methods to prevent the disease from being resettled in new communities.”

He called on the Environmental Protection Ministry, which is “the main authority responsible for this matter,” to arrange for the killing of the protected hyraxes that are bitten by the sandflies. “As a result of this situation, a national plan for dealing with skin leishmaniasis problems in Israel was formulated by the government eight years ago. The Environmental Protection Ministry was put in charge, in coordination with the Ministries of Health, Defense and Interior and the Nature and Parks Authority.”

Localities that are known to have infected hyraxes were told to set up fences to bar the rodents’ entry. The program included public information campaigns in selected localities and efforts to reduce the transfer of the parasite, monitoring the evaluation of the success of experimental activities, research to promote knowledge of disease transmission methods and finding effective measures to cut and treat it. But the program lapsed, said Grotto, adding: “In my opinion, this program should be renewed.”

After being prodded several times by Breaking Israel News, Grotto agreed to initiate a joint meeting with Schwartz and his counterparts in the Environmental Protection Ministry.

5,000 UK Christians Make Stand Against Anti-Semitism

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 10:16

More than 5,000 Christians have taken a stand against anti-semitism, after signing a declaration of solidarity with the UK’s Jewish community. It boldly states that, “For the safety and security of the Jewish people in Britain and for the future of our country, we will not allow the Jewish community to stand alone.”

The initiative started by Christians United for Israel UK (CUFI). In a press release, the organization said that it “provides Christians with an opportunity to commit to lead by example, calls for tougher action against anti-Semitism and addresses the current crisis within the Labour Party.”

The declaration calls for the recognition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-semitism, which the UK Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has consistently failed to do. In addition, CUFI urged not only the Labour Party but also “church denominations and affiliations to adopt the same definition of anti-Semitism.” The organization has approached the Church of England, Methodist Church, Baptist Church and Evangelical Alliance bodies to fulfill that aim.

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CUFI also reiterated its support for the State of Israel, stating that a hatred of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, Israel, was inconsistent with the basis of their Christian faith and in contravention of the wishes of the Bible.

The last week or so, has seen immense political pressure grow on Jeremy Corbyn personally, as well as other members of Labour’s National Executive Committee. Corbyn’s record of anti-Israel activities is lengthy and legendary, yet he has managed to swerve away from criticisms of anti-semitism. That trick became harder to sustain as video footage of him on Iran’s English-language broadcaster, Press TV, where he implied that the State of Israel had no right to exist, surfaced. Other instances include casually referring to a senior Jewish Labour MP as “the Honorable Member [of Parliament] for Tel Aviv.”

Golan-Eilat Bike Trail Set for 2021 Completion

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 08:27

Cyclists will soon be able to bike all the way from Mount Hermon in the north to Eilat in the south, completing the 1,200 kilometer-long Israel Trail for bikes.

The Israel Lands Authority (ILA) Open Spaces Conservation Fund said Monday that it would invest NIS 45 million to build 600 kilometers of cycling paths over the next three years, to connect with 600 kilometers of existing trails that will complete the north to south national trail.

A 300-kilometer stretch of the trail between Mitzpe Ramon and Eilat was inaugurated in 2015 and another section, between Arad and Mitzpeh Ramon, is in advanced planning stages.

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According to a Israel Lands Authority spokesperson, extensive work has been done to make the Israel Bicycle Trail  sustainable. The trail was designed in cooperation with ecologists to ensure riders do not damage the environment as they pass through.

Every day’s ride showcases different geology, themes and cultural aspects: Among them, the volcanic formations of the Golan Heights,  a natural biosphere reserve in the Menashe mountains, the antiquities of Caesarea, pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem, the Yatir Forest on the southern slopes of Mount Hebron, the ancient fort of Masada at the Dead Sea, the craters of Mitzpe Ramon, the Negev Nabatean Spice Route and the Eilat Mountains.

“This is a large-scale, project that will require careful planning and close cooperation between all the parties involved, both the municipal bodies in whose territories the areas are located and at a national level,”  Israel Lands Authority Director Adiel Shomron said. “Such a national project, in which future vision and advanced environmental thinking will be integrated will contribute to the well-being of the general public.”.

Cycling has boomed in popularity in Israel in recent years, reaching a peak earlier this year when the world-famous Giro d’Italia, one of cycling’s three grand tours, kicked off the 2018 in Jerusalem.

Prophecies Coming True

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 07:39

Non-Jews who recognize the prophetic vision of restoring the Jewish people to their historic homeland are hard at work in the Galilee. Those who bless us, so shall they be blessed in return.

Prophecies in the Galilee

15 Bnei Menashe Couples Remarry in Israel

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 07:02

Fifteen couples from the Bnei Menashe (Sons of Menashe), who immigrated to Israel from Manipur, India, two months ago, were remarried in a festive ceremony. It was held at the nonprofit NGO Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, following the completion of the couples’ formal conversion.

The 15 couples comprised part of the 225 Bnei Menashe who immigrated to Israel in June, brought home as part of the efforts Shavei Israel to return the Tribes of Israel.

“After realizing their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, these 15 Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate,” said Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund. “They have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state. We wish them a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in Israel.”

The brides wore white wedding dresses, while some of the grooms wore suits with traditional Bnei Menashe tribal designs.

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Sharon Hangshing (79) and Hillel Hangshing (80) from Churachandpur, Manipur, who have a married daughter and grandchildren living in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek, were one of the couples to be married. The couple arrived in Israel with a widowed daughter and her two sons, as well as an unmarried son. Despite their joy at being in Israel, they left a daughter-in-law and her children.

“I’m very excited! We wanted to see Israel with our own eyes but unfortunately our vision is weak,” said the groom Hillel. “I feel like we’ve come home! Israel is like coming to paradise on earth. It’s not comparable to any other place. My excitement is beyond all imagination,”.

“If only our grandchildren who we left behind could come here and experience this as well,” Sharon added.

The Bnei Menashe are thought to have left Israel more almost three millennia ago. As part of the Ten Tribes, they were separated from the rest of Israel by the Assyrians toward the end of the First Temple period (c. 701 BCE), 140 years before the Babylonian exile. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.


Wed, 08/08/2018 - 06:20

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) presents the Children of Israel’s confession of impurity and unworthiness of divine assistance to Hashem (God). The prophet then prays to Hashem on behalf of the Children of Israel and begs God to not be angry with them forever. The Children of Israel humbly acknowledge that they are like clay, and that Hashem is their potter. The people hope that God will not forsake the work of His hands. In addition, the Children of Israel hope for a return to their land, the rebuilding of the holy cities and the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) which had been destroyed years earlier. This same appeal has been echoed for generations, and only in our times has begun to be answered.

Israel Hails US’s Iran Sanctions

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 05:46

Israel hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the president for his approach and called on Europe to follow the U.S.’s lead.

Kuwait Airlines Pays Damages to Barred Israeli

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 05:05

Kuwait Airways has agreed to pay substantial damages, plus costs, to an Israeli who was refused a ticket on a Kuwait Airways flight from London to Bangkok on the grounds of her nationality.

Mandy Blumenthal, with the help of UK Lawyers for Israel, issued a claim against Kuwait Airways, citing damages for racial discrimination and harassment after she tried to buy a return ticket to Bangkok at Heathrow Airport from the Kuwait Airways desk in November.

UK Lawyers for Israel, a voluntary organization of lawyers who support Israel, facilitated Blumenthal’s claim by organizing legal representation by barristers John Bowers QC and Benjamin Gray, and David Berens of Fuglers Solicitors.

Kuwait Airways was prepared to sell Blumenthal a ticket until it saw her Israeli passport. A Kuwait Airways ticket clerk repeatedly explained: “Israeli passport holders are not permitted to travel on Kuwait Airways.”

The airline has agreed to pay Blumenthal damages, though the company has not admitted liability.

“It is horrible to be singled out, to be told you are not allowed to do something because of who you are,” said Blumenthal. “Having someone telling me that he is following instructions, that it is a rule, a policy, gave me a sinking feeling inside. In my mind, it is an anti-Semitic policy to single out the only Jewish state to boycott.”

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David Berens of UK Lawyers for Israel said this is a clear-cut case, and that direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality is illegal.

“Ms. Blumenthal has done a service in showing up Kuwait Airways’ illegal policy. Kuwait Airways is now legally obliged to end this policy or end its services from the U.K. altogether,” he said.

Kuwait Airways has been under intense legal and public pressure over its practice of barring Israelis for some time now.

Last year, the German government launched an investigation into whether Kuwait Airways has violated air-traffic laws by refusing service to Israelis. The airline also faced legal trouble in Frankfurt, Germany, for barring an Israeli passenger from flying to Thailand. However, that case was rejected by a Frankfurt court.

In 2016, Kuwait Airways halted its inter-European flights, as well as its route between New York and London, rather than allowing Israeli citizens to fly on its airline after facing legal threats in the United States and Switzerland.

Spectacular Hellenistic-era Earring Unearthed in City of David

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 04:43

A spectacular Hellenistic-era golden earring, featuring ornamentation of a horned animal, was discovered in excavations in the City of David National Park.

Archaeologists announced that the gold earring shaped like a horned animal, dates back to the second or third century BCE – during the Hellenistic period. The discovery was made during archeological digs conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority   and Tel Aviv University at the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park – which encircles Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

It is considered an important find, as little is known about Jerusalem during the Hellenistic period, when the city was under Ptolemaic rule. According to the directors of the excavation, Professor Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Antiquities Authority, ”The jewelry was found inside a building that was unearthed during the excavation, dating to the early Hellenistic period.

The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal (possibly an antelope or deer) with large eyes, a mouth and other facial features. Nearby, excavators also found a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern, dividing the beads into two parts with six spirals on each side.

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The researchers said it was unclear whether the jewelry was worn by a man or a woman, nor what their cultural or religious identity was. They could, however, ascertain that it belonged to a member of Jerusalem’s upper-class, based on its proximity to the Temple and the Temple Mount – functional at the time. “The residents of this area were not peasants who settled in empty areas on the periphery of the central area, but rather the opposite — they were well-off people. The discovery of familiar Hellenistic pieces of jewelry can teach us about how Hellenistic influences reached Jerusalem during this time.”

Ariel Polokoff and Dr. Adi Erlich, from the archaeological department at Haifa University, examined the earring and bead and estimated that the jewelry was crafted using a technique called filigree, in which threads and tiny metal beads are used to create delicate and complex patterns. According to them, this type of earring first appeared in Greece during the early Hellenistic period, while the earrings date back to approximately the Third or early second centuries BCE.

According to Professor Gadot, similar (though not identical) earrings have been found in the Mediterranean basin, particularly in Greece. He added that a few of this type of earring had been found close to the coastal plain (a key Mediterranean trade route), but it was the first time that such an object had been found in Jerusalem.