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Weekly roundup of world briefs


October 2, 2020

Film agencies in Israel and UAE reach cooperation deal

(JNS) — The Abu Dhabi Film Commission of the United Arab Emirates and the Israeli Film Fund announced a cooperation agreement on Monday.

A government agency, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission said the agreement would lead to training programs for film and TV co-production, in addition to joint film festivals, reported the AP.

Under the agreement, Emirati students will study in Jerusalem at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School.

It is the latest news of warming ties since the UAE and Bahrain signed peace agreements last week to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

Israeli Health Ministry head tells hospitals to cease elective procedures, open new COVID-19 wards

(JNS) — Israeli Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levi on Monday called on the country’s hospitals to cease performing elective procedures and to take urgent steps to handle the country’s steadily rising coronavirus morbidity rate.

In a letter sent to the heads of all hospitals in the country, Levy urged them to open additional COVID-19 wards to help deal with what he called “one of the most complex emergencies ever experienced by the health system,” Channel 12 reported.

“As such, I expect everyone to act with determination, as well as with personal and mutual responsibility,” he added.

Levy’s directive came as a spike in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, and in the number of critically ill patients, has spurred the ministry to set up a headquarters for coordinating the hospitalization of coronavirus patients across the country, which will operate for 24 hours a day, according to the report.

The letter was sent on the fourth day of the nationwide lockdown that was imposed on Friday afternoon and is scheduled to last for at least three weeks. It is the second such lockdown since the first wave of the virus in March and April.

As of Monday afternoon, the ministry had recorded 188,760 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 51,503 of which are currently active. There are 651 patients in serious condition, with 160 on ventilators; 260 in moderate condition, and 1,260 people have died of the virus.

El Al plans to restart passenger flights in October

(JNS) — Israeli airline El Al plans to resume passenger flights in October and cargo flights later this month.

The El Al cargo flights are scheduled to begin on Sept. 21, while on Oct. 1 passenger flights will start to Athens, reported Israeli business daily Globes on Thursday. Sun D’Or International Airlines will offer charter flights to destinations in Greece and Croatia, according to the report.

On Oct. 12, El Al plans to resume flights along its main routes to New York, London and Paris.

The news comes after 27-year-old yeshivah student and Jerusalem resident Eli Rozenberg bought a controlling stake in the airline last week in a $150 million public offering on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

The offering was part of a $400 million government rescue package for the struggling airline, which combined government-backed loans with the share issue.

The airline also extended unpaid leave to most of its employees until the end of October.

Trump executive order to enact sanctions on arms-sellers to Iran

(JNS) — The Trump administration issued an executive order on Monday that allows the United States to sanction anyone who sells arms to Iran in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, which was extended indefinitely as part of the reimposition of U.N. snapback sanctions on the regime that took effect on Saturday.

It authorizes the United States to enact secondary sanctions on those who trade arms with Iran. It is aimed at punishing anyone or any country that gives arms to Iran and does not allow the target of secondary sanctions to access the U.S. marketplace, the world’s largest.

The new measure targets sellers like Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro; the Iranian Ministry of Defense; Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and its director, Mehrdad Akhlaghi-Ketabchi — all for allegedly being involved in the regime’s conventional-arms program.

Also sanctioned were six individuals and three entities associated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, in addition to three individuals and four entities associated with Iran’s liquid propellant ballistic-missile organization, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group.

Hopes for Emmy dashed, but ‘Unorthodox’ Israeli actress still makes history

By Dudi Caspi

(Israeli Hayom via JNS) — Israelis woke up on Monday to the disappointing news that actress Shira Haas had not won a much-coveted Emmy Award, which would have been a first for an Israeli, but the star of Unorthodox nevertheless made them proud.

Haas, the first Israeli to have been nominated for an Emmy, spoke with ABC just before the virtual ceremony late Sunday night about her much-acclaimed role in the hit miniseries, which tells the story of a Chassidic woman who seeks to break free from tradition.

“I am very, very excited,” she said, revealing she was wearing a Chanel dress after she was praised for “glamming up,” despite being at home.

“It’s an amazing thing; Netflix is something that gives people different cultures and languages,” she said about her experience on the streaming giant’s production. “That is the power of the show; it connects us as people.”

“We have had a lot of jokes in between shots,” she said about the humor with Amit Rahav, who plays her husband on the show. “It was just a feeling of mishpuche, ‘family’ in Yiddish. It was a combination of being very professional but yet with as much as fun as possible together.”

Honduras to relocate embassy to Jerusalem by year’s end

(JNS) — Israel and Honduras will open embassies in each other’s capital cities before the end of this year, according to a statement released on Sunday by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

The joint announcement came following a conversation earlier in the day between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, said the statement. During their talk, the two leaders reaffirmed the close ties between Jerusalem and Tegucigalpa, and Hernández also congratulated Netanyahu on the historic agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, known as the Abraham Accords.

The Honduran leader also extended his best wishes for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

“Today, with their flags flying over each other’s capital cities, Israel and Honduras wish to announce the intention to complete the plan of action, before the end of this year, with the reciprocal opening and inauguration of their embassies in the national capitals, Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem,” said the statement.

Following a trilateral meeting in Brazil in 2019 between Netanyahu, Hernández and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three countries agreed to strengthen their political ties and to coordinate cooperation on development in Honduras, and also to “pursue a plan of action, which includes meetings in their three respective capitals, to advance the process of the decision to open embassies in both Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem.”

In March 2019, Honduras recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a month later opened its commercial office in the city. Israel reciprocated on Aug. 20, 2020, opening its trade and cooperation office in Tegucigalpa.

In his conversation with the Honduran leader, Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the “authentic friendship and steadfast support” that Israel has received from Honduras, and reiterated Israel’s commitment to strengthening this partnership through development, cooperation, tourism, investment, technology, agriculture, education and trade.

Representatives of the UAE and Bahrain met with Netanyahu at the White House on Sept. 15 to sign the Abraham Accords, bringing the number of Arab nations to have concluded peace treaties with the Jewish state to four, after Egypt and Jordan.

Israeli ministers, Knesset members to take 10 percent pay cut

By Eran Bar-Tal and Ariel Kahana

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — The government on Monday approved a 10 percent cut in the salaries of all ministers and Knesset members, citing that parliament must lead by example as Israel faces a recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has also instructed the Finance Ministry to explore a similar wage cut across the public sector, including in the salaries of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, judges and mayors nationwide.

Lawmakers have also suspended their routine pay raise, slated to take effect in early 2021.

The move saves state coffers NIS 8 million ($2.3 million) immediately with the amount expected to more than double should a wide wage cut be instated.

Several ministers who backed the move cited the need to set a personal example as the private sector, which is still reeling from the financial implications of the two-month lockdown imposed in March and April, now has to grapple with a second lockdown imposed over the surging spread of COVID-19.

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid Party chair Yair Lapid welcomed the move, saying, “I support the cuts in MKs and ministers’ [salaries]; how nice that they finally remembered to do so and stop this outrage. Yesh Atid has been waging the war against raising MKs’ salaries since 2015.”

Trump administration drafts Hasidic singer to bring awareness of COVID in Orthodox communities

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in a number of Orthodox communities in New York City and surrounding areas.

Now a federal government agency is hoping a popular Hasidic singer might be able to help to stem the tide.

Shulem Lemmer, the first Hasidic singer to sign a record deal with a major record label, announced in a tweet Wednesday that he would help the Department of Health and Human Services “bring awareness of anything Covid-19 related to the Orthodox Jewish community & beyond.”

The singer said he would interview the assistant secretary for health, Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, with parts of their conversation on Thursday to be shared with Jewish media outlets.

Orthodox communities in New York City and down the East Coast have struggled with rising COVID cases as the summer neared its close, making the reopening of schools and synagogues for the High Holidays difficult.

In New York City, six Orthodox neighborhoods have comprised 20 percent of the total new cases in the city, alarming city officials who promised an outreach campaign to community leaders and free mask distribution.


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