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Israel to end COVID-19 tests at Ben-Gurion Airport

(JNS) — Israel is planning to end the requirement for travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport to test for COVID-19, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. It comes as more tourists are arriving for the spring season, including Birthright Israel trips.

Currently, arriving passengers must take a test at their own expense.

New reports by Channel 12 and Walla indicate that the restriction could be lifted in early June.

Israel lifted its indoor-mask requirement last month, though the mandate has remained in hospitals throughout the country.

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has continued to drop with 497 patients hospitalized.

Unemployment rate in Jewish state hits 50-year low

(JNS) — The unemployment rate in Israel dropped to 2.9 percent in the first half of April from 3.7 percent in March.

According to a report in the Israeli business daily Globes, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports a 50-year-low unemployment rate in April with 120,000 job seekers and 150,000 vacancies.

The workforce participation rate fell to 61 percent in the first half of April from 61.3 percent in the second half of March.

According to the report, the high number of job openings is likely to lead to higher salaries.

The Bank of Israel projects a 3.5 percent unemployment rate by 2022.

Bennett: ‘We will strike not only terrorists but those who send them’

(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed on Wednesday to strike back not only at terrorists but at those who dispatch them, including those “a thousand kilometers east of here.”

In a thinly veiled warning to Iran, Bennett said in his Memorial Day speech at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that those who send terrorists to attack Israel “have already begun to pay the price, and this will only increase.”

Israel’s enemies, he said, “will encounter more and more initiative, attacks and innovation. If we will have to fight a new conflict, we are determined to arrive ready, trained, surprising our enemies and not being surprised, and to strike the enemy with a powerful, decisive blow.”

Violence and terrorism, said the prime minister, were not a natural phenomenon nor an inevitable fate that the State of Israel had to accept.

“Our enemies will [one day] understand the degree to which their dream of destroying us is hopeless,” he said.

“We are fighting a cruel and death-seeking enemy. Day after day, we receive reminders that the journey is not yet complete. Instead of building their lives and futures, our enemies refuse to abandon their desire to destroy our lives. But look at us and [look at] them. The enemy is drowning in poverty and miserable feelings of victimhood, while we built a prosperous, strong and optimistic country.”

Israel’s answer to its enemies, he said, is an “iron wall of power.”

Poll finds half of Jewish Israelis support Jewish prayer on Temple Mount

(JNS) — Fifty percent of the Jewish population of Israel support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism, according to an Israel Democracy Institute Israeli Voice Index poll.

The survey found that 38 percent base their support for Jewish worship at the Temple Mount on “the message it sends regarding Israel’s sovereignty over the holy site,” while 12 percent cited religious reasons, saying prayer there is a religious commandment.

Some 40 percent oppose Jewish worship on the Mount, with the majority (23 percent) expressing concern over a negative reaction in the Muslim world and 17 percent saying it’s forbidden by Jewish law. (Some Jewish religious authorities hold that Jews should not visit the site as it was the location of the ancient holy temples.)

According to status quo arrangements reached after the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem where the Temple Mount is located, Jews may visit the Temple Mount but not pray there.

Muslims say that Jews have changed the status quo and allowed prayer at the site, declaring this a reason for recent rioting on the Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as Al Aqsa, and claim as the third holiest site in Islam.

Israel denies there have been any changes at the site. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at an April 24 press conference: “Israel is committed to the status quo on the Temple Mount. Muslims pray on the Temple Mount. Non-Muslims visit.”

The IDI survey also broke down those polled by religious observance, finding that most haredim, nearly 87 percent, oppose Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

On the other hand, more than half of Jews who identify as either national religious or traditional religious support prayer on the mount, as did nearly half of all “traditional non-religious,” who said Jewish prayer bolsters Israel’s sovereignty at the site.

Of secular respondents, 39 percent oppose Jewish worship on the Temple Mount due to fears of a negative reaction across Muslim states.

The Israeli Voice Index was prepared by the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. The survey was conducted between April 24-26 on the Internet and by telephone, involving 601 men and women in Hebrew and 150 in Arabic.

New York lawmaker prompts ‘End Jew Hatred Day’ amid uptick in anti-Semitism

“How do we shift the growing trend from hate and violence to love and tolerance?” asks State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick.

(JNS) A day after Yom Hashoah, the annual remembrance of the Holocaust, a New York lawmaker issued a proclamation declaring April 29 “End Jew Hatred Day.” The move came amid ongoing anti-Semitic attacks in the Empire State.

State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick presented the proclamation at the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education in Rockland County, N.Y., near the center of the large Orthodox community there.

“We are at a time now when there are horrific human-rights violations occurring on a daily basis around the world. In Syria, in Yemen, in China, in Burma and in Russia’s ongoing attack in Ukraine. And so it’s more important than ever that we keep the memory of the Holocaust alive,” said Reichlin-Melnick during the presentation. “We have to use that knowledge to alert people where racism, bigotry and militarized nationalism can lead when left unchecked.”

“We all know Jew-hatred didn’t end when the Holocaust did,” he said. “New York State has recently experienced an alarming increase in Jew-hatred crimes … it’s a tragedy that New York leads the nation in anti-Semitic incidents.”

He noted that anti-Semitic incidents doubled in Rockland County from 2020 to 2021. New York State recorded more than 415 such incidents in 2021—up from nearly 340 in 2020, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents.

“How do we shift the growing trend from hate and violence to love and tolerance? All of you who are here are part of that solution. This movement is part of that solution,” he continued. “We can be the generation that ends Jew-hatred once and for all in New York State, in the United States and in the world.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, called the event “a momentous occasion.”

“Despite centuries of genocidal persecution and pogroms, the Jewish people have never stopped honoring and celebrating our traditions, heritage and faith,” she said, “and we have never given up on the dream of finally ending Jew hatred in our generation.”

US team in Israel to prepare Biden visit

(JNS) — An American team has been in Israel since Sunday preparing the groundwork for the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

Biden is likely to arrive in Israel at the end of June, reported Haaretz. The visit would be Biden’s first to the Jewish state and the Middle East as U.S. president.

Israeli daily Israel Hayom reported that Biden will likely add an Israel stop to his upcoming visit to Europe, either before a G7 meeting in Germany or after a NATO summit in Spain.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s bureau received a phone call from Washington on Thursday, learning that Biden also intends to visit Ramallah during the visit,” the report added.

Biden accepted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s offer to visit the Jewish state during a telephone conversation between the two leaders on April 24.

In latest gaffe, Israel’s public security minister discloses 1984 special forces op in Syria

(JNS) — Israel’s public security minister inadvertently disclosed classified information on Tuesday during an interview ahead of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism.

In response to a question regarding casualties that had occurred under his command, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev revealed to Kan Bet that a member of the elite unit he had commanded at the time had been killed during an operation in Syria in 1984.

“[St. Sgt.] Barak Sharabi was killed under my command, when I was commander of Sayeret Matkal, deep inside Syria,” said Barlev.

Following the comments, the Israel Defense Forces censor allowed the information about the location of Sharabi’s death to be published, Maariv said in a report.

The gaffe was not the only one made during the interview by the minister, who also claimed that in the past month, no Israelis had been murdered in terrorist attacks.

Four Israelis were murdered in terror attacks in April. According to Maariv, Barlev’s office later released a statement saying that “he was wrong, and he regrets this.”

On March 23, Barlev sparked an uproar during the funeral of Doris Yahbas, an Israeli woman who was murdered by a terrorist in Beersheva on March 22, when he vowed to apprehend the killer, who had been killed during the attack.

“We will not keep quiet until this criminal and terrorist is taken to prison and tried according to the law. We will not keep quiet until we eradicate terrorism,” said the minister. Funeral attendees pointed out to Barlev that the terrorist, Muhammad Abu Al-Kiyan, from the Bedouin town of Houra and a known supporter of ISIS, had been shot dead by civilians during the attack.

Conference of Presidents, AZM launch site for Israel’s ‘Diamond Jubilee’ at 75

The effort is a catalyst for national and local celebratory programs that express solidarity and support for the Jewish state.

Preparations in US for Israeli’s 75th

(JNS) As Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) approaches, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Zionist Movement have launched the “National Coordinating Council for Israel at 75” to prepare national celebrations in the United States for Israel’s 75th anniversary in 2023.

The effort is a catalyst for national and local celebratory programs that express solidarity and support for the Jewish state, as well as provide opportunities to commemorate Israel’s historic achievements.

A central website for Israel 75 in America has been instituted, and plans are underway for graphics and branding, a national events calendar, a speakers bureau and an online resource center to share materials for use in synagogues, schools, campuses, summer camps, Jewish Community Centers, Federations, local organizations and elsewhere.

“We greatly value the opportunity to inform and engage with Jewish communities and the public on this anniversary. The ties between the United States and Israel are strong, and will continue to grow even stronger still over the next 75 years,” said Conference of Presidents chair Dianne Lob and CEO William Daroff.

“Seventy-five years later, Zionism continues to link global Jewry to our ancestral and modern homeland,” said AZM president Deborah Isaac and executive director Herbert Block. “This connection is especially significant for American Jews, and we are delighted to bring our community together to celebrate Israel.”

Russia accuses Israel of supporting ‘neo-Nazi regime’ in Ukraine

(JNS) — Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused Israel of supporting “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv,” deepening a controversy he sparked two days earlier by claiming Hitler had “Jewish blood.”

Asked by Italian media on Sunday how a Nazi regime such as Russia claims exists in Ukraine could be headed by a Jewish president such as Volodymyr Zelensky, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded, “So what if Zelensky is Jewish? Hitler had Jewish blood.” Lavrov went on to state that “the greatest anti-Semites were Jews.”

His remarks caused an uproar in Israel, with both Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issuing harsh condemnations. Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov was also summoned to Jerusalem.

“This angers me not just as foreign minister, but also as the son of a father who was in the Budapest ghetto,” said Lapid on Monday. “Jews didn’t put him in the ghetto. Nazis put him there. The Nazis persecuted the Jews and killed six million Jews. The Ukrainians are not Nazis. Only Nazis were Nazis. Only they dealt with systematic destruction of the Jewish people.”

In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lapid’s remarks were “anti-historical” and explained “to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv,” Reuters reported.

The statement reiterated that Zelensky’s Jewish roots did not preclude Ukraine from being run by neo-Nazis.

“Anti-Semitism in everyday life and in politics is not stopped and is, on the contrary, nurtured [in Ukraine],” the statement said, according to the report.

Leaders from several Western nations have denounced Lavrov’s comments, and Zelensky has accused Russia of having forgotten the lessons of World War II, according to Reuters.

At least 3 killed in terrorist attack in Israeli city of Elad

(JTA) – Two unidentified men attacked passersby in the central Israeli city of Elad on Thursday, killing three people and injuring up to nine others, according to local media reports.

Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom reported the fatalities. At least one of the wounded was in critical condition.

One of the men had been wielding a large object that could have been an ax or a knife, witnesses said. The other possessed a firearm. Local authorities said the men had attacked two different locations.

Local police have launched a manhunt for the attackers, and residents have been asked to shelter in place. 

The attacks came as many Israelis were out celebrating the evening of Yom Ha’atzmaout, Israel’s 74th independence day.

They also came amid multiple signs of rising tension between Israelis and Palestinians, including clashes and arrests at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque (also known by Jews as the Temple Mount) as Jews were allowed to re-enter the sacred Muslim prayer space, and a monumental Israeli high court ruling that cleared the way for the Israeli military to expel 1,300 Palestinians from an area that had been declared an army training zone in the 1980s.

Last week, Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank settlement of Ariel killed an Israeli guard, and Israeli forces killed a Palestinian.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Conference of Presidents to vote on second one-year term for chair Dianne Lob

(JNS) — Dianne Lob, the current chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, will remain in her position for a second one-year term, starting on June 1, pending a final vote by members on May 9.

Members will also be asked to approve Harriet Schleifer, the outgoing national president of the American Jewish Committee, as chair-elect. If approved, Schleifer will assume the chair in June 2023.

Schleifer is already a member of the Conference’s executive council. She also serves as a trustee of Cornell University and on the boards of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Jewish Museum in New York, Jewish Broadcasting Service and Plaza Jewish Community Chapel.

A retired attorney whose focus was education law, she has extensive experience advocating for students with special needs.

The Conference of Presidents represents 53 Jewish organizations and was established as a liaison to the government of the United States and the American Jewish community abroad.


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