Weekly roundup of world briefs
August 18, 2023
US tops list of tourists to Israel
(JNS) — Some 2.25 million foreign tourists entered Israel in the first seven months of the year, with the largest group coming from the United States, figures the Central Bureau of Statistics released on Sunday show.
The total was nearly double that from the same period last year as the world was recovering from the coronavirus pandemic but still lower than in 2019.
The statistics also showed that 5.75 million Israelis went abroad in the first seven months of the year. Of course, this includes many citizens who went overseas more than one time during the period.
America topped the list of tourists to Israel with nearly 640,000 visitors, followed by about 160,000 from France, 130,000 from the United Kingdom, 120,000 from Germany and another 120,000 from Russia.
The Tourism Ministry forecasts that nearly 4 million tourists will visit by the end of the year. The record-breaking year for tourism in Israel in 2019 saw more than 4.5 million tourists arrive.
Last year, 2,675,000 foreign tourists visited Israel, compared to 397,000 in 2021 and 831,000 in 2020, when international travel was curbed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel was recently ranked the fifth-safest country in the world for tourists to visit.
Chinese restaurant in London offers kosher dishes with a side of history
(JNS) — The legendary relationship between the Jewish people and Chinese cuisine has reached new heights at a North London venue that offers both contemporary dishes and a taste of history.
The name “Kaifeng” originates from a group of Jews from Persia who followed the Silk Road to ultimately settle in Kaifeng, China. The community reached 2,500 and was renowned for a large synagogue with architecture inspired by Chinese temples. During Passover, according to reports, their custom was to eat Chinese (also known as moo shu) pancakes, which were technically unleavened.
The kosher restaurant named after these since-disappeared people, who assimilated into broader Chinese society, offers a variety of Cantonese-style meals, including crispy chili beef, honey chicken and hoisin duck. Dishes specifically inspired by the Jews of Kaifeng also appear on the menu, such as a Henan-style lamb and chicken marinated in cumin, hoisin and chilies.
Co-owner Philip Pell says the restaurant he runs with Norman Han “was opened at a time when limited kosher food was available, and even now, 38 years later, no one has rivaled Kaifeng.”
It has since welcomed everyone from locals to tourists to politicians worldwide.
Whole Foods offers expanded selection of kosher items
(JNS) — Haddar Sesame Tahini, Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix and Heaven & Earth Almond Butter Bites in Coconut Date and Coconut Hazelnut are among the products in an expanded partnership between one of the biggest suppliers of Jewish delicacies and an influential grocery chain with more than 500 locations across the United States.
Kayco, a kosher-food creator with numerous brands such as Gefen and Manischewitz, announced that now a collection of 50 items would make up the Kayco Kosher Food Set at Whole Foods Market.
Kayco notes that “the expanded assortment is designed to cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences.”
Other items included chicken broth, vegetable broth, egg noodles, potato-pancake mix, whole-wheat tea biscuits and matzah meal, as well as offerings from the Kedem line of organic grape juice and cooking oil. Kayco also provides Whole Foods with a line of kosher gluten-free products, such as matzah, cookies, candy, noodles and cooking wines.
IDF to turn organic waste into renewable energy
By Pesach Benson
(JNS) The Israeli Defense Ministry and the IDF launched an initiative on Monday to convert organic waste on military bases into renewable energy.
The initiative, in collaboration with HomeBiogas, a startup based in Moshav Beit Yanai, near Netanya, aims to convert kitchen waste into biogas.
Biogas is a renewable energy source produced through the breakdown of organic matter such as agricultural waste, animal manure, food scraps and sewage, in an oxygen-free environment. This process involves the activity of microorganisms that break down the organic materials and produce a mixture of gases, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, along with trace amounts of other gases such as hydrogen sulfide.
The methane content gives biogas its energy potential, making it a valuable resource for generating energy that can be used for cooking, heating or transportation. Biogas can also be applied to fertilizer and waste management.
A ceremony held on Monday at the IDF’s Glilot Base near Herzliya marked the installation of the army’s first system.
The technology can recycle up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of organic waste daily. The biogas produced will be used to heat water for the base.
The HomeBiogas system will be used in a one-year trial. If the assessments are positive, more systems will be purchased for additional bases.
According to the Defense Ministry, the IDF spends approximately $22 million yearly on the disposal of waste, with the majority ending up in landfills.
Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said, “HomeBiogas’ system represents a promising solution that can significantly contribute to combating the climate crisis, addressing a pressing need in the extensive mass catering industry.”
HomeBiogas CEO and co-founder Oshik Efrati said, “We see this important collaboration as a significant milestone in our company’s journey towards expanding its business activity. This project represents another crucial step in fulfilling HomeBiogas’s vision of offering innovative and cost-effective solutions for generating renewable energy while simultaneously reducing environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation and disposal of organic waste.”
Teens face multiple felonies after eight acts of vandalism in Florida
(JNS) — Three minors and one adult allegedly perpetrated a series of crimes in the last two weeks terrorizing the Jewish community of Pensacola, Fla. These included bricks with swastikas drawn on them thrown through synagogue windows and black swastikas spray-painted on a house.
Local law authorities arrested and charged Waylon Fowler, 17, Wyatt Fowler, 15, Nicholas Ferry, 16, and Kessler Ferry, 18, for the crimes.
The Fowlers received seven counts of felony criminal mischief, upgraded to a hate crime, as well as one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief and one charge of felony trespassing.
Nicholas Ferry received four counts of felony criminal mischief; Kessler Ferry received a single count of felony criminal mischief. Both charges were increased to hate crimes.
Other vandals potentially involved may also find themselves in handcuffs soon, police warned.
Pensacola Police Chief Eric Randall said, “We hope that these arrests can bring comfort and closure not only to those in our Jewish community, but to all citizens of this great city.”
Israel’s Kan calls Galilee ‘Occupied Northern Palestine’
(JNS) — The Arabic-language website of Israeli public broadcaster Kan recently published an article calling the Galilee “Occupied Northern Palestine.”
Makan, Kan‘s Arabic-language news site, posted the article on Aug. 3 about a car accident in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel.
Following public outcry, the wording of the story was changed.
Middle East expert Dr. Edy Cohen posted a screenshot of the original article to X, formerly Twitter. In his post, Cohen described the incident as part of a “Palestinianization process” at the taxpayer-funded news organization.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi sent a letter over a month ago to Kan expressing concern about the anti-Israel language being used in its Arabic-language broadcasts.
The Btsalsmo human rights organization sent a letter to Kan management demanding an investigation into the incident and that the employees responsible for the post be suspended if it was accidental and fired if it was deliberate.
“Anyone who calls the State of Israel an ‘occupied’ country has no place in the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation but should find employment on Al Jazeera or on Hezbollah’s TV channel,” Btsalsmo CEO Shai Glick wrote.
Kentucky Fried Chicken reopens in Tel Aviv
(JNS) — Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its new flagship store in Tel Aviv’s Opera Tower complex on Thursday, solidifying KFC’s re-entry into the Israeli market that started some three years ago.
The restaurant chain’s latest addition, located on the White City’s iconic Allenby Street and near the beach, will serve customers seven days a week between 11 a.m. and midnight, KFC announced in a Facebook post.
Unlike in the past, no KFC restaurants are certified as being kosher.
KFC opened and closed its operations in the Jewish state in the 1980s and 1990s, and then reopened for almost 10 years in the 2000s. Then, the restaurants were operated by local franchisees rather than the U.S.-based parent company.
In 2020, KFC opened its first new branch in the Lower Galilee city of Nazareth. It has since opened restaurants in Haifa, Beersheva and Netanya, among other major cities. The Tel Aviv branch is its 17th location, and the company is seeking to expand further.
In recent months, several international corporations have set up shop in Israel.
In January, following its announcement of a 20-year franchise agreement, the U.S.-based convenience store chain 7-Eleven opened its first Israeli location in Tel Aviv. The opening turned out to be quite a hit, as Israelis flocked to taste Slurpees and shop for items at the iconic chain.
Thirty 7-Eleven branches are set to be open throughout Israel by the end of 2023, with hundreds more expected in the next few years, franchisee and appliance maker Electra Consumer Products has said.
Extreme heat wave to hit Israel
(JNS) — The Israel Meteorological Service on Thursday warned of an extreme heat wave across the country in the coming days.
Friday will see normal weather for the month of August, but on Saturday the temperatures will start to rise across Israel but mainly in the mountains and the interior of the country.
The heat wave is expected to peak on Sunday with roasting temperatures in the mountains and the eastern valleys, with many places above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and some areas over 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
The daily peaks along the coastline will be lower at 30 to 35 degrees Celsius (86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) but with high humidity, meaning that the beaches and nearby areas will still feel the extreme heat.
According to the Israel Meteorological Service, a rare phenomenon for this season of medium-to-high clouds in the sky will roll in from the east and possibly bring lightning.
Temperatures will start dropping on Monday and the rest of the week will see seasonally normal weather.
A heat wave hit Israel last month as well, one that affected the eastern Mediterranean region as well as the Balkans and much of Europe.
The Health Ministry urged the elderly and the chronically ill to avoid exposure to the sun and called on the public to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and heatstroke. Authorities also banned lighting fires in public areas and placed an aerial firefighting squadron on special alert.
Orthodox Jewish mayor of Florida town receives neo-Nazi death threat
By Menachem Wecker
(JNS) — Shlomo Danzinger, the Orthodox Jewish mayor of Surfside, Fla., is reportedly under police protection following a neo-Nazi death threat against him and his family.
Danziger received a threatening email on Aug. 4 from someone who purported to be part of the Fourth Reich, “a reference to a potential resurrection of a Nazi party, with the unknown sender suggesting the possibility of coming to Danzinger’s house to ‘teach his family a lesson,’” VIN News reported.
The publication added that authorities saw it as a credible threat.
Danziger, his wife, and their children (9, 14, 15 and 20) have been remaining in their home, and the couple’s 21-year-old son, who is serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, offered to come help protect the family. The family declined, per VIN News.
“I told them that they weren’t leaving the house unless someone comes with them and that if they see flashlights around the neighborhood, it is people who are protecting us, just as a precaution,” Danzinger told the publication.
“Antisemitism is at historic levels not only in the halls of Congress and on social media but on the streets of South Florida that I and hundreds of thousands of Jewish Americans call home,” Bryan Leib, executive director of CASEPAC, told JNS.
Leib called on the entire Florida Jewish community, both Democrats and Republicans, to pray for Danzinger and his family.
“No Jewish public official should have to be put into police protection because they are an outspoken Jew,” Leib told JNS. “But that is exactly what is happening right now in Surfside. Antisemitism has no place in Florida.”
ADL report: Antisemitism growing on political left
(JNS) — Antisemitism, particularly in the form of anti-Zionism, is growing on the political left, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League.
“While antisemitism from individuals associated with left-leaning political organizations is generally less violent than right-wing antisemitism, its penetration into the political mainstream is cause for concern and has in some cases alienated Jews and other supporters of Israel,” according to the report. “Concerns are both political and physical.”
Anti-Jewish sentiments and incidents in Europe can be “a bellwether for what is to come for the U.S. Jewish community,” per the new report.
That is “evidenced for example by the recent rise in violent antisemitism in the U.S., which has plagued European Jewish communities for many years, and the increase in anti-Zionism in U.S. progressive spaces, something that has existed in Europe for some time.”
The ADL produced the report in partnership with the Community Security Trust (U.K.), the Amadeu Antonio Foundation (Germany), Action and Communication on the Middle East (Spain) and the French magazine K., The Jews, Europe, the 21st Century.
Israel, India launch watertech startup program
By Pesach Benson
(JNS) — In an effort to help Indian startups meet their country’s water challenges, Israel and India recently launched a program aiming to empower Indian watertech startups.
The Israeli Embassy in India will collaborate with The Circle: Founders Club, a business accelerator based in Gurugram and backed by Hunch Ventures, to help Indian startups get tech validation, commercialization, market access and fundraising.
Selected founders will also be part of a comprehensive accelerator program that includes mentorship and networking opportunities from both Indian and Israeli specialists in water technology.
The program was officially launched with the signing on Aug. 3 of a Memorandum of Understanding between Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon and Karanpal Singh, founder of Hunch Ventures and The Circle.
India faces significant water issues arising from a combination of factors, including population growth, urbanization, industrialization, agricultural demands, climate change and inadequate water management practices. These challenges have far-reaching implications for the country’s economy, environment and public health.
“Israel is the global leader in water technologies, and given India’s large population we are thrilled to work together towards sustainability and water security. Through this collaboration we will bring leading technologies to work with Indian companies to find domestic solutions,” said Singh.
Spearheading the initiative will be Doron Gidony, the embassy’s innovation attaché, together with Nemesisa Ujjain, Circle FC’s Vice President for Innovation.
“By incorporating expertise from both Israel and India, we aim to address critical water challenges of our time,” said Ambassador Gilon. “Together, Israel and India are poised to lead the charge towards a more water-secure world.”