Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs

Israel’s coalition to advance bill giving Druze special status

(JNS) — Israel’s government coalition announced on Saturday evening that it will advance a Basic Law to give the Druze community special status.

The decision comes as six soldiers from the minority have been killed in action against Hamas terrorists in Gaza during the IDF’s “Operation Swords of Iron.”

Coalition chairman Ofir Katz and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced the legislation, saying that “in the coming days we will advance the draft law on the foundation of the Druze community, which aims to anchor the important position of the Druze community in the State of Israel.”

Katz said, “We’re setting the wheels in motion for the Druze community Basic Law [to pass] in the imminent future. The aim is to enshrine in law the crucial role of the Druze community in the State of Israel.”

The proposal will not amend the 2018 “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” which was seen by some as giving the Druze and other minorities second-class citizenship and was opposed by Druze leaders.

Druze are known for their fierce loyalty to Israel and high rates of military service, particularly in combat roles.

“I welcome this important initiative, which will do historical justice to the members of the Druze community in Israel,” Construction and Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf said.

“There is a covenant of blood between the State of Israel and the Druze community and we have the responsibility and duty to do everything so that the citizens of Israel who are members of the community are equal in their status and rights,” the minister said.

Mixed-gender battalion fights in Gaza for first time

(JNS) — For the first time, a mixed-gender battalion is fighting inside the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday.

The soldiers from the 498th “Shahar” Battalion, part of the Home Front Command’s Rescue and Training Brigade, joined the ground forces’ activity in Gaza, the IDF said.

The female and male fighters of the battalion joined brigade combat teams of the 162nd Division, performing tasks such as scanning buildings and locating weapons in the area of the Shati Camp. The camp is a Hamas stronghold in northern Gaza.

During a raid on a hotel where Hamas terrorists were hiding, soldiers also uncovered an underground floor in a hotel where intelligence material was found.

The Shahar Battalion’s engineers also advise other soldiers on the safety of damaged buildings they consider entering.

Israeli troops hold mezuzah-hanging ceremony in Gaza City

(JNS) — IDF troops held a mezuzah-hanging ceremony in Gaza City, Israel National News reported on Monday.

Givati Infantry Brigade Rabbi Daniel Kind led the ceremony, which was attended by soldiers and commanders in the Strip as part of the mission to defeat Hamas after the Oct. 7 massacre.

“I wish the entire brigade to continue in our special work, in the great mission. God willing, we will succeed,” Kind was quoted as saying.

In Jewish tradition, a mezuzah (“doorpost” in Hebrew) is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah held in a case that is attached to the right doorframe of the entrance to the home and in all of the rooms of the residence.

Due to uncertainty concerning the Gaza City ceremony under Jewish law (halachah), the rabbi recited a verse from Psalms instead of the regular blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord; train me in Your laws.”

Rabbi Yoel Rechel, who was expelled from Gush Katif during the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, posted a video to Facebook on Nov. 16 of another mezuzah-blessing ceremony after IDF troops took over Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, which the rabbi renamed to the Hebrew Elazar.

Israeli soldiers prayed at a sixth-century synagogue in Gaza earlier this month.

Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, tweeted that “for the first time in decades, Israeli soldiers prayed in the ancient synagogue in Gaza which was built in the 6th century and where a beautiful mosaic floor depicting King David was unearthed years ago. Jews have returned to Gaza!!”

Award announced for information leading to killer of Samantha Woll

(JNS) — Following the arrest and release without charges of an unnamed suspect in the death of synagogue leader Samantha Woll, Detroit law enforcement has put forward a reward for clues.

Those providing information leading to the arrest of her killer will receive $15,000.

In spite of a lack of suspects, police continue to insist that antisemitism was not a motivating factor, citing a lack of signs typical in a hate crime.

Law enforcement found Woll’s body outside her house on Oct. 21, believing she fled after an attack inside the house.

Michigan home of Rahm Emanuel vandalized with antisemitic graffiti

(JNS) — A home in Gordon Beach, Mich., belonging to Rahm Emanuel—U.S. ambassador to Japan, former White House chief of staff and former mayor of Chicago—was vandalized recently with antisemitic graffiti.

“Our family is very proud of how our friends, neighbors and the community have rallied to our support and in a singular voice in condemning hatred and bigotry,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times. He was reportedly in Chicago at the time of the incident.

Photos showed the word “Nazis,” with the last letter forming a dollar sign, painted in black on a wooden fence at the property on Lake Michigan. The second letter appeared to be an anarchist symbol.

The Michigan office of the Anti-Defamation League said it is “disgusted” by antisemitic messages defacing both Emanuel’s home and Chabad of Kalamazoo in Michigan. It added that it is working with law enforcement and the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan and urges that “both incidents be investigated as potential hate crimes.”

“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness,” said Rabbi Mordechai Haller of the Kalamazoo Chabad House of the vandalism of the Jewish center and Chanukah decorations there.

“This was an act of darkness,” he added. “There’s a lot of darkness in the world. The way that we fight is we start with light.”

Water 4 Mercy brings fresh water to Tanzanian village for first time

(JNS) — A nonprofit entity that combines efforts at water access, improved agriculture and community engagement in sub-Saharan Africa has brought its innovations to an 18th community.

Water 4 Mercy has created a supply of fresh water for the Ausia village in Kondoa, Tanzania, a remote location that during dry seasons necessitated long walks for its 3,000 or so residents to retrieve uncontaminated water.

“In the process of getting this tainted water, it is common that women, who are traditionally tasked with water retrieval for the home, hurt themselves, are attacked by animals and in many cases raped,” said the nonprofit.

The project began in 2023 in collaboration with its partner group, Innovation: Africa. Water 4 Mercy tapped an aquifer to provide fresh water and installed solar panels to operate the pumps.

Nermine Khouzam Rubin, founder and CEO of Water 4 Mercy, noted that “this work would not be possible without the collaboration of our partners at Innovation: Africa, CultivAid and the Don Bosco Technical Institutes, as well as the donations of our patrons.”

Israel recalls South Africa envoy over ‘genocide’ comment

(JNS) — Israel has recalled its ambassador to South Africa for consultations after the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) accused the Jewish state of “genocide” in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that Eliav Belotsercovsky would return to Jerusalem following the “latest statements from South Africa.”

ANC spokeswoman Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said last week that, “We cannot sit back and watch the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime.”

The move comes two weeks after Pretoria recalled its diplomats from Israel.

“We are … extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said at the time.

“We felt it important that we do signal the concern of South Africa while continuing to call for a comprehensive cessation [of hostilities],” she continued.

Israel has consistently stated that its war is with Hamas, not Gazan civilians, and has demonstrated how Hamas commits war crimes by using human shields. Israel maintains that it acts within international law and does everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

Pandor spoke by phone with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Oct. 17, less than two weeks after the terror group’s assault on southern Israel, during which it massacred 1,200 people, wounded more than 5,000 others and took some 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Torah scrolls dedicated at Western Wall in honor of hostages, soldiers

(JNS) — A massive Torah scroll dedication ceremony to honor Israeli hostages and soldiers in Gaza was set to take place Tuesday afternoon at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Two scrolls were being dedicated “to elevate the souls of the fallen, the well-being of soldiers, and return of the hostages.”

Families of fallen soldiers and hostages as well as evacuees from the north and south were slated to attend the ceremony. Rabbis and public figures were also expected to participate.

Prayers will focus on the speedy return of some 240 hostages being held by Hamas after they were kidnapped on Oct. 7, when thousands of Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border with the Gaza Strip and murdered 1,200 Israelis.

Other prayers will be for the health and safety of Israeli soldiers in harm’s way.

Ceremonies were also taking place for dozens of additional Torah scrolls that will eventually be donated to communities devasted by the war.

The first Torah scroll will be completed on Tuesday at the Western Wall and dedicated the following day to the Kerem Shalom community in the Gaza Envelope.

Israeli troops hold mezuzah-hanging ceremony in Gaza City

(JNS) — IDF troops held a mezuzah-hanging ceremony in Gaza City, Israel National News reported on Monday.

Givati Infantry Brigade Rabbi Daniel Kind led the ceremony, which was attended by soldiers and commanders in the Strip as part of the mission to defeat Hamas after the Oct. 7 massacre.

“I wish the entire brigade to continue in our special work, in the great mission. God willing, we will succeed,” Kind was quoted as saying.

In Jewish tradition, a mezuzah (“doorpost” in Hebrew) is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah held in a case that is attached to the right doorframe of the entrance to the home and in all of the rooms of the residence.

Due to uncertainty concerning the Gaza City ceremony under Jewish law (halachah), the rabbi recited a verse from Psalms instead of the regular blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord; train me in Your laws.”

Rabbi Yoel Rechel, who was expelled from Gush Katif during the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, posted a video to Facebook on Nov. 16 of another mezuzah-blessing ceremony after IDF troops took over Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, which the rabbi renamed to the Hebrew Elazar.

Israeli soldiers prayed at a sixth-century synagogue in Gaza earlier this month.

Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, tweeted that “for the first time in decades, Israeli soldiers prayed in the ancient synagogue in Gaza which was built in the 6th century and where a beautiful mosaic floor depicting King David was unearthed years ago. Jews have returned to Gaza!!”

IAF strikes three armed terror cells at Lebanese border

(JNS) — Israeli aircraft on Tuesday struck three armed terror cells in Lebanese territory close to the border, as well as a number of Hezbollah targets, the army said.

Sirens sounded in northern Israel on Tuesday morning due to a potential hostile aircraft intrusion from Lebanon, with the IDF later giving the all-clear. 

Three anti-tank missile launches from Lebanon toward the area of Metula near the Israel-Lebanon border were identified by the IDF on Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported, and the IDF struck the source of the launches.

Later on Tuesday morning, the IDF reported that terrorists fired mortar shells at a military post in northern Israel. No injuries were reported in that attack and the IDF responded with artillery fire.

Iron Beam laser intercepts Hamas rocket from Gaza

(JNS) — Israel made history in recent days with the first operational use its “Iron Beam” laser defense system during its war with Hamas, Channel 14reported on Monday.

The laser beam successfully intercepted an incoming rocket fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory.

The incident is the first use of a laser-based air defense system in a war zone.

More than 10,000 missiles, rockets, mortars and drones have been launched at Israel since the start of “Operation Swords of Iron” in response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

Israel is accelerating the development of the Iron Beam, with the security establishment aiming to make it fully operational as early as next year, according a report on Monday in Israeli daily business news site Calcalist.

“More than a hundred engineers from Rafael’s Research, Development and Engineering division are working on accelerating the development of Iron Beam,” the article states.

Iron Beam is the first ever ground-based laser air defense system against rockets, mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles, delivering speed-of-light engagement of threats at low cost compared to missile interceptors.

Israel’s “Iron Sting” laser- and GPS-guided mortar weapon was used for the first time in combat during the Gaza ground operation, the IDF reported on Tuesday.

Soldiers from the Maglan unit used the Iron Sting weapon along with the Spike anti-tank guided missile during activities in the Strip. According to the IDF, the Maglan soldiers destroyed over 70 targets and killed many terrorists.

USC suspends professor who called for Hamas ‘murderers’ to be killed

(JNS) — At a Nov. 10 vigil at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, professor John Strauss made clear his condemnation of the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip and attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“Hamas are murderers; that’s all they are,” he said. “Everyone should be killed, and I hope they all are.”

In response, administrators chose to bar Strauss from campus, allowing him to contact students virtually for the rest of the semester.

“Totally barring a professor from campus because of a passing comment like this is a shocking overreaction. Regardless of professor Strauss’s intent, he is entitled to his views and the right to share them,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America.

He continued, saying “it is no doubt a challenging time for campuses, and we recognize that words may feel especially menacing in this environment. But it is exactly because of rising tensions that universities must resist the urge to place limits on speech or dole out punishments for comments that do not rise to the level of clear threats or incitement.”

Friedman added that “what USC has done runs counter to the university’s obligation to foster dialogue and debate.”

Israeli soldier saves six lives after falling in Gaza

By Pesach Benson

(JNS) — IDF Staff Sergeant Yehonatan Yitzhak Semo, 21, was wounded in combat in central Gaza on Nov. 10 and evacuated to the Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah, where he later died.

He was a resident of Karmei Tzur, near Hebron.

His organs have been donated to six patients, Israel’s National Transplant Center announced on Sunday.

Semo’s lungs were transplanted into 36 year-old Meir Atsaba, also of Kiryat Gat. The father of two had suffered from lung disease which became life-threatening when he contracted coronavirus.

Yaakov Malka, a 46-year-old father of four from Kiryat Gat, received Sam’s heart. He suffered from heart failure and at one point had even received an artificial heart.

Semo’s liver was donated to a 51 year-old patient while the liver lobe was transplanted into an eight-month-old infant.

The kidneys were transplanted into a 10-year-old child and a 50-year-old patient.

 

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