Israel: Ancient Galilee church unearthed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Ancient Galilee church unearthed, said to be home to apostles Peter and Andrew

Israeli archaeologist says dig at El-Araj, near Sea of Galilee, confirms it as the site of fishing village Bethsaida

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

AFP — Excavations in Israel’s Galilee have uncovered remains of an ancient church said to mark the home of the apostles Peter and Andrew, the dig’s archaeological director said Friday.

Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, said this season’s dig at nearby El-Araj confirmed it as the site of Bethsaida, a fishing village where Peter and his brother Andrew were born according to the Gospel of John.

The Byzantine church was found near remnants of a Roman-era settlement, matching the location of Bethsaida as described by the first century AD Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Aviam said.

The newly discovered church, he added, fitted the account of Willibald, the Bavarian bishop of Eichstaett who visited the area around 725 AD and reported that a church at Bethsaida had been built on the site of Peter and Andrew’s home.

According to Willibald, Aviam says, Bethsaida lay between the biblical sites of Capernaum and Kursi.

“We excavated only one third of the church, a bit less, but we have a church and that’s for sure,” Aviam told AFP.

Co-directors of the Galilee early church excavations at their recent dig site, historian Jacob Ashkenazi and archaeologist Mordechai Aviam from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret Academic College (courtesy Mordechai Aviam)

“The plan is of a church, the dates are Byzantine, the mosaic floors are typical… chancel screens, everything that is typical of a church.”

“Between Capernaum and Kursi there is only one place where a church is described by the visitor in the eighth century and we discovered it, so this is the one,” he said.

Christians recognize Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.

The Catholic Church also venerates him as its first pope.

El-Araj, known as Beit Habeck in Hebrew, is not the only candidate for the site of Bethsaida.

About two kilometers (more than a mile) away at e-Tell, digging has been going on since 1987 and according to the National Geographic website has unearthed major ninth-century BC fortifications and “Roman-period houses with fishing equipment, including iron anchors and fishing hooks, and the remains of what may be a Roman temple.”

Aviam is convinced that he and his international team, with professor R. Steven Notley of New York City’s Nyack College as academic director, are digging in the right spot.

“We have a Roman village, in the village we have pottery, coins, also stone vessels which are typical of first century Jewish life, so now we strengthen our suggestion and identification that El-Araj is a much better candidate for Bethsaida than e-Tell,” he said.

“It has been excavated for the past 32 years. We started digging two years ago because we thought it’s the better one and now we have the proofs.”

Notley, interviewed in Israeli daily Haaretz, is a little more cautious, saying the clincher will be if complete excavation of the El-Araj church reveals an inscription.

“It would be normal to find an inscription in a church of the Byzantine period, describing in whose memory it was built, for instance,” he told the paper.

The Oldest Continually Inhabited Cities on Each Continent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The Oldest Continually Inhabited Cities on Each Continent

On every continent we find some of the oldest cities that early human civilizations called home. Successful long-term dwelling habitation occurs from a blending of sources. The region needs a strong economy with quality and consistency in the creation of trade. A perpetual food and water supply, availability of work, enduring infrastructure and uninterrupted peace and harmony are classic explanations.

Maintenance of the ratio of birth and death rates, as well as immigration and migration, must balance the population. All these society-friendly conditions continue to come together in some of the oldest cities on the continents of North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

North America: Cholula, Mexico

Credit: Orbon Alija / iStock

In North America, the pre-Columbian city of Cholula is found in the state of Puebla, Central Mexico. It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America, expanding from a settlement to a village and is now a regional city. The available data regarding the establishment of first-time inhabitants are conflicting, ranging from anywhere from 2000 B.C., between 800 B.C. and 200 B.C., and from the 7th century. The current thinking is that Toltec refugees settled in the area following the fall of Tula. However, other information indicates that the peoples were the children of one of the seven Aztec tribes.

Eighteen neighborhoods make up the city, and each one has a leader. This city is well known for the Iglesias de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sanctuary. The local economy continues to endure, thanks to visitors from all over the world.

South America: Quito, Ecuador

Credit: Andrew Linscott / iStock

In South America, the oldest inhabited city is Quito in Ecuador. Located at the Guayllabamba river basin, it is the capital of Ecuador. Sources cite varying dates for first-time inhabitants, stretching from the occupation of the Kingdom of Quito from 2000 B.C. to 980 A.D., or the 13th or 16th century.

Despite earthquakes, there is enough water for residential and industrial use that the city’s population continues to replenish itself. A renewing spirit of culture, economy and environmental resources has engaged the 2 million residents and their government. Rebuilding and renovation projects have included a new airport, the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, an ecologically sustainable Metrobus-Ecovia that links the northern and southern edges of the city and a new subway system.

Middle East: Jericho, West Bank

Credit: GA161076 / iStock

Based on archeological support, it is suggested that Jericho is among the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Destroyed, abandoned, re-inhabited and enlarged many times, the city dates back to 11,000 to 9000 B.C. with the walled defenses around 6800 B.C. Researchers have uncovered 20 successive communities.

Located below sea level, Jericho has the distinction of not only being the oldest inhabited, walled city, but also geographically the lowest, located 847 feet below sea level. Local springs found near the city from the nearby Jordan River are a welcome water supply to the nearly 20,000 current residents. Considered the oasis of the Jordan Valley, tourists make a pilgrimage to soak in the unique history of this biblical-era city.

Africa: Luxor (Thebes), Egypt

Credit: cinoby / iStock

The oldest continuously inhabited city in Africa, Luxor is home to about 500,000 residents and situated near the Nile River. Estimates place the time of habitation as 7200 B.C. to 3200 B.C. Luxor was established as a sacred religious capital, yet saw decline during the Roman occupation.

Today, visitors travel the globe to explore this ancient Egyptian city. Ruins and classical artifacts abound within the monuments of the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the West Bank Necropolis, and the ruins of the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Supported by the tourist economy, Luxor continues to contribute to antiquity art, culture and knowledge.

Europe: Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Credit: NeonJellyfish / iStock

Assessments place the establishment of Plovdiv at 6,000 years ago. Rich in history, the city was a travel crossroads for the Roman Empire, connecting Western Europe and the Middle East. The survival of thousands of years of conflicts and occupations have left behind a vibrant cultural tapestry. Architectural landmarks, monuments, statues, art and education unite with the Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. Ethnic diversity is still seen today, as Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria, is home to 340,000 inhabitants of Roman, Armenian, Greek, Jewish, and Turkish heritage.

The world’s oldest cities evoke thoughts of faraway places and classical times. Archeological discoveries link us to our common ancestry, and there are many histories yet to be revealed. From the seven hills of Rome to the Americas, communities are the cornerstone of humanity.

Israel: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem

Remains of Neolithic site near Motza, the largest ever discovered in Israel, show mix of agriculture, hunting, animal husbandry — a society at its peak, say archaeologists

  • The huge settlement from the Neolithic Period that was discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Motza intersection near Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority. (Eyal Marco, Antiquities Authority)
    The huge settlement from the Neolithic Period that was discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Motza intersection near Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority. (Eyal Marco, Antiquities Authority)
  • 9,000-year-old figurine of an ox, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)
    9,000-year-old figurine of an ox, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)
  • Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Beads discovered at the Motza archaeological site near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Beads discovered at the Motza archaeological site near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

An unprecedentedly vast Neolithic settlement — the largest ever discovered in Israel and the Levant, say archaeologists — is currently being excavated ahead of highway construction five kilometers from Jerusalem, it was announced on Tuesday.

The 9,000-year-old site, located near the town of Motza, is the “Big Bang” for prehistory settlement research due to its size and the preservation of its material culture, said Jacob Vardi, co-director of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority,

“It’s a game changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” said Vardi. Already some international scholars are beginning to realize the existence of the site may necessitate revisions to their work, he said.

“So far, it was believed that the Judea area was empty, and that sites of that size existed only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or in the Northern Levant. Instead of an uninhabited area from that period, we have found a complex site, where varied economic means of subsistence existed, and all this only several dozens of centimeters below the surface,” according to Vardi and co-director Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily in an IAA press release.

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily (left) and Dr. Jacob Vardi, directors of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Roughly half a kilometer from point to point, the site would have housed an expected population of some 3,000 residents. In today’s terms, said Vardi, prehistoric Motza would be comparable to the stature of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv — “a real metropolis.”

According to an IAA press release, the project was initiated and financed by the Netivei Israel Company (the National Transport Infrastructure company) as part of the Route 16 Project, which includes building a new entrance road to Jerusalem from the west running from the Route 1 highway at the Motza Interchange to the capital.

According to co-director Khalaily, the people who lived in this town had trade and cultural connections to widespread populations, including Anatolia, which is the origin for obsidian artifacts discovered at the site. Other excavated material indicate intensive hunting, animal husbandry, and agriculture.

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

“The society was at its peak” and appeared to increasingly specialize in raising sheep, said Khalaily.

In addition to prehistoric tools such as thousands of arrowheads, axes, sickle blades, and knives, storage sheds containing large stores of legumes, especially lentils, were uncovered. “The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site’s age,” said the archaeologists.

Alongside utilitarian tools, a number of small statues were unearthed, including a clay figurine of an ox and a stone face, which Khalaily joked was either a human representation “or aliens, even.”

9,000-year-old figurine depicting a human face, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)

In the ancient, unrecorded past as well as today, the site is situated on the banks of Nahal Sorek and other water sources. The fertile valley is on an ancient path connecting the Shefela (foothills) region to Jerusalem, said the IAA. “These optimal conditions are a central reason for long-term settlement on this site, from the Epipaleolithic Period, around 20,000 years ago, to the present day,” according to the press release.

“Thousands of years before the construction of the pyramids, what we see in the neolithic period is that more and more populations turn to live in a permanent settlement,” said Vardi. “They migrate less and they deal more and more in agriculture.”

Among the architecture uncovered in the excavation are large buildings that show signs of habitation, as well as what the archaeologists identify as public halls and spaces used for worship. In a brief video published by the IAA, archaeologist Lauren Davis walks a narrow path between remains of buildings — a prehistoric alleyway. “Very much like we see in buildings today, separated by alleys between,” said Davis.

Excavation works on the Motza Neolithic site. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to the archaeologists, this alleyway is “evidence of the settlement’s advanced level of planning.” Likewise, the archaeologists discovered that plaster was sometimes used for creating floors and sealing various facilities during the construction of the residents’ domiciles and buildings.

In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals — warriors — who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said.

Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

“There’s also an amazing find,” said Davis, “which is a whole donkey, domesticated, that was buried in front of the tomb probably when they sealed it.” Added Vardi, the donkey was apparently meant to serve the warriors in the world to come.

According to Amit Re’em, the IAA’s Jerusalem District archaeologist, despite the roadworks, a significant percentage of the prehistoric site around the excavation is being preserved and all of it is being documented.

Many bracelets were found at the Motza excavation site. Their size shows that they were probably given to children. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Each architectural structure is being documented through 3-D modeling. “When we finish the excavation here,” said Vardi, “we will be able to continue to research the site in the laboratory,” adding that this is unprecedented use of technology.

“In addition, the IAA plans to tell the story of the site at the site by means of a display and illustration. At Tel Motza, adjacent to this excavation, archaeological remains are being preserved for the public at large, and conservation and accessibility activities are being carried out in Tel Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmut,” announced the IAA release.

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Trump: Democrat congresswomen ‘love’ al-Qaeda, use ‘anti-Semitic’ language

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Trump: Democrat congresswomen ‘love’ al-Qaeda, use ‘anti-Semitic’ language

US president says ‘many people agree with me’ that lawmakers Tlaib, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley should ‘leave the country’ if they hate it

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Made in America showcase event on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Made in America showcase event on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Unbowed by searing criticism, US President Donald Trump on Monday emphatically defended his tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries. Condemnation of his comments “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump declared, adding that the lawmakers employ “anti-Semitic” language and have “love” for terror group al-Qaeda.

Trump responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are US citizens and three of whom were born in the country. He has been roundly criticized by Democrats, who labeled his remarks racist and divisive, and a smattering of Republicans, who also have objected. Most leading Republicans have been silent.

“When I hear the way they talk about our country, when I hear the anti-Semitic language they use, when I hear the hatred they have for Israel, and the love they have for enemies like al-Qaeda, then you know what, I will tell you I do not believe this is good for the Democrat party,” Trump said.

Resurrecting language not prevalent in the US for decades, he added that if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they “can leave” it.

“If you’re not happy in the US, if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said.

The lawmakers’ criticism has been aimed at Trump and his administration’s policies and actions.

Earlier Monday, Trump made clear he had no intention of backing down, asking on Twitter when “the Radical Left Congresswomen” would “apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”

“So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!” he wrote.

It was yet another sign that Trump, who won the presidency in 2016, in part by energizing disaffected voters with incendiary racial rhetoric, has no intention of backing away from that strategy going in 2020. Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks, which typically earn him cycles of front-page media attention.

Asked whether Trump’s comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to “very specific” comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and was not making a “universal statement.”

But Trump did not make that distinction in his tweets. He cited “Congresswomen” — an almost-certain reference to a group of women known as “the Squad” that includes Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

This combination image shows, from left, US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, July 10, 2019; Ilhan Omar, March 12, 2019; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, July 12, 2019; and Ayanna Pressley, July 10, 2019, all in Washington. (AP Photo)

“I don’t think that the president’s intent any way is racist,” said Short, pointing to Trump’s decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the US, as his transportation secretary.

Chao is one of the few minorities working among the largely white and male aides in high-profile roles in Trump’s administration. She is the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had made no comment on Trump’s attacks as of midday Monday.

Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago, when she suggested that some members of Congress support Israel because of money, while Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profane name and predicting he would be removed from office.

Tlaib and Omar are fierce critics of Israel and have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state. Ocasio-Cortez has also criticized Israel on multiple occasions. Pressley, on the other hand, has said she opposes BDS and supports the two-state solution.

Tlaib is organizing a congressional visit to the West Bank in August, to compete with Israel trips organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of AIPAC.

Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump’s Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to “make America white again,” while Ocasio-Cortez said Trump “can’t conceive of an America that includes us.”

“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” she tweeted, adding that, “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”

Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: “You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda.”

Pelosi announced Monday that the House would be holding a vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with him over the weekend, advised him to “aim higher” during an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” even as he accused the members in question of being “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American.”

US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019, on the Mueller Report. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Don’t get personal. Don’t take the bait,” said Graham. He said Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues “are American citizens” who were “duly elected,” while adding: “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country.”

Trump’s words may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering him, and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president’s tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump “continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain.”

“Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Among the few GOP lawmakers commenting, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas said Trump’s Sunday tweet was “not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people” in his district. “We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,” he wrote.

It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.

In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants “rapists.” In 2017, he said there good people on “both sides” of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like African nations.

Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an “infestation” and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among many Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.

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Hezbollah wars that Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Nasrallah warns Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

Hezbollah leader says Tehran has ability to ‘bombard Israel with ferocity and force,’ claims group has bolstered its arsenal with precision missiles that can reach Eilat

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

The head of the Hezbollah terror group warned Friday that Israel would be drawn into any war between the US and Iran and could be “wiped out” in such a conflict.

“Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.

“When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider,” Nasrallah said.

His comments came amid soaring tensions between the US and Iran and just hours after US House of Representatives voted to restrict US President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran, voicing fear that his hawkish policies are pushing toward a needless war.

It was not immediately clear if Nasrallah was referring to Iran’s arsenal of long-range missiles or the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that Iran has supplied the Lebanese Hezbollah.

In this photo provided November 5, 2018, by the Iranian Army, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Earlier in the interview Nasrallah said his Iran-backed group had significantly improved its military capabilities since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

“Our weapons have been developed in both quality and quantity, we have precision missiles and drones,” he said in the interview to mark 13 years since the war.

During the interview Nasrallah held a map of Israel and pointed to strategic targets, which he said Hezbollah could hit, including Ben Gurion Airport, arms depots, petrochemical and water desalinization plants, and the Ashdod port.

He also claimed his missiles could hit the southern Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea.

Nasrallah hinted his organization had acquired anti-aircraft missiles, saying he preferred to keep an ambiguous stance, adding that the Lebanese terror group now had “game-changing offensive capabilities and weapons.”

Israel has long warned that Hezbollah plans to try and invade northern Israel in any future war and recently uncovered several attack tunnels built deep into Israel that were supposed to allow their fighters to enter into Israel.

Hezbollah supporters take part in a rally to mark al-Quds day in Beirut, Lebanon, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

However, Nasrallah said he was confident there would not be a war, because Israel feared the consequences.

He also said regional players were working to prevent a war between the US and Iran. “Our collective responsibility in the region is to work towards preventing an American war on Iran,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had no interest in a conflict erupting.

In recent weeks the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of the US military drone.

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia toward the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Nasrallah also said that the group had recently begun withdrawing it’s fighters that were supporting the Damascus regime in neighboring war-torn Syria.

“We are present in every area that we used to be. We are still there, but we don’t need to be there in large numbers as long as there is no practical need,” he said.

The head of the Iran-backed Shiite movement, which has been fighting in Syria since 2013, did no quantify the extent of the reduction.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Backed by Russia and Iran, the Damascus government has taken back large swathes of territory from rebels and jihadists since 2015, and now controls around 60 percent of the country.

Nasrallah said none of his fighters were currently involved in fighting in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib, where regime and Russian forces have increased deadly bombardment on a jihadist-run bastion since late April.

He spoke after Washington announced fresh sanctions Tuesday against Hezbollah, targeting elected officials from the movement for the first time.

“All dealings with the Syria file has nothing to do with the sanctions or the financial austerity,” he said.

Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the United States, and is the only faction not to have disarmed after the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war.

But it is also a major political player in the small Mediterranean country, taking 13 seats in parliament last year and securing three posts in the current cabinet.

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JULY 13, 2019
CURRENT TOP STORIES
PROFILEFATHER OF FOUR STILL LIVES IN HIS PARENTS’ HOME IN TAYIBE

For 1st Arab head of major Israeli bank, breaking down barriers is second nature

Five lessons on success and excellence to learn from the story of Samer Haj Yehia, Bank Leumi’s new chairman of the board

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Let’s clear something up right from the get-go: Samer Haj Yehia, who was recently named the chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, made a significant crack in the glass ceiling. This marks the first time a major Israeli bank has appointed an Arab chairman.

The dozens of news items and social media posts focusing on Haj Yehia’s career overflow with (entirely justified) praise for the brilliant 49-year-old economist, who managed to overcome numerous obstacles as he made his way from his birthplace of Tayibe, an Arab city in central Israel, to having one of Israel’s top economy positions.

In fact — so thick is the glass ceiling he managed to shatter — that from now on, his name is likely to come up in every debate, discussion, or symposium dealing with the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

A lawyer and certified public accountant, Haj Yehia is slated to take office on July 21, replacing David Brodet, who chaired the board for the past nine years. It is important to stress that no one questions whether Haj Yahya is worthy of this prestigious appointment. His nomination – approved by a majority vote of five in favor and three against – is free of any claim of affirmative action or political correctness, as the boards of directors of banks simply don’t bother with such matters. Their sole focus is on ensuring the bank’s success.

Illustrative image: Israelis walk next to Bank Leumi in Jerusalem on November 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The other three contenders for the position – ex-Finance Ministry director-general and current Israel Oil Refineries Executive Chairman Ohad Marani, former Teva Pharmaceuticals Deputy CEO Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shmuel Ben Zvi, and former Discount Bank Capital Markets and Investments head Dr. Yitzhak Sharir – sufficed with one vote each.

That’s how you smash through the glass ceiling with style.

Haj Yehia’s nomination earned praise left and right. “It’s about time the Israeli government follows in Bank Leumi’s footsteps. Unfortunately, had Samer been vying for a position in the public sector, I’m afraid he wouldn’t have made it,” Tayibe Mayor Sha’a Mansour Massarwa told newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rushed to congratulate Haj Yehia, tweeting, “I welcome Dr. Samer Haj Yehia’s appointment as chairman of the board of directors at Bank Leumi and wish him the best of luck!”

But congratulations aside, Haj Yehia’s personal background deserves a second glance. Before we Israelis pat ourselves on the back and feel reassured that the bank’s move proves that we are not as racist as we may seem, it’s worth mentioning that this impressive achievement – marked before he turned 50 – is first and foremost a personal feat that, if not for a set of extraordinary personal circumstances, may have remained out of reach.

And so, in the spirit of the coaching culture, here are five lessons on success and excellence one can learn from the story of Haj Yehia.

1. It’s best to be born a male

There’s no easy way to say this, and I apologize in advance to anyone who is already outraged and may be ready to write a virulent response, but gender plays a role in this story.

Haj Yehia still lives – with his wife and four children – in his mother’s house in Tayibe. Fatina Haj Yehia, now 74, is a retired schoolteacher. Haj Yehia’s wife, Eden, is an English teacher who works at a school in Ra’anana. His mother’s sister, Sawad Jabareh, who guided this reporter through the ins and outs of the Haj Yehia family, is also a retired teacher.

Samer Haj Yehia has been appointed the chairman of the board of Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. (Courtesy)

Teaching is a noble profession, of course, and certainly one of the more important careers, but it doesn’t exactly require shattering glass ceilings, which is the issue at hand.

The first person to smash through the glass ceiling in the family was Samer’s father, Dr. Mohammed Saleem Haj Yahia, who was one of the first Arab students at Tel Aviv University. He majored in criminology and became a probation officer, handling many cases involving youth from the Tayibe area.

Fatina always wanted a daughter but had four sons. Each of Samer’s brothers has three sons. His older brother, Prof. Saleem Haj Yahia, is a renowned international heart surgeon who lives in Scotland, where he heads the national heart transplant program. His younger brother, Rani Haj Yehia, who also lives in Tayibe, is a finance attorney who heads the Jordan Gateway Free Zone and Industrial Park project.

The fourth brother, Saji, was an engineering major at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was killed in a car accident at the entrance to Tayibe in 1998. Samer Haj Yehia named his firstborn son after him.

Among the many congratulatory calls Haj Yehia received following his nomination were some from relatives who are doing well overseas, including a professor of pharmacology from the University of South Carolina and a senior official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Haj Yehia and his wife, Eden, are the parents of four sons, the youngest of whom was born three months ago. Their two eldest boys, Saji and Bassel, attend the gifted students’ program at the Eastern Mediterranean International School in central Israel, and it wouldn’t be much of a gamble to assume that they, too, will make something of themselves, perhaps even shattering more unnecessary glass ceilings as they go. But unless some fundamental changes take place in Israel, it is also likely they may end up marrying teachers.

“They’re all geniuses. Samer’s son isn’t even two years old and he reads in English at a 10-year-old’s level,” his aunt Jabareh said. “He’s truly extraordinary. He can read the entire English alphabet and he speaks Arabic and English.”

2. It’s best to be born rich

Like the previous statement, this, too, almost goes without saying. This also has more to do with fate and luck, and while it may not guarantee success, different circumstances clearly make the road to success harder.

The Haj Yehia family isn’t only the biggest family in Tayibe – the extended clan numbers 6,000 and counting – they are also one of its most affluent families.

“They are a rich family, very rich,” Jabareh said. “They have land, lots of land. Samar’s paternal grandfather was a very rich man, and he left his children a sizable estate. Samer grew up like a kid in Kfar Shmaryahu [an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv]. He traveled and he was pampered. He never lacked for anything.

“Their life was something else, something very different from other children in Tayibe,” she continued, referring to Samer and his brothers. “In Tayibe, when a child wants a toy, he doesn’t always get it. They always got what they wanted. Well, maybe not all the time, but if they asked for something reasonable, they’d get it.

An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote during elections for the Knesset on April 9, 2019, at a polling station in the northern town of Tayibe. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“They really lacked for nothing. They grew up then the way children grow up now – they have everything except good education. Samer lacked for nothing and he received an excellent education. He once said he was privileged to be able to teach other children, and he has done very well in doing that,” said his aunt.

3. A warm and supporting family is everything

This is the first lesson in our journey toward shattering the glass ceiling that is somewhat under our control. There is no doubt that being financially secure helps keep a family together, but we are no strangers to stories about wealthy families whose members seek to take each other down rather than lift each other up, something that is always a grave mistake.

The Haj Yehia family presents a different model. It is not a coincidence that Samer and his family still live in the family home in Tayibe, with his mother. It is hard to believe that there’s another chairman of a large bank anywhere else in the world, who still lives in his childhood home.

“They are an ideal family,” Jabareh said. “The brothers are very close to each other and close to their mother. They were also very close to their father. They’re really a very close-knit family, always supportive of each other. They always encourage each other, ‘Yes, go for it, don’t be afraid, do it.’ And it helped them all, very much, to get to where they are today.”

Haj Yehia’s father died of a stroke a year ago.

A view of Taibe (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A view of Tayibe. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Samer was in charge of his care until his very last day. He [the father] died at Meir Hospital [in central Israel] and Samer was the only one by his side,” she added. “I told Samer, ‘You knew your dad was dying, why didn’t you tell anyone?’ And he said, ‘Because I wanted to talk to him. He could hear me. I had many things I wanted to say to him before he died.’ We don’t know what he said. He loved his father very much.”

Jabareh said that back when they were all children, she used to envy the brothers.

“They were constantly spoiled. My father, Samer’s grandfather, always gave him special treatment. Even when he fell ill, he asked for Samer. ‘Bring Samer to me, I want to see Samer.’ He would always feel better after seeing him. Samer was also very close to his grandfather. He loved him very much,” said Jabareh.

“There was a time when their mother was alone at home. All four sons were in boarding schools outside Tayibe, and she would prepare food for everyone and bring it to them. She worked – she would work all week and go home only to cook for the children and then travel between their boarding schools to bring them food.

“When Samer was studying in university in Jerusalem he wouldn’t come home to Tayibe every weekend, he preferred to stay and study in the library. He didn’t have a roommate because he wanted to be able to study in peace. His mother would go to Jerusalem to bring him food. It was like that all the time,” Jabareh said.

4. Stand firm against pressure from your environment

Even with the support of family, your environment can still pull you down. Samer’s father, who as a probation officer supervised many paroled criminals in the Tayibe area, was familiar with the perils posed by his children’s surroundings and made sure all four attended boarding school outside the city, sending them to the Al Mutran Christian High School in Nazareth.

“It was a very good school, very few families can afford to send their children there,” Jabareh said. “Samer and his brothers were exceptional in Tayibe in every way – in their behavior, their education, even in how they dressed. Going to school in Nazareth – no one else went there. It was expensive and far away.”

Still, Haj Yehia proved to be exceptional from a very young age.

“It was clear that he was gifted. Everyone saw it, not just us. His kindergarten teachers and schoolteachers, too. A few days ago I ran into one of his teachers from third grade. She told me, ‘I knew, even in third grade, that he was destined to do great things. I used to give them [the children] arithmetic problems and he would solve them before I would finish explaining to the class what to do. He was always like that.’”

It is hard to distinguish between the retroactive compliments with which anyone who garners professional achievement is inundated, and reality. In Tayibe, Haj Yehia is a superstar, the subject of excited wedding conversations and social media posts. In his case, everyone knows that these compliments are grounded in reality, as he has always stood out from the crowd, shining brighter from day one.

Isaac Herzog outside the Knesset. (Courtesy)

By the time he turned 30, Haj Yehia had no less than five degrees under his belt, including in law, economics, and accounting. Current Jewish Agency director and then-partner at Herzog Fox Ne’eman Isaac Herzog mentored him during his internship at what is one of the most prestigious law firms in Israel.

Haj Yehia then set off for the United States, completing a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and embarking on a successful career in the financial world. At the age of 37 he was named the vice president of Boston-based Fidelity Investments, one of the largest multinational financial services corporations in the world. He also served as a lecturer in economics at MIT and Harvard University.

Seven years ago, Haj Yehia gave into his longing for Israel and the family left its comfortable life in Boston and returned to Tayibe. He also felt that his older children were becoming Americans and he didn’t like it.

Back in Israel, he enrolled Saji and Bassel in a local school, to help them reconnect with their hometown and the Arabic language, and later on sent them to school outside Taiybe, as his father did with him.

After his return, many in Tayibe pressured him to enter local politics.

According to Jabareh, “People here wanted him to be mayor, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Many people were angry with him for declining the offer – they saw him as someone who could save Tayibe from all of its financial problems. Very senior members of the Haj Yehia family, who are involved in local politics, pressed him about it, but he showed no interest. I kept telling him, ‘Don’t go into Tayibe [politics]. It’s crazy. Don’t do it.’”

Mayor of Tayibe Sha’a Mansour Massarwa (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

Tayibe is the only city in Israel to be declared insolvent twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, as years of municipal mismanagement have seen it amass nearly NIS 1 billion (roughly $280 million) in debt. In 2013, six years after a trustee was appointed to oversee the city’s finances, a settlement was reached with its creditors for NIS 130 million ($36 million) – 14% of its outstanding debt, which at the time amounted to NIS 931 million ($260 million). The city has since been slowly recovering from its financial woes, but its politics remain tumultuous.

“I know what the municipality is like in Tayibe, the kind of respect the mayor of Tayibe commands, and I still didn’t want Samer to go anywhere near it,” Jabareh said. “I told him, ‘There are plenty of good jobs out there for you. Don’t go into it [politics]. If you do, everyone will end up hating you.’ So he declined the offer and shortly afterward, they [Bank Leumi] offered him a job.”

5. Strive higher, stay motivated, continue to learn and grow

Haj Yehia’s parents encouraged their children to study and work. If there is one thing that can predict success in life – that must be it. Aside from his academic and practical career as a criminologist, his father continued to work the family’s five acres of land, and demanded that his children work on the farm as well.

This had no financial justification, only an educational one – teaching the value of hard work. Rani, Haj Yehia’s younger brother, recently revealed that he and his brothers still work on the family farm on weekends.

Haj Yehia needed little pushing or encouragement. Growing up, he had only a few friends and preferred spending time at home, reading and writing.

As a child, he seemed to be innately motivated, said Jabareh.

“He would come home from school and sit down to do his homework, without his mom or dad telling him he had to do it. They never had to tell him,” she said, recalling a childhood incident that can, perhaps, offer a glimpse into the nature of Bank Leumi’s new chairman.

Illustrative image: Withdrawing money at Bank Leumi on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, January 18, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“I came over to their house one day and his father was working on some kind of university paper and he was using one of those old-fashion calculators. Samer, who was in the fifth or sixth grade, walked up to him, took the calculator from his father’s hand and said, ‘If you use it your mind will stop working. Throw it away and only use your head.’ So yes, he was always like this since childhood.”

Still, she would not venture a guess as to whether Haj Yehia he will use his new position to fight the racism and discrimination plaguing Arabs in Israeli society.

“I don’t know about that,” she said. “I know little about banking and economics, but knowing Samer, I have faith that he’ll try. He’s an idealist.”

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Israel:10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

Boy reportedly hit in head by rubber bullet during demonstration in Kafr Qaddum; IDF says riot control methods used against protesters who threw stones, burned tires

Illustrative -- Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Illustrative — Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A 10-year-old Palestinian boy was said to be seriously wounded during a clash with the Israel Defense Forces at a violent demonstration against the security barrier in a West Bank village on Friday afternoon.

According to Haaretz, citing Palestinian reports, the boy was hit in the head by a rubber bullet during the clash in the village of Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus.

The IDF confirmed to Haaretz that control methods were used to disperse violent demonstrators, but that live ammunition was not deployed.

“In response to a violent demonstration by some 60 Palestinians, during which they burned tires and threw stones, soldiers used various means to disperse the protests, but not with live ammunition. The army received a report of a wounded person around ten years old,” the statement read.

The incident came as the IDF prepared for possible violence on the Gaza border Friday afternoon, a day after a member of Hamas was shot dead by troops in what the army characterized as “a misunderstanding.”

On Thursday, in an unusual move, the military acknowledged that the man had been erroneously identified by soldiers as an armed terrorist, but was apparently an operative trying to stop Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.

A Palestinian protester throws a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military vehicle during protests along the Gaza border with Israel on July 5, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The army’s statement appeared to be an effort to calm tensions with Hamas and prevent another round of violence on the border.

Hamas’s military wing said in a statement that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act.”

The Hamas field commander killed in the incident was Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28.

Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.

Thursday’s border incident came amid a relatively calm period along the normally restive frontier, following a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

In recent days, leaders of the terror group have threatened to bring back the high level of violence along the border — riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On Tuesday, Hamas launched a highly unusual training exercise that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report

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Israel: Tension Prevails Ahead of Egypt’s Delegation Arrival to Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Tension Prevails Ahead of Egypt’s Delegation Arrival to Gaza

Friday, 12 July, 2019 – 09:00
Hamas said that Israel will have to handle the consequences of killing Mahmoud Al-Adham. (File/AFP)
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun
Tension has risen in Gaza with Israel killing a civil official in Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, amid escalating threats from both sides prior to the arrival of the Egyptian security delegation to the strip.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a field leader near the border of northern Gaza.

The Israeli army confirmed the forces fired on two “armed suspects approaching the fence in the northern Gaza Strip,” refusing to provide further details.

The health ministry in Gaza said that 28-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Adham was shot and killed in Thursday’s incident near Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the territory.

Al-Qassam said that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and that Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act,” according to a statement.

In response to this threat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting at city hall in the coastal city of Ashkelon: “I prefer that there be calm. But we are preparing for a campaign that is not only broad but also surprising.”

Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza Iyad al-Bazm said that the ministry and the national security have conducted an emergency maneuver simulating an abrupt security threat – this falls under testing the readiness of the security bodies and forces.

Officials from Hamas said that the exercise imitated Israeli special forces units’ incursion.

According to the ministry’s statement, the maneuver was conducted due to the enemy’s attempts to subvert the security and the state’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian delegation has convened with Israeli security officials and is planning to meet Hamas officials in Gaza to discuss understandings with Israel and the Palestinian reconciliation. Before Gaza, the delegation arrived in Ramallah to discuss the dispute about the reconciliation issue.

Israel: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

10 months after PM identified ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, UN inspectors reportedly conclude that it was indeed used as a nuclear storage facility

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have found traces of radioactive material at a building in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified last year as a “secret atomic warehouse,” an Israeli television report said on Thursday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in an address to the UN General Assembly last September, took soil samples, and have now definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported.

It quoted what it said were four senior Israeli officials involved in the matter, and said the UN agency’s findings had become known to these officials recently.

Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

Iran’s alleged ‘atomic warehouse’ in Turquzabad, Tehran (YouTube screenshot)

But the IAEA inspectors, who last visited the site in March, have reached a “definitive conclusion” that “there were traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 said, and are currently preparing a report on the matter.

The TV report noted that “the storing of radioactive material in a secret facility without informing the IAEA is a breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], to which Iran is a signatory.”

Indicating that Washington is also aware of the IAEA inspectors’ findings, the TV report said that Israel and the US expect the agency to issue a public report on the matter shortly.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday by phone with US President Donald Trump about Iran. “The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” the White House said.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

Speaking at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect what he said was the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital.

He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may have contained as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, Netanyahu added. He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.

Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now, for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”

He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

“Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material,” he went on. “You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99… They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

“Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.”

That speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu told the UN.

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

Following Netanyahu’s UN appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back against the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

Diplomats quoted in April, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times the previous month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. It was said then that results could be ready by June.

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said at the time.

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country was committed to nonproliferation and noted Iran’s nuclear program was under surveillance of the IAEA. A state TV website briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

A Tasnim News reporter who visited the warehouse last October was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and that the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse. The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.

The owner of the nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran. He praised Trump for withdrawing from the accord in May.

Iran has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it would walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In recent days, it has breached the accord’s cap on uranium enrichment levels.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Israel: Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas conducts massive surprise drill simulating IDF incursion into Gaza

Highly rare exercise appears linked to botched IDF special forces raid in November, comes a day after Israel located 18th attack tunnel under Gaza border

Illustrative: Members of Hamas's military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Illustrative: Members of Hamas’s military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group launched a highly unusual training exercise Tuesday night that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Gazans reported a spike in the movement of armed personnel in the streets, including along the border with Israel, before the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the territory announced it was a military drill.

The drill saw the sudden raising of the alert level among all security agencies throughout the Strip, a general mobilizing of reserve personnel to the security services, the deployment of roadblocks, and the closure by Hamas of all land crossings and sea ports. Fishermen were told they could not set out to sea.

It included police, intelligence units and the terror group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Iyad al-Bozm, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, said on Twitter: “The Interior and National Security Ministry is currently carrying out an emergency drill to simulate dealing with a sudden security threat. It is taking place in the framework of examining the preparedness of the security forces and services.”

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist movement, mourn during the funeral of fellow militant Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. Zahar was killed in a tunnel collapse. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Hamas officials told Arabic-language media that the exercise simulated an incursion by Israeli security forces. An Interior Ministry statement said the drill came “due to attempts by enemies to undermine security and public order.”

The exercise appears linked to an IDF special forces operation in the Gaza Strip in November that went awry after the undercover Israeli force was discovered, resulting in the death of a soldier in the ensuing gunbattle.

An IDF probe, some of whose findings were released on Sunday, identified a number of tactical errors and improper planning that led to the operation’s failure, alongside courageous actions by members of the unit who took part in the raid that prevented a greater disaster. It said the Israeli officer was killed by friendly fire by another member of the team.

The highly public, embarrassing debacle led to a series of shake ups within IDF Military Intelligence. Notably, the head of Military Intelligence Special Operations Division — who can only be identified by his rank and initial, Brig. Gen. “Gimel” — resigned his position last week, having decided to do so in August.

According to Hamas officials, the soldiers were from Sayeret Matkal and had been conducting a complex operation to bug the terror group’s communications equipment in Gaza. They were said to have been driving through Gaza in civilian vans, approximately three kilometers (two miles) from the border.

Israel has not confirmed any of those claims.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

On Monday, the five-year anniversary of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’s military wing released a statement lauding the “ceaseless preparations and battle of the minds with Israel” underway since that round of fighting.

Israel, Hamas said, “has seen the power of the resistance in the battle in Khan Younis” — a reference to the November 11 fighting during the botched raid that also left six Hamas gunmen dead — “whose results continue to shake the foundations of the Israeli defense establishment and military.”

The statement added that “the resistance has additional powerful capabilities it has not yet revealed.”

The massive drill on the Palestinian side of the border comes as IDF forces continue to investigate the Hamas attack tunnel located deep underground Monday that crosses into Israeli territory.

IDF spokespeople said Tuesday that the tunnel appeared to be an offshoot of an old tunnel.

It was discovered by Defense Ministry officials and IDF troops working on constructing an underground tunnel barrier along the Israel-Gaza border.

Also Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel “came close in recent weeks to the possibility of a military operation in Gaza, but it very much depends on what Hamas does in the coming weeks,” according to Channel 13.

Last month, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a new ceasefire agreement. An Israeli official confirmed that the country had agreed to a number of economic concessions for Gaza in exchange for an end to arson attacks and other violence along the border. Israel also agreed to extend the fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and to restore the supply of fuel to the Palestinian territory, the official said.

The agreement came after a fresh surge in serious violence between the two sides, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.

Since the deal went into effect there has been a marked drop in the number of airborne arson attacks, though they have not stopped completely.

Israel: Intermarriage among US Jews ‘like second Holocaust’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel’s education minister: Intermarriage among US Jews ‘like second Holocaust’

ADL chief says Rafi Peretz’s remark ‘trivializes the Shoah’; Israel-Diaspora activist group calls Israeli discourse about US Jews ‘irresponsible and disrespectful’

Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The rate of intermarriage among US Jews is “like a second Holocaust,” Israel’s new minister of education said.

Rafi Peretz made the statement at a cabinet meeting on July 1, Axios reported Tuesday, citing three people who were in the room.

Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, is the leader of the Union of Right Wing Parties bloc.

Peretz said the assimilation of Jews around the world and mostly in the US was “like a second Holocaust,” and also said that, due to intermarriages in the last 70 years, the Jewish people “lost 6 million people,” according to the report, which added that Peretz’s spokesman confirmed the account.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 27, 2019. (Flash90)

The July 1 cabinet meeting included a briefing by Dennis Ross, chairman of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute, on trends in Jewish communities around the world, especially in North America. The topic of intermarriage came up during the briefing.

Axios reported that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) pushed back against Peretz’s remarks.

“First we need to stop disregarding and looking down on Jews in America that see themselves as Jews not only religiously but even more culturally and historically,” he reportedly said.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, was among the American Jewish leaders critical of Peretz’s remarks.

“It’s inconceivable to use the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe Jews choosing to marry non-Jews. It trivializes the Shoah,” Greenblatt tweeted. “It alienates so many members of our community. This kind of baseless comparison does little other than inflame and offend.”

Jonathan Greenblatt

@JGreenblattADL

It’s inconceivable to use the term “Holocaust” to describe Jews choosing to marry non-Jews. It trivializes the Shoah. It alienates so many members of our community. This kind of baseless comparison does little other than inflame and offend. https://www.axios.com/rafi-peretz-second-holocaust-intermarriage-jews-us-359a9bc6-ae75-46cb-8844-32da55c086d8.html 

Israeli education minister calls intermarriage rate of U.S. Jews “second Holocaust”

The remark was made during a cabinet meeting

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The Ruderman Family Foundation, which has taken Israeli politicians on tours of American Jewish communities in recent years, condemned Peretz’s remarks as “irresponsible and disrespectful.”

“Israel’s government has a moral responsibility to maintain and improve the country’s relationship with Diaspora Jews in general, and with the American Jewish community in particular. It is irresponsible and disrespectful to talk about US Jews without talking with them,” the foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, said in the statement.

“I call upon all of Israel’s leaders, and especially those in office, to dedicate time and resources to learn more about the American Jewish community, its life and its challenges. A conversation between the sides is needed. But this requires time and planning, not random comments detached from an ongoing, respectful discourse.”

The American Jewish Congress also condemned his remarks as “offensive and unhelpful.”

“Assimilation challenges Jewish continuity and Diaspora identification with Israel and must be grappled with. Minister Peretz’s comments, however, are offensive and unhelpful,” the AJC said.

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