He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. —Isaiah 40:11
ISRAEL LAUNCHES SPY SATELLITE OVER IRAN: The launch of Israel’s latest spy satellite, the Ofek 16, into the deep unknown on Monday morning marked a significant military success for the Jewish state, a country deep in crisis – both politically and socioeconomically. Taking off from Palmahim airbase in the center of the country using a Shavit launcher – which according to foreign reports is used to launch Jericho ballistic missiles – the Ofek 16 successfully made it into orbit and is expected to send back its first high-resolution pictures by next week.
The successful launch comes at a time when Israel is still reeling from the coronavirus, with more than 1,000 new confirmed cases a day and close to 350 deaths, leading to a return to lockdowns—and where tensions between Israel and Iran are heading spaceward—with several mysterious explosions having targeted Tehran’s missile and nuclear project, and Iran having been accused of targeting Israel’s water supply in a cyberattack. (JPost / VFI News)
SURVEY: 50% OF ISRAELIS FEAR THEY CANNOT PAY FOR BASIC EXPENSES: Close to 50% of Israelis are afraid they will not be able to cover their expenses in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows. The report found that the economic situation weighed heaviest on Israelis, with 50% of respondents claiming they feared not being able to pay for their basic expenses during the March and April closure and 46.5% expressing similar sentiments in its immediate aftermath.
The report found that 30% of Israelis said they would find it difficult to cover their expenses in the spring of 2019. During the period of the closure, more than a quarter (27.3%) of Israelis said they expected their economic situation to worsen in the coming year. When the closure was lifted, that number dropped to 18.3%, which is still twice as much as in 2019 (9.2%). (JPost / VFI News)
IRAN COMMITS TO IMPROVE SYRIAN AIR DEFENSES: Syrian Defense Minister, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Bagheri signed a military cooperation agreement on Wednesday, including a commitment by Iran to strengthen Syrian air defense systems, according to Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen news. The two officials discussed the situation in Syria and the need for “foreign forces who entered the country illegally” to withdraw.
Ayyoub stated that the Caesar Act, a series of US sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters, is fighting Syrians with their food, medicine, and children and stressed the need to confront the sanctions, according to Al-Mayadeen. The Syrian defense minister stated that the Syrian army is headed for “victory” and stressed that Israel is a strong partner in the war against Syria and that rebel groups are “part of the Israeli aggression,” according to Al-Mayadeen. (JPost / VFI News)
EXPERTS: EXPLOSION SET BACK IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM BY MORE THAN A YEAR: It’s unclear if the explosion and other incidents that occurred in Iran over the past week were connected, but there is pressure mounting on Iran to respond. In the meantime, Israel is keeping quiet on whether it was responsible.
Simon Henderson is a veteran researcher, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In an article he published on Monday in The Hill, he says: “It looks as though a ‘nuclear war’ of sorts has started in the Middle East.” Many people, Henderson writes, say that Israel was behind the explosion at the Iranian centrifuge plant in Natanz on Thursday. Satellite photos of the site show that the facility was mostly destroyed in the blast. The Iranians now rely on older, IR-1 type centrifuges for enriching uranium. But these centrifuges can’t enrich uranium to the level required to manufacture a nuclear bomb. We can assume, Henderson writes, that Iran has gone back to manufacturing the more advanced IR-2 centrifuges that it needs for this purpose. (Haaretz / VFI News)
EDELMAN INVITES JACKSON TO TALK ABOUT ANTISEMITISM AND BLACK LIVES MATTER: New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman invited fellow NFL star DeSean Jackson to have “uncomfortable conversations” about antisemitism and hatred against Blacks. Edelman was responding to recent posts by Jackson attributed to Adolf Hitler, which Jackson later removed and apologized for—and the reaction to them, including calls for him to be cut by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In an Instagram video, Edelman offered to accompany Jackson to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and then to join Jackson on a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, both located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. “I know he said some ugly things, but I do see an opportunity to have a conversation,” Edelman said. “I am proud of my Jewish heritage. But for me, it’s not just about religion. It’s about community and culture as well. Edelman said the controversy over Jackson’s remarks should not distract from the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, which Jackson has been actively supporting on social media. (JPost / VFI News)
ARGENTINE FEDERAL JUDICIARY EXTENDS FREEZE OF HEZBOLLAH FUNDS: Argentina’s federal judiciary last week froze Hezbollah’s finances for an additional year. According to a report in La Nacion, the court “froze the funds for Hezbollah; its external security organization, Islamic Jihad; its boss, Hassan Nasrallah; Salman El Reda, who faces an arrest warrant for the AMIA attack; and the Barakat clan, the family of merchants based in the Triple Frontier who are accused of money laundering and terrorist financing.”
In 1994, a joint Iranian-Hezbollah operation blew up the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Arias, resulting in the deaths of 85 people and wounding hundreds. “The judge who extended the Hezbollah designation should be commended because Hezbollah’s illicit finance activities continue in the country and in the tri-border area,” Toby Dershowitz, a senior vice president for government relations and strategy for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “The key now will be to ensure aggressive enforcement so that these activities are stemmed and Hezbollah coffers that fund terrorism dry up.” (JPost / VFI News)
HAGIA SOPHIA MUSEUM TO BECOME A MOSQUE AGAIN: The ancient cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul – the former seat of eastern Christianity – could now be dedicated to use as a mosque after Turkey’s high court on Friday ruled its conversion into a museum in 1934 was unlawful.
The court’s decision revokes that museum status and would allow Hagia Sophia to become a working mosque once more, a decision which sparked a furious response within minutes of being confirmed, with UNESCO warning, “We call upon the Turkish authorities to engage in dialogue before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of the site.” It was a decision long sought by conservative Muslims in Turkey and beyond, and especially by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose popularity is waning after 18 years atop Turkish politics, the New York Times reports. (BB / VFI News)
WATCHDOG: CHINA CHURCHES ORDERED TO PRAISE XI JINPING’S PARTY BEFORE REOPENING: Under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) instruction, state-run churches in China say they were required to raise the national flag, sing the anthem, and praise Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in order to reopen, a watchdog reports.
The Lishiting Catholic Church in the Shunhe district of Kaifeng reopened on June 14 with around 20 people as a priest led the required ceremony supervised by government officials. “We solemnly raise the national flag here today after the epidemic, witnessing the fruits of all people working together under the leadership of Xi Jinping who directs the government and the Party,” the priest allegedly said. On the same day in the same district, a member of the Gangxi Christian Church said its leaders were also instructed to laud Chinese leaders for their handling of the pandemic. “…the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem, praising Xi Jinping’s ‘victory in fighting the epidemic,'” a congregant shared. The congregant added, “This is completely contrary to our belief.” (Fox / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff