“In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil.” Es. 8:11
A QUIET PURIM IN ISRAEL THIS YEAR: This year, the festival of Purim began on the evening of Mon. 9 March 2020 and ended at sunset the following day. Purim commemorates how the biblical Queen Esther rescued the Jewish people from mass slaughter in ancient Persia. In Israel, the festivities involve colorful costumes and the holiday overflows with flamboyant parades and massive celebrations in which young and old, secular and religious, gather together. But this year was different: The Health Ministry confirmed on Tues. 10 March 2020 over a dozen new cases of Israelis who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the country’s sick count to 75. Close to 100,000 people are under a 14-day home quarantine, with the government on Mon. 9 March 2020 taking the extraordinary step of ordering all citizens returning from abroad, as well as all visitors entering Israel, to join them. Large gatherings are now forbidden. The Health Ministry this week nixed assemblies of more than 100 people – effectively canceling the carnival. Rabbi David Stav said it was decided that Jews do not have to be physically present to listen to the Megillah reading. “Usually if somebody wants to fulfill the commandment of listening to the Megillah reading, he has to hear it directly by ear from the one that is reciting the verses,” Stav said. He emphasized that listening to the Megillah via telephone, radio, online or television was generally not acceptable under strict religious law. Stav wished all Jews in Israel a happy Purim and expressed the hope that the virus would soon be overcome. (VFI)
US PLANS TO APPROVE ISRAELI ANNEXATIONS SOON: White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner told senators in a meeting last week that the Trump administration is pressing ahead with its Middle East peace plan, even with the Palestinians boycotting the process. The administration is urging the Palestinians to negotiate, warning that its current plan will move forward without their input if they don’t. Kushner said the mapping and demarcation process will take months, and that the Palestinians could improve the proposal by negotiating. Otherwise, the US will move ahead without their involvement. A joint American-Israel mapping committee convened in Jerusalem two weeks ago to begin discussing the demarcation of areas in Judea & Samaria to be recognized as part of Israel. The White House feels that because PM Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, his main rival, both support the plan, it can move ahead. The Palestinians have stated their refusal to accept the Trump administration’s peace plan well before the plan was even unveiled, and since then have refused to budge on the issue. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has been cracking down on any perceived efforts of “normalization” of ties with Israel in the months since the plan was unveiled. (VFI News)
HOLD OFF ON BOYCOTTING ISRAEL: Those calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel should consider putting a sock in it until the coronavirus blows over. Scientists at Israel’s MIGAL Research Institute say they are 8-10 weeks away from a vaccine. Indeed, Israel is at the forefront of a host of medical breakthroughs. But the BDS movement would cut off such promising research from collaborators and investors in the US. What’s going on in Israel’s laboratories is saving lives all over the world. For example, take Israel’s medical breakthrough in treatment for multiple sclerosis over a decade ago, or consider its advances in treatment for Parkinson’s disease. BDSers should be asking themselves if they would really say no to a vaccine just because it was created in Israel. (Detroit News)
RASHIDA TLAIB T-SHIRT ERASES ISRAEL FROM THE MAP: Tlaib took photos to promote activist Linda Sarsour’s new book, “We Are Not Here To Be Bystanders”, but many were more interested in the logo on her shirt, which showed the whole of Israel as Palestine enrobed with a black and white chequered keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. Alex VanNess, director of Middle East Peace and Security Policy, caustically noted on Twitter: “Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s T-shirt doesn’t exactly scream ‘two-state solution.'” In Dec. 2019, Tlaib blamed PM Netanyahu and the Likud Party for the lack of a two-state solution, saying they “actively fought against a two-state solution and took steps to ensure its demise.” Israel advocate and writer Hen Mazzig, meanwhile, questioned the statement on the shirt in light of both Tlaib and Sarsour’s links to Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Sanders has made much of his Jewish heritage during his campaign to win the nomination, yet has called Netanyahu “racist,” and has repeatedly criticized the Jewish state. Both Tlaib and Sarsour have supported Sanders on the campaign trail. (J. Post)
EVERYONE ENTERING ISRAEL MUST NOW SELF-QUARANTINE: PM Netanyahu announced early this week that anyone arriving in Israel must self-quarantine for 14 days due to concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus. Monday’s 9 March 2020 decision essentially shuts down tourism to Israel, as only non-citizens with a place to quarantine for 14 days will be allowed in the country. Many Israelis were also expected to cancel travel plans rather than face two weeks of quarantine when they return home. Also, on Monday, the Arkia airline said it was ending international flights immediately until further notice. Avi Nakash, an Arkia owner called the decision a death blow to Israeli aviation. “There is no more Israeli aviation – not Arkia, not El Al, not Israir,” said Nakash, referring to the national carrier and a second Israeli airline. Israir Airlines said it will end international charter flights from next week until the end of the month. The company said it will strive to bring all of its passengers who are still abroad – around 5,000 – back to the country by the end of the week. “Before Passover, there will be wide layoffs at the airport. We’re waiting for a miracle,” lamented Pinchas Idan, who heads the workers union. “This is a difficult time for the country’s tourism industry,” Israir added. (VFI News)
IRAN SAYS CORONAVIRUS IS ISRAEL FAULT: While the Palestinians are accusing Israel of sending in wild boars to destroy their crops in Judea & Samaria, the latest conspiracy theory in Iran is that Israel – likely in cahoots with the US – is behind the coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s regime requires a foreign enemy to distract its citizens from its failure to confront the virus last month. As of Wed. 11 March 2020 Iran’s ministry of health reported more than 9,000 coronavirus cases and over 350 deaths. But observers believe the true number may be far higher. Over the last several days, Iran has pushed several reports claiming that “Zionists” were behind the coronavirus. On Thur. 5 March 2020 Press TV claimed that “Zionist elements developed a deadlier strain of coronavirus against Iran.” The agenda of Tehran has been three-fold since the coronavirus outbreak began to affect Iran in mid-February 2020. Iran initially denied that there was a virus outbreak. In late Feb. 2020 it turned out that some of Iran’s leading politicians and key insiders were infected because the virus had spread from the holy city of Qom to Tehran.
To make up for the initial cover-up, the regime shifted its narrative to blaming Israel and the US for the virus outbreak. An article on the homepage of Iran’s Press TV on Sunday 8 March 2020 claimed that the US is waging “biological warfare” and also cited an article that argues Israel is behind the virus. According to this report, a “former CIA officer” has argued that “the US and Israel are working together.” Iran sent Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, to Iraq last weekend. Despite the travel ban on Iranians going to Iraq and the high rate of coronavirus among leading regime members like Shamkhani, he shook hands with Iraqi politicians and was not quarantined in Iraq. He claimed in a press conference in Iraq that “Zionists are against regional security.” Iran’s regime only knows this talking point: Blame it on the US and Israel. From regional security to the coronavirus, it has pushed the same narrative. For COVID-19, it has relied on foreign anti-Semitic conspiracies to add weight to misinformation about the origins of the virus. (VFI News)
PURIM PARTY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: While the Purim moods and activities in Israel were dampened by the coronavirus regulations recently put into place by PM Netanyahu, the White House on Tue. 10 March hosted a Purim celebration and megillah (Scroll of Esther) reading for senior staff members. Following the megillah reading, guests were treated to Purim treats, as well as traditional hamantaschen and “mishloach manot” – gifts of food packages traditionally given to friends and family on Purim. The event was attended by senior staff of the Office of the President and Vice President, as well as Ivanka Trump and other senior White House officers. (VFI News)
PALESTINIANS MALIGN ISRAEL AS ISRAEL SAVES THEIR LIVES: Israel is making a massive effort to help the Palestinians contain a coronavirus outbreak after several Palestinians in Bethlehem tested positive for the disease. Israel has transferred hundreds of coronavirus test kits to the Palestinians and conducted joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel. “We will continue working to help the Palestinian authorities curb the spread of the virus, both as an Israeli interest and for humanitarian reasons,” said Israeli Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa. “We will expand medical training to Palestinian personnel as much as possible, as well as the transfer of medical equipment to the Palestinian healthcare system.” In return, the Palestinians are continuing to spread blood libels against Israel and the Jews. Last weekend the Palestinian daily Al-Quds claimed that Israel had been releasing wild boars in Judea & Samaria to destroy Palestinian crops. It is hard to find one Palestinian who does not carry a smartphone. Palestinians regularly document the actions of Israeli soldiers and settlers. Why has no one snapped even one photo of an Israeli truck carrying the animals into Palestinian villages? How come the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Judea & Samaria have not been attacked by wild boars? And how are the boars able to distinguish between Arabs and Jews? (Gatestone Institute)
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