Israel Urges Passover Travelers to Avoid Turkey, Crowded Places in Europe
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Ahead of the Passover holiday, with more than 1 million Israelis preparing to jet off for vacations abroad, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office updated its semiannual travel warnings to include 34 countries and 10 regions.
Given the Islamic State terror group’s threats to execute more attacks in Europe, paired with the lack of a specific alert, the bureau is asking Israelis traveling to that continent to avoid crowded places such as soccer stadiums, cultural sites, shopping centers and airports. The warning reiterates that Israelis should avoid Turkey, and urges anyone who is planning a trip there to cancel their reservations. In March, a suicide bombing in Istanbul killed three Israeli tourists.
An urgent warning against Israelis traveling to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula remains in place. The country’s security establishment is concerned that the Islamic State could execute terrorist attacks against tourists there, and against Israelis in particular. Travel warnings are also in place for vacations to Aqaba on the Red Sea, Jordan and elsewhere in Egypt, all places Israelis are advised to avoid unless urgent business requires their presence there.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau stresses that “situation assessments are published as a public service at the start of the 2016 spring-summer tourist season. It’s important to note that these aren’t new travel warnings, with the exception of the warning about Turkey, which has recently been upgraded…. The travel warnings are based on solid, reliable information that reflects a real threat based on the broader intelligence picture for the given time period.”
Israel Approves Egyptian-Saudi Deal on Red Sea Islands, Defense Minister Says
(JNS.org) Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Israel has signed off on a recent agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia to exchange sovereignty of two strategic islands at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba.
“An appeal was made to us—and it needed our agreement, [and the agreement of] the Americans who were involved in the peace agreement, and of the MFO (Multinational Force and Observers),” Ya’alon said, referring to the United Nations’ Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Haaretz reported.
“We reached an agreement between the four parties—the Saudis, the Egyptians, Israel and the United States—to transfer the responsibility for the islands, on condition that the Saudis fill in the Egyptians’ shoes in the military appendix of the peace agreement,” said Ya’alon.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman recently made a five-day visit to Egypt, where it was announced that Egypt would hand over sovereignty of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, while the Saudis will provide $16 billion in aid to Egypt.
The uninhabited islands that sit on the southern entry to the Gulf of Aqaba were originally given to Egypt in 1950 by Saudi Arabia, in order to protect them from Israel. Later, the islands played an important role in setting off the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, thereby preventing Israeli access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. As a result, United Nations peacekeepers maintain a presence on Tiran as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.
Ugandan Jewish Community Gains Official Recognition From Jewish Agency
(JNS.org) A group of converts to Judaism in Uganda has gained official recognition from the Jewish Agency for Israel.
In a letter to Rabbi Andrew Sacks, who serves as the head of the Conservative movement in Israel, the Jewish Agency confirmed that “as of 2009, we view the Abayudaya in Uganda as a recognized community registered with the Masorti-Olami world Conservative movement,” Haaretz reported.
Additionally, the letter also stated that the Jewish Agency recognizes the authority of Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who serves as the spiritual head of the Ugandan Jewish community.
The recognition paves the way for Uganda’s Jewish community to become eligible for Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return. The recognition also will allow members of the community to obtain visas from Israel’s Interior Ministry in order to study at yeshivos in the Jewish state.
The Abayudaya Jewish community originally splintered off from Christianity in the early 20th century, when its members began observing Jewish laws and customs. In 2002, the 1,500-member community was formally converted to Judaism by a Conservative rabbinical court. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, however, only accepts Orthodox conversions.
Jay Leno Donates $36,000 to Buy Ambucycle for Israel’s United Hatzalah
(JNS.org) Comedian Jay Leno on Sunday pledged to donate a $36,000 fully equipped ambucycle to Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency response group, during a concert fundraiser for the group at Lincoln Center in New York City.
“What you guys are doing is so special. I am so proud to be here and be part of it. I have 117 motorcycles in my collection, but none of my motorcycles saves lives. I want to donate an ambucycle with all of the trappings,” the former “Tonight Show” host told Eli Beer, founder and president of United Hatzalah, on the event’s stage after performing a comedy act.
The Leno-funded ambucycle will be added to the fleet of more than 400 such vehicles used by United Hatzalah’s emergency response volunteers, thereby cutting emergency response time to under three minutes while Israel deals with an ongoing wave of terrorism.
Leno also asked the audience to donate to United Hatzalah’s cause, saying that anyone who donates $1,000 would receive a free tour of his car and motorcycle collection. This led to an additional $50,000 being raised at the event.
The event also featured performances by musical entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer, the rock band 8th Day, and the Neshama Orchestra. It was hosted by Jewish radio personality Nachum Segal.
“People want a good time and people want to do good deeds,” United Hatzalah’s Beer said in a statement. “So for those who cannot physically come to Israel, like Leno did, but still want to help, the concert was a golden opportunity to come out and support the country while performing one of the greatest gifts of loving kindness that there is, saving lives. What Jay Leno, Lipa, 8th Day, and the audience did here tonight is an act of charity that keeps on giving for generations and generations to come.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah to Fund Restoration of Christ’s Tomb in Jerusalem
(JNS.org) Jordan’s King Abdullah has announced that he will personally fund the restoration of Christ’s Tomb, which is located inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“This is excellent news, news of a highly symbolic character, since the Holy Sepulchre is the most sacred place for Christians of all confessions,” said Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem Bishop William Shomali, Vatican Radio reported.
“This decision shows the kindness of the king toward Christians and his constant concern to preserve the heritage of Christianity, including his role as guarantor of the holy places, Christian and Muslim, Jerusalem, according to the Wadi Araba agreement,” added Shomali.
According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the aedicule, which is the traditional place of burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, will be the site of the restoration.The aedicule was originally constructed in the early 19th century by the Greek Orthodox community, and has remained untouched since 1947, when the ruling British Mandate put in place steel support beams as part of a restoration project that never took place.
The Latin Patriarchate said that restoration work was needed because reports revealed grave structural problems due to moisture from the “condensation of the breath of visitors” and oxidation from candle smoke.
Abdullah’s funding will be disbursed to a Greek restoration team led by Professor Antonia Moropoulou of the National Technical University of Athens.
Palestinian Authority Stops Smuggling of Statue of King Herod’s Wife Into Israel
(JNS.org) Three Palestinians were arrested by Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces on Monday for attempting to smuggle an ancient statue of King Herod’s second wife from a Palestinian village into Israel.
“Based on intelligence information, security forces burst on Sunday into a home in Zeita, a village in north Tulkarm, and carried out a complicated security operation, during which they arrested three archaeologists and confiscated the statue,” said a statement from the Palestinian Preventive Security Services (PPS).
Archaeologists had been negotiating to sell the statue of Mariamne I, King Herod’s second wife, for $600,000 to an Israeli-Arab merchant. The PPS said that the operation to arrest the smugglers “is part of the tireless efforts invested by the PA to protect archaeological treasures and prevent their smuggling to Israel, which attempts to distort and steal Palestinian history.”
The statue is 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) high and valued at almost $1 million. King Herod ruled in Judea for 33 years and reconstructed the Second Temple of the Jewish people.