August 15, 2022

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12/31 Links Pt2: 18 noteworthy Jews who died in 2021; BDS bigotry at the Sydney Festival; Bookseller Pulls Children’s Book That Erases Israel From Middle East

From Ian:

18 noteworthy Jews who died in 2021

Every year brings the deaths of Jewish icons who leave behind outsized legacies, from the realms of art and culture, government, business, philanthropy and beyond.

Here are 18 whom we lost in 2021 — none from COVID — presented in alphabetical order.

Sheldon Adelson
Few people have exerted as significant an influence on American and Israeli politics as Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who gave lavishly to Republican candidates and Israeli causes.

The founder and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and one of the world’s richest men, Adelson regularly set records for his donations. At $25 million, he was the largest donor to Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential bid and the biggest giver in the 2012 American election cycle, at nearly $93 million. He was also a leading supporter of Birthright Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Zionist Organization of America, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Israel American Council.

He had previously been a top AIPAC supporter, but cut off support more than a decade ago in favor of more conservative pro-Israel groups. He was also a principal backer of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He died in January at 87.

PodCast: Why the Media Keeps Getting the Jerusalem Story Wrong A fireside chat with Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is probably the most famous city in the world, but much of it is for the wrong reasons. This past May, when Hamas launched a terror war against Israel, Jerusalem was at centre stage, thanks to anti-Israel propaganda which was being spread around the world.

But Jerusalem is more than a city under the siege of misinformation; it is also the 3,000 year old home of the Jewish People, and is undergoing a historic revitalization.

One of the people most responsible for Jerusalem’s revitalization is Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the city’s deputy mayor, who joined The Honest Report as our guest.

The Tikvah Podcast: Our Favorite Broadcasts of 2021

In 2021, 49 different guests appeared on the podcast over the course of 44 new episodes. Our conversations touched on some of the most important and interesting subjects in Jewish life, including discussions with leaders of Israel’s Haredi community, a course developer who is deploying technology to teach people Yiddish, diplomats and strategists shaping foreign-policy debates in Israel, Europe, and America, elected officials and diplomats, historians and social scientists, theologians and rabbis, academics and authors, reporters and entrepreneurs. Each guest, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, trained his or her unique perspective on some timely or enduring question that stands before the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

In this episode, we present some of our favorite conversations this year. Guests featured in this year-end episode include the Israeli rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, the foreign-policy analysts Benjamin Haddad and Michael Doran, Wall Street Journal editor Elliot Kaufman, social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt, Jewish educational leader David Rozenson, Yiddish expert Meena Viswanath, tech CEO Sean Clifford, novelist Dara Horn, and the eminent writer Cynthia Ozick.

‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ bigotry at the Sydney Festival

The Sydney Festival has been subjected to intolerable pressure for accepting a $20,000 partnership with the Israeli Embassy in Canberra. The funds are to be used to stage the dance Decadence by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin at the Sydney Opera House during the 2022 Sydney Festival in January.

Despite a number of individual performers and organisations pulling out in protest over the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship, a Sydney Festival spokesperson has said they would not be terminating their agreement with the Israeli embassy.

‘The festival is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring a culturally safe space for all artists, employees and audiences,’ the statement said.

‘[The Sydney Festival] will be reviewing all funding arrangements with embassies and cultural organisations to ensure that any continuance of these partnerships is compatible with maintaining a welcoming and culturally safe environment moving forward.’

That statement on behalf of the Sydney Festival might sound fair and reasonable however, the increase in Boycott, Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) activity in Australia should be seen as foreboding for those Australians who believe in a multicultural tolerant society because BDS is the very antithesis of that.

There are a lot of offensive Israelophobic behaviours to unpack in this sorry saga with the Sydney Festival. An article in the ‘extreme left’ publication Meanjin by a clique of pro-Palestinian activists epitomises a vicious, racist attack on artistic freedom by pro-Palestinian bullies.

Let me run through the names of those who wrote a hateful article Sydney Festival: ‘Progressive Except for Palestine’ in Meanjin. Before I do that, I would like to put paid to this ruse of ‘Progressive Except for Palestine’, which Philip Mendes has explained in an article in the journal Fathom to be the new buzzword for Palestinian supporters.

In this essay, Philip Mendes argues that the new buzzword for Palestinian nationalists, ‘Progressive except for Palestine’ aimed at progressives who do not support fundamentalist calls for the abolition of the State of Israel, is ‘not a perspective which seeks to advance principled reasonable criticism of Israel’. Rather, Mendes argues the term is ‘a viewpoint based on demonising the State of Israel and all its supporters, including the many who favour a two-state solution, and limiting freedom of speech by illiberally excluding them from progressive publications and debates’. – from Fathom.

Mendes points out that a true call should be ‘Progressive except for Jews’ with the Left having been selectively ignoring manifestations of Jewish oppression throughout history. I would go further and discount the slogan ‘Progressive except for Palestine’ as a cheap trick to demean progressiveness that ignores Palestinianism – as though there is some special virtue in supporting a cause that ignores the corrupt, misogynist, kleptocratic, and intolerant nature of the Palestinian Authority or the manifest Jew-hatred from Hamas that is abundantly evident in the annals of Palestine Media Watch.

What will your children be taught about Desmond Tutu?

In addition to the above outright falsehood, Tutu also exercised a double standard – against Jews – as Professor Alan Dershowitz has pointed out. Dershowitz wrote that Tutu demanded of the Holocaust’s Jewish victims that they “forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust”. In contrast, Tutu himself refused to forgive the Jewish people for allegedly “persecute[ing] others”.

Tutu himself acknowledged being frequently accused of anti-Semitism. His attitude to the Jews proves that Tutu was not pro-human rights. He was a pro-black patriot, which is fine and good, but is not the same thing — at all — as being pro-human rights – if there is such a thing.

Tutu was a prolific and aggressive anti-Jewish and anti-Israel agitator. This too is part of his legacy. This will be faced only if ordinary people, and ordinary parents, insist that this be so. Modern cancel culture, including in American schools, ostensibly demands that all heroes need to be perfect otherwise they are not heroes. But the same standard is not being applied to anti-semites.

One reason why parental vigilance is important, is that Tutu was a brutal critic of Israel – the world’s only Jewish state. In actual fact, the State of Israel has never deliberately set out to mistreat “the Arab Palestinians”. Yet deliberately mistreating them is exactly what Israel and “the Jews” are daily, hourly, mass-accused of doing, by Israel’s mis-treaters. And this effort is triggered by the likes of Tutu and was bolstered by his unassailable legitimacy.

So letting your kids’ educators idolize Desmond Tutu, without, in the same breath, clearly pointing out that Tutu had big plusses but equally big minuses, is not just wrong, it is dangerous. For Israel, and for Diaspora Jewry.

Tutu will, in all probability, be canonized by educators energized by powerful influencers like US Presidents Carter and Obama and Biden and the Nobel Committee. Only your vigilance, as a citizen and as a parent, can change this. Slowly, painfully, and at best, partially.

British Publisher, Bookseller Pull Children’s Book That Erases Israel From Middle East

A British bookseller and publishing house have both removed from their websites a children’s book that was accused of being “misleading and biased” for failing to include Israel on a map of the Middle East.

“Amazing Women of the Middle East” by Wafa Tarnowska is no longer listed on the website of Pikku Publishing, which also removed teaching resources based on the book that it had provided online, the advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) said on Thursday. The bookseller also confirmed to UKLFI that it has pulled the title from its website and also from those of its sister companies, Gardner’s and The Little Group. additionally told publishers they have withdrawn their stock from the book’s sales.

Caroline Turner, director of UK Lawyers for Israel, applauded the news and added, “It is shocking that a book for children in the UK could have presented such a misleading picture of the Middle East. I hope the publishers will now amend the book so Israel will be back on the map and that Jewish Israeli women will be included in the profiles.”

“Amazing Women of the Middle East” featured on its eighth page a map that replaced Israel with “Palestine.” The children’s book profiles 24 trailblazing women but also made no mention of a single Jewish or Israeli woman.

UKLFI called on the book’s publishers in the UK and US last week to withdraw, edit, and then republish the children’s book with a map of the Middle East that shows Israel, and to include at least one “amazing woman” from Israel.

Ex-Star Trek Underling Joins Hamas-Linked Operative to Attack Israel

On Star Trek, actress Estee Chandler, in her role as Oliana Mirren, was fighting on the side of good, trying to obtain a spot on the USS Enterprise. Of course, that was fiction. In real life, she is on the side of the terrorists, working hard to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state, her own people. This month, along with CAIR-Florida leader Hiba Rahim, she showed up on a virtual panel organized by the local NAACP branch, titled ‘Let’s Talk About Palestine,’ to assist Rahim in maligning Israel and shielding Hamas from rebuke. It was a pathetic exhibit of self-hate and possibly a sad and embarrassing moment for her family, and unfortunately, it was no act.

Chandler has spent a good part of her adult years in the film industry, as an actress and producer. According to IMDb, she is known for her work in: The Long Kiss Goodnight, Pleasantville, Terminal Bliss, and even Team America: World Police, an animated movie which ironically some consider racist against Muslims. Now, however, much of Chandler’s time is spent as a representative for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an extreme leftwing group, whose members vulgarly parade and exploit their Jewishness as a way to benefit Israel’s enemies. She was representing JVP, when she participated in the virtual panel, on December 16th.

Rahim, the other panelist, is the Tampa Regional Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an entity with foundational and financial ties to Hamas. CAIR was established in June 1994, under the leadership of then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. The US Justice Department labeled CAIR a co-conspirator for two federal trials dealing with Hamas funding. While with CAIR, Rahim has organized events for Islamic Relief (IR), a group that has been banned by multiple nations. Israel has referred to IR as a Hamas front, and the UAE government has designated both CAIR and IR as terrorist organizations.

Prior to coming to CAIR, Rahim was involved with the London, England-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which proudly and publicly supports convicted terrorists, including violence-preaching hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and the al-Qaeda operative who plotted the 1988 bombing of US embassies in east Africa, Khalid al-Fawwaz. Both are serving life sentences. IHRC also supported al-Qaeda web designer Babar Ahmad and the (now deceased) spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman.

What A Year At CAMERA – And Thank You to All Our Supporters!

As we move into a new year, it’s worth recalling the intense global focus on Israel during the past twelve months and CAMERA’s interventions to promote fair and factual treatment of the Jewish state. 2021 saw both serious challenges and inspiring victories that shouldn’t be forgotten.

There were libels about Israel’s response to the pandemic; reckless misinformation about Hamas’s rocket war against Israeli civilians; blistering anti-Israel lies on social media platforms; Ben & Jerry’s foolish boycott – mangled in the media telling; eruptions of antisemitic violence in cities across Europe and America, some tortuously obfuscated and denied in influential news outlets.

Even one of our own staff got mobbed, spat at, cursed, shoved, and threatened at a “Students for Justice in Palestine” rally in Boston.

Much of the mayhem and bullying was fueled by a media and academic establishment that seemed intentionally to spin the worst about the Jewish state and flagrantly to duck telling the full truth about anti-Jewish bigotry.

Over the summer, for instance, 500 journalists from some of America’s most prestigious news companies unabashedly signed an open letter that demanded that news coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be filtered through the distorting prism of “Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid.”

Such loaded language echoed the “apartheid” rhetoric from mendacious NGOs such as B’tselem and Human Rights Watch, two organizations whose outrageously false reports CAMERA debunked (here and here) at the start of the year.

The blatant disregard for traditional journalistic ethical codes, as detailed in CAMERA’s own open letter, led to one of the most dishonest years in American journalism. As evidence of this, CAMERA broke its record for prompting media corrections.

Vancouver-Based Adbusters Magazine Publishes Repulsive Anti-Israel & Antisemitic Propaganda

Based in Vancouver, Adbusters has a long history of publishing content which has been accused of antisemitism.

In 2004, the anti-consumerist/activist magazine was condemned by Canadian Jewish groups, including HonestReporting Canada, for running a list of influential neo-conservative U.S. policymakers and placing an asterisk next to the Jewish names.

In 2010, Adbusters published an antisemitic photo essay which equated Israel’s military actions in Gaza with the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. Importantly, comparing contemporary Israeli policies to the Nazis is antisemitic according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

For Canadians identifying as politically progressive, Adbusters magazine could have served as an important media outlet sharing news and thoughtful opinion from a left-leaning perspective. Yet tragically, it spews a torrent of baseless, hateful and misinformed anti-Israel missives on social media and in print.

On its Instagram page in October, Adbusters posted an image reading “Free Palestine Always,” with a long caption which read, in part: “This summer the State of Israel launched a massive bombing campaign against Palestinian civilians… and began pushing Palestinians out of their homes with a fervor not seen since the Nakba.”

BBC website article recycles inaccurate claim about Ethiopian blood donations

On December 27th an article by Nadine Batchelor-Hunt titled ‘I’m Jewish and black – where do I fit in?’ was published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“After years of having her Jewishness questioned because of her blackness, Nadine Batchelor-Hunt travelled to Israel to meet the Ethiopian Jewish minority, for whom being both black and Jewish is the norm.”

While on the whole innocuous, that article does promote an inaccurate claim that has been previously seen in BBC content.

“Although Ethiopian Jews have excelled in all walks of life, they have also suffered as a minority. […]

They have also faced prejudice from landlords, and in the 1990s the government was even secretly throwing away blood donated by Ethiopian Israelis.”

The link in that highlighted section leads to a 1996 report by Patrick Cockburn at the Independent which opens:
“Thousands of angry Ethiopian Jews fought their way through police lines and besieged the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem yesterday, during a protest sparked off by the revelation that the Israeli national blood bank routinely destroyed blood donated by Ethiopians, on the grounds that they might have Aids.”

As we have had cause to note here on previous occasions, that presentation is inaccurate.

Independent whitewashes the PA’s generous terror incentive programme

An article in the Independent by Mid-East correspondent Bel Trew (“Israel’s Gantz hosts Palestinian leader Abbas to discuss ‘confidence-building’ measures”, Dec. 29) included the following:
Israel…collects hundreds of millions of dollars worth in taxes on behalf of the PA – a vital source of funding – as part of the interim peace agreements signed in the 1990s. However, Israel has withheld funds over the PA’s giving of stipends to thousands of families that have had relatives killed, wounded or imprisoned in the conflict, a move which Israel says is funding terrorism.

What Trew refers to as those who have been “killed, wounded or imprisoned in the conflict” is a euphemism for what’s known as ‘Pay to Slay’ – the PA policy of paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists – the majority of whom targeted Israeli civilians in their attacks. This includes murderers like Hamas commander Abdullah Barghouti, who built the bombs that killed 67 civilians at the Hebrew University, in cafes and on buses.

Further, by omitting the fact that terrorists themselves receive payments, and not merely their families, she parrots PLO talking points which frame the payments as akin to a ‘social welfare’ program. But, Palestinian Media Watch has documented that, according to a 2010 PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs report, most of the prisoners are single and yet receive the same high basic salaries, up to 12,000 NIS a month.

In 2020 alone, the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority paid US $181 million in terrorist salaries, which reportedly accounts for approximately 3.75 percent of the PA’s annual budget.

StandWithUs: Antisemitism in 2021

WATCH: Antisemitism in 2021 saw a sharp rise, but we will not give in. We must stand united in the face of this despicable hate. Enough is enough!

London Seminary Applauded for Addressing Theologians’ Antisemitism, Role in Nazi Germany

A British charity that fights antisemitism commended a London theological college on Monday for appending a note to its volumes of The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament — a famous reference book known as “Kittel” — that acknowledges the antisemitism and Nazi Party membership of its editor, Gerhard Kittel, and early contributor, K.G. Kuhn.

“Mr. Kittel and Mr. Kuhn were particularly engaged with the ‘Jewish Question’ and actively developed and encouraged antisemitic ideology and conduct,” the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said Monday. “The former claimed that Christianity should ‘not act as a protector of the Jew but as an effective anti-Jewish force,’ while the latter, who supported Hitler’s SS, was a member of the Committee for Jewish Atrocity Propaganda, which arranged the 1933 boycott of Jews. There is no shortage of evidence of their worldview.”

The evangelical Oak Hill College also said that it actively encourages students to utilize a newer text, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis by Moisés Silva. The first volume of “Kittel” was published in Germany in 1932.

The evangelical Moorlands College in Sopley, England, which adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism this year, became the first seminary to take a similar step in August, saying that “readers are encouraged approach [Kittel] with this background in mind, and with their critical faculties suitably sharpened.”

CAA on Monday urged “other seminaries to follow the example set by Moorlands College and Oak Hill College and add similar explanatory notes to their editions of Kittel,” and said it shared this request in letters to seminaries across the United Kingdom.

Bar Standards Board disgracefully rejects CAA complaint against barrister who posted social media comments in breach of International Definition of Antisemitism

The Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers in England and Wales, has disgracefully rejected a complaint made by Campaign Against Antisemitism against a barrister who posted social media comments in breach of International Definition of Antisemitism.

Franck Magennis is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers in London. In December 2020, he tweeted that “Zionism is a kind of racism. It is essentially colonial. It has manifested in an apartheid regime calling itself ‘the Jewish state’ that dominates non-Jews, and particularly Palestinians. You can’t practice anti-racism at the same time as identifying with, or supporting, Zionism.”

According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)” is an example of antisemitism.

Mr Mcgennis was described in his profile on the Chambers’ website as “an expert on the Palestinian struggle for emancipation from Israeli apartheid and occupation.” This has since apparently been changed to: “Franck conducts research on international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of the Palestinian struggle for emancipation. In May to August 2019 he was a research fellow in Ramallah, occupied Palestine with the award-winning Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq. He is the co-author of a series of forthcoming reports responding to allegations against the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs of attacks against Palestinian individuals and civil society institutions.”

Mr Mcgennis denied that the tweet was antisemitic, asserting that, while offence may have been taken at the views expressed in the tweet, that was not his purpose and that his speech was protected by Article 10(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Campaign Against Antisemitism has previously published a briefing debunking the claim that the ECHR protects the right to make statements that breach the definition.

Tucson, Arizona Cops Arrest Alleged Synagogue Vandal

Police in Tucson, Arizona, have arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with the vandalism of a synagogue in the city that occurred last weekend.

Dustin Wilkerson was arrested on Wednesday for the attack on the Kol Ami Synagogue, formerly Temple Emanu-El, in midtown Tucson.

Multiple windows at the synagogue were smashed during the attack, leaving splinters of glass around the premises.

Wilkerson was taken into custody after police reviewed CCTV footage around the synagogue.

“That anyone would act violently towards a religious institution that’s upsetting, but beyond that, just a little confused,” Rabbi Thomas Louchheim told local broadcaster News 4.

Local politicians condemned the attack.

“This behavior is totally unacceptable, it does not reflect who we are as Tucsonans. It does not reflect the spirit of Tucson and the ethics of Tucson,” Councilman Steve Kozachik told News 4.

Kozachik added that “if these folks have any kind of sense of dignity and self respect, they ought to step up to the plate, go back to the Temple of Emanu-El and offer to pay for the replacement of the glass.”

Signed photo of Hitler and other Nazi memorabilia and antisemitic items up for sale in Queensland auction

A signed photo of Hitler and other Nazi memorabilia, as well as an antisemitic children’s book, are up for sale in an auction in Queensland, Australia.

The sale, which also includes sunglasses worn by senior Nazi figure Hermann Goering, is being carried out next week by Danielle Elizabeth Auctions, which was condemned a year ago for selling a Nazi flag and earlier this year for auctioning other Third Reich and Holocaust items.

According to the auctioneers’ own website, the German book on sale (Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath) is “one of the most contentious pieces of propaganda in modern history” and “teaches children, according to the Nazi Party in Germany, what a Jew is and what they look like.”

The Managing Director of the auction house, Dustin Sweeny, reportedly said that the sale is not illegal and “certainly not antisemitic,” adding: “we sell history and historical artefacts that tell a story that the world should never stop telling so history does not repeat itself.” He complained of receiving death threats over past auctions of Nazi items. He went on to say: “Remember we live in a free democracy, and as much as you believe these items should not be sold, we believe they should, and everyone should respect everyone else’s right to a different opinion.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism has expanded our coverage of antisemitism worldwide. Please contact us if you would like to share feedback or volunteer to assist with this project.

Jewish ‘Big Brother Brasil’ host hit with antisemitic abuse after defending the reality show

The former host of Big Brother Brasil has been hit with a wave of antisemitism after getting into an online argument about the reality show with a popular soap opera actor.

After the actor Icaro Silva criticized the show, calling it “mediocre entertainment,” Tiago Leifert, who is Jewish and hosted the show from 2017 to earlier this year, clapped back. He said that Silva, who is Black, was being hypocritical because he has worked with the network that airs Big Brother Brasil.

“Not only did we not harm you in any way, we probably paid your salary,” wrote Leifert, whose father Gilberto is a senior executive at Globo, the media giant that in 2002 launched Big Brother Brasil.

In response, Leifert was hit with several antisemitic tweets.

One that went viral read: “About the controversy with Tiego Leifert. He’s a Jew, aye? (Sorry, cool Jews I know, this is not about you.)” The user who posted the tweet, @kausilvaviolin, deleted the message and her entire account after some began calling for the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where some Twitter users said she studies, to punish her.

Another read: “Leifert acting like a good Jew. Man, how I’m revolted by this filthy race,” the Folha de Sao Paulo reported.

Leifert protested the abuse in a video he posted on Instagram on Monday.

“I have been attacked for my religion, because of my family. I have not engaged in such attacks on any party at any given time,” he said.

Israel okays 4th shots for elderly at care homes as daily COVID cases near 5,000

Israel’s national health providers began administering fourth vaccine shots against COVID-19 on Friday to individuals with compromised immune systems.

The Health Ministry’s Director-General Nachman Ash on Thursday okayed the boosters for immuno-suppressed people due to the Omicron infection wave, so long as at least four months have passed since their third shot.

On Friday morning Ash also approved vaccines for elderly patients at geriatric facilities. The ministry said this was done “due to concerns of outbreaks at such facilities, and the risk to the health and lives of residents.”

As infections rise throughout the country at a swift rate, there were reports on Thursday and Friday of heavy traffic at testing sites, where some people were forced to wait hours to get swabbed.

Ali, a tester in Jerusalem, told the Ynet news site the facility was seeing “an increase we’ve never experienced” in people coming in for tests. “We work for eight hours at the site and there’s a test every 40 seconds. It’s insane. There’s no rest.”

New data from the Health Ministry Friday morning showed infection rates continuing their rise, with nearly 5,000 new cases diagnosed Thursday.

South Africa says Omicron wave swiftly subsiding, with no major increase in deaths

South Africa, where the Omicron variant was detected in November, said Thursday that the country’s latest coronavirus wave had likely passed its peak without a significant increase in deaths and that restrictions would be eased.

The highly contagious Omicron variant, which contains a number of mutations, has fueled an end-of-year global pandemic resurgence. But mounting evidence, including in South Africa, has given rise to hopes it may be less severe than other strains.

“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave,” the South African presidency said in a statement that announced the end of the nightly curfew.

Infections dropped by almost 30 percent last week compared to the preceding seven days, according to the presidency, while hospital admissions also declined in eight of the nine provinces.

During the spike, only a marginal increase in COVID-19 deaths was noted, it added.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalization than in previous waves,” the statement said. “This means that the country has a spare capacity for admission of patients even for routine health services.”

Tech sector leads Israeli exports, projected to reach record high of $140b in 2021

Israeli exports are expected to reach record highs of between $135 billion and $140 billion in 2021, up 18.5% from last year, the Ministry of Economy and Industry projected on Monday in a new report.

The ministry said the data was gleaned from the first three quarters of 2021. In 2020, Israeli exports reached $114 billion, preceded by $117 billion in 2019, according to ministry data.

For the first time, exports of “services” — a loose term that includes Israeli technology services like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence — appeared to be exceeding exports of goods, the ministry noted. In 2021, exports of services are set to amount to 51%, with 49% for goods.

Exports resulting from the sale of startups and companies jumped by about 257%, leading service exports to increase overall by 30%, the ministry said.

In the tech sector, exports of programming services and research and development services grew by 25% and 15%, respectively, the ministry said.

The commodities sector, meanwhile, grew by 15%, “an increase that has not been seen in recent years,” according to the report. The strongest commodities sub-sector was the diamond exports, which grew by 65% in 2021.

Technion develops eco-friendly method of harvesting energy from seaweed

Researchers from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed a method that harvests an electrical current directly from seaweed in an environmentally friendly and efficient fashion.

The research, the idea for which came to doctoral student Yaniv Shlosberg while swimming at the beach, has been developed by a consortium of researchers from three Technion faculties and has been presented in the peer-reviewed Biosensors and Bioelectronics scientific journal.

The research was led by Professor Noam Adir and Shlosberg in cooperation with researchers from the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute and others.

The use of fossil fuels results in the emission of greenhouse gases and other polluting compounds, which have been found to be connected to climate change. Pollution due to the use of these fuels starts from their extraction and transportation around the globe, to be used in centralized power plants and refineries.

These problematic issues are the driving force behind research into methods of alternative, clean and renewable energy sources. One of these is the use of living organisms as the source of electrical currents in microbial fuel cells. Certain bacteria have the ability to transfer electrons to electrochemical cells to produce electrical current. The bacteria need to be constantly fed and some of them are pathogenic. A similar technology is Bio-PhotoElectrochemical Cells, the source of electrons can be from photosynthetic bacteria, especially cyanobacteria.

Many different species of seaweed grow naturally on the Mediterranean shore of Israel, especially Ulva which is grown in large quantities at IOLR for research purposes.

On This Day: 955 years since the murder of Jews in Granada massacre

December 30 marks 955 years since the Granada massacre, a brutal event when a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada in Muslim-ruled Spain, crucified the Jewish vizier and slaughtered thousands of Jewish residents of the city.

Granada was the capital of a Berber Muslim kingdom of the same name in modern-day Spain, then known as al-Andalus when it was under Muslim rule. At the time, it was ruled by the Zirid dynasty, and while control of the kingdom would change hands for several centuries, Granada would ultimately be known as the last bastion of Muslim rule in al-Andalus before it fully fell to Spanish rule in 1492 in the culmination of the Reconquista.

But the Jewish presence in Granada is far older. In fact, while some legends even posit that Jews had lived in the city since the destruction of the First Temple, the first known evidence dating back to the year 711. In fact, the Jewish presence in Granada is so old and established that the city is said to have once been known as Garnāta-al-Yahūd, meaning Granada, City of the Jews. Although some scholars cast doubt on this widespread assumption of Jewish history in the city, the traditional legacy lives on, as has its importance in Jewish history.

Like in many parts of al-Andalus, the local Jewish population thrived, with the period of Muslim rule over the Iberian peninsula widely being regarded as the “Golden Age” for Sephardi Jewry. During this era, Jews enjoyed more freedoms and prosperity than they had for over a thousand years, and Jewish culture, philosophy and science thrived.

The situation was not always good, however. In fact, after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba and al-Andalus fractured into smaller Muslim kingdoms, Jews did not always have the same prosperity. But this was not the case in Granada, where Jewish life thrived under the rule of the Zirids.

Views of the Zirid walls of Granada from the lookout tower of the Dar al-Horra palace. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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