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Amid War Preparedness, Israel Announces Nationwide Military Drills

By DEBKAfile

The Israeli military announced nationwide IDF exercises would be conducted until the end of the week – an effective measure for placing the armed forces on the ready for war. The public was advised to expect unusual military traffic on the roads. This announcement appeared to conflict with earlier IDF assurances that large-scale tank and special units were standing by on the Gaza border ready for Hamas to further escalate the massive, continuous rocket barrage it launched against southern Israel as of Friday night (more than 100 rockets). A second large IDF force was on the ready on Israel's northern border while Syrian, Hizbullah and pro-Iranian troops were on the move in southwestern Syria and getting closer. However, launching military drills is a useful maneuver for underpinning a government's policies, and the government in Jerusalem undoubtedly faces three fateful policy decisions: Another key decision depends on the outcome of the Trump-Putin summit on Monday, July 16 in Helsinki, about the continued presence of Iran in Syria. If this issue is left open, the Syrian army and its Iranian allies, including an Iraqi Shiite militia, will feel free go forward for a showdown over the Quneitra region opposite Israel's Golan border. They will be fighting under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. Israel is concerned that this showdown will start in the hours leading up to, or during, the Helsinki summit. Another straw in the winds of war came on Friday from Ali Akbar Velayati, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's adviser on external affairs. After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, he said: "We will immediately leave if the Iraqi and Syrian governments want it, not because of Israel's and American pressure." Tehran has therefore welded together its Syrian and Iraqi policies and made them interdependent. He went on to say: "We will counter the Americans powerfully… We will help Syria counter…US aggression. If the US does not want to leave our region, we will force it to do that. For the Iranian regime the US and Israel are interchangeable."

Velayati's words are significant in three respects: Since Iraqi militias are fighting with the Syrian army in the southwestern province of Daraa – and are scheduled to move with them on to the Quneitra region – a decision to oust Iran and its proxies from Syria rests not only with Damascus and Tehran, but also with Baghdad.

By this step, Iran has blocked projected deals for the removal of the Iranian military and proxy presence from Syria that Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin may seek to transact at their Helsinki summit on July 16. Israel faces an increasingly heavy price for failing to disrupt Hizbullah's insertion in the Syrian war in 2013. This action opened the door to Iran. The price was compounded when the Netanyahu government refrained from preventing the influx of Iraqi Shiite militias for boosting Syrian and Iranian military strength in Syria. The IDF will have to take on this powerful force in Quneitra to hold it back from the Golan border. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman committed a disastrous mistake when they did not resist Hamas' latest bomb-for-bomb ultimatum. This gave the Palestinian terrorists parity with the IDF and the freedom to call the shots on whether the Israeli communities living next door live in peace. The Hamas example has given Iran, Syria and Hizbullah ideas about how to dictate the terms of the war in Quneitra. Israeli leaders have maintained that their hands are tied for crushing the Hamas terror machine operating out of the Gaza Strip by the more substantial threat from the north. By this inaction, they have condemned the IDF to fight on two simultaneous fronts.

Israel Conducts Largest Airstrike on Gaza Since 2014

By VOA News & DEBKAfile
The Israeli army has carried out its largest airstrike on Gaza since the 2014 war, and Hamas terrorists are retaliating by firing rockets into Israeli territory. The airstrikes started early Saturday and were met with mortar and rocket strikes from the Palestinian side. Israel said it struck more than 40 Hamas targets. The Islamic Hamas organization governs Gaza. The Israeli military said Hamas responded to its airstrikes with more than 50 rockets. Saturday's violence followed the death Friday of a Palestinian teenager during what have become weekly protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that the 15-year-old was killed during clashes that also injured 25 people. A 20-year-old Palestinian later died from injuries in the hospital, bringing the Palestinian death toll to at least 137 since the weekly protests began March 30. Israel has experienced a number of damaging fires resulting from incendiary devices – often gasoline-soaked rags set on fire – that Palestinians send across the border with kites and balloons. Protesters have also hurled firebombs, explosives, and burning tires at Israeli forces. Israeli armored and Special Forces are massed around the Gaza border ready to enter the Palestinian enclave if the situation deteriorates further. Hamas began shooting anti-tank weapons to meet this threat. DEBKAfile's military sources report that, while both sides are trading heavy fire, both sides appear to be deliberately avoiding causing bloodshed. As tensions on the Israel-Gaza Strip border mount, ?the IDF said it would hold a wide-scale drill ?simulating a ground operation in the coastal enclave. ?The Israeli military pounded Gaza over the weekend ?as Hamas and ??Islamic Jihad terrorists fired 200 ?mortar shells and ??rockets on Israeli border ?communities. The Iron Dome ??defense system ?intercepted 30 projectiles headed ??toward residential ?areas, while the rest hit opens ??areas on both sides ?of the border, the IDF said.? The military said that the Southern Command's 162nd ?Division, which was ?scheduled to hold a wide-scale ?exercise simulating a ?ground incursion of Gaza City, ?has been ordered ?to go ahead with the drill.? Located at the heart of the coastal enclave, Gaza ?City is home to over 500,000 people, making it the biggest city in the Strip. As part of the exercise, Armored, Infantry, ?Engineering and Artillery Corps' troops will drill ?various urban warfare scenarios using areas in ?Be'er Sheva and several Negev Bedouin towns. The drill is expected to simulate raids, chasing ?terrorists in open and tight urban areas, and ?dealing with underground threats, explosive and ?roadside bombs, as well as maintaining supply and ?humanitarian aid routes, the evacuation of ?casualties and handling the local population.? Southern Command officials said the exercise, which ?is the first of its kind in years, is of great ?importance to the troops' combat readiness, ?especially given the potential escalation opposite ?Hamas. ?The military stressed the drill has been on the ?books for over a year and was set as part of the ?IDF's annual training program. However, a senior ?Southern Command officer noted that in the event of ?further security escalation between Israel and ?Hamas, the 162nd Division would be scrambled to the ?border.?

Youths Ditch Birthright Trip, Visit Arab Family Facing Eviction


A group of American Jews visiting Israel on a free Birthright trip walked off the tour during a visit to the City of David in Jerusalem to visit an Arab family who is facing eviction from an eastern Jerusalem home. Six of the young people came from one Birthright tour, and two joined them from a second group in the Sunday walk off. One of the members of the group who walked off the tour live-streamed the event on Facebook, including interviewing each of the members about their reasons for leaving Birthright. The group, guided by Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, visited the Sumreen family who live in a home in eastern Jerusalem owned by Elad, which also runs the City of David national park. Elad is expected to settle a Jewish family in the home after the Arab squatters are evicted. After Israel declared the family home absentee property upon the death of the family patriarch, the house was to be sold to the Jewish National Fund on behalf of Elad, which is seeking the family's eviction, according to Haaretz. The Sumreen family has been unable to prove to an Israeli court that it owns the property. The tour guide with six of the young Jews who left their Birthright group explained to them that they were free to go but that they could lose their deposit for the free trip, that Birthright could decide to charge them for the entire trip, and that they may have to pay to change their return flight. Those who leave a Birthright tour cannot rejoin it. The eight who left their groups on Sunday planned to visit other places in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, including the illegal Bedouin encampment of Khal al-Amar east of Jerusalem, that is planned to be demolished, and a tour of Hebron with the left-wing Breaking the Silence organization, Haaretz reported. It is the second group of young Jews to walk off a Birthright trip in the last two weeks. On June 28, five women affiliated with the IfNotNow, a left-wing millennial Jewish group, walked off the last day of their Birthright trip to join a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron with Breaking the Silence.

The Lost Jewish Tribes of Japan

By Israel Hayom
What is the connection between the Jews and Japan? As it turns out, there is one, and it is strong. A new book by Joseph Eidelberg links the Hebrew language and religious rites to Japanese language and culture in great detail and depth. Israel has just celebrated Japanese Culture Week with performance art, music, food (kosher) and plenty of speeches. Our fascination with the Far East can be traced back to the Lost Tribes, for which the search has continued for nearly two centuries. Many Jews have an ardor to identify other Jews. We have turned it into a game: "Jewish geography," played when two Jews unknown to one another meet in a restaurant, on a cruise ship, in the synagogue. This passion for learning how we are all linked has made its way into literature, science, and academia. Are the tribes in black Africa with rituals similar to Judaism genetically linked to European and North African Jews? What about the black Jews of India, or Far Eastern communities? A new book by Eidelberg, his second, examines in great detail the links he suspects point to the Japanese as one of the Ten Lost Tribes. Eidelberg died in 1985 at age 69, and his family and friends are responsible for preparing "The Japanese and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel" (Gefen Publishing House, 2014), and ensuring publication of this important work. Eidelberg was an enthusiastic student of the Old Testament and Hebrew texts in pursuit of finding the resting places of the Ten Tribes. He learned to speak Japanese and became a scholar in a Shinto Shrine and a devoted investigator of the Biblical origins of the Japanese people, their roots, culture, rites, and ties to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. In his 1972 book "Bambara," the author writes about the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and their 40-year trek to Israel. He believes the Hebrews went west, circling through the Sahara and down through Africa, influencing the cultures, religious practices, and languages of black Africans, before turning east to the Promised Land. In his current book, Eidelberg traces the forced exile of some members of the Ten Tribes of Israel by the Assyrians. He theorizes that some Jews or tribes made their way into Mongolia and the Far East islands. He links the Hebrew language and religious rites to Japanese language and culture in great detail and depth. He traces the meaning of many unknown sources for Japanese words, numbers, songs, cultural and religious rites to Hebrew origins. For instance, "According to Hebrew tradition, it is forbidden to pronounce the name of God. He is often referred to as 'The Most High'; and the Japanese term of 'Kami," which is applied to every deity and every divine object, also means 'Most High,' and can be construed as 'Heavenly.'" He complemented his research with extensive travels first to Iran searching for hard evidence or any links about the tribes transported to Assyria. He located the Muslim Yusufzai people living in remote, isolated villages claiming they are remains of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Another claim he investigated had the Ten Tribes making their way to China. Ancient Bokharan Jewish traditions had the Ten Tribes reaching a country "beyond China." Eidelberg found idiomatic Hebrew expressions and religious similarities in the Shinto religion that he made his way to Japan for deeper insights. Eidelberg's extensive knowledge of Hebrew texts and the Old Testament complemented what he learned during years of study in Japan. Mistakenly, though not critical to his thesis, the author attributes two calamities to acts of King David: three years of famine followed by deadly pestilence for counting the people. Pestilence was punishment for this sin. Famine was unleashed (Samuel 2, 21:1) for King Saul slaughtering the Gibeonites. His writing is simple and clear enhanced with diagrams and the occasional map. It is packed full of suppositions and tenuous links between Hebrews and Japanese societies. For example, the official title of all Japanese emperors is Sumera Mikito. "This title, which cannot be satisfactorily explained in Japanese, can be construed as 'His Majesty of Samaria' in one of the dialects spoken by ancient Hebrews." The Old Testament says, "The king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away." Historical chronicler Josephus wrote, "The Ten Tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now," at the end of the first century C.E. Eidelberg makes these links throughout the book, and the reader must determine for himself their strength and validity. Eidelberg is not the first to suggest that Jews and Japanese share a common ancestry. The talk extends back to the 17th century. DNA evidence has not proved any links. In 2009, World Turtle Productions posted a video, "The Mystery of Jews in Japan" on YouTube, garnering over 171,000 views. The video demonstrates more than a few Jewish rituals and customs similar in ancient Japanese rituals and customs. It's worth watching. An Israeli friend lived a decade in Japan for business. He is engrossed in their culture and customs, and he claims it is "commonly known" the male newborns in the emperor's immediately family are circumcised in secret. This is not a custom of the Japanese, nor is burying bodies and body parts. They are cremated, but the foreskins of the babies are buried in the earth. Eidelberg presents much of his work in the context of Japanese historical periods. He offers a very extensive examination of Japanese words and phrases. Nihon in Japanese is "Land of the Rising Sun." "Nihon is the Chinese ideographic rendering of the name of Japan. In early works, Nihon is pronounced "Yamato" in Japanese. "But if the name 'Nihon' does not mean 'Land of the Rising Sun,' could it perhaps be an expression composed of two words 'Nhi-Hon,' meaning 'Followers of the Book' -- another epithet of the ancient Hebrews?" One final note, what impact did the Hebrews and their religion and culture have on the Japanese if any? We cannot simply look at songs and language. Did the Japanese develop a sense of tikkun olam ("repairing the world") so basic to Jewish belief? I can offer little evidence that the Japanese are a guilt-ridden people for their sins, certainly not in their war years against the Russians and Chinese civilian populations, nor for their treatment of POWs. The Japanese adamantly refuse to apologize to this day. Jews retell stories about their treatment under the Japanese in Shanghai during World War II with respect and good feeling, for their reasonably good treatment as refugees under the Japanese, and for the Japanese not turning Jewish refugees over to the Nazis as they demanded. Then there is the legendary vice consul, Chiune Sugihara, who issued thousands of visas and travel documents to European Jews wanting to escape the Germans. Sugihara even managed to sign visas and throw them out the train windows while he was leaving the country under orders to return to Japan, where he was punished, but not severely. Do they have an affinity for Jews for some ancient ties worth further examination?

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