Newsletter : 19fx0401.txt
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Another Burst of Hamas Rocket Fire, Yet Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings & Releases
$300 Million Payout
Israel reopened the Gaza border crossings early Sunday, March 31, although five
Palestinian rockets were aimed at the Eshkol district. IDF tanks hit back at Hamas
positions in northern and central Gaza. There were no casualties but damage on the Israeli
Although the usual terrorist and IDF tit-for-tat show goes on and Hamas leader
Yahya Sinwar pledged more of the same, only worse Israel appears to be going
forward nevertheless with lavish concessions for Gaza rewards for what Israel
officials are commending as Hamas' "self-restraint" in keeping the March of the Million on
Saturday within bounds.
DEBKAfile reports exclusively that the Netanyahu government has consented to the UN
beginning to draw on the $300 million fund for Gaza Strip's economic development
accumulated from donations by different countries. Expenditure on projects will be
overseen by Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process.
Generous Israeli benefits and Hamas promises make up a new understanding for which the
Egyptian mediators are now working on a timetable that DEBKAfile reports as including
expansion of the flow of food supplies crossing into the Gaza Strip as well as building
materials, which Israel restricted in the past as they were used for terror tunnels.
Also, discussions on a maritime line linking Gaza to a port in Cyprus or Egypt is planned;
Hamas will halt its attacks on IDF forces defending the border fence; Palestinian rocket
fire against Israel will cease; No more explosive balloon assaults; The IDF will exercise
restraint against Palestinian "demonstrators" pushing against the border fence. This is
taken to mean an end to live fire.
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will twist the arm of Palestinian Authority chairman
Mahmoud Abbas to release the funds he has been holding back from the Hamas regime for
covering its payroll and Gaza's electricity bills. A permanent Egyptian mission will be
established in Gaza City to monitor the new accord's implementation. Its members,
high-ranking Egyptian intelligence officers, were present on the ground during the
No truce will be announced between Israel and Hamas. At a later date, they will announce
that they are reverting to the understandings reached after Defensive Shield, Israel's
last major counter-terror operation in Gaza in 2006.
Armed Robbers Steal Medical Cannabis from a Farm in the Galilee
By the Jerusalem Post
The first major medical cannabis robbery was reported in Northern Israel this week,
according to the Hebrew business publication Globes. Masked and armed robbers raided a
legal medical cannabis farm in the Sea of Galilee area, taking an unknown amount of
cannabis. Police are investigating the incident.
The event comes as cannabis takes a front-and-center role in the upcoming April 9
election, with parties debating whether to make not only medical cannabis but recreational
marijuana legal. Israel recently made substantial reforms in the field of medical
cannabis, legalizing its export, and providing an opportunity for more farms to receive
permits to grow pot.
The global medical cannabis market was valued at $8.3 billion in 2017 and is projected to
rise to $28 billion by 2024, according to a report by Energias Market Research. For
Israeli companies to tap into the market, they will need both approvals by the Health
Ministry and the police.
The Zehut Party, led by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, has based a large portion of its
campaign efforts on expressing support for the legalization of cannabis in Israel, which
analysts say is what has allowed the group to straddle the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Several other political parties expressed their open support for or consideration of
legalization, including Likud, Meretz, and Gesher.
Netanyahu Warmly Welcomes Brazil's Bolsonaro in Israel
By VOA News
Israel's prime minister warmly received Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Sunday, on
the leader's first state visit to Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu's red carpet welcome for
Bolsonaro comes days ahead of a tough re-election bid for the long-time Israeli premier on
The Brazilian president is widely expected during his three-day trip to decide whether to
follow President Donald Trump's lead and move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to
Jerusalem, a move he has repeatedly promised. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which
Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims
all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector.
The two leaders, wearing matching blue ties as they surveyed an Israeli color guard,
touted the forging of closer ties. Netanyahu addressed Bolsonaro as a ``good friend'' and
said Israel and Brazil have entered ``a new era'' of relations.
The Brazilian leader opened his speech after landing with the words "I love Israel" in
Hebrew. "My government is firmly decided to strengthen the partnership between Brazil and
Israel," Bolsonaro added.
Netanyahu has faced criticism for courting the friendship of authoritarian leaders, such
as Hungary's Victor Orban, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte,
in his push for closer ties around the globe. Bolsonaro has drawn criticism for making
disparaging remarks about gays, women, indigenous groups and blacks during his 28-year
career as a Brazilian congressman. Rights groups have expressed concern about the new
administration's hardline approach to security and protection for police officers who
Israeli activists protested outside the airport after Bolsonaro landed, raising a rainbow
flag with the words "The Holy Land doesn't want homophobes here" in Portuguese.
Israel's Tourism Industry Courting Visitors from China
Tourism to Israel is on the rise, and if last year's numbers 4,120,800, to be
exact are any indication, this year may prove to be even more successful. While for
years, many tourists to Israel arrived from Western countries, the numbers are changing.
Now, more tourists from countries in the East, especially China, have discovered Israel.
If this trend continues, Israel's incoming tourism industry could witness greatly
With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China is a gold mine in terms of tourism
potential, and Israel has already hopped on the bandwagon. A conference held this week at
the Dan Jerusalem Hotel, titled "Made for China," focused on developing ties between the
two countries and finding ways to encourage Chinese tourism to Israel.
Peter Phang, from tourism marketing agency BrandStory, said that to the Chinese, China is
considered the "middle" of the world, "so to us," he joked, "Israel is a Western country."
He highlighted that some provinces in China have more than 20 million people; thus, the
marketing potential Israel has in some of these areas is enormous.
Phang noted that while China is one market and one country, it is also a very big market
as large as Europe. "Some municipalities in China are so large," he said, they have
a gross domestic product "equal to that of Australia. This demonstrates the scale of the
Incoming tourists from huge countries like China would be a tremendous boon to Israel. The
data is showing signs of improvement, and Israel is fast becoming an extremely popular
tourist destination. In fact, at the end of last year, international market research firm
EuroMonitor named Jerusalem the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world.
Phang emphasized that there "is no one size fits all when it comes to China. You have to
do many things to market Israel to the diverse Chinese population."
Hainan Airlines, which just launched a new route from Shenzhen, China, to Tel Aviv, also
has direct flights to Tel Aviv from Shanghai and Beijing. China Eastern also plans to
launch its direct flight to Tel Aviv, making it the third Chinese airline, including
Sichuan Airlines, to offer direct flights to Israel.
This introduction of more flight routes from China to Israel has had a market impact on
tourism to Israel and will continue to do so if this trend continues. The Tourism Ministry
reported a general 14% increase in incoming tourism over 2017 and a whopping 42% increase
The Economic Research Department of the Israel Hotels Association recently published data
for February 2019 on hotel stays compared with the same period over the past two years,
and the evidence is clear: Incoming tourism to Israel is decidedly on the rise, and
Chinese tourists are helping make it happen.
Other speakers also acknowledged huge potential China holds for incoming Israeli tourism.
Roy Kriezman, the Tourism Ministry attaché in southern China, said "tourism from
China to Israel began to rise significantly only in 2016, thanks to new direct flights to
Israel that were launched from various regions in China."The capacity of passengers is
huge, and many of the planes still have plenty of room," he said.
Kriezman noted that there are four main categories of Chinese tourists, all of whom want
to discover Israel. The first category includes older, leisure tourists. They have already
been to the main cities around the world, and they want to find a new, mysterious and
The second category is the millions of Chinese Christians who want to come to Israel on
pilgrimage. These are huge groups that can easily take over an entire hotel during their
visit. The third category represents the many businessmen and women who arrive in Israel,
usually for just a few days. The fourth category includes those who arrive as part of an
official delegation. Kriezman concluded by encouraging everyone, on behalf of the Tourism
Ministry, to make efforts in the Chinese market.
Phang recommended to Israeli travel agents and tour operators to "be open." Make the
connections, exchange ideas with counterparts in China and discover ways to bring more
Chinese individuals and families to Israel, he encouraged. He also said businesses need to
"invest" or "engage" in dialogue and relationships with tourism-industry representatives
in China so that they can better understand the needs of these groups. This collaboration,
he hinted, could lead to great success.
Rare Discovery in the City of David
A rare and exciting discovery: A bulla (seal impression) and a 2,600-year-old stamp
bearing Hebrew names were uncovered in the City of David. The artifacts were discovered
inside a public building that was destroyed during the destruction of the First Temple and
was uncovered in archaeological excavations of the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David
National Park in Jerusalem. The dig was conducted by archeologists from the Israel
Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.
According to Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel
Antiquities Authority who were responsible for the dig, these special artifacts were found
inside a large public building, that was destroyed in the sixth century BCE - likely
during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Large stone debris, burnt
wooden beams, and numerous charred pottery shards were discovered in the building, all
indications that they had survived an immense fire.
The importance of this building can be discerned, among other things, from its size, the
finely cut ashlar stones from which it was built and the quality of the architectural
elements found in the layers of destruction - for example, remnants of a polished plaster
floor, which had collapsed and caved into the floor below.
The stamp and bulla, which are about one centimeter in size, were deciphered by Dr. Anat
Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of
Ancient Jerusalem, who, according to the script, dates them to the middle of the seventh
century to the beginning of the sixth century BCE.
The seal impression, dated to the First Temple period, features the words: "(belonging) to
Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King" (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech). The name
Nathan-Melech appears once in the Bible, in the second book of Kings 23:11, where he is
described as an official in the court of King Josiah, who took part in the religious
reform that the king was implementing: "And he took away the horses that the kings of
Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of
Nathan-Melech the officer, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the
sun with fire."
The title "Servant of the King" (Eved HaMelech) appears often in the Bible to describe a
high-ranking official close to the king. This title appears on other stamps and seal
impressions that were found in the past. This seal impression is the first archaeological
evidence of the name Biblical Nathan-Melech.
Dr. Mendel-Geberovich notes that the fact that this official was mentioned by his first
name alone indicates that he was known to all, and there was no need to add his family
lineage. According to Mendel-Geberovich, "Although it is not possible to determine with
complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was, in fact, the
owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them
Bullae were small pieces of clay impressed by personal seals, used in ancient times to
sign letters. While the parchment that they sealed didn't survive the fires that
devastated ancient Jerusalem, the bullae, which are made of ceramic-like material, were
preserved, leaving evidence of the correspondence and those behind them.
A stamp-seal was also in discovered the same place, made of bluish agate stone, engraved
with the name - "(belonging) to Ikar son of Matanyahu" (LeIkar Ben Matanyahu). According
to Dr. Mendel-Geberovich, "The name Matanyahu appears both in the Bible and on additional
stamps and bullae already unearthed. However, this is the first reference to the name
"Ikar," which was unknown until today." She believes that despite the literal meaning of
Ikar which is a farmer, it most likely refers to a private individual with that name as
opposed to a description of his occupation. It is still unclear who this person was.
Private stamps were used to sign documents and were often set in signet rings carried by
their owners. In ancient times these stamps noted the identity, lineage and status of
Both of these artifacts will be presented in full in the Israel Exploration Journal, the
archaeological journal published by the Israel Exploration Society.
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