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Trump, World Leaders Congratulate Israel's Netanyahu on Election Victory

By The Algemeiner, Reuters, Israel Hayom

Several world leaders congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday for his election to a fifth term, including President Donald Trump. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said of Netanyahu, "It may be a little early, but I hear he's won it and won it in good fashion," Politico reported. "He has been a great ally. He is a friend. I would like to congratulate him," Trump added. The president also said that Netanyahu's victory would increase the chances for success of the administration's upcoming peace plan. "The fact that Bibi won, I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace," Trump stated. "Look, everyone said — and I never made it a promise — but everybody said you couldn't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians. I think we have a chance. I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won." Aides to Trump expect the president to release his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) once Netanyahu forms a coalition, Reuters reported on Wednesday, a day after Netanyahu's election victory. Officials said that despite criticism of the administration's moves to date, the plan would demand compromises from both sides. The contents of the Middle East peace plan, authored by Trump's advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, have remained a secret thus far. Kushner and Greenblatt have limited the plan's distribution over the two years they have been crafting it. It has been kept secret "to ensure people approach it with an open mind" when it is released, a senior administration official told Reuters. Only four people have regular access - Kushner, Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz, the official said. Trump is briefed regularly on the contents but is not believed to have read the entire document of dozens of pages. "He is briefed if something interesting is happening or there is an idea they want to run by him," the official told Reuters. While the plan has not yet been made public, Kushner recently discussed it in an interview with Sky News in Arabic. While Kushner did not get into many specifics, he did say the plan "is very detailed and will focus on delineating the border and providing solutions to the main issues that are controversial and will be appropriate for the current situation on the ground." According to Reuters, the proposal also addresses such core political issues as the status of Jerusalem and separately aims at helping the Palestinian Arabs strengthen their economy. Cloaked in secrecy is whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the plan would be presented before too long but, when asked, declined to say whether the administration favored a two-state solution. On Tuesday, when asked about the two-state by a Senate subcommittee, Pompeo would only say, "Ultimately the Israelis and Palestinians will decide how to resolve this." The PA, meanwhile, has been boycotting the US ever since Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December of 2017 and has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled. Israel's Government Press Office said in a statement that Trump had personally called Netanyahu from Air Force One to congratulate him. Netanyahu thanked Trump for his support of Israel and "the two leaders again expressed their appreciation for the abiding friendship between them and their countries. They agreed to continue closely working together in the coming years for both Israel and the United States." Trump also tweeted about Netanyahu after seeing a picture of his supporters waving a "Make American Great Again" banner. "Trump flags being waived [sic] at the Bibi @Netanyahu VICTORY celebration last night!" Trump wrote. Netanyahu also received enthusiastic congratulations from the other side of the world, with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting, "My dear friend Bibi, Congratulations! You are a great friend of India, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to take our bilateral partnership to new heights." Modi also posted a Hebrew translation of his tweet. From Europe, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted, "Congratulations to Prime Minister @netanyahu for an excellent showing in yesterday's national elections. While the official results have yet not been published, one matter is clear: you have — once again — gained the trust of the people of #Israel in record numbers," said Kurz. "I am looking forward to working with you in the future," he added, "for the benefit of the people of Israel and the people of Austria."

`Jews Have to Die!' Vicious Anti-Semitic Assault in Buenos Aires

By The Algemeiner

The rabbi of the Buenos Aires synagogue attacked with stones and broken glass following Shabbat services last Friday night has called on the Argentine authorities to step up security at Jewish institutions around the country. "We hope that more security measures will be taken, that police will be put in place so that these attacks do not happen," Rabbi Uriel Husni of the Mikdash Yosef synagogue in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires told Argentine news outlet Clarin on Monday. Husni, who was moderately injured after he fought off one of the two assailants, provided an eyewitness account of the attack. Between 10 and 15 congregants were talking on the sidewalk outside the synagogue following Friday night prayers when a man and a woman began showering them with anti-Semitic abuse, he said. Both were in their early 20s, according to Rabbi Husni, while the woman was also heavily intoxicated on alcohol. The rabbi added that as soon as the insults began, "this was already an anti-Semitic attack." As the woman began yelling "Jews have to die! Kill the Jews!" the man accompanying her threw stones and shards of glass from a broken bottle at the stunned synagogue congregants. Husni then confronted the man, suffering bruising on his foot and hand as he attempted to restrain him before police arrived and arrested the couple.

"I never thought that something like this could happen," Husni said. "I was terrified. Luckily, together with the security of the temple, we were able to stop these people." In a statement condemning the attack, two leaders of DAIA — the communal body representing Argentine Jews — argued that increasing poverty in Argentina was enabling the spread of anti-Semitic attitudes. "The situation of poverty in our Republic causes, in some sectors of the marginalized social group, the invocation of old prejudices installed in society," DAIA's president, Jorge Knoblovits, and its secretary general, Alejandro Zuchowichi, said in a statement. There was some consternation at Knoblovits' description of the episode in media interviews as "not an anti-Semitic attack" but rather "an act of hooliganism with anti-Semitic content." In an editorial reflecting on the Mikdash Yosef incident, the Argentine Jewish website Vis-a-Vis asked by way of response, "If two people, drunk or not, attack a synagogue, shout against the Jews and injure a rabbi, is that not an anti-Semitic attack?"

Israelis are Fired Up to See Their Beresheet Spacecraft Land on the Moon. Here's How to Watch It

By JTA

With elections in the rearview mirror, Israelis are now focusing on the moon. The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, or Genesis, is scheduled to touch down on the moon's surface on Thursday night in Israel. And the country has Beresheet mania. Watch parties and celebrations are planned throughout Israel. The main event — in Hod Hasharon, about 13 miles from Tel Aviv in the central part of the country — will include exhibitions, a dance party, a space-themed selfie wall and videos. Tens of thousands of Israelis had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch the lunar lander's launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Feb. 21 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This time the hour will be more civilized, with Beresheet expected to touch down in the northeastern part of the Sea of Serenity, a flat area on the moon's surface, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. in Israel. A successful landing will make Israel the fourth country — after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China — to land a spacecraft on the moon. Other touch-down events also sponsored by the Israel Space Agency are planned for Kiryat Shemona in the north, Mitzpeh Ramon in the south, Givatayim (a suburb of Tel Aviv) and Jerusalem. For those outside of Israel, Space IL, the nonprofit organization that founded the Beresheet program, will live stream the landing on its Facebook page and YouTube. Last week, SpaceIL broadcast directly from its control room in Yehud, Israel, as Beresheet successfully entered the moon's orbit in its last major step before the moon landing, making Israel the seventh country to enter the moon's orbit.

The unmanned craft's engine was burned for six minutes, and the maneuver, the spacecraft's seventh, was conducted with full communication between the control room and Beresheet. Several smaller engine burns have taken place since then to properly orient the spacecraft and enable a proper landing. Beresheet has traveled over 3.4 million miles in its orbits around the earth and another 1 million around the moon. After landing on the moon, the spacecraft will take photographs of the landing site and a selfie to prove it touched down safely. It also will measure the moon's magnetic field as part of an experiment carried out in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The spacecraft will leave a time capsule containing a database of hundreds of digital files ranging from details about the SpaceIL, the craft itself and the crew of the project to national symbols, cultural items and materials collected from the general public over the years, as well as the entire Bible printed in microscopic text on a coin. The spacecraft is not expected to return to earth. The size of a compact car, the craft has been said to look like a way-out washing machine and weighed about 1,300 pounds at launch, most of which was fuel. The landing also hopes to inspire Israeli kids to go into science and engineering, called the Apollo effect, by showing them that space exploration is achievable. Its educational programs have already reached more than 1 million children. The iCenter, designed to help educators connect Jewish students with Israel, also has a section devoted to SpaceIL and Beresheet, including educational resources about the moon landing and Israel's space program.

Israeli Researchers say Sodom Salt Cave is World's Longest

By Israel Hayom

Israeli researchers have surveyed what they now believe to be the world's longest salt cave, a network of twisting passageways at the southern tip of the Dead Sea. A recently completed survey of the Malham Cave determined the labyrinthine cavern stretches more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in length. That puts it well ahead of Iran's Namakdan Cave, previously thought to be the longest salt cave. The survey was conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a group of Israeli, Bulgarian and international volunteers. Boaz Langford, a researcher at the university's Cave Research Center, and Antoniya Vlaykova, a Bulgarian cave explorer from the European Speleological Federation, headed the expedition. There is no official record for the longest salt cave, and such designations are generally decided by consensus among cave researchers after an underground chamber is mapped and published. Namakdan, which is about 6 kilometers (4 miles) in length, was identified as the longest salt cave after a study by Czech and Iranian scientists in 2006. Salt caves are unusual and rare geological features. Because salt is highly water soluble, large salt deposits do not normally survive long on the surface. Only a handful of salt caves are over a kilometer (half a mile) in length. Salt caves tend to only exist in highly arid regions, like the area around the Dead Sea, which is located at the lowest point on earth and is too salty to support animal life. The Dead Sea and Mount Sodom were formed by tectonic activity, the shifting of the Earth's plates at the northern end of the 6,000-kilometer (4,000-mile) Great Rift Valley. Over millions of years, successive flooding of the deep depression lay down thick layers of salt. "The salt layers are squeezed out from the subsurface, where they are deposited a few kilometers underground, and while being squeezed out they form a mountain, which is rising still today, at a rate of about one centimeter per year," said Amos Frumkin, a Hebrew University geologist who has studied the cave for decades. The Malham Cave's main outlet yawns not far from a salt pillar named "Lot's Wife," after the biblical character petrified for looking back at the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. On the mountainside above, Langford, Vlaykova and their colleagues have identified at least 19 openings where seasonal floods have percolated through Mount Sodom's rock salt to form the cave. Efraim Cohen, one of the Hebrew University cave explorers, described the process of locating the cave's entrances from the surface, rappelling down into surface shafts, squeezing through tight passages, and measuring each of the cavern's serpentine branches with lasers. Despite the difficult environment, he said the cave's splendor makes it worth it. "All the stalagmites and stalactites, their beauty, their color – they're white, they're shining, they're amazing," Cohen said. Radiocarbon dating of wood fragments found inside the cave has helped date its formation to around 7,000 years ago, making it extremely young by speleological standards. "The reason why it's so young is that it's made of salt," Frumkin explained. "Limestone caves are much slower to form. They are usually much older. But this one is developing very fast, so it's one of the youngest caves in the world."


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