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Huge Iranian Guards Base Rising near Baghdad for Missile-Drone Attacks on Israel

By DEBKAfile

The Shaykh Mazhar Air Base 48km southwest of Baghdad is under intense renovation by Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as their primary base for missile and armed drone attacks on Israel, DEBKAfile's exclusive military and intelligence sources reveal. The base is 1,200km from northern and central Israel as the crow (or a missile) flies. Iranian Air Force fighter jets are to be brought in to provide Baghdad with air cover against Israel airstrikes, such as those recently staged against Iran's Iraqi arm, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), the umbrella of Iraq's Shiite militias. Our military sources report that during September, one of those militias, the Imam Ali Battalions, took control of the airbase, known also as Suwayrah, for intensive construction work, placing its entire area off-limits to Iraqi military personnel. The conversion is providing fortified hangars alongside the runways to protect planes, drones and ballistic missiles from Israeli airstrikes. Tehran has also installed at the airbase Bavar-373 air defense missiles, the Iranian version of the Russian S-300s. The PMU has a fighting strength of some 160,000 men, whose superior weaponry is more advanced than the Iraqi army's equipment. Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's tacit consent to the construction of Iran's main base of attack against Israel near Baghdad is consistent with his policy of rapprochement with Tehran. On Monday, on his instructions, the Al Qaim border crossing to Syria was reopened for the first time in eight years of warfare, offering Iran free passage for its convoys of missiles and other weapons systems via Iraq to Syria and Lebanon in the guise of commercial freights. This new Iranian airbase in Iraq, which brings its deadly weaponry closer to Israel, and Tehran's deepening military foothold in that country presents Israel and its military with tough decisions on how far it can afford to expand its attacks on Iranian targets in Iraq. The Israeli air force has so far confined itself to striking imported Iranian ballistic missiles and the Iraqi Shiite militias serving Tehran as active proxies. However, attacking a large Iranian air base under construction deep inside Iraq would start a whole new ball game. This decision is up to Israel's top policymakers and strategists. But the highest government levels are unfortunately preoccupied at present with the task of forming a new government or, alternatively, getting set for their third election campaign in a year, instead of dealing full time with the expanding peril advancing ever closer from Tehran.

Netanyahu and Liberman will Meet to Discuss Unity Government

By JTA

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Netanyahu from forming a coalition government following elections in April, will meet to discuss a unity government. The meeting, confirmed by Liberman in a social media post, is scheduled for Thursday morning in Jerusalem.

Liberman said even before the Sept. 17 elections that he wants to see a secular unity government comprised of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, the center-left Blue and White and his secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, and he doubled down on Wednesday. His party's eight Knesset seats could put either the left-wing or right-wing over the 61 seats needed to form a more narrow government. Blue and White narrowly won the most seats in the election, but Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government. Liberman and Netanyahu have been at odds since May, when Liberman's refusal to join Netanyahu in a coalition government led to a second round of elections. Their meeting was confirmed on Wednesday hours after Liberman told a meeting of his party leaders that "the last thing the country needs is another, third round of elections," and that if Likud and Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, could not agree on a unity government by Yom Kippur next week, then he would put forward his own offer. Netanyahu reached out to Liberman for the meeting after Gantz and Blue and White canceled a Wednesday negotiation meeting, accusing Netanyahu of unacceptable preconditions, including bringing the entire right-wing bloc into the government coalition. The prime minister reportedly received permission from the bloc to meet with Liberman.

Jewish Singles Love Celebrating Jewish Holidays and want to Marry Jewish

By the Jerusalem Post

Finding a Jewish partner is important to about one out of five Jewish singles in North America and the rest of the world, according to a study of nearly 4,000 users of the popular dating app JSwipe. The survey also found that Passover is the most celebrated holiday and that these Jews find Shabbat more relevant than kashrut. JSwipe, which describes itself as "the #1 Jewish dating app with over 1 million users worldwide," released their "JSwipe Love Study 2019" on Wednesday. "As we became more aware of how unusual it was to have Jews of all backgrounds sharing space, in our case within the app, we felt called to step further into our role of `open tent,'" founder David Yarus noted in the survey introduction. Of the respondents, 23% of them identified as cultural, 22% traditional, 16% Reform, 16% Conservative, 11% Modern Orthodox, 6% Orthodox, 2% Zionist and 1% just Jewish and 2% other. The breakdown by age included 26% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24, 54% 25 to 34, 18% 35 to 54 and 2% 55 to 64. Sixty percent of survey participants live in the US. The survey found that some 87% of the participants said they practiced Judaism in some form, with Passover being the most celebrated holiday (by 95% of them), followed by Rosh Hashanah (92%) and Yom Kippur (90%). While a vast majority of the respondents (69%) said that they celebrated Shabbat - although only 11% pointed out that this entailed observing halakha (Jewish law) – over half of them do not observe kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) in any form. Moreover, 79% declared to believe in God. "I always go to synagogue on Jewish holidays, I don't eat pork, I always say the Shema before going to bed," one participant said when asked how they practiced Judaism. When asked about what being Jewish meant, over 20% marked the answers: identifying as a Jew; traditions/holidays; Culture; Family/heritage/roots; and Community/people/friends. Notably, only 2% chose the option "supporting the State of Israel." Somehow contradicting to this result, however, was the fact that when specifically asked how important Israel was to their Jewish identity from 1 to 5, 67% of them chose 4 or 5. Moreover, 88% of them said that they had been to the country at least once. Chabad, a Hassidic movement whose core activity is carrying out outreach activities all over the world, was selected as the Jewish organization most supported by participants (15% chose it). Overall, 70% of them said that they supported some Jewish organizations. The survey also found that 68% of the families of the respondents and 41% of the respondents themselves belong to a synagogue. Asked how they feel when they go to synagogue, one participant said, "It depends on the synagogue. It goes from inspired and connected to bored and alienated." In terms of dating practices, 71% of the respondents said they were looking for the person to marry and more than half declared themselves not happy with their dating experience. When asked about how important it was for them to date someone Jewish from 1 to 5, 78% of them responded 4 or 5. Similar responses were given when asked how important it was to marry someone Jewish, with 54% who said their family would react negatively in the opposite scenario. Furthermore, not everyone would be willing to marry a convert (83% said they would). "My family wants me to meet and marry a Jewish man. I also want to keep family traditions alive from having family survive the Holocaust and then there is also the factor of having a common culture to connect over!" said one participant. "Judaism is a priority in my life and I would like to build my home-based on those values with a partner who shares those values," highlighted another.

132,000 Sephardi Jews Apply for Spanish Citizenship

By Reuters, Israel Hayom & AFP
More than 130,000 descendants of Sephardi Jews expelled en masse from Spain in 1492 have requested Spanish citizenship in the past four years, the Spanish Justice Ministry said, just hours after a deadline for applications expired. About half of the 132,226 applications were submitted in the past month alone as the deadline drew near, it said. The bulk of applications came from Latin American countries, mainly Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. More than 4,000 applications came from Argentine Jews and around 3,000 from those living in Israel. So far, only 6,000 people have been granted citizenship, given the long and complex process involved. For the past four years, Spain allowed the foreign Sephardim – old Hebrew for Spaniards – to apply to become Spanish nationals without giving up their current citizenship. They had to present proof of their Sephardi background through their family names, language, or ancestry. The ministry said it would process all applications, including those without the legal certificates attached, which can be submitted later.

To apply, an applicant had to prove their Sephardic origin through either genealogical documents or through rabbis where they live, then take the paperwork to Spain and have it approved by a local notary. Although those applying did not have to be practicing Jews, they needed to be able to prove a "special connection" to Spain. They were also required to pass a Spanish language test as well as answering questions on Spain's culture and society. Around 300,000 Jews lived in Spain before the so-called Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand – whose reign saw the founding of the Spanish Empire – ordered Jews and Muslims to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country. Spain has said it owes its descendants a debt of gratitude for spreading the Spanish language and culture around the world. Most of the Jews expelled settled elsewhere in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In Israel, the Sephardim make up around a quarter of the population.

`Dumb': The Israeli `Breaking Bad' that Shatters all Barriers

By the Jerusalem Post

Now in its third season, the Israeli show features Haredi men who sell drugs as cross-dressers at nighttime and an actress who looks like a teenager in her 30's has won acclaim. The concept behind Dumb, starring Bat Hen Sabag who co-created it with director Shay Kapon for cable television company Hot, is of a woman who looks far younger than her age being recruited by police to pose as a high school student to expose drug sales to minors. The show became a massive hit with the first two seasons getting a massive following. The third season went on the air days before the Jewish New Year and is already getting positive feedback from critics. "In a world in which it takes an entire paycheck to make rent," writes Einat Oliver in Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, "it doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand how an actress from the marginal parts of the country called Shiri Azogi, who can't get a job because of her appearance, becomes the head of a drug cartel." In a nod to the holiday, famous actress Orna Banai takes on the role of a police officer who falls apart because she must remain alone during the Jewish New Year. "The series seems to only get better and penetrate the darkness in Israeli [society] deeper," Oliver writes, "where people who are over 30, no matter how normative, can't go a minute without lighting a joint." If Breaking Bad won acclaim around the world for presenting a shattered American dream by showing how a hard-working brilliant chemistry teacher can't pay his medical bills even when he takes on a second job – the Israeli program does a similar thing for the generation that came of age after the Rabin assassination, Oliver suggests. Writing on the show for Walla!, Avner Borachov joked that the show offers a deal to its viewers: "I'll give you the most enjoyable program on television, and you'll ignore how I turned [actor] Shmil Ben Ari into Walter White [the lead in Breaking Bad played by Bryan Cranston]."


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