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Iran Behind Cyberattack on Israeli Water Authority; Operated through US Servers

By World Israel News

Iran is behind the cyberattack on Israeli water authority sites last month, Fox News reported Thursday. According to the report, the Iranian hackers used American computer servers to launch their attack. The U.S. Department of Energy refused to comment on the specific incident, but a senior official said the Trump administration was committed to protecting America and its allies against these sorts of attacks. Two weeks ago, unknown hackers staged a cyberattack on water facilities in Israel with the aim of taking over operating systems and disrupting pump operations. The attack on several water-pumping stations and sewage plants around the country apparently took place over April 24-25, however, it is unclear whether any operating systems were taken over or pump operations disrupted. Water and sewage operators were instructed to act immediately to change passwords for the operation of the facilities, "with emphasis on operational systems and in particular on chlorine adding systems," a Ynet report said. On sites where passwords could not be changed, operators were told to consider disconnecting systems from the internet. No operational damage was reported, and the national water authority issued a short statement saying that "the issue was addressed." According to information received by Ynet, the attacks occurred on a Friday and Saturday and were identified by cyber defense protocols. In January, the Israeli "white hat" hackers group, which works to thwart attacks in real-time, warned that major Iranian cyber threats were on the horizon. Initially, the Israel Water Authority stated that "the subject of attempted cyberattack is not new and is constantly being addressed by the appropriate professionals." A few hours after the news was leaked, the Israel Water Authority released an official statement saying, "The Water Authority and the National Cyber ??Array are updating that an attempt has recently been made on the command and control systems of the water sector. The attempted attack was handled by the Water Authority and the National Cyber ??Array. It should be emphasized that there was no damage to the water supply and it is operating and being operated as normal," the Water Authority added.

What Does China's Coronavirus Cover-Up Mean for Israel?

By Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS (Analysis)

Growing calls for an investigation into China's handling and possible cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak have observers debating the potential implications for both Israeli and U.S. policy on China. In Israel, there was concern over Chinese penetration of key areas of the economy even before the pandemic. China is Israel's second-largest trading partner after the United States, with $11.5 billion in annual trade, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. However, in the aftermath of the global coronavirus pandemic the United States is likely to increase its pressure on Israel in this regard, some experts believe. Carice Witte, the founder and executive director of the Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), told JNS, "Unless at the end of this Israel has a comprehensive plan ready for its relations with China that addresses U.S. concerns regarding Israel-China cooperation, it is highly likely that due to the fallout of the virus, the U.S. will ask Israel to limit its dealings with China." The only way Israel can prevent this, said Witte, is to take the initiative. "If Washington sees that Jerusalem has taken sufficient precautions not only regarding Israel's national security but also what the U.S. considers its own security issues, it may see no need to pressure Israel regarding a range of fields where we are working with China, from technology to infrastructure to academic research," she said. In 2015, Israel extended a 25-year offer to the state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group to operate its Haifa port, and Chinese investment in Israeli hi-tech has also spiked in recent years. Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton, have warned that the United States will limit intelligence sharing if Israel does not restrict Chinese investment in the country. There was even a report that the U.S. Navy would stop its longtime operations in the Haifa port if the Chinese company took over its operation. However, according to Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, despite the fact that China is an authoritarian state and may well have covered up the initial outbreak, delaying the response of other countries, including Israel, to the crisis, "Israel has to be very careful in its relations with Beijing." This, he said, is because the Chinese can decide whether or not to "allow North Korea to transfer sensitive technology to Israel's adversaries," though he noted that China tries not to leave fingerprints as to its involvement in such transfers. In addition, he said, claims that China is "taking over" the Haifa port are overblown. Great care must be taken, however, when dealing with China, for several reasons, said Inbar. "We should be careful in allowing Chinese firms linked to the government to control some of our infrastructure projects. Only recently [did] Israel establish an inter-ministerial committee to deal with foreign investment in sensitive parts of our economy." Furthermore, said Inbar, "Dealings with Chinese entities might have problematic political consequences." There is increasing confidence that the coronavirus pandemic began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details told Fox News. The sources propose that the initial transmission of the naturally occurring virus being studied in Wuhan was bat-to-human, and that "patient zero" worked at the lab. Some in the U.S. administration and the epidemiological community are more skeptical of this claim, but all agree on the extensive cover-up the Chinese government carried out after the outbreak was first detected, the report said. However, Asia Times columnist David P. Goldman told JNS that while it is entirely possible that the Chinese authorities hid the true casualty rate in Wuhan, if so it was likely done to help contain the spread of the virus and ease anger against the government's handling of the crisis. In addition, he said, even if an initial cover-up of the outbreak did delay other countries' response, "somehow the other Asian countries got on top of this much quicker than the West." Nevertheless, there is increasingly harsh rhetoric coming out of the United States over China's handling of the initial outbreak, as well as calls to punish China in some way, or even to decouple the U.S. economy from the growing world power. China hawks in Congress are calling for China to be held accountable, with one of the latest moves in this regard being Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) introducing legislation to allow Americans to sue China in federal court over the death and economic damage caused by the virus. "By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe," Cotton said in a statement. In a recent column, Goldman argued that it is unrealistic to decouple the country from the Chinese economy, since doing so would undermine America's interests. But as the evidence mounts of a Chinese cover-up, the push to retaliate against China in some manner is gathering momentum. The question is what form that retaliation will take, and whether the post-coronavirus environment will convince—or force—Israel's leaders to scale back ties with China as tensions with the United States escalate.

Fauci to Orthodox Jews: Ease into Communal Prayer

By JTA
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs infectious disease research for the federal government, advised Orthodox Jews to phase in communal prayer as local governments lift coronavirus pandemic restrictions. "The kind of social interactions which is the core of the beauty of your culture has unfortunately led to a higher risk," Fauci said Thursday in a webcast organized by the Orthodox Union. He encouraged the people on the call to take baby steps toward reestablishing in-person prayer. "If you said, for the time being, `How about once a day and five days a week as opposed to three times a day, seven days a week,' if you could phase that part in," that would be a good idea, Fauci said. He added, "I don't want to be presumptuous to know what that would mean to you from a spiritual standpoint." Synagogues across the country have been closed since mid-March, when states shuttered houses of worship and other gathering places in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. While some synagogues have begun holding services online, that practice is not compatible with Orthodox practices, so Orthodox Jews have not prayed together in months. Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Orthodox Union's executive vice president, told Fauci that his organization was advising congregations to wait two weeks past government opening dates to start returning to congregational prayer, to designate seats to make sure congregants sit apart and to stagger services to keep entry into the synagogues compatible with social distancing. Fauci said, "As tough as it sounds, I have family members in the same boat, you've got to make sure that they are really protected…As we get to the fall, there will almost certainly be virus. As you're doing your praying, make sure you include me in that," Fauci said. Hauer also told Fauci that the Orthodox Union was advising congregants to keep 8 feet apart because "it will end up being 6 feet," the recommended distance for safe interaction, because Jews cannot resist socializing. The emotional core of the Jewish people of being warm and close to each other, you can't resist!" he said.

Israel Bans Traditional Bonfires for Lag b'Omer

By JTA
Israelis will be prohibited from the traditional practice of lighting bonfires on Lag b'Omer, which this year starts on Monday night and lasts for 24 hours. It marks the 33rd day of the counting of the days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. It also marks the end of a minor mourning period recognizing the deaths of thousands of students of the second-century CE. Sage Rabbi Akiva. Israel's Cabinet on Wednesday night approved emergency regulations to prohibit the bonfires in order to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Traditional bonfires and other events that are held yearly at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron will be canceled this year. Instead, the Religious Services minister will allow three separate bonfires, each led by a prominent rabbi, in the area of the tomb to be held by special permit at different times. No more than 50 people will be permitted to participate in each bonfire, and women must be allowed equal participation.

I'm an Older Woman Dating during the Pandemic. I Never Thought it would be this Fun.

By Lynn Rosenberg (JTA-Commentary)

At age 70, I was just beginning to truly appreciate my Jewish heritage when I met Dan, who is not Jewish. My late husband was Jewish and, though never religious, I very much enjoyed that we had that in common. But now, as a senior, I feel that what's most important is finding someone whose company I really enjoy while knowing the pride I feel being Jewish will always be in my heart. While I was never in touch with my sexual side during my marriage, I was attracted to Dan the minute I met him. He's handsome, intelligent and laughs at my jokes. We were easy with each other. We met on the dating site Plenty of Fish. Dan is a good 10 years younger than me, but that is not unusual for me. I feel younger than my age and like dating younger men. We met several months ago at El Torito, a Mexican restaurant in Long Beach, California, near my home. We ordered margaritas. As we talked, I found myself touching his arm. After touching him several times, I realized the gesture wasn't reciprocated, so I stopped. Then, as we continued to talk, he opened his palm, extending his hand to me. After drinks and dinner, he gave me a choice: We could go next door to Denny's for coffee or go home. I chose coffee at Denny's. I didn't want the evening to end. We were a nice fit and our first date lasted four hours. We weren't without our differences. He's from Lebanon (I was raised in the San Fernando Valley). He plays racquetball and tennis (I walk). He enjoys cooking (I don't). Nonetheless, we saw each other several times after that. Mostly we went out to eat and talk. He loves to dance, so after each date we'd come back and dance to music in my apartment. I had just gotten an Echo, and Alexa and I found some romantic songs I enjoyed for dancing such as "Never Gonna Let You Go" by Sergio Mendes and "Through the Fire" by Chaka Khan. He held me tight as we slow-danced to the love songs. I grew to really like him. We had another date planned and then the coronavirus hit. I'm not only a senior, but I have asthma, and when the warnings first came about the importance of seniors, in particular, with underlying conditions avoiding crowds, it alarmed me. And then when further warnings came about staying six feet apart from everyone, I knew I'd have to cancel my plans with Dan. One of my friends suggested I make a "phone date" with him. I brought it up to Dan but he said he wasn't good on the phone. I didn't know if that was due to the shyness he told me he'd had in his early youth or something else. Still, he agreed to it. We managed to talk for 10 somewhat awkward minutes, then it ended. I was concerned we'd never sustain any kind of relationship until — who knows when this confinement would be over. Being high risk for the virus, I was terrified even to go to the market, even as early as 6 a.m. and wearing a mask and gloves. I had tried to order groceries online, but out of the 92 items I wanted, they only had five! So I went to the market — and felt anxious the entire time. On top of that, I was faced with being alone 24 hours a day with no touching, no hugging, no nothing. The true reality of being isolated was sinking in. How would I manage through what was predicted to be months of not being around Dan or anybody else? Recently I got a camera with a mic for my computer. Among other things, now I could invite Dan to Skype with me. Again, he agreed. I wondered if this was going to result in the same disappointing experience as the phone call. I don't think most people look attractive on Skype, and I didn't want to be one of them. I put on full makeup and wore red, my best color. We set a time to "meet" at 10:30 p.m. I sat in front of the computer and waited. After about 10 minutes, I tried to call him on Skype but it failed. Then I sent him a text telling him I would soon turn into a pumpkin. No response. I waited a little longer. Nothing. After another 10 minutes I went to bed, still wearing my makeup, something I never ever do. Dan had never left me hanging before. I didn't know what to make out of it. We hadn't established a pattern, so I couldn't predict his responses. This was a first. It was confirming in my mind what I had already feared. This is probably the end of this relationship. And then, the next day, late morning, he called and apologized for having fallen asleep and asked if we could do it that evening. I had visions of us drinking wine and getting loopy together, but I didn't suggest it. I had no idea how it would go. Well, it turns out we didn't do Skype after all. We both have Androids with WhatsApp, and we connected there. He looked great! I was wrong. Some people do look good on these devices. His gorgeous gray hair had grown, which I liked. I spotted a baby grand piano in the background and told him he should have me over to play for him, having been a professional pianist/vocalist years ago. We talked about his experience trying to get, yes, toilet paper, and not succeeding. I shared a few jokes with him. He laughed. He asked about me and I told him about an article I had recently sold. We talked for over an hour! We were back to communicating. How wonderful it was to "see" him. I loved watching him laugh at my jokes again. What I thought was the end is perhaps the beginning of a new way to communicate. A new way to get to know each other and in perhaps more depth than before. A new way to appreciate each other. This "new normal" may not be so bad after all.


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