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Nationwide Lockdown Gets Green Light Ahead of Next Week's Final Vote

By JNS, Israel Hayom & Israel News Faxx

The special ministerial forum on the COVID-19 pandemic approved coronavirus czar Ronny Gamzu's proposal to reimpose a nationwide lockdown for about a month. The decision now moves to the cabinet and then to the Knesset for final approval, but it is expected to be fast tracked by early next week, with the lockdown taking effect by next Friday.

Israel News Faxx's correspondent in Be'er Sheva reports that local supermarkets are jam-packed with residents attempting to purchase enough food to last through the proposed lockdown. The reporter said that people have been waiting for at least 30 minutes. "Everyone is doing their own thing. It's a zoo today. People are stocking up on everything. It is an essential part of surviving. We need food," he reported. Before the vote on the matter, the coronavirus forum was asked to deliberate on a variety of options. Gamzu and officials in the Health Ministry presented the lockdown option as the best means of tackling the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has begun to spiral out of control with case records being broken almost daily.

Under the emerging decision, which was favored by Gamzu despite being potentially harmful to the economy, the shutdown of the businesses and other public venues will be along the lines of the measures imposed several months ago.

Gamzu has been pushing for this harsh measure in light of the upcoming surges in community spread and deaths from COVID-19. In recent days some 3,000 new cases have been recorded on a daily basis. If approved the measure would see Israelis being forced to stay at home or within a set distance from their residence and virtually all non-essential commercial activity would cease. This would span the month of the High Holy Days, taking effect on Sept 15 and ending on Oct. 12.

The lockdown's primary goal is to ensure emergency rooms won't reach overcapacity, as well as to lower the morbidity rate. The lockdown, if approved as proposed, will be particularly stringent during the High Holy Days, when families traditionally hold large meals.


Aliyah to Israel Rising Despite COVID-19, Bureaucracy Bottlenecks

By JNS & Israel Hayom

Israel is seeing a spike in aliyah (immigration to Israel) this year, with a higher number of people interested in moving to the Jewish state compared to previous years. But with COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the world, it has become more difficult to get through the process and once in the Jewish state, whole families are required to sequester in a hotel for two weeks.

According to Yael Katsman, vice president of public relations and communications at Nefesh B'Nefesh, a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates aliyah to Israel, "aliyah is continuing, and we are seeing a massive spike in interest in the number of applications."

Katsman noted that compared to previous years, this August there was more than a 200% increase in applications. The top three states from which people seek to make aliyah are New York, California and New Jersey. "We've had almost 1,000 people coming this summer," she told Jewish News Syndicate. "Israel's gates are open to olim [new immigrants]. It's just a question of getting the paperwork in order," she added.

And herein lies the problem. The global coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on bureaucratic systems since offices are shut and workers are staying home. This means that the process of making aliyah, which requires no shortage of paperwork, signatures and stamps, has essentially slowed to a crawl. Coupled with that 200% increase in applications, and potential immigrants are looking at a major systematic logjam. To make matters worse, Israel requires an apostille – a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961 – for documents such as birth certificates, personal status documentation, adoption papers and criminal background checks. While there are companies that provide services helping individuals with getting documents authenticated with apostilles, a large part of the problem is that they must be issued by a federal office in America – offices not working to full capacity. "It's a process," said Katsman. "There is various documentation that you need, which is part of the standard process of making aliyah. The processing is taking somewhat longer because of the pandemic. We are doing the best we can to help process everyone."

MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh of the Blue and White Party told JNS that with regard to apostilles, "the specific holdup comes from an important effort on Israel's part to ensure those that are making aliyah are not known offenders in their countries of origin who are attempting to move to Israel.

"The problem is also primarily affecting individuals making aliyah from the US, where the apostille must come from Washington, and due to COVID-19, this office is functioning on extremely limited capacity, leading to the delays in the aliyah process," she said. But she understands that some solution must still be found if the coronavirus isn't going anywhere anytime soon and people need a way to expedite the process.

"Given the imperative to protect all its citizens, Israel cannot simply ease the apostille restriction; however, we are looking into creative solutions to ameliorate the backlog in the system due to COVID-19," said Cotler-Wunsh. "These include looking at bilateral efforts between the US and Israeli governments to streamline the apostille process, or allowing individuals to move to Israel on visas and finish the aliyah process while already in the country."

Once the aliyah process is complete, olim must isolate for two weeks after landing in Israel. What was once a day of immense joy and emotion has become a dreaded period that lacks the celebratory atmosphere that usually greets new arrivals. But Cotler-Wunsh, a member of the Knesset Immigration and Integration Committee, said she has made efforts in this area as well in order to help olim acclimate to their new reality.


Kushner Accuses Israel of Being `Land-Eaters' for Fulfilling Biblical Commandment to Settle Judea

By Israel365 News

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and Middle East advisor Jared Kushner said on Wednesday that Trump's plan presented in January of this year was still on the table even though it was rejected by the `Palestinians' reports TOI. He added that it provides them with their best chance of stopping continued Israeli settlement expansion in Judea and Samaria, which Israel liberated in the 1967 Six Day War.

"What we did with our plan was we were trying to save the two-state solution, because… if we kept going with the status quo… ultimately, Israel would have eaten up all the land in the West Bank" Kushner said.

And although Kushner claims to be an orthodox Jew, speaking negatively about the Jewish people settling in the land that God instructs them to dwell in in the Torah flies in the face of a very central Biblical commandment for the Jewish people found in Deuteronomy: When you enter the land that Hashem your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, (Deuteronomy 26:1)

His statements are considered to express the Trump Administration's most antipathetic attitude towards Israel's alleged ambition to settle all of the land of Israel as written in the book of Joshua:

The US plan would allow the `Palestinians' a state that includes limited sovereignty in Gaza and in most of Judea and Samaria, with additional land swaps from within Israel. It also grants Israel the ability to annex roughly 30% of the Judea and Samara including all its Jewish communities and the Jordan Valley. It also allows Israel to maintain nearly all of East Jerusalem under its sovereignty.


Report: Iran to Hold Military Exercise in Strait of Hormuz

By i24News & Israel Hayom

Iranian air and naval forces are set to conduct new military exercises in "a vast area covering millions of square meters" including the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean, local media reported.

The Strait of Hormuz is the world's single most important oil passageway, as it is the only route to the open ocean for over a third of the world's liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil shipments.

The Iranian military reportedly plans to deploy warships, submarines, along with unmanned aerial vehicle technology to the area. The military exercise will be an opportunity for Tehran to show its "authority" and its "ability to act promptly" along its coasts, explained Iranian Admiral Amir-Habibollah Sayyari.

This development comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington after Iran had built and moved a mock American aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz in July, in view of possible military exercises.

The report also comes a few days before the signing of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, scheduled for September 15 at the White House, which should formalize the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On August 16, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened the Emirates, saying they had made a "huge mistake" in concluding this agreement with the Jewish state.


New Poll of English-Speaking Israelis Anglos: 36% Say 'We Must Organize Politically'

By the Jerusalem Post

Three-quarters of English-speaking Israelis in Israel identify themselves as part of an "Anglo community," and 36% say they must organize themselves the way Russian-speaking immigrants did, according to the most comprehensive survey of Anglos ever conducted.

The poll found that 31% of Anglos who see themselves as part of a community say they do not believe they should organize themselves like Russian speakers, 20% say they believe they already organized themselves in a similar way, and 13% say none of the above.

The survey was sponsored by the Anglo Vision, an initiative of English-speaking Israelis who seek to coalesce a community around a vision of unifying positions that can effect change, development and progress and contribute to Israel.

The poll of 421 respondents, representing a statistical sample of the adult Anglo population in Israel, was conducted from July 20 to August 30. The survey defined Anglos as born in an English-speaking country or having one or more parents born in an English-speaking country and having high-level English. The margin of error was 4.77% at a confidence level of 95%.

"The poll is intended to determine where the Anglo community stands and get a pulse on what issues are important to us," said Anglo Vision founder Rabbi David Fine. There are between 300,000 and 400,000 Anglos in Israel, Fine estimated, which would be worth several mandates in the Knesset.

The poll found strong support for issues Anglo Vision supports, including making Sunday a day off, increasing representation and accountability in government, fighting efforts to boycott Israel, making aliyah a national priority and improving absorption counseling and career training and development for new immigrants.

When asked which issues are important to them when they vote, Anglos cited economic issues first, followed by political issues and education and healthcare. Eleven percent said security and foreign relations, and another 11% said matters of religion and state.

Asked how to have the most impact on the Israeli government, 58% said to support a party closest to their ideology, irrespective if they specifically represent them, 13% said to support nongovernmental organizations that effect change in public policy, 10% backed supporting a specific Anglo representative in an existing political party whose role was to specifically represent them, and 8% said supporting a new political party that represents Anglos. Twelve percent said other or none of the above.

The poll's results would be presented to various politicians from across the political spectrum, Fine said. No political goals have been considered yet by his organization, which decided to first check what the Anglo community believes via the poll, he said.

"Anglos don't really have a voice in the public agenda and the direction where the country is going, and we decided we wanted to change that," Fine said. "We sit on the sidelines and let others decide for us. But we have a lot of ideas to make the country even better."


The Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World's Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

By Brigit Katz for the Smithsonian Magazine

Saint Catherine's Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world's oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there—some of which contain hidden treasures.

Now a team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Many of these original texts were written in languages well known to researchers—Latin, Greek, Arabic—but others were inscribed in long-lost languages that are rarely seen in the historical record.

Manuscripts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests, and there are about 130 of them at St. Catherine's Monastery, according to the website of the Early Manuscript Electronic Library, which has been leading the initiative to uncover the original texts. As Richard Gray explains in the Atlantic, with the rise of Islam in the 7th century, Christian sites in the Sinai Desert began to disappear, and Saint Catherine's found itself in relative isolation. Monks turned to reusing older parchments when supplies at the monastery ran scarce. To uncover the palimpsests' secret texts, researchers photographed thousands of pages multiple times, illuminating each page with different-colored lights. They also photographed the pages with light shining onto them from behind, or from an oblique angle, which helped "highlight tiny bumps and depressions in the surface," Gray writes. They then fed the information into a computer algorithm, which is able to distinguish the more recent texts from the originals.

Perhaps the most intriguing finds are the manuscripts written in obscure languages that fell out of use many centuries ago, such as texts written in a defunct dialect known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a mix of Syriac and Greek, which was discontinued in the 13th century only to be rediscovered by scholars in the 18th century. "This was an entire community of people who had a literature, art, and spirituality," Phelps tells Gray. "Almost all of that has been lost, yet their cultural DNA exists in our culture today. These palimpsest texts are giving them a voice again and letting us learn about how they contributed to who we are today."




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