Tuesday, September 29, 2020

From Ian:

Netanyahu at UN reveals Hezbollah arms depot in Beirut, warns of fresh ‘tragedy’
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday revealed a secret arms depot belonging to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah near Beirut’s International Airport, warning of another catastrophic explosion and calling on the Lebanese people to protest against the terror group and its Iranian sponsors.

“We all saw the terrible explosion at Beirut port last month,” he said in a pre-recorded statement broadcast to UN delegates, referring to August 4’s huge blast that devastated the Lebanese capital.

He pointed to the site of the blast on a map displayed next to his podium. “The explosion happened here. This is the Beirut port. Two hundred people died, thousands of people were injured, and a quarter of a million people were made homeless,” he said.

“Now, here is where the next explosion could take place. Right here. This is the Beirut neighborhood of Janah. It’s right next to the international airport. And here, Hezbollah is keeping a secret arms depot.”

The depot in the city’s Janah neighborhood, the prime minister said, is adjacent to a gas company.

“And it’s embedded in civilian housing here, [and] civilian housing here,” he said, pointing at the map.

He proceeded to display photographs of the entrance of the facility, which he said was a Hezbollah missile factory.

“I say to the people of Janah, you’ve got to act now. You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy,” Netanyahu said.

“I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm. But Iran does. Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger. And what you should make clear is that what they have done is unacceptable. You should tell them, ‘tear these depots down.’” Full text of Netanyahu’s address to the 2020 UN General Assembly

UN will ‘lose its right to exist’ if it doesn’t treat Israel fairly, envoy says
Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan on Tuesday claimed the international body was at risk of “losing its right to exist” over its unfair treatment of the Jewish state and predicted it could be defunct by the end of the century.

“The UN is risking the loss of whatever relevance and legitimacy it has left. If the organization can’t take action against the worst regimes and continues to cling to the Palestinian obsession, in 75 years there will be no UN to mark its birthday, because it will simply lose its right to exist,” Erdan wrote in a column for the Israel Hayom daily.

He was referring to the UN’s 75th anniversary, which was marked earlier this month. Israeli leaders have taken a hard line against the UN in recent years, accusing it of disproportionately criticizing Israel while ignoring abuses by other countries.

Erdan, who took up the post in August, lashed the United Nations for turning a blind eye to abuses by Iran, and also singled out the secretary-general, Antonio Gutteres, for omitting mention of Israel’s normalization deals with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in his opening speech at the General Assembly last week.

The UN must “rechart its course” and make room for Israel in its institutions, said Erdan. “I will fight for this with all of my power and I believe that if the UN wants to remain relevant, it must treat Israel fairly and in a balanced way.”

Erdan’s column was published ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly Tuesday evening.

Seated in the General Assembly hall, Erdan introduced Netanyahu, and in his opening remarks protested what he said was the failure of the UN “to encourage more countries” to follow the leads of the UAE and Bahrain in making peace with Israel. “Most states are missing this opportunity,” Erdan said.

Jewish Democrats release campaign ad comparing Trump and 1930s Germany
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) has released a new campaign ad Tuesday aimed at Jewish voters in swing states which compares US President Donald Trump and his alleged connections to white nationalism to the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany, according to a press release from the organization.

The new ad features parallel images of antisemitic hate and nationalism in Nazi Germany and the Trump administration, suggesting that American Jews have much to fear from a second term. Some of the images include antisemitic graffiti from 1930s Germany along with images of antisemitic graffiti on a modern American synagogue and Jewish cemetery. The narration also reads: “History shows us what happens when leaders use hatred and nationalism to divide their people.” The ad ends with an ominous warning: “Hate does not stop itself. It must be stopped. VOTE.”

Halie Soifer, JDCA executive director, said in response to its release that “A majority of American Jews feel less safe today than they did four years ago due to the rise of white nationalism and antisemitism under Donald Trump."

"This, coupled with Trump’s assault on our democratic institutions, are reminiscent of the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany. President Trump’s use of hatred for political purposes has made America less safe for Jews and we are voting accordingly,” she added.

“We must vote like our future as a people depends on it - because it does.”

Victor Rosenthal: What American Jews Can Learn from AOC
Rabin’s image among liberal American Jews has been that of the heroic peacemaker. But recently a more extreme current of misozionist sentiment has pushed traditional Jewish liberalism aside, with groups that support BDS and one state, like JVP, IfNotNow, and even Students for Justice in Palestine, capturing the attention of younger Jews in place of J Street and APN. Their explicitly anti-Israel positions are shared by intersectional groups like BLM.

The online journalist who sent the tweet that caused Ocasio-Cortez to drop out of the Rabin event, Alex B. Kane, represents this stream. He was at one point an editor at Mondoweiss, a site that is a sewer of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish writing. Kane is now a contributing writer to Jewish Currents (edited by Peter Beinart), the new flagship publication of the misozionist movement among American Jews.

Ocasio-Cortez simply made a mistake when she agreed to appear at the APN Rabin affair. Her Jewish supporters are clearly in the progressive, intersectionalist camp with Kane and Beinart, IfNotNow and JVP, and not with the liberals of APN or J Street (the geriatric boomers of AIPAC are not even in the running). When her mistake was pointed out to her, she jumped to where she – a leader of the progressive Left – knew that she belonged.

I have often criticized the “liberal” groups on the grounds that their proposed two-state solution is not compatible with Israel’s security. But many of their supporters do believe in a Jewish state and disagree with me about the intentions of the Palestinian leadership, the possible effectiveness of technical safeguards, the demographic threat from the Arab population, and so on. I think they are wrong, but not all of them are anti-Israel. On the other hand, most of the progressive groups and individuals are not even trying to hide their desire to see the Jewish state replaced by an Arab state.

I said before that AOC taught a lesson that American Jews should learn, and it’s this:

The progressive Left is not on your side, even if you are a died-in-the-wool two-stater, even if you dislike our Prime Minister, or even if you hate “settlements.” These people do not want to end the conflict; they would not be satisfied if Netanyahu quit, and a two-state division along the Green Line wouldn’t be enough for them. They want to see the PLO/Hamas win and the Jews lose.

This would be terrible for the 7 million Jews of Israel, who would face death or dispersal if the objectives of these people were achieved. But even if you can’t get excited by that, do you want a world where you, personally, as a Jew, have no place to go?

A few years ago the idea that American Jews might need a place of refuge was ludicrous. Is it still so unlikely?
Passage of ‘One-Sided’ Pro-BDS Resolution at Columbia Decried as ‘Deeply Irresponsible’
Undergraduate students at Columbia University in New York City have voted in favor of a referendum calling on their school to “divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from the State of Israel’s apartheid system and military occupation” in the Palestinian territories.

According to Columbia College’s student government, “the number of votes in favor of resolution (61.04%) exceeded both the number of votes against and in abstention.”

The referendum was an initiative of the “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” (CUAD) student group — a “joint campaign launched by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Voting began last Tuesday and ran through Friday — during the Jewish High Holy Days. Shortly before the start of the vote, Columbia’s student newspaper issued a statement apologizing for a pro-Israel ad opposing the measure it had run that it called “deeply inappropriate.”

Celebrating the referendum’s passage, CUAD posted the election results and congratulated itself on “[p]assing divestment by an incredible margin.”

It then published a photo of students covering a sculpture in the middle of Columbia’s campus with keffiyehs and Palestinian flags.

In response to the vote, Columbia Hillel’s Executive Director Brian Cohen told The Algemeiner, “The process and language of this referendum was one-sided. Its reference to an inapplicable UN apartheid resolution was deeply irresponsible.”

“At a University committed ‘to advanc[ing] knowledge and learning at the highest level’ this referendum does the opposite,” he added.
Top Canadian Jewish Group Calls on University of Toronto to Defy Pressure to Hire Israel-Hating Academic
A top Canadian Jewish group is calling on the University of Toronto to defy a campaign to install a violently anti-Israel academic at the head of one of its major programs.

The university was considering placing Valentina Azarova at the head of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at its law school.

The apparent decision not to hire Azarova has prompted howls of outrage from anti-Israel activists, who are putting immense pressure on the university to reverse its stance and hire her.

B’nai Brith Canada urged the university over the weekend not to cave to the pressure.

CEO Michael Mostyn said, “Ms. Azarova is seeking a position that requires fairness, honesty, and academic integrity. But her uncompromising activism, in our opinion, would be a defeat for academic freedom on campus.”

“Public opinion is changing now that we are presenting the other side of this story for the first time,” he asserted. “We expect that this will continue, and that U of T will stand firm against the current lobbying campaign.”

Azarova has claimed she does not intend to do “Palestine work” in her new position, but critics claim that this is highly unlikely given her background.

They note that 90% of her academic work is on the Palestinian issue, with a stridently anti-Israel bias. She has also participated in platforms with aggressively pro-Palestinian positions, such as the hate site Electronic Intifada.
Pro-Israel Group Calls on Tufts to Investigate Dental Student Over Hate-Filled Anti-Jewish Tweets
StandWithUs sent a letter on Thursday to Tufts University’s president and the dean of its dental school expressing concern about a third-year dental student over his history of antisemitic tweets.

In its letter to Anthony Monaco and Nadeem Karimbux, StandWithUs wrote that Adam Elayan’s tweets, which date back as far as 2012 and have since been removed from Twitter, “should raise immediate concern,” and that “these apparent sentiments are egregious for a student aspiring to provide dental-health services to the public, and to Jewish or Israeli patients in particular.”

StandWithUs warned that “Elayan’s online posts present an apparent obsession with conveying hatred for Jews, relaying antisemitic tropes about Jews and posturing about a desire to harm Jews physically.”

In a 2014 tweet, Elayan reportedly posted: “I will f—in cremate you Jewish b–ch.”

In another tweet that year, he reportedly posted, “LEMME F— THIS YAHOOD [Jewish] B–CHES UP YO.”

He also reportedly that year tweeted, “YAHOOD [Jews] RIGGED THE GAME.”

In 2015, Elayan reportedly posted tweets that included “Can’t stand the yahood [Jews] here”; “Talk is cheap, it’s like all of y’all grew up in a Jewish home”; “Hate how Israel currency is all coins stupid Yahood [Jewish] f—s”; and “The only difference between Jews and Muslims is that Jews never like to spend money and Muslims never have any money to spend.”

StandWithUs also expressed alarm about Elayan expressing “hatred of Zionism, which is a core part of Jewish identity,” citing tweets including “Every certain trait I hate about people stems from the average personality of Zionists”; “I do not refer to Zionists as human beings. They are of primitive standards, comparable to the Neanderthal”; and, “They steal your whole country, that’s a Zionist.”

Indy's Arabic brand grossly misleads on US, Israeli peace process positions
In two consecutive articles, published on September 16th and 17th, Independent Arabia’s West Bank correspondent Khalil Mousa misrepresented both Israeli and US positions towards negotiations with the Palestinians and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

Although he was made aware of at least one of the falsehoods in the first article via CAMERA Arabic’s twitter account (he liked our tweet on the matter only to unlike it later – see screenshot), so far Mousa and his editors failed to correct even that specific detail despite our subsequent request.

In his September 16th article, entitled “Palestinians rely on a Biden victory in the American elections to improve their condition”, Mousa mentioned that US president Donald Trump: “moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, and recognized it as the ‘united capital of Israel’”.

In fact, as we have shown before, the US never recognized a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as it considers the municipal borders of Jerusalem – as well as its permanent status – a matter dependent on the future results of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This was made clear in a statement issued by the State Department on its official website.

As mentioned, Mousa liked our tweet that informed him of the falsehood, only to unlike it later on once we posted a request to correct it:
Previously we reviewed BBC Radio 4’s framing of the signing of the Abraham Accords on September 15th in Washington. This post will examine coverage of the same event on BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’.

That day’s earlier edition of the programme (from 14:06 here) included the report by Tom Bateman that had already been aired that morning on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme in which he claimed that “the Gulf deal brings a glimmer of deliverance for Mr Netanyahu” in relation to a “crisis at home”.

Bateman also repeated what has been one of the BBC’s main talking points ever since this story began:

Bateman: “But for Palestinians the Gulf countries’ deal with Israel is a betrayal. They think it breaks years of Arab solidarity over their hopes for an end to military occupation. Countries in the region had offered formal ties with Israel only once Palestinian statehood was achieved.”

Listeners to that programme also heard an interview by Frank Gardner with the UAE minister Anwar Gargash, a filmed version of which appeared on the BBC News website.

The later edition of ‘Newshour’ on that day had the signing of the accords as its top story, with presenter Tim Franks indulging in speculation during his introduction (from 00:11 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “And we’ve got one big story today. It comes out of Washington. The dignitaries on the sun-bathed terrace of the White House a few hours ago appeared to be hoping that today’s images will be reproduced for years to come; a sharper definition replay of that grainier footage from decades ago; the then Israeli prime minister under the benign grin of the then US president shaking hands with, in turn, the president of Egypt or the king of Jordan. Today, with Donald Trump presiding, it was the turn of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to appear smiling side by side with the foreign minister of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, and the foreign minister of Bahrain, Abdullatif bin Rashid, as they signed diplomatic agreements. Watching all this with frustration, if not fury and despair, were the Palestinians.”

Like BBC Radio 4, ‘Newshour’ managed to cover this topic extensively, but without any contribution from any Israeli official involved in the story. Having downplayed the importance of the Abraham Accords by describing them as “less of a breakthrough than a reflection of existing reality”, Franks did however conduct an interview with former Israeli MK Einat Wilf, whom he told:

Franks: “You are keeping millions of Palestinians under occupation. This doesn’t move the dial at all on that.”

When Wilf stated that the Palestinians “will need to share the land with the sovereign Jewish state”, Franks inaccurately claimed that the Palestinians had already agreed to do just that, wrongly insisting that “they’ve made that clear since 1988”.
Congress launches inter-parliamentary task force to combat online anti-Semitism
A bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday announced the launch of an inter-parliamentary task force to combat online anti-Semitism.

“As social media posts do not stop at international borders, members of the national legislatures of the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom have come together across party lines” to form the coalition, Democratic House member Ted Deutch’s office said in a statement.

Deutch will be joined on the task force by fellow Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with Chris Smith and Mario Diaz-Balart from the Republican party. From outside the US, Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh will represent Israel, MPs Anthony Housefather and Marty Mortantz will represent Canada, MPs Josh Burns and Dave Sharma will represent Australia and MPs Andrew Percy and Alex Sobel will represent the United Kingdom.

Deutch’s office said the goals of the task force would include “establishing consistent messaging and policy from legislatures around the world in order to hold social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Google, accountable.”

The congressman told the Jewish Insider that the idea for the inter-parliamentary group was born at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem earlier this year. Deutch said he left the gathering feeling “compelled to move forward” with more action to monitor social media sites, which he felt weren’t doing enough to combat the phenomenon.

The task force will also seek to adopt transparent policies regarding hate speech, and to raise awareness of online anti-Semitism in particular, the statement from his office said.
Top Australian Jewish Group Slams Major Bookstore Chain for Selling Virulently Antisemitic Book by Martin Luther
A top Australian Jewish group criticized a major bookstore chain for selling a violently antisemitic tome penned by Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Christianity.

The Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) called the book On the Jews and Their Lies a “depraved” work that “dehumanizes and demonizes Jews,” and expressed astonishment that the Dymocks chain was selling it.

The book was written by Luther in 1543, after the medieval Jews’ refusal to convert to his new form of Christianity sent him into a rage.

In the book, Luther called the Jews “liars and bloodhounds,” “poisonous envenomed worms” and “our plague, our pestilence, our misfortune.”

He said that synagogues should be burned and encouraged the murder of Jews, writing, “We are at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord. We are at fault in not slaying them.”

The book was a major inspiration for the Nazis, who saw Luther’s Jew-hatred as a precursor of their own antisemitism.

In addition, the version being sold by Dymocks contains a forward by the late antisemitic pastor, Texe Marrs, who referred to Jews as a “synagogue of Satan” and an “evil cabal” that was “responsible for virtually all wars and bloodshed on the face of the planet.”

Dr. Dvir Abramovich — chairman of the ADC — said in a statement, “This notorious antisemitic tract by a rabid and violent Jew-hater, which called for the murder of rabbis and promoted a program of extermination, served as a blueprint for Hitler’s Final Solution. It should not be sold by any bookstore.”

“Why in the world is Dymocks sanitizing, mainstreaming, and putting out the welcome mat to a disgusting manifesto, dripping with poison, that fomented genocide against the Jewish people and which inspired the Nazis?” he asked.
Rivlin condemns ‘shocking’ swastika vandalism in UK on Yom Kippur
President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday condemned the daubing of a neon-yellow swastika on a car in the United Kingdom a day earlier, during Judaism’s holiest day.

“This is the shocking sight of rising Antisemitism — a swastika sprayed on a car on Yom Kippur in Britain yesterday. Words of condemnation are not enough. We need Holocaust education and remembrance so governments and societies everywhere actively challenge this threat to Jews,” he tweeted, along with a photo of the vandalism.

The incident took place in Bristol’s Kingswood neighborhood. It’s unclear who was responsible.

Local police said they are investigating.

A local Jewish resident, Nick Bayne, who lives across the street from the targeted car, tweeted that he was sickened by the anti-Semitic display.

“We woke up to our neighbor’s car tagged with a giant neon Swastika. It’s Yom Kippur, and this makes me sick both as a Jew and as a human,” he wrote.

“This is the holiest day of the #Jewish year, and to have a swastika suddenly appear RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR FLAT, in #Bristol of all places, is absolutely harrowing. My wife is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and this causes deep upset and anxiety.”
Israeli Platform IMPROVATE Hosts First ‘Food Security’ Conference, Linking African Nations With Israeli Tech
New Israeli platform IMPROVATE recently held a first-of-its-kind “food security” conference, aiming to connect Israeli technology companies with African countries to tackle the challenge of feeding the continent’s rapidly growing population. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the conference, which was attended by dozens of agricultural ministers from African nations.

“Food security is a huge challenge, and it was a challenge before Covid-19, which has just deepened that challenge,” said Blair at the event. “This is a huge opportunity to use technology to help lives, to improve lives, to save lives, to improve the quality of agriculture in Africa, to help Africa fulfill its potential as a major source of food, not just for Africans, but for the world. … This is something that is transformative, groundbreaking, and will change the world.”

In total, 10 leading Israeli companies presented solutions to the ministers pertaining to some of the challenges faced in specific nations. These included Netafim, a water supply and drip irrigation company; NextFerm, which offers food security through natural fermentation proteins; and Milkey, which helps increase dairy production.

The companies heard about the challenges faced by each nation from the agriculture ministers of five African countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland).

“During periods of crisis, people tend to focus on the problem, on its causes, and on who is to blame,” said IMPROVATE founder and chair Irina Nevzlin. “But the important thing is to understand the source of the problem, and we believe in the need for a platform that enables leaders and companies to focus on the solutions to problems.”
4 Israeli universities named among top 50 producers of entrepreneurs
Four Israeli universities are listed in PitchBook’s 2020 ranking of 50 leading global undergraduate programs.

In the ranking, Tel Aviv University is situated at 8th place, unchanged from last year, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology ranks 12th, up two places from the 2019 listing, Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranks 32nd, up two places vs last year, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ranks 46th, up three places from 2019.

The 2020 ranking is for the university programs that produce the most entrepreneurs who go on to obtain venture funding.

Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) nabbed first, second and third place respectively, followed by Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania. All of these top five have maintained their 2019 rankings.

For the ranking, PitchBook tracked founders of companies that received a first round of venture funding between January 1, 2006, and August 31, 2020. All rankings are based on data solely within that timeframe, PitchBook said in a statement.

The undergraduate programs at Tel Aviv University have helped create 807 founders, who have set up 673 companies and raised a total of $16.1 billion in the relevant period, the statement said.

The programs at the Technion have generated 602 founders, who have set up 509 companies and raised a total of $12.4 billion.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University Develop a Device That Predicts Epileptic Seizures
Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have developed a new wearable device that can predict the onset of upcoming seizures. The device will be licensed for further development by NeuroHelp, a startup founded by BGN Technologies, which serves as the tech transfer company of BGU.

The device, called Epiness, uses machine learning algorithms to detect and predict upcoming seizures, sending a warning message directly to the user’s smartphone. It does this by monitoring EEG-based brain activity which causes epileptic fits, while filtering noise that is not related to such a risk.

“Epileptic seizures expose epilepsy patients to various preventable hazards, including falls, burns and other injuries,” said Dr. Oren Shriki, the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at BGU and NeuroHelp’s scientific founder. “Unfortunately, currently there are no seizure-predicting devices that can alert patients and allow them to prepare for upcoming seizures. We are therefore very excited that the machine-learning algorithms that we developed enable accurate prediction of impending seizures up to one hour prior to their occurrence.”

According to Dr. Shriki, NeuroHelp is already developing a prototype that will be assessed in clinical trials later this year. The algorithm has reached a 97% accuracy rate and is expected to help meet some of the unmet medical needs in identifying upcoming onsets.

Epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease that affects more than 65 million people around the world. It is mostly characterized by seizures that can lead to loss of consciousness. They vary in frequency and can occur up to several times a day in severe cases.
Explore a new treasure trove of Israeli films old and new
In a fortuitous turn of events, the Israel Film Archive uploaded its extensive library online just as lockdown was looming. Considering that we exhausted all our sourdough baking skills last time around, this is very welcome news indeed.

The Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Israel Film Archive features Israeli cinema all the way from the late 19th century to the present day – that’s some 30,000 titles, recorded on two million meters of film, which showcase 4,500 hours of productions made in Israel.

This is now available on a new platform available in English. Many of the films can be viewed for free; others require a one-time payment.

The project took off in 2015, setting up the first advanced professional lab transforming film reels into digital formats at international standards. Disintegrating film reels, many of which contained the only copy of a particular film, were archived in 4K-quality digital files – saving them from oblivion. Disintegrating film reels are now archived in 4K-quality digital files. Photo by Bar Mayer

Visitors to the website can choose between two sections. The first is “The Artistic View,” which enables a search for feature and documentary films made in Israel from 1928 to the present day. These include, for example, the 1980s cult movie “Summertime Blues,” the award-winning “Noodle” from 2007 and even one film filed under the topic of “Erotica,” called “Love Life,” also from 2007.

“The Historical View” section contains thousands of pieces of diverse archival materials such as clips showing “An Outstanding Waiter Competition” from 1958, the laying of the cornerstone for the coastal city of Netanya in 1929 and children playing at summer camp in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in 1945.
German Biker Gang Stages Vigil to Protect Munich Synagogue During Yom Kippur Services
Members of a German bikers club staged a vigil outside the main synagogue in Munich on Monday pledging to protect the city’s Jewish community as it held services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

About 70 people — including 20 leather and denim-clad bikers from the “Kuhle Wampe” club — gathered outside the synagogue on Jakobsplatz to mark the first anniversary of the attack by a neo-Nazi gunman on a synagogue in the city of Halle in which two people were murdered.

The club, which actively campaigns against racism and antisemitism, was first launched in the 1970s by bikers who opposed the nationalist and right-wing tendencies that dominated the scene at the time.

Oliver Westermann, a biker who initiated the vigil, told the assembled crowd, “We’re here to protect the synagogue.”

Other members of the club held up a white banner bearing the words “Together for Our Synagogue” in Hebrew.

Other speakers at the event included Charlotte Knobloch — the head of the Munich Jewish community — who recalled her enthusiasm when Westermann suggested the vigil a few weeks ago.

Praising the bikers’ for their commitment, Knobloch said that “the name ‘Yom Kippur’ has sat heavily in our hearts since Halle.”
Airborne Yom Kippur ritual for locked down Melbourne Jews
A Melbourne, Australia, pilot took to the skies with three chickens Sunday to carry out a pre-Yom Kippur ritual that was otherwise off-limits for that city’s locked-down Jews.

Kapparot, practiced by some Orthodox Jews, involves swinging a live chicken over one’s head three times and reciting a prayer to transfer sins to the bird. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor. (Learn more about the ritual, which many animal rights activists have sought to curtail.)

This year, with large gatherings off-limits because of the coronavirus pandemic, those who practice the ritual have struggled with how to carry it out. A Brooklyn organization is offering to deliver chickens to people’s homes. (A picture in a New York Times story about low rates of mask-wearing in Brooklyn’s Orthodox neighborhoods showed a man holding a live chicken, with no explanation of why.) In Israel, where the government has imposed stringent rules meant to reduce sky-high COVID-19 infections, kapparot is among the permitted reasons for travel.

In Melbourne, the entire city is locked down. So an enterprising philanthropist with access to an airplane decided to conduct a symbolic version above the heads of all of Melbourne’s Jews, by flying with chickens in circles over the city.

The hourlong, low-altitude flight was reported by the website Dan’s Deals, a popular budget travel site run by an Orthodox Jew who lives in Cleveland. The site showed the flight’s path over the city, with a dense set of circles over the city’s heavily Jewish neighborhoods, including Caulfield and St. Kilda.

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