Saturday, November 27, 2021

From Ian:

The 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai helped shape Israel-India relations
November 26 marks 13 years since the terror attacks in Mumbai, India. On that night, in 2008, 10 gunmen associated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT – “Army of the Righteous”) organization attacked five locations in the city, firing at random, with the simple intention of killing the maximum number of people. The attackers deliberately targeted areas of the city frequented by foreigners, evidently with the intention that this would maximize the global impact of their actions.

Among the sites targeted was Nariman House, known also as “Chabad House.” Six Israeli citizens were tortured and murdered at this site, which had been deliberately selected by the organizers. Among the dead Israelis were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, who managed the Chabad House. Sandra Samuel, an Indian citizen who worked as a nanny for the Holtzbergs, famously risked her own life to save their then two-year-old son, Moshe.

The Mumbai attacks did not conclude on the evening of November 26, 2008. Rather, the gunmen took hostages and held off the Indian security forces for three days. The final death toll was 165 killed, consisting of 140 Indian citizens and 25 foreign visitors. Nine of the 10 gunmen were also killed. The 10th was apprehended by the authorities, convicted of murder, and executed four years later.

The Mumbai attacks were a profoundly traumatic event seared in the memory of the people of that city, and of India as a whole. Meanwhile, 13 years on, many unanswered questions remain regarding the perpetrators of the attacks, and who stood behind them.

The direct responsibility of the Sunni Islamist LeT group for the Mumbai killings is not in doubt. The captured gunman, Ajmal Kasab, admitted his membership of this organization, and described in detail the process in which he and his colleagues had trained in Pakistan, and set out for the attacks from Karachi, the capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province.

Canada’s Largest Labor Union Rejects Israel Boycott by 2-to-1 Margin
Canada’s largest labor union rejected a motion endorsing the movement to boycott Israel during its national convention on Thursday, by a broad margin that was applauded by Canadian Jewish groups.

Members of the 700,000-strong Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) held the body’s biennial summit online this week. Resolution No. 70 called for CUPE to “support the Palestinian people’s’ right to self determination and their demands to end Israel’s military occupation and colonization,” and to officially back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Weighing the measure Thursday, CUPE members spurned the measure with 32% voting for and 68% against.

“CUPE members should be praised for standing up to the lies and intimidation of the BDS movement,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, on Friday. “The passage of this motion would have inflicted great harm not only on Jewish and Israeli members of CUPE, but on all workers who benefit from trade between Canada and Israel.”

“CUPE has heeded the wise words of Tommy Douglas, Canada’s greatest labour icon: ‘The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.’”

Commenting Friday, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said members voting against the resolution “chose peace over division.”

“BDS is an anti-Zionist, antisemitic movement that calls for the demonization and delegitimization of Israel and denies the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination,” CIJA said. “It does not stand for Palestinian rights.”

Meet the UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Al Khaja
‘Many people I’ve sat with... from ex-government to government officials and others, have tears in their eyes; they cannot believe the UAE Embassy is here in Tel Aviv. They didn’t imagine it would happen in their lifetime,” says United Arab Emirates Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja.

He speaks with pride and warmth about the growing relations between Israel and the UAE.

It has been a momentous year since the Abraham Accords were signed, and Al Khaja is the UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, a unique and historic role.

“I wonder why peace or normalization seemed to be a dream,” he says, pondering the historic nature of our times.

What seemed like a fantasy has now become normal, and it feels natural for this peace to exist between the two countries.

“I think our mission for our kids is to have a vision. For some, what is happening today is a dream. I believe we should never limit our people. This is the message we try to convey. We should work on realizing that and make our youth feel it. The youth need to feel that these developments are good things,” he affirms.

Relations between Israel and the UAE have developed rapidly. While there were suggestions over the years that Israel might improve relations with Bahrain and the UAE, the Abraham Accords announced in August 2020 took the world by surprise. A month later, on September 15, the agreement was signed in Washington with the UAE, Israel and Bahrain.

Companies from Israel were already doing business with partners from the UAE, and soon banking agreements were being ironed out, and dozens of flights a week were announced. By the end of the year, some 50,000 people had flown from Tel Aviv to Dubai.
After terror attack, Israel said mulling security checks for E. Jerusalem teachers
Israeli security forces are reportedly considering requiring teachers from East Jerusalem who seek to work in the city’s public schools to undergo security background checks, following the deadly terror attack earlier this week by a Palestinian high school teacher in the Old City.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the shooting Sunday by Hamas member Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, which killed Eli Kay, 26, and injured several others, could lead to a change of policy.

Abu Shkhaydam worked at an Islamic boys’ high school, the Rashidiya school, which is located just outside the Old City. He was on the Jerusalem municipality payroll, the city has confirmed. According to Israeli authorities, he was a member of Hamas’s political wing.

“If we had done this earlier, we would avoid a situation in which a terrorist with a background like that of Fadi Abu Shkhaydam becomes a teacher,” an unnamed security official told Kan on Wednesday.

Israel’s various security agencies are discussing the issue, the report said, with the hiring of new East Jerusalem teachers suspended until further notice.

After carrying out the terror attack, Abu Shkhaydam was shot dead by police at the scene following a brief gun battle.

On Monday, Palestinian media circulated what they claimed was a last letter sent by Abu Shkhaydam to his Hamas comrades and his students.

S. African expert downplays threat from Omicron: ‘We won’t have a severe epidemic’
A top adviser to the South African government on the coronavirus pandemic said Friday that while the new Omicron variant of the virus — first documented in his country — was worrying, he did not believe the strain would lead to a major new wave of serious illness.

Virologist Barry Schoub, the head of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, told Israel’s Channel 12 news that based on initial data from cases in South Africa, it seemed the vaccine would still protect most people from severe COVID-19.

“I think what we can be pretty comfortable… that the vaccine will still prevent serious disease,” he said. “That I think we are pretty sure about. How effective it will be in preventing milder disease — that we’ve still got to understand.”

Other scientists have said it is still too early to tell how well the current vaccines protect against the Omicron strain.

“It’s unlikely that it’s going to cause more severe disease,” Schoub said. “Certainly what we’ve been seeing up to now… the great majority of the patients have been mild. In fact, there hasn’t been a very substantial increase in hospital admissions so far.”

While Schoub stressed that it was still “early days” in relation to the variant, he added that he thought the new wave of infections in his country “is going to be a lot less severe. There’s a lot more immunity, more people are vaccinated. We’re not going to have a severe epidemic.”

Schoub’s position was far more mellow than that of some other health experts around the world, who have reacted with alarm to Omicron, which has more mutations to its spike proteins than any previous strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Israel bars travel from most of Africa to curb new COVID variant, Omicron
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday ordered most of Africa labeled “red,” heavily restricting entry from the region, following the emergence of a new, highly mutated coronavirus variant in South Africa that has already made its way to Israel.

The government’s coronavirus cabinet will also hold an emergency meeting on Saturday evening to discuss possible new restrictions, including in the education system where health officials fear the outbreak could be most prominent.

Bennett, at a press conference, said the country will bar travel from all Subsaharan African countries for now. He said the government was “preparing for every scenario” concerning the new strain, and recommended Israelis generally avoid travel abroad. But he said there were no immediate plans for a lockdown.

By Friday afternoon health officials said they believed four cases of the new B.1.1.529 variant had been found in Israel. The variant was later named as Omicron by the WHO.

The list of “red” countries had been empty for some six weeks, as no country had fallen into the Health Ministry’s criteria. But on Thursday evening, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini were added to the list.
US, European, Arab nations restrict travel from African countries over Omicron
The United States announced Friday it is restricting travel from eight southern African countries over fears of a new variant of COVID-19, a US official said.

Travel will be restricted starting Monday from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, a senior Biden administration official said.

Only US citizens and residents will still be able to travel from the eight countries, the official added.

The decision came hours after senior US government scientist Anthony Fauci said Washington wanted more data on a worrisome new COVID-19 variant first detected in southern Africa before joining other countries in banning flights from the region.

Fauci told CNN that while “there’s always the possibility” of blocking flights, “you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”
‘Agreement of shame’: Thousands of Jordanians protest major energy deal with Israel
Thousands of Jordanians protested against a major deal between Jordan and Israel on energy and water in Amman on Friday.

Extra police forces were deployed to the downtown of the capital as protesters demanded the government cancel Jordan’s peace deal with Israel and called normalization a humiliation.

Protesters chanted “No to the agreement of shame,” and carried signs that read, “Normalization is treason,” according to a Reuters report.

The protest was put together by opposition parties, tribal groups and unions.

The United Arab Emirates-brokered agreement signed last week will see the construction of a major solar power plant in the Hashemite Kingdom to generate electricity for the Jewish state while a desalination plant established in Israel will send water to Jordan.

It is the largest-ever cooperation agreement signed between Jerusalem and Amman since the former enemies signed a peace treaty in 1994, and is the largest current renewable energy project in the Middle East.
UK Officially Bans Whole of Hamas as ‘Complex but Single Terrorist Organization’
The UK government said Friday it had officially added Hamas to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations, after the British Parliament’s approval of its decision last week.

Members of the Islamist terrorist organization or those who invite support for the group may be jailed for up to 14 years, the UK’s home office said.

On Nov. 19, had announced that the entire Hamas organization — including its political wing — would be banned, two decades after the group’s military arm alone was outlawed.

“Hamas is an organization which calls for the establishment of a Islamic Palestinian state under Sharia law and has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. It has long been involved in significant terrorist violence,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time. “This action will support efforts to protect the British public and the international community in the global fight against terrorism.”

The Home Office’s list of proscribed terrorist groups now includes Hamas, which is describes as a “complex but single terrorist organization.”

“At the time it was Her Majesty’s Government’s assessment that there was a sufficient distinction between the so called political and military wings of Hamas, such that they should be treated as different organizations, and that only the military wing was concerned in terrorism,” the document says. “The government now assess that the approach of distinguishing between the various parts of Hamas is artificial.”
It’s too soon to write the obituary of the anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East
It should be noted that while there is undoubtedly a sense of flux in the strategic picture of the region at present, deriving from the US change of focus, in the medium to long term this is likely to provide an additional advantage for Israel. Israel is the only country within this group of states that is able to provide a credible military threat against Iran, and specifically against the Iranian nuclear programme. It is becoming increasingly apparent to regional powers that the US, despite occasional statements by senior officials, has no intention of laying down a serious military threat to the Iranians, in the event that the current push towards a nuclear weapons capacity continues. In the absence of this threat, there is a risk that Teheran may see no disincentive toward pushing on to a threshold nuclear weapons capacity, while continuing in its efforts to seed proxies and exploit them for both political and military purposes throughout the region.

Only Israel can provide such a ‘plan B’. This is not, of course, to underestimate the very serious apparent limitations to Israeli options in this regard. A single operation to destroy the Iranian nuclear programme, of the type mounted against Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 is probably not possible vis a vis the Iranian programme, because of its spread out and well defended nature. But Israel, in its current campaign against Iranian efforts in Syria, Lebanon and sometimes also Iraq, is demonstrating currently the only real hard power pushback to Iranian attempts at regional domination. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries threatened by the prospect of Iranian hegemony, are likely to find an obvious utility in the maintenance of this pushback, particularly in a situation where an alternative hard power deterrent element is not available.

In this regard, it should be noted that while it is often stated that Iran has, through its use of proxies, succeeded in partially ‘surrounding’ Israel – through its control or partial control of proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – it is also the case that Israel appears to be following a diplomatic strategy which seeks similarly to surround Iran. This is attempted not, as in the Iranian case, by organising proxies, but rather by seeking alliance and closer relations with countries in close proximity to Iran. Such countries include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and, notably, Azerbaijan, to Iran’s north.

The strategic contest between Iran and its allies, and the loose, interests-based alliance of West-aligned countries is thus set to continue in the Middle East. The contest is based on concrete issues, and on the impossibility for West-aligned countries of accommodating Iranian ambitions, because of the extent and scope of those ambitions – both in the nuclear field, in Iran’s efforts to subvert and dominate Arab states, and in its ambitions to destroy Israel. It is important to understand the deep rationale behind this process, and not to be caught up by momentary developments into concluding either that the anti-Iran alliance is about to break up, or, conversely, that it has greater depth, solidity and potential than it in fact possesses.
JPost Editorial: Israel should ensure that politics don't get in way of Biden-Iran talks
The country received a taste of politics last week when Bennett spoke at Reichman University and said that Israel would not see itself bound by a new deal if it did not stop Iran’s race to a bomb. “Even if there is a return to an agreement [with Iran], Israel is not a party to it – is not obligated by it,” said the prime minister.

What Bennett also did was slam his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. While it was not the first time that Bennett attacked Netanyahu for mishandling the Iranian threat, it is not immediately clear what benefit it brings the country right now. Israel, Bennett said, fell asleep after the 2015 deal and that, he promised, will not repeat itself.

Bennett was referring to what IDF sources have already confirmed – after the 2015 deal was finalized, Israel stopped its preparations for a military operation against Iran and those capabilities fell to the side. Israel is now in the midst of rebuilding the capabilities, but defense officials have said that the work will take at least a year.

Explaining that Israel will retain a military option is important and will hopefully serve as something of a deterrent against Iran as well as motivation for the nations participating in the talks to ensure that the deal is stronger and longer so that Israel will not have to act, something they definitely don't want to see.

Attacking Netanyahu and playing politics with Iran is something else and while it might bring some political points, it doesn’t do much to help the country boost its deterrence against Iran.

What value, for example, is there in Iran knowing that Israel fell asleep – as Bennett put it – after the 2015 deal? Does it help Israel when top IDF officers openly talk about how there is no viable military option currently available?

Iran’s nuclear program has long been a challenge for the world and particularly the State of Israel, which is openly threatened and attacked by the Islamic Republic and its proxies. But to confront it appropriately, Israel needs to focus on policy, not politics.
To Biden Admin: Do Not Give Away US Leverage Against Iran
Since the Biden administration evidently is insisting on negotiating with a predatory regime such as Iran, at least it should not enter the negotiations from a position of weakness.

The Biden administration needs to understand that the Iranian regime is desperate for the revival of the nuclear deal due to the significant financial and sanctions relief that the JCPOA offers the ruling clerics.

Iran's state-controlled Arman-e-Meli newspaper surprisingly acknowledged on November 20, 2021: "No country, neither China nor Russia, will be able to save our economy. We must try to lift the sanctions. The way out of the internal pressures and the heavy (bad) economic situation is to get rid of the issue of sanctions and it will be solved with the JCPOA."

Iran's mullahs particularly love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal soon expires. The nuclear deal, rather than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as it was falsely touted to do, in fact paves the way for Tehran to become a legitimized nuclear state.
2 US defense officials say Israel hacked Iran’s gas system last month — NYT
Israel carried out a cyber attack against Iran’s nationwide fuel system last month, two United States defense officials told the New York Times in a report published Saturday.

Days later, Iran-affiliated hackers breached an Israeli LGBTQ dating site and released details of its users in a cyber attack that roiled Israel.

The exchange points to a new trend of targeting civilians in the shadow war between Israel and Iran. The two attacks appear to be the first that caused widespread harm to civilians, auguring an escalation in the cyber conflict as softer targets are drawn into the line of fire.

The hack of Iran’s gas distribution system began on October 26, shutting down civilian gas pumps and broadcasting digital messages blaming Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The cyber attack brought all of the country’s 4,300 fuel distribution stations to a halt, resulting in traffic jams, long lines at gas stations and other transportation problems.

Technicians were able to fix some pumps within days, but the stations could only sell expensive, unsubsidized fuel. The distribution system did not fully recover until nearly two weeks later.
Iran Police Fire Tear Gas at Water Protesters in Isfahan
Iranian security forces fired tear gas as demonstrators threw stones and torched a police motorbike Friday in the city of Isfahan in protest at water shortages, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

Some 500 people gathered in the dry bed of the Zayadneh Rood river that crosses the central city.

Drought is seen as a cause of the river’s woes, but farmers also blame the authorities’ diversion of water to neighboring Yazd province.

A Fars journalist said two bulldozers were used to destroy a pipeline taking water from Isfahan province to Yazd.

Police fired tear gas while demonstrators threw stones in streets near the riverbed.

Some protesters smashed the windows of an ambulance and set fire to a police motorbike and trees, Fars said.

Another news agency, ISNA, said farmers and authorities struck an agreement Thursday on the distribution of 50 million cubic meters (over 1.6 billion cubic feet) of water.
Jewish Students Sue Australian State of Victoria Over Antisemitic Bullying at Secondary College
The government in the Australian state of Victoria is being sued by five Jewish students who say they endured years of antisemitic bullying at Brighton Secondary College in the city of Melbourne.

On Friday, Sky News Australia reported that the Victoria state government, the principal and two teachers at the college face a Federal Court hearing in proceedings for breaching of the Racial Discrimination Act and negligence.

The students accused the school of turning a blind eye to abuse and of violating their human rights by creating a “prison culture” on the college’s grounds.

Lawyers for the Victorian government and school staff deny the allegations and declined to comment, the broadcaster reported.

The development comes one year after parents of the students expressed frustration with the results of an inquiry into the abuse, which came forward with a number of recommendations but failed to hold the current leadership of the college to account.

“The families do not believe that the report and its findings go in any way far enough towards combating a significant problem of antisemitism at Brighton Secondary College, nor does it provide an acceptable outcome or justice for them,” Jane McCullough, a lawyer representing the students, said at the time. “The families will continue to fight to be heard and for justice for their children.”

The inquiry was launched in the summer following an investigative report by The Australian Jewish News into the college.
Holocaust Survivors Meet With British Cricketer After Row Over Antisemitic Comments
Two Holocaust survivors met with a British former cricket player on Thursday to discuss antisemitism, Jewish life and the Holocaust after his past antisemitic comments about Jews were revealed.

Auschwitz survivor and TikTok sensation Lily Ebert had a sit-down conversation with former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq, and together, they visited the Kinloss Synagogue in Finchley with her grandson, Dov Forman.

Rafiq had earlier testified before the British parliament about discrimination he faced while playing for Yorkshire County Cricket Club. He has since apologized for the antisemitic comments from 2011 that subsequently emerged, saying he had “absolutely no excuses.”

Britain’s Jewish News and Forman, who co-wrote Ebert’s memoir earlier this year, helped organize the meeting.

A tour of the synagogue, where Forman held his bar mitzvah ceremony, was led by Kinloss Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, who explained various parts of the temple and its many rituals. Rafiq was also shown a Torah scroll, which Forman then read from.

Ebert, who lives in the UK, started a TikTok account with the help of her grandson to educate people about the Holocaust, and now boasts over 1.5 million followers. She showed Rafiq the numbered tattoo she got at the Auschwitz concentration camp and said, “Everybody who was there got a number. [We] were not people anymore, we were numbers.”
Massachusetts lawmakers mandate genocide education in high schools
Against a backdrop of disturbing revelations of antisemitic incidents, including many in local schools, Massachusetts lawmakers this week approved a bill that will require genocide education in all public secondary schools.

“An Act Concerning Genocide Education,” which also establishes a public-private trust fund to support curriculum development and training for educators, is now at the desk of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Once signed, Massachusetts would become the 21st state to require some form of Holocaust education in secondary schools, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum. Legislation around Holocaust education has occasionally proven controversial in other states; in the past year, Arizona passed a similar law after much debate over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, while an effort in Louisiana was mired by partisan swipes around “critical race theory” and ultimately abandoned.

The text of the Massachusetts bill is broader than some of the bills passed in other states: It mandates only the teaching of “genocide,” which it defines as a series of specific acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” and never mentions the Holocaust directly. As such, its passage is also being celebrated by a coalition of more than 60 groups, many of them non-Jewish, including the Armenian National Committee.
‘The Lifetime Achievement of an Affirmative Jew’: Bernard-Henri Lévy Reflects on New Film, ‘The Will to See,’ Ahead of Jerusalem Premiere
In a passage of his new book “The Will to See,” a collection of dispatches and insights garnered from his travels in war zones around the world, the French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy reflects on the challenges of being an internationalist in a world that has increasingly turned inwards upon itself.

“The desire to speak not to France alone, not to Europe alone, not to the United States alone, but to the world; the concern for justice, ideally applied not just to a given city that is ignoring its metics [the ancient Greek term for ‘foreigners’] within and without, but to all cities, as well as to that part of the world where people do not know what a city of citizens even means; the wish to be able to feel at home anywhere, even where tyrants are triumphant or the spirit of Nineveh reigns — none of that, I am well aware, comes easily,” Lévy writes.

Both the book and the accompanying film of the same title — which provides viewers with a raw glimpse of the human suffering produced by forgotten wars past and present, in Libya, Ukraine, Kurdistan, Afghanistan and Somalia among others — demonstrate Lévy’s lifelong commitment to these principles, as well as his efforts to give them energy and meaning in a world that has become, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, decidedly more parochial.

On Sunday, Lévy will be in Jerusalem for the premiere of “The Will to See” at the Jewish Film Festival in the Israeli capital, where he will receive the festival’s Achievement Award. The Algemeiner caught up with him by phone on Friday in advance of the event.

Many of the themes in your film — persecution because of one’s origin, the indifference of the outside world, trying to simply survive — resonate strongly with Jewish history. How do you think your film will be interpreted by an Israeli audience? What lasting impression do you wish to leave on them?
Gold medalist Linoy Ashram on her Olympic whirlwind and becoming an Israeli icon
This summer, Linoy Ashram became the first Israeli woman to win an Olympic gold medal, in any sport, when she eked out a victory in individual rhythmic gymnastics.

But that wasn’t the only history she made at the Tokyo games.

She became only Israel’s third-ever Olympic gold medalist, and the first Israeli rhythmic gymnast to win gold. Ashram’s win also broke a streak of Russian gold medalists going back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (And before the five Russian wins: 1996 and 1992 were won by Ukrainian women, and 1988 by a Soviet Union gymnast.)

No big deal, right? The 22-year-old looks back on it with humility.

“I didn’t dream of winning the gold,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I would never have expected that I could do it — I was hoping for the bronze.”

For those who hadn’t been following her triumphs in European tournaments for years, Ashram’s accomplishments in Tokyo made her an Israeli sports icon — one who rose from a working class background in the city of Rishon LeZion, where she grew up training “without infrastructure, without backing,” to the new face of Israel’s Olympic success on the global stage.
Hearing the cantor sing the prayer for IDF soldiers… in Morocco
It is not every day that you hear the prayer for the well-being of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in an Arab country, especially not when there are IDF soldiers in uniform standing alongside you.

But so it was on Thursday when Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Talmud Torah synagogue in Rabat, a once larger community that is now down to double-digits, unable to regularly put together the 10-man quorum needed to hold Orthodox prayers.

As it happens, two of the three IDF soldiers in uniform had Moroccan roots, as did a Knesset member who was part of the delegation, Shas’s Ya’akov Margi, who was born in Rabat, and so were a number of other people on the trip, including some journalists.

“When I heard him singing the psalm, it was the same tune as the piyutim from my grandfather’s synagogue in Beersheba,” the Walla news outlet’s Amir Bohbot said during the flight back to Israel, referring to a traditional form of liturgical poetry that is popular among Mizrahi Jews. “That got to me, but it was when he sang the prayer for the well-being of IDF soldiers, that’s when I broke and started tearing up,” he said, recalling his Moroccan grandfather saying the prayer in Israel in the 1980s.

Unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the other two countries that Israel normalized ties with last years as part of the so-called Abraham Accords, many Israelis are from Morocco, with anywhere between 250,000 to nearly a million having roots there, depending on how you count. And that’s not trivial.

Even before normalization, there was a bustling industry of “roots tours” of Morocco by Moroccan Israelis, going to visit their families’ hometowns and communities. This is expected to increase now, with a direct flight between the two countries and a clear edict from King Mohammed VI to Moroccans to accept Israel and Israelis.


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