News from October 7th to October 13th

Israeli election update, Yom Kippur shooting, Russian prisoner swap, and the Portland Trailblazers

Chag Sameach! For those who may not know, this week is Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates God’s protection of the Israelites who left Egypt. Do the lulav shake… Anyways, if you have any comments, questions, or concerns, send them to newsofthejews@gmail.com

Israeli election update:

Does Israel have a government yet? Nope. 

Has there been any news? Not really. Negotiations have been slow because of the holidays. Expect things to heat up this week, though. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate expires on October 24th, and sources have suggested that President Reuven Rivlin will not extend the mandate.

Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, Germany:

What happened? A shooter opened fire outside a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, while about 65 Jews were praying inside. The alleged shooter, Stephan Balliet, killed two people and was taken into police custody after a shootout. He attempted to enter the synagogue but failed to get inside. His gun also jammed multiple times, preventing what could have been a massacre. The police have since confirmed that the suspect had antisemitic motives. 

Background: Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe. It’s particularly bad in Germany. Data shows that Germany had a 20% increase in antisemitic crimes between 2017 and 2018, and the number of violent antisemitic attacks nearly doubled in that same time frame. Just last week, a man was arrested after trying to breach the security perimeter of a synagogue with a knife while yelling, “F*** Israel!” He was immediately released and charged with “disturbing the peace.” The Halle synagogue had requested a police presence but was denied by the German government. 

A personal note: At a time when antisemitism is rising around the world, it’s ever more important to stick up for Jews everywhere, regardless of who they are or how they practice their Judaism. I said it before about the attacks on Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights, and the message is the same here. If we dismiss the experiences of Jews in Germany, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere as being either anomalous or irrelevant, we risk the apathy of others when it happens here. I do not say this because people are downplaying the tragedy in Halle, but because I think it is sometimes hard for American Jews to empathize with the experiences of Jews around the world. 

Further reading: https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-shabbat-of-healing-halles-resilient-jews-return-to-pray-find-solidarity/

Russia sentences Israeli woman to 7.5 years in prison for possession of 10 grams of marijuana:

So what? This is an example of a story that is way more complicated than it seems. Nechama Issachar was arrested in a Russian airport in April upon returning from a trip to India. Police dogs sniffed out her luggage and security personnel found 10 grams of marijuana in her bags. She has been in Russian custody since. Israeli officials have been saying that the sentence is extreme. In fact, they believe the arrest is a political move. Israel has since warned citizens that traveling to Russia might be risky since Russia might be arresting citizens for political reasons.

What is Russia’s motive? In 2015, Israel arrested Alexsey Burkov, a Russian national, because he was wanted in the United States on charges of embezzlement. He was allegedly involved in a massive credit card scheme that involved the theft of millions of dollars. There are also some who believe Burkov was involved in the 2016 Russian election interference campaign. In any event, he is widely believed in Israel to be tied to Russian intelligence. Israel has been arranging for his extradition to the United States, but the Russians have been urging Israel to instead send Burkov back to Russia.

Why is Burkov relevant? Russia is said to be interested in a prisoner exchange with Israel. The framework would be Issachar for Burkov. To date, Israel has turned down the offer.

Further reading: https://www.timesofisrael.com/russian-hacker-at-center-of-prisoner-dispute-denies-ties-to-russian-intelligence/ (TOI)

Extra note:

Earlier this week, multiple sources reported that the Portland Trailblazers, an NBA team, dropped their affiliation with Leupold as a result of Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) efforts. Activists argued that the Trailblazers should not partner with Leupold since it is a manufacturer of surveillance equipment and supplies sniper scopes to the IDF. BDS proponents suggest that the partnership contributed to the occupation and poor treatment of Palestinians. However, the Trailblazers have since clarified that the end of the relationship was not a result of BDS pressure, but rather that the contract had expired and it was Leupold who decided not to renew the contract. 

This situation serves as an important reminder that Israel-related issues often breed reactionary, poorly informed news (on all sides). Be sure to double-check news or even wait a few days for journalists to verify stories before coming to conclusions. 

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