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On Memorial Day, Rivlin tells young generation: Don’t take Israel for granted

Solemn commemorations held nationwide for fallen soldiers, terror victims; president vows to keep fighting for return of missing troops after his term ends

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

Groups of vaccinated tourists to be allowed into Israel next month

Vaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter Israel in organized groups starting May 23, as the country starts to reopen to noncitizens.

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announce the agreement in a statement.

The reason only groups will first be allowed to visit is that they are easier to monitor, according to the statement.

Tourists will be required to take a PCR COVID-19 test before boarding the plane to Israel. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, they will have to take both a PCR test and a serology test, which proves the existence of antibodies.

The statement says the government will continue to negotiate with countries over mutual recognition of vaccination certificates to remove the need for serology tests.

Rivlin sends condolence letter to Queen Elizabeth over Prince Philip’s death

President Reuven Rivlin sends a letter of condolence to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on the death of her husband, Prince Philip, highlighting his mother’s role in saving Jews during the Holocaust.

“His Royal Highness was a man of honour and duty, and his service in the Royal Navy, defending the United Kingdom and fighting the Axis powers will never be forgotten,” Rivlin write.

“His mother, Princess Alice, also played an important part in protecting victims of the Nazi regime, and we are proud that she is recognized as one of the Righteous Amongst the Nations. Her burial here in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives links the stories of our peoples even more closely.”

“Alongside your husband’s life of service to the nation and the world, he was also a family man – a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The passing of a loved one, after so many years together, is a great loss. My thoughts are with you and the entire Royal Family at this time of grief and pain.”

Bennett meets with Netanyahu, as 2 sides said to have held secret talks for days

Naftali Bennett is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second day in a row, after the Yamina leader said his party supports the formation of a right-wing government with Likud but stressed that averting a fifth round of elections in two years is his overarching goal.

Yamina, which won seven seats, has been negotiating with Likud over the creation of a government following last month’s inconclusive election, the fourth in two years.

Even with its support, a coalition remains unlikely, as such a government would also need the support of Ra’am, a prospect rejected by Netanyahu’s allies in the far-right Religious Zionism party.

The meeting comes as negotiating teams from Yamina and Netanyahu’s Likud party have been meeting intensively in recent days in an attempt to reach an understanding, an unnamed source with knowledge of the talks tells the Kan public broadcaster.

The report says that Yamina also sent a message to Likud saying that if the vote to establish a key parliamentary panel goes ahead without coordination with Yamina, the party will join the opposition parties in the Knesset vote.

At hospital, IDF chief visits family of PTSD-afflicted vet who set himself alight

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits Sheba Medical Center, where PTSD-afflicted veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself alight yesterday, is hospitalized in critical condition.

Saidyan, who is recognized as disabled due to his PTSD following service in the military during the 2014 Gaza war, self-immolated outside a Defense Ministry office that handles the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. He has burns all over his body.

Kohavi hugs Saidyan’s mother, Lydia, and tells the family: “The IDF owes a big debt to those who risk their lives and well-being for the state.”

Meanwhile, the founder of a nonprofit that helps PTSD-afflicted soldiers decries government aid on the matter as insufficient.

“Until something moves, we won’t believe the promises,” says Ido Gal Razon of Fighters for Life. “Why don’t they give treatment to someone begging for it? People can’t even enter the rehabilitation ward, the security there is as heavy as at Ben Gurion Airport.”

Israel to allow 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians on Temple Mount for 1st Friday of Ramadan

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, COGAT, says 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians will be allowed to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Friday to mark the first Friday of Ramadan.

“The measures are being taken to allow freedom of worship and religion on one hand, and on the other hand, prevent to the extent possible, the spread of COVID-19 in the region,” COGAT says in a statement.

After Friday, “an additional situation assessment will be carried out to examine the approved outline, taking into account both security and health needs.”

US regulators recommend ‘pause’ in use of J&J vaccine over blood clot fears

Top US health authorities have recommended a “pause” in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine “out of an abundance of caution” as they investigate any links between it and blood clots, a regulator says.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are assessing the “potential significance” of six reported cases of a rare blood clot in patients who have received the shot, the FDA tweets. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause,” it says.

Defense Ministry vows to improve rehabilitation of PTSD-stricken IDF veterans

The Defense Ministry says it is “praying” for the recovery of IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, a PTSD sufferer who set himself alight yesterday, and says it will do everything to “learn and fix” the treatment of traumatized soldiers.

“The ministry is obligated to learn the lessons and implement them systematically to significantly improve the treatment of PTSD sufferers,” it says in a statement.

Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel has handed Defense Minister Benny Gantz initial findings of an investigation of the incident, saying it is a “shocking and difficult” incident and vowing to do better to rehabilitate veterans with PTSD.

The ministry has formed a committee that will formulate further findings and conclusions in the coming days. It will also keep handling support for Saidyan and his family.

Netanyahu-Bennett meeting on coalition efforts ends

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett end their meeting, their fourth since the March 23 election, aimed at forming a coalition.

A statement says both leaders agreed the parties’ negotiation teams will meet soon.

NYT: Cuomo once said about Sukkot: ‘These people and their f**king tree houses’

A New York Times deep dive into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rise to power highlights the governor’s disdain for courting voters, giving as an example a time when he was scheduled to attend a Jewish event during the Sukkot festival.

“These people and their fucking tree houses,” the governor said at an unspecified time, according to the report, which cites a witness and someone briefed on the comment.

Cuomo’s spokesperson denies he made the comment, adding: “His two sisters married Jewish men, and he has the highest respect for Jewish traditions.”

Iran tells UN it will start 60% enrichment, add 1,000 new centrifuges at Natanz

In a new escalation, Iranian diplomat Abbas Araghchi has informed the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran will start enriching uranium to 60% purity starting tomorrow, the Reuters news agency reports.

The report, which cites Press TV, says the Islamic Republic will introduce 1,000 more centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant.

The report comes after sabotage at Natanz this week caused a blackout throughout the facility that reportedly set the nuclear program back by months. The attack has been blamed on Israel.

Memorial Day events for fallen soldiers, terror victims begin in Jerusalem

The events of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims begin with an annual ceremony taking place at the Yad Labanim center in Jerusalem.

Attending the event are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and Chief Justice Esther Hayut.

Since last year, 43 new deaths have been recorded among defense troops, and 69 veterans died due to injuries sustained during their service. The total number of dead is now 23,928.

The main ceremony — and others all around the country — will start at 8 p.m., when a one-minute siren will sound nationwide.

Johnson & Johnson says it will delay European COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Johnson & Johnson says it will delay the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe after US authorities moved to suspend the use of the shot due to health concerns.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control moved to “pause” the one-shot COVID-19 inoculation over six reported cases of a rare type of blood clot in the United States.

“We have made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe,” J&J says, adding that it is reviewing the cases with European health authorities.

At Memorial Day event, Netanyahu vows to make efforts to free Israel’s captives

Speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Labanim center, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will make “every effort” to return its captives, which include two civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“This is a sacred mission that we’re not letting go of,” he says.

“We are trying to prevent wars, but are preparing the IDF for any crucial day.”

Sudan said set to send 1st official delegation to Israel next week

Sudan is planning to send a first official delegation to Israel next week to cement the normalization deal reached last year, the Reuters news agency reports, citing two unnamed sources.

The Sudanese representatives will include security and intelligence officials, the report says.

One US patient died, another critical after J&J vaccine: official

One US patient died from blood clotting complications after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine while another is in critical condition, a senior scientist for the Food and Drug Administration says.

Overall, six people aged between 18 to 48 developed a rare form of brain blood clotting with low blood platelets between six and 13 days after receiving the shot.

“One case was fatal, and one patient is in critical condition,” Peter Marks says.

Report: Israel bracing for Iranian revenge attack following Natanz blast

Israel’s security establishment is bracing for a possible Iranian revenge attack, after a blast at the Natanz nuclear site on Sunday caused a blackout throughout the facility, Channel 12 news reports.

Israel has raised security levels in embassies around the world, according to the report.

Tehran has blamed the Natanz sabotage on Israel, which has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

Israeli ship reportedly attacked in UAE, after Iran vows to avenge Natanz blast

The Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese Al-Mayadeen network cites “knowledgeable sources” saying an Israeli-owned ship has been fired upon close to the UAE emirate of Fujairah.

No further details are immediately available.

The reported incident comes with Iran blaming Israel and vowing revenge after a blast caused a power outage at the Natanz nuclear facility.

Iranian media names Israeli ship allegedly attacked near UAE

Iranian-backed al-Alam TV says the Israeli vessel attacked near the UAE is the cargo ship Hyperion Ray, sailing under the Bahamas flag but which is Israeli-owned.

Israeli sources: Iranian missile attack caused minor damage to Israeli-owned ship

Channel 12 news quotes Israeli security sources saying an Iranian missile fired toward an Israeli-owned ship in the Persian Gulf caused minor damage.

Sister: PTSD-stricken soldier who self-immolated in past expressed wish to ‘burn’

Leah Saidyan, the sister of Itzik Saidyan, an IDF veteran with PTSD who set himself alight yesterday and is in critical condition, gives an emotional TV interview about his past wish to be burned to end his suffering.

“He would also talk about how he saw his friends burning in a jeep. And he would say, ‘why didn’t they burn me? Why didn’t I burn?’ And then in the end, that’s what he did to himself. In the end, he did it to himself,” she tells Channel 12 news, breaking down in tears.

Biden warns Putin on Ukraine, proposes summit

US President Joe Biden urges Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to deescalate mounting tensions with Ukraine and proposes a summit between the two leaders in a third country.

In a phone call with Putin, Biden “voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” a White House statement says.

Biden said set to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11

The Washington Post reports that US President Joe Biden intends to withdraw all American soldiers from Afghanistan by September 11 this year, citing people familiar with the plan.

The date has been symbolically picked, since it is the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks that toppled the Twin Towers and drew the US into its longest war to date.

Biden will reportedly announce the move tomorrow.

AG: Cabinet can’t convene until justice minister appointed

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issues a legal opinion stating that the cabinet cannot convene until a full-time justice minister is appointed, according to Channel 13 news.

Israel has been without a justice minister for several weeks after Benny Gantz’s maximal 3-month term as acting minister expired. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t take the role since he is a criminal defendant.

Gantz has been demanding that he be tapped as full time minister, with Netanyahu refusing, in yet another political spat to affect the country under the current power-sharing government.

Kremlin: Putin, Biden ready to ‘continue dialogue’ to ensure global security

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden have said in a phone call that they will “continue dialogue” over ensuring global security, the Kremlin says.

“Both sides expressed their readiness to continue dialogue on the most important areas of ensuring global security,” the Kremlin says in a statement.

The statement also confirms that Biden proposed a summit between the two leaders, but does not say whether Putin has agreed.

US national security adviser holds Israel talks on Iran, invites Israeli counterpart

The White House says US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan took part today in a virtual meeting focusing on security issues “of vital importance to the two countries.”

“During the meeting, officials consulted in detail on opportunities to promote stability and security in the face of shared regional threats and challenges,” a statement by the NSC says.

Sullivan “reaffirmed the Biden-Harris administration’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to ensuring that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon.”

He also “warmly invited his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to visit Washington before the end of this month for follow-up consultations.”

Main Memorial Day ceremony begins after siren sounds nationwide

After a one-minute nationwide siren sounds for Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, the main ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall gets underway.

Other solemn events are being held nationwide.

Iran nuclear talks in Vienna postponed for a day — Russian diplomat

Talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been “postponed for one day,” Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna says.

“It will take place in Vienna on April 15 in physical format,” Mikhail Ulyanov says, rather than the planned start date of tomorrow.

Rivlin vows to keep fighting to return missing, captive troops after his term ends

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the main Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, vowing to keep fighting to return missing captive IDF soldiers even after his term ends in several months.

“I am a son of this land. I fought in most of its wars,” Rivlin says. “I saw my friends, my contemporaries, commanders and those under my command, older than me and much younger, galloping towards the line of fire for our people, for life, for liberty. I remember each one of them.

“I remember them falling at the side of the path, embracing our land, part of it for eternity. Our sons and daughters were called to the flag and did not hesitate for a moment. Even when facing sights of great darkness, blood and fire and pillars of smoke, they did not think of themselves. They thought of us.

“Dear families, seven years ago, when the country was ablaze in Operation Protective Edge, I began my term as president, on behalf of the citizens of Israel,” he says, speaking of the 2014 Gaza War. “My first baptism of fire was visiting the families of soldiers who had fallen in action. I stood before the families and bowed my head on behalf of the Israeli people. I wanted to be with them in their pain, to say what was in my heart.

“I vowed to sanctify the memories of Israel’s heroes. I did my best to bring back the missing and captive soldiers. May they come back to us, and soon… I hope that I did right, but I surely did not do enough. Even as I come to the end of my term of office, I am not released from service. As long as I live, I will hold it in my heart and will work on your behalf.”

Rivlin to young generation: Don’t take Israel for granted

President Rivlin calls on the young generation not to “take Israel for granted.”

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation. I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted,” he says at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Western Wall.

“This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age. Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel is on your shoulders. Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of weapons, a free people will not be established here. The Israel Defense Force and the State of Israel, we, need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price.”

IAEA confirms Iran’s intention to ramp up uranium enrichment

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms in a statement that Iran has warned that it will start enriching uranium up to 60% purity.

In a report to member states, the IAEA’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, “said Iran had informed the Agency that the country intends to start producing UF6 enriched up to 60 percent,” says the statement, sent to AFP by a spokesperson.

Iran’s announcement casts a shadow over ongoing talks in Vienna, which are set to resume Thursday and are aimed at salvaging the tattered 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that former US president Donald Trump abandoned three years ago.

WATCH: Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day ceremony

Alongside others around the country, the Israel-Palestinian joint Memorial Day ceremony is underway and being broadcast live, hosted by the left-wing group Combatants for Peace, with English subtitles.

טקס יום הזיכרון הישראלי-פלסטיני 2021 | The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Ceremony 2021

טקס יום הזיכרון הישראלי-פלסטיני The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial مراسم يوم الذكرى الاسرائيلي-الفلسطيني ستبث هنا ابتداءً من الساعة 20:30, بتوقيت اسرائيل/فلسطين.בבקשה תמשיכו לתמוך בנו:, keep supporting us: الرجاء استمروا بدعمكم لناמיד בסיום הטקס אנחנו מזמינים אתכם להצטרף אל אחד מ-10 מפגשי הזום השונים. הפרטים כאן: مع نهاية المراسم ندعوكم للإنضمام الى 10 لقاءات زووم مختلفة. التفاصيل هنا: the end of the ceremony, you are all invited to join one of our Zoom meetings. Details here:

Posted by Combatants for Peace on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

White House committed to Iran talks despite ‘provocative’ uranium enrichment

The White House says it remains committed to nuclear negotiations with Iran despite Tehran’s “provocative” statement that it will ramp up uranium enrichment.

“We are certainly concerned about these provocative announcements,” President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, tells reporters.

“We believe that the diplomatic path is the only path forward here and that having a discussion, even indirect, is the best way to come to a resolution.”

Iran’s vow to enrich uranium to 60% ‘not a significant threat’ — analyst

Iran’s vow to ramp up uranium enrichment to 60% within a day is “not a significant threat,” according to Channel 13 news analyst Alon Ben David.

According to Ben David, there is no way Iran can reach 60% enrichment at the Natanz nuclear facility, because “the 6,000 centrifuges there are out of action” due to this week’s blast there, which has been blamed on Israel.

Iran has 1,000 more centrifuges at the Fordo plant, where they can enrich to 60% “in very small quantities,” he adds.

Jewish Agency marks 60 years since sinking of migrant boat with 44 aboard

During this year’s Memorial Day ceremony, the Jewish Agency marks 60 years since the sinking of the boat Egoz during a mission to bring Jewish Moroccan immigrants to Israel.

Operated by Mossad, the ship made multiple secret trips to ferry immigrants from Morocco to Gibraltar. From there they would travel to Israel.

Forty-four people died in the incident in 1961, 43 of them immigrants. It is believed the boat hit a rock. Twenty-two bodies were eventually found and brought to burial in Israel.

“Our hearts are heavy with grief for every man, woman and child who died simply because they dared to be part of the miracle that is Israel,” Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog says.

Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog and Gila Gutman Azulay, a relative of people who died on the ship Egoz, light a torch to commemorate the victims of the sinking, April 14, 2021 (The Jewish Agency for Israel)

“We pay tribute to the victims of the Egoz ship and [the Mossad agent on board] Haim Tzarfati. They set sail from Morocco on a stormy winter night 60 years ago and never reached their destination… The ship sank but did not drown the longing for Zion.”

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