The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s events as they unfold.
In Independence Day greeting, Canada ‘recognizes Israel’s significant global contributions’
Independence Day greetings from Canadian President Justin Trudeau:
“Today, we join Israelis, Jewish communities, and others in Canada and across the world to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.
Canada is proud to have been one of the first countries to recognize Israel when it was founded in 1948, and our countries formally established diplomatic relations the following year. We have since cultivated a strong bilateral friendship rooted in deep ties between our people and shared commitment to democratic values. As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we reaffirm the ties that unite our two countries, and we recognize Israel’s significant contributions to the world, in areas ranging from science and innovation to culture and the arts.
The history of the Jewish people is one of resilience and triumph. Their story, from centuries of persecution to the establishment of the state we celebrate today, is an inspiration for people around the globe, particularly here in Canada. With some 400,000 people, the Canada’s Jewish community is an integral part of our country’s cultural fabric, and its ongoing contributions help make our society more inclusive, prosperous, and vibrant.
As we mark Israel Independence Day, the Government of Canada reaffirms its commitment to speaking out and fighting antisemitism and hatred in all their forms, wherever and whenever they occur, including through the work of the Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, the Honorable Irwin Cotler. We will continue to support and promote the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which we adopted in 2019 as part of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy. Today, we also condemn the spate of attacks on civilians in recent weeks. We will continue to stand for the right of Israel and its neighbors to coexist in peace – a pillar of Canada’s Middle East Policy since 1948 – and reaffirm our ongoing commitment to supporting a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, security, and dignity.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish Israelis, Jewish communities across Canada, and all those celebrating this important milestone, a Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach!”
Democratic pro-Israel group endorses Biden for president
Hours after US President Joe Biden announced that he would be seeking re-election, the Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee has announced that it will be endorsing the incumbent.
“Just as he has fulfilled his promise to deliver for America’s working families as President, so too has President Biden delivered on his commitment to strengthen the mutually beneficial alliance between the United States and Israel,” says a statement from Mark Mellman, who heads the centrist group established in 2019 amid waning support for the Jewish state in the Democratic party.
“When it comes to securing America’s place as a leader in cyber security, technology, and climate and energy solutions, we know that the US-Israel relationship is top of mind for President Biden. And when it comes to the unfair demonization and delegitimization of the world’s only Jewish state at home or abroad, Israel has no greater defender than the Biden-Harris administration,” Mellman adds.
Fireworks end Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl
Fireworks fly into the sky at the end of the Independence Day ceremony marking Israel’s 75th birthday.
The ceremony ends without feared disruptions although several hundred people protest outside against the government.
Speakers repeatedly called for unity in Israel amid widespread divisions and anger over the government’s judicial overhaul plans.
Sylvan Adams lights the torch as the representative of Diaspora Jews
Sylvan Adams, an Israeli-Canadian billionaire philanthropist, lights the torch as the representative of Diaspora Jews at the Independence Day Ceremony on Mount Herzl.
In his address, he highlights “the people who tell the world the true story, the unbelievable story, of the Land of Israel. A happy country, tolerant, pluralist, with good and warm people who I love so much.”
“Even if we argue, we’re united,” Adams says.
Switching to English, he says: “I chose to live here in the homeland of the Jewish people, the homeland that belongs to all of us, Israelis and Diaspora Jews, we are one people.”
“The nation of Israel lives. I’m proud to be Israeli,” he says, going back to Hebrew.
Thousands at ‘protest party’ in Tel Aviv, smaller demonstration in Jerusalem
Thousands of people gather in Tel Aviv for an Independence Day “protest party” as anti-government demonstrations continue.
The demonstration comes at the same time as the official ceremony is being held in Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a call for unity.
Several hundred protesters also gathered outside the Mount Herzl site of the ceremony.
In Tel Aviv, crowds gathered on Kaplan Street, waving Israeli flags and dancing to upbeat music.
“Israel is marking 75 years since its founding under a massive attack on Israeli democracy that is dividing the nation,” organizers say in a statement. “Against the attack are standing millions of Israelis who love our country and are not willing to give up on the smallest iota of democracy and equality.”
Demonstrations are planned in several cities across the country.
קפלן ביום העצמאות מפוצץ! pic.twitter.com/LowAVkxPk3
— Yoav Aharony (@ajove1) April 25, 2023
At Independence Day ceremony, Netanyahu says Israel’s miracles ‘only possible when we march together’
Speaking in a pre-recorded message broadcast at the Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to call for unity amid widespread divisions and protests against his government.
“Let’s stop all the noise for a moment, let’s look for a moment at the great wonder that is called the State of Israel. How many miracles have we achieved here in the last 75 years as one people?” Netanyahu asks (in Hebrew) over a montage of Israel’s accomplishments.
חג עצמאות שמח אזרחי ישראל ???????? pic.twitter.com/I8yEbfGt2I
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) April 25, 2023
“As one people,” he says, “we rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to the summit of rebirth.”
“As one people,” he continues, Israel won its wars, absorbed millions of immigrants, built a thriving economy, achieved historic peace agreements, developed the cities and infrastructure of the nation, and built the IDF, “with the world’s best male and female soldiers, protecting us all.”
“There are still miracles ahead of us — achieving security, strengthening our economy and widening the circle of peace,” he says. “All these miracles and many more are only possible when we march together. ”
Netanyahu notes that when the Biblical Tribes of Israel left Egypt they argued over “whether to go left or right” and “wandered for 40 years in the wilderness until we reached the Promised Land. Then we understood that only together can we reach our goals.”
“And just be sure, we invented Waze,” he jokes.
“To do it together is to cry together on Memorial Day and celebrate together on Independence Day,” he says. “To do it together is to know that we have one people and one country and we will never have another land,” he concludes.
In Independence Day message Netanyahu says we are brothers, even if we disagree
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks of unity and brotherhood in an upbeat Independence Day message published after months of bitter internal disputes.
“We are brothers. We don’t always agree on everything. Sometimes we argue passionately,” says Netanyahu, who has faced widespread protests over his government’s judicial overhaul plans.
Further protests are planned for this evening across the country.
But Netanyahu says there is more that unites Israelis.
“But the responsibility we have for one another is strong and ongoing. We are building our national power together, floor by floor,” he says. “That is the true meaning of our independence.”
Netanyahu urges Israelis to look forward.
“On Independence Day, we all unite around the flag of Israel, with a feeling of pride over what we have accomplished,” he says.
“Let’s look forward, we still have a lot to do together to entrench our beloved country as a rising world power, the eternal homeland of the Jewish people.”
Today, we are celebrating 75 years of Israel's independence.
Happy Independence Day, Israel! ???????? pic.twitter.com/r0uIzlNIv0
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) April 25, 2023
Netanyahu also sends out an English-language message on Twitter, with similar thoughts, to “friends of Israel around the world.”
Leo Dee recites Yizkor prayer at national Independence Day ceremony
Rabbi Leo Dee, who lost his wife and two of his daughters in a terror attack earlier this month, recites the Yizkor memorial prayer at Tuesday evening’s national ceremony marking the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day.
Lucy Dee, 48, and her daughters Maia Dee, 20, and Rina Dee, 15, were killed by Palestinian terrorists who opened fire at their car as they drove through the northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank on April 7. The daughters were declared dead at the scene, while Lucy was rushed to a hospital in critical condition but died three days later. The shooters remain at large.
The Dee family, residents of the settlement of Efrat just south of Jerusalem, buried Lucy two days after laying to rest Maia and Rina. The family, which immigrated from the UK nine years ago, holds dual citizenship.
WATCH: Israel kicks off 75th Independence Day celebrations
Israel transitions from heartache to celebratory joy, as the nation ushers in its 75th Independence Day.
A torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl marks the end of Memorial Day and the start of Independence Day.
This year’s ceremony is marred by fears of disruptions due to the ongoing mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plan that critics say undermines democracy and threatens the country’s security and economy.
Large-scale protests are planned across the country tonight.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid is boycotting the ceremony, citing deep societal divisions over the now-paused judicial reforms and plans to cut away from a live broadcast if protesters interrupt.
Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who is overseeing the ceremony, was said to have decided that the live broadcast of the ceremony would give way to a recording of a rehearsal should the event be disrupted by anti-government protesters. She later clarified that a recording will only be aired in case of “extreme malfunctions.”
Death toll from Kenya starvation cult rises to 90, including many children
The death toll from a suspected Kenyan starvation cult climbs to 90, including many children, as police say investigators were pausing the search for bodies because the morgues are full.
The discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest near the coastal town of Malindi has shocked Kenyans, with cult leader Paul Mackenzie Nthenge accused of driving his followers to death by preaching that starvation was the only path to God.
There are fears more corpses could be found as search teams unearthed 17 bodies today, with investigators saying children made up the majority of victims of what has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre.”
Kenya’s government has vowed to crack down on fringe religious outfits in the largely Christian country.
US lawmakers introduce legislation to boost Holocaust education in public schools
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at boosting Holocaust education in US public schools.
The Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act submitted by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) directs the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to conduct a first-of-its-kind study on Holocaust education and resources nationwide in order to identify ways it can be improved so schools can be better equipped to teach about the issue and about antisemitism more broadly.
“One of the most effective ways to combat the rise of anti-Jewish bigotry is to improve how we teach about the Holocaust and talk about the dangers of antisemitism,” says Rosen in a statement.
“Never again means ensuring we never forget the important lessons from one of history’s darkest chapters, and our bipartisan legislation will help ensure that Holocaust education in the US is accurate and comprehensive.”
“Antisemitism and anti-Jewish crimes remain sadly on the rise in our nation and around the world,” says Lankford. “Senator Rosen and I continue to work together to call out antisemitism no matter who or where it comes from.”
Hospital dresses newborns in blue and white of flag to celebrate Independence Day
Babies in the nursery at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod are dressed in special outfits in celebration of Israel’s 75th Independence Day.
Their tiny blue and white caps and onesies are adorned with Israeli flags, hearts, and firework designs.
The hospital released photos of the babies along with a statement reminding Israelis of the importance of remaining united for the sake of today’s children and future generations.
“Especially in such a challenging year full of disagreement within Israeli society, this is an important reminder that despite everything, we are one nation with a common past and a joint future. Our flag symbolizes our inseverable connection to this land and our responsibility to stay united,” the hospital says.
Man arrested for projecting Holocaust denial message on Anne Frank House
Police arrest a man in Poland on suspicion of projecting a Holocaust denial message on Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House which led to widespread shock in the Netherlands.
The 41-year-old suspect is arrested after an intensive investigation following the incident in early February, when a text suggesting the Jewish teenager did not pen her diary during World War II was projected on the side of the museum that honors her memory.
“After the projection… the suspect was soon identified,” Dutch police say in a statement.
“It subsequently transpired that the suspect left for Poland immediately after the projection,” they said.
Dutch detectives traveled to Poland yesterday and were present when the suspect’s home was searched and he was arrested.
The incident shocked many in the country, where Dutch involvement in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps is still a sensitive issue.
Anne Frank and her family hid for two years in a secret annex to the house after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 but were captured in a raid in 1944.
The teenager and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
Her diary, found by her father Otto, became one of the most haunting accounts of the Holocaust, selling some 30 million copies.
Ben & Jerry’s co-founder starts nonprofit cannabis company
One of the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s has gone from ice cream to cannabis with a social mission.
Ben Cohen has started Ben’s Best Blnz, a nonprofit cannabis line with a stated mission of helping to right the wrongs of the war on drugs. The company says on its website that 80% of its profits will go to grants for Black cannabis entrepreneurs while the rest will be equally divided between the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and the national Last Prisoner Project, which is working to free people incarcerated for cannabis offenses.
“The War on Drugs (first so named by President Richard Nixon) has targeted lower income Black and Brown people thru over policing, discriminatory prosecution, and discriminatory sentencing,” the website states. “That’s why despite using pot at the same rate, Black people are 4 times more likely to be arrested than Whites.”
Ben’s Best Blnz, or B3, says it licenses its formulas, packaging, trademarks, and marketing materials to for-profit businesses that pay a royalty. After expenses are deducted, the royalties are donated to the cause.
The cannabis is grown in soil using no nonorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, the website states.
The B3 products, including pre-rolled joints with lower levels of the psychoactive compound THC, are expected to be available in cannabis shops in Vermont next month.
Erdogan gives award to head of IDF search and rescue team for earthquake work
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan awards Col. (res.) Golan Vach, who led the IDF Home Front Command search and rescue teams in Turkey following February’s major earthquake, with a certification of appreciation.
A ceremony is held in Turkey in honor of the various international search and rescue teams.
The Israeli teams led by Vach rescued 19 Turkish civilians from under the rubble.
Erdan reads names of fallen to UN Security Council to protest Memorial Day session
Israel’s envoy to the UN walks out of the UN Security Council to protest it holding a session critical of Israel on Memorial Day.
The periodic Security Council session on “the Palestinian question” is held at UN headquarters in New York and led by Russia.
“Today is one of the most sacred days of the year for the State of Israel,” Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan says. “We made numerous requests to reschedule today’s debate, describing the deep importance of the day, yet tragically this council refused to budge.”
The Israeli ambassador to the UN @giladerdan1 walked out of the Security Council meeting on Israel-Palestine to protest it was scheduled on Israel's Memorial Day. Watch here: pic.twitter.com/MR1AnULxH2
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) April 25, 2023
“Today’s debate has crossed all lines,” he says. “While Israelis mourn, this council, as usual, will hear more blatant lies condemning the State of Israel and falsely painting it as the root of all the region’s problems.”
Erdan reads out to the council the names of Israelis killed in the line of service, or in terror attacks, in the past year, and places a memorial candle on the table in front of him.
He walks out of the chamber with the rest of the Israeli delegation.“I refuse to spend this sacred day listening to lies and condemnation. This debate disgraces the fallen and Israel will not take part in it,” he says.
Foreign Minister Cohen headed to Spain
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will fly to Madrid tomorrow evening to meet with Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares and Congress of Deputies President Meritxell Batet on Thursday, The Times of Israel learns.
During the 24-hour visit, he will also make an appearance at the public diplomacy organization Centro Sefarad-Israel, Madrid’s Jewish community, and meet the president of the Community of Madrid, who was in Israel in March.
Cohen and Albares last met in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Cohen will attend the diplomatic reception for Yom Ha’atzmaut at President Herzog’s residence in Jerusalem tomorrow, then head directly for the airport. Besides being a member of NATO, Spain is a member of the European Union, and will assume the bloc’s six-month presidency at the end of July 2023. In addition, Spanish General Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz leads the multinational UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Cohen will speak about the importance of Europe taking a firm stance against Iran, according to an Israeli official.
Albares will lay out Madrid’s view of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its plans for closer ties with Israel during Spain’s EU presidency, a Spanish official tells The Times of Israel.
The foreign minister is also slated to fly to India on May 9 for a three-day visit.
Hospital: Condition of man injured in shooting attack improves
A man moderately wounded in a shooting attack in the northern West Bank has undergone surgery on a bullet wound to the arm and is in good condition, the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem says.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the drive-by shooting occurred near the so-called British Police junction on the Route 60 highway, close to the West Bank town of Silwad.
The man, 28, was part of a group of joggers staging a Memorial Day run commemorating fallen soldiers.
Harry Belafonte, activist and entertainer, dies at 96
Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer and became an activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has died. He was 96.
Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side, says Paula M. Witt, of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis.
With his glowing, handsome face and silky-husky voice, Belafonte was one of the first Black performers to gain a wide following on film and to sell a million records as a singer; many still know him for his signature hit “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” and its call of “Day-O! Daaaaay-O.” But he forged a greater legacy once he scaled back his performing career in the 1960s and lived out his hero Paul Robeson’s decree that artists are “gatekeepers of truth.”
He stands as the model and the epitome of the celebrity activist. Few kept up with Belafonte’s time and commitment and none his stature as a meeting point among Hollywood, Washington and the civil rights movement.
Belafonte not only participated in protest marches and benefit concerts, but helped organize and raise support for them. He worked closely with his friend and generational peer the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., often intervening on his behalf with both politicians and fellow entertainers and helping him financially. He risked his life and livelihood and set high standards for younger Black celebrities, scolding Jay Z and Beyonce for failing to meet their “social responsibilities,” and mentoring Usher, Common, Danny Glover and many others. In Spike Lee’s 2018 film “BlacKkKlansman,” he was fittingly cast as an elder statesman schooling young activists about the country’s past.
Belafonte’s friend, civil rights leader Andrew Young, would note that Belafonte was the rare person to grow more radical with age. He was ever engaged and unyielding, willing to take on Southern segregationists, Northern liberals, the billionaire Koch brothers and the country’s first Black president, Barack Obama, whom Belafonte would remember asking to cut him “some slack.”
Belafonte responded, “What makes you think that’s not what I’ve been doing?”
Belafonte had been a major artist since the 1950s. He won a Tony Award in 1954 for his starring role in John Murray Anderson’s “Almanac” and five years later became the first Black performer to win an Emmy for the TV special “Tonight with Harry Belafonte.”
In 1954, he co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in the Otto Preminger-directed musical “Carmen Jones,” a popular breakthrough for an all-Black cast. The 1957 movie “Island in the Sun” was banned in several Southern cities, where theater owners were threatened by the Ku Klux Klan because of the film’s interracial romance between Belafonte and Joan Fontaine.
Giant Declaration of Independence said barred from Ra’anana protest
The Ra’anana municipality is barring people who intend to protest against the government’s judicial overhaul this evening from carrying a giant replica of the Declaration of Independence, the Haaretz daily reports.
The protest is one of many planned for Independence Day eve. Copies of the declaration, along with Israeli flags have been a mainstay of the months-long protests.
Ra’anana municipality tells Haaretz that the request to march holding a 25-meter-long, 6-meter-wide declaration, to be signed by the members of the public, was rejected by the city engineer for safety reasons.
The city says it has no opposition to the declaration and intends to hang one from city hall.
Elderly man in serious condition after being attacked in apparent road rage incident
A 70-year-old man was seriously wounded after being attacked by two men on a beach in the city of Bat Yam, police and medics said.
Police say the incident is apparently the result of an altercation between drivers.
Magen David Adom medics say the man had a head wound and received life-saving treatment before being taken to hospital in serious condition.
Medics say 71 people needed medical treatment at Memorial Day events
The Magen David Adom rescue service says that its medics provided medical treatment to 71 people at Memorial Day ceremonies across the country.
Amongst the ailments treated were weakness, fainting, dehydration, heart incidents, and minor bruises, MDA says.
Thirteen people were taken to hospitals for further treatment.
US bank First Republic shares plunge amid fears of another bank failiure
First Republic Bank’s stock is plunging before the opening bell after it said depositors withdrew more than $100 billion during last month’s crisis, with fears swirling that it could be the third bank to fail after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.
The San Francisco bank said Monday that it was only able to stanch the bleeding after a group of large banks stepped in to save it by depositing $30 billion in uninsured deposits.
It said it now plans to sell off assets and restructure its balance sheet, and lay off as much as a quarter of its workforce, which totaled about 7,200 employees at the end of 2022.
“With still a large level of uncertainty in outcomes and expected losses beyond the next year, we recommend investors sell shares as the outlook appears largely unclear,” Citi analyst Arren Cyganovich says in a note to clients.
Shares tumbled more than 21% in premarket trading.
Iran charges two prominent actresses for not wearing headscarves
Iran has charged two prominent actresses for publishing pictures of themselves flouting the country’s dress code for women, just weeks after announcing a crackdown on breaches, local media reports.
Police in Tehran have referred the case against Katayoun Riahi and Pantea Bahram to Iran’s judiciary, accusing them of “the crime of removing the hijab in public and posting photos on the internet,” the Tasnim news agency says.
If prosecuted, the pair could face fines or prison terms.
Earlier this month police said they would begin using “smart” technology in public places to crack down on women defying Iran’s compulsory dress code.
Last week, photos of Bahram, 53, went viral after she posed without a headscarf at a film screening, while Riahi, 61, posted several photos taken in public places around Tehran in which she did not wear a headscarf.
Actress Pantea Bahram posed for photos without a headscarf at the screening of the last episode of the dramatic series, “The Lion’s Skin,” in Tehran.
More and more women in Iran are peacefully defying the state's forced-hijab rule.#پانتهآ_بهرام#بیحجابی_سراسری pic.twitter.com/H16JEr99PE
— IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) April 20, 2023
The requirement for women to wear the headscarf in public was imposed shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Germany detains Syrian suspected of planning Islamist bomb attack
German authorities have detained a Syrian man on suspicion of planning to carry out an explosives attack motivated by Islamic extremism, officials say.
Federal police said officers detained the 28-year-old man early today in the northern city of Hamburg.
Investigators say the man is suspected of trying to obtain substances online that would have allowed him to manufacture an explosive belt “in order to carry out an attack against civilian targets.”
Police say the man was encouraged and supported in his action by his 24-year-old brother, who lives in the southern town of Kempten. The men, whose name wasn’t immediately released, are described as being motivated by “radical Islamist and jihadist” views.
Jewish Democrats endorse Biden candidacy for reelection
The Jewish Democratic Council of America says it “proudly” endorses US President Joe Biden’s decision to run for a second term in the 2024 elections.
“From defending democracy and protecting our rights to combating antisemitism and supporting Israel, Joe Biden is fighting for progress on the issues Jewish Americans care about most,” the council says.
???? BREAKING NEWS ????
Jewish Dems proudly endorse President @JoeBiden for re-election in 2024.
From defending democracy & protecting our rights to combating antisemitism & supporting Israel, Joe Biden is fighting for progress on the issues Jewish Americans care about most. https://t.co/cWtyg8J20O pic.twitter.com/9KTwBxAcYZ
— Jewish Dems (@USJewishDems) April 25, 2023
Jordanian ambassador visits lawmaker detained for smuggling guns into Israel
Jordan’s ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali visits lawmaker Imad al-Adwan, who is in custody after being arrested on Saturday for trying to smuggle guns and gold into Israel.
According to Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Adwan assures Majali that he has not been mistreated and is in good health.
The two speak in detail about the case and the arrest.
According to a Jordanian statement, Amman is involved in “intensive efforts…to find out the merits of the case and ensure detention conditions and investigation procedures are consistent with international laws and conventions that fully preserve the rights of the representative.”
Efforts gather steam for US to mint coin honoring Golda Meir
In a time of heightened stress in the US-Israel relationship, a bipartisan initiative honoring former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir is gaining steam on Capitol Hill.
The Prime Minister Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Act — which would see the US Treasury mint a coin to honor Meir and the 75th year of the bipartisan relationship — was submitted by Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in February to the House Committee on Financial Services. It is co-sponsored by some 16 Democratic lawmakers and eight Republicans.
It will be submitted in the Senate in the coming days, sponsored by Maryland Democrat Benjamin Cardin and Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
Meir would be the first foreign leader to receive such an honor.
There will also be a Yom Ha’atzmaut luncheon in Congress on Thursday during which members will have the opportunity to voice support for the initiative.
So far, 70 lawmakers have RSVPed that they will be attending.
“It shows that Israel is still something very important to them,” Los-Angeles based real-estate developer and philanthropist Bobby Rechnitz tells The Times of Israel.
Rechnitz, who was part of the successful effort to have the Congressional Medal of Honor given to Shimon Peres, is chairing the Golda Meir coin committee.
“I thought it would be very important at a time like this that there’s a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in the halls of Congress in the United States of America, particularly in the year 2023,” he continues. “With everything going in the United States and in Israel right now – and there are many similarities – it’s very important to have something that’s unifying.”
The bill will need ⅔ support in both houses of Congress. Proceeds from the coin’s sales will go to Netanya’s Laniado Hospital.
The lobbying effort is expected take two-three years, according to Rechnitz, but he is confident that it will succeed.
“She just has so many levels that everyone can identify with in both countries, most importantly the United States can identify with,” he says. “Here’s an American-Israeli who made aliyah, helped build the country from its roots, became prime minister, was the fourth prime minister of Israel and one of the first woman leaders in the world.”
“What she’s done resonates with so many people on so many levels.”
IDF chief visits grave of fallen uncle for whom he was named
Chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, visits the grave of his uncle, Cpl. Herzi Halevi, whom he is named after, at the Mount Herzl military cemetery.
Cpl. Halevi was killed during the battle for Jerusalem’s Old City during the 1967 Six Day War.
The IDF chief of staff was born six months after his uncle’s death.
Netanyahu: Israel’s response to terror is to deepen our hold on our homeland
Speaking at a memorial service for victims of terror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s response to terror is to deepen our hold on the land.
“Since we first began our national revival in the Land of Israel 170 years ago, those who seek to destroy us have spared no means to try to uproot us from our homeland,” Says Netanyahu at the Mount Herzl cemetery.
Israel counts 4,255 victims of terror.
“Yesterday and today, on Memorial Day, in Jerusalem and in the Binyamin region, we received another example with two additional terror attacks,” he says. “Every generation in its turn must confront the poison of incitement, the fanaticism for destruction, and the lust for killing.”
“Every generation must stand fast against in the face of those who would oppress us and deepen our roots in our land.”
Netanyahu says Israel will respond to terror by continuing “to deepen our hold on our homeland, continue to build, continue to create, continue to plant and to add life.”
Bereaved group head slams Ben Gvir for causing ‘a rift among bereaved families’
The head of a memorial organization for fallen Israeli soldiers slams far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for not heeding calls to skip the Memorial Day ceremony in Beersheba.
Ben Gvir was met with opposition from some of the bereaved parents and scuffles broke out after the ceremony.
“I apologize to the fallen for not being able to safeguard your honor,” says Eli Ben Shem, chairman of Yad Labanim, who has repeatedly warned that there could be chaos and even violence at official Memorial Day commemorations, given deep societal divisions over the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system, with Ben Gvir a particularly divisive figure.
“Ben Gvir did not act with wisdom. He caused people to come to blows and a rift between bereaved families,” Ben Shem says, himself a bereaved father, adding that Ben Gvir should have just laid a wreath like other some other ministers and not insisted on speaking.
“Never before have we seen bereaved families raise their hands against each other. We asked him over the last two weeks not to come, but he insisted. He needs to search his soul on Yom Kippur over managing to create a rift between bereaved families,” says Ben Shem.
At terror victims memorial, Herzog says let us ‘cast off our arguments, wrap ourselves in pain’
President Isaac Herzog commemorates those killed in terror attacks, speaking at the annual state ceremony for victims of terror at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem.
Herzog repeats his appeal to “cast off our arguments, remove the barriers, wrap ourselves in pain and longing, and commune with the memory of your loved ones — our loved ones.”
The president pays tribute to the “pure and unblemished, innocent of any crime, who were on their way to an outing or to school, to a family meeting or a wedding. Who were praying in a synagogue or were just leaving it; who were out with friends… babies, children, the elderly, women and men.”
He references “those who in recent weeks, painfully and tragically, have been joined by three pairs of sisters and brothers. The beautiful and cherished, never parted in life or in death!”
Brothers Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 5, and Asher Menahem Paley, 7, were killed in a terror attack in Ramot in February. Brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, were killed in a shooting attack the same month. Sisters Rina Dee and Maia Dee were killed in an attack earlier this month.
These and other victims of terror, the president adds, are “paying the price for our sovereign liberty here, on the soil of our homeland.”
US Ambassador Nides honors ‘brave Israeli service members’ on Memorial Day
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides issues a statement marking Memorial Day and saluting the Israeli soldiers who have been killed since 1948.
“As we pause today for the morning siren to mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, let us remember the brave Israeli service members who gave their lives for their country and all victims of terrorism,” tweets Nides. “May their memories be a blessing.”
As we pause today for the morning siren to mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, let us remember the brave Israeli service members who gave their lives for their country and all victims of terrorism. May their memories be a blessing. pic.twitter.com/xs6oslOtRn
— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) April 25, 2023
US President Joe Biden, 80, officially announces reelection bid
UA President Joe Biden formally announces that he is running for reelection in 2024, asking voters to give him more time to “finish the job” he began when he was sworn in to office and to set aside their concerns about extending the run of America’s oldest president for another four years.
Biden, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, is betting his first-term legislative achievements and more than 50 years of experience in Washington will count for more than concerns over his age. He faces a smooth path to winning his party’s nomination, with no serious Democratic rivals. But he’s still set for a hard-fought struggle to retain the presidency in a bitterly divided nation.
The announcement, in a three-minute video, comes on the four-year anniversary of when Biden declared for the White House in 2019, promising to heal the “soul of the nation” amid the turbulent presidency of Donald Trump — a goal that has remained elusive.
“I said we are in a battle for the soul of America, and we still are,” Biden says. “The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer.”
IDF app sends false alert calling soldiers up to military bases
A false alert sent via a military phone application ordered soldiers to come to their bases, the Israel Defense Forces says.
The cause of the false alarm is being investigated, the IDF says.
The alert was sent via an IDF app that is used by troops to report their whereabouts each day.
Gantz: ‘This is my saddest Memorial Day’
National Unity party leader and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz tweets that this is “my saddest Memorial Day.”
Gantz’s comments come as some ceremonies at military cemeteries across Israel were marred by booing and protests against a handful of government ministers.
Gantz, also a former defense minister, speaks today at a Memorial Day ceremony in Rishon Lezion.
“As someone who has had the privilege of fighting for the country and commanding the IDF, I have felt many times the pain of loss,” he says. “I consider myself a bereaved commander.”
Scuffles, protests as Shas minister attempts to speak in military cemetery
Scuffles, shouts and singing of the national anthem interrupt the speech of Shas Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel at a military cemetery in Rehovot on Memorial Day.
אלימות ודחיפות בין משתתפי טקס יום הזיכרון בבית העלמין ברחובות בזמן נאומו של שר הבריאות והפנים משה ארבל. במשך דקות לא נתנו לו להתחיל בנאום ושרו את ההמנון. pic.twitter.com/jnISzxi2CA
— Adir Yanko (@adiryanko) April 25, 2023
Arbel, who served in the IDF, was selected to replace fellow Shas Minister Haim Biton, who did not serve, after protests were lodged against Biton’s appearance.
Haredi minister attends Western Wall ceremony for Memorial Day
Hundreds of worshipers at the Western Wall join Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch for the recitation of psalms in honor of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.
Immediately after the siren sounds, the attendees — facing the memorial flame erected in the plaza, flanked by an Israeli sailor and airman — recite Psalm 16, the Kaddish prayer for the dead, and the El Malei Rachamim prayer for the souls of the departed.
Golfknopf — who did not serve in the IDF — had originally been slated to attend a ceremony at a military cemetery in Kiryat Gat, but withdrew after some bereaved families protested his planned appearance.
Clashes erupt outside Beersheba cemetery as Ben Gvir leaves following speech
Clashes erupt outside the Beersheba military cemetery following the Memorial Day ceremony attended by Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
Bereaved families are shouting at each other, some scuffling physically.
An open water bottle is hurled at a woman, as police attempt to hold the sides apart.
Netanyahu: ‘This year more than ever… we remember that we are all brothers’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that this year more than ever the people of Israel must remember that we are all brothers.
“This year, more than ever, on the Memorial Day for the brave of our nation, we will remember that we are brothers: Jews, Druze, Muslims, Bedouin, Christians and Circassians,” says Netanyahu at the official state Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. “Brothers in service, brothers in arms, brothers in blood.”
“This is the true spirit of our people — together we will stand as brothers,” Netanyahu adds, saying that Israel will recover “our brothers Oron, Hadar, Avera and Hisham” — the two fallen IDF soldiers and two civilians being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“Together we will stand as brothers – and guarantee our independence from generation to generation,” he adds. “Together we will stand as brothers, and we will bow our heads in endless tribute to the heroism of the fallen.”
Likud minister applauded for ceding speech time to bereaved mother
Likud Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis is applauded after ceding his alloted speech time to a bereaved mother at a cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Instead of speaking, Akunis invites Nanette Mondshein, the mother of Shawn Mondshein, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, to address those gathered at the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery.
בבית העלמין הצבאי בנחלת יצחק השר אופיר אקוניס העביר את זכות הדיבור שלו לנינט מונשיין, אמו של שון ז"ל שנהרג בצוק איתן. בקהל מחאו לו כפיים pic.twitter.com/CVXtEIiiYt
— Tal Shalev (@talshalev1) April 25, 2023
Several ministers met with boos during speeches at military cemeteries
A handful of government ministers are met with boos and cries of “shame” as they give speeches marking Memorial Day at military cemeteries nationwide.
Transportation Minister Miri Regev is greeted by boos in Holon.
קריאות "בושה" לעבר השרה מירי רגב בבית העלמין בחולון. החלו עימותים בין הנוכחים@avivitmy pic.twitter.com/yfrLLTRLcx
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) April 25, 2023
Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman is booed at the cemetery in Kiryat Anavim.
A protest sign warning against “dictatorship” is held up silently as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv.
שלט מחאה שהונף בזמן נאום שר הביטחון גלנט בבית העלמין בקריית שאול@OrRavid pic.twitter.com/a2jLlryzuh
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) April 25, 2023
Protesters sing ‘Hatikvah’ as deputy minister speaks during Memorial Day ceremony
A group of protesters interrupt a speech by Deputy Finance Minister Michal Woldiger, a Religious Zionism MK, at a military cemetery in Ra’anana by singing “Hatikvah,” the national anthem.
ברעננה: חברת הכנסת וולדיגר עלתה לנאום, המונים החלו לשיר את התקווה במחאה@Shacharkanot pic.twitter.com/7J5R7usdBD
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) April 25, 2023
Some bereaved family members had requested that Woldiger not attend the ceremony due to her support for the government’s judicial overhaul plans.
Shouts interrupt Ben Gvir speech at Beersheba Military Cemetery
Shouting erupts at the Beersheba Military Cemetery as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir begins to speak at a Memorial Day ceremony.
Ben Gvir reacts to one of the bereaved men who is shouting: “He’s a patriot, he’s allowed to shout.”
The minister continues his speech amid murmurs from the crowd.
A mix of applause and shouting erupts at the conclusion of his speech.
Likud minister Gila Gamliel blocked from entering military cemetery in Isfiya
Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel is blocked by anti-government protesters from entering a military cemetery in the largely Druze town of Isfiya.
According to reports, Gamliel was unable to enter the cemetery and was forced to leave without giving her scheduled speech.
עימות בין מאבטחים למפגינים בעת הגעתה של השרה גמליאל לטקס יום הזיכרון בבית העלמין הצבאי בעוספיא
(מיכל וסרמן) pic.twitter.com/Q3m0CnM1LE
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) April 25, 2023
Some bereaved family members had called on government ministers not to attend ceremonies in anger over the coalition’s positions.
With high security for Ben Gvir, family members scuffle at Beersheba military cemetery
A bereaved man shouts at security forces at the Beersheba military cemetery, after being blocked from reaching his brother’s grave.
The area surrounding the main stage has been blocked off due to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s appearance, and therefore some graves are inaccessible.
Military officers offer to escort the man to the grave, but he refuses.
עימותים בין בני משפחות שכולות בבית העלמין בבאר שבע @ShaniRami pic.twitter.com/gvZLfM3XiS
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) April 25, 2023
“Thirty years I didn’t need your escort to my brother’s grave, why do I need now, what’s different this year,” the man shouts.
Another man shouts back: “Who are you, why are you better than us,” then calls him a “leftist.”
A verbal altercation breaks out between several people in attendance, which then turns physical. After some scuffling, soldiers are able to separate the sides.
Two-minute siren rings out nationwide as Memorial Day ceremonies held across country
A two-minute siren sounds across Israel the morning of Memorial Day, marking the start of many ceremonies at military cemeteries and other sites in the country.
During the siren, it is customary for Israelis to come to a halt and stand silently in commemoration, and most cars also stop on the side of the road.
This year Israel is commemorating the 24,213 people killed in service to the state and the pre-state Jewish community, and its 4,255 victims of terror.
At Memorial Day ceremony, Shin Bet chief warns Israel’s enemies: Don’t test us
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar says that despite the many complex challenges facing the State of Israel, the security agency is currently at its best.
Speaking at a ceremony held at the Shin Bet headquarters in Tel Aviv alongside families of fallen operatives, Bar says he would not recommend that Israel’s enemies try to test the Jewish state.
“These are complicated times: very difficult disputes at home, the development of new threats abroad, a sense that different fronts are converging and challenges are mounting,” Bar says. “But this is also the time when the agency is at its best.”
Bar says that “to all those outside [Israel], who wish for a widening of the rift at home, and are even attempting to help with this and are testing us with acts of terror, incitement and indirect fire — I wouldn’t recommend counting on it.”
“And I wouldn’t count on trying to test the [security system],” he adds. “They will be met in their camps and in their homes.”
Heightened security ahead of Ben Gvir appearance at Beersheba military cemetery
There is a tense calm at the Beersheba military cemetery as bereaved families await the arrival of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
Police and security forces have closed off the main entrance and are only allowing families of fallen soldiers to enter.
Barriers are also raised to separate the civilian cemetery from the military one.
There is a notable presence of security forces at the cemetery ahead of Ben Gvir’s appearance at a Memorial Day ceremony.
Many families had requested that Ben Gvir not come to the ceremony, due to his extremist views and his lack of military service. The far-right minister has vowed to attend anyway.
Families begin to gather at cemeteries ahead of two-minute Memorial Day siren
A two-minute siren will sound at 11 a.m. nationwide in Israel as the country mourns its fallen soldiers and terror victims.
The siren will mark the start of dozens of ceremonies at military cemeteries across the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut will attend the main ceremony at Mount Herzl.
A range of ministers and MKs are slated to attend other events in a variety of cities, amid fears that some may be met with protests — especially National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in Beersheba.
Turkey arrests 110 people in purported ‘counter-terror’ operation
Turkey detains 110 people in 21 provinces, including Kurdish majority Diyarbakir, over alleged terror links, police sources tell AFP.
The sources refer to the mass raids as a “counter-terror” operation.
State media TRT reports that police held people suspected of financing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or roping in new members to the group.
Deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, the PKK has been waging a decades-long armed struggle against Ankara for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority.
The Diyarbakir bar association says the number of detentions could be as high as 150, adding that they include 20 lawyers, five journalists, three actors and one politician.
IDF: One moderately hurt in West Bank shooting
One person is moderately hurt in a shooting attack in the northern West Bank, the military and medics say.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the apparent drive-by shooting attack occurred near the so-called British Police junction on the Route 60 highway, close to the West Bank town of Silwad.
The man was part of a group of joggers staging a Memorial Day run in memory of fallen soldiers.
The Magen David Adom says a 28-year-old Israeli man is lightly hurt in his hand from the gunfire, and is being taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The military says that troops are scanning the area for suspects and have set up roadblocks to aid in the hunt.
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