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Israel’s COVID-19 death toll since start of January passes 1,000

Almost 25% of country’s fatalities since start of pandemic occurred in the past 24 days alone; more than 1,000,000 Israelis have received both vaccine doses

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work at the coronavirus ward in Jerusalem, January 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work at the coronavirus ward in Jerusalem, January 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Israel predicts rise in anti-Semitism after pandemic used to spread online hate

An anti-Semitic cartoon published on Telegram on March 15, 2020, likening Jews to the coronavirus using the image of the Trojan horse. (Diaspora Affairs Ministry monitoring team via ADL/courtesy)
An anti-Semitic cartoon published on Telegram on March 15, 2020, likening Jews to the coronavirus using the image of the Trojan horse. (Diaspora Affairs Ministry monitoring team via ADL/courtesy)

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry predicts a steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the world in 2021, warning in an annual report that the coronavirus pandemic has been used — by Iran, among others — to spread conspiracy theories saying Jews caused the outbreak to profit financially from the chaos it has caused.

The report says that while the worldwide lockdowns led to a sharp decline in anti-Semitic attacks in 2020 and to zero deaths in such incidents for the first time in years, they also laid the ground for a rise in prejudice against Jews after the pandemic is over.

It says online anti-Semitism is up by a big margin, particularly by using the #COVID48 hashtag which compares Israel to the virus, echoing past depictions of Jews as viruses seeking to take over the world. It says the hashtag, used at least 250,000 times, appears to be an Iranian campaign.

The report says 80% of American Jews believe anti-Semitism has increased over the past few years. It also highlights a growing phenomenon of anti-Semitic views among German police officers and security forces.

Haredi minister, police minister argue in cabinet meeting over lockdown riots

An argument breaks out between Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana during a cabinet meeting held via videoconference, regarding to ultra-Orthodox riots against efforts to enforce the lockdown.

Litzman, the leader of the Haredi United Torah Judaism party, asks Ohana to explain why the police are going “wild” in Bnei Brak.

Ohana responds by asking Litzman to explain why the local residents are going “wild” themselves.

“The footage will tell you everything,” Litzman retorts.

Ohana then says: “If you want, you have my phone number, we can do this together and not in this forum.”

Cop shoots in air after being surrounded, shoved by Haredi rioters

A police officer points his gun in the air during a clash with ultra-Orthodox rioters protesting the enforcement of a lockdown ordered due to the coronavirus, in the city of Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
A police officer points his gun in the air during a clash with ultra-Orthodox rioters protesting the enforcement of a lockdown ordered due to the coronavirus, in the city of Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A police officer reportedly shoots in the air after extremist ultra-Orthodox rioters surround and shove him while enforcing lockdown rules in Bnei Brak.

Meanwhile, hundreds of men from the extremist Jerusalem Faction have gathered at a main intersection in the city — without masks or distancing — to protest the enforcement.

They claim authorities have “decided to hinder the ultra-Orthodox public in any way possible, while using violent and dark methods reserved for regimes we thought were gone from this world.”

Head of LGBT rights group joins Huldai’s party

Hila Peer, chairwoman of Aguda-The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, announces she is running for Knesset and joining Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s new party, The Israelis.

Unlike Huldai, who retained his mayoral post, Peer says she is stepping down from her post at Aguda, a major organization pushing for LGBT rights, during the campaign.

Peer, a social activist and medic, was the vice president of the Aids Task Force and currently manages an initiative for medical clowns in hospitals.

“The [LGBT] community has received many promises over the years, but the right-wing governments, headed by Netanyahu, denied it the basic right to equality time and time again,” Huldai says. “The Israelis under my leadership will make sure the Knesset moves from talk to action.”

Islamic Movement member dies after being shot in Jaffa

A senior official in the Islamic Movement has died in Jaffa after a shooting incident that took place today around noon, according to police.

Mohammad Abu Nijm, a well-known activist in the political movement, was critically injured during the incident, along with another man who was moderately injured. Both were taken to Wolfson Hospital in Holon for treatment, where Abu Nijm passed away.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, 12 Arabs have been killed since the beginning of 2021 inside Israel. Seven were Arab Israeli citizens, while another five were East Jerusalem Palestinians or Palestinians working inside Israel.

Israeli police say they are investigating the incident.

Arab Israeli mayors are scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tonight for the second week in a row to push for a plan to combat violence and organized crime in Arab communities.

Ex-Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni sentenced to 4 years in jail for corruption

Mayor of Ashkelon Itamar Shimoni arrives to the Tel Aviv District Court on February 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Mayor of Ashkelon Itamar Shimoni arrives to the Tel Aviv District Court on February 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The Tel Aviv District Court sentences former Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni to four years in prison after his conviction for corruption.

In 2019, Shimoni was convicted of bribery, breach of trust and money laundering after being charged with accepting bribes totaling NIS 466,000 ($124,000) and with breach of trust for accepting a further NIS 575,000 ($153,000) from unknown sources while serving as mayor of the coastal city.

He was also charged with tax fraud. Sexual misconduct charges against him were dropped, and he was acquitted of bribery charges accusing him of swaying media coverage in his favor.

Netanyahu says Israel will shut down ‘hermetically’ to arrivals for a week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is going to “close hermetically” to arrivals from abroad, apparently for a week, in an effort to thwart the arrival of mutated versions of the coronavirus.

At the outset of the cabinet meeting, which started after a two-hour delay, Netanyahu says: “We are closing the country hermetically. Just in this week of closing the skies, we will vaccinate another million Israelis.”

He claims “no country” has taken such a step, although Israel’s border policy has for months been seen as too lax and blamed for many COVID-19 cases being imported.

Government approves normalization deal with Morocco

The government approves the normalization of ties with Morocco, reached last year and brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

The agreement will now be handed to the Knesset for approval.

The government also approves the appointment of Katy Perry as the full-time head of the Israel Prisons Service, after the organization has been headed by an interim commissioner since 2018.

Italian king’s heir apologizes for monarchy’s Holocaust role

A descendant of Italy’s wartime King Victor Emmanuel III has apologized to the country’s Jewish community for his ancestor’s role in dictator Mussolini’s racial laws and the Holocaust.

“I condemn the 1938 racial laws, all of whose weight I still feel on my shoulders to this day, and with me the whole royal house,” 48-year-old Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy says of his great-grandfather.

Victor Emmanuel III put his signature to an “unacceptable document,” he adds in a letter posted to Facebook, “officially apologizing” in the name of his family.

Almost 8,000 Italian Jews were deported from the country and murdered in Nazi extermination camps, most of them in Auschwitz.

Giving a TV interview alongside the letter, Emanuele Filiberto also vaunts his family’s positive role in Italian unification and granting of equal rights to Jews from 1848.

Several Italian royals were themselves deported to Nazi concentration camps, he recalls.

After the war, Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in May 1946 and died the following year in Egypt. His son Humbert II reigned for only a month before leaving for Switzerland when Italians opted for a republican constitution in a referendum.

Parliament only ended a constitutional ban on the House of Savoy’s male heirs returning to Italy in 2002, after Emanuele Filiberto and his father Vittorio Emanuele swore loyalty to the republic.

The two men gave up on compensation claims demanding 260 million euros ($316 million) for their family’s exile and the return of the royal family’s confiscated property after a public outcry.

Emanuele Filiberto is married to French actress Clotilde Courau.

Israeli girl, 15, lightly hurt after Palestinians reportedly throw rocks at car in West Bank

A 15-year-old Israeli girl suffers light injuries after rocks were thrown at a car in the West Bank, near the Palestinian village of Deir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, Hebrew-language media reports.

The girl has been treated by medics in the nearby settlement of Neve Tzuf and doesn’t require hospitalization.

The IDF is surrounding Deir Abu Mashal to try and locate the attackers, who are suspected to have hidden in bushes next to the road.

US national security adviser vows ‘unwavering commitment to Israel’s security’

US President-elect Joe Biden's national security adviser nominee Jake Sullivan speaks at The Queen theater, November 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
US President-elect Joe Biden's national security adviser nominee Jake Sullivan speaks at The Queen theater, November 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, speaks with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat and affirms the new administration’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” the US National Security Council says in a statement.

Sullivan also “expressed appreciation for Ben Shabbat’s contributions to our bilateral partnership,” according to the statement.

“They discussed opportunities to enhance the partnership over the coming months, including by building on the success of Israel’s normalization arrangements with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco,” it adds.

“Mr. Sullivan confirmed the United States will closely consult with Israel on all matters of regional security. He also extended an invitation to begin a strategic dialogue in the near term to continue substantive discussions.”

Haredi passengers refuse to wear masks on flight from New York to Israel

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to wear face masks throughout a United Airlines flight from New York to Israel that landed Friday morning, ignoring repeated requests by fellow passengers and staff, Hebrew-language media reports.

Traveler Tali Tenenbaum describes the flight as traumatic, saying passengers tried to stay away from the “coronavirus breeding ground” by going to the bathroom to drink, and couldn’t eat or sleep.

Egypt begins coronavirus immunization campaign

Egypt begins its COVID-19 immunization program, becoming one of the first countries in Africa to vaccinate its citizens, with a doctor and a nurse receiving the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, received its first batch of the vaccine in December.

The inoculation will be available to all health workers for free, Health Minister Hala Zayed says.

“All healthcare workers will receive it for free, it’s their right,” Zayed tells a press conference at Abu Khalifa Hospital in the northeastern city of Ismailia.

She also pays tribute to over 330 doctors in Egypt who have died from the virus.

People with chronic diseases and the elderly will be next in line for the shot, but the minister says citizens “who have the means should pay for the vaccine” in the coming months.

Egypt has registered over 160,000 novel coronavirus infections, including nearly 9,000 deaths. Health officials have warned that low testing rates mean the real number could be at least 10 times higher.

Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai barred from using his Facebook page for election campaign

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Central Elections Committee chairman Uzi Vogelman forbids Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai from using his mayoral Facebook account for election campaign purposes promoting Huldai’s new The Israelis party in the upcoming elections.

Vogelman, who is also a Supreme Court judge, says Huldai has broken the law by using state infrastructure to promote his party and fines his party NIS 5,000 ($1,528) and the Tel Aviv Municipality NIS 2,000 ($611).

Israel confirms 5 more cases of South African COVID strain, bringing total to 27

The Health Ministry says five more cases of the South African mutated coronavirus strain have been confirmed in Israel, all travelers from South Africa or Dubai or people who came in contact with them.

The development brings to 27 the total confirmed cases in the country of the more infectious strain, which officials fears could prove resistant to COVID-19 vaccines.

Likud to unveil ‘huge’ economic plan; Finance Ministry officials: We don’t know it

The Likud party says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz will today announce a “huge plan to jumpstart Israel’s economy,” but senior Finance Ministry officials are quoted by Hebrew-language media as saying they aren’t aware of its details.

This, coupled with the fact that the plan has been announced by Netanyahu’s party rather than the Prime Minister’s Office or the Finance Ministry, raises suspicions among observers that the plan is primarily meant for election campaign purposes.

Shortly after the announcement, right-wing Netanyahu Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party says it will unveil its own economic plan at 6 p.m. — the same time Likud plans to announce its plan.

Deputy AG says plan to close Ben Gurion Airport poses legal difficulties

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri warns that there are legal difficulties posed by the initiative to completely close Ben Gurion Airport.

“Preventing citizens from returning to the country contradicts human rights,” Nizri says during a cabinet meeting held via videoconference.

Still, he says there are solutions and he believes the move can eventually go ahead.

Biden’s health secretary nominee frustrated at vaccine delays

In this August 2, 2018, file photo, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks to reporters after a news conference at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
In this August 2, 2018, file photo, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks to reporters after a news conference at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

US President Joe Biden’s nominee to be health secretary is expressing his frustration about long lines for vaccinations, canceled appointments as local health authorities run out of vaccines, and the difficulty many Americans are having in figuring out where they stand in line to get the inoculation.

“That’s not America,” Xavier Becerra tells CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“That’s not the way we treat those we consider vulnerable in need of the vaccine the most. That’s not America at its best,” he adds.

Biden has pledged to distribute 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Becerra says he can’t offer a timeline for when all Americans who want the vaccine will be able to get one.

“Once we’re in, in the house, taking care of business, we’ll be able to give more precision,” Becerra says. “But you got to give us a chance to figure out what’s going on in the cockpit, that’s causing this plane to nosedive so severely.”

Police arrest 4 suspects in Bnei Brak mob attack on police car

Police say they have arrested four residents of Bnei Brak on suspicion of participating in the mob attack on a police vehicle on Thursday evening, when dozens were filmed surrounding the vehicle, hitting it and smashing the windows.

The police statement says four suspects who have been identified turned themselves in and were arrested.

It adds the investigation is ongoing.

Israel approves closure of Ben Gurion Airport to all arrivals until next Sunday

The government approves the closure of Ben Gurion Airport from tomorrow night until next Sunday.

All ministers support the motion besides Immigrant Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who says it’s “unreasonable” to cancel scheduled flights for Jews making aliyah to the Jewish state.

The move is aimed at thwarting the arrival of mutated versions of the coronavirus and the potential emergence of an Israeli strain immune to existing vaccines.

Extreme cases will be reviewed in accordance with rules that will be published by the government.

US tops 25 million COVID-19 cases: Johns Hopkins

More than 25 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the United States since the pandemic began, Johns Hopkins University says, days after US President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The milestone is reached only five days after the US, the world’s wealthiest and hardest-hit nation, recorded 400,000 deaths from the disease.

Haredi mob attacks journalists in Bnei Brak

Extremist ultra-Orthodox mobs in Bnei Brak attack reporters and photographers for major networks Channel 13 and the Kan public broadcaster, throwing various objects at them, including rocks.

Footage shows the journalists running along the street, unable to flee the attacks, asking store owners for shelter.

The demonstrators are protesting efforts by police to step up enforcement of lockdown rules among the Haredi community, where violations have been rampant in recent weeks.

Over half of Syria’s children deprived of education: UN

More than half of children in war-torn Syria are missing out on education, the UN children’s agency UNICEF says, with a third of schools in ruins or commandeered by fighters.

The figures are a sharp rise from previous estimates when UNICEF said a third of Syrian children are out of school.

“After almost ten years of war in Syria, more than half of children continue to be deprived of education,” UNICEF says in a statement, estimating there are over 2.4 million children out of school inside the country.

“This number has likely increased in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the disruption to education in Syria,” says Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s chief for the Middle East and North Africa, alongside Syria crisis boss Muhannad Hadi, in a joint statement.

“The education system in Syria is overstretched, underfunded, fragmented and unable to provide safe, equitable and sustained services to millions of children,” they add.

Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests, quickly spiraling into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers.

Over 387,000 people have been killed, and more than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 20 million have been forced to flee their homes.

Cop who fired in the air in Bnei Brak says he was ‘stabbed’ with blunt object

The police officer who shot in the air after being shoved by ultra-Orthodox rioters in Bnei Brak felt a “stab” in the back with a blunt object and therefore fired shots in the air to drive them back, police say in a statement.

The statement says a cop suffered head injuries and is receiving medical care.

“We will work to locate and fully bring the lawbreakers to justice,” police say.

Haredi interviewees say cops carried out ‘pogrom,’ ‘Kristallnacht’ in Bnei Brak

Faced with accusations of rampant violence against police officers doing their job trying to enforce the coronavirus lockdown, ultra-Orthodox TV interviewees use Holocaust imagery to describe alleged excessive force used by cops.

Nathan Rosenblatt, a resident of Modiin Illit, talks to Channel 12 about “the Kristallnacht that the police carried out in Bnei Brak last week,” referring to the “night of broken glass” in 1938 when Nazi forces destroyed Jewish property in Germany, including hundreds of synagogues and thousands of businesses, and arrested more than 30,000 Jewish men.

Earlier, a representative of the extremist Jerusalem Faction accused cops of carrying out “pogroms,” in an interview with Channel 12.

UAE government votes to establish embassy in Tel Aviv

The United Arab Emirates’ government voted today to establish an Emirati embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv, according to the official Emirati news agency WAM.

The decision comes several months after the historic US-brokered normalization agreement.

Netanyahu unveils plan to give every citizen $230 — without coordinating with Treasury

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents his economic plan, despite objections voiced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit against launching such a plan during an election campaign, without coordinating it with the Finance Ministry or the Justice Ministry.

Finance Minister Israel Katz, a close ally of the premier who has repeatedly clashed with professionals in his ministry, attends the press conference alongside Netanyahu even though the plan wasn’t formally coordinated with his ministry.

Netanyahu says the plan — which analysts say has virtually no chance of being approved — aims to aid small and medium businesses and jobseekers weather the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are bringing a nine-step plan to jumpstart our economy, big time,” says Netanyahu at a press conference, adding that he expects the government and the Knesset to support it.

The plan would offer a stipend of NIS 750 ($230) to every citizen and NIS 500 ($153) for every child, up to four children per family.

The plan comes despite the government not passing a budget for 2020 or 2021, with Netanyahu widely believed to have thwarted it on purpose to prevent the implementation of the power-sharing deal the stipulated that Benny Gantz would succeed him as prime minister unless the government falls due to failure to pass the budget.

Haredi IDF officer raps his own community over violent riots against lockdown

An ultra-Orthodox military officer criticizes his community for the recent violent protests in his hometown of Bnei Brak against the coronavirus lockdown.

Lt. Eli Feldstein, who serves in the Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesperson’s Unit, says he rejects the assertion that those taking part in the violence are not reflective of the Haredi community as a whole.

He also notes that security forces, including police, took part in a wide-scale food distribution program last spring during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t accept the claim that this is just a part of a small minority. The same people in uniform who are getting hit with fists and stones went through Bnei Brak door to door and handed out baskets of food on Passover eve less than a year ago,” Feldstein writes in a tweet.

“Where’s the appreciation? If it’s just a small minority where’s the large majority counter-protesting? Where’s the embrace for our security forces who embraced you less than a year ago?” he writes.

It is not immediately clear if Feldstein is writing in his capacity as an IDF spokesperson.

Trump plan to label BDS-backing groups anti-Semitic is ‘off the table’ — report

The Trump administration’s plan to label as anti-Semitic all organizations that support the BDS movement, which promotes boycotting Israel, is “off the table” because it was not completed by the end of the former president’s term, the Haaretz daily reports, citing “well-placed sources.”

The report says that the State Department “failed to complete the list and get it approved by the time the new administration stepped in – among other reasons, because of internal opposition within the State Department to the initiative, largely stemming from concerns about its repercussions on free speech.”

Israeli COVID-19 patient who returned from Dubai infected 180 people — report

An Israeli man who returned from Dubai after contracting COVID-19 infected no fewer than 180 people, according to Channel 12.

The report says officials are looking at the possibility of canceling exemptions to quarantine requirements for Israelis returning from abroad.

Gantz mocks Netanyahu’s economic plan: The plan we really need is a state budget

Defense Minister Benny Gantz criticizes the economic plan announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — which is opposed by the attorney general and has virtually no chance of being approved — calling it “a display of manipulativeness.”

“The economic plan Israel really needs has a name: a state budget, which Netanyahu and his representatives prevented at all costs,” he says.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yamina party and a fierce critic of the government’s pandemic response, says the “failing” government “recently prevented all economic activity” and prevented the approval of the state budget.

“Now, before the elections, you suddenly remember?” he says. “The public knows how to recognize fraud and false promises.”

Israel inaugurates its embassy in Abu Dhabi

Eitan Na'eh, the head of Israel's mission to the UAE, in Abu Dhabi on January 24, 2021. (Foreign Ministry/courtesy)
Eitan Na'eh, the head of Israel's mission to the UAE, in Abu Dhabi on January 24, 2021. (Foreign Ministry/courtesy)

As the UAE approves an embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel today inaugurated its own embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Foreign Ministry announces.

Eitan Na’eh heads the mission to the temporary embassy. A permanent embassy site is yet to be decided.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi wishes luck to the Israeli mission and praises the UAE government for approving its embassy in Israel, adding that the Jewish state is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Emirati diplomats.

Israel will also inaugurate a consulate in Dubai in the coming days, the statement says.

Merav Michaeli wins Labor Party primary with 77% of votes

Labor MK Merav Michaeli votes in the party primaries, January 24, 2020 (Courtesy)
Labor MK Merav Michaeli votes in the party primaries, January 24, 2020 (Courtesy)

Merav Michaeli wins the Labor Party primary with 77 percent of the votes, Hebrew-language media reports.

She will head the left-wing party, which was once a major force in Israeli politics, and now may well face oblivion in the upcoming election unless it merges with another party.

Michaeli is currently one of just two women heading political parties that have a realistic chance of making it into the Knesset (albeit only via merges, in both cases), alongside Hagit Moshe of the right-wing religious Jewish Home.

Israel identifies 5 cases of mutated COVID-19 strain originating in California

The Health Ministry says a genetic sequencing test has for the first time confirmed COVID-19 patients in Israel who have a mutated virus variant originating in the US state of California.

The statement says five people in Israel have been confirmed to have that strain, although it is not immediately clear whether this strain is more infectious or dangerous than other strains.

Israeli COVID-19 death toll since start of January passes 1,000

The Health Ministry says more than 30 Israelis died of COVID-19 since this morning, bringing the total since the start of January to 1,028. The total death toll is 4,392.

The ministry says 2,401 news cases were identified yesterday, eight percent of the just 30,888 tests conducted. Another 2,345 have been confirmed between midnight and 7 p.m. today.

The total cases since the pandemic began reach 596,733, including 69,973 active cases — which is a drop of some 6,000 active cases since yesterday.

There are 1,181 serious cases, including 419 in critical condition, and 330 on ventilators.

In addition, 1,059,656 Israelis have received both vaccine doses and 2,555,489 have received just the first dose.

Police disperse mass Haredi wedding in Beit Shemesh; clashes reported

After several days of clashes between police forces and members of the ultra-Orthodox community protesting lockdown enforcement, cops have broken up yet another mass Haredi wedding in Beit Shemesh.

Hundreds attended the illegal event at a local synagogue, and started throwing various objects at the officers and setting trash cans on fire, Hebrew-language media reports.

Police called in a water cannon to help disperse the crowd, according to the reports.

Many lockdown restrictions could continue into February — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering keeping many lockdown restrictions in place after the current lockdown end date of January 31, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report says that according to a Health Ministry plan still being drafted, the education system will only partly reopen — only institutions for kids aged 0-3, grades 1-4 and grades 11-12 will resume normal activities.

A decision on the matter will be reaches on Thursday, the report says.

El Al says will allow ticket refund after Ben Gurion Airport closed

Israel’s national carrier El Al says that in light of the closure of Ben Gurion Airport, travelers who bought tickets can get a refund for flights taking off before or on February 15.

The move comes after cabinet ministers approved the near-complete shuttering of the airport until the end of January, amid fears over fast-spreading or vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants entering the country.

The closure will start from midnight Monday-Tuesday and remain in effect at least until Sunday, January 31, when national lockdown measures are set to be eased.

46 Israelis returning from Dubai caught violating quarantine — report

At least 46 Israelis who recently returned from Dubai were caught violating their mandatory 14-day quarantine and paid a NIS 5,000 ($1,530) fine, Channel 12 reports.

One family paid a total of NIS 25,000 ($7,640) for five family members who committed the violation, the report says.

Police preparing for scenario in which Haredi rioter kills cop — report

The Israel Police are preparing for a potential scenario in which ultra-Orthodox extremists kill an officer, Channel 13 reports.

The report says officials are debating whether to include that scenario in the cops’ operation doctrine, as well as another scenario in which police officers or their families are threatened by the extremists, who have been violently resisting efforts to step up the enforcement of lockdown orders.

Intelligence points to rabbis having lost control of some young rioters, meaning they are not able to order them to scale down their activities, according to the report.

Poll shows Likud, Yesh Atid rising, but no clear path to coalition

A Channel 13 election survey by pollster Kamil Fuchs shows the parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid increasing their power, with Gideon’s Sa’ar’s New Hope losing more ground and Labor making it into the Knesset under the new leadership of Merav Michaeli, who predictably won the party primary today.

The poll predicts Netanyahu’s Likud will get 32 seats in the 120-member Knesset; Lapid’s Yesh Atid will get 18; New Hope 14; Naftali Bennett’s Yamina 10; Joint List 10; United Torah Judaism 7; Shas 6; Yisrael Beytenu 6; Meretz 5; Blue and White 4; Ron Huldai’s The Israelis 4; and Labor 4.

Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party gets 2.6 percent, under the 3.25% electoral threshold, but is widely expected to join forces with the Jewish Home party.

Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox staunch allies receive just 45 seats according to the survey, versus 65 seats for parties that have said they would not join a Netanyahu coalition. Yamina, with 10 seats, is the only party that has not clarified its position.

The poll results do not pose a clear path to any obvious coalition.

The survey was conducted today among 694 respondents representing Israel’s adult population. The margin of error is 3.7%.

HBO Max’s next Israeli show is a thriller about a woman caught in a murder case

Imri Biton, left, and Nadia Tereszkiewicz in 'Possessions.' (Courtesy of HBO Max via JTA)
Imri Biton, left, and Nadia Tereszkiewicz in 'Possessions.' (Courtesy of HBO Max via JTA)

HBO Max will stream a six-episode French-Israeli psychological thriller series titled “Possessions” on Thursday, the latest in HBO’s long line of Israel-affiliated offerings.

“Possessions,” filmed in French, Hebrew, and English, involves a young French ex-pat woman (Nathalie) living in Israel who is accused of murdering her husband on her wedding night. A French diplomat charged with helping French citizens navigate the difficulties of dealing with Israeli authorities comes to her aid.

But his task is further complicated when he finds himself falling for Nathalie, and he becomes obsessed with the case and her family’s mysterious past.

The show, created by Shachar Magen, is a joint production of France’s Canal Plus and Israel’s Yes TV network. It is directed by French filmmaker Thomas Vincent, known for directing the acclaimed BBC drama “Bodyguard.”

“The demand for non-English language content continues to grow throughout the world and I am delighted that this exceptional drama will be available for a wide, global audience via HBO Max,” Beatriz Campos, SVP of global sales and production financing of TV Series at Studiocanal, told Variety.

HBO Max, the network’s streaming service, recently debuted “Valley of Tears,” an epic miniseries on the Yom Kippur War.

‘Come back anytime’: Biden stops by Jewish Deli in DC

US President Joe Biden has made an impromptu stop at a Jewish deli in Washington, DC.

Stopping by Call Your Mother Deli in Georgetown after attending Christian mass at Holy Trinity, Biden stays in his vehicle and waves to supporters as a Secret Service officer places and picks up the order.

The eatery tweets it is “thrilled” and says: “Come back anytime.”

Baby girl said hospitalized with COVID-19 in serious condition

A 5-month-old baby girl has been hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19, Channel 13 reports.

The generally healthy infant, whose parents have also been confirmed as carriers of the coronavirus, has been diagnosed with encephalitis and pneumonia, resulting from the virus, the report says.

“We are used to seeing kids diagnosed with COVID-19, but not kids who are ill,” Dr. Idit Pasternak, who treated the baby, tells Channel 13. “Usually, kids who arrive with COVID-19 are generally healthy. We don’t see a lot of cases like this girl.”

The report does not mention in what hospital the infant is hospitalized.

Trump’s virus adviser says some in White House saw pandemic as ‘hoax’

Then-US president Donald Trump (R) listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, then-White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP/ Alex Brandon)
Then-US president Donald Trump (R) listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, then-White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP/ Alex Brandon)

Dr. Deborah Birx says that when she was coordinator of former US president Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, she had to grapple with COVID-19 deniers in the White House and that someone gave the president “parallel” streams of data that conflicted with hers.

Defending her tenure, Birx tells CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she was at times censored by the Trump administration, but denies ever withholding information.

Birx says she would see Trump “presenting graphs that I never made” and that “someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president.”

She adds that, in the White House, “there were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax.”

Birx does not identify the COVID-19 deniers and says she does not know who was presenting the parallel data to Trump, but says she realizes now that Trump coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas was providing some of it.

Birx said in December that she would retire, but was willing to first help US President Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response, as needed. More than 25 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 418,000 people have died in the US since the pandemic began.

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