UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Sunday, July 21 2013:
*More information has now dribbled out about Netanyahu’s decision to release Palestinian terrorist murderers from Israeli prisons. As the early part of the negotiations proceed, 82 terrorists will be released–including some of the “worst of the worst”. No actual names have been released, but there is much speculation today that the list may include the infamous Fatah terrorist, Marwan Barghouti.
Just when you thought there couldn’t be any good news out of Israel what with Netanyahu’s capitulation to the Palestinians and the European Union’s re-instituting of the 1930s Nazi boycott of Jews comes a few stories you may have missed.
1. The Amazonian “Iquitos Jews” continue their aliyah to Israel.
Back in the 1800s, a group of Moroccan Jewish men traveled to the Amazon to find employment in the rubber industry. A relatively large number of them remained in what is now Iquitos, Peru and intermarried with the local women. Though the descendants of these men were not technically Jewish, they never forgot their Jewish roots.
After undergoing a conversion process by a Rabbinical Court set up in the area, many of these descendants have begun immigrating to Israel. The most recent group of 18 Iquitos Jews arrived in Israel a few weeks ago and settled in Ramle–joining the hundreds who have immigrated there since the 1990s. There are some 260 more who are now ready to make aliya; they are expected to arrive by 2014.
2. Nefesh B’Nefesh brings another planeload of new immigrants to Israel.
Tomorrow, 223 Jews are arriving at Ben Gurion airport to make Israel their home. Coming from the United States and Canada, these new immigrants are being brought here by Nefesh b’Nefesh. The really fantastic thing about this flight is that 106 of the new Israelis are children, 56 girls and 50 boys, mostly under the age of 9. All told, some 989 Nefesh children are expected to make aliyah this year. Most of them are moving into Jewish communities in the Galilee and in the Negev.
Erez Halfon, vice chairman of Nefesh, had this to say earlier this week: “It warms the heart to see that more and more parents in North America understand that today, Israel is a great place to raise children. It fills us with optimism, because these children are the future of the State of Israel.”
3. Global Zionism is alive and well–and such Zionists are out and about in Israel.
Imagine IDF Head of Staff Benny Gantz’s surprise this week when his convoy was stopped on the Golan Heights by a group of flag-waving Zionists who had come from all over the world to tour and support Israel.
One of the group who happened to be from Seoul, Korea told a clearly flummoxed Gantz: “The reason we came here was to encourage Israelis and support them, to tell you we love you.”
4. Bishara Shlayan, an Israeli Christian Arab from Nazareth, starts a new political party “Bnei Brit” (Allies).
Why does Israel need a new political party?
According to Shlayan, he felt that “Arabs need to do something for the State.” He went on to say in an interview that “I want people to raise the Israeli flag. Children should be be proud to raise the Israeli flag. My first project would be to change the educational curriculum in the Arab sector.”
5. The 19th Maccabiah Games are taking place all over Israel.
All right, all right, your humble servant knows that he has already reported on this cultural and sporting event, but last night even his home city of Ashdod was flooded with participants and their families.
Sitting at a table across from an American family from Pennsylvania who are involved in the wrestling competition, I reflected on the fact that it is simply wonderful having all of these people from around the world in the country.
You can feel excitement in the air and a surge of optimistic energy that they bring.
But then again, that is the essence of Israel–all the time.