14 Days: Terror strikes

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Shay Nigrekar and Aviar Nir (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shay Nigrekar and Aviar Nir
(photo credit: Courtesy)


Shay Silas Nigrekar, 60, and his son Aviad Nir, 28, from Ashdod were killed in a terrorist attack at a car wash in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on August 19. An initial investigation by the IDF found that the Palestinian terrorist approached the car wash on foot and opened fire at the two Israelis from close range with a handgun, and then fled the scene. The IDF launched a search for the gunman. On August 21, Batsheva Nigri, 42, was killed and a man seriously wounded in a shooting attack near the Beit Hagai junction in the West Bank. Her 12-year-old daughter who was in the car was unharmed.


Cpl. Hillel Nehemia Ofen, 20, a combat IDF soldier from Karmei Tzur serving in the Yahalom special operations unit, died during a training exercise in central Israel early on August 14 as a severe heatwave struck the country. The IDF said he and other soldiers had been crawling through open fields near the Adam training facility when he collapsed and died of heat stroke. “You embraced everything with joy,” his father, Boaz, said at his funeral in Jerusalem. “Every Shabbat, you made sure to bring flowers to your mother.”


The cabinet on August 20 approved a five-year, NIS 3.2 billion plan for the development of east Jerusalem, replacing a previous plan frozen by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who objected to funding for a college preparatory program for Arab students at the Hebrew University. Smotrich is still withholding NIS 200 million earmarked for Arab municipalities, prompting municipal leaders to call a protest strike on August 21. The new plan allocates funds for infrastructure development, housing, healthcare, education, public transportation, welfare and cultural programming. 


Fitch Ratings on August 14 affirmed Israel’s A+ sovereign credit rating with a “stable” outlook, citing strong government finances, but it cautioned that judicial reform legislation could cause future uncertainty in the Israeli market. In maintaining Israel’s rating, Fitch said it “balances a diversified, resilient and high value-added economy and strong external finances against a high government debt/GDP ratio, elevated security risks and a record of unstable governments that has hindered policymaking.” 


Tel Aviv’s long-awaited Red Line light rail was inaugurated on August 17 at the Kiryat Aryeh operational center in Petah Tikvah in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and other officials. Red Line connects five cities – Petah Tikvah, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Bat Yam – and has 34 stations along its route, including 10 underground stations. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai boycotted the opening ceremony because, he said,  “the light rail must operate and serve the public even on Shabbat.”

 Israeli windsurfers Shahar Tibi and Katy Spychakov. (credit: SAILING ENERGY)
Israeli windsurfers Shahar Tibi and Katy Spychakov. (credit: SAILING ENERGY)


Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is the leading candidate for US ambassador to Israel, Axios reported on August 13. It said there was a sense of urgency about US President Joe Biden’s choice for the post because he was pushing for a mega-deal with Riyadh that could include normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Lew, an Orthodox Jew born in New York on August 29, 1955, and his wife, Ruth, have two adult children.


Giora Romm, the Israeli Air Force’s first “ace pilot,” who downed five enemy planes during the 1967 Six Day War, died on August 11 at the age of 78 after battling cancer. He commanded the IAF’s 115 Squadron in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, was shot down and spent several months in Egyptian captivity, and participated in Operation Wooden Leg, the 1985 raid against PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Romm went on to serve, inter alia, as deputy commander of the IAF; Israel’s military attaché in the US; and director of the Civil Aviation Authority. He and his wife Miriam had three children.


Israeli windsurfers Shahar Tibi, 25, and Katy Spychakov, 24, won gold and silver medals in the women’s iQFoil category at the 2023 Allianz Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands on August 19. “I can’t be happier about what we achieved,” said Tibi, dedicating her medal to Israeli windsurfer Lee Korzits, 39, who claimed four world titles and was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. In the men’s competition, Israel’s Yoav Omar won a bronze medal.