14 Days: Pittsburgh Tragedy

A roundup of news of the last two weeks.

Police near the "Tree of Life" synagogue in Pittsburgh (photo credit: REUTERS)
Police near the "Tree of Life" synagogue in Pittsburgh
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Eleven Jewish worshipers were killed and six others, including two policemen, were wounded in a shooting rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat prayers on October 27. The gunman, identified as Robert Bowers, is reported to have yelled, “All Jews must die,” as he entered the Conservative synagogue and began firing during a baby-naming ceremony. Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Pittsburgh to stand in solidarity with the community.
GAZA TRUCE Islamic Jihad declared an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel on October 27 after a weekend of violence during which 37 rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel and the IDF hit 95 targets in Gaza. There was extensive damage but no casualties on the Israeli side. In border clashes between the IDF and Gazans on the Friday before, four Palestinians were killed and more than 200 wounded.
HISTORIC VISITS Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the 4th meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on October 24. “China is Israel’s second largest trade partner, reaching 10 billion dollars in 2017, and it is already up 30% in 2018,” Netanyahu said. Two days later, Netanyahu made a historic visit to Oman, calling his meeting with Sultan Qaboos "very important talks for Israel’s security."
JORDANIAN SHOCK Jordan announced on October 21 that it would not renew the lease under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel allowing the latter to use land at Naharayim, south of the Sea of Galilee, and Zofar, north of Eilat. While both areas (comprising about 1,000 acres) are used by Israel for agriculture, Naharayim also includes the Island of Peace, where a Jordanian terrorist killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997. Israel said it planned to negotiate the matter with Jordan.
ALQASEM RULING Israel’s High Court of Justice on October 18 ordered the release American student Lara Alqasem from detention at Ben-Gurion Airport so that she can attend studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Alqasem, 22, was detained at the airport after landing on October 2. The state alleged that she was a BDS activist who should be barred from entering the country under a law passed by the Knesset last year.
NBN PRIZES The Nefesh B’Nefesh Sylvan Adams Bonei Zion Prize was awarded at a Knesset ceremony on October 28 to seven outstanding immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries: Kalman Samuels (Community & Non-Profit, Canada), Prof. Marcia Javitt (Science & Medicine, US), Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin (Education, US), Arsen Ostrovsky (Israel Advocacy, Australia), Linda Streit (Arts, Culture & Sports, UK), Maj. Keren Haiioff (Young Leadership, UK), and Morris Kahn (Lifetime Achievement, South Africa). Adams, NBN cofounders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzahi Hanegbi handed out the prizes.
JUDO first After Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won a gold medal in the Judo Grand Competition in Abu Dhabi on October 28, Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, was played for the first time in the United Arab Emirates. “We made history,” said Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who wept when the anthem was played at the ceremony. Muki said, “It was a moment I will never forget. I’m very happy that I managed to finish with a gold medal and to have the anthem played in Abu Dhabi.”
JFNA CHAIR Mark Wilf, the billionaire American real estate developer who is president of the Minnesota Vikings, was unanimously voted to replace Richard Sandler as the new chair of the Jewish Federations of North America by its Board of Trustees at the General Assembly in Tel Aviv on October 21. “I am committed to safeguarding the mission of JFNA, improving Israel-Diaspora ties, ensuring a vibrant Judaism for our younger generation and working to continually strengthen the welfare of the State of Israel,”  Wilf said.