Ori Ansbacher, 19, was brutally murdered in Jerusalem’s Ein Yael forest on February 21, and was buried in her hometown of Tekoa the next day.

(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
TIPH OUSTED Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at the end of January that he was ending the 22-year-old mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). The civilian observers from Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey monitored a 1997 deal handing over 80% of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority while keeping 20% under Israeli control. “We will not allow an international force to act against us,” Netanyahu said, blaming TIPH for enabling Palestinian attacks against Israelis. A PA spokesman slammed the move, saying it showed Israeli contempt for international agreements.
JERUSALEM MURDER Ori Ansbacher, 19, was brutally murdered in Jerusalem’s Ein Yael forest on February 21, and was buried in her hometown of Tekoa the next day. Ansbacher served as a national service volunteer at the Ye’elim Youth Center in Ein Yael. Security forces arrested a 29-year-old Palestinian man from Hebron in an operation near Ramallah who confessed to carrying out the terrorist attack.
SYNAGOGUES DESECRATED Vandals broke into the Siah Yisrael synagogue attended by French immigrants in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood on the night of January 28, cut open the Ark and threw four Torah scrolls and prayer books on the floor. Police opened an investigation into the vandalism they believed was carried out by Arab criminals, which came just days after the vandalism in two synagogues in Netanya.
ETHIOPIAN ALIYAH Eighty-three immigrants from Ethiopia arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on February 4 after waiting in Gondar for up to 15 years to make aliyah. “Welcome to Israel, my brothers and sisters,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said at the arrival ceremony. “I call on the government to bring all those who remain in Ethiopia to Israel.” The government in October approved the aliyah of some 1,000 members of the Falash Mura community.
FIGUERES HONORED A million-dollar Dan David Prize will be given to Christiana Figueres “for her achievements in combating climate change,” it was announced on February 6. Figueres, originally from Costa Rica, is a dedicated diplomat, speaker and author in the field of global climate change, and served as Executive Secretary for the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010-2016), where her efforts led to the historic Paris Agreement of 2015. Figueres, along with the four other laureates will be honored at the Dan David Prize Award Ceremony in Tel Aviv in May.
JEWISH MVP The New England Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman became the first Jew to be named Most Valuable Player after his team beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, on February 3. The Patriots’ Jewish owner, Robert Kraft, celebrated a record sixth Super Bowl victory for his team led by quarterback Tom Brady. “It was awesome,” Edelman said.
NOTED SOCIOLOGIST Prof. Rela Geffen, a prominent American Jewish sociologist, died in Philadelphia on February 3 just short of her 76th birthday. A professor emerita of sociology at Gratz College and former president of Baltimore Hebrew University, Geffen was a founding fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and authored or edited four books, including Celebration and Renewal: Rights of Passage in Judaism.
BRIDGE-BUILDER Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), died of a heart attack in his Jerusalem home on February 6 at the age of 67. Since its founding in 1983 to build bridges between Jews and Christians, the IFCJ – with offices in Jerusalem and Chicago – raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the poor and needy, Holocaust survivors and social programs in Israel and the Diaspora, and funded aliyah from 30 countries. Eckstein, who was born in the US and grew up in Canada, is survived by his wife Joelle, daughters Yael (IFCJ’s acting president), Tamar and Talia, his mother and eight grandchildren.