Archives For Middle East Updates

Winter has finally arrived in Israel.

Stormy weather hit the country for the first time in weeks and lasted several days with a cold snap, rain, hail, blustery wind and buckets of snow on Mount Hermon. Cold temperatures throughout the country means snow is also possible in high-elevation cities such as Jerusalem. Temperatures will remain low during for the rest of the week.

But the good news is that the Water Authority reports the Sea of Galilee rose by 6 centimeters (2.36 inches) in 24 hours, putting it now just 99.5 centimeters (3 feet 3 inches) under the upper red line which means full — and almost overflowing. 

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Israeli chef Assaf Granit has earned a Michelin star for his Paris restaurant, Shabour, getting praise for his “creative cuisine” and his “trademark features” of an “unbridled atmosphere, rough and ready decoration.” Fun fact, Granit’s father has served us as a tour guide for our groups in the past.

Granit has a series of popular restaurants in Jerusalem including the famous Machneyuda which has waits of two months (one of favorite restaurants!), Yudele and HaSadna — all of which have been closed for months due to COVID closures in Israel. His Jerusalem-based cuisine has been exported to the award-winning The Palomar in London and two restaurant in Paris, Balagan and Shabour.

The gruff, tattooed, now celebrity chef on Israeli cooking shows was overwhelmed by the news.

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The COVID-19 pandemic in Israel is starting to sound like a Charles Dickens novel: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On one hand, Israel if leading the world in its vaccine campaign that has seen 30 percent of the eligible population in the country inoculated in just four weeks.

On the other hand, four weeks into a third nationwide lockdown, Israel is recording its highest numbers in daily infections since March, even setting a record this week of more than 10,000 positive cases in a single day. 

And based on that last fact, the Cabinet has extended the current lockdown another 10 days and will not end until Jan. 31, keeping children at home and businesses shuttered.

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If U.S. President Donald Trump had a little bit more time he would have brought both Indonesia and Mauritania into the Abraham Accords, adding two more Muslim nations to declare peace with Israel — and possibly more. 

This is according to a story by The Times of Israel which quotes two U.S. officials, one of whom said Trump needed only a few more weeks to close the deal.

“Mauritania and Indonesia are high on the list, but it changes based upon various circumstances,” one senior U.S. official said. “You can put every country on the list, to the point where Iran will eventually join the Abraham Accords.”

Trump brokered the historic Abraham Accords, which brought four Muslim nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — into normalized relations with Israel, over the past five months.

Indonesia is a Muslim nation with a population of 270 million. And Mauritania, a neighbor of Morocco, has 4.5 million people. 

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Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib accused Israel of denying Palestinians access to the COVID-19 vaccine, when in fact, it is the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility to get their citizens inoculated, under the Olso Accords.

“I think it’s really important to understand Israel is a racist state and that they would deny Palestinians, like my grandmother, access to a vaccine, that they don’t believe that she’s an equal human being that deserves to live, deserves to be able to be protected by this global pandemic,” the Michigan Democrat said in an interview for the “Democracy Now!” TV show. 

Contrary to her statements, Israel is not blocking vaccines from getting to Palestinians. Israeli officials have stated that the country must take care of its citizens first just as the PA is responsible for vaccinating its own population. It is a lie that Israel “would deny Palestinians access to the COVID-19 vaccine.” Israel simply doesn’t feel it is her responsibility. The Palestinian Authority is its own government with a budget, a police force and medical facilities.

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