Archives For Middle East Updates

After a week of protesting and rioting by Israelis who were forcibly taken from the airport to state-run quarantine facilities after returning from abroad, a Knesset committee decided to scrap the rule and allow Israelis to quarantine at home. 

Instead, travelers will be required to undergo two COVID-19 tests — one upon landing Israel and another nine days after their arrival — and they will still be required to quarantine for two weeks, but at home. Those who refuse a test will be taken to a state-run facility.

These facilities are hotels that are not in use since tourists are still banned from the country. But the conditions have been anything but five-star according to several people who had been forced to stay there. Many reported that the rooms are not clean and that food — which is prepackaged and is reminiscent of Israeli hospital food — is not delivered to their door on time. The hotels were also unequipped to care for babies and people with allergies who needed formula, milk or special foods.

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With the government officially dispersed, Israel is headed to new elections which will take place in March — marking the fourth time Israelis will go to the polls in two years. 

The current unity government was destined to fail, built upon a tenuous — and tense — relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who realized at some point he was probably not going to get the top spot from Bibi despite the terms of their unity agreement. 

These cracks in the coalition began intensifying in recent months until finally the parties split in a vote to defer an extension to vote on a budget which effectively ended a dysfunctional government that didn’t have a budget for all of 2020. Netanyahu had long lobbied for a one-year budget that would carry him to the end of his term, while Gantz and his party were pushing for a two-year budget that would ensure his getting the prime minister position. In other words, Bibi was against a two-year budget because he would then have to cede power to Benny Gantz next November.

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A last-ditch effort was underway to prevent the dissolving of the Knesset which will happen automatically at midnight on Dec. 23, just days away, if the parties do not come to terms.

The two leading parties, Likud and Blue and White, have not been able to come to a consensus on a budget. These parties based their coalition agreement on the passage of a budget by Dec. 23. 

Benny Gantz, Blue and White leader and alternate prime minister who was hoping to serve in the premiere role in the fall of 2021, wanted to pass a two-year budget to ensure that he could get the top spot. According to his agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they would switch roles after 18 months. Of course, Benny Gantz is probably the only one in Israel who actually believed, Netanyahu, the longest serving premiere in Israel’s history, would ever actually allow him to become Prime Minister. 

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Israel has become a force to be reckoned with in judo in recent years, but recently its gymnasts are also getting noticed on the world stage after picking up several medial in the European Championships. 

In the last few months, athletes from the young nation snatched up several medals even in windsurfing and tae kwan do.

Linoy Ashram, 21, won a gold medal in the individual rhythmic category last month, becoming the first athlete not from a former Soviet country or Bulgaria to win gold in decades. She will be representing the Jewish state in Tokyo in 2021. The women’s team also won first place int he team competition.

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In a sign of the already blossoming fruit of the Abraham Accords, Hanukkah candles were lit together by Jews and Muslims across the Gulf states and in Israel.

In Dubai, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was lit up to mark the Jewish holiday and a public candle lighting ceremony was held.

“The message behind Hanukkah is to spread light over darkness. And I see the UAE as the brightest light in this region,” said Rabbi Levi Duchman, who lives in the UAE, has been hosting Hanukkah in Dubai for the past six years. 

Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community also celebrated candle lightings with government officials.

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