After an extraordinary and fast-paced year, here are the top 10 stories we covered at ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS
We frequently joke in our newsroom that maybe we will finally have a "slow news week." It hasn't happened yet.
It’s been one year since we launched ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS.
Considering the events of the past year that have either begun in the Middle East or have impacted the region, you could say we hit the ground running.
Days after our launch on Sept. 1, 2020, two Muslim nations from the Gulf signed a historic peace agreement with Israel and ever since, the rapid pace of events has been dizzying – all the way to Aug. 30 when the United States ended its 20-year presence in Afghanistan, leaving a dangerous void in the region.
When explaining why he started these sites, Joel C. Rosenberg said that the Middle East “always finds a way to draw – even force – our attention back here.”
“The news coming out of Israel and the Middle East is not going away. Like it or not, the geopolitical, economic and spiritual earthquakes are going to keep on coming,” he wrote.
And sure enough, we have not seen one “slow news day” since then.
As part of our one-year anniversary, let’s take a look back at some of the top stories we covered that dominated our region and the world over the past 12 months.
The historic treaty to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel was announced in August by former U.S. President Donald Trump. Bahrain followed on Sept. 11 and, on Sept. 15, the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House in Washington, D.C.
And we were there to cover it. Rosenberg reported on the groundbreaking event from the South Lawn of the White House and even interviewed then-Vice President Mike Pence later that day.
The Abraham Accords crystallizes what we are all about at our news outlets – covering the convergence of nations and events in this region. And the treaty became the gift that kept on giving. In October, Sudan joined and then in December, Morocco joined as well.
Rosenberg traveled to the UAE and Bahrain twice to cover events related to the deal.
As spring was heating up in the Middle East, tensions were brewing in Jerusalem. In April and May, Muslims in the city had begun to protest over restrictions imposed during Ramadan, a disputed property in a Jerusalem neighborhood and alleged Israeli violations at the Temple Mount.
The anger and violence was set to culminate on Jerusalem Day – a flagship holiday for nationalistic Israelis. While all eyes were on Jerusalem, Hamas militants in Gaza launched three rockets on the eve of Jerusalem Day which landed in the outskirts of the holy city.
This was the tipping point and began what Israel dubbed Operation Guardian on the Walls – an 11-day conflict between Israel and groups in Gaza. In that short time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched 4,300 rockets at Israeli civilians while Israel responded with aerial assaults. Thirteen people were killed in Israel and in Gaza, 200 people died, including civilians.
The conflict ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, leaving more questions than answers.
COVID hit Israel hard. Despite a swift border closure in March 2020, mask mandates which lasted for months and three national lockdowns, the Jewish state dealt with – and still is dealing with – several waves of the virus, high infection rates and overcrowded hospitals.
In fact, for much of the year, the Start-up Nation looked more like the Shut-Down Nation.
Our own staff was not immune to the highly contagious virus which was rampaging around the world. Rosenberg wrote of his surprise to have contracted COVID even after he was vaccinated.
Israel prematurely celebrated its victory over COVID in May and we are currently covering a fourth, and particularly infectious, wave of the pandemic despite high vaccination levels in Israel.
Israel made a decision early on – a high vaccination rate would be its way to dig out of the pandemic.
Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first one to get the shot and the vaccination campaign was off and running from Dec. 20. Nine months later, Israel boasts an almost 80% vaccination rate and, in a world first, is offering a booster shot for everyone 12 and up.
Along with the vaccine campaign came incentives for those who got them and restrictions for those who did not. In March, Israel became the first country to institute a vaccine passport, the Green Passport, requiring proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID in order to gain entry to certain venues.
The concept was generally embraced, but still faces some opposition. An Israeli law firm filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court calling the warp-speed vaccination campaign a medical experiment that violates the Nuremberg Codes.
One of our hit stories during this time was about a movement in Israel calling itself the Human Passport, encouraging businesses to avoid discrimination... of all kinds.
One of the biggest COVID victims of the past 18 months has been the tourism sector. Many of our readers at ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS want to know when they can come to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, one of our articles predicted correctly that tourists would not be returning to Israel in 2020.
And they weren’t allowed to return until late May 2021 – 15 months after Israel's shut its borders – in a short-live pilot program for pre-approved, fully-vaccinated tour groups.
The program was ultimately quashed in August as infection rates began to surge again in Israel causing the government to impose quarantine orders for nearly all incoming travelers – Israeli and foreigners alike – prompting groups to cancel their 2021 trips, at least through October.
Four elections in two years sent Israel on a political rollercoaster. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been virtually impossible to defeat and managed to hold on to power for 12 years. But in the past few election cycles he was unable to put together a coalition that could last.
In the March election, Netanyahu and his Likud party garnered the most votes again. However, this time his magic had waned. He failed to gather a majority coalition and instead Naftali Bennett, whose party won only seven seats, was tasked to form a government – which he did by the skin of his teeth.
Bennett’s government has a one-seat majority and, though he is a right winger, he is relying on leftists and an Arab party associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. But the government is neither fully “Left” nor “Right.” In Israel, it's complicated.
Few Evangelicals have heard of Bennett and know little about him. Here are 10 things Evangelical Christians should know about the government that Bennett formed with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
President Donald Trump was arguably the most pro-Israel president in American history. Among other things, Trump recognized Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, and moved the American embassy there. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the Abraham Accords that his administration brokered, drawing four Muslim nations into peace treaties with Israel.
But none of that carried Trump to reelection in November.
This caused Evangelicals to wonder: How could Trump lose after blessing Israel so much?
Trump left office highly popular in Israel. He had a 71% approval rating among Israelis, his highest rating anywhere in the world. Before the U.S. elections, a poll found that 63.3% of Israelis favored Trump to win, while only 18.8% wanted Joe Biden to win.
Here are the 12 most important moves that Trump made in the Middle East during his short but effective four years.
8. MIKE EVANS VS. THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
It felt like a blow to many Evangelicals when Trump lost his reelection bid, followed by another blow when Netanyahu failed to form a government. But when Bennett was poised to be sworn in as the prime minister of Israel, an attack came from out of left field when a prominent Evangelical leader declared war on the new Jewish leader, writing in a profanity-laced letter, “I will fight you every step of the way.”
Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Museum and a prominent Christian supporter of Israel with millions of followers, later apologized for his choice of words, but vowed that “my Evangelicals” would “go into opposition” against the new government.
Evans’ letter and his statements shocked the Christian community abroad. But ALL ISRAEL NEWS was present at Evans’ Jerusalem press conference and spoke with the wider Christian community which unequivocally expressed support for Israel – regardless of who leads the nation.
As ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS approached the one-year mark of our news service, we didn’t imagine that one of the biggest disasters of the year would unfold. But President Joe Biden’s bloody and botched withdrawal of Afghanistan has drawn stringing criticism.
In an exclusive interview, former Vice President Mike Pence unloaded on what he called Biden’s “disastrous withdrawal” and a “disgrace.”
The president is facing calls for resignation.
In a Fox News interview, Rosenberg explained how this affects Israel: “Clearly, President Biden doesn't know how to deal with the Taliban. So how are you going to build confidence that you know how to deal with Tehran, the terror masters who are rapidly racing towards nuclear weapons?”
ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS is committed to giving a voice to the voiceless and that includes covering the plight of the Christian minority in the Middle East. Afghanistan was no different. We spoke with sources familiar with the dire situation as believers frantically tried to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, knowing they face certain torture, imprisonment and – many fear – death.
10. RUSH LIMBAUGH
The Doctor of Democracy used to say, “The views expressed by the host on this program are documented to be almost always right, 99.7% of the time.”
Many times, it was higher.
No matter what the actual number, no one can deny the impact that radio great, Rush Limbaugh, had on his profession, American politics and conservative thought.
Joel Rosenberg, who had the privilege of working for and becoming friends with Limbaugh, eulogized the legend on our news channels when he passed away in January.
He shared about Limbaugh’s commitment to Jesus and his support of Israel.
“Rush Limbaugh gave his life to Jesus Christ a few years ago and it gave him tremendous hope as he faced his toughest fight,” Rosenberg wrote. "So successful professionally, Rush also faced some dark times personally – but when I went to visit him last year, I was profoundly encouraged by the faith I found.”
A testament to his influence, this story has been shared and viewed around the world, making it our most-read article to date on ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.