THE WEEK AHEAD: Ramadan began on Saturday under the shadow of a new wave of terror
Here are the stories we are watching...
· Ramadan begins amid soaring tensions as a new wave of terror hits Israel
· Despite terror attacks, more Palestinians from Gaza will be allowed to work in Israel under new permits
· Israeli astronaut goes to space aboard SpaceX’s first all-private mission
· Diaspora Week celebrates connection to Jewish communities abroad
The holy Muslim month of Ramadan is underway. It is a time of spiritual discipline, fasting and prayer for Muslims.
It is also a time of increased tensions in Israel, especially around Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Israel has already been witnessing a new wave of deadly terror attacks in other city centers.
This year, Ramadan coincides with both Passover and Easter during the same time in mid-April.
In recent weeks, Israeli leaders have discussed security coordination with Jordan, which serves as custodian of sacred Islamic sites in the city. Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz pledged to Jordan's King Abdullah II that Israel will take measures to ensure freedom of prayer to Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
WORK PERMITS FOR GAZANS
The Israeli government is expected to raise the number of work permits for Palestinians from Gaza and allow their entry to Israeli territory. As part of the initiative by Gantz, an additional 8,000 permits will be allocated to Gazans. Overall, a total of 20,000 Palestinians will be allowed to work in Israel, according to the Ministry for Regional Cooperation. The quota was raised to 12,000 permits just two weeks ago.
The decision comes as Israel seeks to reduce tensions with Palestinians during the month of Ramadan. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during his visit to the region that his government is working hard to improve the lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza.
BENNETT INDIA TRIP CANCELED
Bennett was supposed to travel to India on an official state visit this week. The trip has been postponed and will be rescheduled, since Bennett tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday evening. The Israeli premier, who is fully vaccinated, has continued to work from home in isolation. Last week, Israel marked its highest COVID positive test rate – over 20% – in about six months, except for one day in October.
Despite the surge, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov vowed that the country will remain open to tourists.
“I am proud to announce that after conversations with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, we agreed that there is no possibility of closing the skies to tourists,” Razvozov said.
ISRAELI ASTRONAUT TAKES OFF FOR SPACE
Eytan Stibbe from Israel will make history as one of the four astronauts aboard SpaceX’s first all-private mission to the International Space Station. The 10-day mission, called Axiom-1, is expected to set off on Sunday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The 62-year-old Stibbe is an Israeli Air Force veteran who spent 43 years in the IDF as a fighter pilot and flight instructor before acting as advisor to Israel Aerospace Industries. He was a close friend of first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died during the space shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003.
Three of the four astronauts – including Stibbe – will wear a special helmet made by the Israeli startup Brain.Space as part of an experiment to study the impact of space on the human brain. The helmet has 460 airbrushes that connect to the scalp, and perform a number of tasks for 20 minutes a day. During activity, data will be uploaded to a laptop on the space station.
DIASPORA WEEK BEGINS
Diaspora Week – a new Israeli government initiative – begins Sunday with the goal of highlighting and celebrating Israel’s connection to Jewish communities abroad. During the week, museums and schools will offer special educational and social programs aimed at strengthening those ties.
ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv (Beit Hatfutsot) and Herzl Museum in Jerusalem will offer free tours. Young Jews from abroad will visit IDF bases to meet with Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of Israeli high school graduates will go on a hike with groups of Jewish teenagers from abroad along the Israel National Trail.
“World Jewry is our flesh and blood. Today more than ever we can see how important this connection is, as well as the critical need for mutual support among the two parts of the Jewish people,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the diaspora is heading to Israel. Aliyah (immigration to Israel) is on the rise as Ukrainians flee their war-torn nation. We have several reports as this "emergency aliyah" unfolds:
Christians evacuating Holocaust survivors from Ukraine
Korean Christians helping Jews move to, absorb into Israel
Christian organizations join with Israeli social services
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
· ...Is a new nuclear deal with Iran imminent or do recently imposed new U.S. sanctions mark a shift in negotiations?
· ...Could the terror designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be the last remaining sticking point in the Vienna talks?
· ...What stands behind Putin’s decision to put Russian nuclear forces on ‘high alert’?
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.