Streets Largely Empty as Police Step Up Enforcement of Tightened Lockdown

By: Times of Israel Staff – Times of Israel;

Police stepped up enforcement Friday after the tightened coronavirus lockdown took effect, dispersing gatherings, closing stores violating the restrictions, and calling via loudspeaker upon citizens to follow the guidelines.

After the initial lockdown imposed several weeks ago was under-enforced and provided plenty of loopholes to go outside, the tightened closure had an immediate and dramatic effect on movement, with police estimating that roads were 70 percent emptier than normal.

Checkpoints were set up on major highways and within towns and cities. The previous rules had already limited Israelis from venturing beyond a kilometer from their homes, with several exceptions.

Iran Seizes Tanker, Ramps Up Uranium Enrichment in New Escalation with West

By: Ali Arouzi and Saphora Smith – NBC News;

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been simmering in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has resumed enriching uranium up to 20 percent in the country’s biggest breach yet of its landmark nuclear deal with world powers, a government spokesperson told state-run Mehr News on Monday.

Also Monday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized a South Korean-flagged ship carrying thousands of tons of ethanol in the Persian Gulf, according to the state-linked news agencies IRIB and FARS News.

The U.S. State Department said it was tracking reports that the Iranian regime has detained a Republic of Korea-flagged tanker. “The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Persian Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions. We join the Republic of Korea’s call for Iran to immediately release the tanker,” a spokesman for the department said Monday.

As it Welcomes in 2021, Israel’s Population Rises to 9,291,000

By: Times of Israel Staff;

Israel’s population now numbers nearly 9.3 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) announced Thursday, hours before the end of 2020 and the start of the new year.

According to the CBS, Israel’s population grew by 151,000 people, or 1.7 percent, since last year and now stands at 2.91 million people.

There are currently 6.870 million Jews, accounting for 74% of the population, while the 1.956 million Arabs in Israel make up 21% of the population. Another 456,000 people defined as “others” make the remaining 5%.

IDF’s 2020 Picture of the Year Decided on By Just 6 Votes

By: Jerusalem Post Staff;

The photo, taken during an exercise by the Israeli Air Force’s Airborne Combat Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669, was released alongside four other top ranked photos.

The IDF’s picture of the year of 2020 has been selected out of 20 pictures, winning by just six votes, the IDF announced on Wednesday.

The photo, taken during an exercise by the Israeli Air Force’s Airborne Combat Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669, was released alongside four other top ranked photos.

Israel Calls 4th Election in 2 Years as Netanyahu-Gantz Coalition Collapses

By: Raoul Wootliff – The Times of Israel;

New vote set for March 23 after ‘unity’ government crumbles in just 7 months; Netanyahu promises huge win, but polls suggest tough race, with main threat from parties to his right

The 23rd Knesset officially dispersed as the clock struck midnight on Tuesday night and the deadline to approve a 2020 budget expired, sending Israelis to the polls for the fourth time in less than two years. Elections were automatically called for 90 days from now, namely March 23, 2021, though that date could yet be changed by vote.

The failure to pass a budget came just seven months after the swearing-in of the “unity government” between Likud and Blue and White. The two parties, which had fought each other bitterly in three indecisive elections, agreed to form a power-sharing government with a rotating premiership between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in May.

Iran Builds at Underground Nuclear Facility Amid US Tensions

By: Jon Gambrell – Associated Press;

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program, according to satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

Iran has not publicly acknowledged any new construction at Fordo, whose discovery by the West in 2009 came in an earlier round of brinkmanship before world powers struck the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

While the purpose of the building remains unclear, any work at Fordo likely will trigger new concern in the waning days of the Trump administration before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Already, Iran is building at its Natanz nuclear facility after a mysterious explosion in July there that Tehran described as a sabotage attack.

Jay Leno on support of Israel: ‘I don’t like to see people get picked on’

Jewish News Syndicate –

Television icon and comedian Jay Leno talked about his avid support for Israel and the Jewish people during the StandWithUs “Festival of Lights” virtual gala on Sunday night.

“My dad said you always want to be proud of who you are, and that’s why I like Jews. They’re proud of who they are,” the former host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” told Jewish comedian Elon Gold in a pre-recorded message that aired during the live Hanukkah event.

“Here they are, this little country surrounded by people who literally hate them, and the fact that [these] people are proud of who they are and they stick together—that’s what I like. I like seeing people who are proud of who they are because if you don’t have pride in yourself, you’re not gonna get anywhere,” he added. “So, for me, I like that sort of Jewish pride.”

China’s Communist Party Orders Teachers to Establish Marxist Religious View, Promote Atheism

Leah MarieAnn Klett – The Christian Post;

Chinese Communist Party officials have ordered primary school teachers to sign a form requiring them to teach a Marxist religious view, strengthen atheism education, and actively promote socialism, according to a persecution watchdog group. 

China Aid, a U.S.-based nonprofit that monitors religious persecution in China, reports that CCP officials recently distributed a “Teacher’s Promise to Not Believe in Any Faith” form to Longwan District School in Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province. 

The form, which requires each teacher’s signature, includes directives under four “publicly announced commitments.” Teachers are required to: Firmly establish a Marxist religious view; strengthen atheism education, and refrain from believing in any religion or participating in any religious activities.

No Labels: Israel’s New Gulf Partners Seem Happy to do Business with Settlements

By: Raphael Ahren – The Times of Israel;

Wine from the Golan, olive oil from the West Bank — despite the political sensitivities, companies in UAE and Bahrain appear unfazed about where their trading partners are located

In November 2015, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates dedicated a long editorial to the European Union’s newly issued guidelines about special labels for products from Israeli settlements.

“The decision by the 28-nation bloc has come after months of procrastination, but evidently underscores the bloc’s anger over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on territory that Palestinians seek for their future state,” Gulf Today wrote at the time, calling for sanctions against the Jewish state. “Inaction on the part of the world community would be deemed by Israel as support for its oppressive actions.”

Mullets Find New Home in Kinneret, Help Preserve Lake’s Ecosystem

By: Tobias Siegal – The Jerusalem Post;

Populating the Kinneret with mullets usually takes place once a year. It’s done in order to preserve the lake’s quality of water by maintaining a balanced population of algae.

Some 50,000 flathead grey mullet fish found a new home in the Kinneret on Wednesday, as part of an effort to preserve the ecosystem of Israel’s most important lake, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry announced.

Populating the Kinneret with mullets usually takes place once a year. It’s done in order to preserve the lake’s ecological system and quality of water by maintaining a balanced population of algae.