Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948, after the British agreed to withdraw from Mandatory Palestine and turned to the United Nations to determine the future status of the land. After millennia in the diaspora, the Jewish people were finally able to return to their ancestral homeland. Born into war and surrounded by neighbors resistant to the Jewish state, Israel’s history is riddled with conflict and survival. Historically, its land served as a meeting point for cultures and civilizations that revolutionized the world as we now know it. Jerusalem, the holiest place for both Judaism and Christianity and one of the three most important places for Islam, served many times as a stepping stone for major developments. Israel’s demography includes 74% Jews, 18% Muslims, 2% Christians, in addition to other minorities (2020). Despite its complex background and small size (equivalent to the size of New Jersey), in just over 70 years, Israel has become prosperous and a global beacon for innovation and cutting-edge technologies, while remaining on a quest to balance its Jewish and democratic identity.
Amid the recent cyber-attacks initiated by Iran against Israeli infrastructure, the IDF Chief of Joint Forces stated that Israel has retaliated through cyberspace and will keep on defending with a “variety of tools.” -Ynet
For the first time, a commercial flight from Abu Dhabi landed in Israel with humanitarian aid to combat COVID-19 for both Gaza and the West Bank. The Emirates and Israel do not conduct formal diplomatic relations; however, the flight was coordinated with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. -Haaretz
The government has decided to allow the opening of prayer houses under certain restrictions including a maximum capacity of 50 people, adherence to social distancing practices, the appointment of a Coronavirus liaison, and enforcing strict hygiene rules. -Maariv
On “Jerusalem day” and in the backdrop of the cyberwar between Israel and Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, posted a picture of Palestinian soldiers dancing in Jerusalem with the Nazi affiliated writing “The Final Solution.” -Ynet
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s petition to abstain from his indictment hearing was rejected by the District Court of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister will be required to attend the hearing and reply to the charges with his own voice. The trial will open on Sunday May 24, 2020. - Haaretz
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been receiving multiple requests from Iranian citizens who seek refuge in Israel amid the “corruption and a legitimate fear for their lives.” The requests were received via the Ministry’s official Persian Twitter account. -Maariv
Hundreds of Israeli websites were attacked in a widespread cyber-attack on Thursday May 21, 2020. Cyber-attacks during “Jerusalem day” are becoming a common sight, however, the attacks were not attributed to Iranian hackers but to a private group operating from Turkey, Gaza, and North Africa. -Ynet
The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, declared that all security coordination with Israel will cease. High ranking officials in the PA expressed their concern with the hasty decision and its possible detrimental consequences on the Palestinian population. -Maariv
5,000 SodaStream Jewish, Muslim, and Christian employees and their families gathered in a virtual dinner to celebrate the conclusion of the Ramadan fasting month “Eid Ul Fitr.” 66% of SodaStream’s employees are non-Jewish. They take pride in employing in harmony, Bedouins, Arab Israelis, Ethiopian Israelis, Palestinians for the West Bank and Jerusalem, “Olim” from the USSR, and other Israelis. -Xnet/Ynet
In a recent statement, former Vice President Joe Biden expressed his opposition to annexing parts of the West Bank by Israel. He insinuated that such a move by the Israeli government will not go without a strong reaction from the White House, should he be elected President. -Haaretz
- At the last minute, President Reuven Rivlin allowed Benny Gantz 48 extra hours to come to an agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party in order to form a coalition. The two parties are on the last stretch of negotiations, if they fail to come to an agreement the country will be heading to a fourth round of elections in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Ynet.
- For the second time, as a preventative measure, eyeing family and other large gatherings towards the second holiday of Passover, the government ordered a strict lockdown and stay-home orders across the country. The orders are enforced by both the police and military, who also blocked highways and other main routes to that end. Ynet.
- The water level in the Sea of Galilee hits a 16-year high record, approximately 7 inches away from its full capacity. Haaretz.
- For the first time, a Supreme Court hearing will be streamed live and will be open to the public via the internet. The specific hearing concerns the surveillance powers of the state over its civilians amid COVID-19. Maariv.
- In an attempt to prevent riots and enable Easter prayers, the Police lifted some restrictions for the Ethiopian-Christian church and allowed it to operate with a maximum of five attendees, while the rest of the religious institutions in Israel are still closed. Ynet
- Starting Sunday, the government is considering significantly lifting movement and business restrictions, allowing to open tens of thousands of businesses, increasing the capacity of public transportation to 30%, and less stringent social-distancing practices. Maariv, Ynet.
- For the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, there are more recovered patients than newly infected. The numbers in Israel as of April 17, 2020: 12,855 infected, 182 in critical condition, and 148 deaths. Ynet.
- After reaching a political dead-lock, the president granted the Knesset 14 days to agree on a new representative to form a coalition. In the meantime, even though Benny Gantz’s mandate expired, his party, Blue and White, is still negotiating with the Likud to form a coalition. Without such unity, Israel will be heading into a 4th round of elections. Maariv.
- In an attempt to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in Israel, the Israeli Government ordered new restrictions on the public, which will last for the next 7 days. These restrictions will include the cancellation of all train services, other public transportation would be reduced to 25% capacity, a stay home order with minimal exceptions, a one-person limitation on taxi passengers and two persons per any other private vehicle, and more. -Ynet
- Hundreds of Israelis with black flags protested outside of the Knesset against the recent actions of the ‘Likud’ Speaker of the Knesset and interim Government. In response to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, the Israeli interim government ordered extreme measures to monitor infected citizens who did not self-quarantine. Since the recent elections, the Speaker has not yet allowed the Knesset to convene and vote on the establishment of oversight committees and his replacement. -Ynet
- A panel of five Supreme Court Justices unanimously ordered the Speaker of the Knesset to allow the initiation of proceedings for his replacement by March 25. The Justices described his avoidance to do so despite the expressed will of the majority of the newly-elected Knesset members as “undermining the core of the democratic process.” Should the Speaker not abide by this ruling, Israel will face a constitutional catastrophe (The Marker). In response, the Speaker resigned from his duties effective Friday, and adjourned all Knesset meetings until Monday, March 30. -Ynet
- In a turn of events, the Blue and White Party, which served as the alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2 election, split after party head Benny Gantz decided to enter Netanyahu's government. The terms of the reported agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz’s party (Israeli Resilience, one of the dissolved 3-party unity, together called Blue and White) will grant several key positions in the government to Israel Resilience, to include the Foreign, Defense, and Justice ministries. This surprising move was followed by significant criticism and disappointment by left-leaning voters who supported Gantz’s alternative in the last three election rounds. -Jerusalem Post
- Christian, Muslim and Jewish sites at the Old City adapt to new restrictions on congregation and prayer as coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads in Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is open yet with scarce visitors. The Stone of the Anointing was sanitized, and incense was spread. Should the situation persist, the traditional Holy Fire ceremony will take place without an audience. The gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were closed to worshipers, who prayed instead in the outdoor courts. The Western Wall plaza was taped to create social distancing between worshippers. -Haaretz
- Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Leon, initiated a gathering of all religious leaders in Jerusalem amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders came together and prayed for the health of the world's population.-Hadashot