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Is Hamas planning a day of jihad on Friday? Jewish groups respond to widespread concerns.

(JTA) — Some Jewish institutions are closing down for the day Friday amid fears about Hamas-inspired violence abroad, although the FBI and major Jewish security groups say they are not aware of specific threats against Jewish targets in the United States.

Concerns about pro-Hamas demonstrations appear to have stemmed from a speech by Khaled Meshaal, a former Hamas leader, calling for street protests on Friday. Meshaal made the call on Tuesday on Yemeni television, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates Arabic media clips; Reuters reported a version of his comments on Wednesday.

“We should take to the streets and the city squares in Arab and Islamic cities, as well as in cities everywhere where there are communities,” he said, according to MEMRI. “There is a call this Friday – the Al-Aqsa Deluge Friday.”

The comments have ratcheted up fears just days after a Hamas attack on Israel — which came as a surprise — left thousands of Israelis dead, injured and taken captive, in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

Israel has urged its citizens abroad to avoid protests and rallies on Friday. Some Jewish schools in London, Amsterdam and a handful of places in the United States have decided to close for the day. Other Jewish institutions are staying open but shoring up their security practices. Police are being deployed in extra numbers in many places. And some families are considering keeping their children home out of an abundance of caution.

“Right now, your Jewish mom friends are busy texting each other to figure out if sending our kids to school tomorrow, declared a day of global jihad against all Jews, is a good ideal,” a Los Angeles mother said in a widely shared post on Instagram. She later indicated that her child would stay home.

In a sign of how widely fear was spreading, the striking actors union, SAG-AFTRA, announced late Thursday that it would suspend its picketing on Friday because of security concerns.

“There’s a great deal of anxiety about tomorrow,” Michael Masters, CEO of the Secure Community Network, a Jewish security nonprofit, said on a call with Jewish communal leaders on Thursday.

But he emphasized that the organization’s monitoring had not turned up further reasons for concern. “As of this time we are not aware of any direct credible threats against the Jewish community in the U.S.,” he said on the call, encouraging Jewish organizations “to remain open and active, always vigilant.”

The Anti-Defamation League, an antisemitism watchdog, issued a similar statement Thursday night. “ADL has reviewed this information [and] is in close coordination with our partners in law enforcement and Jewish security organizations,” it said. “At this time, [the ADL’s] Center on Extremism is not aware of any credible threats to Jewish communities in the United States.”

The scale of the attack in Israel and the staging of pro-Palestinian protests in various cities in subsequent days have many Jews on edge. In a sign of how seriously authorities are taking the threat, FBI Director Christopher Wray joined the SCN call.

“We are working to confirm whether there is any validity to that information,” he said about the idea that Americans should expect widespread pro-Hamas activity. Local news outlets are variously warning about a “global day of jihad” and a “day of rage,” although the MEMRI translation of Meshaal’s comments did not include either phrase.

Brad Orsini, SCN’s senior national security advisor, said it would be a mistake to retreat out of concern over Meshaal’s comments.

“We don’t want the community to overreact,” Orsini said. “We need to keep our organizations open. We need to continue to do our solidarity events. We need to continue to push our kids to day schools.”

Some Jewish day schools were canceling classes for Friday on the recommendation of security consultants. They included all Jewish schools in Amsterdam, several in London, and a handful in the United States.

The head of a California day school, without citing the Hamas message directly, told parents in an email that school would be closed “out of an abundance of caution” on the advice of “our security consultants.”

A Brooklyn school did cite the Hamas statement in announcing that classes would be canceled on Friday. The school said it understood that many schools would remain open, but that its security consultants recommended closure — and left it to parents to break the news to their children. It also said the school would launch new procedures designed to keep students safe next week, including suspending visits to local parks and barring food deliveries for students.

New York City authorities held their own briefing call for Jewish leaders on Thursday where they emphasized that there was no knowledge of any immediate threats Friday. The heads of multiple schools in the city cited the call in explaining to parents why they would be staying open.

Other groups, after reviewing reports about the Hamas message, told their communities to carry on as usual.

“At this time there are no known credible threats to the Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey,” Mitch Silber, executive director of the Community Security Initiative, a local security group that’s part of a wider coalition called the Jewish Security Alliance, said in a statement. “Accordingly, we are advising institutions to remain open and operational.”

The CEO and security head of Shalom Austin, the Jewish federation in Austin, Texas, said they had consulted with SCN and local and federal law enforcement before deciding not to cancel events, they explained in an email to their community. They said carrying on represented an act of resilience.

“Statements such as these [from Hamas] are a form of emotional terrorism meant to deter us from participating in our daily routines and activities, and to further adversely affect our emotional condition,” they said.

The post Is Hamas planning a day of jihad on Friday? Jewish groups respond to widespread concerns. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Javier Milei cites Hanukkah story, gives menorah to Zelensky during inauguration as Argentina’s president

(JTA) — Javier Milei invoked the story of the Maccabees in his inaugural address as Argentina’s president on Sunday, extending the right-wing populist’s prominent fascination with Judaism as he celebrated his own improbable victory.

“It is not by chance that this assumption takes place in the holiday of Hanukkah, the festival of light, and that the same celebrates the true essence of freedom,” Milei said during his speech on the steps of the parliament building in Buenos Aires. “The war of the Maccabees is the symbol of the victory of the weak over the powerful, of the few over the many, of the light over darkness and overall of the truth over untruth.”

Milei, 53, defied expectations when he was elected last month. A self-declared “anarcho-capitalist” who was the most right-wing of the five candidates, he ascended rapidly over the last year as he assailed the outgoing government, saying that its policies had fueled unemployment and inflation.

He delivered his speech with his back to the country’s lawmakers, in a break with tradition allowing him to face a large rally outside the parliament building.

Toward the tail of his speech warning Argentineans to prepare for a difficult economic reforms, he said he recalled how he and his now-vice president, Victoria Villaruel, had initially been told that their two-year-old political party, Freedom Advances, would have little influence.

“We were told we couldn’t do anything because we were only two in 257 congressmen,” he said. “And I also remember that my answer that day was a quote from the Book of Maccabees, 3:19, that goes: It is not the size of the army that victory in battle depends on, but strength comes from heaven.”

President Javier Milei of Argentina gives a speech after his inauguration ceremony at Casa Rosada presidential palace on Dec. 10, 2023, in Buenos Aires. (Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images)

The speech was in keeping with Milei’s unusual relationship with Judaism. The non-Jewish economist has been studying with an Argentinean rabbi and has said he is interested in converting, though he says he does not see the role of president as compatible with Jewish observance. He visited the grave of the Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi in New York City in his first trip abroad after being elected and has vowed to make Israel — where he promised to move Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — his first foreign destination as president.

At campaign rallies, Milei has often walked on stage to the sound of a shofar, and in one of his final public appearances before the election, Milei was seen waving an Israeli flag among a large crowd in Rosario.

One Israeli flag was visible amid the sea of Argentinean flags at his speech in footage of the inaugural event broadcast to Argentineans.

Milei, whose term will last four years, was flanked by world leaders, including the king of Spain; Chilean President Gabriel Boric, a left-wing critic of Israel; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a populist who cruised to a fourth term last year; and Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelensky, who was making his first trip to Latin America since Russia attacked his country in February 2022. Jair Bolsonaro, the populist leader recently unseated in Brazil, also attended.

Milei handed a menorah to Zelensky, who is Jewish, after the two leaders greeted each other warmly outside Casa Rosada, the country’s government headquarters, in a handoff captured on the live TV broadcast of the ceremony. Zelensky has embraced Milei as he has sought to build support for Ukraine in Latin America.

On Saturday night, on the eve of his inauguration, Milei met with a group of relatives of Israeli hostages kidnapped in Gaza since Oct. 7, lighting the Hanukkah candles with them and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who was in the country for the inauguration.

The post Javier Milei cites Hanukkah story, gives menorah to Zelensky during inauguration as Argentina’s president appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Moroccans Demand Halt to Ties with Israel

People carry flags and banners during a protest calling for ending ties with Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, in Rabat, Morocco, December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Ahmed El Jechtimi

Moroccans waving Palestinian flags took to the streets of the capital Rabat on Sunday calling on the government to cut ties with Israel in protest against Israel‘s military campaign against the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Protests against Israel‘s war in Gaza have repeatedly drawn thousands of people in Morocco since the conflict began two months ago, mostly led by pan-Arab and Islamist groups.

Sunday’s march by about 3,000 protesters was the first to have been led by the PJD — Morocco’s biggest Islamist party which led the elected government from 2011 until 2021 — a sign the movement is growing more vocal in opposition.

Protesters chanted “Palestine is not for sale,” “Resistance go ahead to victory and liberation” and “the people want an end to normalization,” referring to the policy of Morocco and other Arab states normalizing ties with Israel.

Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, after Hamas terrorists burst across the fence on Oct. 7 and went on a rampage through Israeli towns, gunning down families in their homes, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages.

Since then, Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza say thousands of people have been killed during Israel’s military campaign, although experts have cast doubt on the reliability of casualty figures coming out of Gaza.

Morocco agreed to strengthen ties with Israel in 2020, under a deal brokered by the US administration under then President Donald Trump that also included Washington recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Despite their policy of normalizing ties with Israel, Moroccan authorities have said they continue to back the creation of a Palestinian state and have urged a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the protection of all civilians there.

Islamist and leftist parties and groups in Morocco have increasingly spoken out against the normalization policy since the start of the war in Gaza on Oct. 7.

Protesters on Sunday also called for a boycott of brands they accuse of supporting Israel.

“We call on Morocco to end diplomatic relations with Israel,” said Ahmed El Yandouzi, as he was queuing to sign a petition with a Palestinian scarf around his neck.

Although Morocco and Israel have not yet completed the process of setting up full embassies in each other’s countries as they agreed to do, they have moved closer together, signing a defense cooperation pact.

The PJD was in office when Morocco agreed the normalization deal with Israel, with its then leader Saad Dine El Otmani signing it as prime minister, but the policy was ultimately set by King Mohammed, who sets overall strategy.

The new PJD leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, has said signing the agreement was a mistake.

The royal court has previously asked the PJD to stop criticizing Morocco’s ties with Israel.

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Violence Escalates Between Israel, Lebanon’s Hezbollah

Illustrative: Smoke rises on the Lebanese side of the border between Israel and Lebanon after an Israeli airstrike, as seen from northern Israel, November 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Violence escalated at Lebanon’s border with Israel on Sunday as the terrorist group Hezbollah launched explosive drones and powerful missiles at Israeli positions and Israeli air strikes rocked several towns and villages in south Lebanon.

Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah have been trading fire since the war in Gaza erupted two months ago, in their worst hostilities since a 2006 conflict. The violence has largely been contained to the border area.

Israeli attacks in south Lebanon included air strikes on the town of Aitaroun which destroyed and damaged numerous houses, Lebanon’s National News Agency said. It did not say if there were any casualties.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah, in a statement sent to Reuters, said Israeli air strikes were a “new escalation” to which the group was responding with new types of attacks, be it “in the nature of the weapons (used) or the targeted sites.”

The Israeli army earlier said “suspicious aerial targets” had crossed from Lebanon and two were intercepted. Two Israeli soldiers were moderately wounded and a number of others lightly injured from shrapnel and smoke inhalation, it said.

Israeli fighter jets carried out “an extensive series of strikes on Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanese territory,” it said. Sirens sounded in Israel at several locations at the border.

In Beirut, residents saw what appeared to be two warplanes streaking across a clear blue sky, leaving vapor trails behind them.

Hezbollah statements say its attacks aim to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Ali Damoush said in a speech on Sunday the group would continue in its effort to “exhaust the enemy, and will not stop unless the aggression against Gaza and Lebanon stops.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Beirut would be turned “into Gaza” if Hezbollah started an all-out war.

In one of several attacks announced by Hezbollah on Sunday, the group said it had launched the explosive drones at an Israeli command position near Ya’ara. In another, Hezbollah said it had fired Burkan (Volcano) missiles, which carry hundreds of kilograms of explosives.

Israeli air strikes were also reported on the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Yaroun, not far from the location of another of the Israeli positions Hezbollah said it had targeted on Sunday.

Those air strikes broke windows of houses, shops and a school in the nearby village of Rmeich, Toni Elias, a priest in Rmeich, told Reuters by phone.

Violence at the border has killed more than 120 people in Lebanon, including 85 Hezbollah fighters and 16 civilians. In Israel, the hostilities have killed seven soldiers and four civilians.

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