VFI News August 7, 2020

Beirut Explosion Result of Years of Government Corruption

In Lebanon, citizens are accustomed to fury at the government, with the crumbling economy, hours-long electricity cuts, and an armed group dominating much of the country’s politics.

But the shock and horror following Tuesday night’s explosion at the Beirut port, which has claimed over 135 lives so far and left thousands wounded, marked a new low for an already demoralized public. In the midst of one of the worst crises in Lebanon’s history, the catastrophe marked what many called a new, painful nadir.

Though the source of the blast remains unconfirmed, most of the evidence so far points to government negligence, and many Lebanese seem to agree. The official government account indicates that 2,750 metric tons (about 3,000 tons) of highly explosive ammonium nitrate ignited Tuesday night, according to Lebanese Public Security Director Abbas Ibrahim. The explosive material had been idling in the harbor since 2013.

An investigation by Al-Jazeera found repeated letters from Customs Director Badri Daher asking for the cache of ammonium nitrate to be removed. No action was ever taken by authorities. (TOI / VFI News)

“God, we ask that you heal those who have been wounded, rescue those who have yet to be found, and bring peace to those who have lost so much.”

Tel Aviv City Hall Lit Up as Lebanese Flag in Solidarity

Tel Aviv’s city hall lit up in the colors of the Lebanese flag in solidarity on Wednesday night, following the deadly explosion in Beirut the day before.

“This evening we will light up the city hall with the flag of Lebanon. Humanity comes before any conflict, and our heart is with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster that befell them,” Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai wrote on Twitter.

Many Israelis have expressed horror over the disaster that struck Beirut and sympathy with the Lebanese people, despite past enmity between the countries.

Tel Aviv resident Russel told AFP he was “very proud” to live in the city.

“Innocent people were killed and our hearts go out to them. This has nothing to do with politics. This has nothing to do with borders,” he said.

“This has to do with people to people and Tel Aviv is a city that loves people.”

Tel Aviv has in the past lit up its City Hall with the colors of other countries going through disasters, including the US after a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, Spain after a deadly attack in Barcelona in August 2017, and twice for Egypt following terror attacks in 2017. (TOI / VFI News)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” —Luke 6:27

Israel Offers Assistance to Lebanon Following Beirut Blast

Under the direction of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel on Tuesday turned to Lebanon through international elements and offered the Lebanese government medical humanitarian assistance in the wake of the blast in Beirut which killed 137 people and injured thousands of others.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who approved the provision of humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon, instructed the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to speak to UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov in order to find out what else Israel can do to help Lebanon.

Foreign Minister Ashkenazi commented on the explosion in Lebanon in an interview with Channel 12 News and said, "We are following the developments tonight in Lebanon. I see no reason not to believe the reports from Beirut that this was an accident that caused the fire."

President Reuven Rivlin offered assistance to the Lebanese government as well, writing on Facebook, “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.” (INN / VFI News)

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. —Isaiah 38:17

“God, we ask that the leadership in Lebanon accept the help they sorely need—that they put aside politics, and any other grudge, and fulfill their duty as guardians for their people.”

Report: Israelis Near Borders Don’t Have Access to Shelters

Four years after the state comptroller first reported on the readiness of the home front for missiles and rocket attacks, millions of Israeli citizens still do not have the means for basic protection near their homes, and plans for population evacuations have yet to be completed, a new Comptroller’s Report has found.

According to the report, some 21,000 mortars and rockets have been fired toward Israel from September 2000 until September 2019, and tens of thousands of missiles and rockets are expected to be launched in any coming war.

But despite the dire assessment, the report found that 2.6 million residents of Israel (28%) still do not have basic protection from rocket attacks near their homes, and 2,494 of 12,601 public bomb shelters (20%) have been found to be inadequate.

The report revealed shortcomings regarding the protection of vital infrastructure and facilities by the defense establishment. A work plan for their protection must be prepared, and sources for its financing should be found, the report said. (JPost / VFI News)

This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. —2 Samuel 22:33

“God, we ask that you continue to protect your people—from all forms of evil and oppression.”

Hundreds of British Musicians Condemn Anti-Semitism

Hundreds of British musicians and music industry leaders have signed an open letter condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in the wake of the scandal involving English rapper Wiley, who was banned from Twitter for posting anti-Semitic tweets.

Among the letter’s signers are former One Direction member Niall Horan, pop-rockers The 1975, Lily Allen, Rita Ora, Lewis Capaldi, and James Blunt, in addition to Universal Music, Warner Music, and Sony Music.

“From slavery to the Holocaust we have painful collective memories. All forms of racism have the same roots — ignorance, lack of education, and scapegoating.”

The display of solidarity from prominent British pop stars, songwriters, producers, managers, record labels, and publishers, most of them not Jewish, comes a week after Wiley’s Twitter spree drew widespread attention.

Many British Jews boycotted Twitter for 48 hours last week to protest the platform, which allowed the tweets to remain up for days before deleting them and then banning Wiley entirely. The rapper said he had been lashing out because of his anger at his Jewish manager. (INN / VFI News)

Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! —Psalm 106:3

“God, we ask that you open the hearts and minds of all who hold antisemitic views—that you would inspire them to see the error of their ways.”

Israel Wins 1st Gold Medal in a Decade at Int’l Chemistry Olympiads

Israeli students won their first gold medal in a decade at the International Chemistry Olympiads this year, along with two silver medals and a bronze medal.

"Israel's education system is recording another impressive achievement in the sciences," said Director-General of the Education Ministry Amit Adri. "The students' victories at the International Chemistry Olympiads and the European Physics Competition place Israel at the forefront of the world of science."

Adri added that he would like to see "a broader representation of female students in the future. Given the importance of the issue, I intend to advance this important goal."

Israel has participated in the Olympiads since 2006. The Olympiads this year was run by Turkey but took place over Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic. (JPost / VFI News)

Kinneret's August Water Level Highest in 27 Years

The Kinneret's (Sea of Galilee) water level at the beginning of August is the highest since August 1993, Israel's Water Authority reported.

The Kinneret currently stands at -209.39, and 59 centimeters below the upper red line signaling that the lake is full. It has lost 25 centimeters since last month.

At the beginning of August 1993, it measured at -209.01 below sea level.

Israel Hayom noted that the Dead Sea's level was -434.72, after dropping 13 centimeters since last month and 55 centimeters since the beginning of the hydrological year. During the same period last year, the Dead Sea dropped 16 centimeters during July.

In April, the Kinneret came within 20 centimeters of maximum capacity, and there was talk of opening the Degania Dam. (INN / VFI News)

Plague to Protein: Israeli Firm Puts Locusts on the Menu

At Hargol Foodtech's farm in the Israeli Golan Heights, a rectangular enclosure that once served as a chicken coop is filled with thousands of locusts, a grasshopper species that has a highly destructive swarming phase.

Contained in a series of meticulously stacked, climate-controlled mesh cages, the insects are served wheatgrass through their three-month life-cycle, before being cooled, killed and baked.

Hargol's chief executive Dror Tamir told AFP that he grew up hearing stories of how locusts destroyed the fields of his kibbutz in the 1950s. Yet the Yemenite Jews in the area did not view locusts as crop-ruining pests, but as an edible source of nutrients, Tamir recalled.

Tamir said he founded Hargol—Hebrew for grasshopper—six and a half years ago after realizing the insects were the solution.

The company's goal is to be "the first in the world to grow grasshoppers on a commercial scale, and provide the world with a healthier and more sustainable source of protein." (INN / VFI News)