18 February 2019 - 13 Adar I 5779 - י"ג אדר א' ה' אלפים תשע"ט
Rabbi in Mexico City loses life in earthquake E-mail

Volunteers from Israel’s ZAKA search-and-rescue organisation pulled the body of a local rabbi from an office building in Mexico City that collapsed in a massive earthquake that hit the country on 19 September.

Rabbi Haim Ashkenazi had been working in the building when the 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, rocking the capital and causing hundreds of buildings to collapse. Ashkenazi served as the rabbi of the Kehillat Magen David synagogue and was an in-law of Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, chief rabbi of the Magen David Jewish community of Mexico.

The ZAKA volunteers in Mexico were working with the Mexican Jewish rescue and recovery organisation Cadena, including throughout Rosh Hashanah, 21-22 September and Shabbat.

Two weeks earlier, on 7 September, at least 96 people died in an 8.1 magnitude earthquake that struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, hitting the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

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With much high-level political dialogue and the recent official visits between India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, who made a historic trip to Israel in July, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who visited India last November, it is no surprise that both countries are eagerly pursuing strong tourism policies.

“We have been very focused on tourism promotions in India and easing the visa process. This year, in the first seven months, we have already hosted 34,000 Indian tourists. This is expected togoupto55,000bytheendof this year,” the Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s India director Hassan Madah said, according to the Indian online news site livemint.

He said that currently there are three to four direct flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and numerous connecting flights from West Asia. There is talk of introducing direct Air India flights connecting New Delhi with Israel in a few months, he said, adding that if this happens, tourist traffic is likely to surge from India and this year’s number may reach nearly 90,000.

However, as reported in the June 2017 issue of Jewish Times Asia, Air India has suspended plans to launch flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi after it failed to receive permission to fly over certain Arab and Muslim countries to reduce the flying time. EL AL Israel Airlines still offers the only direct flight.

A few global airlines are waiting for the Air India flights to be launched, and plan to introduce their fleets on this direct route. “When this happens, we will see a surge in tourist arrivals from India. We have also been engaging with the tourism industry in India for the past few years and are focused on many promotional activities. Due to this, we have set a target of reaching one lakh [100,000] tourists from India by the end of 2018,” he said.

Regarding Israel’s tourism promotions in India, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is spending US$5-6 million in India this year, he said, adding that going forward, as the tourist traffic grows, the budget is likely to grow.

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Vietnam and Israel sign MOU on science and technology E-mail

Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology and its Israeli counterpart inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on co-operation in science and technology in Israel on 25 July.

The signing marked a milestone in sci-technology studies in fields of common interest, including hi-tech agriculture, aquaculture and processing, material technology, health science and renewable energies.

The MoU aims to support joint projects; organise events and meetings on science and technology; exchange information, delegations and experience, and encourage co-operation between universities in the two nations.

At the signing ceremony, Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis called the move the beginning of a new era for the two nations’ science and technology sectors.

Israel wants to co-operate with other nations, including Vietnam, in science and technology development, he said. Expressing his hope that Israel will share its experience in start-ups with Vietnam, and cooperate.

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Chinese tourists make Hitler salute E-mail

Two Chinese tourists were arrested in Germany for making the “Heil Hitler” salute on 6 August.

The men, aged 36 and 49, made the illegal salute in front of the Reichstag building, where the German parliament meets, Reuters reported. They were taking photos of each other giving the salute. According to police, the men were arrested for “using symbols of illegal organisations”. It is illegal to use symbols of Nazism in Germany.

They were released after they each posted bail of 500 Euros, or nearly US$600. If convicted, the men face a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.

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Hong Kong welcomes new Consul General E-mail

Mrs Ahuva Spieler is the newly appointed Consul General to Israel in Hong Kong and Macau.

Arriving in August, she has replaced Sagi Karni, who was appointed for four years. Consul General Spieler becomes the first female consul to represent Israel in Hong Kong.

Mrs Spieler developed an early interest in Asia, graduating with a B.A. in Far Eastern Studies (China) and International Relations, from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in 1997.

Since joining Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in 2001, she served at Israel’s Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica (accredited to Nicaragua and Panama), as Deputy Ambassador from 2002 to 2007. She was also at the MFA headquarters in Jerusalem as Deputy Director at the Economic Department (The America & Africa) from 2007 to 2010, and at the Embassy of Israel in Madrid, Spain, as Cultural & Science Counsellor from 2010 to 2015.

From 2015 and prior to her arrival in Hong Kong, she served at the MFA headquarters as Chief of Staff to the Vice Director General and Head of Multilateral Directorate.

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