16 October 2018 - 8 Heshvan 5779 - ח' חשון ה' אלפים תשע"ט
New ambassador to China appointed E-mail

Zvi Heifetz has been appointed Israel’s new ambassador to China. Ambassador Heifetz arrived in January and replaces Ambassador Matan Vilnai.

Prior to his appointment in China, Ambassador Heifetz was Israel’s ambassador in Russia. He was born in Tomsk, Russia, and moved to Israel in 1971.

Heifetz was also Israel’s Ambassador to Austria from 2013 to 2015 and has held many government positions. He studied law at Tel Aviv University in 1985 and is a Member of the Israeli Bar Association.

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Taiwan school representatives meets Israel’s envoy in Taipei E-mail

Representatives from a high school in Hsinchu City paid a visit to the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to apologise after a campus event featuring students wearing Nazi costumes and displaying swastikas sparked a public outcry.

As reported in Jewish Times Asia in last month’s issue, the Nazi parade took place on 23 December as part of Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School’s activities to celebrate the school’s foundation day. The ensuing public outcry resulted in the resignation of school principal Cheng Hsiao-ming Israel’s Representative in Taiwan Asher Yarden listened to the students’ apology and explanation, and said he forgave them and looked forward to future opportunities for educational exchanges with the school, the office said.

He also accepted a poster made by the students, which took the symbol of the Israeli office as its centre, with the students’ personal reflections on the incident written on leaves surrounding it.

Cheng, who led the students to the Israeli office as his final act before resigning, also invited the office’s staff to visit the school and speak to staff and students there.

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Anti-Semitic incidents up in the UK E-mail

The UK’s main watchdog group on anti-Semitism reported a record 1,309 incidents in 2016, a 36% increase over the 2015 tally.

Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded last year by the Community Security Trust (CST), 107 were cases of physical assault, compared with 87 in 2015, the report said.

While the 2016 figure in the assault category was the highest since 2010, the bulk of incidents – 1,006 of them – belonged to the category of “verbal and written anti-Semitic abuse”, which covers emails, letters, text messages and tweets.

The increase is not attributable to any specific trigger, as has been the case in years when fighting broke out between Israel and its enemies, the report said.

Instead, CST cited a “combination of events and factors”, including an unprecedented public debate about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, terrorist attacks in Western countries and the June 2016 referendum, in which a majority of voters supported a British exit from the European Union.

“CST did record a small number of anti-Semitic incidents during 2016 that made direct reference to the European Union or to Brexit, but not enough to explain, on their own, the overall high total for the year,” the report said in reference to the referendum, which British police said triggered a slew of hate crimes, though not many against Jews.

“These events, and their subsequent discussion in mainstream and social media, provided material and motivation for anti-Semitic hate incident offenders,” CST wrote.

Another factor driving the increase was the growing awareness to the importance of reporting anti-Semitic incidents, CST noted, though it is still likely “that there is significant underreporting of antiSemitic incidents”.

One assault in January 2016 in London involved six Jewish schoolgirls wearing Jewish school uniforms. On their way home from school, the girls were assaulted and verbally abused by two older girls, one of whom appeared to be wearing a Muslim headscarf.

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On 20 February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara were warmly greeted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife at the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore.

Prime Minister Netanyahu inspected an honour guard and signed the official guestbook, and the two national anthems were played. The visit to Singapore was the first ever by an Israeli prime minister since Singapore was founded 51 years ago, and since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1969.

The trip was a reciprocal visit, as Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an historic first official visit to Israel in April 2016. “Thank you for the very warm welcome. I have to say that this is my first time in Singapore. I’m following in your footsteps. You visited Israel for the first time, an historic visit. And as we landed here, I was absolutely amazed, tremendously impressed. As much as you hear about Singapore’s success, to see it physically is quite startling and it tells you the power of people, the power of ideas, the power of the potential or rather of talent unleashed,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Lee attended a special dinner organised in honour of Netanyahu’s visit. During the event, an orchid was named after the Netanyahu's.

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Israel’s government has finally signed a long-awaited agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Trade and the Chinese association of contractors to bring many thousands of Chinese construction workers to Israel, the Ministry of Construction and Housing announced in January.

An Israeli delegation that recently visited China to conclude the agreement was headed by Israel’s Finance Ministry’s housing chief, Avigdor Yitzhaki, and the Construction and Housing Ministry’s director-general, Asher Armoni. They met with representatives of China’s Ministry of Commerce. An official ceremony is scheduled to take place later this month.

Jewish Times Asia first reported in September 2015 that Israel was looking to hire 20,000 Chinese construction workers, mostly for the housing sector. At the time, the two countries lacked any official formal agreement related to such co-operation. In general, Chinese workers are brought into Israel under private contracts between Israeli and Chinese companies.

Israel’s construction sector currently employs 216,000 workers, including 37,000 Palestinians and 6,000 foreigners, with some 3,700 Chinese. The Finance Ministry said the lack of skilled Israeli and Palestinian construction workers, as well as the instability in employing Palestinians – whose permits can be revoked due to the security situation – have created a shortage of workers.

This new agreement paves the way for the 20,000 quota, with 6,000 workers slated to arrive in the first six months of 2017. “After more than 18 months of effort, I am glad that our representatives signed an agreement to bring thousands of Chinese workers as a catalyst for a solution to the housing crisis,” commented Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon.

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