31 March 2020 - 7 Nisan 5780 - ז' ניסן ה' אלפים תש"פ

El Al Israel Airlines Ltd charter flights unit Sun D’Or has announced it will operate the first-ever direct flights between Israel and Japan. Details of this new arrangement were announced at a press gathering on 6 February at Israel’s embassy in Tokyo.

At present, only two flights have been scheduled in each direction in September from Ben Gurion Airport to Tokyo’s Narita airport, but the aim is for permanent direct flights.

Israel’s Ambassador to Japan Yaffa Ben-Ari said: “This is the first step on the way to achieving our main aim: direct and scheduled flights.”

The September Sun D’Or flights are being chartered by three Japanese travel agencies. The flights from Israel to Japan will take 11.5 hours, and 12.5 hours between Japan and Israel. This is a saving of four hours on the current shortest routes between Israel and Japan, which require connection flights.

Ben-Ari added: “The flights will help put Israel on the Japanese tourist map and signal to that market that Israel is an attractive destination. At the same time, Israeli tourists can enjoy a shorter and more convenient route to Japan, which is one of the fastest-growing tourism markets for Israeli tourists.”

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen said: “We hope that this new step will also encourage Japanese businesspeople and contribute to strengthening economic and trade relations.”

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Malaysia loses right to host sports event E-mail

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships after the country banned Israeli athletes from participating. The event had been scheduled to take place from 29 July to 4 August in Kuching.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host,” said IPC president Andrew Parsons in a statement on 27 January.

As reported in the February 2019 issue of Jewish Times Asia, Israeli Paralympic swimmers had been denied visas to compete in the event. Israeli sports authorities had been attempting to obtain the visas for two months but had received no response from the Malaysian Government. Malaysia, which has a pro-Palestine stance, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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Thai singer sorry for wearing Nazi T-shirt E-mail

After a member of Thailand’s most popular all-girl band, BNK48, wore a shirt portraying Nazi Germany’s state flag with a swastika emblazoned across it during a televised rehearsal on 27 January, the deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok took to Twitter to express “shock and dismay” at the outfit.

Images of Hitler, swastikas and other Nazi regalia are fairly commonplace on T-shirts and memorabilia in Thailand, a phenomenon blamed on people’s lack of historical understanding rather than their political leanings.

The 19-year-old singer, Pichayapa “Namsai” Natha, later apologised onstage during a concert. “I want this to be an example for everyone, please forgive me,” she said, bursting into tears. She later claimed full responsibility for her ignorance in an apology posted on her official Facebook page. “Please give me advice so that I can grow up to be a good adult in the future... I cannot fix the mistake but I promise I will not let it happen again,” Namsai wrote in Thai. She also posted an apology in English to her Instagram page.

Fans of BNK48, a domestic offshoot of Japanese girl group AKB48, came to Namsai’s defence. “I’m over 40 and I don’t know anything about this topic. When I saw the shirt, I didn’t think it would be a problem,” said fan Prasit Rudeekriengkrai. Others blamed Thailand’s education system, which does not focus much on world history.

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China Southern Airlines to fly to Tel Aviv E-mail

China Southern Airlines is to launch Tel Aviv – Guangzhou flights starting 2 April.

The Chinese carrier will operate three weekly flights, using an Airbus 330 with 260 seats, between Ben Gurion airport and Guangzhou (Canton).

The flights will replace the Tel Aviv – Guangzhou flights of Hainan Airlines, which is halting the route on 22 February and replacing it with flights between Tel Aviv and Shenzhen, near Guangzhou.

China Southern will be the fourth Chinese airline to fly to and from Israel, joining Hainan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Sichuan Airlines.

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Philippines looking to acquire more defence systems Print E-mail

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed that the Philippines will acquire more missiles from Israel.

The Department of National Defense will be purchasing a Surface-to-air Python and Derby (SPYDER) mobile-air defence system from Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, according to a report from the state-run Philippines News Agency. Lorenzana, however, said that he does not yet know the exact number of missile launchers that the Government will be acquiring.

Last year, the Philippine Navy also acquired Israelimade Spike ER (Extended Range) surface-to-surface missiles, which were installed on its multi-purpose attack craft. The Navy tested the effectiveness of the missiles in a naval drill off Limay, Bataan, in August 2018. The Israeli-Er missile system installed on the Navy’s gunboat accurately neutralised its target from a distance of six kilometres.

(Issue Mar 2019)

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