26 September 2018 - 17 Tishri 5779 - י"ז תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"ט
Historic Air India flight to Ben Gurion Airport causes controversy E-mail

As reported in the March 2018 issue of Jewish Times Asia, Air India announced at that time that it was in the process of beginning to operate direct flights from New Delhi to Israel via a route passing over Saudi Arabian airspace. Many civil aviation sources doubted whether the Indian airline would manage to schedule its first flight so quickly and easily.

To further complicate the situation, Israel’s national carrier, EL AL airlines, had complained that Air India had an unfair advantage, as the flight path by Air India significantly reduced the flying time over Saudi Arabian airspace, where EL AL was prohibited to fly due to security concerns. The airline is also now pursuing a court action. EL AL Airlines announced on 28 March that it was filing a petition with Israel’s High Court of Justice to restrict any new flights to Israel via Saudi airspace until it too is permitted use the shorter route.

With the inauguration of the Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel. Air India flight 139 landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on 22 March after a flight of over 7.5 hours, and received a water cannon salute upon its arrival. The flight marked a diplomatic shift for Riyadh that Israel said was fuelled by shared concern over Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia is warming up to closer ties with Israel, even though there is no official diplomatic channel.

“This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in a radio interview, adding that using Saudi airspace would cut travel time to India by around two hours and would reduce ticket prices.

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Embassy educates Thai university students about the Holocaust E-mail

An official from Israel’s Embassy in Thailand visited two Thai universities in March as part of a campaign to raise awareness among students about the Holocaust and antiSemitism.

Yuval Waks, deputy chief of mission, political and public affairs said the embassy hosted movie screenings at schools that highlighted the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. He explained: “[O]ften this subject is completely foreign to Thai students as it is not taught in school here, so the movie, we have found, is a great medium to communicate such a grave subject... Thai students don’t know much about the European part of WWII.”

A recent screening at a university featured the film Life is Beautiful, an Italian comedydrama about a Jewish-Italian shop owner who tries using his imagination to protect his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp. Previous films shown included Schindler’s List and The Pianist.

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Hamas engineer killed in Malaysia E-mail

A Hamas-affiliated Palestinian engineer from the Gaza Strip was shot dead on 21 April near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in an assassination blamed on Israel’s intelligence service Mossad. Hamas has threatened retaliation against Israel for the slaying.

The dead man was an expert on attack-drone and rocket systems, according to Israeli sources. Gaza-based Palestinian news site Safa reported that Dr Fadi Muhammad al-Batash, 35, was leaving a mosque after morning prayers in the town of Gombak when he was struck by about 20 bullets fired by two people on a motorcycle.

In a statement released on its website, Hamas said that Batash “was working for the Palestinian cause”. “The Islamic Resistance Movement mourns the son of its sons, the righteous, and a knight of its knights, a scholar of young Palestine scholars and the guardian of the Book of Allah, the son of Jabalya the Mujahedin,” read the statement. “The martyr was
distinguished by his excellence and scientific creativity and has important contributions in this area and participated in international conferences in the field of energy. The martyr was an example in calling God and working for the Palestinian cause.”

Hamas dispatched a senior delegation to meet with Malaysian officials and follow up on the investigation into the shooting. Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batash accused Mossad of being responsible for the assassination, and called on Malaysian authorities to conduct a “comprehensive and rapid investigation” before his killers escaped.

“We, as a family, accuse the Mossad of being behind the assassination of Dr Fadi Muhammad al-Batash, a researcher in energy sciences,” he told the AlMayadeen news network.

According to reports in Malaysia, police believe that Batash was “targeted” by two people who were riding a BMW motorcycle and had waited for him to arrive at the mosque for some 20 minutes. “This was a targeted killing and not a terror[ist] attack because there were other people at the scene but the assassins focused only on [Batash],” the police chief was quoted as saying, adding that “we’re not ruling out any line of inquiry, including the possibility that elements identified with ISIS are behind the assassinations.”

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Taiwan and Israel to reach agreements on working visas E-mail

Asher Yarden, Chief Representative of the Israel Economic and Cultural office in Taipei, announced on 19 April that Israel and Taiwan would soon sign agreements regarding the issuance of working holiday visas and mutual recognition of drivers’ licences.

The Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei hosted a commemorative event in Taipei on 19 April, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence, reported Central News Agency.

Yarden has been stationed in Taiwan for over two years, and said at the event that Taiwan was like a “second home” for him. In his remarks, Yarden announced that Israel would soon sign agreements with Taiwan regarding the issuance of working holiday visas and the mutual recognition of driver’s licenses to further the bilateral exchanges of the two countries.

Yarden said the relationship between Taiwan and Israel had been friendly and close, and that “Taiwan is Israel’s 17th-largest trading partner in the world.” He added: “I am glad to see the growth of economic and academic exchanges between Israel and Taiwan.”

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TAU sets up US$20m venture capital fund with Asian investors E-mail

Tel Aviv University (TAU), together with investors worldwide, announced in April that it is establishing an earlystage startup investment venture capital fund called TAU Ventures. Sources close to Tel Aviv University estimate that the fund will total US$20 million.

This is the first time that a venture capital fund is being established by a university in Israel. It is based on similar funds at US universities such as MIT, Berkeley and Stanford.

The fund’s offices are located in the Miles S. Nadal Home for Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ramat Aviv, which was recently renovated and will include working spaces for the entrepreneurs that the TAU Ventures fund will invest in.

Aside from investments, the fund will operate various technological incubator programmes, together with strategic partners, in a range of technological fields. The first programme that has been running is with Japanese giant NEC, focusing on cyber security.

Investors in the fund include Singapore investment fund Chartered High Tech Fund, which brings together leading Japanese firms via the designated “Japan-Israel High Tech Fund”, and additional investors from US and Canada. The fund will operate on a seven-year cycle, with investments being made in the first four years.

Nimrod Cohen has been appointed managing partner of TAU Ventures. He previously served as a partner in Plus Ventures and led investments in companies such as YOTPO, Bringg, Ciamgine, WSC Sports (which was sold to Snapchat) and many more.

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