israelAM for July 31, 2015

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Jerusalem Stabbing
The annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade ended in tragedy yesterday when Yishai Schlissel, a Charedi man from Modiin Illit, stabbed 6 marchers.

In 2005 Schlissel stabbed 3 participants in a Gay Pride march and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released just 3 weeks ago. Since then he had distributed handwritten pamphlets in Modiin Illit urging people to do whatever they can to stop the parade.

PM Netanyahu stated, “Justice will be dealt to whoever was responsible for this act. In the State of Israel, an individual’s freedom of choice is one of the country’s most basic values. It is up to us to make sure that every man and woman can live in safety at all times in every way that they choose to live. This is how we work and this is how we will continue to do things. I wish a speedy recovery to all those injured.”

President Reuven Rivlin said, “people celebrating their freedom and expressing their identity were viciously stabbed. We must not be deluded, a lack of tolerance will lead us to disaster. We cannot allow such crimes, and we must condemn those who commit and support them. I wish the injured a full and speedy recovery.”

Ministers and officials from across the political spectrum were united in their condemnation of the attack.
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said, “It’s unthinkable that a man can lift up his hand against another Jewish soul in the name of religion. I am praying from the bottom of my heart for the full recovery of those who were injured and in the face of this type of hatred I call on the entire Jewish people to return to unity in kindness and tolerance.”

Strangely, the Charedi United Torah Judaism party, remained silent and issued no statements.

The real questions following the attack will be directed at the police. Why didn’t they monitor a man who served 10 years for stabbing people at a Gay Pride parade, distributed anti gay pamphlets promoting violent disruption of the parade after his release, and then showed up at the current parade?
Time to investigate.

Terror in Samaria
A one and half year old boy was killed and his parents and 4 year old brother severely injured when their house caught fire in the Palestinian village of Duma, just outside of Nablus. Jewish extremists are suspected of firebombing the house. Graffiti in Hebrew was found spray painted on the walls of the house saying, “Revenge” and “Long Live the Mashiach”.

The PM and Defense Minister, along with ministers from the settler backed Bait Yehudi party, strongly condemned the terrorist act and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. The IDF has sent extra forces into the area to search for the terrorists and prepare for potential protests or revenge attacks.

History Robbers Busted
Antiquities Authority inspectors noticed a group of men using a metal detector and digging at an archeological site in the Beit Shemesh area. They alerted the police, who managed to arrest one of them and identify a second one who got away. The apprehended suspect was in possession of 63 coins from the Second Temple and Roman periods, some 2,000 years old. But that’s not the worst of it.

According to Antiquities Authority inspector Uzi Rotstein, “the activities of the suspects caused considerable damage to the site. They dug dozens of shallow pits from which the ancient coins were looted, while disturbing the archeological strata, detaching the archeological findings from their context and leading to a loss of valuable archeological, historical and cultural knowledge to the country’s cultural heritage.”

Facebook Aids Brain Drain
Two weeks ago Facebook bought Israeli startup Pebbles. Out of Pebbles 35 employees, 15 are being let go. The other 20 are being shipped to California. To help ease their pain of having to leave Israel, they’ll be getting $20 million. That should do the trick.

Israel Celebrates Love
Today is Tu B’av, the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day. According to the Talmud, on the 15th day (Tu) in the Hebrew month of Av (today), the single Jewish women would gather in a designated field and dance, while the single Jewish men would watch. Sort of like a huge singles mixer. But it was far from a superficial scene. The women would wear borrowed white garments, so as not to embarrass those who couldn’t afford the latest designer fashions. And they would sing these words from Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears G-d shall be praised.” Now that’s serious.

The men and women would meet and well, the rest is history.

Happy Tu B’av!!

Have an amazing day and a Shabbat Shalom! See you on Monday!

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israelAM for July 30, 2015

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Settlement Evacuated Again
Last night, hours after the demolition of the 2 buildings in Beit El, security forces began evacuating the Samaria Settlement of Sa-Nur, for the second time in 10 years. Most of the 250 people in the community peacefully boarded the evacuation buses. But about 100 youths and other activists refused to leave and were forcibly removed.

Ten years ago, when the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza were evacuated as part of the 2005 Disengagement plan, 4 additional towns in Samaria were included in the evacuation, including Sa-Nur.

In commemoration of the 10th year anniversary of the evacuation, a group of about 20 families of original Sa-Nut residents, along with other activists and protesters, returned to the town late Monday night to try and resettle it. On Tuesday morning the families sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), urging them not to have IDF soldiers expel them from their homes again.
“IDF soldiers are our beloved brothers, flesh of our flesh. We demand not to repeat the trauma of the expulsion, and not to force IDF soldiers to expel us again from our homes,” they wrote.

Demolition is Done
Security forces late last night completed the demolition of the 2 Dreinoff buildings in Beit El, as per the decision of the High Court. Protesters, mostly youth, initially clashed with police but returned to their homes as the operation progressed. Eight hours later, the demolition was completed.

Several religious border policemen were reported to have refused to take part in the demolition and were arrested. The Border Police denied that any soldiers were arrested for disobeying orders.

Shortly after the demolition, the Yesha Council representing the communities of Judea and Samaria issued a statement inviting people to attend a cornerstone laying ceremony at the demolition site to mark the rebuilding of the homes. Shai Alon, the head of the Beit El council, stated that, “now Beit El will be busy with building, not destroying.” He was referring to the 300 additional units approved by the Prime Minister.

Education Minister Naftali Bennet, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and other Bayit Yehudi ministers and Knesset members praised PM Netanyahu’s approval for the construction of 300 housing units in Beit El and 500 in East Jerusalem.

Report Against IDF
Amnesty International said Wednesday that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during last summer’s Gaza war when it carried out four days of intense bombardment in retaliation for an attack by Hamas militants in which an Israeli soldier was captured. At least 135 civilians were killed over those four days. It says the military failed to independently probe the incident and called on the International Criminal Court to investigate.

Hamas praised the report. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced it as “fundamentally flawed,” since “there is almost no mention of the military actions of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations.”

He added that the report made no mention of the Hamas strategy to embed civilians among combatants, using them as human shields. And that the claim that the 4 days of bombardment were in response to the killing of one IDF soldier ignores the fact that there was an ongoing conflict during which the IDF was trying to stop rocket fire and neutralize assault tunnels.

Israel Strikes in Syria
Syrian and Lebanese sources reported that an Israel drone strike in the Syrian Golan Heights on Wednesday killed 2 Hezbollah members and 3 members of the pro-Assad People’s Committees militia led by Lebanese Druse terrorist Samir Kuntar.

Israeli military sources claim that Kuntar commanded several terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers in the area in the past few months.

The IDF has refused to confirm or deny the attack. Syrian state media didn’t mention the attack.

Jerusalem Kosher Crisis
The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Stern, has made it his mission to assure the reliability of kosher supervision in the city. His staff is examining the reliability and efficacy of the more than 300 kashrut supervisors appointed by the Jerusalem Religious Council who are supposed to provide daily supervision to some 1,500 kosher restaurants and businesses in the city. Unfortunately, they’ve found some problems, like supervisors who don’t show up at the establishments under their supervision and serious kashrut issues at some restaurants and businesses with kashrut certificates from the Jerusalem rabbinate.

Yehoshua Yishai, the chairman of the Jerusalem Religious Council hit back against the chief rabbinate by threatening to fire R. Stern’s chief of staff Avinoam Kutscher. The State Comptroller told Yishai to back down. Yishai also instructed his inspectors not to cooperate with the Chief Rabbi’s investigation.

The dispute was brought before the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on Wednesday and the Police Fraud Office is deciding whether to open it’s own investigation into the Jerusalem kosher situation.
As if keeping Kosher wasn’t hard enough already.

Shas Radicalized Position
In support of the campaign by some members of the Charedi community against Charedim who enlist in the IDF, Rabbi Moshe Cohen, the head of the council of sages of Shas and the successor to Rav Ovadia Yosef, wrote a letter prohibiting all Charred youth from enlisting. The letter includes all young men, regardless of their level of engagement in Torah study. It also condemns all those who assist Charedim in their efforts to serve in the IDF.

The traditional position of Shas has been to be against enlistment only for men engaged in formal Torah studies. Rabbi Cohen’s letter seems to be broadening this position to include even those not engaged in formal Torah studies.

Church Arsonists Nabbed
Prosecutors on Wednesday indicted two men believed to have set fire to a historic Church, on the shores of the Kinneret, in an act of religious and racial hatred.

The men, named as 20-year-old Yinon Reuveni of Ofakim and 19-year-old Yehuda Asraf of Elad, face charges of aggravated arson, destruction of property motivated by hostility toward the public and conspiracy to commit a crime, and Asraf was indicted on charges of aiding and abetting a crime and conspiracy.

The Shin Bet Israel Security Agency named two other suspects who have yet to be indicted as Mordechai Meir, 18, from Maaleh Adumim, and Moshe Urbach, 24, from Bnei Brak. The fifth suspect arrested in the case is an unnamed minor from Ramle.

The Shin Bet said that the suspects were driven by the ideology held by the so-called “Hilltop Youth”, a loosely-organized group of ultra-nationalists known for establishing illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Norway Law Passes
The Knesset today passed the Norwegian Law, which allows a minister or deputy minister from each coalition party to quit the Knesset and return if they leave the cabinet. Several ministers will likely be resigning their Knesset seats to allow other members of their part to take their place. They’ll also be able to focus all of their energy on their ministerial responsibilities.

Have an amazing day, and we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow with more Israel news!

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israelAM for July 29, 2015

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Demolition Begins
The Israeli High Court today rejected the governments appeal to halt the demolition of the 2 building in Beit El slated for destruction. Hundreds of protesters faced off against police at the site, throwing rocks and setting tires on fire. The police tried to disperse the crowd with water cannons. The situation is unfolding as you’re reading this.

Netanyahu’s Balancing Act
Throwing his support clearly behind the Beit El protesters, PM Benjamin Netanyahu promised to try to obtain authorization to legalize the 24 housing units in Beit El. “Our stance with regard to the Beit El homes is clear. We oppose their demolition and are working through legal means to prevent this,” Netanyahu said.

However, he also was furious with coalition members of the Bayit Yehudi party for criticizing the government. He reiterated that the decision to demolish the buildings was made by the Supreme Court and therefore had no effect on any coalition agreements.

The government is composed of a right wing coalition. Some of those parties are more to the right than others. One of these is Bayit Yehudi, a religious zionist party that draws significant support from the settler community. Naftali Bennet and the other ministers and Knesset members from the party have gone all out to back their supporter base in protesting the demolitions. In doing so they have implied that if the buildings are demolished they might withdraw their 8 seats from the coalition, which would cause the government to collapse. Avigdor Liberman, the head of the opposition party Yisrael Beytenu, said he agreed with Bennett and called on him to leave the coalition and to join him in the opposition, so that together they could create a new government devoted to construction rather then demolition. That makes the PM really mad. And you don’t want to get on Netanyahu’s bad side.

So instead of taking on Netanyahu head on, Bayit Yehudi has gone after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for sending in the forces to evacuate the buildings. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Justice Minister Eyelet Shaked both lashed out against Ya’alon for breaking his pledge not to use force.

Ya’alon replied, “I spoke with Bayit Yehudi ministers yesterday and told them that we [the IDF] would not act before a High Court of Justice ruling. [However] we will act in accordance with the law and any Supreme Court decisions.” He reiterated his support of the settlements but warned that, “those who think that I will break the law are mistaken. I won’t lend a hand to lawlessness.”

The governments appeal was rejected and demolition order upheld. Bayit Yehudi went ballistic. In response, Netanyahu reiterated his approval to construct 300 new apartment units in Beit El. In addition, he approved moving forward with the planning of 500 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. So the coalition, and the government, remains in tact. For now.

Pollard to be Freed
Jonathan Pollard will be release on Friday November 20 after serving 30 years of his life sentence for spying for Israel. His parole will prohibit him from leaving US territory for 5 years. Only President Obama can allow Pollard to emigrate to Israel. But senior Israeli diplomats say that that is unlikely to happen. “The Americans are very worried of a situation in which Pollard will be received as a hero in Israel, and therefore they likely will prevent Pollard from leaving American territory.”

PM Netanyahu told Pollard’s wife Esther,”After decades of effort, Jonathan Pollard will finally be released. Throughout his time in prison, I consistently raised the issue of his release in my meetings and conversations with the leadership of successive U.S. administrations. We are looking forward to his release.”

Teva Contaminating Yarkon
The Israel Water Authority is claiming that the Teva Pharmaceutical Industries manufacturing plant in Kfar Sava has seriously contaminated the Yarkon River. Water samples taken from the river have detected high concentrations of drug residues, far exceeding levels found in water sources abroad or at Israeli treatment plants. Some of the drugs whose residue was found in the river and the treatment facilities are resistant to treatment procedures, so that high concentrations remain even after several stages of purification.

Sara Elhanani, head of the Water Authority’s water quality department, said that “without doubt, Teva is responsible for seriously polluting the Yarkon River with drugs it manufactures.”

Teva responded: “We take this issue very seriously and will study the findings noted in the letter. We will hold further discussions with the Water Authority regarding this topic.”

Teva just purchased a company for $40 billion and is now one of the top 10 drug companies in the world. They can afford to spend as much as it takes to clean up their mess and protect Israel’s precious water resources. They owe it to the country, and the world.

Reuniting IDF Families
There are still 7,000 Ethiopian Jews in Ethiopia waiting to immigrate to Israel. Many of them have family members serving in the IDF. Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has promised to bring the families of 500 Ethiopian Israeli soldiers to Israel ASAP, and to work on bringing the remaining Jews to Israel too. He said, “I have a strong will to bring the rest of Ethiopian Jewry [to Israel], and I hope that I will be able to do so in my role as interior minister.”

“And your children shall return to their borders,” — Jeremiah 31:16

Have an amazing day, and we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow with more Israel news!

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israelAM for July 28, 2015

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Police vs. Settlers
At least 50 protesters were arrested in Beit El last night as hundreds of Border Police cleared 2 vacant buildings slated for demolition later this week. Around 250 youths from the area faced off against the police to prevent them from evicting squatters who had barricaded themselves in the buildings.

The buildings, known as the Dreinof structures have been under dispute for years, since the land was seized by the IDF from it’s Palestinian owners and incorporated into Beit El in 1979. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected claims to rescind the seizure order on 2 separate occasions. But the structures were constructed without the proper permits.

Even though the civil administration in Judea and Samaria subsequently granted the building permits, the supreme court ruled in favor of a petition to demolish the structures. Demolition of the 24 apartment units in the 2 buildings still under construction is to take place on Thursday. The Beit El Local Council is preparing to file a petition to the Supreme Court hoping to cancel the demolition order. Meanwhile, the police was ordered to clear the buildings in advance, to prevent people from barricading themselves in the buildings to prevent the demolition.

No matter which side you take, the battle hopefully will be fought and resolved in the courts without further violence.

High Five to Charedi Minister
The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal in Israel for a while on a very small scale. Now, getting it will be a whole lot easier.

Deputy Minister of Health Yakov Litzman, of the Charedi UTJ party, just announced that medical cannabis will be available in pharmacies in Israel, and that more doctors will be allowed to prescribe it. That means that pot will be treated like any other prescription drug. Of course, it will all be strictly regulated and controlled to prevent abuse.

The new policy will make it easier for tens of thousands of people with pain and other chronic symptoms to get relief.

Who said Charedi politicians aren’t progressive?

Huge Israeli Drug Deal
Speaking of drugs, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has acquired the generic division of Dublin based Allergen for $40.58 billion in the largest acquisition ever by an Israeli company. Teva is already the leader in the global generic drug market. This will make it even stronger.

According to Teva’s announcement, it will also become one of the world’s 10 leading pharma companies. In other words, one of the biggest drug dealers in the world. Pretty cool.

Opposition Takes a Shot
Opposition leaders made their predictions about the future of the current government. Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, the opposition leader, predicted that the government would fall by March. “The government’s time is limited,” Herzog said. Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, also predicted that the government would collapse sometime in 2016. When that happens, “Yesh Atid will run for the leadership of the country and I will run for prime minister,” Lapid stated. A Zionist Union spokesman responded: “On the day after Tisha Be’Av, someone should tell Lapid that since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was only given to fools.”
Looks like the opposition needs to learn to play nicely together before taking on the government.

Unholy Rapist Indicted
Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg of Safed was indicted Monday for raping, sodomizing and/or sexually assaulting 12 women. He was also charged with aggravated fraud, obstructing justice and criminal threatening. Investigators believe many more women were victimized, but they have declined to come forward. According to the indictment, Sheinberg allegedly committed the crimes both in personal meetings with the women and in video chats during which he asked them to strip.

The incidents took place mainly during the last decade, when Sheinberg served as a community rabbi and head of a yeshiva in Safed. This story needs to be told as a warning to prevent crimes like this from being repeated.

Farewell to Plastic
The Knesset is trying to push through a bill to reduce the use of plastic bags. Businesses would need to stop carrying the really thin bags entirely, and customers would have to pay for the thicker ones.

Israelis use about 275 plastic bags per capita each year, totaling approximately 2.2 billion bags annually for the entire country. A survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Ministry last year indicated that more than 70 percent of Israelis support an end to free plastic bag distribution.
Good news for the environment.

The French Homecoming
Over 200 immigrants from France are set to arrive in Israel today, bringing the total of French immigrants this year to 4,260. This is an 11% increase over last years numbers. Over the last 5 years over 20,000 French Jews have made Aliyah.

“And your children shall return to their borders,” — Jeremiah 31:16

Have an amazing day, and we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow with more Israel news!

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israelAM for July 27, 2015

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Violence on Temple Mount
Dozens of Arab youths threw rocks and shot fireworks at Israeli police on the Temple Mount early Sunday morning. Four police officers were injured and 3 Palestinians were arrested. The objective of the rioters was to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount on Tisha B’av, the day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples that stood on the mount. They failed.

Israeli law prohibits Jews and other non Muslims from performing any form of worship on the Temple mount, where the Al Aqsa Mosque currently stands. That even includes whispering prayers or carrying religious texts. But non Muslims are allowed to visit the area during set times. The Arab youths attempted to prevent scheduled visits on Tisha B’av. The police made sure that the visits occurred as planned. Among the visitors was Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said, “The Temple Mount is a holy place for Jews and Muslims. The government must make sure that Jews can go on the Temple Mount throughout the entire year, certainly on Tisha Be’av.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the Arab rioters and said, “I express my support for the security forces and for their determination to prevent any harm or interference to the prayers at the Western Wall, the remnant of our Temple. Such acts of hatred cannot be tolerated, and we will not allow any disturbances to prevent Jews from praying at this holy site.”

The holiest place in Judaism, located in the heart of the capital of Israel, is the only place on the planet where Jews are forbidden from praying. And Jewish police enforce this rule. Think about it.

Antisemitism in Jerusalem
On Thursday morning a group of Jewish women visited the Temple Mount escorted by Israeli police. Throughout the 40 minute tour they were surrounded and harassed by Arabs screaming “slaughter the Jews” and “Allahu Akbar”. The police took no action to stop the harassment.

A 20 year old woman in the group, Aviad Morris, couldn’t take it anymore and responded to the harassment — she said, “Muhammad is a pig”. That’s when the police finally moved the Arabs away from the group. Aviad was arrested at her home later that day for disturbing the public order. A judge dismissed the charges after watching a video of the incident.

US Won’t Block Pollard Release
After serving 30 years in federal prison for allegedly spying for Israel, Jonathan Pollard is set to be release on parole in November and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that she won’t prevent it from happening. According to the U.S. law under which Pollard’s trial was held, a prisoner sentenced to life in prison is released after 30 years.

Lynch denied any link between Pollard’s possible release in the near future and the nuclear agreement signed with Iran. “It would have been extremely far-thinking of people 30 years ago to sentence Mr. Pollard and set this mandatory release date to coincide with the Iran deal,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pollard’s wife is asking the Israeli government to pay for an attorney to facilitate his freedom. For serving half of his life in prison, it’s the least they can do.

Kerry Doesn’t Scare Israel
On Friday US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Council of Foreign Relations that, “if Congress were to overturn [the Iran deal], our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated. And more blamed.” Israeli officials responded yesterday saying that Congress will make it’s decision based on the best interests of the US. They added that, “Attempts to prevent Israel from expressing its position will not stop us from saying what we think about this bad deal with Iran which threatens Israel’s security.”
The battle continues.

Jordan Protests
Israel is planning to build a new international airport just north of Eilat, in the Negev town of Timna. The Jordanians aren’t happy about this. They’ve filed a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization claiming that the airport is too close to the Jordanian airport at Aquaba, which could cause communication problems with planes leaving and arriving. 

The Jordanians are still upset about an agreement they made with Israel when they signed their peace treaty in 1994 to join the airports in Eilat and Aquaba into one jointly run airport located in Aquaba. Israel never made that happen.

A spokesman for Israel’s Transportation Ministry said that in recent talks with the Jordanians, “we agreed to continue the meetings and coordination in operating the two airports – at Timna and at Aqaba.”

We’ll have to wait and see what impact the airport in Timna will have on Israel-Jordan relations.

The Golan Hoax
Last week Israeli singing star Eyal Golan filed a complaint with the fraud branch of the Tel Aviv District Police, claiming that he had been hacked and that a wiretap had been used against him for the past two years in order to extort him and harm his reputation during a sex crimes investigation against him.

 Yesterday morning, a computer technician who serviced Golan’s home was arraigned in court on suspicion of fabricating the entire hack and wiretap story. The 27-year-old technician told Golan that enemies of the singer had set up a wiretapping device outside his house and had broken into his email. He denies the charges, and doesn’t seem to have a motive. Apparently, being a jerk isn’t motive enough.

Have an amazing day, and we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow with more Israel news!

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israelAM for July 24, 2015

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Judges Should Sing Hatikva
When the first Arab judge ever to serve on the Israeli Supreme Court, Salim Jubran, refrained from singing Hatikva at his swearing in ceremony, he provoked outrage in right leaning circles. Now that the right controls the Judicial committee responsible for appointing judges, he might be in trouble.

Robert Ilatov, the newly appointed member of the Judicial Committee from Yisrael Beiteynu, stated, “”In my view, a judge who is unwilling to sing Hatikva cannot be a judge in the State of Israel, which is the nation state of the Jewish people.” Justice Minister and committee member Ayelet Shaked fundamentally agree with his statement, but emphasized that Jubran’s job is not in jeopardy. “There are many excellent Arab judges in the judicial system,” she said. “A judge needs to stand during the national anthem, but I won’t be looking to see if he is mouthing the words to Hatikva or not. A judge needs to be selected first and foremost according to skills and criteria.” She added that Jubran is retiring in 2017 and that no new Supreme Court justices would be appointed until then.

Should judges be required to swear allegiance to the state that creates the laws that they are sworn to enforce? If so, is not singing the national anthem an expression of non alleigance?

Israel Arms Jordan
Israel has joined the fight against Isis, at least indirectly, by giving Jordan 16 US supplied Cobra combat helicopters for border security. Israel retired the Cobras some years back, preferring the more powerful US supplied Apache helicopters. The Jordanian air force currently has 25 cobras in service.

Avoid Waiting in Line at the Airport
El Al is launching a new premium service on Aug. 2 to provide at-home checkin and security inspections for a fee of 499 Shekels for up to 5 passengers. Passengers will receive their boarding passes at home, allowing them to proceed directly to passport control in the airport. The service area will cover the center of the country, from Hadera in the north to Gadera in the south and Jerusalem to the east. El Al hasn’t clarified whether the service would be offered in Arab towns, which has triggered accusations of racism. More likely, it’s a matter of security.

A Tragic Destiny
In a tragic twist of fate, 3 graduates of the same elite Israeli Air Force pilots training course have been killed in accidents while on separate trips outside of Israel. They were all 24 yrs old. Tamar Ariel, the first religious female fighter pilot, was killed last October in an avalanche in Nepal. Max Selah was killed in April in an “Omega” glider accident in Peru. Aviv Bromberg was killed just this week in a trekking accident in Peru. His funeral is taking place today in Kfar Saba.
No reasons. No Answers. Just sadness.

Deadly Roads
The Israeli Police have released highway safety statistics from June: 948 accidents, 1662 injured, 27 killed. The death toll since the beginning of the year: 195. Maybe some of the massive defense budget should be going to traffic safety?

National Day of Mourning
Tisha B’Av, the fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem almost 2000 yrs ago, will be observed this Saturday night and Sunday. The Talmud teaches that the reason for the destruction was baseless hatred and disunity among the Jewish People. Tisha B’av is a reminder that we haven’t fully corrected those flaws, and that we have to continue working on bringing love and unity to our people and to the entire world.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and an easy and meaningful Tisha B’av fast.

israelAM for July 23, 2015

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Norway Comes to Israel

The Knesset has advanced a bill that would allow a cabinet minister or deputy minister to resign from the Knesset, hold on to their cabinet post, and be replaced by another member of his or her party. The bill is call the “Norwegian Law” and is based on a similar law in, you guessed it, Norway.

In the Israeli electoral system voters elect parties, not individual candidates. Based on the number of votes they earn, each party gets a set number of seats in the Knesset. They then assign those seats to members of their party list. For example, if a party wins 6 seats, they give those to the top 6 members on their list.

Most cabinet ministers are also Knesset members, but they spend the bulk of their time on their ministerial jobs. The “Norwegian Law” would solve this by allowing them to focus on their cabinet positions and give their seats to their party colleagues who didn’t make the “list cut”. The law would only apply to parties with fewer than 12 Knesset seats and would allow ministers to take back their seats if they resign or are fired, bumping their sub back down to civilian.

The bill has been advanced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who wants to quit the Knesset to let the next candidate on her Habayit Hayehudi list take her seat.

The new law could make the knesset a more efficient place and help decrease unemployment among party members who didn’t quite make it in the first time around.

Controlling the Law
Based on yesterday’s Knesset vote, the Israeli court system might be set to take a right turn. The vote appointed Nurit Koren (Likud) and Robert Elyatov (Yisrael Beitenu) to the committee responsible for appointing judges in Israel. When you add Justice Minister Ayalete Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi), who is automatically on the committee, the chances of judges who agree with the policies of the current government are pretty darn good. Big win for Netanyahu, who threatened to scuttle the “Norwegian Law” if his coalition partners didn’t vote according to his wishes. Israeli politics at it’s finest.

EU vs. Israel, Again
The EU has already agreed to require labels that identify Israeli goods made in West Bank settlements. Now they’re contemplating imposing restrictions on dealings with Israeli banks who do business in the territories. That would include all of the major Israeli financial institutions. While product labeling hasn’t had a material effect on the Israeli economy, the banking restrictions could. For now there are no formal European Commission proposals in the works, but the sentiment in the EU is clearly not favorable for Israel.

Tourism Way Down
Tourism in Israel is still suffering from last summer’s Gaza war. According to the Israel Hotel Association, tourist overnights were down 25% in the first 6 months of 2015. Hotel room occupancy was down 9%. This translates into 1.2 billion shekels of lost revenue, besides all of the ancillary revenue loss to local businesses. Israelis have made up some of the shortfall by increasing their overnights by 8%.

Hiding the Ayalon
It will take many years and a half a billion dollars, but Tel Aviv officials have approved a plan to cover most of the Ayalon Highway (that cuts through the city) with parks, sports centers, bike paths, and cafes. Israel’s version of Central Park, without the horse carriages…well, you never know.

Sleeping and Driving
According to a survey by the Green Light foundation, 15% admitted to have fallen asleep while driving. They didn’t say how many were texting, reading, eating or holding their phones and talking behind the wheel. If you’ve driven in Israel you already know that percentage is way higher than 15%. Drive safely, for everyone’s sake.

israelAM for July 22, 2015

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Hotovely vs. EU
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) plans to instruct the Foreign Ministry to work against funding provided by European governments to left-wing organizations in Israel. She wants to ban government funding of organizations who support a boycott of Israel, the right of return for Palestinian refugees or who conduct activities that slander IDF soldiers or advance legal procedures against them. “Under the guise of safeguarding human rights, these organizations actually work to undermine Israel’s right of existence,” Hotovely said.

Over 100 million euros have been donated to left wing Israeli organizations by European governments in the past few years. Hotovely, a right winger, wants it stopped and is willing to support legislation to make that happen. That’s what she told a delegation from the European parliament, the Dutch ambassador to Israel, and the foreign ministers of Spain and the Netherlands.

Is this a battle even worth fighting given all the other foreign policy issues facing Israel, like Iran and a Palestinian state?

Iran Nukes Good for Israel
Not everyone in Israel is against the Iran nuclear deal. Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli FBI, and former chief of the Israeli Navy agrees that while it isn’t perfect, the accord is “the best option” for dealing with Iran’s nuclear capability.

“When negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months,” which Ayalon claims is significant. He also believes that without a deal the sanctions will fall apart in any case, leaving Iran with money to race towards a bomb without any restrictions. But he feels that President Obama needs to take a stronger stance against potential Iranian violations and make it clear that the US will use military force to prevent Iran for getting the bomb.

If the deal results in the US cracking down on Iran for their non-nuclear behavior, like supporting terrorism, it’s a good thing for Israel and the world. That’s a big if.

Housing Supply Rising
Defense Minister Yaalon has approved permits for the construction of a total of 906 new housing units in the West Bank Jewish towns of Beit El, Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev and Psagot. This is the first such approval in over a year.

Sticks and Stones
The Knesset has approved a law to crack down on people convicted of throwing rocks at moving vehicles. Under the law, stone throwers could face 10 years in prison, and up to 20 years if it is determined that they intended to seriously harm the occupants in a vehicle. Yes, stones can kill.

Arafat Dies Naturally
Two years after his widow demanded an investigation into the cause of his death, French experts have concluded that Yasir Arafat died of natural causes. Swiss experts had previously found traces of poisonous material in his body, but couldn’t determine conclusively whether they were related to his death. But the French are sure. For now.

A Sweet Payout
Microsoft just acquired Israeli cloud security company Adallon for $320 million. The company’s 3 founders, aged 27, 31 and 31 will each get $25 million from the sale. They are all veterans of the elite IDF 8200 intelligence unit. Pretty sweet payout for them, but does the IDF get its cut for training provided? It could help solve some of their budget issues. Something to consider.

Chicken for Shabbat
Until about 2300 years ago, chickens were used exclusively for entertainment (cock fights). Then the Israelites started cooking and eating them for dinner. That’s according to recent archeological findings at Tel Maresha in Israel, where they found piles of chicken bones with butchering marks on them. They didn’t find any traces of chicken soup. That doesn’t mean grandmas weren’t making it.

israelAM for July 21, 2015

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Streamlining the IDF
The Locker Committee, headed by Reserve General Yohanan Locker, has released it’s recommendations for streamlining the IDF. They include cutting pensions for officers, reducing the period of regular service for men from 3 to 2 years, discharging 2 thousand servicemen, and several other budget cutting measures.

The IDF isn’t happy, especially about the pension cutting since it could dissuade talented personnel from becoming career officers. They have presented their own budget plan and cutting measures, which are much less painful.

Whether the IDF can win this battle isn’t certain, but they usually come out on top. Game on.

US and EU vs. Israel
The EU and the US are calling on Israel not to destroy illegally built Palestinian homes in the West Bank village of Sussia. The plan is to move the inhabitants to the nearby village of Yatta. Sussia is an ancient Jewish archeological site and is adjacent to a Jewish settlement of the same name. It’s complicated, to say the least.

PM Spending Under Fire
Israel Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered a criminal investigation into spending at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and his private home in Caesarea. The chief suspect is Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director general for material and operational resources in the Prime Minister’s Office. The PM and wife aren’t personally under investigation. The issues under investigation include the hiring of an electrician, refunds on recycled bottles, and garden furniture. Seriously.

Red Meat to Eat and Purify
The Ramat Negev Regional Council has received funding from US donors to import frozen embryos of Red Angus cows to Israel to raise for meat. One of these future red calfs could actually turn out to be the biblically prescribed Red Heifer, a prerequisite to rebuilding the Third Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why the Temple Institute reached an agreement with the owner of a Negev cattle farm where the cows are being raised to allow them to check the cows to find a holy candidate (holy cow?). The US donors are furious. The rabbis are hopeful. The saga continues.

Israeli Teens Higher Than Ever
According to the latest study, more Israeli teens and university students are smoking pot than ever before, mainly because they just don’t see it as being dangerous. Marijuana use in Israel is still relatively low. The country ranks 23rd out of 29 European countries, which could explain the high stress level of most Israelis. Think about it.

Secret Affairs Revealed
An anonymous hacker group has hacked, a website that lets married people find extramarital affairs. The group claims to have stolen the personal data of 37 million users including 180,000 based in Israel. They are threatening to reveal names unless the site is taken down. Lots of nervous folks are holding their breath.

Beware of Your Bartender
A female Israeli detective is revealed to be responsible for the arrest of at least 30 drug dealers in Rishon Letzion. She worked undercover as a bartender in a popular local pub for several months. You never know.

israelAM for July 20, 2015

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US to Israel – We Can Agree to Disagree
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter arrived in Israel to meet with PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yaalon. Carter supports the Iran deal but claims that he won’t try to convince Israel to do the same.”I’m not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel,” Carter said in an interview. “We can agree to disagree.” Carter hasn’t indicated that the US will compensate Israel militarily for the Iran deal. The fear is that ending the sanctions currently in place against Iran will provide Iran with resources to increase their military capabilities and finance their terror proxies including Hezbollah and Hamas.

Regarding compensation, PM Netanyahu said, “if this deal is supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbors safer, why should we be compensated with anything?” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz added, “We are very grateful for the assistance we get from the United States, but I think it’s wrong to use the word compensation because there is no real compensation for a nuclear threat.”

Just two months ago Washington announced a $1.9 billion arms sale to Israel for a range of missiles and bombs, including bunker busters that can penetrate reinforced defenses to reach underground targets, but doesn’t include the Pentagon’s biggest bunker buster bomb. Under the current US-Israel defense pact, Israel receives about $3 billion in military aid from the US each year. The pact expires in 2018 and is currently being renegotiated.

Meanwhile, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, said yesterday that the nuclear deal would not change Iran’s policy in supporting allies in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon and among the Palestinians. That’s bad news for Israel and the rest of the free world.

Protecting Iran’s Nuclear Capability
Israeli security officials are puzzled and worried, to say the least, about one small paragraph in the nuclear accord between the Western powers and Iran. Paragraph 10 on page 142 agrees to, “Co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical systems.” That sounds like the US and European allies will be responsible for helping protect Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Over the years there have been numerous acts of sabotage targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities that have significantly slowed Iran’s bomb making efforts. While no one has ever claimed responsibility, the CIA and Mossad are assumed to be involved. The security “co-operation” clause in the new agreement would obligate the allies to protect Iran from these kinds of attacks, including those originating in Israel. The clause obviously applies only to non military nuclear facilities. Of course, Iran claims to only have non-military facilities.

If you believe that Iran plans to continue it’s ultimate goal of developing nuclear weapons, as Israel clearly does, then this clause presents Israel with a huge problem. Will sabotaging Iran’s nuclear capabilities be viewed as an attack against the US? Bizarre, and scary.

Germany Stands Up for Israel in Iran
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel urged Iran at the start of a three-day visit to improve its relationship with Israel if it wants to establish closer economic ties with Germany and other western powers. He offered Germany as a mediator. “You can’t have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don’t discuss such issues too and try to move them along,” Gabriel told a gathering of German and Iranian business people in Tehran. “Questioning this state’s (Israel’s) right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept.”

Germany was once Iran’s leading overseas supplier until 2007, when it lost its position to China. The Germans view the nuclear agreement as the first step in the process of winning new business. Trade between the 2 countries could equal 6 billion Euros within just two years.

Herzog denies Unity bid
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union party denied that he was engaged in negotiations to join the current government coalition. He said, “Benjamin Netanyahu must be replaced. He needs to be sent home. I’m saying no to crawling into Netanyahu’s extremist right government.”

Government sources have said that there are ongoing discussions about the possibility of a unity government, something that many in the government favor. But without compromising their fundamental right wing principles, a joint venture seems impossible. Democracy rules.

Terrorists arrested. Leader still free.
Israeli security forces have arrested the terror cell responsible for the murder of Israeli farmer Malachi Rosenfeld last month and for shooting at an ambulance and other Israeli vehicles.The leader of the terror cell, Ahmad Najar, a Hamas operative, was not among the suspects arrested. Najar was jailed for taking part in murdering 6 Israelis but was released in the Gilad Shalit exchange. He currently lives in Jordan where he continues to organize terror attacks.

Terror Vs. Terror in Gaza
A radical Isis inspired terror group called Salafists are thought to be responsible for bombing 6 vehicles in Gaza belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials. The Salafists have been bombing public buildings, attacking Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, and firing occasional rockets into Israel to provoke Israeli retaliation against Hamas. Hamas has been arresting Salafists. And the cycle continues.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Cursing Rabbi
Ezra Sheinberg, the Safed rabbi and kabbalist jailed for allegedly molesting and raping at least 11 women, has been placing Kabbalistic curses upon his jailers. In response the Chief Rabbi of Safed, R. Shmuel Eliyahu, has told the corrections officers not to fear. “I don’t believe that someone in Heaven is listening to his curses.” R. Eliyahu then gave them his own blessing and told them that they are performing a Mitzvah by guarding the criminal. It’s unclear whether this will be enough to keep some of the guards from steering clear of the cursing rabbi.

Israeli Gambling Domination
Israeli gaming company 888 Holding plc operate the world’s largest online casino and poker operation. It just got even bigger by acquiring the British-Austrian gambling company Digital Entertainment for $1.4 billion. This gives the term “holy rollers” a whole new meaning.

Brain Drain
According to latest government figures there are 21,400 Israeli academians, including 2,400 PHD’s, living and working outside of Israel. Minister of Trade Aryeh Deri said that he’ll continue working on getting them back home to help build Israel’s economy. Good luck.

Yes, This Really Happened
Trying to flee from police, a 28 year old burglar in Ramle hopped into the backseat of a car and yelled, “drive, drive”. The driver was a detective in an unmarked car. Yup, that really happened.