Israel News for September 25, 2015

< back to sign up

Security Cabinet
The PM’s office announced that the security cabinet has decided in favor of setting a four year minimum sentence for stone and firebomb throwers. The new regulation will be in place for three years.

The Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, recommended issuing the order for one year, but the cabinet sided with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s three year proposal.

The minimum sentence will only apply to adult suspects. Judges will also have the latitude to deviate from the minimum sentence. Currently, the maximum sentence for stone and firebomb throwers is 20 years.

The cabinet also took measures against the parents of stone throwers who are minors. The measures include revoking stipends of parents whose children are sentenced to prison. The cabinet will examine the legality of fining parents of minors aged 12-14, and imposing bail on parents of minors under the age of 12.

Regarding rules of engagement for police, security cabinet rules that police officers can open fire whenever their lives or the lives of civilians are in danger.

“Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk,” Netanyahu said. “From now on, they will be allowed to open fire – and they will know they have a right to do so – when anyone’s life is in danger.”

Further Reading:

No Calls Taken
Don’t you hate it when you know someone is not taking your calls? Well, that seems to be what’s happening when PM Netanyahu calls Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss ways of defusing tensions on the Temple Mount.

According to Haaretz sources, the King has told guests in recent days that he refuses to take phone calls from Netanyahu, to prevent Israel from using them to give the impression that the two nations are coordinating their reactions to the ongoing violence on the Temple Mount (he didn’t say Temple Mount). The London-based Rai al Youm newspaper quoted sources from within Jordan’s royal palace who confirmed the phone snubbing.

The King recently hosted Arab Israeli Knesset members to discuss the Temple Mount violence and the claims that Israel has been coordinating with the Hashemite kingdom. During the meeting, Abdullah said that Al-Aqsa Mosque was open for Muslims only and cannot be shared. “I’ll say once and for all, there is no partnership, no division, Al-Aqsa is a Muslim place of worship.

The king also spoke with US Vice President Biden and asked him to act against “the ongoing Israeli policies at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and end the aggression.”

Although traditionally viewed as the protector of the Jerusalem holy places, Abdullah doesn’t really have any power to pressure Israel or the Palestinians to do anything. But having him on their side would be a huge PR victory for Israel, which is probably why Netanyahu keeps dialing his number. Will he ever answer? The chances of him choosing to partner with Israel in anything related to Al Aqsa and be seen as a traitor by the entire Muslim world are about as good as … fill in your own scenario.

Maybe the PM has the wrong number?

Further Reading:

No Refugees
PM Netanyahu’s policy of not accepting any Syrian refugees into Israel has some unlikely fans. The Druze living in the Israeli Golan, who used to be Syrian citizens and who never really made their peace with Israeli rule, are totally against Syrians leaving their homeland.

To quote Salah Abu Salah, 62, a Golan Druze elder whose words echo the sentiments of many here, “Anyone who abandons his land is not worth a cent in my eyes. Where you are born is where you should die. That is something I learned from my grandfather, who learned it from his grandfather. We must fight until our last breath for our land.”
So wherever they are, the Druze are there to stay.

Further Reading:

Pride Labels
While the European Union decides how to implement a policy of requiring Israeli products from East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan to be labeled as such, one Israeli winemaker is proudly getting a head start.

Bazelet Hagolan, a boutique winery in the Golan Heights, recently unveiled new labels bearing the Israeli flag for its bottles for export. “I’m proud of this flag, and I’m Israeli and I’m not ashamed,” said winery owner Yoav Levy, calling on other Israeli wineries to follow suit.

Levy’s winery manufactures 80,000 bottles a year, of which 20% is exported to North America and Europe. He says he’s been getting lots of positive feedback from customers and that business is looking up.

Is this a pro Israel message, or is the wine just too good to pass up? There’s only one way to find out.

Further Reading:

Happy Birthday Mossad
Yesterday the Mossad celebrated its 65th birthday with a good ol’ fashioned birthday bash. For some reason most of the attendants were kept anonymous, but we do know that Prime Minister Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz and the Mossad Chief Tamir Pardu were there to celebrate.

Pardu revealed that the Mossad has more female employees than ever. Women comprise 40% of the agency, 24% of whom are in key positions. He also said that the Mossad employees are younger than ever, with 23% between the ages of 22-32.

In his speech the PM thanked the Mossad agents saying, “what has occurred over the past 100 years is nothing short of a miracle. But we know that miracles have their limits. God and history do not hand them out freely. We need to play our part in them time after time. And I trust in you to continue this work.”

Further Reading:,7340,L-4703846,00.html

Israel News for September 22, 2015

< back to sign up

Traitorous Politics?
PM Netanyahu recently appointed Dani Dayan as Israel’s new ambassador to Brazil. The Left is in an uproar, because Dayan served as Chairman of the Yesha Council – the umbrella organization of Jewish settlement municipal councils in the West Bank – from 2007 to 2013.

In announcing Dayan’s appointment, Netanyahu said that “Latin America is one of Israel’s key destinations as part of the efforts to develop new markets that will contribute to increased economic growth in Israel. I am convinced that Dani Dayan will bring his vast experience to the position and will deepen the relations between Israel and Brazil.”

Several former ambassadors and left-wing activists met with the Brazilian ambassadors to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to convey the message that acceptance of Dani Dayan’s appointment would be tantamount to granting international legitimacy to settlements. If a host country doesn’t accept the appointment of a new ambassador, then the appointment cannot go through.

So basically, these Israelis are trying to foil their own government by appealing directly to a foreign government because they disagree with their government’s decision. Doesn’t sound too kosher.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon blasted them on his Facebook page for slandering Israel and called their attempt “shameful, dangerous and despicable.” He added that, “Someone who has a political dispute with someone else ought to keep the argument about it at home, and not act in malicious ways that end up hurting Israel and its citizens first and foremost.”

Ministers from the Left and Right strongly criticized the unprecedented move by the activists. The only defense that the accused could offer was that they had no choice, since they have no power within the Israeli government.

So much for democracy.

Further reading –

Israel and Russia
PM Netanyahu met with Russian President Putin yesterday in Moscow to discuss Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria and how it might affect Israel. After the meeting the PM said that the two sides agreed to establish a coordination mechanism to prevent misunderstandings and unintended confrontations between the Israeli military and Russian forces deployed in Syria.

Netanyahu added that the bulk of the conversation with Putin, which lasted two and a half hours, was dedicated to the security situation on Israel’s northern border. He noted that he made it clear to the Russian president that Israel will continue to take action to prevent the transfer of lethal weapons from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah and to thwart Iranian attempts to carry out terror attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights.

The PM said that Putin made clear that he will “ensure that whatever intentions Russia has in Syria, it will not be a partner to Iranian aggression” against Israel.

Putin said, “We never forget that in the State of Israel reside many former Soviet citizens, and that has a special implication on the relationship between our two states. Every Russian action in the area has always been very responsible. We are aware of the artillery against Israel and we condemn it.”

The PM said that he briefed the U.S. administration on the details of his trip to Russia and the issues that were discussed with Putin. But with the Iran deal in place, making friends with Russia to make sure they don’t join up with the Iranian’s is the prudent thing to do. If you can trust Russia.

Further reading –

Palestinian Poll
The Israeli right might not be the only ones against a two state solution.

A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a leading research group in the Palestinian territories, found that 51 percent of Palestinians oppose the two-state solution while 48 percent support it. That’s down from 51% pro and 48% against three months ago.

If new elections were held in the Palestinian territories, 35 percent said they would vote for Hamas and 35 percent for Fatah.

Asked what the most effective way of establishing an independent Palestinian state next to Israel would be, 42 percent said armed action and 29 percent said negotiation. Three months ago only 36 percent said armed action.

Finally, 78 percent of Palestinians think the chances of getting their own state in the next five years are “slim to non-existent”.

The statistics don’t bode well for a peaceful solution to the conflict anytime soon. It just looks like the Palestinians are becoming more radicalized and viewing violence as their only solution.

Further reading –

Supermodel’s Charedi Chupah
Supermodel Bar Rafaeli’s upcoming wedding to businessman Adi Ezra this coming Thursday is causing quite a stir in the charedi community. Why you ask? Because Rabbi Dovid Grossman, the Chief Rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek and the founder of the Migdal Or organization, will be officiating at the ceremony.

Hardly anyone in the charedi community ever probably heard of Bar Rafaeli. But now that one of the most prominent and beloved charedi rabbis is going to be doing the honors, everyone’s interested in stirring up some controversy.

Some charedi commentators are decrying the fact that R. Grossman will be denigrating himself by officiating at the wedding of a woman who doesn’t exemplify the qualities of modest dress and lifestyle that they believe is incumbent upon all respectable Jewish women.

Other charedi pundits say that R. Grossman is just fulfilling his rabbinic duty by performing a Jewish wedding, regardless of who the bride and groom are. In fact, rabbis in Israel perform weddings every day without discriminating against the lifestyles of the couples they are marrying.

R. Grossman, famous for his outreach to the non-observant community, doesn’t seem very worried. In a recent interview on a charedi radio station he said that Bar told him that during her time under the chupah (wedding canopy) she would like to feel close to God and distance herself from her “Bohemian” lifestyle”. How can he deny her that?

Further reading –

Jews Flock to Kotel
The recent tense security situation on the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem didn’t keep Jews from asking God for forgiveness on the eve of Yom Kippur. Tens of thousands of Jewish men and women gathered at the Kotel to say selichot (prayers for forgiveness). The prayers were led by Chief Rabbis of Israel David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Chief Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinovitz and other senior rabbis and laymen.

The worshippers included religious and non religious, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, charedi and secular. It was a beautiful display of the unity of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
May we all merit blessings and forgiveness for this Yom Kippur, and a new year filled with health, happiness and peace.

Further reading –

Israel News for September 21, 2015

< back to sign up

Stones and Punishments
There’s no question that there will soon be a mandatory minimum sentence for stone throwers. The only questions are how long will the regulation last for and how long will the sentences be.

The PM and the Justice Minister want the mandatory minimum sentence regulation to be in force for at least 3 years and sentences to be set at 5 years. The Attorney General wants the regulation to be in place for a temporary one year trial period and the actual sentences to be set at 2.5 years.

Either way, it’s bad news for stone throwers and hopefully good news for the general public, if the mandatory sentences succeed in dissuading people from their deadly stone throwing activities.

We can live with name calling, but the sticks and stones need to go.

Dirty Cop
The Israeli Police force has suffered from a multitude of scandals that have tarnished its reputation and eroded the public’s trust in it. Now there’s more.

Eran Malka, a former top officer in the Israel Police’s anti-corruption investigation unit, Lahav 433, was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison, after admitting to passing on sensitive information about investigations to attorney Ronel Fisher in return for bribes.

According to the plea bargain signed by the police investigations unit with Malka’s defense attorneys, Malka will hand over all the information he has and testify against former commander of the police’s Central District, Bruno Stein, and the former head of the Tel Aviv State Attorney’s office, Ruth David, who were allegedly involved in the bribery scheme. (More scandals anyone?) In return, Malka will get to keep his pension.

Malka expressed regret and noted that he had been captivated by Fisher’s charm. He said that he had considered suicide and asked for mercy for himself and his wife and children.

The Judge said, “The damage he caused is twofold: both direct damage to specific investigations, some of which have been postponed, but mainly to public confidence in the purity of the investigation and the investigative process. There is both immediate damage and future damage.”

Chinese are Coming
PM Netanyahu has announced plans to bring in 20,000 Chinese construction workers to help build new housing, as part of his effort to reduce housing prices by increasing supply.

Israel’s construction sector currently employs 216,000 workers, including 37,000 Palestinians and 6,000 foreigners, 3,700 of whom are Chinese. The Chinese workers are currently brought into Israel under private contracts between Israeli and Chinese companies. Now the two governments are working on creating an official agreement to regulate the rights, employment conditions and compensation of the Chinese. The agreement hasn’t yet been completed, but the workers will still be brought in.

According the Finance Ministry, the work pace of Chinese workers currently building high-rises in Israel is 50% faster than that of Israelis and Palestinians.

The question here is whether the presence of 20,000 Chinese males will affect the social structure in Israel. The country already has thousands of African foreign workers living primarily in Tel Aviv, and that experience hasn’t been positive for the Israelis in the Tel Aviv neighborhood where most of them are concentrated. Will the Chinese experience be different? The government seems to think so. Or maybe the need and increased productivity is enough to trump the social consequences? The desire of Israelis for more affordable housing is probably the overriding factor in getting the PM the support he needs to bring over the Chinese workers.

On the bright side, the quality of Chinese food in the country is bound to improve, big time.

Startup nation
Looking to invest in a startup? International accounting and consulting firm Delloite just released their annual survey ranking the countries whose startups investors prefer to invest in. Guess who ranked first? The US. Ok, guess who ranked second? Israel!

Commenting on the results, Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry leader Tal Chen said, “This is the fourth straight year that Israel is rated in second place after the US in the level of confidence among foreign investors, compared with investments elsewhere in the world. Not only is the level of confidence in Israel higher than in other countries examined, other than the US, but if the investors’ level of confidence is examined in comparison with the major US markets (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Silicon Valley), Israel comes second only to Silicon Valley.”

Asian investors, headed by those from Japan and China, have recently been increasing their interest and their investments in Israeli startups, and that is expected to continue and grow.

The Startup Nation continues to thrive.

Sodas for Syrians
Israeli company Sodastream International Ltd. (Nasdaq: SODA) has been under constant pressure from the BDS movement for having had their major manufacturing plant located in Ma’aleh Adumim (West Bank). The public relations effect of the pressure forced Sodastream to relocate their plant to the Negev, near the Bedouin town for Rahat, which resulted in many Palestinians losing their well paying jobs. Not a great outcome for BDS.

Now the company announced that it would be willing to help absorb up to 1,000 Syrian refugees by giving them jobs at the plant and helping them settle in Rahat.

Rahat has a population of 55,000 and is the largest Bedouin town in the world. At present, 30% of the 1,100 workers in SodaStream’s nearby factory are residents of Rahat.

The PM has repeatedly said that Israel will not allow Syrian refugees into Israel, so Sodastream’s offer isn’t really practical, but it does make for some nice PR and a slap in the face of their BDS opponents. Maybe.

Israel News for September 18, 2015

< back to sign up

Bus Stoned
An Egged bus driving through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Al-Amud yesterday was stoned and later torched. The driver escaped unharmed. In another incident a bus driver was lightly wounded by shattered glass after stones were thrown at his vehicle near the Hizma checkpoint, at the northeastern entrance to Jerusalem.

Also that day, molotov cocktails were thrown at the Ofrit army base near Mount Scopus causing a fire, but no injuries.

In an attempt to prevent more violence on the Temple Mount during Friday prayers, the police will only be permitting men over the age of 40 to enter the area.

The general police presence will also be increased in East Jerusalem. Over 800 officers have been added to the existing force.

Let’s pray for peace in Jerusalem.

Electricity Arrears
Talk about falling behind on your electric bill. According to the chairman of the Israel Electric Company (IEC) General (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal, the Palestinian Authority owes the electric company around 1.7 billion shekels. That’s a shocking amount (excuse the pun), and the IEC is getting close to turning off the lights in the PA.

Ron-Tal made it clear that he intended to limit the flow of electricity to the PA soon, as has already happened before, saying, “As a government company, we have to coordinate what we do with the government, but I intend – already in the coming weeks – to again limit the flow of electricity to the PA until it pays, or until the problem is solved by government decisions. This will not continue at the expense of the citizens of Israel; it’s a scandal.”

Israeli Nukes
Everyone knows that Israel has nuclear weapons, but Israel has never publicly admitted to or denied that assumption. At this year’s annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN agency responsible for monitoring nuclear arsenals, nineteen predominantly Arab states wanted the agency’s member states to express concern over Israel’s nuclear capabilities, call on it to join the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have the agency regularly report on Israel’s nuclear program. That would not be good news for Israel.

Yesterday, 61 countries voted against the Arab-drafted resolution, 43 in favor and 33 abstained. Among those voting against the resolution were the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, all European Union members, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, as well as South American countries such as Uruguay and Panama. Kenya and other countries in Africa and the Pacific also opposed the resolution. Many others abstained, including Brazil and India.

Russia, China, Turkey and South Africa joined the Arab countries in backing the resolution.

Last year, 58 countries voted against the initiative.

Nice to see that Israel still has a few friends out there in the world.

Iceland Warms Up
Yesterday we reported that the Reykjavik city council passed a motion to boycott Israeli goods. Well, the government of Iceland came out against the decision saying that it isn’t in line with the country’s foreign policy and doesn’t reflect Iceland’s relationship with Israel.
Iceland rocks!

Tel Aviv Tops List
Israelis love coming out on top (who doesn’t). Well, they’ve done so again, but this time they aren’t too happy about it. According to a report just released by UBS bank, Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in the Middle East. Second place went to Dubai.

Tel Aviv was rated as the 22nd most expensive city in the world. But when it comes to wage levels, Tel Aviv is down in thirty-third place, meaning that salaries don’t keep up with what Tel Avivians have to pay for goods and services.

On average, a worker in Tel Aviv has to work 21 minutes to buy a Big Mac, 12 minutes to buy a kilo of bread, 12 minutes to buy a kilo of rice and 75 hours to buy an iPhone 6.

On the bright side, rents in Tel Aviv are 40% lower than those in New York City. But since NYC boasts the highest rents (and high salaries), that discount might not be so bright after all.

Hey, let’s not forget the awesome beaches!

Sick Chicks
According to the testimony of the senior veterinarian at the Shufersal supermarket chain to a Knesset committee, most of the chickens sold in Israel have salmonella. That certainly ruffled the feathers of some Knesset members. The Ministry of Health agreed with his claim. So everyone agrees: make sure you cook your chicken really well in Israel.

Art Exhibitionists
A group of Spanish artists decided to demonstrate their solidarity with Palestinians and their opposition to the security wall separating Israel from the PA by posing for photographs in front of the wall in Jerusalem. Did I mention that they were naked and wearing clown noses, with their pants and underwear around their ankles? Yup, it’s true.

Well, the Palestinians were not pleased, to say the least. They considered it an insult to Islam and their cause. You try to do something nice and that’s the thanks you get. That’ll probably be the last time those Spaniards drop their pants and bare their souls (and other stuff) for the Palestinians.

Israel News for September 17, 2015

< back to sign up

Here We Go Again
Remember Mohammed Allan, the Palestinian prisoner who conducted a 66 day hunger strike and stopped after the High Court temporarily suspended his administrative detention? Well, the good news for Allan is that he finally got well enough to be released from the Ashkelon hospital he was recovering in. The bad news is that he was rearrested moments after his discharge.

Allan was arrested and held in administrative detention for being an Islamic Jihad terror operative. The administrative detention law allows authorities to detain suspects without formally charging them or bringing them to trial. The reason for the law is to protect sources and witnesses who would be in danger if formal charges detailing the specific crimes of the suspect were released.

Allan went on a hunger strike to protest the administrative detention law. His health condition reached the critical stage where the government considered force feeding him to save his life, which would be legal according to a recently passed Israeli law. To avoid that, the government offered to release him if he went into exile for four years. He declined the offer, and the case went before the High Court.

The court decided to temporarily suspend his administrative detention. Allan and his supporters considered that a victory and Allan ended his hunger strike. He continued to receive medical treatment and nourishment at the Ashkelon hospital where he had been detained.

At the time of the case, the government had made it clear that the only way they would agree to release Allan was if it was determined that he had sustained severe brain damage from his hunger strike, which would make him no longer a security risk.

Thanks to his good luck and skilled Israeli doctors, Allan didn’t suffer brain damage, or at least enough to no longer deem him a security risk. So as expected, he was rearrested before being released. In response, Allan has resumed his hunger strike.

It is unlikely the government will agree to release someone they believe to be a terrorist. Besides the obvious security risk, it would be a signal for other prisoners to go on their own hunger strikes to get released. The question now is whether the government will end up force feeding Allan, if his health deteriorates to it’s previous levels again.

Stop Stoners
Alexander Levlovich, 64, was driving home from a Rosh Hashanah dinner with two passengers on Sunday night. As he was driving through Arnona to his Armon Hanetziv neighborhood, both of which are located in East Jerusalem, his car was stoned, causing him to lose control and slam into a pole. Yesterday, he was buried.

During a tour of Levlovich’s Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanetziv, PM Netanyahu told reporters that “we’re changing the policy to a war on stone-throwers, not just in Jerusalem and the roads leading to it, but also in the Galilee and the Negev.”

The PM, the Defense Minister and the Internal Security Minister all want to allow the police to use snipers against stone throwers, just like the IDF does. The Attorney General is looking into the matter for the PM, to determine if it’s legal. The ultimate goal: to put a stop to the stoning attacks.

Meanwhile, there were three days of violent riots between police and Arabs on the Temple Mount resulting in numerous injuries on both sides.

Iceland Slams Israel
The city council of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, has adopted a motion to boycott Israeli-made goods. According to the motion, the boycott will be in place “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.”

Does Iceland actually buy stuff from Israel? It doesn’t really matter. It’s the thought that counts.

Chief Rabbis Speak Out
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef released a joint statement warning Jews to steer clear of an upcoming conference in Jerusalem organized by the International Christian Embassy saying that a major purpose of the event and the organization is to convert Jews to Christianity.

The statement said that, “even though it may be that the conference organizers are friends to the State of Israel, in practice the event constitutes a spiritual danger and undermines [the state’s] Jewish character.”

Seems like the chief rabbis are just doing their job. The evangelical Christians have stated clearly that one of their missions is to convert the Jews in order to hasten the coming of their messiah. So shouldn’t rabbis warn Jews to avoid the risk of being converted? (No offense to our Christian readers) Isn’t the primary job of a rabbi to protect and enhance Judaism and Jewish spirituality? Go rabbis!

Shaked’s New Diggs
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) is doing pretty well, at least in her standard of living. She just purchased a 2700 sq. Ft. House in North Tel Aviv for 6.7 million shekels ($1.74 million), which is comparable to buying a 5000 sq ft house in a trendy Manhattan suburb. She’s selling the Tel Aviv penthouse that she’s lived in for the past few years, if you happen to be in the market. Before getting into politics Shaked worked as a software engineer and then as marketing manager for Texas Instruments in Israel. Shaked is 39, married with two children. Her husband is a fighter pilot. Go Ayelet!

Israeli Salad Woes
Despite the high prices of food in Israel (especially if it’s imported), you could always depend on getting inexpensive tomatoes and cucumbers that taste way better than anything produced in the US. That’s probably why Israeli salad consists primarily of, you guessed it: tomatoes and cucumbers. That might have to change.

Due to the intense heat wave and natural price inflation around holiday time, cucumbers have doubled in price and tomatoes have jumped 87% since the beginning of September.

In an attempt to make Israeli salad available even to the poorest consumers, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel permitted veggie imports. But his announcement came just 4 business days before the start of Rosh Hashanah, which didn’t leave enough time to import anything. Israeli salad lovers (which is just about everyone, right?) are so mad they probably will not be granting Ariel forgiveness, which could be a big problem for him come Yom Kippur.

Save the Israeli salad!!

Israel News for September 11, 2015

< back to sign up

Iran and Russia
According to Israeli defense officials, hundreds of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrived in Syria over the last few days to help the Assad regime fight rebel forces. They’ll most likely deploy near the Lebanese border to assist Hezbollah fighters there. Russia already has military advisors and security forces operating in Syria, and is planning to bring in combat aircraft and helicopters.

Israel believes that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month in Moscow to coordinate military activities in Syria.

Has Russia found, in Iran, its ideal partner to counter US influence in the Middle East? The possibilities are frightening. On the bright side, they’re both bent on destroying ISIS, and they’re the only ones who are willing to use ground troops to do so.

Discriminatory Labeling
The European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Union to issue labels for products imported to Europe from areas occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem, the Golan and the West Bank settlements.

The European Parliament motion also encouraged the EU to step up its role in promoting a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, and emphasized that “only non-violent means and respect for human rights and humanitarian law can achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the EU motion was “discriminatory with a sharp smell of boycott,” and added that “under the guise of a technical step, this is an attempt to force a diplomatic solution instead of encouraging the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Europe is acting with hypocritical sanctimoniousness toward Israel when it does not consider proposing similar solutions to northern Cyprus or Western Sahara.”

PM Netanyahu has tried to block the implementation of the motion in private meetings with several European leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron. In a statement the PM said, “The European Parliament decision is unjustified, it is just a perversion of justice and a distortion of reason, and I think that it also harms peace, it doesn’t advance it. The roots of the conflict are not territories and the roots of the conflict are not the settlements. We already have a historical memory as to what happened when Europe marked products of Jews.”

France Wants Jews
Last year 7,000 Jews emigrated from France to Israel. Another 8,000 are expected to leave this year. But the French want their Jews back.

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, the French government is concerned that the large number of educated and professional Jews leaving the country is causing a brain drain. They’ve sent their economic minister, Emmanuel Macron, to Israel to try and convince French immigrants to return.

While anti-semitism is assumed to be the main reason for increased Aliyah, the weak French economy seems to be playing a significant role too. In any case, France’s loss is Israel’s gain.

Israeli Wealth
Forbes Magazine has released its list of the top 100 wealthiest people in Israel. Every one of them is a billionaire, in shekels ($1 = close to 4 Shekels). The aggregate wealth of the top 100 equals 500 billion shekels.

The top position on the list went to Patrick Drahi at 60 billion shekels. A distant second went to Eyal Ofer with 34.3 billion. It’s doubtful that anyone who made the list is complaining. Well, in Israel, you never know.

Mission Impossible Accomplished
A married woman left her abusive husband and fled to Israel. She wanted a divorce. But there was a problem: the woman fled from a Muslim country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel. The husband was still there.

It took five years, but due to the incredible efforts of a special unit of the Bet Din (rabbinical court) in Israel that deals with obtaining divorce documents in difficult situations, she has finally received her Get (divorce).

After long and difficult secret negotiations through intermediaries in a third country, the Bet Din sent in three undercover rabbinic emissaries to the Muslim country who obtained a signed document from the husband directing them to write and deliver the divorce document. They made it back to Israel, and the woman is now free to remarry.

Drivers Don’t Pray
The Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the Ponevich Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, one of the most prestigious in the world, has ruled that students in the yeshiva who have a driver’s license will not be allocated a seat in the yeshiva for Rosh Hashanah prayers. In the past every student got a seat in the Yeshiva without exception.

The affected students received phone calls from the administration over the last few days informing them of their predicament. Most of them happen to be 25 yrs. or older, and they aren’t taking this sitting down (literally). They claim that it’s really not the Rosh Yeshiva but the gabbai (facilities manager, sort of) who is responsible for the ruling, because he needs more available seats. The students plan to ignore the order and come to services anyway. Should be a fun service.

Israel News for September 10, 2015

< back to sign up

Temple Mount Crackdown
Jews who visit the Temple Mount are often harassed by groups of Muslims called Mourabitoon and Mourabitaat — Arabic for male and female “sentries”. The mission of the “sentries” is to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque from the infidels, and they use physical violence and intimidation to get their job done. The Israeli government has finally had enough.

The defense ministry yesterday banned the groups, making anyone who takes part in, organizes or funds the group’s activities subject to criminal prosecution.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who signed the ban, said in a statement that the Mourabitoon and Mourabitaat are a “main cause in the creation of tension and violence on the Temple Mount specifically and Jerusalem in general”.

It’s already illegal for Jews to even move their lips in prayer on the Temple Mount. Now it’s illegal for Muslims to harass and incite violence against them. Sound fair?

Israeli Murdered in Nigeria
Nir Rozmarin, a 42 year old Israeli working in Nigeria, was killed in an attempted kidnapping yesterday. The local Chabad emissary, who is organizing the transfer of the body to Israel, said that a jeep entered the building site where the Israeli worked in the morning, and that four men got out and grabbed him. He started shouting and tried to resist. People who were working in the office went downstairs, and a police officer who was outside the site immediately came to see what was happening there. The men began beating the officer. Rozmarin tried to run away, but they shot him in the head from close range.

May his memory be a blessing.

No More Judges
The government committee tasked with appointing rabbinical judges will meet today but is not expected to vote on new appointments.

In addition to the regular civil and criminal courts, Israel maintains a system of rabbinic courts. The rabbinic courts can hear cases relating to business or monetary matters, but their main purpose and power is in the realm of divorce and conversion. The only way to marry and divorce in the State of Israel is via the official rabbinate. That makes the rabbinic courts the only place to adjudicate divorce cases.

Many Israelis feel that the rabbinic court judges are out of touch with modern, secular Israelis and that they make it difficult for women to obtain divorces and thereby remarry. That’s because most of the judges are charedi rabbis who generally abide by stringent positions in Jewish law.

The non-charedi public wants the committee to appoint religious zionist rabbinic judges, many of whom identify with Tzohar, a rabbinic organization seen as more sensitive to the needs of the non-orthodox public.

The charedi establishment, which in effect controls the official Israeli rabbinate, doesn’t feel that the Tzohar affiliated rabbis are strict enough and can be trusted to follow Jewish law according to charedi standards (which they believe are the only correct ones).

The dispute is reflected in the appointment committee, which is currently split. So instead of appointing 24 new judges to regional courts and 6 new judges to the supreme rabbinic court, no new judges will be appointed, and the system will remain backlogged and charedi dominated.

Yesterday, 30 agunot (women who are unable to obtain a religious divorce from their husbands and therefore cannot remarry) wrote a letter to the PM and the head of the committee begging them to appoint rabbinic judges who will be more likely to release them from their “chained” status.

This is just another version of the battle that’s being fought over conversions, which led to the formation of an alternative court by a segment of the religious zionist rabbinate. It looks like the same thing might eventually happen in the general rabbinic court system. Unless the charedi and religious zionist rabbis can learn to live in peace, the future of Jewish unity in Israel doesn’t look great.

US in Sinai
In a previous issue we wrote about the 720 US peacekeeping troops stationed in Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and how the US was evaluating ways to protect them from increased terrorism in Sinai or whether to simply withdraw them.

Last week four US soldiers and two Fijians were wounded when their vehicles were hit by a roadside bomb during a routine patrol near their base.

Anonymous US officials have told the Associated Press that the US will be sending at least 75 additional troops to the Sinai force, including a light-infantry platoon, a surgical team, surveillance equipment and other assets designed to beef up security.

US Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that the US supports the role of the MFO and will continue to evaluate ways to better increase the security of the troops.

Back to Egypt
After four years of working out of the ambassador’s residence, the Foreign Ministry reopened the official Israeli embassy in Cairo, in a new location. The old embassy was closed after rioters stormed it in 2011.

The Israeli flag was raised and the national anthems of both countries were played during the ceremony. Israeli diplomats including the ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren and Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold attended, along with U.S. envoy to Egypt, Ambassador R. Stephen Beecroft.

The Egyptian government did not send any minister, or even a senior foreign ministry representative, to the opening ceremony. The deputy director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s protocol department represented Cairo.

Are the Egyptians just not that excited about the new embassy, or are they just playing to the Islamic masses by snubbing Israel? Hey, as long as there’s peace.

Shabbat Soccer a Go
Yesterday we told you that the Israeli Football Association decided to cancel all Shabbat games based on a recent labor court ruling. We also told you that Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev was against the ruling and had instructed the Attorney General to find a way to allow the games to continue.

Well, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said yesterday that he would not enforce the Shabbat prohibitions. His reasoning: since the regulations haven’t been enforced for the past decade, why rock the boat and start enforcing them now? Solid.

The games, and the legal battle, will continue.

Israel News for September 9, 2015

< back to sign up

The Book of Life
In anticipation of the upcoming Rosh Hashana accounting of “who shall live and who shall die”, the Central Bureau of Statistics has released its own accounting of the Holy Land’s population for the year 5776 (Hebrew calendar).

The population in Israel grew by 158,000 or 1.9%, in line with recent years. That’s made up of 170,000 births, 40,000 deaths and 28,000 new immigrants (do the math).

Aliyah increased by 35%, with new immigrants coming from Ukraine (26%), France (25%), Russia (21%) and the United States (9%).

The total population of Israel: 8,412,000. That’s made up of 6,300,000 Jews (75%), 1,746,000 Arabs (21%) and another 4% that don’t fit into either category.

To put this in perspective, the population of Jordan is 6.5 million and that of Lebanon is 4.5 million. Syria was at 22.85 million, but it’s probably closer to 18 million today.

At the current rate, in ten years there should be close to 8 million Jews in Israel. That means that for the first time in over 2000 years, the majority of world jewry will reside in the land of Israel.

Shabbat Soccer
Last week an Israeli labor court ruled that soccer games on Shabbat constitute a criminal offense (based on Israeli law, not Jewish law) unless the teams obtain a waiver excusing them from the Shabbat restrictions.

Hundreds of Israeli companies and businesses have received these waivers. The problem in this case is that the waivers are issued by the Economy Minister, who happens to be Aryeh Deri, the leader of the charedi Shas party. The chances of him issuing the waivers are less than the likelihood of getting a snowstorm in Eilat — in the summer.

So, the Israeli Football Association has decided that there won’t be any soccer games next Saturday.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev doesn’t like this situation one bit (maybe she has season tickets?). She’s established a committee to figure out a solution within 60 days. She’s also pressing the attorney general to figure out a way around the immediate crisis, telling him to, “find a way of opening the league and continuing the policy of non-enforcement for 60 days, during which time the association and the directorate will have to find a solution.”

Regev feels that the decision to play or not play on Shabbat should not be decided by the courts. She wants the decision to be in the hands of the teams. “Teams that don’t want to play on Shabbat won’t play on Shabbat. And those that want to play will play.”

The case originated from complaints by religious players in the National Soccer League who protested the scheduling of league games on Shabbat.

In a related story, Economy Minister Deri has ordered the closure of the Israeli pavilion at the IBC 2015 exhibition in Amsterdam on three of the five days of the exhibition, since they fall on Shabbat and Rosh Hashana. IBC is the premier annual event for professionals engaged in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment and news content worldwide.

The simple solution to the soccer dilemna is to turn Sunday into a day off and have the games then. That would make a lot of working folks very happy.

Labor and Charedim Unite
Liat Shochat has won the election for mayor of the town of Or Yehuda, outside of Tel Aviv. The interesting part of the story is that she was supported by the Charedi and Religious Zionist parties and her top aide was a charedi man. Shochat, 43, is a wife and mother of four. She isn’t religious.

Mutual respect and common goals, which Shochat and the Religious parties share, are the keys to unity and peace among all Israelis. If only this would happen more often.

Poor Judgement
A 64 year old man who immigrated to Israel from Yemen twenty years ago decided to return to Yemen to bring back his brother. He’d been there several times on visits, but the last time he went he was accused of spying and imprisoned. He was released with all of the other prisoners when rebels attacked the city. You’d think that would have been enough to keep him from returning. It wasn’t.

The man traveled to Jordan last week, but couldn’t find any flights to Yemen. Then he met three Saudis who offered to take him to Yemen with them, for free. It seems like he accepted their offer. Ok, calm down, we’re just telling you what happened.

Now he’s missing. Surprised? The Israeli foreign ministry can’t help, since Israel has no diplomatic relations with Yemen. All we can do now is pray for his safety.

Shabbat Tragedy
A husband and wife were found dead yesterday in their Jerusalem apartment. The preliminary investigation shows that they died from suffocation caused by their Shabbat blech (a piece of metal that covers the gas stovetop burners and allows one to warm food on Shabbat according to Jewish law). The couple had set up their blech and then closed all the windows in their home. The burner flame consumed all of the oxygen in the apartment and then went out, allowing carbon monoxide gas to fill the air.

The couple had been married for two years. The husband, Yaniv Yehuda, 32, was an immigrant from France. His wife Rachel, 30, was an immigrant from the US.

According to reports, the couple’s table was set for Shabbat with a tablecloth, Kiddush cup and challah. May their memory be a blessing.

Dust in the Wind
Israel’s sky turned brown and yellow yesterday as a massive sand and dust storm, which moved in from Syria, settled over the country. Israel hasn’t seen a storm like this in 75 years.

The poor air quality, combined with a drastic increase in heat and humidity, led to a huge number of people with health complications. Magen David Adom treated 290 people for asthma attacks, fainting and heart problems connected to the weather. Hospitals also treated their share of storm casualties.

Lebanon and Syria got hit at least as bad.

Meteorologists predict clear skies on the horizon. Hope they get it right.

See cool pictures here.

Another Spirit Lifting Gift
Yesterday we told you that the electric company was cutting its rates. Now Israelis will be able to toast to even more savings. That’s because the Finance Ministry and tax authority have decided to cut taxes on alcoholic drinks including beer and hard liquor. They doubled the taxes on these drinks two years ago thinking that they would prevent Israelis from harming their health by drinking too much. But it turns out that Israelis are drinking just as much as they were before. In addition, the higher prices have boosted black market “moonshiners” who are producing and selling low quality alcohol that really is harmful.

Israelis will be able to have their booze and put money in their pockets. Happy New Year!!

Israel News for September 8, 2015

< back to sign up

Third Duma Victim
Just over a month ago Jewish assailants threw firebombs into a house in the Arab village of Duma in the West Bank, killing an 18 month old boy and wounding his parents and brother. Soon after, the boy’s father succumbed to his wounds.

Yesterday, the mother, Rihad Dawabsheh, 27, died in an Israeli hospital. Thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral. Some threw rocks at Israeli soldiers afterwards.

PM Netanyahu issued a statement expressing his condolences and saying “security forces are doing their utmost to apprehend the assailants and bring them to justice.”

The four year old brother is still undergoing treatment in Israel.

The Russians are Coming
While the US and the Europeans continue to be reluctant to put “boots on the ground” to combat ISIS or to put an end to the fighting in Syria, the Russians don’t seem to have the same reservations.

Intelligence sources report that the Russians are building bases in Syria and providing military support, including commando troops, to boost President Assad’s dwindling control over his ever shrinking territory.

The Russians have their only Mediterranean naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus. They sell weapons to Syria and vote against UN condemnations of Syria. With most of the Middle East under US influence, Syria could be the Russians great hope to get back into the Mideast power game.

US Secretary of State Kerry warned the Russian Foreign Minister that Russian involvement could potentially lead to a confrontation with coalition forces.

How does this affect Israel? If the Russians can bring stability to Syria and get rid of ISIS, there will be some lively Vodka toasts in the Knesset. And with over a million Russian-Israelis, there could be a lot of people toasting Russia’s success in Syria.

More Fencing
Israel already has security fences along its borders with Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Now it’s building one on its border with Jordan. The reason seems to be to prevent Syrian refugees from entering the country via Jordan.

The PM has empathized with the “human tragedy” of the Syrian civil war, but has made it clear that Israel is too small to start taking in refugees. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog has said that Israel should take in a limited number of Syrians.

Are Syrian refugees really so anxious to resettle in Israel? Doubtful. But the southern portion of the fence which is being constructed first and which will stretch from Eilat to Timna (18.6 miles) will probably be used to prevent African migrants from crossing into Israel. And the Africans are seen as the main threat to Israel’s demographic balance. So far, the Sinai border fence has been extremely successful at stopping the Africans.

More Time for South
The IDF’s “Color Red” early warning radar system has done an excellent job in warning Israelis about incoming rocket attacks. Israeli communities near the Gaza border get about a full 15 seconds to find shelter before the rockets hit. Not a lot of time, but better than the warning they get for mortar attacks. Currently, when a mortar shell is fired from Gaza, residents get maybe 5 seconds or less of warning. That’s hopefully going to change.

The IDF announced a new tactical radar system that will give residents a full 15 seconds of warning for mortar attacks. About 25 of the new systems have been deployed in communities along the Gaza border. They’re set to become operational in October.

See what you can do in 15 seconds. Go.

Swiss Snub BDS
The Swiss has given the BDS movement a slap in the face. Last night, both houses of the Swiss parliament approved a massive deal to purchase six Israeli made Hermes 900 unmanned military aircraft for $256 million.

The Swiss approved the deal after months of deliberations despite protests by pro Palestinian BDS supporters. The Swiss defense minister claimed that they were buying the planes from a private company, Elbit Industries, and not from the State of Israel. Not a very convincing argument in BDS land.

The hope is that more European countries will now follow Switzerland’s lead and choose Israeli weapons over BDS threats. After all, business is business.

New Year’s Gift
Israel’s Public Utilities Authority is giving Israelis a special Rosh Hashanah gift: lower electric bills. On Sunday the average household electric bill will drop by 6.2%, making the total price cut for this year 15.6%. If you’ve ever gotten an electric bill in Israel, you’ll know that that’s a nice chunk of change that Israelis will be able to hold on to.

The price cut was made possible by the electric company’s increased use of coal to produce their power. Coal prices have plummeted over 17% this year.

But wait. This is Israel, so there’s got to be someone who’s complaining. The IEC (Israel Electric Corporation), which is the publicly traded company that actually produces the electricity and is regulated by the Public Utilities Authority, thinks that cutting prices isn’t the right fiscally responsible decision to make. They’ll be appealing the decision.

I guess they haven’t heard of: never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Israel News for September 4, 2015

< back to sign up

Jews Attacked in Hebron
Five Chassidic yeshiva students visiting Israel from America decided to pray at the Ma’arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron yesterday. They used Waze for driving directions. Unfortunately for them, Waze doesn’t always take politics into account when it gives directions. In Israel that can be deadly. The directions took them into an Arab area of Hebron, where they were attacked by rock throwers.

The five found refuge in the nearby home of Fayez Abu Hamdia for about 40 minutes until IDF forces rescued them. Two of the men were injured. Their car, along with some of their personal possessions, was torched.

According to IDF data, last year 538 Israelis found themselves in Area A (PA controlled) of the West Bank and were returned by Palestinian security personnel.

Upshot 1: Check your Waze directions when traveling near Arab areas.

Upshot 2: High five to the Arab man who saved the men from the mob. There is hope for a better future.

Upshot 3: The terror needs to end.

Funding with a Catch
If you want government funding for your cultural institution or program, you’ll need to follow the new regulations released by Israel’s Culture and Sports Ministry. That means you won’t be allowed to: deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic nation, incite terror, violence or racism; express support of an armed struggle or acts of terror by enemy states or terror organizations against the State of Israel, present Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning, and defame state symbols, like the flag. If you do any of these the state can decide not to fund you.

Makes a lot of sense. Why should the State of Israel fund organizations that work against it? At least that’s what Culture Minister Miri Regev believes, which is why she created the regulations. The Attorney General seems to feel differently. He doesn’t think it’s legal to condition state funding on cultural content.

When the government attempts to enforce the new regulations and withhold funding, they’ll have to get approval from the Attorney General. That means the case will probably end up being decided by the courts. Business as usual in Israel.

Tax Collectors on Fire
It looks like Israel’s tax collectors are performing their jobs amazingly well. In July and August, tax collections were 5 billion shekels above projections. What is the government going to do with all that cash? No, they aren’t going to give it back. But they are going to lower taxes.

PM Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced yesterday that they would drop the VAT (Value Added Tax) from 18% to 17% and the corporate tax from 26.5% to 25%.

The PM said, “I think this will help growth. I think it will give us exactly the encouragement that the economy needs when we hear of a global slowdown and a slowdown here. We want an engine for growth and lowering taxes is one means to do so.”

The Bank of Israel is not happy. It wants to raise taxes, fearing that the current surplus is just a one time event stemming from higher home sales or increased capital gains. It would rather use the extra cash to pay down national debt. “A reduction in VAT will make it tough to stand by fiscal targets in coming years and is not consistent with tax policy that aims at achieving long-term goals,” the central bank said.

Kahalon’s response to the central bank’s fears is simple: if tax collection slows down, we’ll call a “do over”. But for now, live for the moment!

Israeli Fences for Sale
Israel isn’t involved in the tragic refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, but it might play a part in helping the Europeans control it. According to an exclusive Reuters report, Hungary and Bulgaria have made inquiries into purchasing the kind of security fence that Israel built along its 143 mile border with Egypt. They would install the fencing along their northern and western borders, to prevent migrants from crossing into Germany and other Western European countries.

Bulgaria has already built a security fence on their border with Turkey, and Hungary is completing one on their border with Serbia. But the Israeli designed fencing will be taller, more fortified and contain sophisticated electronic defenses.

Frontex, the EU agency responsible for border management, is opposed to fences and has made clear the European Union will not help member states finance them.
“When you talk about the management of migratory flows, the fence itself is not the solution, just as border control is not the panacea for migration flows,” said spokeswoman Izabella Cooper. “You have to stabilize the countries of origin from which the refugees flee.”

Destroying ISIS would go a long way in stabilizing Syria and Iraq and stemming the flow of refugees, but the Europeans don’t seem eager to send troops in to get the job done. Instead, they’ll spend their Euros building fences and dealing with refugees.

PM Claims US Support
Despite losing the battle to nix the Iran nuclear deal, PM Netanyahu told participants at a pre Rosh Hashanah reception at the Foreign Ministry yesterday that, “the overwhelming majority of the American public sees eye-to-eye with us on the danger emanating from Iran.” The statistics don’t exactly back him up.

According to a Sept. 1 Reuters poll, 30 percent of Americans were in favor of the agreement, 30.7 percent against it, and 39.4 percent were undecided. If you break that down along political lines, about 60 percent of republicans oppose the deal while only 19 percent of non-Republicans are against it.

So really, the PM should have said that the majority of Republican Americans see eye to eye with him. Is that what he meant, or is he engaging in some wishful thinking?