terror Jaffa gate

Israel News for December 23, 2015

Breaking News
Two people were seriously wounded and one lightly wounded in a terror stabbing attack at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem this afternoon. The two terrorists were shot by Border Police. One was killed and the other wounded.

The location of the attack is a major thoroughfare where people, including most tourists, enter the Old City on their way to the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter.

This story is still developing.

For further reading click here.

Defending Shin Bet
PM Netanyahu issued a statement of his support for the Shin Bet security agency amid accusations from right wing activists that the Shin Bet tortured Jewish suspects being interrogated for allegedly participating in the Duma arson attack.

The PM said that he found the attacks against the security agency to be unacceptable. He added that, “There is Arab terrorism that we deal with and combat day and night in every arena, but unfortunately from time to time there are also acts of terror committed by Jews. We will not accept terror from any side.”

Defense Minister Ya’alon also defended the Shin Bet saying, “The attempts to harm the Shin Bet and its people are based on lies, deception of the general public, and dangerous and irresponsible manipulations by lawyers and, unfortunately, also from ministers, MKs and other public officials.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, also added his support for the Shin Bet, telling Army Radio that the, “Shin Bet protects us every day from the Palestinians, and we have to rely on the same Shin Bet now.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked joined in the defense of the Shin Bet claiming that, “The process is being conducted and scrutinized by the judicial authorities and in accordance with the legal guidelines.” She also rebuffed the reports that one of the suspects in custody, a minor, tried to commit suicide.

Shaked added that, “It is important for the public to know that the three suspects who were arrested have already seen a lawyer and that their medical state is in perfect condition. I have been informed that they are checked routinely by doctors.”

Meanwhile, protests against the Shin Bet continue.

For further reading click here.

No Strike
A massive general strike that was planned for today will not be happening. The strike was averted when the Histadrut, Israel’s primary labor union, and the Finance Ministry reached a last minute agreement granting the 700,000 civil servants a NIS 7.5 billion pay raise over 5 years. That was less than the NIS 11.5 billion that the Histadrut initially demanded.
So, Israel is open for business today, as usual.

For further reading click here.

Special Thanks
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Holiday Cheer
Around this time every year the Israeli embassy in Washington sends out holiday gifts. This year Ambassador Ron Dermer used the gifts to make a statement by including products made in Israeli West Bank settlements.

In a letter sent with the gift he wrote, “I decided to send a gift that would also help combat the latest efforts by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state. That effort is called the BDS movement.”

“The main forces behind this movement are fanatics who actively seek to eliminate Israel. Unfortunately, they are occasionally joined by fools who naively believe that in promoting BDS, they are advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Regardless of why they support BDS, the fanatics and the fools are simply promoting a new anti-Semitism. Once Jews were singled out and held to a different standard than other peoples. Today, the Jewish state is singled out and held to a different standard than other countries.”

Dermer also blasted the EU for its discriminatory labeling regulations that single out Israeli products made in the West Bank and Golan.

He concluded his letter by saying, “In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. I hope you will enjoy them.”

Happy Holidays!

To see the full letter click here.

Turkey Expels
Last week we reported that Israel and Turkey had reached an “understanding” that appeared to pave the way to normalized relations between the two countries that were ruptured after Israel’s naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish citizens in 2010.

Things seem to be progressing in the right direction…sort of. On Monday Turkey expelled Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas’ senior representative in Istanbul, as agreed upon in the “understanding”. Al-Arouri, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing, sat in Israeli jails for 15 years before being expelled to Syria. In 2012, when Hamas’ offices in Syria were closed down, he fled to Turkey. From Turkey he was involved in orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion in June 2014.

As positive as the expulsion may seem, the Turks are claiming that Al Arouri left the country voluntarily. Turkish President Erdogan made it clear that he will not close down Hamas offices in the country or cut off funding to the terrorist group. Erdogan also continues to insist that Israel remove its blockade from Gaza as a condition for normal relations.

So are Turkey and Israel moving towards resuming normal relations? Hard to tell.

For further reading click here.

Phone Chat
Three days after the alleged Israeli airstrike near Damascus that killed the Hezbollah affiliated terrorist Samir Kuntar, Russian President Putin called PM Netanyahu on the phone.

The leaders discussed the situation in Syria and agreed to continue dialogue at various levels, including coordination in the war against terror and in other regional matters. Israel and Russia currently have a system in place to coordinate military movements in Syria so as not to get in each other’s way.

During a meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the international committee of Russia’s Federation Council upper house of parliament on Tuesday, Zvi Heifetz, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, said that Israel acknowledges Russia’s interests in the region and supports it in its fight against global terrorism.

Given that Russia is expanding its influence and footprint in the Middle East, it looks like Israel is doing its best to make friends and stay on good terms. Can you think of a reason why Israel shouldn’t?

For further reading click here.

Officer Fired
A Colonel in the IDF’s Northern Command was thrown out of the army after he left classified documents in his car, which was then stolen. According the IDF regulations, keeping classified documents in your car is a big no no. Makes sense.

For further reading click here.

IDF soldiers

Israel News for December 22, 2015

Hezbollah Revenge
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address yesterday that he holds Israel responsible for the killing of Samir Kuntar in an airstrike over the weekend and vowed that Hezbollah would retaliate “in any place and at any time”.

Nasrallah concluded his speech by saying, “We will not surrender and will not retreat…I say to the Americans, the Israelis and all their allies: neither the moves against us nor sanctions will hurt us – they will only make us continue on our path.”

Thousands attended Kuntar’s funeral on Monday, including not only many senior Hezbollah militants, but also Lebanese politicians and leaders of Palestinian factions in the country. He was Druze.

The IDF is on heightened alert along Israel’s northern border. The biggest fear is that despite the losses that Hezbollah has suffered in the Syrian conflict, it has also gained valuable military and combat experience that has turned it into a much more skilled and professional force.

For further reading click here.

UN Condemns
For a change, Israel was not on the receiving end of a condemnation. Following a request from Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon into northern Israel on Sunday.

In a statement, Ban said he is “greatly concerned over yesterday’s firing of rockets within UNIFIL’s area of operations from the area of Al-Hinniyah, in the vicinity of Tyre, towards Israel, which is a serious violation of resolution 1701.”

Just to be fair, he also noted Israel’s retaliatory shelling into Southern Lebanon and promised an investigation.

For further reading click here.

Jewish Terror
Two smoke grenades were thrown into a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Beitillu this morning, in what is suspected to be a Jewish terror attack. The home was occupied by two parents and their nine-month-old son. No one was hurt in the attack. Graffiti in Hebrew was found nearby that said, “Revenge Regards from the Prisoners of Zion”.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Bodies
Over the weekend three bodies of terrorists were handed over to their families by the IDF for burial. The only condition was that the funerals be held quietly, without fanfare or publicity. The families followed the terms and held private funerals and burials for their terrorist loved ones. Based on this the IDF is likely to hand over another ten bodies to families for quiet burials.

Security officials claim that they will decide whether to return individual corpses of terrorists on a case by case basis. They assert that holding on to the bodies has had the opposite effect in that it has provoked incitement and violent protests instead of avoiding them by preventing the funerals.

Last Friday the PM and Defense Minister permitted the body of the 16 year old female terrorist who committed a stabbing attack in Mahane Yehuda along with her 14 year old cousin, to be returned to her family for burial. The funeral and burial were without incident.

For further reading click here.

Cabinet Contest
Silvan Shalom’s resignation from his post as Interior Minister after allegations of sexual misconduct has triggered a battle over the coveted position, as the PM prepares for a cabinet reshuffle.

The two main candidates for the job appear to be Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud). Another minister who is vying for a promotion is Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), who might take over the Economy Ministry.

In the interim, the PM has taken over the Interior portfolio. That means that Netanyahu currently serves as Prime Minister, Economy Minister, Foreign Minister, Communications Minister and now, Interior Minister. And you think you’re busy?

Since Deri had to resign from the Economy Ministry over his refusal to sign the natural gas deal, the Shas leader has been expecting an appointment to one of the senior government ministries. Sources close to Deri said on Sunday evening that he has not spoken to anyone about the issue yet because he has been busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding on Monday. But Likud officials have clarified that “If Deri wants (the Interior Ministry), it’s his.”

Sources close to Regev said that she expects the PM to appoint her either Interior Minister or another senior position that becomes available. Appointing her has widespread support in Likud ranks and among Likud mayors.

Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara, a Druze Israeli, has also signaled the PM that he expects a ministerial appointment, because he is the oldest serving Likud member.

Minister Yariv Levin, who currently serves as the Minister of Tourism and as the liaison between the Knesset and government, is considered one of the ministers closest and most loyal to Netanyahu. That’s why Likud officials have said that there’s a possibility he too will receive an “upgrade” to a more senior position.

So the next few weeks will be interesting, to see how the cabinet reshuffle plays out.

For further reading click here.

Super Missile
The Defense Ministry announced that it has successfully completed the last phase of trials of the David’s Sling air defense system. The system has entered production stage and the Israel Air Force is expected to take possession of the system in the first quarter of 2016.

David’s sling can intercept short to medium range rockets and ballistic missiles including guided projectiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and drones. Its range means it can destroy incoming threats over enemy territory, away from Israeli skies and high enough to prevent damage from shrapnel. It will play a crucial part in the multi-layered defense system being developed by the Israeli Defense Ministry, complementing the Iron Dome (which defends against short range) and the Arrow 3 defense batteries (which defends against long range missiles).

Shlomo S., head of the David’s Sling program said, “This is the first time technology of this kind has been used. It is on the verge of science fiction.”

For further reading click here.

Abbas and Greeks
On an official visit to Greece, Palestinian Authority President Abbas announced that the PA is proposing to change its official name on the passports it issues from PA to State of Palestine. Abbas said that the change will happen in about a year.

Abbas arrived in Greece on Sunday, met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and is due to address the Greek parliament today. The parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has unanimously called on the Greek government to recognize Palestinian statehood.

This won’t be the first time that the Greeks have gone up against Israel. Remember what happened the last time (think Hanukkah)?

To be fair, Greece also has good relations with Israel. But still…

For further reading click here.

David's sling missile test

Israeli successfully completes tests of futuristic missile defense system

The Defense Ministry announced that it has successfully completed the last phase of trials of the David’s Sling air defense system. The system has entered production stage and the Israel Air Force is expected to take possession of the system in the first quarter of 2016.



David’s sling can intercept short to medium range rockets and ballistic missiles including guided projectiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, and drones, which is the main threat that Israel faces from it’s northern border. Its range means it can destroy incoming threats over enemy territory, away from Israeli skies and high enough to prevent damage from shrapnel. It will play a crucial part in the multi-layered defense system being developed by the Israeli Defense Ministry, complementing the Iron Dome (which defends against short range) and the Arrow 3  defense batteries (which defends against long range missiles).

The trials occurred in recent days in southern Israel, and were led by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which is developing David’s Sling, together with the US defense company Raytheon.

The Defense Ministry described the trials where “the system’s capabilities were tested in a number of scenarios that simulate the threats it was designed to deal with. Target missiles were fired, which were detected by a multi-mission radar. The radar transmitted the coordinates to a fire control center, that calculated defense counter-plans. David’s Sling interceptors were successfully fired, and carried out all of the flight stages, destroying the targets as planned,”

Shlomo S. (full name withheld), head of the David’s Sling program in Rafael explained  “The emphasis is on guided, maneuvering threats carrying dozens of kilograms of warheads, which are highly destructive,” He added “This is first time technology of this kind has been used. It is on the verge of science fiction.”

israel news

Israel News for December 21, 2015

Shalom Resigns
Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom has resigned following several allegations of sexual assault. The allegations by a former employee at Shalom’s office first came to light in a Haaretz report last week. Since then, several other women have also alleged that the minister sexually assaulted them.

Shalom denies the allegations. He said in a statement, “For some 23 years I have been faithfully serving the public as a MK and minister in different ministries, out of a sense of purpose and a drive to promote very important social and public goals. I had enough of the torments that befell me and my family, my wife, kids, and my elderly mother. My family completely supports me, but there is no reason for the price they are forced to pay. Under these circumstances, I decided to resign from my position as a minister and a member of parliament.”

Channel 10 News broadcasted the testimony of one of Shalom’s former bodyguards last night. He told of two incidents that he witnessed Shalom having intimate relations with women in toilet stalls. In one of the two cases he recognized one of the women as an employee in the minister’s office.

After meeting with the head of Police investigations last night, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has decided to order the police to investigate the allegations.

Attorney Amir Ohana, head of the Likud’s LGBT caucus, will take Shalom’s place in the Knesset and will be the first openly gay MK from Likud.

For further reading click here.

Israeli Payback
An Israeli airstrike near Damascus on Saturday night killed Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah terrorist leader who had been working to set up Syrian resistance groups to “liberate” the Golan Heights. Seven other terrorists were killed along with Kuntar in the airstrike, including senior Hezbollah field commanders. The Syrian government has not blamed Israel for the airstrike, probably out of a desire to avoid a conflict with Israel. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the airstrike.

Kuntar spent 30 years in an Israeli prison for one of the most heinous crimes in Israeli history. Kuntar was 16 and a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front when he killed a policeman and kidnapped and murdered Danny Haran and beat his 4 year old daughter to death with a rifle butt. During the attack, the girl’s mother hid in a crawl space inside their home and accidentally smothered their crying two year old daughter, fearing Kuntar would find them.

In 2008 Kuntar was released as part of a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. He received a hero’s welcome in Lebanon and was awarded Syria’s highest medal by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In an apparent revenge attack, three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon yesterday. Lebanese sources said that the rockets were fired from a location south of Tyre.

The IDF responded to the rocket attack with “targeted artillery fire.” Let’s hope there are no more revenge attacks so that this doesn’t escalate into a full blown conflict.

For further reading click here.

Duma Suspects
Hundreds of protesters attempted to block the entrance to Jerusalem at the Chords Bridge yesterday. Six people were arrested in disturbances that erupted during the protests.

The demonstrators were protesting the treatment of the three Jewish suspects being held in the Duma arson case. They claim that the Shin Bet has tortured the men during its month long investigation and interrogation.

One suspect reportedly told his attorney that interrogators were bending his back, holding him upside down for extended periods of time, and other forms of torture. He supposedly told the lawyer that he had begged interrogators for poison so his suffering would end. Another of the suspects, who is a minor, is reported to have attempted suicide by slitting his wrists.

Since the Duma case is still under gag order, the details of the investigation and treatment of the suspects has not been released by the press.

For further reading click here.

Shabbat Fines
The Knesset’s ministerial legislative committee approved a bill prohibiting businesses from operating on Shabbat. The proposed bill would fine violators three times their revenue earned for the day. The businesses would also be liable to be sued by competitors claiming damages due to the Shabbat violation.

The bill is meant to replace local municipal Shabbat by-laws and will give the Economy Minister authority to appoint inspectors to enforce the law and to issue exemptions. The bill would not apply to restaurants, gas stations, hotels or places of entertainment. It would apply to food stores, retail stores and shopping malls.

The bill was proposed after the High Court of Justice found that the Tel Aviv municipality was not enforcing its Shabbat laws. If passed, it will take Shabbat regulations out of the hands of local government and make it a national matter. The Knesset has also appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of making Sunday into a national day of rest.

For further reading click here.

Doll Policy
A few weeks ago we reported that a shipment of 4,000 terrorist dolls were confiscated at the Port of Haifa, on their way to the West Bank. Each of the 4,000 stuffed children’s dolls seized wears a keffiyeh, holds a rock in its hand, and bears the slogans ‘Jerusalem is ours’ or ‘Jerusalem, we are coming!’

Instead of just destroying them, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely decided to use them to show the world how the Palestinians incite violence, even using toys. So she ordered samples of the dolls distributed to all Israeli embassies. The Foreign Ministry sent the dolls via diplomatic mail, accompanied by instructions for demonstrating them.

At least one ambassador is not pleased with the decision. Dan Ashbel, the Israeli Ambassador to Finland wrote that, “sending more than 100 such dolls to our embassies abroad could expose us to demands for payment from the importers. Pictures of the dolls are sufficient as is the dismaying fact that there are people producing, selling and buying such dolls. Please refrain from using these dolls for demonstration purposes.”

For further reading click here.

Israel News for December 18, 2015

Gaza MIA
The family of Oron Shaul, who was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in 2014, has asked PM Netanyahu and the IDF to reclassify Oron as missing in action from his current status as killed in action with an unknown place of burial. The request comes days after the family asked Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya to provide more information about their son. Hamas had claimed in 2014 that they had captured him alive, but Israel soon after confirmed he had been killed. Oron’s mother pleaded with Haniya saying, “I want to believe you, just give us clear evidence of my son Oron’s condition”.

The request to reclassify Oron’s status stems from ambiguity in the IDF report regarding Oron Shaul’s status. Oron’s mother said that she understands from the report he was not killed, so his status should be changed. She said they waited quietly for a year and a half for the politicians and the security establishment to do their work, but in light of the lack of progress she feels it’s time to try a new course of action to bring Oron home as quickly as possible.

For further reading click here.

Israel Turkey Relations
An Israeli official revealed yesterday that Israel and Turkey have reached an understanding that could lead to the restoration of ties between them.

Relations between the two countries broke down in 2010 after the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths and agreed to compensate the victims’ families under a U.S.-brokered arrangement in 2013. But the 2014 Gaza war derailed efforts to restore full ties.

The Israeli official said Turkey would waive legal claims against Israel over the raid and that the countries would upgrade diplomatic ties by returning ambassadors. Turkey will ban a Hamas leader said to be based in Turkey from operating from the country.

The “understanding” was reached between Israel’s incoming Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the Turkish Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu. It still needs to be approved by both governments.

For further reading click here.

Gas Deal Signed
PM Netanyahu, who is also the Economy Minister, signed the natural gas development agreement after months of debate and controversy. The agreement gives a small consortium of energy companies sole rights to develop the massive Leviathan natural gas reservoir.

Opponents claim that the deal will primarily benefit the energy companies and cost the Israeli people hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. But the PM believes that the agreement is the only way to develop the massive reserves and that it will greatly benefit the country.

In his speech at the signing the PM said, “This gas is environmentally clean, will lower the cost of living, and give us billions of shekels for our needs. I am giving gas to Israel and its people.” He also said, “the gas was given to us as a gift from God and will transform us into an energy superpower.”

For further reading click here.

China Love
Israeli-Chinese relations just got a lot warmer (and it has nothing to do with Jewish love of Chinese takeout). Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing has donated $130 million to build the first Israeli university in China.

The cornerstone for the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) was laid in Shantou yesterday. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by thousands of guests including former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis, and Technion President Peretz Lavie.

Shimon Peres had this to say: “The establishment of a Technion campus in China is one more proof that Israeli innovation is breaking down geographic borders. China is one of Israel’s major partners in technology and hi-tech and more than 1,000 Israeli companies are active in China. I hope that the economic cooperation between the two countries will continue to expand, as both countries have much to share with, and learn from, one another.”

For further reading click here.

Foreign Workers
Back in September we reported that Israel was planning to bring in 20,000 Chinese construction workers in an effort to reduce housing prices. But the two governments have not been able to reach an agreement to regulate the rights, employment conditions and compensation of the Chinese, so the workers haven’t been able to come to Israel.

Not to fear. Israel has come up with an alternative source of foreign construction workers: Moldova. The former Soviet republic, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, seems to have a lot of men willing to go just about anywhere outside of Moldova to find work — even to Israel.

Avigdor Yitzhaki, head of the housing department in the Ministry of Finance, plans to bring 2,000 Moldovan construction workers to Israel. He’s also speaking with Romania and Ukraine about getting some of their workers too.

Integrating Eastern European workers into Israeli society will be a lot easier than doing so with Chinese workers, given the great number of Russian speaking Israelis (and their love of Eastern European cooking). But it could also create an assimilation problem if the men get too “comfortable” with the natives.

For further reading click here.

Skver Park
The Skver Rebbe will be embarking on a three week visit to Israel at the end of the month. To facilitate his Jerusalem visit, the municipality will destroy a public park near a Skver synagogue in order to put up a tent where the rebbe will be able to hold court. But before you get all heated about it, the deal is that his Hasidim will foot the bill for rebuilding the park after he leaves. (Ok, I thought it was interesting)

For further reading click here.

Wild Goose Chase
Niv Asraf, the 22 year old Israeli who faked his own kidnapping, and his accomplice were slammed with a 625,000 shekel lawsuit. Back in April, Asraf decided to disappear in order to make his ex-girlfriend, whom he had recently broken up with, worry about him. While Asraf hid in the Hebron area, his friend informed the police that Asraf had disappeared after walking towards an Arab village to try and get help for a flat tire.

Over 1000 soldiers, special forces and police officers mounted a search for Asraf. According to the lawsuit the two planned the hoax in detail, which misled the security forces and public for the eight hours it took for the case to be solved. The prosecution claims the actual damages were far worse than the 625,000 shekels claimed in the suit.

After getting notified about the lawsuit, Asraf was rushed to the hospital. Makes sense.

For further reading click here.

Supermodel Busted
Supermodel Bar Rafaeli and her mother were arrested on charges of tax evasion yesterday, but were released after posting bail. They had to surrender their passports and are barred from leaving Israel.

The charges are primarily related to Rafaeli’s overseas income totaling millions of shekels and a celebrity discount she received when purchasing an apartment. Rafaeli claims that she was not a resident of Israel when she earned the foreign income, and therefore is not liable to pay taxes on it.

Regarding the discount — wouldn’t you give Bar Rafaeli a discount?

For further reading click here.

israel weapons confiscated

Israel News for December 17, 2015

Weapons Bust
Over the past few months Israeli customs officers at the port of Ashdod have intercepted and confiscated tens of thousands of weapons bound for the West Bank. The weapons include over 50,000 combat knives, tens of thousands of electric shockers, swords, clubs, brass knuckles, airguns, slingshots, camouflage uniforms and those face masks that terrorists wear during violent demonstrations.

Customs officials claim that they intercept weapons shipments on a daily basis and that the weapons are usually hidden in all sorts of ingenious places like hollowed out furniture and books.

If these shipments make it to their destinations they can cause serious casualties to security forces and civilians. Props to the customs officers who are protecting Israel by making sure these weapons stay out of Palestinian hands.

For further reading click here.

Gaza Fighting
An explosive device was detonated against an IDF patrol along the Gaza border near Khan Yunis yesterday. There were no injuries or damage. The IDF responded with mortar fire.
According to a military source, this was the first time since the 2014 Gaza war that explosives were used against an IDF patrol.

Considering that Hamas is trying to avoid another fight with Israel, at least for the time being, it seems as though they are losing some of their control over their border.

For further reading click here.

New Housing
The Jerusalem building and planning board approved a plan to build 891 housing units in Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood located just beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The plan had been put on hold during PM Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, to avoid American opposition. But it was just a temporary, diplomatically motivated measure. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be indivisible, including those areas considered part of the West Bank by the international community. With the US election year in full swing, it’s unlikely that the US administration will make much of a fuss about this. Good timing.

For further reading click here.

Kuwait Air Banned
If you’re trying to book a flight with an Israeli passport, cross Kuwait Airways off your list of potential carriers. The airline does not sell tickets to Israelis. Its booking system simply does not accept Israeli passport information.

The US Department of Transportation ordered the airline to “cease and desist from refusing to transport Israeli citizens between the U.S. and any third country where they are allowed to disembark,” and threatened to take action if the airline did not comply.

Kuwait Airways didn’t change its discriminatory policy. Now it has been forced to cancel its flights from New York’s JFK airport to London.

The airline previously filed suit in federal court in Washington saying its policy “isn’t discriminatory because it will sell tickets to passengers regardless of race, national origin or religion – so long as they hold a passport valid in Kuwait,” and asking to be allowed to continue to fly to the United States. So far the airline has not withdrawn its suit, and if it wins it could resume its US flights. The airline claims that its policy is not based on religion, since a Muslim with an Israeli passport will also not be allowed to fly with them.

Saudi Arabian Airlines, beware. You could be next.

For further reading click here.

Best Place
The United Nations has published its Human Development Index (HDI) for 2015, which ranks 188 countries according to their average life expectancy, education and Gross National Product per capita. The index is meant to rank the best countries to live in.

Norway ranked first for the 13th time since 2001. Israel came in at number 18, which is an auspicious number by Jewish standards (it means life). It came in just behind Korea and Sweden, but ahead of Japan, Italy, France and Austria.

The top countries after Norway were Australia in second place, Switzerland third, Denmark fourth, the Netherlands fifth, Germany sixth, Ireland seventh, the US eighth, and Canada and New Zealand tied in ninth place. The bottom five were…oh, who cares. You’ll never end up in any of them, even on a trip.

To see the entire list click here.

Doctor’s Pay
Remember hearing how doctors in Israel don’t make any money because of the socialized medical system? Well, forget about it. According to figures released by the Ministry of Finance, 19 of the top 20 highest paid wage earners in the public sector in Israel are…drumroll…doctors.

The highest paid doc on the list made NIS 128,000 per month, which comes out to over $400,000 per year (yes, that’s in US dollars). That figure doesn’t include any private practice payments the doctor might get outside of the official hospital pay. The 18 other top docs did almost as well.The numbers might not rank with the top docs in the US, but they’re nothing to sneeze at (sorry for the pun), and for Israel, it’s pretty darn fantastic. Sure, not every doctor is making that kind of money, but the same is true for the US.

So to all the Jewish mothers reading this, your boy (or girl) can be a doctor and an Israeli and do ok. For all you single gals (and guys), you can add those interns back onto your eligible list, right behind the startup founders and venture capitalists.

For further reading click here.

French Aliyah
For the second year in a row, France will be the biggest source of immigrants to Israel, followed by Ukraine. About 8,000 French Jews made aliyah in 2015, a thousand more than last year. About 7,000 Jews came from the Ukraine this year. Other notable sources of new Israelis were Russia with 6,300 and the US with 2,900.

Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze’ev Elkin estimated that the total number of immigrants moving to Israel in 2015 would be 30,000 – up from 27,000 the previous year.

“And the children will return to their borders, and there is hope for the future. “ — Jeremiah 31:16

For further reading click here.

israel news terror raid

Israel News for December 16, 2015

Terror Attacks
IDF forces who entered the Kalandia refugee camp in the West Bank last night to arrest terror suspects were attacked by terrorists who tried to ram their cars into them in two separate incidents. The soldiers shot and killed both terrorists before they could succeed. During the operation three soldiers were wounded by gunfire. The IDF is investigating whether they were wounded by friendly fire.

For further reading click here.

Also last night, security forces confiscated improvised firearms and ammunition during a counter-terrorism raid on a mattress factory in Hebron.

For further reading click here.

Yesterday, a Palestinian construction worker from the West Bank who was legally employed at a building site in Modiin attacked and wounded a foreman and another worker there before he was subdued by other Arab workers. Police are interrogating the attacker and suspect that the attack was nationalistically motivated.

For further reading click here.

Attack Thwarted
An alert Border Policewoman stopped a Palestinian woman on a Jerusalem street because she seemed to be acting suspiciously. The officer searched the woman’s purse and found a long screwdriver, which the woman admitted to be carrying with the intent of committing a terror attack.

High five for the Border Police!

For further reading click here.

Egypt in Negev
According to a Ynet report, Egyptian Air Force jets have flown over the Negev on several occasions, enroute to bomb ISIS related terrorists in the northern Sinai. The Egyptians apparently coordinated the flights with the IDF, otherwise they would most definitely have been shot down.

The Egyptians have been fighting the ISIS terror groups, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, for the past few years. But they aren’t alone in their fight. Israel is viewing the terror groups as threats to its security and is assisting the Egyptians in their fight by permitting them to bring tanks and warplanes into the Sinai, which is technically prohibited by the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The cooperation with the Egyptian Air Force is just the latest example of the joint efforts in the battle against ISIS terror.

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Fringe Benefit
The Syrian civil war continues to cause tragedy and misfortune for millions of Syrian civilians. But there seems to be one fringe benefit from the war for Israel. According to Hezbollah statistics, the Lebanon based terrorist organization that has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the civil war has suffered heavy casualties including 1,500 dead and 5,000 wounded. That equals over one third of Hezbollah’s total fighting force. It also means that Hezbollah will probably not be looking to start another war against Israel, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s very good news. May they be blessed with many more martyrs.

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Arab in Bnei Brak
Isawi Farig, an Israeli Arab Knesset member from Meretz, is trying to pass a law that would allow women to be appointed as Muslim religious judges (Quadis) in the official Islamic religious court system in Israel. The only thing standing in his way is the veto power wielded by the Haredi parties in matters related to religion.

The Haredi ministers are opposed to the appointment of female Muslim judges because they fear that it would set a precedent for appointing female judges to Jewish religious courts. So Farig headed to Bnei Brak to meet with leading rabbis in the Haredi Sephardic and Lithuanian communities. He did not get very far with them. The rabbis are standing firm in their decision to oppose his bill. Farig isn’t giving up, promising to continue knocking on doors in Bnei Brak until he achieves his objective. He might be knocking for a very long time.

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Combat Dreams
Yoni Zarka is a 32 year old from Paris who immigrated to Israel in February. Since then he has been pleading with the IDF to allow him to enlist in a combat unit. Unfortunately for him, the IDF doesn’t want him, claiming that he is too old. The age limit for enlisting as a combat soldier is 27. The fact that Zarka is a two time triathlon champion isn’t swaying the army. Rules are rules.

Zarka isn’t giving up on his dream just yet. Starting this week he has been camping out in a sleeping bag outside of the main IDF induction base in Tel Hashomer and holding a sign that explains his predicament and his desire to join the IDF. He’s getting support from ordinary Israelis who have been giving him food and support.

An IDF officer who is involved with new immigrant soldiers claims that he has seen new immigrants in their 30’s accepted into combat units, so he’s puzzled as to why the army would reject a seemingly super qualified candidate. But the army is sticking to its guns. And Zarka is gonna keep nudging. Why not just let the man serve his country?

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Jerusalem terror attack

Israel News for December 15, 2015

Terror Attack
A 21 year old Palestinian from Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, Abed Almohsin Hassoneh, rammed his car into a group of people standing at a bus stop at the entrance to Jerusalem yesterday afternoon. Fourteen people were injured, including a 15 month old boy who was evacuated in critical condition. The terrorist was shot and killed by security officers before he managed to get out of his car to stab people.

After the attack PM Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, where he ordered protective barriers erected at hundreds of Jerusalem bus stops.

The IDF will also deploy two reservist battalions to the West Bank next month to help stem the terror attacks. The reservists will replace conscripts on routine security assignments so the conscripts can train.

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Abbas Incites
Yesterday PA President Abbas referred to the last three months of violence as a “justified popular uprising,” saying that young Palestinian demonstrators were “driven by despair that a two-state solution is not coming.”

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev condemned Abbas’s comment saying, “There can never be justification for wanton attacks on civilians like we saw today.”

Abbas isn’t alone in his thoughts. According to a poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), two thirds of Palestinians support the current wave of stabbings against Israelis and favor an armed uprising to achieve their nationalistic aspirations. On the bright side, 73% were opposed to young girls taking part in the stabbings.

Only 45% of Palestinians think that a two-state solution is feasible. Regarding Abbas, 65% want him to resign and believe that Hamas would win a new election. The reason for their dislike of Abbas is that they don’t feel that he’s been supportive enough of the recent violence.

Khalil Shikaki, head of the PSR, believes that the poll suggests that violence will continue through 2016 and that it could include heavily armed terrorists.

Not a very optimistic forecast, with or without Abbas.

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Insufficient Evidence
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio that although the Duma arson attack that killed members of a Palestinian family was clearly perpetrated by Jewish suspects, there was insufficient evidence to bring them to trial. Three suspects are currently being held and interrogated by the Shin Bet. The High Court of Justice ruled on Sunday that they can continue preventing them from meeting with their attorneys.

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EU Firm
Despite protests by Israel against the EU decision to label goods produced in the West Bank and the Golan, the EU is not backing down. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after talks with foreign ministers on Monday that the EU is “united on these technical guidelines on the indication of origin, which is in no way a boycott.”

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Pollard Parole
After 30 years you’d think that the information Jonathan Pollard passed on to Israel is no longer relevant to US security. So why are his parole terms, which include monitoring of his computer at home and at work, so strict? That’s the question Pollard’s lawyers are asking District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan in a bid to have his parole conditions relaxed. The judge is requiring the U.S. Parole Commission to better state its reasons for the parole conditions before ruling on the request.

Pollard’s attorneys cited declarations in which former U.S. National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and former Senate Intelligence Committee member Dennis DeConcini say information Pollard once possessed is of no value to anyone today.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Tinio told the judge, “The majority of the information that Mr. Pollard had and passed along 30 years ago, your honor, remains classified.” She said the Justice Department’s National Security Division told her that his classified information would be labeled top secret, meaning it could be expected to cause “exceptionally grave damage to national security” if it was released.

However, Tinio did say that the government was willing to continue negotiations over Pollard’s parole. So there is hope.

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Israel and Turkey
Is there hope for the restoration of Israeli-Turkish relations that broke off in 2010 after the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla that killed 9 Turkish citizens?

The Turkish Daily Sabah news site cited Turkish President Erdogan as reiterating three preconditions for the restoring of relations between the two countries: an apology for the flotilla raid, compensation to the victims’ families and the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

While Erdogan reportedly noted that only the first condition has been met, Israel did agree to compensate the families of the flotilla victims. Lifting the blockade of Gaza, however, is a deal breaker for Israel, at least for the foreseeable future.

According to Erdogan, “This normalization process would be good for us, Israel, Palestine and the entire region. The region definitely needs this. I don’t believe the Israeli public is pleased with the current state of relations. We need to consider the interests of the people of the region and introduce peace.”

Meanwhile, back in Turkey, for the first time in history the Chief Rabbi of Turkey lit the menorah on the eighth day of Hanukkah in a public square in Istanbul, in the presence of Turkish government officials, Muslim clerics, foreign diplomats and, of course, members of the Jewish community.

Can you feel the love?

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Israel News Hanukkah Menorah Kotel

Israel News for December 14, 2015

Terror Attack
A Palestinian woman tried to stab an Israeli in the Givat Avot neighborhood of Hebron yesterday. She was shot and critically wounded by soldiers. No Israeli casualties were reported.

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An Israeli security official confirmed a media report that an IDF veteran has joined ISIS in Syria. Wallah News identified the man as a Muslim from an Arab village in northern Israel who served in Givati, the elite infantry brigade that often operated in Gaza. Recent ISIS videos have featured Hebrew speaking Arab terrorists, presumably from Israel. Now they’ve scored one with some quality military experience. Let’s hope he doesn’t live long enough to use it.

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Gaza Strikes
The Israeli air force last night struck two targets affiliated with Hamas in Gaza in response to a rocket that was fired from Gaza into Israel earlier Sunday. Although the rocket exploded in an open field and did not cause any damage, it did force residents of the Israeli border communities to seek shelter and rattle their general sense of security. Israel’s message to Hamas was clear: you will be held responsible for everything that happens in your territory.

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Cop Investigated
A counter terrorism police officer who shot and killed a sixteen year old female terrorist and injured her fourteen year old cousin in Jerusalem’s Mehane Yehuda market on November 23 is being investigated by the department’s internal affairs division for using excessive force. The two assailants stabbed and injured a seventy year old man with scissors.

The investigation was initiated by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein based on allegations that the policeman continued shooting even after the terrorist no longer posed a danger. Footage of the incident shows the officer continuing to shoot at the terrorist while she is lying on the ground motionless.

The police officer’s defense attorney said that he followed standard protocol. He saw that the terrorists posed a clear and present danger and took action to neutralize them. He was also concerned that they might be wearing hidden explosives. The officer was released from questioning without any restrictions and was allowed to hold on to his firearms, an indicator that he will not be indicted.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Muallem and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Leiberman vociferously opposed the investigation. Paraphrasing a Talmudic phrase, Leiberman said that “those who have mercy on a terrorist with scissors will in the end be cruel to the many Israelis who will be stabbed by those scissors…”

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Commish Lights
Israel’s newly appointed police commissioner Roni Alshich lit the menorah at the kotel on the eighth night of Hanukkah along with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Chief Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rosenbaum. Before the actual candle-lighting, Alshich presented a special Book of Psalms (Tehilim) to Naor Shalev, a 13 year old boy who was badly injured in a terror attack at Pisgat Ze’ev two months ago.

Alshich was also joined by representatives and officers of the Israel police force, whom he praised saying, “Even when we are in our own independent state we must continue to fight to protect our citizens. This is a good opportunity for me to light the menorah on behalf of the brave people doing this – the police who respond at all times to those who seek to make our people their targets of murder. Our defense forces fight the darkness, allowing our people to add light.”

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First Lady
First Lady Sarah Netanyahu lit the eighth night’s Hanukkah candles with Holocaust survivors at a home for senior citizens in Jerusalem. She was joined by her son Yair and Minister of Social Equality MK Gila Gamliel.
Sarah told the residents that she and her husband were committed to supporting Holocaust survivors, and that their welfare and happiness was of utmost importance to them. She also recounted how her father was the sole survivor of his family during the holocaust and how she grew up with that knowledge as a child. She said that it was our duty to never to forget and to not let something like that ever happen again.

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Fire Compensation
Five years after the worst fire in Israel’s history, which killed 44, displaced 17,000 and burned down millions of trees in the Carmel forest, the State has agreed to compensate municipalities and businesses that suffered losses in the fire. The total compensation sum is 58 million shekels. Recipients of the funds include the municipality of Ein Hod, businesses in Daliat El Carmel (a large Druze town) and Osafia, Hotel Ya’arot Hacarmel, Kibbutz Beit Oren and several insurance companies.

The massive and deadly fire caused the government to reorganize and greatly improve the country’s fire fighting resources.

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Snow Rail
If you count on the Jerusalem light rail to get around the city, you better hope for good weather. The operators of the light rail have announced that the rail will not be able to operate in more than 5 centimeters of snow. That is, unless the municipality makes sure that the snow is cleared off the rail lines. The chances of that happening are even worse than … hell freezing over? But the light rail folks promise to try their hardest to keep it operational and on schedule. What more can you ask?

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Jordan Confirms
Last week we told you about a story where Jordanian border guards snatched the kippot off the heads of a family of Israeli tourists and did not permit them to enter Jordan with them. Yesterday, a Jordanian diplomatic source admitted, in an interview with a Jordanian newspaper, that Jordanian security forces routinely prohibit Israelis with “Jewish symbols” from entering the country. He said that Jordan has had this policy for many years and that the Israeli Foreign Ministry is well aware of it. He added that Jordan has the right to enforce any policy it sees fit relating to entrance into its borders.

So if you want to express your Jewish identity in the open, save that trip to Jordan for better times. There are plenty of other places to visit, which frankly, are a heck of a lot nicer and more fun (fyi, we’ve been to Jordan).

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Israel news terror car ramming

Israel News for December 11, 2015

Terror Attack
An attempted car-ramming attack near Hebron was foiled today when the driver was shot and killed at the scene. Hours earlier, shots were fired at the West Bank’s Gilboa checkpoint. There were no casualties. The terrorist was shot by soldiers but managed to escape, before being apprehended by Palestinian Authority security forces.

Four soldiers were wounded in a car-ramming attack at the Beit Arye junction in the West Bank on Thursday afternoon.

One soldier was critically wounded and another three were moderately and lightly wounded. The car escaped the scene but was later found by security forces in the village of Al-Lubben, near the settlement of Beit Arye. Security forces found an M-16 rifle, belonging to one of the soldiers, and a stun grenade in the car. The Shin Bet subsequently found and arrested the driver.

For further reading click here.

Rock Attack
A three week old baby was injured in a rock throwing attack just outside of Beitar Elit. The baby, Aviel Mamo, was in a car with his four siblings, driven by his mother. He was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where the slivers of glass in his eye were removed.

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Israeli Released
Back in 2000, Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin Arab, crossed into Egyptian Sinai illegally to visit his sister and was caught and convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Yesterday he was released after serving his full prison term. Israel says that it released two Egyptian prisoners, without providing further information.

Israeli embassy officials in Cairo visited Tarabin regularly in prison in recent years, and senior Israeli officials brought up his case and a request for his release every time there was a possibility of a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

Itzhak Levanon, a former ambassador to Egypt who was involved in efforts to get Tarabin released over the years, told Israel Radio that Tarabin was held in terrible conditions, in a cell without a toilet. He also recounted a conversation he had with then Egyptian President Mubarak, who told him, “We always need to have an Israeli prisoner with us.'”

Tarabin was welcomed back by PM Netanyahu and hundreds of well-wishers. He told Israeli reporters he planned to find a wife and start a family.
Welcome home.

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Trump Cancels
Donald Trump has decided to cancel his planned trip to Israel. He tweeted that he would reschedule at a later date, “after I become President of the US.”

Trump told Fox News there were many reasons he decided to hold off on a trip, among them that he didn’t want to put Netanyahu in a bind. “In fact, I did a campaign ad for him, and he’s a good man, but I didn’t want to put him under pressure,” Trump said. He also claimed that he canceled because he is in the midst of a very powerful campaign that’s going very well.”

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Take Two
Yesterday we reported that Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau reprimanded Education Minister Naftali Bennett for visiting a Solomon Schechter Conservative Jewish day school in NYC.

Well, it turns out that Rabbi Lau might not be practicing what he preaches. In October, on a visit to Washington he visited a nondenominational Jewish day school where girls study with boys, lead prayer services and read the torah while wearing prayer shawls.

In response R. Lau claims that he visited Jews from the Open-Orthodox movement. Whatever.

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Jordan Discriminates
Jordanian border guards grabbed the kippot off of the heads of members of an Israeli family entering Jordan. The Hayardeni family was entering Jordan on a planned vacation when the incident occurred. They promised to hide the kippot in their luggage for the duration of their trip, but the Jordanians demanded that they leave them at the border, claiming that no Jewish religious items are permitted in Jordan.

The family filed a complaint with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry responded that it was clarifying the family’s complaint with the Jordanian embassy: “We are with the family, and explaining that there is no justification in banning kippot.”

Despite losing a lot of money on hotel bookings and services that were not refunded, the family decided not to try and go ahead with their Jordanian vacation plans, saying that, “The children said they were not interested, they felt that they were not wanted in Jordan as Jews, which is in fact what we all felt.”

Instead, the Hayardenis are spending their vacation in Eilat. A much better choice these days.

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Road Deaths
According to the latest statistics, 338 people have been killed on Israel’s roads since the start of the year. Shmuel Abuav, the CEO of the Israeli road safety NGO Or Yarok, said “this is the third year running that the State of Israel has registered an increase in the number of road fatalities.” In 2014 a total of 319 were killed, in 2013 – 309 and in 2012 – 292. Abuav explained that the increase in fatalities is a direct consequence of funding cuts by the Ministry of Transport to road safety programs.

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Frozen Potatoes
A recent cold spell in Israel has particularly hurt potato farmers in the Negev. Losses are estimated at NIS 10 million. Besides the crops destroyed now, the cold will also diminish the size of the potatoes in future crops. A large percentage of Negev potatoes are exported to Russia (yes, they still eat lots of potatoes in Russia), which has been cutting back recently because of negative economic conditions. That, combined with the cold wave, spells hardship for Israel’s potato farmers.

Who here knew that Israel grows potatoes?

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Prime Dog
Two guests were bitten by the Netanyahu family dog Kaia at a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony for Likud MKs held at the Prime Minister’s residence. Kaia bit MK Sharren Haskel and Or Alon, husband of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. Haskel, a veterinary nurse attempted to pet Kaia, but the dog was agitated by all the commotion in the home and bit her. Both of the injured guests were treated by the PM’s paramedics and stayed for the remainder of the event. Haskel later joked about the incident on Twitter, ”as someone who used to be a snake wrangler, a small bite from a dog won’t deter me.”

The Netanyahus adopted Kaia after Avner, the younger of their two sons, found out that she was about to be put to sleep.

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