Israel News for February 29, 2016

Ax Terrorist Arrested
Israeli security forces yesterday arrested Saadi Ali Abu Hammed for attacking Tzvika Cohen, a 48 year old security guard, in the Maaleh Adumim mall on Friday. Cohen a father of four, is fighting for his life at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The terror attack was the first to occur in Maaleh Adumim. Judea and Samaria police have banned Palestinian workers from entering the city until Thursday, but they will be allowed to go to work at the adjacent Mishor Adumim Industrial Park.

WARNING: To watch an extremely graphic security video of the ax attack against the security guard, click here.

Army Beards
The IDF is cracking down on beards, and religious soldiers are not happy. According to new orders set to take effect this week, a soldier who wishes to grow or keep his beard for religious reasons will need to receive official approval from the IDF Chief Rabbinate, his unit commander and his adjutant commanding officer. Until now the IDF’s Chief Rabbinate alone granted permission.

The Association of Hesder Yeshivas (a program that combines army service with study in a Yeshiva) said that in recent days it has received hundreds of complaints from religious soldiers who say that their requests were denied or unanswered, meaning that they will have to shave their beard by Tuesday. It said that in once case a battalion commander instructed his entire battalion, including two platoons of Hesder soldiers, that they could not have a beard.

The head of the association said, “The security problems of the State of Israel and the challenges facing the IDF are so great and significant that the decision to trouble soldiers who grow beards is an inappropriate and unacceptable step. There are hundreds of soldiers from the Hesder yeshivas, religious pre-military academies and others who see significant service in combat roles in the IDF as a religious commandment, and the order to remove beards does not sit well with the IDF being the army of the state of the Jewish people.”

Numerous rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Aviner (Ateret Kohanim) and Rabbi Zalman Melamed (Bet El), have called on soldiers to protest the anti-beard regulation even if it means going to jail. Hundreds of soldiers have warned that they will go to jail if forbidden from growing beards.

Bayit Yehudi MKs have called on Defense Minister Yaalon to rescind the new order and make it legal for soldiers to grow beards for religious reasons. He might be sympathetic to the request, considering that Yaalon himself, who is secular, had a full beard when he served in the IDF (as seen in a this photo – http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/208646#.VtN8j8fSNcY).

The roots of the new regulation stem from a ruling by the High Court in response to a group of secular soldiers who petitioned for the right to grow beards, which had been a right granted only to religious soldiers. In order to make the playing field level for everyone the army decided to require soldiers to get permission from their commanders in addition to the rabbinate, to include the non religious soldiers.

An IDF spokesman stated that, “there is no intention to harm the sensitivities of any soldier. A religious soldiers who wishes to grow a beard will turn to his commanders (for permission), as will soldiers who are not religious who wish to grow beards for other reasons.”

Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Shas) said yesterday that the IDF would review the new regulation.

For further reading click here.

Iran Must Pay
In a landmark decision, a court in San Diego, California, has ruled that victims who were wounded in a 1997 terrorist attack on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem must be compensated by Iran.

The terrorist attack in question took place on September 4, 1997, when three Hamas suicide bombers simultaneously blew themselves up on the pedestrian mall, killing five Israelis.

The court ruling, which was handed down on Friday after 15 years of litigation, says the victims who have dual Israeli-American citizenship will be given $9.4 million using Iranian assets that were frozen and confiscated by the United States.

In addition, the judge ruled that even if Iran appeals to the Supreme Court over the ruling, he will not delay the transfer of the compensation to the victims’ families.

Nice job, Your Honor.

For further reading click here.

Right Wing Rapper
Popular right wing rapper Yoav Eliasi, aka Hatzel, has received a slew of death threats against himself and his family, but he claims that the police is denying him a permit to carry a weapon. In addition to the threats, Eliasi’s car has been vandalized on several occasions and his tires slashed multiple times. On his Facebook Hatzel wrote, “If, one day, I or one of the members of my family are hurt, the police will not be able to say they did not know.”

MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) announced last week that he intends to file a complaint against Hatzel, for incitement to violence.

To watch a music video by Hatzel, click here.

Chinese Jews Return
Five Chinese women, descended from the medieval Jewish community of Kaifeng, are set to arrive in Israel on Monday. The women will study at Midreshet Nishmat – The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, where they will prepare for their official conversion to Judaism under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Kaifeng’s Jewish community is believed to have been founded by Iraqi or Persian Jewish merchants in the eighth or ninth century. A synagogue was erected there in 1163 that still stands today. According to estimates, the community consisted of up to 5,000 Jews during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) but decreased to 500-1000 due to wide-scale assimilation and intermarriage.

According to Michael Freund, chairman of the Shavei Israel organization responsible for bringing the women to Israel, the Kaifeng community was similar to other Jewish communities except that it did not suffer anti-Semitism.

 
“As a result, beginning perhaps in the 18th century, a process of assimilation and intermarriage began to settle in. Then, the last rabbi of Kaifeng passed away 200 years ago, and the synagogue was rendered unfit for use when a series of floods struck the city in the 19th century,” Freund told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

 
Freund said that close to 1,000 remain who are identifiable as descendants of the Jewish community and who have shown increasing interest in learning about Judaism and their heritage. Such interest has enabled Freund’s organization to bring many Chinese to Israel, the last group of seven men arriving in October 2009.

 
Freund further explained that around 25 years ago, Jews were given the option of registering either as regular Han Chinese or, for unknown reasons, as Muslims. “Many opted to register as Muslims since this enabled them to have more than one child, but they are still identifiable as descendants of Jews even if some of them have nothing to do with Judaism.”

“And your children shall return to their own border. 

And there is hope for your future.” — Jeremiah 31:16

For further reading click here.

To learn more about Shavei Israel and their important work, click here.

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Israel News for February 26, 2016

Terror Attack
A 47 year old security guard was found unconscious with several stab wounds to his upper body early this morning at the Ma’ale Adumim mall south of Jerusalem. The wounds were apparently made by an ax. Security forces suspect the attack was nationalistically motivated and have closed off the city to all Palestinian workers until Sunday. The victim was rushed to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where he is fighting for his life.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Payback
Palestinian terrorist Naif Hassan Omar Zaid, 51, was convicted of murdering yeshiva student Eliyahu Amadi in Jerusalem’s Old City back in 1986. He was sentenced to life in prison, but escaped while being transferred to a hospital during a hunger strike, and has been living in Bulgaria for the past 22 years. In December 2015, Israel demanded Bulgarian authorities extradite. Since then, Zaid has taken refuge at the Palestinian Authority embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city.

This morning local media reported that Zaid was found dead at the embassy. The Palestinians claim that he was assassinated by the Mossad. Israel claims no connection to the attack.

Everyone agrees that the terrorist is dead. Good enough?

For further reading click here.

PM vs. Cameron
Yesterday we reported that British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. PM Netanyahu has responded saying, “My friend David Cameron, who is undoubtedly a friend of Israel, probably forgot some basic facts about Jerusalem. Only Israeli sovereignty is preventing ISIS and Hamas from setting fire to the holy sites in the city, like they do elsewhere across the Middle East.”

He added that, “Only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees the rule of law for everyone, something that doesn’t exist in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya or other parts of the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.”

So there.

For further reading click here.

Kotel Controversy
While 150 Reform rabbis held an egalitarian prayer service at the site of the soon to be opened southern section of the Kotel, the Chief Rabbinate Council sharply criticized the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, for endorsing the compromise agreement that permitted the establishment of the new section.

Just before the release of the critical statement by the Rabbinate, the Chief Rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, Rabbi Nebenzahl, issued a letter supporting Rabbi Rabinowitz, concluding it with a strong endorsement saying, “I trust him with all my heart to work to save the remains of our Holy Temple and to act with sanctity and purity worthy of praise.”

Meanwhile, the Council of Sages of Agudas Yisroel, the political faction representing the Chasidic communities in Israel, released a statement instructing their representatives to cooperate with the government only on condition that it passes legislation to preserve the status quo, which grants control of official religion (Judaism) in Israel exclusively to the Orthodox. The Council of Sages is comprised of prominent Chasidic Rebbes of the communities of Ger, Viznitz, Sanz, Boyan, Belz, Slonim, Biala, Modzhitz and Sadigora.

Despite the harsh words, there have been no threats by the religious parties to leave the government, which would cause it to fall. Not yet.

For further reading click here.

Marriage Dilemma
All Jewish marriages in Israel must be registered by the local Rabbinate and must be conducted by rabbis approved by the Rabbinate. Jewish couples must meet certain religious requirements in order to be registered and married by the rabbinate.

Tzohar, a religious zionist rabbinic organization whose members are approved to perform weddings by the Chief Rabbinate, has become an attractive alternative for couples when seeking a rabbi to perform their wedding. The Rabbinate doesn’t like that very much, because it feels undermined. There’s also the matter of the income lost by Rabbinate representatives who don’t get the chance to perform as many weddings (and collect as many gratuities) as they used to before Tzohar came on the scene.

The ongoing friction between the Israeli Rabbinate and Tzohar might be the cause of a new obstacle for engaged couples who want to get married. Over 100 couples from the Haifa region who registered to get married in recent months through Tzohar and not directly through the rabbinate have received judgments from the Rabbinate claiming that they are ineligible for marriage either because they are not Jewish, they have been previously married or that they are illegitimate (Mamzer). These claims have been proven to be false.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has promised to investigate the situation.

Trouble in Egypt
The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported yesterday that the Egyptian parliamentarian Tawfik Okasha had dinner on Wednesday with Israeli ambassador Haim Koren and the two talked politics. Okasha reportedly discussed several local and regional issues with Koren, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the construction of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The dinner sparked outrage on social media by many users who criticized Okasha for “hypocrisy” since he has made his opposition to “an American-Zionist conspiracy to destabilize Egypt” a hallmark of his one-man television show, which airs on the local Faraeen TV channel.

Mostafa Bakry, an MP and TV presenter who also subscribes to the American-Zionist conspiracy theories, slammed Okasha’s actions as “unforgivable treason” and a “shame”, according to Al-Ahram. Veteran radio host Hamdi El-Konayesi also blasted Okasha and said his behavior was “unacceptable”.

The report of the “scandalous” meeting appeared just hours after President Reuven Rivlin accepted the credentials of Egypt’s new Ambassador to Israel, Hazem Ahdy Khairat, marking the end of a more than three-year period without any Egyptian Ambassador to Israel.
At least we still have the peace treaty, for the time being.

For further reading click here.

German Bestseller
Guess what the newest bestselling book is in Germany: Mein Kampf. A new annotated edition of Adolf Hitler’s notorious autobiography, which served as the foundation for the Final Solution, was released last week for the first time in 70 years by the Institute for Contemporary History.

After World War II, the government of Bavaria, which owned the copyright, forbade its publication. But the copyright has expired and there’s nothing to stop the book’s publication and distribution.

According to Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Director General of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, “Over the years, those who really wanted to read the book could find a copy despite the ban, the book has even been translated into Hebrew. However, in this scientific edition, the text does not stand alone. The Institute that issued the book certainly does not support the Nazis, they are serious people and the book definitely came out in good hands.”

But still, it’s Mein Kampf. And it’s sold out. Think about it.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for February 25, 2016

Victim Buried
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Air Force reserve Captain Eliyav Gelman in Gush Etzion last night, who was accidentally shot and killed by soldiers firing at a terrorist who was attempting to stab him.

To watch a video of the funeral, click here.

British PM
British Prime Minister David Cameron strongly criticized Israeli construction in East Jerusalem during a session of the British Parliament yesterday, saying, “I am well known for being a strong friend of Israel, but I have to say the first time I visited Jerusalem and had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what had happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem, occupied East Jerusalem, it is genuinely shocking.”

Cameron added, “we do not support illegal settlements, we do not support what is happening in East Jerusalem and it’s very important that this capital city is maintained in the way that it was in the past.”

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat rejected Cameron’s comments and said that the PM was unfamiliar with the realities of the situation. Barkat said, “The situation of the residents of the city is significantly better than those in the countries which surround us and, needless to say, than the situation during the British Mandate in Israel.” He added that citizens in Jerusalem have a right to live wherever they choose, irrespective of race, religion or gender.

Barkat invited Cameron, who he said was a “true friend of Israel,” to join him for a personal tour of the city. “I invite him to come and see how we have minimized the social gaps in eastern Jerusalem and I invite him to promote connections, developments, and local cooperation together with us instead of building walls and conflicts in the heart of Jerusalem.”

For further reading click here.

Yehuda Glick
Police have dismissed charges against Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, who was accused of assaulting a Muslim woman on one of his visits there. The charges were dropped after police determined that the testimony of the plaintiff, Zoya Badrana, was fabricated.

As a result of the initial indictment, Glick was barred from entering the Temple Mount by a Jerusalem judge who said that his presence there was “inflammatory”. The dismissal of the charges against him might be sufficient grounds for overturning the court’s ruling.

After his acquittal Glick commented, “There are many here who should do some soul searching, but at this time I’m not interested in that, only in thanking God.”

For further reading click here.

Knesset vs. LGBT
A day after marking its first ever LGBT rights day, the Knesset yesterday defeated a number of bills aimed at improving the gay community’s status. Several opposition members joined the coalition in voting against the bills.

The bills, proposed by opposition members, included recognizing widowers in same sex couples, banning conversion therapy, recognizing same sex marriage contracts, and training health professionals to deal with gender and sexual inclination issues

Opposition MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu and most of the Arab MKs did not come to vote for the bills. Several other opposition members made mutual agreements with coalition members to absent themselves from the vote.

MK Amir Ohana (Likud), the first openly gay right-wing lawmaker, left the plenum without voting, while MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), head of the LGBT Knesset caucus, voted against the bills.

For further reading click here.

Haifa Scandal
Otot is an NGO that operates a hostel for homeless children in Haifa, as well as in other major Israeli cities. The Haifa hostel is located in the lower Hadar neighborhood, which apparently is not the safest place to be. The group decided to look for a better location after a number of girls staying at the hostel were sexually assaulted, cursed at and mugged in the neighborhood. A few years ago some residents threw stones at the hostel, ruined its plumbing and injured one of the girls.

Otot found a building in the central Carmel that belongs to the Rotenberg Foundation, a private foundation established in 1942 that deals with education and social affairs. The foundation agreed to rent the premises to the NGO as a hostel, and Otot has already raised some 1 million shekels in contributions for renovating the building.

About four months ago, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav found out about the agreement between the foundation and Otot and informed the foundation chairman, David Rotenberg, that he objects to the plan. As a result, the foundation suspended the decision to rent the building to the NGO pending the mayor’s consent.

In recorded conversations with MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) who tried to persuade Yahav to change his mind, the mayor is heard saying, “Let them go to Kiryat Ata… Why do I have to give you a place in Haifa? Heaven forbid if they come here… If you want to continue with this there will be a world war.” He also said, “I have the autistic [children], I [should] have the homeless? What’s the matter with you?… I don’t want them in my city, let them go to Kiryat Ata.”

Talk about political correctness. Is this guy for real? Does he think he’s running for President of the U.S.?
 
For further reading click here.

Tech Shortage
The High Tech industry in Israel has been a major contributor to economic and job growth in the country. However, the industry is doing so well and growing so quickly, that it’s running out of skilled employees to hire. The limited labor supply has also driven wages up, which is great for employees but not so great for the companies. The situation is forcing companies to move, or consider moving, operations overseas to places with larger and cheaper skilled labor pools.

PM Netanyahu, who also serves as Economy Minister, wants to solve the problem by allowing companies to import skilled foreign workers. The plan, raised in a meeting this week with ministry Chief Scientist Avi Hasson, would begin by issuing work visas to hundreds of foreigners, mainly software engineers.

A forum of Israeli technological colleges has said that the answer is not to import workers, but rather to encourage more Israelis to study science, technology, engineering and math.

So if you’re a computer scientist or software engineer, Israel needs you.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for February 24, 2016

Terror Attack
According to an IDF spokesman, a Palestinian man attempted to stab Israelis at a hitchhiking stop at the Gush Etzion junction. The terrorist was shot and wounded by an Israeli civilian. An Israeli man was also accidentally hit by the gunfire and seriously wounded. Both he and the terrorist were evacuated to hospitals in Jerusalem. The wounded Israeli man is in his early 20’s.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel from Bayit Yehudi asked Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to close the roads in the area to Palestinian traffic.

In Jerusalem’s Old City today, police arrested two Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem after discovering two pipe bombs and ammunition in their food stand near Herod’s Gate. The bombs were diffused.

For further reading click here.

Gaza Port
With talks between Israel and Turkey to restore their broken relationship continuing, the issue of a seaport in Gaza has resurfaced. Turkey plans to invest $5 billion in rebuilding Gaza, and wants to include a seaport as a central component.

Israel has consistently refused demands to permit a seaport in Gaza due to the obvious security concerns of the possibility (or probability) of Hamas importing weapons via the port.

Senior IDF officers are in favor, in principle, of a Gaza seaport, especially if it comes with a Hamas pledge for a long-term cease-fire. Some government ministers also support the idea, including Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel from the right wing Bayit Yehudi party. They believe that the seaport will drastically improve economic conditions in Gaza, which will lead to a drop in violence.

PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yaalon are opposed to any seaport in Gaza. Ya’alon is, however, willing to examine two alternatives, including opening a special quay in the Port of Ashdod for Gaza shipments or establishing a port in Al Arish, across the border in Egypt, where Egyptian security officials would check merchandise first, after which it would be taken overland to the Nitzana crossing and from there through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip after examination by Israel. Both of these alternatives are currently deemed unacceptable to the Palestinians.

Another possibility that is supported by Yaalon is to build an artificial island off the Gaza coast that would have a seaport and airport. Israel would have security oversight over the island.

Anyone have any other ideas?

For further reading click here.

Leaving Jerusalem
Central Bureau of Statistics figures published yesterday show that in 2014, Jerusalem led the country in negative migration, which means more residents moved out than moved in. The numbers don’t reflect the recent terror wave that has hit Jerusalem particularly hard. They also don’t reflect a surge in aliyah from France.

According to the figures, 10,351 new residents moved to the city while 17,091 residents left. Most of those leaving were young, with 6,421 of them aged between 15-29. Only 4,393 of the new incoming residents were in that young age range, while 2,917 of the new residents were aged 30-64. The high cost of housing is assumed to be one of the main reasons why younger people leave the city.

Despite the outflow, the Jewish population is still growing in Jerusalem due to higher birthrates in the religious and Haredi communities.

Some of the cities showing positive migration include Petach Tikva, Netanya, Ashkelon and Rehovot.

For further reading click here.

No News
Everyone knows the old saying, “no news is good news.” That seems to apply really well to Israel. While we try very hard to include positive and “feel good” stories when possible, most of the news that we end up writing about isn’t so happy, to say the least. But unfortunately, that’s just the reality so there’s not much we can do but tell it to you as straight as we can. We hope you appreciate that.

On the flip side, sometimes there just isn’t much news to report on at all. As much as we search, we’re sometimes left without anything more to say. So we don’t. Today is one of those days. So remember that, “no news is good news”, and please share our newsletter with anyone you know who might be interested. See you tomorrow.

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Israel News for February 23, 2016

Carry Weapons
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has instructed the IDF to change regulations that require soldiers to leave their weapons at base before leaving for at least a three day vacation. The regulation was meant to prevent the possibility of weapons being stolen. Now, all soldiers will be required to take their weapons with them and carry them at all times.

Eisenkot’s order comes in the wake of the murder of 1st-Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman last week by terrorists. Weissman was on a week long vacation from the army when he was shopping in a supermarket and heard the screams of someone being stabbed by terrorists. Although he did not have his weapon with him (as per regulations), he still rushed to help and was stabbed to death. The two terrorists were finally shot by an armed civilian.

Had Weissman been carrying his weapon, the situation would probably have turned out much differently. Let’s hope that this new IDF policy regarding weapons will help prevent more bloodshed by terrorists.

For further reading click here.

IDF Raids
Last night the IDF conducted raids in several Palestinian villages in Samaria in search of weapons. Soldiers seized M-16 assault rifles, pistols, bullets, magazines, night-vision goggles, binoculars and other military equipment used in terror attacks. The IDF also demolished the homes of two terrorists west of Hebron.

To watch a video of the raids, click here.

Canada vs BDS
Canada’s Parliament passed a motion yesterday formally condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The motion passed with support from both the Conservative and Liberal parties and calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said, “the world will win nothing for boycotting Israel but depriving itself of the talents of its inventiveness.”

On the flip side, the National Council on Canada Arab Relations said the anti-BDS motion goes “against the spirit of the Freedom of Speech, a right enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” You can’t please everyone.

Go Canada!

For further reading click here.

Last Treblinka Survivor
Samuel Willenberg, the last survivor of the Treblinka death camp, was buried yesterday in Israel. Willenberg was one of only 67 people to survive the notorious camp where 850,000 Jews were murdered in the 13 months of its existence.

Willenberg was a leading member of the underground resistance group formed in the camp, which carried out a revolt in August 1943 that burned down most of the camp and killed many guards. Hundreds of prisoners were shot trying to flee to the forest. Most of those who succeeded were later captured and killed by the Germans or local Poles. Willenberg managed to reach Warsaw where he joined his father who was hiding there as a Christian. He then joined the Polish underground and fought in the Warsaw (Polish Underground) Uprising in 1944. After the war Willenberg moved to Israel where he worked as an artist and sculptor, and wrote several books about his incredible story of survival.

President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Willenberg saying,“Samuel, I came here today to tell you – you are a hero. And what a hero, Samuel. You are a symbol of heroism. A symbol for an entire generation of Holocaust Survivors. Heroes. Strong and courageous people. Invincible. Optimistic. Who survived the destruction and could grow once again. Who experienced the horror and choose life.”

He concluded by saying, “We must do everything possible to help the survivors live out the rest of their lives with dignity. This is our duty. It is a moral imperative for the victims, for the survivors. For ourselves, and in order to fulfill the will of Samuel, we must remember and never forget. May his memory be blessed.”

For further reading click here.

 

Syrians Thank Israel
Aboud Dandachi, a 39 year old Sunni Muslim from the city of Homs now living in Istanbul, has created a website dedicated to the Israeli and Jewish organizations and people helping Syrian refugees.

The website, Thank You Am Israel, highlights the humanitarian aid being given to displaced Syrians and also refutes any reasons why Israelis and Syrians should be enemies.
The site includes news stories and opinion pieces on the global humanitarian aid being offered by Israeli and Jewish people to the Syrian people. (Am Yisrael is Hebrew for “Nation of Israel.”)

“There are new stories of Israelis helping Syrians every day. As far as I’m concerned, because we as Syrians cannot give back to Jews what they give to us, so we should at least thank them,” Dandachi told Ynet news.

Dandachi said, “By chronicling and acknowledging the numerous acts of compassion and generosity shown by the Jewish people to my own people, I can try to ensure that Syrians, Arabs and the world at large never be allowed to forget what you have offered and provided to Syrian refugees, at a time when you had every historical and practical reason not to. Thank you Am Israel, and may you always be safe and blessed.”

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for February 22, 2016

Duma Torture
Amiram Ben-Uliel, the main suspect in the Duma arson murder last summer, is claiming that he confessed to the crime because he was tortured by his Shin Bet interrogators. No the Shin Bet did not use waterboarding. They used something much worse: a woman’s voice.

When his interrogators realized that Ben-Uliel, 21, refrained from listening to women singing (due to his stringent interpretation of Jewish law which prohibits a man from listening to a woman singing), they simply turned on the radio.

According to Ben-Uliel, “I asked them to turn it off, and they wouldn’t’; I got up to turn it off and they jumped me, beat me, bound me hand and foot, and put pressure on me in painful places.” Then the Shin Bet got really tough and brought in a female interrogator who actually sang songs to him (it’s unclear whether or not she sang off key, which can be really painful to the sensitive musical ear). The woman also apparently touched him lightly on the shoulder to stop him from falling back, which really set him over the edge, causing him to shout, “what are you touching me for? You should be ashamed.”

The purpose of reporting this story is in no way to make light of Jewish law, and those familiar with the laws relating to interaction between the genders will understand the distorted application of those laws by Ben-Uliel in his particular situation. The main takeaway from this story is to better understand the kind of “torture” that the Shin Bet is accused of using. In all probability there was some degree of physical abuse employed. But relating the term “torture”, which is understood by the world to include things that are on a totally different level of inhumanity (just ask Donald Trump), to the Shin Bet’s interrogation of the Duma suspects might not be so accurate after all.

The Shin Bet might have acted insensitively to the prisoner’s religious beliefs, but can that be considered “torture”?

For further reading click here.

Parents of Terrorists
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said at a cabinet meeting yesterday that Palestinian parents are not preventing their children from committing terror attacks because they know that parents of terrorists receive a grant and a monthly stipend from the Palestinian Authority.

Several ministers said that Israel should work to block transfers of funds from the PA to terrorists’ families. The ministers were told that every month Israel deducts what it estimates the PA pays to terrorists’ families before it pays over the taxes it collects on the PA’s behalf. Bennett said that this deduction is not enough, and that an effort must be made to keep the families from getting money.

For further reading click here.

Church Battle
Jews and Muslims aren’t the only ones in conflict over religious sites in Jerusalem. For the last 20 years a battle has been waged between the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and an Arab storekeeper over a piece of valuable underground Jerusalem real estate.

Twenty years ago Abed Hirbawi went down into the cellar of his grocery store, which is adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City Christian Quarter, and found a group of Coptic monks digging there. The monks claimed that the cellar was part of the church.

A violent quarrel ensued between the monks and Palestinian youngsters who had come to support Hirbawi. A week later, a number of armed men from the Palestinian security forces arrived at Hirbawi’s home and abducted him. Apparently, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had promised Egypt’s then-president, Hosni Mubarak (patron of the Coptic Church in Jerusalem), that the merchant would relinquish the cellar. When Hirbawi refused, despite severe threats to his life, Arafat offered him $2 million from his personal account (hmm, wonder where that came from) to give up the cellar. Hirbawi still refused, claiming that the issue was a matter of honor.

When PM Netanyahu heard about the abduction of Hirbawi, who is an Israeli citizen, he ordered the IDF to impose a closure on the territories until Abed Hirbawi was released. Hirbawi was freed after being held for four days, and the dispute moved to the courts.

The case went through numerous courts and judges, including the High Court, for years. The Church brought evidence to prove that the cellar was a holy site, which would move the case from the courts to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Hirbawi’s Israeli attorney compiled a comprehensive historical study covering 3,000 years to prove that the cellar was never used for religious purposes. He also submitted a document from 1189, the period of Saladin’s rule in Jerusalem, according to which the Muslim ruler assigned to Muslims “a large chamber known as the Patriarch’s Hall,” which he identified as the Hirbawi cellar.

Well, to make a much longer and complicated story short, the two sides recently agreed to build a wall down the middle of cellar giving half to the Hirbawi’s (Abed Hirbawi dies several years ago) and half to the Coptic Church.

Now they’re arguing about what material to build the wall out of.

For further reading click here.

It’s Raining
Heavy rains drenched Israel from north to south yesterday and today. In the Negev and Dead Sea area flash floods overran highways and shut down traffic and schools throughout the region. A ceiling at the Be’er Sheva’s “Grand Canyon” shopping mall collapsed due to rain.

In the north, Tzfat broke all records with 18 hours of non-stop rain and 70 mm of rain, about a fifth of the total amount that has fallen since the beginning of winter. Mount Hermon was closed to the public due to heavy snow and the Kinneret rose over a centimeter, which still leaves it almost 4 meters below its “red line”.

But don’t worry, the rest of the week is supposed to be unseasonably warm and sunny.

To see video and photos of the flooding, click here.

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Israel News for February 19, 2016

Jerusalem Terror
A Palestinian terrorist stabbed two Border Police officers at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City today. The officers shot and killed the terrorist. Both officers were lightly wounded and a passerby was lightly wounded by shrapnel from the shooting. The Damascus Gate has been the scene of 11 terror attacks in the last 5 months, including the one that killed police officer Hadar Cohen.

For further reading click here.

More Terror
Two 14-year-old Palestinians entered a Rami Levi supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin Industrial Zone north of Jerusalem, which services both Israelis and Palestinians, and stabbed two Israelis yesterday. They killed 21-year-old Sergeant Tuvia Yanai Weissman and wounded a 36-year-old man. Weissman, a resident of Ma’ale Michmash in the Binyamin region of the West Bank, was in civilian clothes and shopping with his wife and 4-month-old baby when he was murdered.

Shoppers pushed the terrorists back with shopping carts. A civilian at the scene then shot and wounded them. One later died of his wounds in hospital. According to the Shin Bet these are the youngest terrorist to have carried out a deadly attack during the current wave of violence.

Hundreds of mourners attended Weissman’s funeral today at Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. Weissman’s father eulogized his son saying, “You loved your daughter, Neta, so much. You took her to see the flowers in the Negev the day before you were murdered. No hate and no enemy will ever stop that.”

The 36-year-old man wounded in the attack is reported to be in stable condition at Hadassah
Hospital in Jerusalem.

The IDF is preparing the homes of the two terrorists for demolition.

For further reading click here.

Russian intervention
Russia is not happy with Israel’s rapprochement with Turkey. In a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold that took place in Moscow yesterday, Lavrov expressed Putin’s dissatisfaction with the contacts between Israel and Turkey regarding a pending reconciliation agreement that would end a five-year crisis in relations between the two countries provoked by the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, where Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship that was headed for Gaza, killing nine.

The Russians, whose already rocky relations with Turkey reached an all time low following the downing of a Russian jet over Syria last November, are concerned about some of the benefits that the government of President Erdoğan will receive in the context of an agreement with Israel and are not happy about Turkey gaining a strong foothold in Gaza, where they would be given free access and special status to import humanitarian equipment as part of the potential agreement with Israel.

The question is, does what Russia thinks really matter to Israel?

For further reading click here.

Rent Difficulties
If you think renting is tough in New York, you won’t find it any easier in Israel. The Tel Aviv Municipality’s Center for Young Adults surveyed 1,080 renters, 62% of whom live in Tel Aviv, 9% in Jerusalem, 8% in Beersheva, and the rest in other cities including Ramat Gan, Haifa, Rehovot, Petah Tikva, Givatayim, and Holon.

According to the survey, 36% of renters noted they cannot afford their rent and relied on parental assistance to make their monthly payments, 31% said they were forced to move apartments due to a rent increase, and 35% said that their landlord did not properly maintain the property and reported the landlord asked them to pay for repairs that fall under the property owner’s responsibility.

If you’re looking for stability, forget about it. According to the survey, 29% of respondents said they had to move at least three apartments in the past five years.

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai summed it up like this:
“The survey shows once again the rental market in Israel is broken; the steep price increases and lack of stability are wearing out our youth. It is a lawless market, and the party needs to be ended by legislation to regulate and improve terms for both renters and landlords.”

While the survey focused primarily on Tel Aviv, a market that doesn’t reflect the average Israeli rental market (like Manhattan doesn’t represent most of America), it still sheds light on a major problem that is facing a significant proportion of Israel’s younger population.

For further reading click here.

Angel Revealed – Part II
A few days ago we told you the story of the man who overheard a young female soldier crying on the phone pleading with the Electric Company to restore her electricity which they cut off due to non payment. The man, Ofir Yitzhak, grabbed the phone and paid the entire balance of 1,915 shekels. Another soldier who witnessed the incident posted it on Facebook, calling the man an angel.

While the story warmed the hearts of thousands and restored our faith in humanity, many of us couldn’t help but feel a little angry at the Israel Electric Company for being so heartless. Sure, you wouldn’t expect any better in the U.S., but hey, it’s Israel. Well, you can relax.

A recording of the conversation between the young soldier and Shirli, the clerk at the Electric Company, has been released. In the recording Shirli expresses her deep sympathy for the soldier’s unfortunate situation and is barely able to hold back her tears. She calls her supervisor to explain the situation and plead the soldier’s case. The supervisor decides to reconnect the electricity. All this occurs before the man takes the phone to pay the entire bill.

So now there are three angels instead of just one. Perhaps the truth is that we’re all angels — all we need to do is take a step and reveal ourselves.

To listen to the conversation with the Electric Company click here.

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Israel News for February 18, 2016

Syrian Strikes
According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian army outposts south of Damascus were hit by three Israeli rockets last night. It did not detail the amount of damage caused. A Pro-Assad military source denied the report, claiming that there were no Israeli strikes inside Syria on Wednesday. The Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar also denied the report.

Israel had no comment, which is what usually happens after reports of Israeli strikes into Syria are reported by Arab media or groups. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

For further reading click here.

Eisenkot Remarks
During a meeting with high school students in Bat Yam who are preparing to join the army, IDF Chief of Staff LT. General Gadi Eizenkot was asked whether he intends to change the strict rules of engagement to permit soldiers to open fire sooner than they are currently permitted to.

Eizenkot responded by citing (and dismissing) a famous Talmudic dictum saying, “The IDF cannot speak in slogans like ‘when someone comes to kill you – kill him first.’” The Talmudic dictum was recently quoted by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef last October, when he praised soldiers who kill attacking terrorists and lauded them for performing a mitzvah. Other rabbis have also used the phrase to permit soldiers and civilians to kill terrorists rather than capturing them alive.

Eizenkot also said that the IDF cannot follow the slogan, “everyone holding scissors must be killed.” That statement infuriated senior Jerusalem police officers, who took it as referring to an incident in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market where two teenage girls who stabbed a 70 year old man were shot by two police officers. One of the officers was later accused of using excessive force.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon today supported Eisenkot’s remarks saying, “I give my full backing to Eisenkot’s remarks vis-à-vis the rules of engagement. We can’t allow our senses to get dull and our finger to be quick on the trigger.”

For further reading click here.

Popcorn Problem
Earlier this week the Knesset Economic Committee approved a bill that, if passed by the Knesset, will hopefully solve one of the biggest problems facing Israelis these days: popcorn at the movies.

You’re all familiar with that little scam, where movie owners charge five times as much for popcorn and other snacks and drinks at their theaters, and there’s not much you can do about it. Well, Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov has had enough. She’s proposing giving movie goers the right to bring their own popcorn and snacks to theaters in the hope of forcing theater owners to lower their prices to normal levels.

The Knesset already tried to solve this vexing issue back in 1981 when they passed a consumer protection law called the “popcorn law” that was meant to prevent theater owners from selling food and allow people to bring their own. But theater owners simple hired outside vendors to sell the food, which apparently was sufficient to circumvent the law and prohibit people from bringing in their snacks.

But enough is enough. No one should have to pay those insane prices for popcorn, soda and snacks! Can the Knesset finally destroy one of the most hated monopolies to ever exist, anywhere?

Let’s hope that Israel can lead the way in the fight for freedom of popcorn expression.

For further reading click here.

Kippah Tool
If you wear a kippah and use a clip to hold it in place, you might want to look at a new product developed in Israel that recently hit the market. It’s called Clippa and it’s a hair clip commonly used as a kippah clip, that has been modified to do all sorts of things like cut boxes, open bottles, file nails, serve as a screwdriver and all sorts of other useful tasks.

The clips look like ordinary clips but are reinforced with steel to prevent them from breaking. They come in black, pink and silver. The Tel Aviv inventor, Yaakov Goldberg, said that despite its cutting functions, the clips are totally safe. “The knife can cut ‘all sorts, from fruit to rope’, but it won’t cut your hair while wearing it.”

So whether you’re a woman looking to keep your hair in place or a man looking to keep your kippah in place, the Clippa might open up new possibilities for you. The clip is available for purchase online via Amazon or the website “Monkey Business” where it sells for between $6-7 dollars a piece.

For further reading click here.

Mazal Tov PM
Mazal Tov to PM Netanyahu on the birth of a new granddaughter. The baby girl was born to Netanyahu’s daughter Noa Roth, 36. Noa is the PM’s daughter from his first marriage, to Dr. Miriam Weitzman (Haran). The PM has two other children with Sara.

By the way, Noa has five other children, is married to Daniel Roth, a Chabad businesses man originally from America, and recently moved to Mea Shearim, the historic Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem enclave.

Mazal Tov!

For further reading click here.

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Woman Fights Back

Watch how this Israeli woman fights off three guys who try to attack her in a pub.

אני מופיעה בקטע של מצלמת אבטחה בפאב. חיכיתי לחברה וכמה החליטו לנצל את ההזדמנות. תודה למאמן שלי Guy Dar Kmm שלימד אותי לצאת מסיטואציות כאלו.

Posted by Gili Ganani on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Israel News for February 17, 2016

Hezbollah Threats
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, broadcasting from his secret bunker, threatened yesterday to fire missiles at the ammonia plant in Haifa, which he claimed would cause an explosion similar to that of a nuclear bomb. His speech was in honor of “Loyalty to Martyrs and Leaders” day. Past leaders of Hezbollah, all killed at “work”, were honored at the special ceremony which was held under the slogan, “the resistance isn’t defeated.”

Nasrallah directed this special message to IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkodt: “its simple mathematics. A few missiles on a few ammonium plants equals the same amount of death as an atomic bomb…you can destroy Lebanon and Dahiyeh. You have the strongest airforce, you have missiles, and you have other means by which to do it. But we can do the same thing to you (Israel) with only a few missiles aimed at a few amonium plants.”

He added that Hezbollah did not want to start a war, but that it would be prepared to respond if attacked.

Unfortunately, Nasrallah does have a point regarding the dangers of the ammonia plant being located in a densely populated city like Haifa. After the Second Lebanon War, the Haifa municipality ordered a report from a British company, in order to mitigate the risks to the ammonia plant. The report revealed that in the event of a hit on the ammonia plant, it will release a cloud ten miles in diameter, and will cover all of Haifa and Acre.

According to Professor Amos Natua of the Technion, “Researchers who conducted the studies in the 1990’s concluded that there could be 70,000 casualties. The State Comptroller released a statement in 2003 that the number will likely be much higher.”
 
The Haifa municipality issued a response to the speech saying, “We don’t believe that we should run the country based on Nasrallah’s arrogant speeches, but we’re happy that he put this worrying and important issue on the agenda – – even if it is coming from a frightened man who’s been hiding in a bunker for the last several years.”

Perhaps some good will come of Nasrallah after all.

For further reading click here.

PA Security
Palestinian Security Forces thwarted a bombing attempt at the Jalame checkpoint in Jenin yesterday morning. According to Palestinian sources, two 15 yr olds were caught by Palestinian Security Forces stationed on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint moments before they were to enter Israel. The teens planned to carry out a two stage attack – first detonating the pipe bombs, then stabbing the survivors.

It’s good to see that despite the calls by many in the Palestinian leadership to cut off all cooperation with Israel, the security cooperation continues, at least to some degree.

For further reading click here.

Reporters Questioned
Police briefly detained The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, William Booth, and reporter Sufian Taha at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday after a witness said that they tried to stage a confrontation by Arab youth with the police.

The police later released a statement apologizing for any emotional harm caused to the journalists, saying that an investigation of the incident showed that the detainment was necessary in light of the information that had been received, which later turned out to have been false.  

According to the Foreign Press Association, Booth and Taha were trying to interview Palestinian high-school students near the Damascus Gate when they were waved away by police. They then moved under a tree and tried to interview the teens there, when they were stopped again by police officers who asked for their IDs. The journalists showed their Government Press Office cards, but the officers rejected them, asking for official identity documents, and then detained them.

Perhaps the police made a mistake in this case, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that foreign journalists have staged Palestinian protests or violence against Israeli security forces.

For further reading click here.

Eilat Gambling
PM Netanyahu will meet with Tourism Minister Levin and Transportation Minister Katz to discuss the idea of opening casinos in Eilat. Netanyahu has suggested opening a single casino but Levin is thinking bigger. He wants to create a complex containing several casinos, hotels, entertainment centers, restaurants and retail stores on the site of the Eilat’s airport, which is due to be dismantled and replaced by the new Arava International Airport outside of the city.

The ultimate goal is to turn Eilat into a major international tourist destination. Both Netanyahu and Levin are in favor of imposing certain restrictions on Israelis gambling. But the negative effects that casinos would have on the Israeli population is raising fears and opposition, particularly from the religious parties including Bayit Yehudi, Shas and UTJ as well as from the far left Meretz.

Casinos in Eilat could give a whole new meaning to the term “holy rollers”.

For further reading click here.

Angel Revealed
A young female soldier sitting on a train in central Israel was on the phone with the electric company. She was crying hysterically because the company was about to cut off the electricity to the apartment that she lives in with her single mother, who was waiting for her disability check. The electric company wasn’t swayed by her tears. But a stranger was. The man, who appears to be in his 30’s, came over, grabbed the phone and paid the entire bill, which totaled 1,950 shekels. He even gave the girl the confirmation number of the payment. Wow.

Another female soldier witnessed the incident and asked the man if she could take his photo so that she could spread the story on Facebook and teach everyone that there are still good people in the world. He agreed.

Speechless.

To see the man’s photo click here.

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