Israel News for March 31, 2016

More Corruption?
The Attorney General has opened an investigation into corruption allegations against Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas party. There are also corruption allegations and investigations against opposition leader Herzog and the mayor of Nazareth Ilit.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of writing about political corruption in Israel and you’re probably sick of reading about it. Seriously, what’s the point of going into a whole long report of what they think he did and what he says he didn’t do — and keep repeating that for the next 18 months until it either goes to trial or doesn’t?

To be totally honest, one of the reasons this newsletter didn’t go out yesterday was because these corruption stories were basically the only major items in all of the Israeli media outlets, and I just didn’t have the stomach to write about it. The other reason was because my internet went down in the morning (it happens to the best of us).

So here’s the deal: if any of these finally do go to trial and there’s an actual conviction, I’ll let you know and give you all the gory details. Well, nobody really cares about the mayor of Nazareth Ilit, so I won’t even bother with that one.

If you really need to know more about this now, click here.

Senator vs Israel
Senior Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, along with 10 Democratic Congressmen, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to investigate the alleged involvement of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police forces in carrying out extrajudicial killings of Palestinian terrorists. The letter comes in light of the military aid agreement being negotiated between the US and Israel.

Leahy, head of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee of Defense, is considered one of the most senior senators in Congress. The Leahy Law, enacted in 1997, prohibits U.S. funding from equipping or training foreign military forces suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes. As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense – among other things – filters foreign officers and soldiers who come to the U.S. for training.

The letter says, “There have been a disturbing number of reports of possible gross violations of human rights by security forces in Israel and Egypt. [These] incidents that may have involved recipients, or potential recipients, of U.S. military assistance. We urge you to determine if these reports are credible and to inform us on your findings.”

The letter also lists several incidents reported by Amnesty International in which Israeli security forces killed terrorists and concludes with, “In light of these reports we request that you act promptly to determine their credibility and whether they trigger the Leahy Law and, if so, take appropriate action called for under the law.”

To read the entire letter click here.

US Condemns UN
The US yesterday condemned a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that calls for setting up a database of businesses operating in the occupied West Bank. The resolution was adopted by a 32 to 0 vote, with 15 mostly European nations, abstaining.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby accused the UN council of bias against Israel and criticized the motion at his daily briefing saying, “We continue to unequivocally oppose the very existence of that agenda item and therefore any resolutions … that come from it.”

For further reading click here.

Land Day
On March 30, 1976, Israeli Arabs declared a general strike in protest of government decisions to expropriate Arab lands in the Galilee. A day before the strike, violent clashes broke out between security forces and residents of the villages Deir Hanna, Arraba and Sakhnin in the Galilee, in which six protesters were killed and 38 wounded.

On the annual anniversary of that day, called Land Day, Israeli Arabs in the Galilee and Negev hold a general strike and protest demonstrations. This year was no different.

Businesses, public institutions, and medical centers in the Arab sector were closed Wednesday, while protests organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel were held in the Galilee and the Negev in the afternoon.

Thousands of people protested in the villages of Arraba and Sakhnin in the Western Galilee and the village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev. Protesters called to continue the fight against home demolitions and land expropriation. They waved Palestinian flags and banners that said: “Give me land or give me death.”

To be fair, many (probably the vast majority of) Israeli Arabs don’t think the strike is effective and don’t consider the High Follow Up Committee to be their representative. That’s good news, right?

For further reading click here.

Another Tunnel
While a Hamas delegation met with Egyptian officials in Cairo regarding the border between Gaza and Egypt and the smuggling tunnels there, the Egyptian military located and destroyed the longest smuggling tunnel found to date.

The tunnel’s opening point, located in the house of an Egyptian smuggler from the Al Barazeel neighborhood in Rafah, Egypt is made out of concrete and steel. In addition to high quality engineering equipment, lighting, generators, communications devices and mortars were found. The tunnel was 3 kilometers long.

Nice to know Israel isn’t alone in its tunnel busting efforts against Hamas.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for March 29, 2016

Rabbinic Clarification
The media had a field day after Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef commented in his weekly Saturday night class that gentiles were only permitted to live in the Land of Israel in order to serve Jews and were otherwise forbidden to live in Israel. But it was obvious to anyone familiar with the subject that the rabbi was simply quoting from Maimonides’ laws relating to the seven Noachide laws. He certainly wasn’t relating his own opinion on the matter.

But of course the media either didn’t know this or just didn’t care. Slapping a provocative headline accusing the Chief Rabbi of making racist statements against non Jews works much better for getting readers to buy papers or to click on articles. If they turn out to be wrong…no big deal. At least they got their page views and sold a few more bucks worth of ads.

Rabbi Yosef’s office clarified this issue in the following statement released yesterday:

“During his weekly lecture, the Rishon Lezion, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, commented on the laws of selling hametz during Passover. He explained the halachic concept of ger toshav (resident non-Jew) according to the Rambam.

These instructions are theoretical and deal with upholding the seven Noahide Laws during the time of the Messiah. They have no connection to our current time. It’s clear that there is no rule today to deport those who aren’t Jewish from the Land of Israel.

The honorable Rishon Lezion (Chief Rabbi) has always held a conciliatory manner and he would not present such an extreme stance. He is one of the few who declared it is forbidden to kill a neutralized terrorist and that the terrorist must be handed over to the authorities.

The Torah of Israel is a Torah of life and encourages peace and tolerance. We are saddened that there are those in the media who choose to distort the issue, to remove it from it context and to present it in a negative light.”

Terrorist Corpses
PM Netanyahu yesterday ordered the Defense Minister to stop returning the corpses of terrorists to their families. In most cases the funerals of these terrorists have become staging grounds for incitement and violence against Israel.

Belgian Jew
Walter Benjamin, a Belgian Jew who was injured in the recent terror attack in the Brussels airport, has said that he plans to make Aliyah when he recovers. Benjamin was on his way to visit his daughter, who lives in Israel, for Purim when he was caught in the bomb blast. His leg was amputated as a result of his injuries.

Two students from an Antwerp yeshiva were also among the 300 people wounded in the bombings.

For further reading click here.

Bankers Capped
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, of the Kulanu party, has taken on the country’s top bankers and won. Kahlon sponsored a new law that was approved by a 56 to 0 vote in the Knesset yesterday to cap the salaries of Israel’s bankers at 35 times that of the lowest paid worker in the banking industry. In practical terms that means bankers will not be able to make more than 2.5 million shekels ($658,000) per year.

The Association of Banks in Israel is said to be considering an appeal to the Supreme Court against the legislation but it had no official comment.

The PM, who is known to be pro business and free market, hasn’t officially commented on the new law but his spokesmen told Israel radio, “This is an important reform by the finance minister and the prime minister supports him on the matter. At the same time, we do not think it would be right to extend it to other sectors.”

Bernie Sanders must be feeling proud to be a Jew today.

For further reading click here.

Environmental Victory
In a victory against one of the most annoying enemies of our environment, the Knesset today passed a law banning the free distribution of plastic shopping bags by supermarkets and other stores. The law, which requires a mandatory 10 agurot (3 cents) charge for every plastic shopping bag used, will take effect next year.

MK Uri Maklev (UTJ), a supporter of the bill, explained, “The use of disposable plastic bags in Israel now stands at 274 bags per person per year, more than 2 billion bags total per year. This is a bill that will affect all of us, and it’s important not only because it will reduce littering, but also as a matter of teaching [good habits]”.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for March 28, 2016

Mazal Tov
Looks like Donald Trump will be attending the bris next week of his own grandson. His daughter Ivanka, wife of Jared Kushner, gave birth to a baby boy yesterday. They named the baby Theodore James Kushner. We’ll have to wait until next week for his Hebrew name. The boy makes Jewish grandchild number three for the Donald. How can he not be pro Israel?

Military Killing
On Thursday two Palestinians stabbed an IDF soldier in Hebron. Soldiers opened fire on the terrorists, killing one and seriously wounding the other. As the terrorist was lying on the the ground, only able to move his head, and surrounded by around 12 officers and soldiers, one soldier fired a shot into the terrorist’s head, killing him.

The IDF is investigating the apparently unlawful execution of the neutralized terrorist. The soldier, who is under military arrest, claims that he thought that the terrorist, who was wearing a heavy coat, had explosives that he was about to detonate. The IDF claims that the terrorist was checked for explosives moments before the soldier arrived and shot him.

PM Netanyahu defended the morality of the IDF saying, “Any challenge to the morality of the IDF is outrageous and unacceptable. The soldiers of the IDF, our children, maintain high ethical values while courageously fighting against bloodthirsty murderers under difficult operational conditions.”

For further reading click here.

Controversy Ends
After months of controversy over his appointment as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, which was rejected by the Brazilian government, PM Netanyahu has appointed Dani Dayan as Israel’s Consul General in New York.

Dayan’s former role as head of the YESHA council, which is the representative body for the settlers in Judea and Samaria, was the primary reason for Brazil’s reluctance in accepting him as ambassador. The PM, along with the Foreign Ministry, had initially pledged to stand behind Dayan’s appointment and refused to appoint a replacement in his stead. But maintaining good relations with the largest country in South America (200 million) and the seventh largest economy in the world finally prevailed.

Dayan isn’t too upset about his New York city posting. He said, “Those who don’t want me in Brasilia, will get me in the capital of the world and to me that is a victory. I believe I can revolutionize Israeli public relations in the US, whose beating heart is in New York.”

Best of luck in the Big Apple.

For further reading click here.

Court Blocks Gas
Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled against the government’s controversial gas deal that would give control over most of Israel’s gas reserves to a conglomerate of two major gas exploration and development companies.

The court specifically struck down the “stability clause”, in which the state promises to make no substantial regulatory changes in the gas industry in the next 10 years, in particular in taxation, exports and ownership of the fields.

In their ruling the judges wrote, “The stability clause has been set without authority and its legality is repealed. This is because it has been passed in contradiction to the basic rules of administrative law in a way that prohibits restricting the considerations of the (Antitrust) Authority.”

PM Netanyahu rebuked the decision saying, “The High Court of Justice decision severely threatens the development of the gas reserves of the State of Israel. Israel is seen as a state with excessive judicial interference in which it is difficult to do business … We will seek other ways to overcome the severe damage that this curious decision has caused the Israeli economy.”

For further reading click here.

Power Ranking
The website Global Firepower, that analyzes data relating to modern military powers, has released its 2016 rankings of military powers. Israel ranked #11. The top 10 rankings went to (in order) the US, Russia, China, India, UK, France, South Korea, Germany, Japan and Turkey. The highest ranking Arab countries were Egypt at #18 and Saudi Arabia at #28. Iran ranked #23.

The rankings are solely based on conventional military power and do not take into account nuclear capabilities.

To see the entire list click here.

Judo Gold
Israeli judoka Or Sasson won the gold medal in the over 100 kilogram division at the Judo Grand Prix in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Gili Cohen won a silver medal in her own weight class. You can watch Sasson’s winning match at the 1:49:45 mark of this video.

Soda Peace
As part of its unsuccessful campaign to persuade the Israeli government to grant work permits to 74 Palestinian employees, SodaStream created a video showcasing Israel and Palestinian employees harmoniously working together. While the video didn’t succees at getting those permits, it has served as a messenger of peace for Israel in the Arab world.

The company translated the original Hebrew video into English and Arabic after receiving requests from the Swedish and Jordanian embassies. The company then allocated a million shekels to market the video in the Arab world. Two weeks ago the company began airing the video in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The video has so far garnered more than 2.4 million views in those countries and 35 million views worldwide.

SodaStream is currently located in the Negev, near the Bedouin town of Rahat, and employs hundreds of Israeli Bedouin and Arabs.

To watch the video click here.

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Israel News for March 24, 2016 – Purim Issue

EU Condemns Israel
The EU’s special commission for Middle Eastern affairs has voted unanimously to condemn Israel for war crimes committed against Iran during the reign of King Achashverosh. Particular reference was made to the hangings of the acting Prime Minister Haman and his ten sons.

Committee chairman Count Fullofs Hit from Netherland proclaimed, “We can no longer stand by while the peaceful heirs to the glorious Persian empire are subjected to constant threats and attacks by the Elders of Zion and their Protocols. As a result of our fair and unbiased investigation, justice has finally been achieved.”

The Chancellor of the University of Philippe in Paris (UPP), a professor of ancient history, provided the bulk of the research for the EU decision. The UPP head, Jaques Strapp, said, “according to my research Haman was actually working hard for the benefit of the Jewish community. His plan was to segregate the Jews from their Persian neighbors and concentrate them in a few major cities for their own protection and the enhancement of their unique culture and religious practices. Solving what he fondly called the “Jewish Problem” was his lifelong mission, which, had he succeeded, would have dramatically changed the history of the world for the better.” He added, “hanging such a man along with his sons is inexcusable.”

When countered with the self defense argument for killing Haman, Count Fullofs Hit responded that it did not apply in this case, or in any matter related to Israel. He said, “Regarding Israel, self defense is always aggression.”

Esther Dispute
A Purim dispute has erupted in the Knesset that threatens to topple the current government. The dispute revolves around the appointment of the marshal for the annual State of Israel Purim Parade that takes place in Jerusalem on Purim day (which is actually the day after Purim, in Jerusalem). Leaders of the opposition, with the rare support of coalition MKs, are backing Esther, while the Haredi parties are demanding that Mordecai lead the parade, as usual.

Haredi spokesman Natan Urlife declared that it would blemish the holiness of Judaism to have a woman serve as marshal, even if she was responsible for saving the Jewish people. Mordecai has always lead the parade, and that status quo must not be tempered with.

In addition to threatening to topple the coalition, the Haredi leaders have also warned that they would change the name of the Megillah from Esther to something else more in line with Jewish tradition.

In a bid to reach a compromise, moderate Haredi leaders have suggested allowing Esther to marshal the parade from an enclosed box-like structure that would prevent people from seeing her. Another proposal to force all male spectators to wear dark sunglasses was rejected as being a violation of freedom of expression.

In a bid to reach a solution, the Prime Minister has suggested making Donald Trump the parade marshal, saying that he’s got the experience from leading the Israel Day Parade in New York. In addition, he seems to be the only one of the nominees who has Jewish grandchildren.

They’ll work something out. They always do.

Women of the Beach
The Women of the Beach, an offshoot of the Women of the Wall group, has temporarily taken over a segregated beach in Tel Aviv. The radical women’s rights group is demanding the right to sunbathe anywhere they want and are claiming that beaches with separate hours for male and female use are an attack on the civil rights of all women. The fact that there are only a handful of segregated beaches in Israel is irrelevant to them.

One activist said, “they’ve segregated the Kotel, which is the soul of the Jewish people. We won’t let them segregate the place where the Jewish body is displayed for all to see. Taking away our right to walk around nearly naked denigrates and belittles us. It is a blatant attempt to strip us of our pride. We’ll lie on this beach every day, from morning to night, if that’s what it takes to protect our honor.”

In response, hundreds of male Bnei Brak residents have gone to protest at the beach. Police have erected high barriers to prevent the men for “inadvertently” gazing at the Women of the Beach. There could be trouble.

Trump Negotiates
Donald Trump has promised voters that he will exclusively use Jews to negotiate all of his deals as President. He said, “If you want to make America great again (and who doesn’t), you need to be able to negotiate great deals. And believe me, there are no better negotiators in the world than the Jews. I’ve obviously been extremely successful in my life and I have always made sure to only hire Jewish lawyers to get the best deals. As President, I’ll continue to do that. Believe me, you’ll win so much that you’ll get tired of winning.”

Trump added, “and by the way, just to prove I’m serious, I have a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and of course, Jewish grandchildren.”

Finally, “When it comes to building the wall, I’ll hire Christians (preferably hispanics and blacks), but when it comes to making deals…I’m going for the Jews.”

Herzog’s Wall
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog continued to push his plan to separate Israel from the Palestinians as the only way to stop the terror and violence in the country. His plan calls for building a wall along the entire border to stop Palestinians from entering Israel proper. Yesterday Herzog announced that he would make the Palestinians pay for the wall adding, “believe me, they’ll pay for it. I’m the only one who can make that happen. And believe me, it will happen.”

Nobody in Israel can understand where Herzog came up with the idea, but they seem to love him now. To counter Herzog’s new popularity, PM Netanyahu has pledged to build an even higher wall and get Mexico to pay for it.

Artists Invade Enclave
Secular Israeli artists and musicians have quietly begun moving into the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim. Most admit that they’d rather be in trendier parts of Tel Aviv but the prices are just too high. They claim to have gotten the idea from friends in Williamsburg, who have settled right next to the Satmar Hasidic community.

Real Estate agents have been reported knocking on doors throughout Meah Shearim warning residents to sell or risk being the only religious family left on the block. Many building owners have decided to cash in and move to America, where even the Hasidim are a bit more laid back and relaxed. But some long time residents are vowing to stay and work together with the artists to create more attractive looking posters to plaster around the city and more innovative ways of using paint to cover immodest billboards and signage.

For their part their artists have promised to keep their tattoos covered during daylight hours, to refrain from smoking pot on Shabbat, and to share their drugs with residents on Purim and Hanukkah (and whenever someone asks nicely).

HAPPY PURIM!!!

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Israel News for March 23, 2016

AIPAC Apologizes
In response to Donald Trump’s comments in his speech to AIPAC referring to President Obama as the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, the President of AIPAC, Lillian Pinkus, along with other leaders of the organization, apologized to the President.

She said, “From the moment this conference began, until this moment, we have preached a message of unity. We have said, in every way we can think of: Come together. But last evening, something occurred which has the potential to drive us apart, to divide us. We say, unequivocally, that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied against the president of the United States of America from our stage.”

Pinkus, her voice choking at points, added, “While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the President of the United States and our President Barack Obama. There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night and for that we are deeply sorry. We are deeply disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with nor condone.”

The people Pinkus was referring to who were “deeply hurt” seemed to be very well hidden among the thousands of AIPAC members who gave Trump several standing ovations and bursts of rousing applause during his speech.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the conference. He said that he hoped the United States would continue to reject any move towards a UN Security Council resolution backing Palestinian statehood and that he was prepared to negotiate a two-state solutions with the Palestinians “without preconditions” but that PA President Abbas was against the idea.

For further reading click here.

UN Returns
United Nations peacekeeping forces are set to return to the Syrian side of the Israeli-Syrian border. The troops had been stationed there from 1974 until 2014, when they were forced to leave as a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war and the rebel takeover of the Syrian Golan Heights.

Since their withdrawal the forces have been stationed on the Israeli side of the border, primarily monitoring Israeli troop movements. Israel is anxious to get the UN forces back on the Syrian side. The current cease fire agreement in Syria has finally made that possible.

While the UN troops do not add anything to Israel’s defense capability, they do provide first hand reports to the Security Council regarding the conflict and the danger it poses to Israel.

For further reading click here.

Dairy Wars
Since March 10th, Israel has banned Palestinian made dairy products from entering Jerusalem. Yesterday the Palestinian Authority retaliated by banning products made by five major Israeli companies including Tnuva, Strauss, the Jafora-Tabori beverages company, Soglowek, and Tara Dairy.

Sales in the PA by Tnuva, Strauss, and Jafora-Tabori are each believed to amount to hundreds of millions of shekels, while sales there by Soglowek and Tara are fairly small.

So if the Palestinians are forced to buy Palestinian products and the Israelis, Israeli products, won’t that just leave the companies in the same revenue position they were in initially? Hmm.

For further reading click here.

Supreme Court
Last week we told you that the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court had sentenced the father of a man who had refused to give his wife a divorce for over 11 years to 30 days in jail for supporting his son in his refusal. The court was praised by many for its bold stand against husbands refusing to grant divorces.

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the father must have the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Rabbinical Court and cannot be jailed in the interim. He is, however, still banned from leaving Israel.

For further reading click here.

Purim Begins
The holiday of Purim begins tonight with the reading of the Megillah (the Book of Esther) and continues tomorrow with a repeat performance along with more fun stuff including lots of eating, drinking, giving charity and exchanging gifts (of food). Stay tuned for our special Purim issue tomorrow.
Today is the Fast of Esther (good opportunity to drop a few extra pounds).
Happy Purim!!!

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Israel News for March 22, 2016

Breaking News
Three explosions rocked Brussels, the capital of Belgium, today killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens. One of the explosions occurred in a subway, claiming the lives of ten victims. The two other blasts occurred at the airport, killing 13 and wounding 35. Brussels is under lock down. This story is currently unfolding.

For further reading click here.

AIPAC Lovefest
Over the last couple of days all of the US Presidential candidates, except for Bernie Sanders, addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington. Guess what? They all gave rousingly pro Israel speeches full of praises and pledges to always stand with Israel. Despite claims by Trump that he is the greatest supporter of Israel ever (since he was the grand marshal of the Salute to Israel parade), all the candidates proclaimed their allegiance to Israel loud and clear. All of the Republican candidates also pledged to “tear up” the Iranian nuclear deal. Cruz and Kasich attacked Trump for saying that he would be “neutral” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but it was too late. Trump had already changed his position and vowed not to be neutral.

So, based on the AIPAC speeches, the next President of the US will be the best friend Israel has ever had. That’s reassuring. Unless things change.

Gaza Sewage
Construction of a new water treatment plant was completed last year in northern Gaza with international funding. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it needs electricity to operate, and the Israel Electric Company has ignored requests by Gaza to connect it to the electrical grid. As a result, tens of thousands of gallons of sewage is dumped into the sea every day by the Palestinians, and part of it ends up at the Ashkelon desalinization plant and the beaches in the area.

A month ago, the plant had to be shut down twice due to the amount of pollution in the water. The plant’s management reported this to the Water Authority and the Ministry of Health, and initial checks revealed that there was a dangerous amount of E. Coli and other harmful bacteria in the water.

Because of this, the water supply from the plant to the National Water System was cut in half. The Water Authority calls this a “significant threat” to the water supply from the plant, especially because the pollution coming from Gaza is expected only to increase.

An official from the Water Authority said, “Today, while the north is suffering from a drought, and the water supply coming from the Sea of Galilee is almost zero, it is of even greater importance to keep the desalinization plants on line.”

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories responded by saying, “Israel supplies electricity to Gaza. The allocation of this electricity is decided by the Palestinians. Gaza has unused power capacity which can be allocated to power the plant. We are leading an examination of possible options in order to solve the general energy shortage in Gaza.”

Officials at the Energy Ministry, which is responsible for the energy and water supply, claim that they were only made aware of the problem in the last few days. Minister Yuval Steinitz noted that, “we suffer from this pollution almost as badly as the Palestinians, and it is in our interest that this issue be dealt with.”

So basically, until the Palestinians in Gaza get clean water, Israel will be getting their polluted water, which will harm Israel’s water supply. It seems as though Israel has the ability to solve this problem, and possibly even score some points with the people of Gaza. But even without the points, it’s a matter of Israel’s national security to solve the water problem in Gaza.

For further reading click here.

Knesset Dead Beat
Knesset Member Oren Hazan, who has drawn criticism and rebuke from his Likud party members for missing important Knesset sessions and votes, is having some serious financial problems, and he’s asking for help.

Apparently, Hazan either doesn’t read traffic signs or just ignores them. He has accumulated around 4,000 shekels ($1,036) in parking tickets in Tel Aviv, and he’s now begging the TA municipality to waive the charges, claiming that he’s “swimming in debt” and unable to come up with the money. Unsuccessful in his bid for amnesty, Hazan turned to his father, a former Likud MK, to plead his case for him.

Before you shed a tear for Hazan and break into your piggy bank to help him out, you should probably know that MKs receive an annual salary of 400,000 shekels ($124,300), a free car, two assistants, an office in Jerusalem, foreign travel expenses, free mailing, and roughly, 112,000 shekels a year ($29,000) in budgeting for everything ranging from food to clothes to telecommunications.

Still feel sorry for him? With all due respect to the MK: get your act together, pay your bills and read the parking signs. In other words, grow up.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for March 21, 2016

Terror in Turkey
On Saturday an ISIS linked terrorist blew himself up on a busy street in Istanbul, Turkey. Among the forty casualties were three Israelis who were killed and eleven wounded. The Israeli fatalities were Avraham Goldman, 69, from Herzliya; Yonatan Suher, 40, from Tel Aviv; and Simcha Damri, 60, from Dimona.

Early on Sunday an IDF plane arrived in Istanbul with forces from the Home Front Command and the Air Force, as well as a mobile operations room and intensive care unit, to return the bodies of the killed Israelis and five wounded Israelis – four in serious condition and one in moderate condition – who were still in Istanbul. The other wounded were evacuated on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, in which he said, “I would like to convey my deepest condolences to the people of Israel and to the families of Israeli citizens who lost their lives in this treacherous attack which happened in Istanbul, where they were visiting our country to get better acquainted with our culture, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office issued a new travel warning yesterday urging Israelis to refrain from traveling to Turkey.

For further reading click here.

Iranians Arrest Jews
Iranian police recently arrested two Jewish seventeen year olds for the crime of scribbling “death to Haman” on a Tehran wall, in Hebrew. Officials in the American Jewish Community are working on getting the boys released. The Iranians have indicated that they would free the boys after confirming that the Hebrew words were part of a holiday prank and not a political statement.
The Jewish community in Iran currently numbers about 13,000, half of whom live in Tehran. Let’s pray for the boys’ safety, and for the fulfillment of their graffiti.

For further reading click here.

Mikvah Bill Unconstitutional
Last week we told you about a new bill making its way through the Knesset that would prohibit non-Orthodox movements from using State funded mikvahs for conversion ceremonies. The bill would circumvent a recent Supreme Court ruling permitting the ceremonies.

In a legal opinion submitted to the government yesterday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said that the bill violates the rights to freedom of religion, human dignity and equality.  Mendelblit said the use of public mikvahs could not be restricted to those who follow a particular interpretation of Jewish law, as doing so would violate the core of religious freedom and constitute unacceptable discrimination.

The bill will now have almost no chance of passing without significant changes. The coalition had agreed to the bill’s passage in preliminary reading primarily so that UTJ and Shas (the ultra-Orthodox parties) could show their constituents that they were taking action on the matter.

So the mikvah battle continues.

For further reading click here.

Purim Rabbinic Dispute
As the Purim holiday approaches, a dispute has broken out between the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem. According to Jewish law, Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which this year falls out on Wed. night and Thursday of this week. However, cities that were walled in the days of Joshua (who led the Jewish people after Moses) celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar.

Based on this, Jerusalem celebrates Purim on the 15th. However, the question is whether some of the newer neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city should be considered part of the “walled” city and celebrate on the 15th. The residents of Ramot, one of these neighborhoods, asked Jerusalem Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern what day they should celebrate. Rabbi Stern told them to celebrate on the 15th.

Rabbi Stern’s ruling is contrary to the ruling of Jerusalem’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who has ruled that residents of Ramot should celebrate Purim on the 14th and then read the Megillah (Book of Esther) again on the 15th, but without a blessing. He basis his ruling on a previous ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel recognized as one of the greatest sages of modern times, particularly in the Sephardic community. Both Rabbis Stern and Amar claim that their positions are supported by the majority of rabbinic opinions.

So if you’re looking to avoid conflict this Purim, stay away from Ramot.

For further reading click here.

Yemenite Aliyah
Yesterday, nineteen Jews were secretly flown out of Yemen and brought to Israel in a joint operation of the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, with help from the US State Department.

Fourteen of the Jews were from the town of Raydah and included the local rabbi, Rabbi Saliman Dahari, who brought with him a 500-600 year old torah scroll. The other five were members of a family from Sana’a, the capital. The Jews were taken to an absorption center in Beersheva and were reunited with family members.

Over the last few years, as a result of the instability created by the civil war raging in the country, about 200 Jews have been secretly airlifted from Yemen to Israel. The are still around 50 Jews, 40 of whom live in a protected compound in Sana’a, who have chosen to remain in Yemen.

Jewish Agency Chariman Natan Sharansky proclaimed,”From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, The Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close. This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for March 18, 2016

Jewish Sedition
Moshe Orbach, a 24 year old right wing activist from Beni Brak, was convicted last month of sedition, possession of material calling for violence and possession of racist material. The material was a document he wrote called “Kingdom of Evil”, which contains detailed instructions for organizing a Jewish terror cell and setting vehicles, churches and mosques on fire.

Yesterday Orbach was sentenced to 2 years in prison. In his sentencing decision, Rehovot Magistrate’s Court Judge Menahem Mizrahi wrote that the document had destructive potential if it reached individuals who were open to its violent message. He said he imposed a sentence that would “deter [Orbach] and many others from similar actions and make clear to him that the court will not take lightly acts that can harm or undermine the delicate fabric of the population of Israel,” while also taking into consideration the defendant’s absence of a prior criminal record. He also gave Orbach six months’ probation.

As for the content of “Kingdom of Evil,” the judge wrote that it was not protected by the constitutional right to freedom of expression because it contained “a clear prescription, detailed and step-by-step instructions for committing violence.”

For further reading click here.

Group Crosses Line
Following an investigative report aired on Channel 2 yesterday, the PM announced that the group Breaking the Silence had “crossed a red line” and that they would be investigated by the security services.

Breaking the Silence is a Non Governmental Organization established by IDF veterans. The stated aim of the organization is to  collect the testimonies of soldiers who have served in the West Bank and Gaza, detailing alleged “cases of abuse towards Palestinians” and documenting the conduct of IDF soldiers.

The investigative report revealed footage of the group’s activists asking soldiers questions pertaining to intelligence and operational activities.

MKs from across the political spectrum condemned Breaking the Silence, with some noting that the attempt to collect classified intelligence is tantamount to spying.

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein called for an “investigation to clarify which sensitive information (Breaking the Silence) has in its possession.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said: “While Israel is fighting terror, Breaking the Silence is taking information and using it against the state.” He added that, “Israel must do all it can to protect its soldiers, and this organization has no right to exist in a State that is battling daily for the safety of its citizens.”

Zionist Union MK Revital Swid said that, “Breaking the Silence had lost all of its legitimacy” adding that, “it was time to condemn all extremism no matter” what side of the political aisle they were on.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) today ordered the Military Advocate General to launch an investigation.

For further reading click here.

New Judges
Israel’s Supreme Court will soon be changing, most likely in the “Right” direction. Four out of the court’s fifteen judges will be retiring in 2017. The retiring judges include President Miriam Naor, Deputy President Elyakim Rubinstein and Judges Salim Joubran and Zvi Zilbertal. Supreme Court Judges have life tenure.

New Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee, composed of nine members: three Supreme Court Justices (including the President of the Supreme Court), two cabinet ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice – Ayelet Shaked), two Knesset members, and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The committee is chaired by the Minister of Justice.

Shaked will be chairing the committee composed of Supreme Court Justices Naor, Rubinstein and Joubran, as well as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, MKs Nurit Koren (Likud) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), and representatives from the Israel Bar Association, Elana Saker and Khaled Zoa’bi.

Because a majority of seven out of nine is required to approve appointments, the Justice Minister and the Supreme Court president often reach agreements in advance and then convince the political and legal representatives in the committee to join them.

Shaked will clearly be pushing for conservative, right leaning candidates.

For further reading click here.

IDF vs Rabbinate
The Chief Rabbis of Israel are usually invited to participate in religious events and ceremonies held by the IDF. The dedication of a new torah scroll at a commando base next week should be no different. However, permission for the Chief Rabbis to attend the ceremony at the base was unexpectedly rejected by the IDF Chief of Staff’s command.

No reason for the rejection was given, but the prevailing assumption is that it has something to do with statements made by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef last weekend. At his weekly Saturday night torah lecture, Rabbi Yosef discussed the issue of whether it is permissible to kill a neutralized terrorist. He told soldiers that if a terrorist approaches them with a knife, it is a Mitzvah to kill him and that they should not be afraid of any possible High Court action against them, nor should they listen to what a Chief of Staff might tell them.

Yosef’s comments were apparently directed at a statement made by the Chief of Staff made last week, telling soldiers not to kill neutralized terrorists and to disregard the Talmudic dictum that would authorize the killing.

Looks like the Chief of Staff is getting his revenge by forbidding the rabbis to participate in a torah dedication ceremony. Not very sporty of him. A bit childish perhaps?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for March 17, 2016

Terror Attack
Two Palestinians attacked and stabbed a 20 year old woman at a bus stop at the entrance to the city of Ariel today. The woman was seriously wounded in her upper body but remained conscious. The terrorists were shot and killed at the scene.

For further reading click here.

PA Rejects Offer
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Voice of Palestine radio on Tuesday morning that the Palestinian Authority had rejected an Israeli offer to end military operations in Area A, which includes the major Palestinian cities. Maliki said the Palestinians demand Israel stop all such activities in all Palestinian cities immediately. Apparently, it’s all or nothing for the Palestinians.

For further reading click here.

Russian Friend
Russian President Putin hosted Israeli President Rivlin at the Kremlin in Moscow yesterday. Putin warmly welcomed Rivlin and said, “Israeli-Russian relations have a long history. More than 1.5 million Soviet emigrants, who speak Russian and have a Russian mentality, live in Israel. They stay in touch with their friends and family members, who have stayed in Russia, making our relationship particularly special.”

Rivlin reciprocated the warm greetings and added that, “As a Jew, I would like to say that we will never forget the Russian nation and Red Army for defeating the Nazis.”

Prior to their meeting Rivlin placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Alexander Garden. Rivlin then visited the Russian State Library with his wife Nechama, where they looked at books in Hebrew. He said that he hopes the books will one day arrive in Israel.

Putin can definitely make that happen.

For further reading click here.

Mikvah Wars Escalate
In a move to circumvent a recent High Court ruling that permitted the Conservative and Reform movements to use State run mikvahs (ritual baths) for conversion ceremonies, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Moshe Gafni has initiated a bill in the Knesset to require the Mikvahs to follow strict guidelines set by the Chief Rabbinate.

According to Gafni, the High Court ruling violates the status quo on issues of religion and state. The bill passed 42-38, and will now go to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee for processing. “This law doesn’t come to prevent Reform and Conservative people from immersing in the mikvah,” Gafni told the Knesset during the debate, adding that the country has many private mikvahs to which the law will not apply. “But the state’s public mikvaot are for halachic immersion.”

The joint headquarters of religious organizations that oppose the bill issued a statement saying, “We expect the MKs of the coalition, and particularly the members of the Habayit Hayehudi faction who promised that they wouldn’t vote for the bill unless it was amended, to keep their promise and prevent further offense to those women who immerse. The mikvah is a public resource and one cannot expropriate the autonomy of a woman who immerses through institutional coercion dictated solely by men. This bill should concern every woman and man in Israel because it gives exclusive authority to an ultra-Orthodox worldview that isn’t required by halacha.”
For further reading click here.

Energy Report Card
According to a quality of life report published yesterday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel has the best record in recycling wastewater. The proportion of people not hooked up to wastewater recycling in Israel fell from 7.7% in 2000 (485,000 people) to 2.2% in 2014 (180,000 people). Most of the people not connected to water recycling live in unrecognized Bedouin communities or East Jerusalem.

Seth Siegel, the author of “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,” says that Israel has the world’s best and most sophisticated water management system, and has worked hard to achieve this status. Israel recycles water, desalinizes seawater and brackish water, takes advantage of floodwater, educates its population about correct consumption, makes efficient use of water in industry and agriculture, invests in finding leaks and reducing water depreciation in municipal and rural pipes, etc.

Now the bad news. The OECD report ranks Israel in last place in using renewable energy. While Iceland produces all of its electricity from renewable energy, Spain 39%, and the OECD as a whole 21%, less than 1% of Israel’s electricity comes from renewable energy.

For further reading click here.

PM FB Chat
Yesterday PM Netanyahu posted on his Facebook page that he would personally answer questions sent to him on Facebook in real time. Out of thousands of questions sent to him, one caught his attention. It was from an Ethiopian Israeli girl who accused him of not really answering questions, “just like you don’t care about the problems of your public. See you at election time!”

The PM didn’t take long to respond, writing (loosely translated from the Hebrew) “You bet I’m here in a big way, and I’m paying special attention to the issues of the Ethiopian community. For the third time as PM I’m trying to bring thousands of your community to Israel. I personally chair the government committee that meets every few weeks to deal with the problems of the community.”

So there.

To see a photo of the PM during his chat, click here.

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Israel News for March 16, 2016

US Accusation
The US accused Israel yesterday of “expropriating land” in the Jordan Valley. In January Israel reclassified 370 acres as State land. The vacant and barren land is located near Jericho, within the boundaries of the Megilot Regional Council, and borders both sides of Route 1 as it heads down to the Dead Sea.

In a press conference US State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “This decision is, in our view, the latest step in what appears to be an ongoing process of land expropriations, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution. We strongly oppose any steps that accelerate settlement expansion, which raise serious questions about Israel’s long-term intentions. And as we’ve repeatedly made clear, we continue to look to both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Actions such as these do just the opposite.”

The land will primarily be used to build road side stands, restaurants and a gas station along the highway. Some of the land will also be used for home building in the settlement of Almog.

For further reading click here.

Ammonia Threat
Last month Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to target the large ammonia plant in Haifa, which he claimed would result in thousands of casualties. Yesterday, a senior IDF officer reassured the public that, “Even in the worst case, a missile strike on the ammonia tanks will not be disastrous; certainly, there is no ‘atomic bomb’ scenario like Hezbollah threatened.”

The officer claimed that the IDF has planned for a scenario in which the ammonia tank sustained a direct hit by a 100 kg warhead. He said, “The scenario – which assumes a full tank containing 12,000 tons of ammonia – envisages the possibility of a large leak that is carried by the wind towards nearby residential neighborhoods. Even in that scenario, it would require several minutes of exposure to the ammonia cloud before any injury is irreversible. Anyone who finds shelter – such as in a house or a car – within ten minutes will not suffer serious injury. There will mostly be cases of burns and nausea. People will be hurt, but it is doubtful they will number in the dozens; there will not be hundreds of casualties, and there will definitely not be mass casualties,”

He added that in the event of a conflict, the tank’s ammonia could be emptied or significantly reduced. It would also be possible to deploy an early warning system and a missile interceptor in the area.

In any case, Israel is planning to relocate the ammonia plant to a location in the Negev, away from major population centers.

For further reading click here.

High Pay
If you’re looking for a high paying job, you might want to consider some Israel related not-for-profit organizations. For example, the CEO of the Friends of the IDF in the United States earned a total of $700,000 in 2013. The organization raised $72 million in donations that year, 9 million of which went to salaries and another 9 million for expenses.

Some other high earners include the CEO of Taglit (Birthright Israel) who earned $505,000 plus $70,000 for expenses and the CEO of the Friends of the Weizmann Institute who made $462,000 plus another $82,000 for expenses.

If you’re willing to make a little less, there are a lot more to choose from. And if you’re really shooting for the stars, Yeshiva University will be hiring a new president soon.

By the way, according to his most recent pay slip, Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu took home a whopping 17,546 shekels ($4,500) after taxes last month. That equals $54,000 for the year. Of course, he doesn’t have to pay for housing or many other living expenses…but still, it’s a pretty demanding job. More demanding than running a charity or a college?

For further reading click here.

Special Request
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Nazi March
As they do every year, hundreds of senior citizens who served in the SS during WWII will march through the streets of Riga, Latvia in an annual parade. The SS veterans participated in the massacre of thousands of Jews and fought against the Soviet army.

The Latvian government officially opposes the parade but permits it on the grounds of free speech. Several government ministers from right wing parties will participate in the parade. Similar parades are held in the Ukraine and Lithuania. What a surprise. A counter demonstration by anti-fascists is planned.

So just to recap, hundreds of men who served in the SS and took part in the “final solution” will be parading freely through the streets of the Latvian capital. What more can I say?

We can only hope that they meet their maker and get what they deserve very soon.

For further reading click here.

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