Israel News for March 15, 2016

Terror Averted
Earlier today an Arab man drove up to the entrance of the Sdeh Dov airport near Tel Aviv and attempted to stab a soldier. The soldier managed to get away and the attacker fled.

Also today, Border Police at the Tapuach junction in Samaria arrested a 17 year old Palestinian woman after finding a large butcher’s knife in her possession. The police had previously received intelligence of an Arab teenage girl who had left her home with the intention of carrying out a terror attack.

For further reading click here.

Widow Victorious
Last week we told you about how the widow of First Sergeant Tuvia Yanai Weissman, the soldier killed while trying to prevent a terror attack in a supermarket, was fighting to get the army to inscribe the words “killed in battle” on her husband’s tombstone. The army claimed that they could only use the words “killed in a terror attack”.

Yesterday, army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot declared that Weissman did in fact fall in battle. The words will be added to his tombstone. Yael Weissman has succeeded in defending her late husband’s honor. May his memory be a blessing.

For further reading click here.

Divorce Case
In a groundbreaking move, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court has ordered the imprisonment of the father of a husband who has refused to grant his wife a divorce for more than 11 years. The husband abandoned his wife in Israel in 2005 after she suffered a stroke during a family visit, and fled to the US. He is being protected by his wealthy family and has refused several rabbinic court rulings ordering him to divorce his wife.
The man’s father, who is a big donor to ultra-Orthodox causes, was slapped with a restraining order prohibiting him from leaving the country and was sentence to 30 days in jail. The court ruled that the father is a major factor behind his son’s refusal to grant his wife a divorce. The court is hoping that the jail term will persuade both father and son to change their ways.

Rabbinical Courts director Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi said, “The decision by the court – like others in the recent past – expresses the deep and unequivocal commitment of the rabbinical courts to assist agunot [women denied divorces] and to prevent recalcitrance… The court has made worthy use of the halachic [Jewish legal] and [secular] legal tools at its disposal to expose the help the parents are giving to the recalcitrant husband.”

Prof. Aviad Hacohen, who has represented the woman together with the Yad L’isha organization, said the ruling was “a true revolution. Dayan Shatsman (the chief judge of the rabbinical court) deserves praise for his courage, determination, and willingness to overturn every stone for a woman refused a divorce.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbinic Tunnel Buster
Yesterday another Hamas tunnel collapsed in Gaza, killing a senior Hamas military commander. Since the start of this year 17 Hamas terrorists have been killed in nine tunnel collapses. While the unusually heavy rains have been assumed to be the cause of the collapses, many in Hamas blame the Israelis. Maybe they’re right.

According to the students of Rabbi Netanel Shriki, a 36 year old kabbalist living in Netivot (near the Gaza border), the rabbi began praying for the destruction of the tunnels about two months ago. On five separate occasions since then, the rabbi has gone out to the border and prayed for the destruction of the tunnels and each time his prayers have been answered.

Soldiered stationed in the area have requested to join the rabbi in his prayers, but the army denied their request, leaving the rabbi to beat Hamas on his own.

There doesn’t seem like there’s much Hamas can do to stop the tunnel busting rabbi. Let’s hope his prayers continue to be answered.

For further reading click here.

Another Angel Strikes
A while back we told you about the man who grabbed the phone from a young soldier in tears and paid her electric bill. He was called an “angel”. Well, he’s not the only angel prowling the Israeli trains.

According to a recent Facebook post by another young soldier, he was on the train and talking with a young man he had just met when he received a call from his cellphone company regarding a long overdue bill of 1,500 shekels that he had been unable to pay. A heated argument ensued. Suddenly, the man grabbed the phone and paid the entire bill.

The angel’s name was Samuel Levi, a French Jew. When the soldier asked how he could thank him, Samuel replied, “continue serving your country, put on Tefillin and honor your parents. I love all of you soldiers, and I want to thank you for protecting us.”

Amen to that!

To see a photo of the two men, click here.

Israel News for March 14, 2016

Terror in Kiryat Arba
Two armed terrorists in a car opened fire on a group of soldiers at a bus stop in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, today. A 20 year old soldier was lightly wounded. Both terrorists were shot and killed at the scene.

Moments later, while soldiers were active at the scene of the first attack, a Palestinian rammed his car into an officer at the scene. The terrorist was shot and killed when he tried to exit his vehicle. Two other soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel from the shooting.

Following the attacks the IDF raided the homes of the three terrorists in Hebron.

To watch videos of the attacks, click here.

Indonesia Barred
Israel denied permission for the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to enter the Palestinian Territories to dedicate an honorary consulate there, after she refused to first meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

Indonesia does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel, but the two states communicate quietly and maintain economic and tourism ties. In 2013, 300,000 Indonesian tourists visited Israel, which reflects a huge increase over the past few years since 2009, when less than 10,000 visited.

Indonesia asked Israel, through diplomatic channels, to allow its foreign minister to visit Ramallah, but the Prime Minister’s Office instructed authorities to bar her entry. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki will meet the foreign minister in Jordan.

The Indonesian government recently appointed a Palestinian to serve as Indonesia’s honorary representative to the Palestinian Authority. He will work to strengthen economic, social, and cultural ties and to encourage tourism and business exchanges.

For further reading click here.

Sweden vs. BDS
Following a meeting with MK Tzipi Livni of the opposition Labor Union party in Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has agreed to publicly denounce the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Wallstrom has previously made controversial statements against Israel, including accusing Israel of extrajudicial executions and of being a cause of radical Islamic terror.

Livni was in Stockholm to give a speech for “Israel Day,” an anti-BDS conference organized by the Jewish community in Sweden. In her speech and in meetings with members of Swedish parliament, Livni talked about ways to effectively isolate the movement – with a sharp distinction between “the small organization which denies the legitimacy of Israel, and which hopes to flood it with refugees, and those who get swept up in the movements through a misunderstanding of their goals.”

Livni’s next stop is Berlin. Keep up the good work!

For further reading click here.

Top Cop Decision
Despite a recent wave of sexual harassment allegations and trials against senior police officers, Israel’s Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich declared last week that, “Anonymous letters have turned into a culture of settling scores in the police force, and as such, from now on the police will not deal with anonymous letters that raise suspicions of violations by policemen. In an organization that requires reporting by policemen, there is no need for such letters.”

While Alscheich’s goal is to prevent baseless accusations that can ruin the reputations of innocent officers, the fact remains that most of the major investigations launched in sexual harassment cases that resulted in guilty verdicts were in response to anonymous tips.

The Justice Ministry’s police investigation unit announced on Sunday that it would continue to look into all anonymous accusations and tips saying, “The department is authorized to investigate complaints leading to suspicion of the commission of a crime by a policeman even when they come from unidentified sources. Every complaint that reaches the department will be investigated as has been done until now.”

For further reading click here.

Download Tax
The Israeli Treasury is proposing that overseas companies be required to pay VAT (value added tax) on electronic products sold via download. Currently, when Israelis download products such as songs and ebooks from overseas vendors, they are technically required to voluntarily declare their purchases and pay VAT on them. Obviously, very little tax is collected. If the new proposal passes, the overseas companies will be required to register with the Israel Tax Authority and pay the VAT, which is currently at 17%. That means higher prices for consumers.

For further reading click here.

Beware of Dog
If you’re planning to visit the Prime Minister’s residence, you might want to be especially careful around the PM’s dog. Kaiya, the Netanyahu’s “First Pooch”, has been known to sink her teeth into select individuals. At a Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the residence last year Kaiya bit MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) and the husband of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. Just recently she struck again, this time biting a security guard.

The Netanyahus don’t seem bothered, and are sticking with Kaiya. If you’ve got a problem, then don’t visit!

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 11, 2016

Illegal Aliens
Police arrested over 250 Palestinian workers living in Israel illegally yesterday as part of a major initiative to stop the current wave of terror. The terrorists who perpetrating stabbing attacks on the Jaffa boardwalk and in Petach Tikva on Tuesday were both illegal Palestinian workers. Most of the Palestinians arrested were currently employed in Israel.

In the wake of the Jaffa attack the government has decided to close breaks in the security fence around Jerusalem and to construct additional fencing in an area near Hebron. The government will also promote new legislation to punish those who employ or give lodgings to illegal aliens.

There are estimated to be thousands of Palestinians living and working in Israel illegally. Since the courts are usually lenient with the illegal Palestinian workers, police are cracking down harder on those employing or lodging the illegals, by shutting down building sites, restaurants and other venues that employ the Palestinians and by impounding the vehicles used to transport them.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Shooter
The Police Internal Affairs Unit has opened an investigation into the actions of the police volunteer who shot the terrorist who stabbed 11 people, killing one, in Jaffa on Tuesday night. The civilian volunteer is suspected of continuing to fire at the terrorist after he was already neutralized.

A video of the incident shows the attacker lying on the ground while bystanders yell to shoot him in the head and congratulate the volunteers. A gunshot is then heard and one of the volunteers yells that there’s no need to shoot because the terrorist was already neutralized.

The video ends several minutes before the terrorist died so it’s unclear whether the shooter actually hit him and, if so, if it was the last shot that killed him.

To watch the video click here.

Rabbi on Shooting
In the wake of the police investigation into the shooting of the Jaffa terrorist by the civilian police volunteer, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan and a prominent leader of the Religious Zionist movement, has said that Jewish law prohibits killing a terrorist who is already neutralized.

The rabbi said, “We have to make a clear distinction here between war and civilian actions. In civilian actions, if someone comes to kill you need to prevent the killing, (as per the Torah precept) ‘don’t stand idly by your neighbor’s blood,’ but if it’s possible, do that by harming one of his (the terrorist’s) organs.”

“While sometimes a person is unable to consider things in an organized manner during a time of action – they must act spontaneously within seconds – if there is a possibility to consider and time allows, you must first wound but not kill. It is also forbidden to just kill a non-Jew if it is possible to avoid the killing and it is possible to wound – all of this is under civilian conditions.” Rabbi Ariel added that in war, killing the enemy is permissible under all circumstances.

Is terrorism akin to being at war?

For further reading click here.

BDS Victory
As a result of intense pressure from the BDS movement, cosmetics giant Ahava has decided to relocate its manufacturing plant from the settlement of Mitzvah Shalem, in the West Bank, to a site near Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which is within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Ahava is following the example of SodaStream, which relocated last year from the West Bank industrial zone of Mishor Adumim to the Negev in the face of massive BDS pressure.

The new Ahava plant will be more advanced and will include a visitors center. All the Palestinian workers currently employed in the West Bank plant will likely lose their jobs, as was the case with the Palestinian SodaStream employees. Another BDS victory, and another defeat for Palestinian workers. On the bright side, there will be new jobs for Israeli workers.

In a related story BDS is claiming another victory after British security company G4S announced that it is selling its business in Israel. G4S provides security equipment and has contracts with Israel’s prison system. It employs 8,000 people in Israel. The company claimed that its decision is purely commercial and has nothing to do with BDS pressure.

For further reading click here.

Abbas Rejects Biden
According to a report in the Jerusalem based Al-Quds Palestinian newspaper, PA President Abbas rejected a U.S. Peace initiative presented to him by U.S. Vice President Biden at their meeting in Ramallah yesterday.

According to the source, the new American initiative to restart peace talks included designating East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and halting settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and giving up the demand for a Palestinian right of return.

Abbas has apparently decided to play it cool and wait for a better offer.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 10, 2016

Abbas and Biden
It seems like Palestinian Authority President Abbas has finally buckled under pressure to condemn terror attacks — well, sort of.

After US Vice President Biden demanded that the Palestinians condemn terror attacks, specifically the one in Jaffa yesterday that claimed the life of an American tourist, Abbas yesterday released a statement offering condolences to the family of Taylor Force, the American killed. So he didn’t actually “condemn” the terror attack, but he did feel bad about the American’s death, at least while Biden is in town. Apparently the wounding of over a dozen Israelis didn’t bother him. In fact, the killings of other American citizens by Palestinian terrorists in the past didn’t seem to cause him any grief either. Could it be because those Americans were Jewish while Taylor Force was Christian? Hmm.

Senior Palestinian officials said that Abbas made it clear to Biden at their meeting that any peace settlement must be based on UN resolutions. He also objected to the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The official said, “We have no expectations of the Americans and are disappointed with Biden and the administration’s statements and call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

Even the current US administration realizes that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order for there to be any real peace negotiations. I think.

For further reading click here.

Iranian Missiles
According to the Iranian news agency Fars, Iran launched two ballistic missiles yesterday at targets 1,400 kilometers away. The missiles reportedly bore the writing “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew. Israel is about 1,800 kilometers from Iran.

Brig. General Amir Ali Haji Zada, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s air corps, said that Iran’s missiles belong to the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, the Syrian people, the Iraqi people, the Islamic world, and all of the oppressed people of the earth.

At a daily press briefing with reporters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it would not be a surprise if there are additional missile launches over the next several days. He said, “We will continue to redouble our efforts with our allies and partners in the region to try to limit Iran’s ability to continue to develop their missile program.” That’s comforting.

For further reading click here.

IDF Nuts
The IDF has decided that it will no longer draft Israelis with peanut allergies. This comes in the aftermath of the death of Shalev Hazan, a soldier who died during basic training as a result of a severe allergic reaction after eating some granola that contained nuts.

Until now the list of life-threatening allergies that would be cause for exemption from military service included severe allergies to protein, sesame and a few other basic foods. Now, in the wake of work done by the Medical Corps, young people with severe allergies to nuts will also not be drafted automatically, but be issued a medical exemption that says they are not fit for military service, with what the army calls a “profile 21.”

The allergy sufferers will be given the option of volunteering for army service. Those who choose this option will be stationed in units located within a certain distance of a hospital, and where the dining hall could be outfitted to suit the soldiers’ food sensitivities, or where arrangements have already been made for other soldiers there with food allergies.

In recent months the IDF had already started posting signs in army dining halls with warnings about various ingredients, like nuts, peanuts and grains, in the food being served. It has also issued EpiPen syringes to affected soldiers and to all medics, to be used in the event of a severe allergic reaction that threatens cardiac activity.

For further reading click here.

Biker Laws
If you’re a biking enthusiast in Israel, we’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.

The bad news, at least for younger riders, is that the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Eitan Cabel, yesterday approved an increase in the minimum age for riding electric bicycles from 14 to 16. Electric bikes will only be allowed to go a maximum of 25 Kilometers (about 15 miles) an hour.

The regulations also state that riders of all ages of any type of bicycle must wear helmets and, after dark, illumination jackets. Riding is only permitted on roads and bike paths (no sidewalks, thank you) and only one person is allowed per bike.

Electric Bike importers were not pleased with the new age restrictions. Israeli Bicycle Importers Forum manager Gadi Mintz summed up by saying, “Raising the riding age is a death sentence for the electric bicycle sector.”

The good news is that the Ministry of Transport will invest NIS 250 million in the coming years in building a network of bicycle paths connecting all the municipalities in the Greater Tel Aviv area. That could lead to fewer cars on the roads, less traffic and less pollution. If you’ve ever sat in traffic on the Ayalon, you’ll understand.

For further reading click here.

Prison Teshuva
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is finding religion while serving his 1 year and 7 month prison sentence for accepting bribes. Olmert is said to be putting on tefillin each morning, studying Torah with another inmate and participating in afternoon and evening prayer services daily.

For further reading click here.

Musical Weapon
On Tuesday evening, Yishai Montgomery had sat down near the beach in Jaffa to play his guitar. Then he was attacked by the terrorist who had just killed Tyler Force and wounded close to a dozen others. Yishai smashed his guitar into the terrorist’s head. Stunned and confused, the terrorist fled and was then shot and killed by police volunteers.

Yishai’s guitar didn’t make out too well either. But Ed Dvir from Philadelphia heard about the incident and set up a GoFundMe account to buy Yishai a new guitar. In less than 24 hours 213 people from around the world have contributed to the campaign, raising close to $5,000.

Rock on, guitar hero!

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 9, 2016

Jerusalem Terror
Two terrorists from East Jerusalem shot at a bus from their car on Golda Meir Street in Jerusalem. No one on the bus was hurt. A passerby who saw the incident got out of his car and fired a shot at the terrorist. The terrorists were not hit and drove away. Security forces began searching for the vehicle. Police identified the vehicle on a nearby street. When they approached the vehicle the terrorists opened fire. Police returned fire and killed the terrorists. Two automatic rifles were found in their car.
A 57 year old Palestinian bystander who was in his car was shot and seriously wounded in the cross fire.

Yesterday a terrorist opened fire on police with a rifle in Jerusalem’s Old City. Police returned fire and killed the terrorist. The two policemen were wounded in the neck and head and evacuated to Hadassah Hospital where one, 49, remains in very serious condition and in danger of losing his life, while the other, 31, is in moderate-to-serious condition and stable.

For further reading click here.

Jaffa Terror
Last night a 22 year old Palestinian terrorist from Qalqilya stabbed an American tourist to death and wounded 11 others on the boardwalk and in the the port area of Jaffa.

US Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Israel, was just a mile away at an event with Shimon Peres when the stabbings occurred. Biden’s wife and grandchildren were having dinner on the beach not far from the site of the stabbings.

After meeting with PM Netanyahu today Biden said, “The United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts. The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop.”

The Palestinian Authority did not condemn the attack. In fact official Palestinian TV praised the attack. Of course, Hamas praised the attack too. Biden will be meeting with PA President Abbas today. Wonder how that will go.

For further reading click here.

American Killed
The American tourist killed in yesterday’s terror attack in Jaffa was identified as Taylor Force. Force, 28, was a first-year student in the Vanderbilt University graduate school of management in Nashville Tennessee. He was among 29 students and four staff members who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship. According to Force’s LinkedIn page, he graduated from West Point in 2009 and was a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army until 2014. Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said, “This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world.”

The school confirmed that all the other Vanderbilt participants in Israel are safe.

For further reading click here.

Petach Tikva Terror
In Petach Tikva yesterday, a Jewish man entering a store was stabbed from behind by a Palestinian. Yonatan Ezriyahav, 39, a father of five from Yavne’el in northern Israel, arrived at the Petah Tikva market to hand out leaflets about Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

Ezriyahav recounted, “I was in the store, and all of a sudden, someone jumped on me. I didn’t understand what he was doing, until someone yelled ‘terrorist!’ and I realized (what was going on) and saw the knife. I felt it in my neck, and I asked ‘what happened to me?’ I thought it was the end. It took me a bit but I pulled myself together and when I realized it was a terrorist I realized that I need to fight him so that he wouldn’t kill anyone else. I said ‘If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? But when I am for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?'”

Meanwhile, the store owner jumped on the terrorist and grabbed his arm while Ezriyahav removed the knife from his neck and managed to stab to terrorist multiple times. Ezriyahav was evacuated to the hospital and is doing well. The terrorist died of his wounds.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 8, 2016

Terror Foiled
A female Palestinian in her 50’s attacked Border Police officers with a knife in Jerusalem’s Old City today. She was shot and fatally wounded. None of the officers were hurt.

For further reading click here.

Netanyahu and Obama
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US President Obama wants to make a significant move which he believes would put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on a more promising track before he leaves office.

One option would be to propose and support a United Nations Security Council resolution to serve as a blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian talks. In the past the US has vetoed these types of resolutions. Another option would be making a major speech defining his vision for a two-state solution.

According to the WSJ report, one possible scenario would be that “the US would push Israel to halt construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories and recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state… Palestinians would in turn be asked to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end claims on a right of return for Palestinian refugees.” That scenario would entail establishing two states based on the 1949 armistice lines, with land swaps to reflect population changes since then.

Sounds very similar to proposals that the Palestinians have rejected in the past. Would they accept them now? Not likely.

Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu has declined an invitation to meet with Obama in Washington, which he previously had accepted, and cancelled his upcoming trip to Washington. Netanyahu will also not be speaking at the AIPAC convention later this month. The PM claims that he cancelled his trip to avoid getting embroiled in the heated US election campaign. He may also be placing his bets on the hope that the next US President, Republican or Democrat, will be more favorable to Israel. He’ll just have to stall a bit longer.

For further reading click here.

Israeli Wages
According to a report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the average Israeli wage at the close of 2015 was 2.3% higher than it was at the end of 2014.

Among the highest salaries earners in 2015 were employees of banks and financial companies with an average monthly salary of NIS 17,225. Employees of government companies earned an average monthly salary of NIS 17,225. The average monthly salary of hospital workers including doctors and nurses was NIS 15,611. The average salary of government employees was NIS 13,245, while the average salary of local authority employees was NIS 8,236.

Now for the big bucks. The average monthly hi-tech salary was NIS 23,640, which was primarily earned by developers and programmers.

The average monthly industrial wage also rose by 2.3%, to NIS 13,442. There is a big shortage of skilled workers, which is driving up wages in the sector. Workers in the electronic control devices sector averaged NIS 22,913, per month while workers in the mining and quarrying sector made NIS 22,851. Workers in the consumer and telecommunications electronics sector averaged NIS 21,335 per month.

Not so bad after all.

For further reading click here.

Ancient Discoveries
Archeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavating at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park have discovered two 2,500 year old seals inscribed with Hebrew names in ancient Hebrew lettering. One of the seals was inscribed with the name of a woman, Elihana bat Gael and the other of a man, Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu.

According to the archeologists, “Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon.” The seals used in the First Temple period were usually attached to rings and used for signing documents.

For further reading click here.

Getting Married
There are only two ways for Jews in Israel to be legally and officially registered as married. The first is by registering and marrying through the official Rabbinate of the city or district where the marriage will take place. The alternative is to marry outside of Israel and then register the marriage with the government. While civil marriages conducted abroad are not recognized by the Rabbinate, they are recognized for taxation or other legal issues by the government. There is no way to get married in a civil or non-Orthodox ceremony in Israel — if you want it to be recognized as legal.

In order to register for marriage via the official Rabbinate, couples must prove that they are single and Jewish. For the overwhelming majority of Israeli born Jews, this is not an issue. However, for Jews born outside of Israel or for converts, this can become a frustrating and difficult process, particularly if the correct paperwork cannot be obtained or if the overseas rabbi providing the documentation is not recognized by the Rabbinate. In addition, in order to be registered by the Rabbinate, all couples must attend several premarital classes taught by Rabbinate approved instructors, which many secular couples view either as an imposition (at best) or as straight out religious coercion.

But there apparently is a much easier alternative to the Rabbinate. Jewish Israeli couples, from secular to more traditional, are flocking to the three officially recognized rabbinical courts of the ultra-Orthodox Edah Haredit to register for marriage.

Despite the ongoing controversy around the formation of alternate rabbinical courts and services by National Religious rabbis (like Tzohar) who feel that the official Rabbinate is far too stringent in certain areas of Jewish law (like conversion), the utra-Orthodox Edah Haredit has always maintained a separate rabbinical court system that is recognized by the State and the Chief Rabbinate.

It turns out that the ultra-Orthodox courts are much more easygoing than the official Rabbinate when it comes to registering couples for marriage. Why this is so isn’t really clear, but couples aren’t asking. They’re going, registering and marrying, hassle free.

Who would have thought?

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 7, 2016

Fight After Death
Sergeant First Class Tuvia Yanai Weissman was killed in a terror attack two weeks ago in a supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin when he ran to the aide of other victims being stabbed by two terrorists. Weissman was on leave from the army and was not carrying his weapon at the time.

Weissman’s widow, Yael, requested that the words “fell in battle during a terror attack” be inscribed on her husband’s tombstone. The government has denied her request. Instead, the inscription recommended by the army’s commemoration unit is “fell in a terror attack.”

According to Yael’s Facebook post, the army has two approved inscriptions — “fell in battle” and “fell in a terror attack”. She feels that the latter does not reflect the fact that her husband gave his life fighting the terrorists. The army apparently sees it differently.

So the argument hinges on one word: battle.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said, “The Ministry of Defense shares the heavy grief of the Weissman family. The soldier commemoration unit works according to the regulations of gravestone writing, and determines the circumstances of death according to information it receives from different security bodies.”

Yael continues to fight for her husband’s honor.

For further reading click here.

IDF Investigation
Last week two soldiers of the Kfir Brigade were stabbed at a military post outside of the settlement of Har Bracha near Shechem (Nablus). An IDF investigation into the incident has found that the soldiers were not carrying their weapons at the time of the stabbing, which is a serious breach of army regulations and procedure. The investigation also revealed other deficiencies and irregularities in the operating procedures of the unit and their overall dedication to their mission.

As a result, a company commander in the Kfir Brigade has been suspended for the year and a platoon commander and sergeant have been dismissed from their duties.

For further reading click here.

Loudspeaker Bill
Last week we told you about a bill proposed by MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) that would prohibit the loudspeakers that Mosques use to blast out their call to prayer five times a day. The bill came before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for discussion yesterday, but it failed to get the support of the committee. As a result, Yogev has decided to withdraw the bill. However, he hasn’t given up on his idea. Yogev is now working on an amended bill which would prohibit the loudspeakers during specific hours defined by the law and regulate the permissible volume of the loudspeakers.

For further reading click here.

Falash Mura Deadlock
Three months ago the government reached a decision to bring 9,000 Falash Mura from Ethiopia to Israel. The Falash Mura are Ethiopian Jews who were converted to Christianity under pressure from missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. They have been granted the right of Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return if they officially convert to Judaism in Israel.

Despite the government’s decision, the Finance Ministry is refusing to fund the Falash Mura aliyah. The ministry claims that according to a new budget law passed recently by the Knesset, every major spending initiative undertaken must first have its allocated funding in place. And the Falash Mura aliya initiative does not have the required funding.

The treasury estimates the cost of bringing the Falash Mura to Israel will run to about 2 billion shekels ($510 million) over five years. But David Amsalem, the Likud lawmaker who has led the campaign to bring the Falash Mura to Israel, estimates the cost won’t exceed 100 million shekels annually and may be even half that. Amsalem is due to call a special meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, and demand the treasury explain itself.

Amsalem claims that the decision to bring the the Falash Mura was reached before the new budgetary law was passed, so the new law does not apply to it. The Finance Ministry disagrees.

Amsalem believes that racism is behind the governments current refusal to bring the Falash Mura. “They don’t want to bring black people to the country from a troubled place. They’ll have to take care of them, putting many in the care of welfare institutions. The country loves to bring strong immigrants from the United States and France.”

In fairness, the government has already brought tens of thousands of Falash Mura to Israel. The 9,000 waiting in Gondar, Ethiopia constitute the final remaining group.

For further reading click here.

Kotel Warning
PM Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from the ultra-Orthodox establishment to revoke, or at least seriously amend, the compromise recently approved that allows the opening of an egalitarian prayer space at the southern area of the Kotel.

But Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, has warned that if the ultra-Orthodox push the PM too hard, they might ultimately find themselves with a worse deal forced upon them by the High Court. As a case in point, he noted the court’s recent decision that forces the ultra-Orthodox establishment to allow Jews converted by the Conservative and Reform movements to immerse themselves in state run mikvehs (ritual baths).

He said, “For six years, we brought various pragmatic proposals to the Religious Affairs Ministry on this issue of the mikvehs, but they refused to talk to us. If what the Haredim want is a High Court ruling that goes much beyond the agreement and compromise in this case as well, then let it be.”

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative-Masorti movement in Israel, said that while he will not agree to any amendment of the compromise agreement, he would not bring the case before the High Court. Instead, he said, “We will go back to our original plan for holding egalitarian services twice a week, on Mondays and Thursday, at the upper plaza.”

Will the compromise agreement hold?

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 4, 2016

Terror Attack
A female terrorist rammed her car into a group of soldiers at the Gush Etzion junction, the scene of many previous terror attacks. One soldier was hit and wounded while the other soldiers were able to get out of the way and shoot and kill the terrorist. A knife was found on the dashboard of her car. The soldier was evacuated to Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem with light wounds to his legs.

For further reading click here.

Hamas Tunnels
The tunnels that Hamas claims they are not digging continue to collapse, killing their occupants. The most recent collapse occurred yesterday when a tunnel collapsed in Khan Yunis killing one terrorist. It was the sixth tunnel collapse in recent months.

Official reports, both in Israel and Gaza, blame the collapses on heavy rains. But many Hamas terrorists believe that Israel is to blame. Many are afraid to enter the tunnels now. Oh well.

For further reading click here.

Kotel Compromise
In order to be officially implemented, the compromise agreement reached by the government to create a separate prayer space for non Orthodox prayer at the southern part of the Kotel must be signed by the Minister of Religious Services. But David Azoulay, the Shas MK in charge of the ministry, is refusing to sign it, claiming that he will never do so under “under any circumstances.” Referring to Reform and Conservative Jews, Azoulay added, “They must not be given a foothold among the people of Israel.”

Azoulay’s statements are not sitting well with Interior Minister Aryeh Dery, the head of Shas, who is working – via private conversations with members of the ultra-Orthodox community – to minimize the liberal Jewish movements’ success with regard to the egalitarian prayer space.

On Sunday, Netanyahu is set to meet with Israel’s two chief rabbis and senior Knesset members of the ultra-Orthodox parties. They are expected to ask him to freeze the arrangement or remove the clauses that grant status to the Reform and Conservative movements.

There are different opinions even within the ultra-Orthodox parties. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau has been the driving force behind the opposition to the agreement, while Dery, along with Health Minister Litzman and MK Moshe Garni, both members of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), and the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel are in favor of approving the compromise agreement.

Surprisingly, the strongest opposition to the agreement is coming from groups that broke off from the Women of Wall who demand the right to continue praying in the women’s section of the Kotel while wearing prayer shawls and tefillin and reading from the Torah (which was what motivated the compromise in the first place).

The bottom line is that it doesn’t look like the religious parties will break off from the coalition and cause the government to fall (which they could have already done). Regarding signing the agreement, if Azoulay continues to refuse, the PM can just get someone else to do it.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for March 3, 2016

Terror Attacks
This morning an Israeli policeman, who was directing traffic on Route 90 near the Arab village of Al-Auja in the Jordan Valley, was stabbed in the shoulder by a 14 year old Palestinian girl. The attacker fled, but the wounded policeman managed to arrest her. She was taken in for questioning by the Shin Bet.

Earlier today, a police vehicle came under fire near the Rahelim Junction, east of the settlement of Ariel in the Samaria region of the West Bank. The vehicle was damaged but no one was hurt.

Last night a group of Palestinians approached the guard post at the entrance to the settlement of Har Bracha, which is located on Mount Gerizim near Nablus (Shechem), and stabbed two IDF soldiers. The IDF is still searching for the terrorists. Mount Gerizim is mentioned in the bible as the mountain upon which a slew of blessings were enumerated in a solemn ceremony — hence the name Har Bracha, which is hebrew for “The mountain of blessings”.

Also last night Yaakov Siman, a farmer from moshav Talmei Bilu in the Negev, was attacked by an Arab shouting “Allahu Akbar” and carrying an electric saw and a knife. The attacker hit Siman in the head with the saw and then tried to stab him. Siman struggled with the attacker and was wounded in his hand. The attacker fled and is being searched for by police.

Unfortunately, a busy 24 hrs.

For further reading click here.

Civilian Awards
Israel will soon be granting “decorations of valor” to civilians who gave or risked their lives while fighting terrorists. The idea came from Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan, who discussed it with Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan. They weren’t sure if about the legality of the idea until they found the Decorations Law, passed in 1972, which specifically allows the granting of decorations to police officers, guards, and “citizens who acted bravely and risked their lives or who carried out an irregular courageous act.” According to the 1972 law, the police commissioner and minister of internal security are authorized to grant such a decoration.

Minister Erdan told Yedioth Ahronoth, “Since the start of the current terror wave, many citizens and of course police, have acted with great courage and wisdom in many situations, risking and sacrificing their lives to prevent attacks and save human lives. My moral obligation is to act swiftly to grant them the appreciation and honor they deserve on behalf of Israel and its citizens. These people are examples for our youth and many citizens.”

For further reading click here.

Bus Scandal
Four senior executives from the Egged bus company have been questioned on suspicion of negligent homicide after a bus driver previously found guilty of causing an accident was allowed to return to the driver’s seat, which led to the deadly collision on Highway 1 that claimed the lives of six people.

The investigation focuses on suspicions that the executives knew about complaints made by passengers against the 402 line driver, Chaim Biton, and about his past traffic violations and the car accidents he was involved in.

It seems like this was one tragedy that could have been avoided.

For further reading click here.

Egyptian Booted
Last week we told you about the Egyptian Parliament Member (MP) Tawfik Okasha who had dinner with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt and was widely attacked by Egyptian officials and media. Yesterday more than two thirds of the Egyptian Parliament voted to remove Okasha on grounds that his conduct breached the confidence the parliament gave him to carry out his job as a member of the state assembly.
Does this mean Israeli Egyptian relations are crashing? Not necessarily. Egyptian sources say that Okasha is not liked by the Egyptian elite for many reasons having nothing to do with Israel, so this might just be an excuse to get rid of him.

Ok, I feel a bit better now. But I’d still hold off on that Sinai vacation.

For further reading click here.

Mosque Volume
If you live or work near a mosque in Israel, you’re painfully familiar with call to worship that is blasted out from huge loudspeakers in the mosque’s minaret. It happens five times a day, including in the early morning hours before sunset and late at night. With all due respect to the worshippers, it’s pretty annoying to the non Muslims.

Back in 2011 Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu) proposed a law banning the use of the loudspeakers. The law failed to pass. Now Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) is proposing a similar law and claims that he has the support of both the Likud and Kulanu parties.

The bill will be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, which will decide whether the coalition will support the bill. If it decides to support, then the law has a good chance of passing.

Don’t throw out your earplugs just yet.

For further reading click here.

Druze Gals
Druzenet is a Druze Israeli company that produces and services complex parts for the defense industry. The company is opening a new NIS 12 million plant in Isfiya, in the Carmel mountain range, that will produce parts for assembling Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The plant will employ 30 Druze women in engineering, management, and operations jobs.

Druzenet CEO Anwar Saab said, “The Druze have undergone a significant change over the past decade. Druze young people are being employed in all economic sectors, from the most traditional to high tech.”

The Druze rock! Go Druze!

For further reading click here.

Happy Birthday
Today is my birthday! (And yes, I still got up early to write this newsletter.)

According to some rabbinic teachings, the context in which a concept is mentioned in the Torah for the first time defines its character. The first time a birthday is mentioned in the Torah is in Genesis, when Pharaoh celebrates his birthday and remembers what his butler and baker did that landed them in prison. Based on this, a birthday is a time for reflecting on the past and evaluating the actions you’ve taken and whether they are worth continuing or modifying. Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, is a prime example of this concept.

Back in July I (and my wife) decided to create a daily email to help keep English readers informed about the Israel news and thereby strengthen their connection with Israel. IsraelAM continues to grow and we’ve got big plans for the future. For now our objective is to get as many readers as possible. So for your birthday present to me, get more people to sign up! And I’ll keep getting up early to keep you informed :)

Israel News for March 2, 2016

Terror Attack Foiled
Two 17 year old terrorists infiltrated into the town of Eli in Samaria (West Bank), entered a house and were about to slaughter the family living there. Luckily, they were stopped by IDF reserve officer Roi Harel. Here’s how he described the incident:

“I was stepping out of the house, going to reserve duty, at around 5:00am. I opened the door, and saw two terrorists with hatred and anger in their eyes. They attacked me with clubs and axes, and entered my home. After a couple of seconds I came to, and I ran after them as they had almost reached my children’s bedrooms. I managed to push them outside the house and I locked my door.”

“If anyone has any doubts as to their intentions, two 17-year-olds came to slaughter me, my wife and my kids. In the seconds during which I fought with them, I thought to myself that what happened to the Fogel and Gavish families. I screamed to my wife to call the settlement’s guard, the children woke up and cried but my wife was with them in the bedroom, so they hardly saw anything.” 

After fleeing the home the terrorists tried to find other targets but were spotted by IDF soldiers and killed. Harel was lightly wounded with cuts to the head. His wife and five children, who were all in the house, were unharmed.

To watch a video of an interview with the wife of Roi Harel, click here.

Expelling Families
PM Netanyahu today sent a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit requesting his legal opinion regarding the possibility of expelling the families of terrorists to Gaza. The PM claims that the threat of expulsion will motivate families to prevent their children and family members from committing terror attacks. Mandelblit has previously said that he believes explosion of families from East Jerusalem and the West Bank is considered illegal under international law. But the PM is not giving up so easily.

For further reading click here.

Waze Blameless
As a result of an investigation into the incident we reported on yesterday where two IDF soldiers mistakenly entered into the Qalandiya refugee camp and had to be rescued by large IDF forces, the IDF has decided to take disciplinary action against several of the soldiers’ commanders.

The soldiers were part of the Oketz unit, the army’s canine special forces unit. Based on the investigation the company commander will be reprimanded, the deputy company commander will be sentenced to a suspended prison sentence and the platoon commander of the soldiers will be dismissed from his position as well as receive a sentence of seven days in prison. They apparently should have taken better precautions to prevent this kind of mistake from happening.

The two soldiers themselves were not punished. In fact, they were praised for their conduct under the circumstances. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon yesterday urged all soldiers to navigate using a map, and not simply rely on Waze.

But don’t blame Waze for the mistake. The GPS app has a setting to avoid areas that are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through. The soldiers didn’t set that option. They just chose the shortest route.

For further reading click here.

Illegal Relations
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill that would outlaw sex between a religious or spiritual leader and one of his believers, comparing that situation to sexual relations between a therapist and a client, which is a criminal offense.

According to the proposal, sexual relations would be deemed a criminal offense if they take place as part of a relationship in which “ongoing advice or guidance is passed on through face-to-face meetings,” and if the sex acts are carried out “during or right after a period in which guidance or advice is given, exploiting palpable emotional dependence that results from the advice or guidance.”

The bill, which was initiated by MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), has received the support of MKs from Habayit Hayehudi, Kulanu, Yesh Atid, the Joint Arab List and Zionist Union, and has passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

For further reading click here.

Israeli Pride
Fighters for Life (Fighters For Life) is an NGO formed by three officers from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan unit that sends volunteer teams of IDF veterans to locations throughout the world that require humanitarian aid. The NGO currently operates three teams of Israeli veterans in memory of fallen soldiers.

Team Sean is sending 25 IDF veterans to volunteer for two weeks in the city of Gondar in Ethiopia in memory of Golani infantryman Nissim Sean Carmeli. Team Daniel heads to Mumbai, India every September in memory of Daniel Pomerantz, and Team Oz heads to Argentina to honor the memory of Oz Mendelovich. All three soldiers were killed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

According to Yair Attias, the deputy director of Fighters For Life, “The aim is to make Israel into a world power in humanitarian aid throughout the third world. Israel has already become a powerhouse in high-tech, science and agriculture, there is no reason it can’t become a powerhouse in volunteerism and charity as well. This type of action is totally part of all of our Israeli-Jewish DNA.”

For further reading click here.