Israel News for June 30, 2016

Terror Attack
This morning a Palestinian terrorist scaled a security fence, broke into a house in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, and stabbed a 13 year old girl to death while she was sleeping in her bed. The town’s civilian security patrol arrived at the house moments later and broke down the door. The terrorist stabbed one of the patrol members in the face before being shot and killed by the other security guard.

The 13 year old girl was Hallel Yaffa Ariel. The 31 year old security guard suffered serious wounds and was evacuated to Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem.

The terrorist was identified as Mohammed Tra’ayra, 19, from the nearby village Bani Na’im. He is a relative of the man who carried out a car ramming attack in Kiryat Arba in March. The IDF has surrounded the village and is searching it and interrogating relatives of the terrorist.

Over the weekend Tra’ayra posted a message on his Facebook page saying, “Death is a merit, and I desire to claim my merit.” His sister praised him in an interview on Palestinian TV, calling him a martyr and saying that he will enjoy his beard in heaven. She also called for divine retribution against the Jews.

The funeral for Hallel Yaffa Ariel will be held in Hebron later today. May her memory be a blessing.

For further reading click here and here.

Attacked in Ramallah
Nine Israeli left-wing activist illegally entered Ramallah to celebrate the nightly breaking of the Ramadan fast at the home of a Palestinian who is working to strengthen ties between leftist Israelis and Palestinians. But before they could get to the house, the Israeli’s were attacked by locals throwing rocks and firebombs. One of the cars burst into flames.

Eight of the Israelis were able to escape back into Israeli territory via the Qalandiya checkpoint. The ninth was rescued by PA security forces and questioned, before before being released to Israeli authorities near Beit El.

All nine are being questioned by security forces for violating a military order prohibiting entry of Israelis to areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

For further reading click here.

Take Two
Several months ago the Brazilian government refused to accept the credentials Dani Danon, whom the Prime Minister had appointed as ambassador to Brazil. The Brazilians objected to Danon because he had been a leader in the settlement movement. After a long standoff the PM backed down and appointed Danon as Israel’s UN Ambassador.

Well, it looks like the Prime Minister’s second try at appointing an ambassador might not be much more successful. This time the PM has appointed Yossi Sheli, a former business who was indicted and found guilty of perjury and fraud in 2008. In 2012 he signed a plea bargain agreement in which he admitted to a lesser charge and was forbidden from serving in public office until June of 2015. To top off his impressive resume, Sheli has zero diplomatic experience.

Sounds like the perfect choice.

For further reading click here.

Mein Kampf
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been publishing Mein Kampf, the infamous manifesto by Adolf Hitler, since 1933. Since 2000, the company has donated the proceeds from the sale of the book to combat anti-semitism. Last year the company announced that they would widen their scope and include cultural organizations as recipients of the funds. This caused an outcry from Jewish advocates. It worked.

Going forward, the proceeds from Mein Kampf will be donated to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston for “direct support of the health and human services needs of [Holocaust] survivors.”

By the way, between 1979 and 2000, the company kept all the proceeds for itself. Apparently, business is still business.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 29, 2016

Cabinet Meeting
The Security Cabinet has approved the reconciliation agreement signed by the PM with Turkey yesterday. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked opposed the agreement, while six other ministers voted to approve it despite concern about the political repercussions of doing so, given that polls have shown that the majority of Israelis oppose the agreement.

Opponents of the agreement believe that Israel should not pay the $20 million of reparations to the families of those killed in the IDF raid on the Marmara, because they view that as rewarding terrorism. They also want the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas in Gaza to be included in the agreement.

Let’s hope that the new agreement with Turkey brings Israel many economic, security and diplomatic benefits, and that the Turks fulfill their promise (not included in the agreement) to help bring the remains of the Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas back to their families.

For further reading click here.

UN Chief
The families of the IDF soldiers whose remains are being held by Hamas in Gaza met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday to ask him to intervene on their behalf. The meeting took place in the PM’s office in the presence of Netanyahu and Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon.

The families told the UN Chief, “You initiated the ceasefire that was exploited by Hamas to kidnap Hadar Goldin. Now we seek your involvement. Just as Gaza deserves humanitarian assistance, we also deserve humanitarian assistance.”

Ban Ki-Moon sympathized with the families, calling the situation “unjustified” and promised to appoint an official representative to handle the matter and promised that he would immediately look into how assistance could be provided upon his return to New York.

The families, however, expressed disappointment with the results of the meeting saying, “We entered the meeting with hope and left it disappointed. The UN secretary-general said that the matter was a humanitarian one. We therefore ask that the (Turkey) agreement not be signed.” They pledge to lobby ministers to vote against the agreement, which does not include a commitment by Turkey to facilitate the return of the bodies.

For further reading click here.

Differential Policy
After touring the IDF Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recommended that the IDF implement a “differential” security policy that would increase pressure in Palestinian areas that serve as a source for violence and terror activities, while easing restrictions in areas that are peaceful. He said, “This way, everyone will know that there are consequences for both directions.”

Many of the Palestinian terrorists who have carried out attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent months have come from specific areas of east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Hebron region, and the village of Yatta in particular, have become hot spots for violence and the source of attackers traveling to other areas to perpetrate attacks.

The new policy would crack down on those areas without punishing Palestinians in other areas who are keeping the peace.

Sounds logical.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 28, 2016

Jews Banned
Yesterday we reported the Muslim extremist attacks against security forces on the Temple Mount, whose goal was to prevent Jews and other non-Muslims from visiting the Mount. Early today the police banned all non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount for the duration of Ramadan.

For the past few years the policy has been to prevent non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount during the final few days of Ramadan, but the policy was changed this year. Now it’s been changed back. A win for terror?

But the ban didn’t stop Arabs from attacking Jews praying at the Kotel. Early today a 73 year old woman praying at the Western Wall was hit by rocks thrown from the Temple Mount. She was lightly wounded.

Police arrested 11 masked terrorists they said were involved in the Temple Mount violence and the Kotel rock throwing.

To watch a video of the violence click here.

Turkish Challenge
PM Netanyahu signed the official reconciliation deal with Turkey, which grants over $20 million in reparations to the families of those killed in the Marmara raid and releases all IDF personnel from the threat of prosecution in Turkey or The Hague. But he didn’t bother to present it to his cabinet for approval first. Problem?

Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have all announced their opposition to the agreement. The two dealbreakers for them are the reparations and the fact that Turkey has not committed to facilitating the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers being held by Hamas.

Bennett said, “The state cannot pay compensation to terrorists who tried to harm the IDF. Reconciliation with Turkey is important for this time and is in the interest of the State of Israel, but compensation to the perpetrators of terrorism is a dangerous precedent that the State of Israel will regret in the future.” He also said, “If Turkey has control over Hamas, they had better do all within their ability to ensure that Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin’s bodies are returned to Israel.”

Although the Turks did sign a letter indicating their commitment to try and facilitate the return of the bodies, it was not included in the official agreement.

Other Likud ministers, as well as members of the opposition, have also criticized the reparation payments as being a sign of weakness and a victory for terrorists. Some cabinet ministers resent the PM’s signing of the agreement without presenting it to them first for approval.

According to a recent poll, 65% of Jewish Israelis oppose the agreement, with 72% stating that the agreement should have been contingent on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.

But despite the protests and critiques, it looks like the PM has enough cabinet votes to “rubber stamp” the agreement after all. The cabinet will vote tomorrow.

For further reading click here.

UN Visit
During an official visit to Gaza, Israel and PA, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza, calling it “collective punishment.” But Israel intends to continue the blockade and rejected demands by Turkey to include the lifting of the blockade in the reconciliation agreement. Turkish aid to Gaza will go through the Port of Ashdod.

PM Netanyahu asked Ki-Moon to use his position to gain the release of the bodies of the IDF soldiers being held by Hamas.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Dad
On October 13, 2015 two terrorists boarded a Jerusalem bus with guns and axes and murdered three Israelis and wounded several others. The father of one of the terrorists (who was killed during the attack) was arrested yesterday for incitement and being affiliated with terror organizations. He had been giving talks and lectures at educational institutions, including elementary schools and Al-Quds University, in which he expressed support for his son’s terror attack and other terrorist activities.

For further reading click here.

Hannibal Revoked
IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has issued an order revoking the Hannibal Protocol, which requires the use any force necessary to prevent the abduction of a soldier, even if it endangers the soldier’s life.

The protocol drew mass criticism when it was implemented during the 2014 Gaza after the abduction of Lt. Hadar Goldin. After Goldin was captured by Hamas during a battle in the town of Rafah, IDF commanders ordered a massive barrage of firepower to attempt to stop the abduction. Dozens of Palestinians, including some civilians, were killed as a result. Goldin was later declared dead, but Hamas still holds his remains.

For further reading click here.

Bad Eggs
Israeli authorities seized around 40,000 eggs stored in a warehouse in the Galilee village of Tamra. The eggs were smuggled into Israel from the Palestinian Authority and were suspected of being unfit for human consumption. The owner of the warehouse and his son were arrested. The eggs were destroyed. Was this a deliberate attempt at sabotaging Israeli breakfasts, or just some bad egg handling?

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 27, 2016

Riots on Temple Mount
Dozens of masked Muslim extremists threw rocks and other objects at Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount, as Jewish visiting hours began early this morning. Police, Border Police and Yasam riot police forces succeeded in driving the rioters into the mosque, enabling both Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors to continue at the site for a short period.

After the visits ended the security forces were attacked again, before quelling the violence. According to surveillance video, the rioters stockpiled rocks and set up barricades throughout the night in preparation for today’s attacks. They had also attacked police on Sunday.

Despite the violence, police continued to enable non-Muslims to visit the compound, which included only 18 Jews among 375 tourists in total.

To see a short video click here.

Israel & Turkey
Israel and Turkey announced a reconciliation agreement in Rome today. PM Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was also there for the event, prior to the announcement.

The diplomatic crisis with Turkey began after Israeli forces raided a Turkish ship (the Marmara) that was part of a flotilla of vessels attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, on May 31, 2010. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the raid.

As part of the reconciliation agreement, Israel will pay the families of the none victims over $20 million as reparation. The money will be transferred only after a law is passed in Turkish parliament, which terminates all ongoing legal proceedings in Turkish courts against Israeli officers involved in the Marmara incident.

In addition, one of the main parts of the reconciliation agreement is that the IDF soldiers and commanders who took part in the operation to capture the ship will not be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Also in the agreement is a clause which commits Turkey to preventing Hamas attacks on Israel and Israeli citizens from or on Turkish soil.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza will continue. Turkish humanitarian aid to Gaza will be allowed to be delivered via Israel.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was critical of the reconciliation agreement, saying, “The return of relations with Turkey is an important political goal, but the reparations to those who attacked IDF soldiers is unacceptable, especially when it is signed by the Netanyahu – Bennet – Lieberman threesome. All should know that the leadership of the right is paying reparations to those who have attacked our sons.”

Besides slamming the reparation payments, Herzog decried the fact that insisting that Turkey facilitate the return of Israeli’s missing in Gaza (dead and alive) was not part of the agreement. He said, “besides this incomprehensible compensation, my heart is torn to see the indifference and the ignoring of the families of those who are missing (in Gaza), who are yelling at the top of their lungs. Yet their cries are not getting through to the hearts of the people who sit in the cabinet.”

However, a senior official involved in the agreement said, “We requested and received an official letter in which Turkish President Erdogan instructed Turkish intelligence and all the relevant government agencies to take all measures necessary to bring the issue of the prisoners and MIAs in Gaza to a close on humanitarian grounds.”

MK Hanin Zoabi of the Joint Arab List, who was on the Marmara, claimed that, “Israel agreeing to transfer $21 million to Turkey constitutes a clear admission of guilt.” She also critiqued the fact that lifting the blockade of Gaza was not included in the agreement.
For further reading click here.

Abbas Backtracks
On Thursday PA President Abbas, during a speech before the EU Parliament, accused Israeli rabbis of poisoning Palestinian wells in the West Bank. On Friday his office issued this statement: “After it has become evident that the alleged statements by a rabbi on poisoning Palestinian wells, which were reported by various media outlets, are baseless, President Mahmoud Abbas has affirmed that he didn’t intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world.” The statement also said that Abbas “rejected all claims that accuse him and the Palestinian people of offending the Jewish religion,” and that Abbas also “condemned all accusations of anti-Semitism.”

For further reading click here.

Believe it
Ezra Sheinberg, the former head of a community and Yeshiva in Tsfat who was recently found guilty of sexual offenses against 14 women, has petitioned the court demanding 285,000 shekels in severance pay from the Yeshiva and community he headed. The court is examining his request. Believe it.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 24, 2016

Brexit and Israel
Last night the UK voted to leave the EU. Will that affect Israel? It’s unclear. On the one hand, Britain serves as a relatively pro-Israel influence in the EU, so its leaving could make dealing with the EU harder for Israel. On the other hand, the UK’s departure will probably weaken the EU and reduce its importance and influence on the international stage. So basically, we’ll just have to wait and see how things develop.

Abbas Libels
In his speech to the EU Parliament yesterday, which was followed by a standing ovation, PA President Abbas remarked that, “Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians. Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?”

He did not mention anything about plots by Jews to use the blood of Palestinian children for their Passover Matzot, but he might as well have. It probably wouldn’t have effected the standing ovation.

In his defense, Abbas was just citing media sources including the Turkish state news agency Anadolu and the Gulf News, who “reported” the libel over the weekend. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry posted the libel on its website. So how was Abbas supposed to figure out that the story was false?

As for the standing ovation by the EU lawmakers, well…let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they missed the part about the “blood libel”.

The speech was condemned by PM Netanyahu’s office and the European Jewish Congress. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau also condemned the speech saying, “The Israeli Rabbinate and the thousands of rabbis serving the cities of Israel, from all ethnic groups and circles, love peace and pursue peace. This is our way of life, we are guided by the Torah of Israel, the Torah of life. Israeli rabbis see the supreme value of human life; we believe in the concept ‘love every individual created in the image of God’”.

For further reading click here.

Muslim Recruits
The latest batch of recruits to the IDF’s Desert Reconnaissance Battalion were sworn in yesterday in a ceremony at the Memorial Monument to the Bedouin Warriors. Most of the recruits are Bedouin, along with some Muslim and Christian Arab volunteers. All of the soldiers swore allegiance to the State of Israel.

For further reading and photos, click here.

Ikea Israel
Ikea, the furniture giant, has announced that it will open branched in Jerusalem, Beersheva and Tel Aviv. The new stores are set to open in two years. Ikea currently has stores in Rishon LeTzion, Netanya, and Kiryat Atta.

For further reading click here.

Bible Google
Herzog College in Alon Shvut has launched a website project called Google of the Bible. The website, which is currently in Hebrew and English, includes the entire Bible (tanach) text, a comprehensive search engine, biblical-era maps that can be compared to contemporary satellite pictures, thematic cross-references, an exhaustive terminology index, biblical idioms and contextual information, various commentary, articles, videos, teaching curriculums, literature and artwork.

To check out this fantastic new resource click here.

Israel News for June 23, 2016

Jaffa Attack
A 17 year old Jewish boy was attacked and stabbed by a group of four or five Arab teens in a public park in Jaffa on Tuesday evening. He had been working out wearing headphones so he failed to hear the group approaching. They attacked him with broken bottles and yelled, “Stinking little Jew, you deserve to die.”

Isn’t Israel supposed to be the one place we can go to get away from anti-semitism?

For further reading click here.

Terror Sentencing
The four terrorists who murdered Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of their children last year were sentenced by a military court to life in prison. Israel does not have a death penalty.

For further reading click here.

Abbas Refuses
President Reuven Rivlin is in Brussels on an official visit to the EU Parliament, where he delivered a speech yesterday. PA President Abbas is due to arrive there too. So the EU president suggested that he set up a meeting between them. Rivlin agreed. Abbas, however, refused to meet with Rivlin.

For further reading click here.

Mikvah Ruling
Women going to the Mikvah (ritual bath) in Israel will no longer be required to immerse in the presence of a Mikvah attendant. That was the rule before the Chief Rabbinate changed it as a result of a petition submitted by a women’s group before the Supreme Court. Now each woman will be able to decide for herself whether to immerse in the presence of an attendant, alone, or in the presence of a friend.

For further reading click here.

Icelandic Esther
Did you know that the First Lady of Iceland is Israeli? Yup. Dorit Moussaieff is the wife of Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. With Iceland’s recent advancement into the round of 16 in the 2016 UEFA European Championship (soccer), she’s offering to help teach Israel some lessons from the tiny country’s (300,000 residents) sporting success. The interesting part of this story is that the First Lady of Iceland is Israeli. Who would have thought?

For further reading and to see a photo of her, click here.

Hasidic Pepsi
Pepsi is apparently aiming for the Israeli Haredi market, judging by a new commercial featuring hasidic singing star Lipa Shmelter. To check out the video click here.

Israel News for June 22, 2016

Red Alert
When rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, residents hear a “red alert” siren. Now residents will hear the “red alert” in the event of an active tunnel discovery. The only difference is that in addition to the siren, residents will also receive an SMS message saying, “Due to terrorist digging, residents are requested to go into their homes and switch off the lights until further notice.” An IDF official noted that, “it’s important that the civilians understand that not every alarm means terrorists have penetrated into Israel.” Good to know.

For further reading click here.

PM Tricks
Back in November of 2015, PM Netanyahu appointed Dr. Ran Baratz to be the head of PR at the Prime Minister’s Office. But because of Baratz’s tendency to post negative Facebook messages relating to public figures including Israeli President Rivlin, Barak Obama and John Kerry, his appointment was opposed by many ministers and officials.

To make it official, the Civil Service Commission, which has the last word in the matter, refused to approve Baratz’s appointment. But did that stop the PM? Of course not.

To get around the hurdles before him, Netanyahu has made Baratz a senior consultant in the Prime Minister’s Office with a salary of just 5% below what he would have made as PR director. He’ll also be performing the same duties including formulating PR strategy, writing speeches, and assembling briefings.

The current PR and media director Boaz Stempler will continue in his position, although it’s unclear how both he and Baratz will function together, since they pretty much have the same job.

The reaction from government officials: “The Prime Minister is making a mockery of civil service rules, and sending ministers a message that says they can act just like him.”

So, two salaries for one job and the PM wins again. Gotcha.

For further reading click here.

Believe it
In 2013 Police Commander Ilan Mor was found guilty of sexually harassing two subordinate junior female police officers. Mor reached a plea bargain agreement with the Justice Ministry and was fined 4,000 shekels and reprimanded by an internal Police tribunal.

Soon after his conviction, Mor was sent to study at the prestigious National Security College, which also trains senior staff in Mossad and the Shin Bet security service. He was then appointed as head of the traffic police.

But wait, it gets better. Mor was recently appointed to be the Israel Police representative in the US. That was just too much, even for Israel. Hundreds of civilians wrote letters of protest to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Zazim, a nonprofit organization campaigning for social and political change, launched a campaign against the appointment.

Yesterday the police announced that Mor met with Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and declined the posting on “family and medical grounds.” Alsheich accepted Mor’s position but asked him to remain with the police force.

So Mor, a convicted sex offender continues to be commander of Israel’s traffic police. Believe it.

For further reading click here.

Arab Poverty
According to new data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, 82 percent of East Jerusalem’s 300,000 residents lived below the poverty line in 2014, up from 76% in 2013. In 2006 the poverty rate was at 66%. The general poverty rate in Israel is 22% and the poverty rate in Jerusalem is 48%.

Reasons offered for the huge poverty rate in East Jerusalem include the separation barrier, which cuts Jerusalem off from the West Bank impeding commerce between the two areas. Another cause is thought to be the surge of violence that began in 2014, which cause a drop in tourism and loss of jobs.

However, some officials claim that flaws in the polling mechanism are adding to the increased poverty numbers. They say that the sample size is too small and many residents refuse to take part in the survey. Nevertheless, there’s still a huge poverty rate in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality says it has launched several projects aimed at improving the situation, including setting up professional training centers and hiring 20 additional social workers to cover East Jerusalem.

“There’s been an improvement in the welfare and education systems, and I hope that within two years, we’ll see results,” said Boni Goldberg, head of the city’s social services department.

For further reading click here.

Fighter Unveiled
American aircraft maker Lockheed Martin will present the first of 33 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets to Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman and Israel Air Force (IAF) chief of staff Brigadier General Tal Kelman in Fort Worth, Texas today. The aircraft is called “Adir” or mighty in Hebrew.

The F-35, with its stealth abilities and the most advanced avionic systems, is viewed by Israel’s defense establishment as Israel’s plane of the future. Israel will be purchasing an additional 17 planes, making 50 in total.

Price of each plane: $85 million. Price to fly the plane for 1 hour: $35,000.

Israel’s first two F-35s will be flown to Israel by US pilots on December 12 2016. The following day, Israeli pilots will fly the aircraft in Israel’s skies. More aircraft will follow after Israeli pilots undergo training in the US.

For further reading and to see video of the new plane, click here.

Civilian Heroes
Citations were presented to 13 Israeli civilians who risked their lives to fight terror, by the Shaurat Hadin organization. To read their stories click here.

Israel News for June 21, 2016

Terror on 443
Terrorists threw rocks and firebombs at vehicles traveling on a stretch of route 446 near Modiin at around 1am today. They also dumped on oil on the highway, which connects the center of the country to Jerusalem. One Israeli on a bus and two tourists in a car were injured.

Shortly after the attack an officer and soldiers of the Kfir brigade passed through and launched a hunt for the terrorists. According to initial reports the soldiers apparently spotted a Palestinian vehicle, which they thought belonged to the terrorists, and opened fire on it. A 15 year old boy was killed and two adults were wounded. Two suspects were arrested and taken in for interrogation. The IDF spokesman released a statement saying that the 15 year old was probably not a terrorist.

Also last night, Israeli forces destroyed the house of Bashar Massalha, the terrorist who killed American tourist Taylor Force and injured ten others in an attack in Jaffa earlier this year. The house was located in the village of Kafr Haja near Nablus.

For further reading click here.

Lieberman in DC
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in Washington on Monday to discuss the military aid deal currently being negotiated. An Israeli source related that, “the conversation was good and practical, and there is a willingness to reach an agreement on aid for Israel’s missile defense system, regardless of the presidential elections in the United States. The goal is to reach an agreement as fast as possible.”

The Pentagon released a statement after the meeting saying, “Secretary Carter and Minister Lieberman reaffirmed the strength of the US- Israeli defense relationship and the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. They also discussed regional security challenges in the Middle East and areas of mutual defense cooperation.”

For further reading click here.

Divorce Rate
Moving to Israel must be help you stay married. According to a recent survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s divorce rate is only 13 percent. That ranks Israel 25th out of 39 developed countries. Denmark, the US and Sweden have the highest rates. Mexico, Ireland and Chile have the lowest.

The Israeli cities with the highest divorce rates are led by Eilat, with 25%, and followed by Bat Yam (22 percent), Upper Nazareth and Kiryat Yam (20 percent each), and then by Arad, Sderot and Acre (19 percent each). Most of those cities happen to have a predominantly lower income population with high proportions of Sephardim and Russian immigrants.

The places with the lowest divorce rate, all ultra Orthodox, are Rechasim (5 percent), Elad (4 percent), Betar Ilit (3 percent) and Modi’in Ilit (2 percent).

Now we need a survey that indicates the happiness level of married couples vs. those who divorce.

For further reading click here.

Sheep Aliya
If you’re planning to fly El Al to Israel from Canada this summer, you might find yourself sitting next to sheep. That’s because El AL announced that will be flying a flock of 113 sheep to Israel — biblical sheep.

The sheep, which are owned by Gil and Jenna Lewinsky (related to Monica?) of British Columbia, Canada, are apparently the only ones in the world to look like the ones described in the bible that belonged to Jacob (when he worked as a shepherd for his uncle Lavan). They have speckled skin, spots on their wool, and bands on their ankles and knees.

The Lewinskys are heeding the advice of Rabbi Amram Vaknin, a kabbalist living in Sderot, who claims that the sheep of Jacob must return to the Holy Land to hasten the redemption. They believe the animals came with Jacob through Canaan to Egypt, then with the Exodus to North Africa, and from there to Spain, England and then to North America. Quite a journey.

The deal was brokered by Israel’s embassy in Ottawa, which last month publicly offered its support to the effort. In February, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak, visited the family’s farm in Abbotsford, about 40 miles east of Vancouver, and reportedly witnessed the birth of a lamb.

The sheep are currently extinct in Israel. Is this the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for?

For further reading click here.

Yoga Pics
American art photographer Robert Sturman photographs yoga practitioners in poses throughout the world. He’s now added Israel to his portfolio. To see some of his amazing Israel based yoga photos, click here.

settlements israel

Israel News for June 20, 2016

Settlement Budget
The government has approved a NIS 72 million budget for the security of settlements in Judea and Samaria. But not all the money is going to “security”. Funding is allocated for construction, education, economic development and tourism.

For further reading click here.

Shabbat Busing
Last week we told you about a proposed bill in the Knesset that would allow local authorities to allow public buses to operate on Shabbat. Yesterday the Knesset Ministerial Legislation Committee rejected the bill.

YeshAtid MK Yael German, who sponsored the bill, said, “We won’t give up. We’ll submit the bill again in six months, and again in a year, and again and again until it passes. The current situation is discriminatory. Public transportation on Saturday is a social matter. It’s for young people and adults who don’t have cars, and for people who can’t afford to run a car.”

The presence of the religious parties in the coalition makes passing the bill nearly impossible.

By law, the Ministry of Transport is obligated to allow the local authorities to operate public transportation on the Sabbath. However, Section 386A of the Traffic Ordinance states that a license to operate a public bus on the day of rest will not be granted, except in certain cases, including rides to hospitals, border communities, and non-Jewish communities, plus transportation essential for public security or essential for the existence of public transportation.

Last week the Herzliya municipality announced that it would begin limited public transportation on Shabbat. Will it be overruled by the government?

For further reading click here.

Modesty Signs
The Jerusalem District Court gave Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul three weeks to remove “modesty” signs that warn women to dress according to Haredi norms of dress or to keep off sidewalks near synagogues and yeshivas where men tend to congregate.

The court ruling upholds a 2015 ruling by a lower Beit Shemsh court ordering the signs and removed and compensation paid to the plaintiffs.

In 2013, the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel, filed suit against the municipality and the mayor on behalf of four Orthodox women, all residents of Beit Shemesh, for refusing to remove the signs as required by a government report published that year.

For further reading click here.

Iron Dome
After its incredible success at protecting Israel from Hamas missiles, you’d think that the Iron Dome missile defense system would be sought after by other countries. Despite lots of interest and speculation, not a single sale of the system has been made. That’s probably because no other country is being subjected to missile attacks against it, or even the threat of missile attacks. And if it were, it would probably go to war to destroy the aggressor. That would make perfect sense, except when the country subjected to the attacks is Israel.

For further reading click here.

Olympic Hopefuls
Israel’s rhythmic gymnastics team has raised hopes for Israeli medal success at the upcoming Rio summer olympics. The team won the gold medal in the clubs and hoops category at the European Championships, which are being held in Holon, Israel. The team also won a silver medal for their ribbons routine and a bronze in the all around competition.

Meanwhile, a Syrian boxer bowed out of a qualifying round for the Olympics in Azerbaijan, to avoid fighting an Israeli boxer.

The boxer, Ala Ghasoun, told Arab media, ”I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people. If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”
Ghasoun added that “the decision to quit was not mine” but mandated by senior Syrian officials and the Syrian Sports Federation.

The Israeli boxer moved up to the next qualifying round. And yes, Syria actually has an olympic team.

For further reading click here.

Error Correction
Last week we reported about an Israeli judge who permitted a class action suit against Facebook to be heard in an Israeli court. The suit is for $400 million — not $400. The entire process could take years to play out in court.

New Holiday
The Knesset has approved a new holiday: Aliyah Day. The bill was spearheaded by the Tel Aviv Internationals organization led by American Oleh and activist Jay Shultz.

Shultz said, “Aliyah Day is an opportunity for the State of Israel to reach out to all Jews across the world, and to say that Israel is more than a place to consider living; Israel is their home. For us, young immigrants have a lot of strength, and Aliyah is something that we are extremely proud of. We come to Israel in order to give. We choose to be pioneers and we feel a lot of pride about this. It is a good thing that now the State of Israel will dedicate an official holiday to Aliyah.”

The holiday will be observed in the Hebrew month of Nissan, at the start of spring.

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Israel News for June 17, 2016

Jerusalem Terror
Terrorists threw four firebombs at a home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanetziv today. The firebombs were thrown from a street in neighboring Jabel Mukaber. Shortly after the attack, Police arrested four Arabs, all from Hebron.

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PM Contender
Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has declared that he will run for Prime Minister in the next election saying, “Last month I resigned from my position as defense minister and Knesset member, and made it clear that I would return to public service. I intend to run for the leadership of Israel in the next elections.”

In his speech at the Herzliya Conference Yaalon said, “The State of Israel and its citizens deserve a stately leadership that stops cynically zigzagging (on its position) every other day. We deserve a leadership that doesn’t choose the corrupt system of divide and rule. I can’t stand the fact that the leadership in Israel of 2016 is busy fanning the flames, inciting, intimidating and dividing Jews and Arabs, the right and left wings, and different sectors of society. It does all of this just to survive, stay in government for another month or another year.”

He said that Israel did not face an existential threat to its survival from outside enemies, including Iran. “The State of Israel is the strongest in the region. I can confidently say that at this time and in the foreseeable future there is no existential threat to the state of Israel. I say this as someone who knows every last detail of the security situation in Israel, and who knows the power and strength of the IDF and its intelligence capabilities. The Iranian nuclear project likewise does not pose an immediate threat to Israel and the countries in the region.”

Yaalon added, “The leadership in the State of Israel should stop scaring civilians and giving them the feeling that we are on the brink of a second Holocaust.”

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Moskowitz Passes
Dr. Irving Moskowitz, the American Jewish philanthropist donated tens of millions of dollars to Jewish settlement efforts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, died yesterday at the age of 88.

The Moskowitz Foundation he founded in 1968 along with his wife, Cherna, was a major supporter of El’ad and Ateret Cohanim, two organizations involved in moving Jews to live in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. It also was a major donor to the One Israel Fund, which supports projects in Judea and Samaria.

Moskowitz was born in New York City in 1928, the ninth child of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He grew up in Milwaukee, where he earned his medical degree, later moving to California, where he created a business building hospitals and ran a legal gambling business. He later moved to Miami Beach.

He will be buried in Jerusalem. May his memory be a blessing.

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Israel vs Facebook
An Israeli judge has approved a $400 million class action suit against Facebook for violating users’ privacy by using their private posts to determine which advertisements they should see, without obtaining their knowing consent to this policy. The suit also accused Facebook of violating Israeli law by not registering its database in the national database registry.

Facebook argued that its terms of use, agreed to by users, explicitly requires all suits against it to be heard by one of two specified California courts. It also claimed that its relationship with users is governed by California law, which would preclude Israeli courts from hearing such suits.

But Judge Esther Stemmer rejected these arguments, despite acknowledging that legal precedent does award jurisdictional priority to the courts stipulated in the users’ agreement.

She said, “Perhaps the time has come to examine the issue from a different angle, from the customer’s standpoint, especially when he’s the customer of huge international corporations that deal with customers all over the world.”

Stemmer added, “It’s not clear that Facebook’s right to litigate in one single place in the world, as stipulated in the uniform contracts it had users’ sign, overrides the right of all the users to readily obtain legal remedy in their own countries.”

The judge charged Facebook 10,000 shekels for court costs and gave it 90 days to respond to the suit.

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Syrian Kosher
Many of the rebel groups fighting in the souther region of Syria near the Israeli border might be going kosher. Well, not exactly, but they have been eating Israeli made food products including rice, flour and sugar. It’s unclear how the products are getting to the rebels, but they’re probably brought back by wounded soldiers treated in Israeli first aid stations and hospitals near the border. The rebels bring their wounded and leave with food, medicine and other Israeli aid.

Of course, the Arab press and social media is condemning the groups for collaborating with the evil Zionist enemy. Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels are enjoying the fruits (and medicine) of the Holy Land.

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