Israel News for July 29, 2016

Dermer Praises Clinton
Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the US, credited Hillary Clinton with the leading role in achieving a cease-fire in Israel’s 2012 conflict with Hamas.

Clinton flew to the region and conducted shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel to end hostilities between Israel and Hamas through indirect negotiations. Dermer, speaking at an event hosted by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, said that because of the quick cease-fire, the eight-day conflict was the only one of Israel’s three rounds of fighting with Hamas to not include an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

He said, “She came in and had to get it right, and had, I think, basically one shot. A lot of lives were saved.”

Dermer said the talks defined “how the U.S. and Israel work together as allies.”

For further reading click here.

Gaza Sewage
A bipartisan group of US Congressman and Senators have sent a letter to Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman and Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz demanding a long-term solution for the supply of electricity to the water purification facility in the Gaza Strip. The group claims that an absence of an immediate solution will have severe health and environmental consequences on both sides of the border.

The water purification plant, built in northern Gaza with $80 million of World Bank money, is barely functioning due to a lack of electricity, which is supplied by Israel. As a result, sewage in Gaza is flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. Water currents bring the sewage northeast to Israel, damaging the aquifers on both sides of the border.

According to EcoPeace Friends of the Earth Middle East Israel director Adv. Gidon Bromberg, which has been trying for several years to eliminate the hazards of sewage in the region, “The hazards of the sewage flowing from the Gaza Strip are an existing fact that cannot be ignored. Sewage constitutes a health hazard not only in the Gaza Strip, but also for nearly a million Israelis. It is a ticking bomb, and it is only a matter of time before it leads to the closure of beaches, destruction of groundwater, and the outbreak of disease on both sides of the border.”

For further reading click here.

Egyptian Independence
PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin participated in the Egyptian Independence Day celebrations at the residence of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel in Hertzlia last night. The PM praised the Egyptian President’s efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli Egyptian peace treaty has held up for nearly 40 years.

For further reading click here.

Highway Security
Highway 443, which connects Modiin to Jerusalem and is one of only two major highways that connect the capital to central Israel, has been the scene of dozens of terrorist attacks in the recent wave of terror. The IDF is hoping to prevent more attacks by installing over 255 day and night vision cameras along the ten mile stretch of road. They’ll also be adding two additional surveillance balloons along the route, supplementing the one already in use. There are also currently between 50 and 70 soldiers who patrol the highway.

A significant portion of the 443 passes through the West Bank. The road is built in hilly terrain and there are Arab villages on both sides of it. There is no security fence along most of the highway, giving terrorists many opportunities to carry out attacks on the thousands of Israeli vehicles that use the road every day.

Despite the attacks along the highway in recent months, the road is considered to be safe.

Let’s hope that the new cameras help the IDF stop terrorists before they have a chance to attack.

For further reading click here.

Judge Diversity
In a sign of Israel’s increasing diversity in public office, ten out of the 16 new district judges and court registrars sworn in yesterday were women and four were Arabs. Both Israel’s Justice Minister and Supreme Court President are also women.

For further reading click here.

Joint Exercise
The Israeli Navy and the US Marines conducted a joint training exercise. To watch a video of the exercise click here.

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Israel News for July 28, 2016

State Dept. Angry
The US State Department responded with anger to a recent announcement of building tenders for East Jerusalem by the Jerusalem municipality.

The statement said, “We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

Reports indicate 323 units are planned for East Jerusalem and 770 for Gilo, which is an established neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. There are also plans to build 531 units in Ma’ale Adumim, 19 in Har Homa, 120 in Ramot, 30 in Pisgat Ze’ev and 42 in Kiryat Arba.

The Sate Department claimed that, “More than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, with more Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem thus far than in all of 2015.”

The statement added that, “We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

The Jerusalem Municipality apparently feels that the elections in the US present an ideal opportunity to do some building with minimal repercussions from the White House.

For further reading click here.

Kaine for Israel
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who is also the Democratic nominee for Vice President, signed a letter along with 35 other senators from both parties calling on Congress to add $320 million for missile defense to Israel’s military aid package.

The letter wrote, “Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies.”

For further reading click here.

Hamas Praise
Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, called the family of the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Mark and was killed in a firefight with IDF troops seeking to arrest him yesterday. He praised the terrorist as a hero and martyr. What do you expect?

One of the terrorists captured in the raid, who is suspected of participating in the murder, worked for the Palestinian Authority and was arrested by the Shin Bet a few days after the murder, but was then released. An investigation is expected.

For further reading click here.

Saudi Denial
A few days ago we reported about a visit to Israel by a Saudi delegation lead by retired general Anwar Eshki, who met with Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem. Today, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry denied that it played any role in the visit and referred to Israel as “occupied territory.” However, since Saudi government permission was most likely necessary for the delegation to make their visit, the Saudis might not be that clueless after all. Wink wink.

Since we’re talking about visits, the official Iranian news agency reported that an Iranian general recently visited the southwest Syria city of Quneitra, located near the Israel-Syria border. The area has been the scene of recent fighting between rebel and government forces. The Israeli Air Force attacked a military outpost near the city this week in retaliation for a mortar that was fired into Israel.

For further reading click here.

Police Wanted
The Jerusalem district police is looking to hire 1,200 new officers, but so far only 200 have taken the bait. The police is offering higher salaries and better benefits, but the prospect of working in East Jerusalem in these turbulent times is apparently not very attractive. Anyone interested?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 27, 2016

Terrorists Captured
Last night IDF and Police forces from the Duvdevan, Yamam and Kfir units killed Mohammed Jabarah al-Fakih, the 29-year-old Hamas terrorist who murdered Rabbi Michael Mark and wounded Mark’s wife and two of their children in a roadside ambush on July 1st near Otniel. The operation was executed in the village of Surif, north of Heron. Three other terrorists and several family members suspected of helping al-Fakih were also arrested in the raid. No Israeli soldiers were injured in the operation.

Hamas and Palestinian media and websites praised al-Fakih as a martyr and hero who fought to the death.

The Units
Duvdevan is a special unit whose members go into Arab areas disguised as Arabs to make arrests.

Yamam is the Police anti-terrorist unit (think anti-terror S.W.A.T)

Kfir is an infantry brigade that operates in the West Bank. Its primary missions include counter-terror operations, capturing terrorists, patrols, manning checkpoints and regular security activities.

For further reading click here.

Terror Attempt
A female Arab terrorist charged at soldiers manning the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem Tuesday morning. She was shot in the legs by soldiers before she could cause any harm. A knife was found in her bag.

For further reading click here.

Soccer Fans Busted
A special task force of 400 Israeli police officers and security personnel raided homes throughout the country and arrested fifty members of a group of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans called La Familia. Some of those arrested are suspected of attacking a rival team’s fan with an axe last year. All are suspected of having participated in violent incidents. Police also found explosives, grenades and various types of weapons. Several of those arrested were IDF soldiers, including one officer. Additional arrests are expected.

For further reading click here.

Controversial Rabbi Clarifies
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, the head of a pre-army academy in Eli who was reprimanded for making controversial statements degrading gays, issued a letter to the Director-General of the Defense Ministry clarifying his comments.

He wrote, “My comments at the rabbinic conference last week were interpreted by many in a way I never intended, as if I had called for the exclusion of certain populations or parts of them from the IDF, or to harm the sense of camaraderie we all place our trust in.” He added, “Everyone has a place in the IDF, regardless of their background, their worldview, or their personal inclinations. The criticism I voiced did not express a lack of faith [in the system], rather it came from a sense of love and pain.”

He did not retract his initial comments.

For further reading click here.

Dems Burn Flag
Protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia burned an Israeli flag while chanting “intifada”. One person waived a Palestinian flag. I don’t think something like this happened outside of the Republican National Convention, did it?

The National Jewish Democratic Council condemned the flag-burning on Twitter, calling it “Disgusting and totally reprehensible. These protestors aren’t only wrong, but are fundamentally anti-progressive.”

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 26, 2016

Arab Outreach
PM Netanyahu released a video message in which he asked Israeli Arabs to take full part in Israeli society. The video began with an apology by the PM for a comment he made during the last election in which he warned that Arabs were “flocking to the polls in droves”. The PM claimed that he was referring to the anti-Zionist Arab Joint List party and not to Arabs in general.

In any case, the PM played on his “droves” comment and said, “Today I am asking Arab citizens in Israel to take part in our society – in droves. Work in droves, study in droves, thrive in droves. Israel is strong because of our diversity and pluralism – not in spite of it.”

The PM ended by saying, “Jews and Arabs should reach out to each other, get to know each other’s families. Listen to each other. Jews and Arabs should treat one another with the same dignity and respect you’d want for your own family. Our land is too small, it’s too precious to fill it with discord and hate. Let us work together, Arabs and Jews alike, to reach ever higher in the noble pursuit of equality and dignity for all.”

The government has allocated extra funds for boosting policing in Arab communities, to try and stem the high levels of criminal violence in those areas.

Arab MK’s from the Joint List were quick to criticize the video. Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh said, “When I saw you chose to contact us in English. I understood exactly where this message is intended and for what purpose. So I say to the Prime Minister on behalf of the Arab public that we are not buying his show of hypocrisy.”

To watch the video, click here.

Israel Attacks
Syrian mortar shells fell in the Israeli Golan, across from the border city of Quneitra, which has recently been the scene of heavy fighting between pro and anti government forces.

The Israeli Air Force responded by attacking two government military outposts identified as the source of the fire. Most of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights is held by rebel groups.

For further reading click here.

New Mikvah Law
Back in February the Supreme Court ruled that State run mikvahs, which are operating under Orthodox auspices, cannot prevent Reform and Conservative converts from using them as part of their conversion process. Yesterday the Knesset passed a law, sponsored by the Haredi UTJ party, effectively banning non-Orthodox converts from using the State mikvahs by giving the local rabbinate the authority to determine who may or may not use the local mikvah. Apparently, in Israel the Knesset can pass laws that circumvent Supreme Court rulings.

The government has promised to build several mikvahs exclusively for Reform and Conservative use, but the funding for these has yet to be allocated.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky responded to the new law saying, “This bill, which offers no solution to the non-Orthodox denominations, circumvents the ruling of the High Court of Justice. It is unfortunate that the bill passed before such a solution was ensured.”

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative movement, called the law a “spit in the face” and said, “Jewish diaspora leaders are looking at us now astounded by the contempt, the condescension and the heartlessness being broadcast by the state of Israel which they so loved but which has broken their hearts.”

But the Haredi parties are an integral part of the government coalition, which would likely fall without them. So the law passes. It will take effect in nine months, in order to give enough time for the alternate mikvahs to be constructed.

So now there will soon be a separate kotel and separate mikvahs. So much for a unified Jewish nation.

For further reading click here.

IDF Bans Pokemon
The IDF has banned the Pokemon Go app from all military bases, but not because of the actual game. The IDF’s security division is afraid that soldiers will mistakenly download a similar looking app which can compromise security by leaking sensitive military information, such as photographs and base locations. So the fact that soldiers were running around bases looking for imaginary monsters to capture was ok. Hmm.

For further reading click here. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/IDF-bans-Pokemon-Go-app-from-all-military-bases-amid-security-fears-462369

PA vs. Balfour
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration by the British government in 1917, which formally recognized the Jewish right to a homeland in Israel, the Palestinian Authority has called on the Arab League to help them sue the British government for issuing the declaration. Good luck with that.

For further reading click here.

New Invention
Just in the past two months five children in Israel have died of heatstroke as a result of being forgotten in cars by their parents or caretakers. This happens much too often in Israel and throughout the world. But now an Israeli startup has created a solution called 2Find.

The product is a small chip which can be placed on a child (or anything) that will send an alert to a phone when there is a certain distance between the user and the chip. So, for example, if a parent forgets a baby in a car, the parent will receive a text alert on their phone. If there is no response in four minutes (like if the phone is on silent or lost), the alert is sent to anyone on a backup list.

2Find will be in Israeli stores in the next few weeks, and hopefully soon in the US, Europe and Australia.

To check out the company website click here.

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Israel News for July 25, 2016

Olympic Shabbat
The opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Rio will take place on Friday evening, August 5th, and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has announced that she will not be attending because of Shabbat. Regev tried to get housing for herself and her staff within walking distance of the ceremonies, but her security detail could not guarantee her security if she walked back. So the minister, who is not personally religiously observant, decided to put Shabbat before the Olympic ceremonies, explaining, “Shabbat our national day of rest is one of the most important gifts that Jewish people have given to the culture of humanity. As the representative to the state of Israel, the sole Jewish state on the planet, I unfortunately cannot take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because it would require me to break the holy Shabbat.”

Regev’s decision was praised by United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher, who said she deserves a medal for keeping the tradition. “Regev’s actions should set an example for other ministers for how to behave when they represent the Jewish people.”

For further reading click here.

Olympic Team
Israel will be sending its largest team ever to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil next week. The 51 qualifiers will compete in 17 sport categories, including Israel’s first Olympic competitors in golf, triathlon and mountain biking. The delegation also includes 34 coaches and about 25 support staff.

Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will lead the Israeli delegation and carry the flag in the opening ceremony. She just won a bronze medal at the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) World Cup Final in Rhythmic Gymnastics in Baku, Azerbaijan on Sunday. The Israeli team won the gold medal at the ribbons event, narrowly beating out the Russians.

Rivkin, along with her fellow gymnasts and the rest of the Israeli team, are hoping to bring home some Olympic medals. Go Israel!

To read more about the Israeli olympic team, click here.

Saudi Visit
A Saudi delegation led by retired general Anwar Eshki met with foreign ministry director Dore Gold at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem yesterday. During the official visit, Eshki also met with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the COGAT, the military body that coordinates Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and spoke to a group of Israeli opposition MKs in the West Bank on Friday.

While Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had diplomatic relations, there have been reports that the two countries have shared intelligence related to fighting terrorism in the region. But Eshki, who is the chairman of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, denied that there was any security cooperation between his country and Israel.

The Saudis are the primary sponsors of a 2002 Arab peace plan that calls for Israel to withdraw from territories captured in 1967 and to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue in exchange for peace with the Arab nations.

For further reading click here.

Cyprus Worries
The recent reconciliation in relations between Israel and Turkey have raised worries in Cyprus, which has been in conflict with Turkey for decades, since Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island (which they continue to occupy – apparently they don’t feel the need to withdraw from their occupied territories. Hey, aren’t they in NATO??).

Yesterday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, along with his energy minister and foreign minister, paid a quick visit to Jerusalem to meet with PM Netanyahu and other government officials.

Netanyahu apparently allayed the Cypriots’ fears by committing to protecting Israeli-Cypriot interests and coordinating policies with them.

Israel will be exporting natural gas to Turkey through a pipeline that will run through Cypriot waters.

For further reading click here.

Haredi Education
The government yesterday voted to cancel the requirement for Haredi (ultra-orthodox) schools to teach core subjects such as English, math and science, in order for them to receive government funding. So now these schools will be able to receive government funding without having to teach the core subjects. The vote was the result of the coalition agreement that brought the Haredi parties into the government.

Around 430,000 pupils are currently studying in ultra-Orthodox education institutions. The new change of regulations will directly affect around 30,000 students.

The core studies requirement was meant to help prepare students for eventually getting jobs in the mainstream economy.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 22, 2016

Parade Happens
Over 25,000 people participated in the gay pride parade in Jerusalem yesterday. Police arrested 48 people suspected of trying to disrupt the event and attack participants. There was no violence at the parade.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy laid flowers at the place of Shira Banki’s murder (at last years parade) before the march began. Barkat said, “I understand the pain and criticism of those who don’t agree with my decision not to participate in the march. I chose a different way to honor the memory of Shira Banki, a sweet girl who was murdered because of baseless hatred, and I lay, together with the commander of the Jerusalem District Police, a flower at the place of the murder. I pray with all my heart that on this day, we will all of us unite against any display of incitement, violence.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbi Reprimanded
Defense Ministry Director General Udi Adam reprimanded Rabbi Yigal Levinstein for remarks he recently made in which he referred to gays as perverts and criticized the IDF for being too careful in its efforts not to harm civilians in combat. The reprimand was mainly directed against the anti-gay comment. General Adam demanded that Rabbi Levinstein “clarify” his comment.

Yesterday, close to 350 rabbis signed a letter supporting Levinstein and criticizing what they called “an attempt to silence Israel’s rabbis.”

Levinstein is the co-founder and head of a pre-military yeshiva academy in Beit El that has produced many high ranking IDF officers. His co-director, Rabbi Eli Sadan did not sign the letter, but also did not criticize the comments. He said, “Even if we have criticism of certain things in the army, we are not opposed to the army, of course. We will continue to fight together for the sake of the country, and when problems arise we will solve them with dialogue, not war.”

For further reading click here.

Innovation Center
PM Netanyahu, President Rivlin and former President Shimon Peres participated in the launching of The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa yesterday. All three men emphasized that, while Israel is poor in natural resources, it is rich in human resources.

Simon Peres is credited with being the architect of Israel’s defense and aviation industries as well as enabling Israel’s nuclear capability.

For further reading click here.

Jihadi Threats
A Jihadi group has published threats against Israeli and American olympic athletes on social media. The posts call on “lone wolf” attackers to take part in the jihad and become martyrs.

The post specifically mentioned the Israelis: “From amongst the worst enemies, the most famous enemies for general Muslims is to attack Israelis. As general Muslims all agree to it and it causes more popularity for the Mujahideen amongst the Muslims.” The post also called to kidnap Israelis to serve as bargaining chips to free Muslim prisoners.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s federal police arrested 10 people on Thursday on suspicion of belonging to a group backing ISIS and preparing acts of terrorism during next month’s Olympics.

For further reading click here.

Polish Revisionism
Polish officials are publicly expressing the anti-semitism that is ingrained in Polish society. Poland’s Education Minister Anna Zalewska recently questioned whether the perpetrators of the 1946 Kielce pogrom, during which 40 holocaust survivors were murdered, were Poles. She said, “Let’s leave it to historians to sort out.” What she is implying is that it was Russian soldiers, or perhaps even Jews, who committed the heinous murders. How could anyone even think that Poles would murder Jews? Right.

The mayor of Jedwabne, the town in which Poles herded 340 Jews into a barn and burned them alive, has ordered the exhumation of the bodies to prove that the Jews were actually murdered by German soldiers, and not by Poles. The testimonies of numerous witnesses and other evidence that confirms that there were only a few German soldiers in the town at the time of the massacre and that Poles committed the murders don’t seem to matter. The desire to deny Polish involvement is stronger than any evidence.

Other Polish government officials, including the current president, have also denied Polish involvement in the murder and persecution of Jews during and after the holocaust.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder has demanded apologies from the education minister and the mayor. Even if he gets them, will it change anything?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 21, 2016

African Love
The Republic of Guinea, a Muslim country in sub-Saharan West Africa, opened diplomatic relations with Israel yesterday. After signing the agreement, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold said, “Israel calls on all countries that have yet to renew their ties with Israel to follow Guinea’s example. This way, we can all act together for the benefit of the region’s nations.”

The agreement was signed in the wake of PM Netanyahu’s visits to several sub-Saharan countries earlier this month including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, with the aim of reestablishing and strengthening existing diplomatic and commercial ties.

Apparently, the trip worked.

For further reading click here.

Not So Fast
But wait, everything isn’t all rose on the African front. Last Saturday Palestinian Authority President Abbas arrived in Rwanda to address the 27th Summit of the African Union. Then he went to Sudan, where he signed several agreements with the government. Tomorrow he’ll be in Mauritania for an Arab League summit.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced yesterday that the Palestinian Authority and Sudan are coordinating to “restrain Israeli movements” in the African continent. He said, “President Mahmoud Abbas and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir discussed developing a strategy for the African continent and coordinating to restrain Israeli attempts to make a breakthrough in Africa.”

So the battle for Africa is on.

For further reading click here.

Arrested Again
Yishai Schlissel, the man who killed one and wounded five in an attack on last years Jerusalem gay pride parade, was arrested in his prison cell yesterday for conspiring with his brother to attack the parade again this year. His brother Michael was arrested. Schlissel’s father denied that Michael conspired with his brother. But the rest of the Schlissel family has been banned from Jerusalem until after the parade, just to be on the safe side.

The parade is scheduled to take place this afternoon under the protection of over 2,000 police officers and security personnel, who are deployed throughout the city. Over 10,000 people are expected to take part in the parade. But as we reported yesterday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat will not participate in the parade, to avoid hurting the sensitivities of the city’s religious population.

Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, has called on people to attend a protest demonstration against the parade organized by the right-wing extremist Lehava organization. In a letter to Lahava leader Ben-Zion Gopstein, he wrote, “I find it proper to strengthen your hands for organizing the protest against the parade, which the Torah calls an abomination while harming the holiness of Jerusalem and (harming) its residents. You join the greats of Israel who protested against acts such as these and saved the people of Israel.”

Jerusalem’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar condemned the parade saying, “This desecration of God’s name in Jerusalem is an embarrassing phenomenon, it’s one of the most serious sins in the Torah.” He also attacked PM Netanyahu for supporting the event, saying, “It is simply horrendous that the Prime Minister supports these parades. It’s a huge embarrassment; he should come back and apologize in public. He cannot be the Prime Minister of Israel.”

Let’s hope that this year’s parade is not marred by any violence.

For further reading click here.

Israeli Victories
Israeli high school students won 10 medals at the International Physics Olympiad which took place in Zurich, Switzerland, and the International Mathematical Olympiad which took place in Hong Kong, China. The Israeli teams ranked 19th and 22nd in their respective competitions.

The top three teams in the Math Olympiad were the US, South Korea and China. The Syrian team, led by President Assad’s son, took home three bronze medals. The top three teams in the physics competition were China, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett praised the Israeli teams saying, “I am proud of the students and coaches for the effort, seriousness, and the honor they brought to the State of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the kids probably had to explain to their ambitious parents why they didn’t do better.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 20, 2016

Mayor Won’t March
In an interview with Yediot Ahronot, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the he would not march in the gay pride parade in the city on Thursday. He said, “I won’t march because I don’t want to be part of the harm to the ultra-Orthodox public and the Religious-Zionist public. The gay-lesbian community receives services in the city of Jerusalem to its satisfaction. Of course, it’s their right to march. The Jerusalem Municipality, I, and the police are doing everything that we can to facilitate them to realize their right, but they need to know that this hurts others.”

Meanwhile, the mother and five brothers of Yishai Schlissel, the man who murdered one marcher and injured five others at last year’s parade, were brought in for questioning by police and given restraining orders from entering Jerusalem until after the parade.

The Jerusalem Municipality ordered the removal of gay pride flags from the streets adjacent to the Great Synagogue and Hechal Shlomo, the seat of the Chief Rabbinate. The removal was done at the request of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern who wrote, “I have a modest request. Without getting into the controversy surrounding the ‘Parade,’ it would be appropriate to remove the flags from the street next to the Jeshurun Synagogue and Hechal Shlomo. I am certain that this gesture would lower the tension and show consideration for the holiness of Jerusalem.”

To read more of the interview with Mayor Barkat, click here.

Expulsion Law
The Knesset passed a law last night allowing a two-thirds majority to expel a sitting member of parliament who was found to be inciting to racism or supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel. The law will allow the expulsion of an MK only with the support of 90 out of the 120 members of Knesset, at least ten of which have to be from the opposition.

The old law prohibited a person from running for the Knesset if his acts or objectives serve to reject the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; incite to racism; support an armed struggle and more. But if such acts are carried out by someone already elected to Knesset—they cannot be removed from the legislature until the next elections, when they could be disqualified. The new law changes that.

Arab Knesset members along with members of the Zionist Union and Meretz opposed the bill, which passed by a vote of 62 – 47, calling it undemocratic and anti-Arab.

In order to get the required 90 votes to implement an expulsion, a significant portion of the opposition will have to be in favor of the move.

The new legislation will not apply to acts done before it came into effect, so the Knesset will not be able to expel MK Hanin Zoabi for her past virulent comments against IDF soldiers or for her participation in the Marmara flotilla. But maybe next time.

For further reading click here.

Jordan Fence
Israel will build a separation barrier along the northern part of the Jordanian border in the Golan. The barrier, which will extend the existing barrier that runs from Mount Hermon in the north to Hamat Gader along the Syrian border, will cost around $7 million and extend for several kilometers. Another fence is being constructed along the southern part of the Jordanian border, near the site of the international airport under construction in Timna (north of Eilat).

A fence built along the Israeli-Egypt border in 2010 has dramatically stemmed the flow of asylum seekers crossing into Israel from over 10,000 a year to just a few hundred or a even few dozen a year.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for July 19, 2016

IDF Permits Demonstrations
The IDF has modified its rules to permit soldiers and officers to participate in non-political demonstrations. According to the new rules, conscripts and officers up to and including the rank of major are permitted to take part in public activities, provided that they do not pertain to IDF actions, party political matters, or matters of state. The permitted activity must take place on the soldiers’ own time and out of uniform. The demonstrators must not be able to be identified as IDF soldiers.

The new rule allows soldiers and officers to march in the upcoming gay pride parade in Jerusalem this Friday.

For further reading click here.

Flag Law
The Knesset yesterday passed a new law that increases the penalty for desecration of the Israeli flag to a maximum prison sentence three years and a a fine of 58,400 shekels ($15,100). The previous maximum sentence was one year and the fine was 300 liras — which in today’s currency would be around zero.

No more flag burnings in Mea Shearim?

For further reading click here.

Soccer Solution
Defense Minister Leiberman has proposed a new solution to fight Palestinian terror, and it’s not the kind of hard line tactic you’d expect. The DM said, in a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Knesset, that he would establish ten new soccer fields in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, to give Palestinian youth something more productive to do than throwing ricks at Jews. Makes sense, right?

Building soccer fields is part of Leiberman’s overall strategy of rewarding Palestinians that do not engage in terror and punishing only those who do (as opposed to collective punishment).

Hey, whatever works.

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Mexico Trade
Israel’s ambassador to Mexico said that trade between the two countries could triple in the coming years. Israel is currently Mexico’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East and 42nd globally. In 2015, total trade between the countries was $841 million.

Mexico’s exports to Israel include cement, fruit, cars and crude oil. Israeli exports to Mexico include pharmaceuticals, chemical based products and technology. Over 200 Israeli companies have offices in Mexico, and that number is expected to rise. Around 50,000 Jews live in Mexico.

Will Israel be sharing wall building technology and expertise with Mexico in the near future? We’ll find out soon.

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South Tel Aviv Torah
A small yeshiva is opening in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood of South Tel Aviv. In recent years the area has become the home to thousands of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea. Many Jewish residents have moved, and those who remain feel besieged in their own homes by the foreign population and accompanying rise in crime and racial tensions.

The head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, said, “Our mission is to become a center of Torah learning that also contributes to the community.” He added, “All we can do is take positive action, create a connection with the local population, and provide a social presence. We are creating social programming for the youth of the neighborhood, we study Torah with them, and we plan to bring young, idealistic couples to the neighborhood to give the community psychological strength.”

For further reading click here.

Gaza Tunnel
A tunnel collapsed in Gaza last night, killing at least one Islamic Jihad terrorist and leaving another four either wounded or missing. Nine days ago another tunnel collapsed on members of the terror group. Digging terror tunnels is a dangerous business. May they continue to gain martyrdom.

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US Aliyah
Two thousand Jews from America and Canada will be making aliyah this summer, with the help of the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. The first group of 218 landed in Israel early today.

Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, greeted them at the airport. He said, “The immigrants arriving from the United States and Canada are coming not out of distress but rather out of excitement to take part in the largest national project of the Jewish people. We must ensure that the State of Israel remains a place in which every Jew feels at home, a place that ignites Jews’ imagination and strengthens their identity and security.”

“And your children will return to their borders – V’shavu Banim L’gvulam”

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Israel News for July 18, 2016

Breaking News
Two Israeli soldiers were stabbed and wounded by a Palestinian on Route 60 between Hebron and Gush Etzion outside of El Arub Palestinian refugee camp. One soldier was stabbed in the head and the other in the head. Both were conscious was treated by paramedics. Soldiers in the area shot and neutralized the terrorist.

For further reading click here.

Terror Averted
A Palestinian man in his twenties was arrested yesterday morning at a light rail station on Jaffa Rd near Ben Yehuda Street in the heart of Jerusalem. After the man raised the suspicion of the rail guards and was questioned, he admitted that he was carrying explosives. The area was immediately evacuated and closed off, and a police bomb squad proceeded to find three pipe bombs in the man’s bag along with knives.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “At large attack was prevented this morning thanks to the vigilance of Jerusalem’s light rail guards. Our message to the public is to continue as normal, be alert and never give in to terror. We must hunt down terrorists everywhere without compromise and without restraint.”

For further reading and to watch a video of the arrest, click here.

Fight Against Terror
Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees that, between January and May of this year, the Shin Bet and security forces have prevented 240 major terror attacks including 11 suicide bombers, 10 kidnappings and over 60 shooting attacks, like the one at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.

He said that although the number of terror attacks have decreased recently due to preventative measures, the terror threats coming out of the West Bank are increasing. Argaman also highlighted the importance of giving Israeli work permits to Palestinians in the West Bank, and said that these permits help calm the situation and prevent attacks.

For further reading click here.

Drone Escapes
A drone from Syria penetrated four kilometers into Israeli airspace in the Golan yesterday. The IDF launched two patriot missiles at the drone. Both missed. Then a fighter jet fired a missile at the drone. It missed too. The drone made it safely back into Syria. Shrapnel from the Patriot missiles landed in a kibbutz, lightly injuring a girl and causing brush fires.

What happened there?

For further reading click here.

Divorce Mediation
A new law went into effect yesterday that’s meant to remove some of the contentiousness that often accompanies divorce proceedings. The law is called The Resolution of Family Disputes Law or the “divorce revolution”, and it mandates that couples seeking a divorce first attend four mediation sessions before proceeding with the process via legal channels. That means the lawyers stay out of the picture until after the mediation sessions are done. The hope is that couple can work out amicable arraignments, particularly regarding custody issues, through mediation instead of fighting it out through lawyers and in a courtroom.

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, who sponsored the law, said, “The new situation will offer an efficient alternative to litigation meetings over such sensitive and complex matters as family disputes. The new proceedings will benefit both the citizens and the system by encouraging mutually agreed upon compromises to be reached. Parental conflict can mainly harm the children, and it is our obligation to protect them. I am confident that this is what parents want most. At the end of the day, they continue to be their parents, even if they are no longer a couple.”

I wonder how the divorce lawyers feel about this?

For further reading click here.

Conversion Ruling Explained
According to a reliable rabbinic source, the recent Supreme Rabbinical Court ruling that did not recognize a conversion by prominent US Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein had nothing to do with disparaging the rabbi.

The source explained that about ten years ago the Chief Rabbinate reached an agreement with the Rabbinical Council of America, the main Modern Orthodox rabbinic umbrella, that all conversion would have to be done by the RCA bet din (rabbinical court) in order to be accepted by the Chief Rabbinate. The RCA set up a system of regional conversion courts to perform conversions throughout the country. According to the agreement, the conversions of individual rabbis would no longer be accepted, unless they were done through one of the these courts.

Apparently, the woman whose conversion was questioned by the Israeli court was not converted through one of the RCA bet dins. So even though the Chief Rabbis verified the “kosherness” of Rabbi Lookstein, the court followed the technicalities of the agreement and did not accept the conversion since it was done outside of the RCA bet din system.

Could the court have made an exception, given Rabbi Lookstein’s prominence and sterling reputation? Sure, but then what about other rabbis who might also fall into that category. Would the court then be required to evaluate and rule on the personal reliability of individual rabbis? No, that solution wouldn’t scale well. So the court stuck to rules of the agreement and nullified a conversion that was performed outside of the bounds of that agreement. It wasn’t an attack against a rabbi, but rather a defense of a rabbinic system.

Does the Israeli Rabbinate accept the reliability of Rabbin Lookstein? Absolutely. Will it accept a conversion that he performs outside of the RCA Bet Din? No.

BTW, Ivanka Trump’s conversion was done via the RCA Bet Din. End of story.

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