Israel News for August 31, 2016

Radio Bust
IDF forces raided a radio station in the village of Dura, near Hebron, last night. The station was accused of inciting terror by praising past acts of terror and calling on listeners to commit new ones. Forces arrested five employees of the station and confiscated broadcasting equipment.

Dura is known to be a hotbed of terror activity and is the hometown of numerous terrorists including one who participated in the murder of Rabbi Mickey Mark and two who carried out the Panorama stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. The IDF has also been cracking down on other radio stations in the area accused of incitement.

Meanwhile, IDF and border police forces arrested 8 other wanted suspects in the West Bank. Six of them were suspected of involvement in terrorist activities and violence against police and civilians. Several are members of Hamas.

For further reading click here.

Abbas Corruption
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman believed that Palestinian Authority President Abbas is the main obstacle to the peace process because of his “reign of corruption.”

Lieberman said, “We’ve met dozens of economists and businessmen from the Palestinian Authority, and when you ask what’s most important for the Palestinian economy, they all reply that the most important thing is to get rid of Abu Mazen (Abbas). He has imposed a reign of corruption that encompasses everything. He has people in every economic sector — in real estate, the fuel market, the communications market. Abbas’ people take a tithe from every deal, and aside from the people in the inner circle, the PA leadership doesn’t allow anyone there to develop economically. That’s why it’s so important for him to go. As long as Abbas is there, nothing will happen.”

For further reading click here.

Racial Profiling
Racial profiling of Arabs by Israeli police has always been accepted as a necessary evil, as a result of Arab terror against Israel. But racial profiling doesn’t stop with Arabs.

Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich, speaking at an Israel Bar Association (IBA) conference yesterday, implied that police officers apply racial profiling to Ethiopian Israelis too. Regarding Ethiopian Israelis and Israeli Arabs, Alsheich said, “When a police officer encounters a suspect, it’s natural for his brain to suspect him more than he would have if (the suspect) were someone else, it’s natural.”

He explained, “When there’s a community that’s more involved in crime, Arabs or East Jerusalem residents as well, and the statistics are (publicly available), then when a police officer encounters a suspect, it’s natural for his brain to suspect him more than he would have if (the suspect) were someone else, it’s natural. We, I believe, have understood this and have begun taking care of this a little late, but there has been a very-very tight plan in place for about a year, (in which we cooperate with) leaders inside the community, whose role is to—among other things—minimize over-policing.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan defended Alsheich’s statement saying, “The police chief didn’t justify the over-policing phenomenon against Israelis of Ethiopian descent. He did exactly the opposite.” He added, “Israelis of Ethiopian descent are an inseparable part of Israeli society and of Israel Police, and we’re working together with members of the community and its leaders to mend the past’s mistakes.”

The police issued a statement saying, “Israel Police invests deep thinking into understanding the existing rift between officers and Israelis of Ethiopian descent. The chief of police made an honest admission that after deep internal examination we found that there was over-policing at the interface between cops and members of the Ethiopian community in Israel.”

For further reading click here.

Syrian Rebels
Islam Aloush, the spokesman for the Syrian rebel confederation Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), gave an interview to an Israeli researcher in Turkey recently. On the rare occasions that rebel leaders agree to be interviewed by an Israeli, they do so anonymously, in order to protect themselves from being branded as “collaborators” with Israel. Surprisingly, Aloush allowed the interviewer to use his real name. Big mistake for Aloush.

When asked about his group’s position regarding a peace agreement between Syria and Israel, Aloush said, “this issue and other issues of Syrian foreign policy will be determined by the government institutions which will be founded once the Syrian revolution succeeds and the Syrian people are able to vote freely. We will not deny any decision made by the Syrian people, as the Assad regime has done for the past 40 years.”

The fact that he even implied that peace with Israel was possible unleashed a torrent of attacks from the Arab media, which completely distorted the interview and painted Aloush as a collaborator and traitor. A few days later Aloush resigned from his spokesman position.

For further reading click here.

Hasidic Expansion
The Satmar Rebbe announced that a prominent Satmar leader has donated a $100 million parcel of property adjacent to the Satmar village of Kiryas Yoel in upstate NY, which will be used to build 2,000 new housing units. This is the first major expansion of the village since its founding forty years ago. There are currently 5,000 families who live in Kiryas Yoel.

The prices of the new apartments will be set by the Satmar leadership in order to make them affordable and to prevent price inflation in the Kiryas Yoel real estate market.

The Rebbe also warned French Jews not to make aliya, in order to protect them from the Zionists. Oh well.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 30, 2016

Home Demolition
Early today IDF forces destroyed the house of Mohammad Amairah, one of the terrorists responsible for the murder of Rabbi Micky Mark in an attack two months ago that also severely injured his wife and daughter. The house was located in the village of Dura, near Hebron. Amairah was a member of the Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank.

For further reading click here.

Human Rights
The international human rights group Human Rights Watch has declared that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are “arresting, abusing, and criminally charging journalists and activists who express peaceful criticism of the authorities.” The group added that “activists and journalists said that security officers beat or kicked them, deprived them of sleep and proper food, hosed them with cold and then hot water, and made them maintain uncomfortable positions for long hours.”

A spokesman for the PA denied the allegations saying, “The government is working on creating a better environment for press freedom. We believe in and support the freedom of speech and the right for journalists to operate freely in Palestine.” Hamas officials declined to comment.

For further reading click here.

Earthquake Aid and Risk
The first foreign aid organization to arrive on the scene in Italy after the major earthquake that his the region last week was from…you guessed it…Israel. IsraAID’s team of professional trauma therapists worked alongside Italian medical and rescue teams to assist families throughout the process, from the identification of bodies to decisions about the burial and funeral arrangements. The Israeli team included Italian born volunteer professionals.

What would happen if a similar earthquake hit Israel (which is quite possible, since Israel lies on a major rift)? According to experts the results would be devastating, since about 99% of all older buildings in the country are not fortified to withstand a quake. This is despite a law passed over a decade ago calling for fortifying these buildings.

Approximately half of all the older buildings in Israel are three stories high or more, and many of them would completely collapse in the event of an earthquake, due to proximity to the Great Rift Valley that runs from Africa to Syria. Tiberias, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an and Eilat are all quite close to this potential earthquake focal point.

According to a government created disaster scenario simulating a powerful earthquake (7.5) centered around Beit She’an, over 16,000 people would be killed and 6,000 injured. In addition, 377,000 people would be displaced from their homes, 10,000 buildings would be destroyed and 20,000 damaged.

The Israel Engineers Association for Construction and Infrastructure sent a letter to the government last week, stating, “It is only a matter of time until the earth will shake in Israel, as well.”

Let’s pray that it never happens.

For further reading click here.

National Service
Thousands of volunteers will begin their National Service (Sherut Leumi) this week. The service is in lieu of military service for people who are unable to serve in the army due to medical or religious reasons. The volunteers usually serve in educational social welfare or medical programs or frameworks. In recent years some volunteers have apparently begun working for NGOs (non governmental agencies) which receive most of their funding from foreign countries. Some of these organizations are viewed as being critical of the IDF or Israeli government, or even outright pro-Palestinian.

MK Amir Ohana (Likud) has proposed a bill in the Knesset that would prohibit any organization that gets more than 50% of its funding from foreign countries from being able to participate in the National Service program.

Ohana said, “Something is rotten in the immunity system of the State of Israel. It is unthinkable that we ourselves should provide subsidized manpower to organizations that work in the interests of foreign governments to portray Israel as a war criminal, as well as defending the biggest terrorists and slandering IDF soldiers who are protecting us day and night. I tried to bring a stop to this absurd situation by presenting a query to the Agriculture minister responsible for the National Service but unfortunately we saw no chance in the policies. There is no other option available besides bringing a proposal to change the law.”

For further reading click here.

Arms to Lithuania
The state owned arms manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. has signed a deal worth 100 million euros to supply the Lithuanian army with advanced, remote-controlled, Samson Mk2 weapon stations enabling the launch of accurate Spike missiles, also produced by Rafael.

Just over 70 years ago Lithuanian soldiers, along with the Nazis, perpetrated the mass murder of close to 200,000 Jews in Lithuania. Now they’ll be using Jewish weapons made in Israel. Go figure.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 29, 2016

Solidarity Visit
The six year old boy who was the sole survivor of the Duma arson attack, in which Jewish extremists were accused of causing the deaths of his parents and sibling, was taken by his grandfather to pay a “solidarity visit” to the demolished home of a Hamas terrorist in Hebron who killed three Jews, including American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz.

For further reading click here.

Swedish Rally
Hundreds attended a pro-Israel rally in the Swedish capital of Stockholm yesterday. The rally was held in a square named after Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary during World War II.

Yesh Atid Chairman Tair Lapid spoke at the rally and referred to Wallenberg in his remarks saying, “Wallenberg saved my father from being murdered by the Nazis. He had the courage to love and protect the Nation of Israel. Your government, especially your foreign minister, stand on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of morality.”

Referring to past comments made by Sweden’s Foreign Ministry accusing Israel as being the cause of Islamic extremism, Lapid said, “if the Swedish foreign minister is concerned about human rights in the Middle East, she needs to talk about the use of children as terrorists or human shields, about the discrimination against the LGBT community in the Palestinian Authority, about the incitement going on there against Jews, about the exploitation of Women in Gaza, and about the human rights situation in Iran.”

Also attending the rally were Swedish government officials and members of parliament, as well as Jewish communal leaders.

For further reading click here.

Teacher Shortage
With the beginning of the new school year just days away, many principals are frantically seeking more teachers to fill thousands of empty positions. The shortage is for teachers in core subjects such as math, English, Bible, physics, chemistry and biology.

As an example of the results of the shortage, one Tel Aviv high school has closed its physics, chemistry and biology departments. Students must now be transported to a different school to take those subjects.

In order to fill the gap, administrators have begun hiring teachers without proper training or certification. Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Parents Caucus, MK Meir Cohen, warned of the serious damage to the younger generation, saying “There is a massive shortage that has sadly gone unnoticed by the Ministry of Education and it is leading to a compromise in the quality of teachers at the expense of the students. The fact that administrators are willing to accept full-time teachers without proper certification, is the most difficult part of the reality affecting classrooms.”

Why is there a shortage of teachers in Israel? Mainly because the salaries are so low and the profession is looked down upon in Israeli society, at least among the younger generations. The severely overcrowded classrooms in Israeli schools make the job even more difficult and less attractive.

For further reading click here.

Hasidic Arms Dealer
For the past 25 years, Eli Cohen, a 66 year old Hasid (of the Premishlan sect) has been purchasing surplus military equipment in the US, bringing it to Israel for repair and refurbishing, and then selling it to Iran via Greece. That’s illegal according to American law, which outlaws arms sales to Iran.

Cohen has been indicted in the US and an extradition request has been made to the Israeli government. Yesterday Israel’s Supreme Court ruled to permit the extradition.

For further reading click here.

Israelis Leaving
Over a million and a half Israelis will have left Israel for vacations abroad by the end of this summer season. A third of those travelers have used El Al, whose profits have doubled this quarter. Partially due to the recent terror wave in Western Europe, Israelis have been favoring the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. Price probably also plays a big role in those choices. On the flip said, travel to Eilat has dropped between 10% and 15%.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 26, 2016

Terrorist Attacks IDF
An Arab terrorist opened fire on an IDF position adjacent to the town of Ofra in Samaria this afternoon. Soldiers shot and killed the attacker. No soldiers were injured. Additional IDF forces were deployed to the area following the attack, sealing off it off and conducting searches for any possible additional terrorists.

Source: Arutz7.

No Immunity
Last month Israel arrested Waheed Borsh, a Palestinian engineer who worked for the UN Development Agency (UNDP) in Gaza for allegedly aiding Hamas by using UN resources to build a marina for the Hamas navy and for granting Hamas members preferential treatment in reconstruction projects.

On Wednesday the UN sent a letter to Israeli officials demanding diplomatic immunity for Borsh. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon responded, “Israel rejects the claim that a person assisting a terror organization recognized by the international community such as Hamas could enjoy immunity.”

Nachshon added, “It is outrageous that a man assisting a terror organization could benefit from UN immunity. It is clear that immunity is not a license to commit acts of terror.”

For further reading click here.

Arab Construction
The Ministry of Construction and Housing has allocated 1.4 billion shekels over the next four years for housing solutions in Arab communities. The goal is to enable the building of tens of thousands of new housing units as well as the construction of public buildings.

Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant said, “We are working in close cooperation with the leadership in Arab sector communities. Prosperity in the Arab sector is an interest of Israeli society as a whole. The measure comes on top of a series of housing solutions being formulated by the Ministry of Construction and Housing for all population groups and sectors in Israel. The process will ease the housing crisis in communities in the sector.

He added, ”In the next 20 years, Israel will need one million housing units, including 200,000 for the Arab sector. We are therefore devising long-term solutions that will facilitate a substantial improvement in housing conditions by increasing the number of housing units, planning high-density construction, and developing new public in according to community needs.”

For further reading click here.

Shabbat Crisis
Last night the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties threatened to leave (and topple) the coalition government. The issue at hand relates to major government construction projects that are taking place on Shabbat.

One of the projects is ongoing roadwork repair on the Ayalon, which is the major highway entering Tel Aviv from the south. The other project is the construction of new railway lines between Ben Gurion Airport and Modiin and between Bet Yehoshua and Atlit (in the north).

After prolonged negotiations between the Prime Minister, Transportation Minister and the Haredi parties, a compromise agreement was reached. The Ayalon roadwork can continue, because doing the work on weekdays would constitute a danger to human life due to heavy workweek traffic. However, the train work may not be done on Shabbat, since the work doesn’t interfere with traffic or constitute a danger.

In addition, a committee to coordinate between the Transportation Ministry and Shas and United Torah Judaism was formed. The group includes the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, the Director-General of the Transportation Ministry, the Police Commissioner and ministers from the Haredi parties or their representatives.

For further reading click here.

Trump Office
The Donald Trump campaign has opened a new office in Ramat Gan, near the diamond district. The office will serve Tel Aviv and the entire central coastal region. Two other Trump offices are located in Jerusalem and Modiin. A fourth office will soon be added in the West Bank, and a fifth may also be added.

In the 2012 US Presidential election, around 85% of the ballots cast in Israel were for Republican Mitt Romney. Trump representatives are hoping to replicate those results.

Seems like a lot of work for 80,000 votes, but the campaign is assuming that a good number of those will be from voters hailing from important swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The campaign has released a Hebrew language poster that reads, “Trump: In Israel’s Interest.” The campaign also launched a Hebrew language Twitter feed. Can Trump tweet in Hebrew?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 25, 2016

Israel vs UK
Newly released archives by the British foreign ministry indicate that Israel supplied military aid to Argentina during the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina in 1982. Israel had been supplying fighter jets to Argentina in the years prior to the conflict and continued to provide them with spare parts for those planes during the war. When British diplomats asked Israel to stop, Israel denied supplying the weapons.

Sources claim that Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, chose to continue supplying Argentina as revenge against the British for their actions against the Jews during the British Mandate of Palestine.

Israeli sources have defended their actions saying that their weapons exports to Argentina during the war were simply part of an ongoing, long term, weapons supply agreement. They also point out that the UK has supplied Arab nations that have been at war with Israel.

In any case, many in the UK are not very happy with the news that Israel assisted Argentina in the Falklands War which claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen.

For further reading click here.

Cable Car
The Jerusalem municipality is developing plans to build a cable car that would ferry tourists to historical sites near the Old City. The cable car would make five stops: the First Station complex in southern Jerusalem; the Kedem Center, which belongs to the right-wing organization Elad, near Silwan; the Siloam Pool in Silwan, the 7 Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives; the churches of Gethsemane, near the Old City’s Lions Gate.

The plan is controversial since most of the stops are within what is considered to be East Jerusalem. Mayor Nir Barkat considers the cable car to be the ideal solution for enabling tourists to easily reach these important sites while reducing traffic and pollution. He also feels that the cable car will highlight Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.

The project is estimated to cost around $33 million.

For further reading click here.

Worst Zoo
Where is the worst zoo in the world? Gaza. But that’s history now, because the last remaining animals have finally been evacuated (rescued) from the Khan Yunis Zoo into Israel. Some of them will remain in Israel while others will head to Jordan or South Africa.

At one point the privately owned zoo had over 100 animals, but as a result of all the conflicts, mismanagement and negligence, many of those animals died of starvation and disease. But that didn’t stop the owners from stuffing the animals to continue displaying them.

The 15 remaining animals, including a tiger, gazelle, pelicans, monkeys and porcupines are scheduled to crossed into Israel yesterday.

Anyone know if there’s an aquarium in Gaza?

For further reading click here.

Polish Gold Rush
The fact that Poland is attempting to pass a law that would imprison anyone who claims that the country played any role in the murder of its 3,000,000 Jews during the Holocaust hasn’t stopped it from searching for Jewish gold.

According to legend, as Nazi forces fled from the advancing Soviet army in 1945, they buried a train full of gold, jewelry and valuable artwork stolen from their Jewish victims near Wroclaw, in Western Poland. For the last year a team of Polish treasure hunters have been digging in the area, where they said that they had used radar to locate the train.

But no luck. So they’re filling in their holes and heading home empty handed. No Jewish gold for these Poles. But that’s ok, because Poland is the only country to not approve any restitution program for property lost in the Holocaust. So the property of 3 million Jews now belongs either to the state or to the Polish people who simply took it over. That’s worth a bit more than a trainload of gold.

Perhaps one day Poland will do the right thing and give back the property they stole. Or maybe they need a bit of encouragement from the US and their EU partners?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 24, 2016

Party Time
The Israeli embassy in Washington will be throwing a Rosh Hashanah party this September that is budgeted at $25,000, and many Israeli diplomats are not pleased. Embassies traditionally throw two annual parties, one for Israel Independence Day and the other for Rosh Hashanah, with the former being much more extravagant. But with budget cuts throughout the Foreign Ministry, many at the ministry are claiming that the US party is not justified.

The budget for the Rosh Hashanah party includes $13,000 for catering, $9,000 for a marquee tent and $1,000 for alcohol, balloons and music. The ministry defended the expenditures by saying that the previous ambassador’s home was much larger, which precluded the need for a tent.

But let’s get real. This is Israel’s most important embassy in the most important capital in the world. And if you’ve ever thrown a party in the US, $25,000 really doesn’t sound unreasonable at all. In fact, it’s downright cheap!

The complaints are probably coming from diplomats stationed in less high profile diplomatic postings around the globe who are being squeezed by the ministry budget cuts. But this is Washington DC, so get over it.

For further reading click here.

Drone Partnership
Following a meeting in Tel Aviv between Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Kazakh counterpart, Imangali Tasmagambetov, the Kazakhstan defense ministry announced that it would produce drones based on Israeli technology and that Israel would train the drone operators.

The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia and was a part of the former Soviet Union. Over 70% of the population is Moslem. It is a large exporter of crude oil and uranium, and has huge reserves of other valuable minerals.

For further reading click here.

Palestinian Protests
Hundreds of Palestinians staged violent demonstrations in Nablus (Shechem) to protest the death of a suspect arrested by Palestinian Authority police. The suspect, Ahmed Izz Halawa, was seized during a raid following the shooting death of two police officers in the city. He then died, mysteriously, in custody. Nablus governor Akram Al-Rjoub claims that he was beaten to death by police. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah has promised a full investigation, describing the incident as “rare”. Halawa was a senior member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militant group linked to the Fatah party.

For further reading click here.

Eilat Threatened
As a result of an apparent pipeline leak, 200 tons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Aqaba from Jordan’s Aqaba port yesterday, which is adjacent to Eilat. Most of the oil is reported to be drifting south towards the beaches of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but at least some of the oil could hit Israeli beaches.

Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection have begun preparations to aid in cleanup and containment, but has yet to receive a request for assistance from Jordan, where officials said they were responding to the incident themselves. The leak from the pipe has been stopped.

For further reading click here.

Polish Holocaust Denial
Last week the Polish cabinet approved a bill that mandates three years in prison and a fine for anyone claiming that the Polish people or state were responsible for the Nazis’ crimes or collaborated with them. The bill is expected to be approved by the Polish parliament. Are you kidding me? This is nothing short of Holocaust denial. Yad Vashem scholars agree.

Poland is the only European country unwilling to approve restitution for property lost during the Holocaust. Now it’s looking to deny its role in the murder of its 3,000,000 Jews altogether. Will the world stand by silently and let them erase their guilt? Probably.

For further reading click here.

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Kids Friendly Israel Day Trip to the Dead Sea Area

It was early August, just after Tish B’av, and we decided to take a day trip with the our three young children, aged 6, 4 1/2, and 2, from our home base in Modiin (which is a city about a half hour drive from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). We first considered going up north, but since the rest of the country was thinking the same thing (everyone goes north in the summer — not that it’s much cooler up there) we chose to be contrarians and head south, to the lowest place on earth: the Dead Sea.

We had spoken of the salt filled sea (which is really a medium sized lake by American standards) often to the kids, and about how they could float without even knowing how to swim, and about the mud — you know, all that fun stuff that attracts tourists from around the globe. And yes, it is the lowest place on earth, which also means that you’re not supposed to get sunburned there.

We decided to head to the northern most Dead Sea beach, Kalia, which is only around a twenty minute drive from Jerusalem (or around an hour from Modiin). We left Modiin at 7:30am and made it to Kalia at 8:30am. The goal was to beat at least some of the heat and the crowds. We succeeded at both.

kalia beach dead sea

The entrance fee to the beach, which is owned by the Kalia resort, is 55 shekels for an adult and 45 for a child. The beach has clean bathrooms, changing facilities, showers and a cafe/bar — and a gift shop, of course. The cost didn’t bother me one bit when we got to the actual beach and saw that there were only about a dozen people there. In fact, I’m happy to pay for the opportunity to go anywhere fun in Israel without having to struggle with crowds.

There were plenty of chairs and umbrellas on the beach, so we settled in, left our stuff and walked into the shallow, roped off, Dead Sea waters. The heat wasn’t bad, since it was early. The water felt great. We loved it! After a couple of hours a group of Chinese tourists arrived. One of them, a middle aged man, asked if he could take photos of my son and I floating on our backs. He even provided me with a magazine to hold up as if I were reading it while floating on my back. I’m assuming that at some point we’ll end up on the guy’s Facebook page with a funny caption that will go viral throughout the Far East — hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?

Of course, what’s a Dead Sea excursion without mud? So we dug up the mineral rich mud (there’s plenty of it!) and covered ourselves with it. My skin still feels great, two weeks later! We all had an amazing time!

kalia-mud

The Fresh Pools of Ein Tzukim

We left Kalia Beach at around noon and then drove 5 or 10 minutes south to the Ein Tzukim Nature Reserve, which is billed as the lowest nature reserve in the world. The reason we chose to go there was because of the swimming pools — no not the chlorine filled kind — these are pools of water that you can swim in.

Einot-tzukim-reserve-badeteich

We paid 29 NIS per adult and 15 NIS per child at the park entrance. The attendant suggested we hang a left at the end of the road and head to the group of pools that she said were less crowded than the popular ones closer to the entrance. We followed her advice and were happy to find that she was right. There several pools in a beautiful oasis-like setting. The kids swam and splashed for a few hours. It was the perfect end complement to the Dead Sea experience.

It was a fun day for all! So if you’re looking for a day trip to do with the kids, go south and enjoy!

Israel News for August 23, 2016

Josef’s Tomb Mayhem
A busload of Breslov Hassidim attempted to visit Joseph’s Tomb last night. The tomb is located in Shechem, which is under Palestinian Authority (PA) control and illegal for Israeli citizens to enter without special permission. Israelis also need a military escort to visit the tomb. The Hassidim didn’t have either.

The bus was stopped at the PA checkpoint, where it came under attack by rock throwers. The 32 passengers escaped on foot towards the tomb. Other Hassidim also managed to reach the tomb on foot (there are apparently other less conventional ways of reaching the tomb as opposed to by bus). In total around 60 Hassidim reached the tomb. Some of them started throwing stones at the local Arabs. Basically, it was a balagan (Jewish chaos — which is much worse than the Gentile variety).

IDF forces entered the area, extracted the Hassidim and took them in for questioning. Two Hassidim were lightly wounded by rocks.

Bottom line: Jews need special permission and military protection to pray at the tomb of Joseph. Does anything about that sound off??

By the way, the story of Joseph is also found in the Koran, where he is referred to as a prophet. So apparently the tomb is actually a Moslem shrine. Many Moslems also claim that the tomb is really the burial place of a Moslem cleric who died two centuries ago, and that the actual tomb of Joseph is located near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

For further reading click here.

Expanding Hebron
Israeli authorities confirmed yesterday that permission has been granted for expanding the Jewish enclave in Hebron. There are currently 1,000 Jews living in several enclaves in the city, which has an overall population of over 200,000 Arabs. This would be the first time in a decade that any expansion of the Jewish presence in Hebron would be undertaken.

Yishai Fleisher, a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, welcomed the expansion, saying it “would be good news for the Jewish community here.” However, another community spokesman, Noam Arnon, said he is skeptical that the government would risk international ire and grant such approvals. He said, “This is a government that caves under pressure. As a result, the chance for success here is very low.” Kamel Hmeid, the Palestinian governor of Hebron, called it “one of the most dangerous decisions” by Israel saying, ”What is happening is a cooperation and collusion between the government and the settlers.” The Palestinian Authority vowed to turn to the Israeli Supreme Court, United Nations and international courts to stop the plan.

Hebron was King David’s first capital city, where he reigned for seven years before moving to Jerusalem. More significantly, it is the location of the Cave of the Patriarchs — the burial tomb of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. The burial place of Rachel is located in Bethlehem (Rachel’s Tomb).

The expansion is meant to be a 28 unit apartment building located in a small compound near the yeshiva. Six families currently live in caravans in the compound, which is also used by the army.

The compound is owned by the State and had been leased to the Hebron Municipality, which had used the compound as a bus station at one time. When the lease expired, the planning for the residential project began.

The property was originally owned by Jewish residents of the city who fled after the 1929 massacre.

For further reading click here.

Israel Attacks Syria
Israeli aircraft attacked a Syrian mortar position in the Golan Heights in response to a mortal shell that fell on the Israeli side of the Heights. The mortal shell was apparently an accident, but the IDF was clear in its statement saying, “it holds the Syrian regime as responsible for any action originating from within its borders, and will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Israel’s sovereignty or the security of it citizens.”

For further reading click here.

Turkey Condemns Israel
In the wake of the Turkish Parliament’s ratification of the rapprochement with Israel, Turkey condemned Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as “disproportionate”. The IDF launched a powerful attack Sunday night in response to a rocket fired from Gaza that landed in Sderot.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “The fact that our ties with Israel have normalized does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of such attacks that target the Palestinian people. On the contrary, we will continue to (defend) the Palestinian cause,” it said, calling Israel’s actions “against international laws and especially against consciences.”

For further reading click here.

African Visit
Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold, along with a small Israeli delegation, visited the capital of the West African, Moslem majority, country of Guinea and met with its president and cabinet ministers. Israel established formal relations with Guinea in July, after PM Netanyahu visited the region.

The Foreign Ministry Director General also visited two other African countries this week, but the names of those countries have been kept secret.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for August 22, 2016

Rocket Attack
Yesterday afternoon Hamas terrorists fired a rocket from northern Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot. Code Red warning sirens sounded at 2:30pm. The rocket miraculously landed in between two residential buildings, causing no damage or injuries.

For further reading click here.

Israel Responds
Israeli aircraft and artillery pounded Hamas military positions in northern Gaza throughout the night, in response to the rocket that was launched from there yesterday. Officers say that this was the strongest IDF response since Operation Protective Edge.

Former Israeli Navy commander-in-chief, Maj. Gen. (res.) Eliezer Marom explained, “this is definitely a slightly harsher response than usual for rocket fire at Sderot. Israel is showing that ‘we won’t tolerate any rocket fire from the Strip. Hamas, you are currently in control of Gaza, so you are responsible for stopping all rocket fire—no one else.'”

Marom also stressed that the unusual Israeli response perfectly corresponds to Avigdor Lieberman becoming the minister of defense, saying, ”The minister of defense is changing the game a little. It’s not a dramatic change, but this series of strikes, coming in two waves, and hitting meaningful targets—as opposed to just hitting Hamas training sites which are basically just sand dunes—is in fact a change, a change which and I think is welcome and correct.”

Despite the powerful bombardment, officials claim that Israel is not looking to escalate the conflict with Hamas and will continue allowing thousands of trucks to enter the strip daily.

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Turkey Israel
The Turkish Parliament has ratified the rapprochement agreement recently signed between Israel and Turkey, officially restoring full diplomatic relations between the countries. PM Netanyahu praised the ratification.

With the deal ratified by Turkish lawmakers, the process of normalization is set to begin, including the removal of sanctions both parties have imposed on one another, an increase in the level of diplomatic relations and an exchange of ambassadors.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that police have detained five people who tried to break into Israel’s consulate in Istanbul to protest Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. The five entered a business center housing the consulate early Monday and were detained by police who were called to the scene. Security around the building was increased.

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Cairo Delegation
The Egyptian media reported that an Israeli delegation met with Egyptian officials in Cairo yesterday to reportedly discuss restarting the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and other matters of mutual interest. Egypt has been in the forefront of trying to broker a peace summit between Israel and the Palestinians.

Egyptian media also reported that Egyptian President al-Sissi said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed a willingness to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks in Moscow. European leaders have failed to bring the two sides together.

Al-Sissi said, “Egypt supports these efforts and both sides are urged to participate and respond positively to the initiative for the sake of finding light at the end of the tunnel for Palestinians and establishing their state alongside Israel.”

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Farmers Wanted
Israeli consumers are facing skyrocketing vegetable prices as a result of a shortage of produce growing farmers in the country. Perhaps they’ve traded in their tractors for the chance to work at startups to get their shot at startup nation success?

Whatever the reason, the prices of tomatoes, watermelons, squash and sweet potatoes are just some of the popular veggies that are becoming more expensive by the day. And have you tried buying an avocado in Israel lately? Forget about it! That salmon avocado roll you cherish might soon become a memory.

According to estimates there are about 8,000 farmers in Israel, which is about half of the number a decade ago. Instead of produce, farmers are currently growing flowers and seeds, which are more profitable and easier to manage.

Produce was one of the few things you could claim were cheaper (and tastier) in Israel. Oh well.

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Medal Miss
The Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastic team missed their chance at bringing a medal home to Israel when it finished sixth in yesterday’s final at the Rio olympics. Israelis had high hopes that the girls might snag a medal. But sixth in the world is pretty darn good. Russia took the gold medal.
Israel ended up winning two bronze medals in Rio, both in Judo. You can’t be great at everything (despite what your mother said).

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Israel News for August 19, 2016

No Nuke Vote
The annual International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference, which will be held next month, usually includes a vote, sponsored by the Arab League, to condemn Israel’s alleged nuclear program. This year the Arab League has indicated that it will not demand that vote. Sources say that the Arabs apparently will call for a debate regarding the safety of Israel’s nuclear facilities, which they feel might be more effective, given the consensus of all nations regarding the issue.

Senior Israeli diplomats noted that the Arab states’ decision was exceptional. The Arab states, led by Egypt, have been advancing resolutions on Israel’s nuclear facilities nearly every year since 1987. During this decade alone, a vote on such resolutions was taken in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Over the last three years Israel foiled the resolutions by recruiting more and more countries to vote against them.

Two reasons have been given for the Arabs’ change of heart. The first is that they finally realize that they won’t be able to gain a majority of votes. The second is that the issue has traditionally been led by the Egyptian delegation, and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry is now headed by Sameh Shoukry, who visited Israel. One Western diplomat explained, “Apparently Shoukry understands that advancing this move against Israel’s nukes is illogical, doesn’t serve Egyptian interests and will undermine other issues it is trying to advance with Israel.”

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Stun Grenade
The IDF disciplined a platoon sergeant and two other soldiers based on a surveillance camera video that showed the soldiers pulling up alongside four Palestinians in the northern West Bank and allegedly throwing a stun grenade, which exploded a moment after they drove off. The Palestinian men were able to escape before the grenade exploded. The sergeant was sent to jail for 10 days and two other soldiers were also disciplined for acting “contrary to military standards.”

To watch the video click here.

Early Warning System
There are about 3,000 early warning sirens throughout Israel that warn Israelis of missile attacks. But apparently, not everyone can hear those sirens. So the IDF Home Command has developed an early warning kit for private homes that will be sold to individuals. There are already early warning apps and text message warnings available.

For further reading click here.

Haredi Concern
Haredi leaders are concerned about plans by the Jerusalem municipality to develop the areas around the light rail with shopping and entertainment centers. Several Haredi neighborhoods border the light rail, and Haredi leaders don’t like the idea of exposing their community to the dangers of modern urban living. The Haredi newspaper Hamevaser quoted the leaders saying, “the establishment of such busy centers, markets, and entertainment along with a leisurely and academic lifestyle, within walking distance of haredi neighborhoods creates a spiritual danger for our souls and for our children’s souls.”

Another issue that is angering Haredi leaders is the fact that some Haredim are visiting the Temple Mount, which is considered forbidden by all Haredi rabbinic authorities. The Haredi newspaper Yatid Neeman accused these people of not being real Haredim and of inciting the Arabs against Haredim, in addition to Jews in general.

For further reading click here and here.

Airport Stress
Yesterday was the busiest day of the year at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, as 40,000 people took off on 240 flights, with a similar number of arrivals.

This writer was part of that “balagan” (chaos), which is why we missed yesterday’s daily email. Apparently all of the top Israeli talent is working at startups, because the airport staff and security and check-in process leaves a lot to be desired. Add to that the usual Israeli chutzpah and stress, and you’ve got the perfect storm of airport frustration and madness.

As if all that wasn’t enough, a plane from El Al’s low cost Up Airline en route to Kiev with 182 passengers blew out one of its tires upon takeoff and had to circle the airport for an hour and a half to burn off fuel before making an emergency landing back at Ben Gurion. No one was injured.

For further reading click here.

Israel Celebrates Love
Yesterday was Tu B’av, the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day. According to the Talmud, on the 15th day (Tu) in the Hebrew month of Av (today), the single Jewish women would gather in a designated field and dance, while the single Jewish men would watch. Sort of like a huge singles mixer. But it was far from a superficial scene. The women would wear borrowed white garments, so as not to embarrass those who couldn’t afford the latest designer fashions. And they would sing these words from Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears G-d shall be praised.” Now that’s serious.

The men and women would meet and well, the rest is history.

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