western wall

Israel News for May 30, 2017

Israeli Control
In an interview with Army Radio today, PM Netanyahu said, “In order to assure our existence we need to have military and security control over all of the territory west of the Jordan [River],” and added, “The idea that we can give up territory and achieve peace is not right.”

The PM dismissed the notion that Israeli settlements were the main root of the conflict and stated that the problem was the Palestinian reluctance to recognize Israel’s right to any part of the land. He said, “The root of this problem was and still is that continued refusal by the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a the homeland of the Jewish people in any borders.”

Regarding the possibility of relations with other Arab nations, the PM said, “There is a change happening. Not necessarily with the Palestinians but in some parts of the Arab world they are understanding that Israel is not the enemy,” and that, “Arab states are internalizing that Israel is an ally against the threats of Iran and of the Islamic State terror group.”

For further reading click here.

Bridge Upgrade
Israel will be investing NIS 450 million to upgrade the Alleny Bridge, which spans the Jordan River near Jericho and connects Israel and Jordan. The bridge is the only way that Palestinians can directly leave the Palestinian Authority to go abroad. Around 2.3 million people, most Palestinian, pass through the crossing point each year. Some tourists also use the crossing, although Israeli citizens are prohibited from using it. Around 50,000 trucks carry merchandise over the bridge each year.

As part of the renovations, a new terminal will be built, new security features will be integrated and the existing terminals and access roads will be upgraded.

On a recent trip to the US, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was asked by US envoy Jason Greenblatt to keep the Allenby crossing open 24/7 instead of the shorter hours currently in operation. Katz immediately acceded to the request.

The new Allenby Bridge hours and renovation project is seen as a goodwill gesture by Israel to the Palestinians and should make life a bit easier for them. But it probably won’t do much to satisfy their desire for self determination, since it just reinforces the fact that Israel controls their ability to enter or leave their territory.

For further reading click here.

Cable Car
The government has approved a project to build a cable car that will carry visitors to the Western Wall. The planned route is about 1,400 meters long, with 40 cars able to carry 10 passengers each, at 21 kilometers per hour. The four stations through which the cable car will pass are the railway station, HaMefaked Street, Mount Zion and the Western Wall station. The price of a cable car ride will be the same as bus fare. The project is expected to cost NIS 200 million and be completed by 2021.

The project is expected to raise protests, since it’s related to east Jerusalem [nothing new]. The French company that was supposed to carry out the project withdrew following political pressures and an order from the Paris Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For further reading click here.

East Jerusalem
The government also approved a plan to connect Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem to the city sewage and garbage collection system.

According to the plan, which was formulated by the Minister of Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), more east Jerusalem residents will be connected to the municipal sewage system, 33 kilometers of sewage infrastructure will be built, the existing sewage system will be upgraded, garbage cans and garbage trucks will be purchased and set up to collect waste.

For further reading click here.

The holiday of Shavuot begins tonight and sunset and extends for one day in Israel and two days outside of Israel. The holiday literally means weeks, and is the culmination of the counting of 7 weeks (49 days) from the second day of Passover. Shavuot is described in the Torah as the harvest festival during which farmers bring their first produce to the Temple in Jerusalem. Shavuot is also the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments and Torah at Mount Sinai. The Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue, and dairy meals are traditionally eaten. It is also customary to stay up all night (first night) to study Torah.

Happy Shavuot!!

temple mount

Israel News for May 26, 2017

Temple Mount
More than 1,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Yom Yerushalayim, marking the 50th year since east Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian control and reunited with the rest of the city. It was the largest Jewish group to visit the holy place at one time since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. One of the prominent rabbis leading the group was Rabbi Yaakov Medan, the head of Yeshivat Har Etzion.

Police arrested 15 Jews for bowing and/or singing Hatikva.

To watch a video and hear some of the rabbis words (hebrew), click here.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian government condemned the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount. A statement from the Jordanian government slammed Israeli authorities for “allowing Jewish extremists to storm Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif,” which they said “violated the sanctity of the mosque and offended the feelings of Muslims around the world.”

Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani stated, “Al Aqsa Mosque is for Muslims alone,” Momani said in his statement, adding that “Jordan will utilize all its legal and diplomatic options to protect holy sites, Quds Awqaf employees and worshippers at the mosque.”

For further reading click here.

Missing Soldiers
Jason Greenblatt, US Special Representative for International Negotiations, met yesterday with the parents of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza.

According to a statement released after the meeting, “Mr. Greenblatt expressed outrage at the inhumane actions of Hamas for holding their son’s body’s hostage. Mr. Greenblatt shared his sincere hope and prayer that their son’s remains would soon be returned.”

Greenblatt tweeted, “Met with Leah & Simcha Goldin to express my deep sympathy on the loss of Hadar. Shame on Hamas for their inhumane actions. #PrayForHadar.”

For further reading click here.

Gaza Power-less
Every month, Israel provides the Gaza Strip with 125 megawatts of electricity, which costs NIS 40 million on average. Israel takes that sum out of the tax money it collects for the Palestinian Authority. As a result of a power struggle with Hamas, who rejects PA rule in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority has decided to cut their financial contributions to Gaza by about 30%. As a result of that, Israel has decide to cut back the electricity it provides to Gaza accordingly. [That’s what happens when you don’t pay your electric bill.]

For further reading click here.

Kosher Shot
Earlier this week Israel’s Milk & Honey (M&H) distillery launched the country’s first-ever malt whisky. The distillery’s first 391 bottles of single malt whisky will go on sale later in June.

For further reading click here.

Startup Nation
The Startup Nation is alive and well, producing companies and technology that are changing the world. Business Insider put together a list of “The 25 coolest tech companies in Israel” with a brief description of each one.

To read the entire list click here.

trump jerusalem

Israel News for May 24, 2017

Trump Concludes
President Trump concluded his momentous visit to Israel with a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He spoke optimistically about the prospects for peace, saying that both sides are ready for it. He said, “We know that both Israelis and Palestinians seek lives of hope for their children. We know peace is possible if we put the pains of loss and the past behind us. Making peace, however, will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions.” He added, “Change must come from within. It can only come from within.”

Trump also called on all people, “Jews, Christians, Muslim and every faith, to draw inspiration from this ancient city, to set aside our sectarian difference to overcome oppression and hatred.”

He also said, “Israelis have experienced firsthand the hatred and terror of radical violence. They have been murdered by terrorists wielding knives and bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah shoot missiles into Israel where children are taught to run into bomb shelters. Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction,” but then added, “Not with Donald J. Trump. Believe me. The US is firmly committed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorists.”

Trump urged, “Let us dream of a future where Jewish, Muslim and Christian children can grow together is trust, harmony, and respect.”

In his speech, PM Netanyahu referred to the issue of Palestinian payments to the families of terrorists saying, “President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the horrific attack in Manchester. Well, I hope this heralds a real change, because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed. I hope that President Abbas heeds the principles, the clear, strong, moral and practical principles that you enunciated today, President Trump: Stop rewarding terrorists, stop glorifying murderers.”

During his visit President Trump avoiding weighing in on any major issues relating to the conflict including Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem or even whether the US would continue to insist on a two-state solution giving the Palestinians sovereign territory. He stayed on script.

For further reading click here.

Yom Yerushalayim
Today is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the unification of the city after it was liberated from Jordanian control by Israeli forces during the Six Day war in 1967. During the 19 year period of Jordanian rule, no Jews were allowed to visit the Western Wall or any area under Jordanian control.

In the direct aftermath of the military victory, Israeli leaders debated whether to expel the Arab population from the conquered territories. They decided against it and instead urged them to stay. And here we are today.

The day is marked by celebrations throughout Jerusalem, Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.

To read some reflections on Jerusalem by some very prominent Israelis, click here.

To view the entire ceremony commemorating the Six Day War held at the Western Wall Plaza, click here.

Lau Retiring
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, will be retiring today as he reaches the age of 80. Rabbi Lau, a holocaust survivor, is a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize and serves as the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Association. His son, Rabbi David Lau, is the current Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel.

For further reading click here.

False Name
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) is a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. With the rise of anti-Israel propaganda in college campuses, CAMERA has created a Fellows Program and Campus Activist program to assist students in finding speakers, planning and creating events and addressing Middle East distortions in campus publications, flyers, rallies and classroom teaching.

In a recent article, CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zogirsky described how one ostensibly Jewish group, The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), is in fact an avid supporter of the BDS movement and displayed their anti-Israel bent by inviting Rasmea Odeh, a terrorist convicted of participating in the murder of two Israeli college students in 1969, to be guest of honor at their national membership conference.

To read the full article click here.

ivanka kotel

Israel News for May 23, 2017

Terror and Protests
A Palestinian with a knife charged at Border Police near Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Police shot and killed the terrorist before he could cause any harm.

Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli troops, and Palestinian shopkeepers shuttered their stores across the West Bank and east Jerusalem yesterday in solidarity with hundreds of hunger striking prisoners held in Israeli jails. The hunger strike is in its 36th day. Palestinian Authority government offices along with public transportation also closed down. Organizers of the protest hope to draw the attention of President Trump to their cause.

At the Qalandiya checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Palestinian youth through rocks and bottles at soldiers and set tires on fire. Troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

For further reading click here.

Terror Attack
A 45 year old Palestinian attacked and stabbed a Border Policeman in Netanya today. The policeman managed to shoot and neutralize the terrorist. The policeman was in light condition, while the attacker, a 45-year-old Palestinian, was in moderate condition. Another civilian who was at the scene was lightly injured from shrapnel. The terrorist reportedly called out “Allahu Akbar” before attacking the police officer.

In an unrelated development, a rocket was fired from Sinai at Israel today. There were no injuries or damage, and it’s not clear if the rocket actually landed in Israel or exploded midair.

For further reading click here.

Trump and Abbas
President Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Bethlehem today. At a press conference after the meeting Trump said, “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” He also vowed to do everything possible to help broker a peace agreement and said that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would bring peace to the entire Middle East. He said, “In the spirit of hope we come to Bethlehem asking God for a more peaceful, safe and far more tolerant world for all of us.”

Abbas reiterated the Palestinian position of accepting the two-state solution in the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and called on Israel to recognize the state of Palestine. He said, “the conflict is not between religions. Respecting religions is an integral part of our faith. We want to get along with our Israeli neighbors.”

Abbas also brought up the issue of the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike, calling on the Israeli government to “meet their humane and legitimate demands.” He said, “We want to build bridges instead of walls inside our lands.”

For further reading click here.

Kotel Visit
President Trump, Melania, Ivanka and Jared visited the Kotel yesterday. It was the first time that a sitting American President has done so. They were accompanied by The Chief Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinowitz and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation director Mordechai Eliav. No Israel government officials were present. The entire Western Wall plaza was closed off during the visit.

After reciting two psalms with the Chief Rabbi, Trump, wearing a black kippa, approached the Kotel alone and touched the stones while he recited a prayer. Melania and Ivanka prayed in the women’s area of the Kotel.

After the President was done, many American officials proceeded to pray at the Wall. They included Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn.

After the visit Trump changed his Twitter header to a photo of him touching the Western Wall. Quite a statement to his 30 million followers.

Ivanka tweeted, “It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer.” She included a photo of her praying with her hand touching the Wall.

To see a gallery of photos and video of the visit, click here.

Yad Vashem
President Trump and Melania visited Yad Vashem today, where they laid a wreath on a stone slab under which ashes from some of those killed in concentration camps are buried.  They were accompanied by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, PM Netanyahu and Sara, and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. Ivanka and Jared also joined.

Trump signed the Yad Vashem guest book and received a token of remembrance; an exact replica of the original Holocaust-era personal album that belonged to Ester Goldstein who was murdered during the Holocaust at the age of 16.

Trump called on the world never to forget “history’s darkest hour” and said, “This place is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.”

For further reading click here.

trump israel visit

Israel News for May 22, 2017

Trump in Israel
President Trump landed in Israel today to click off his 26 hour visit. His flight happened to have been the first direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

To watch Trump’s arrival click here.

In his greeting remarks, PM Netanyahu called Trump’s visit “truly historic”, saying, “Never before has the first foreign trip of the president of the United States included a visit to Israel.” He then thanked Trump for his “powerful expression of your friendship to Israel.”

President Rivlin said, “Your visit is a symbol of the unbreakable bond between Israel and America. You are the President of Israel’s greatest, most important ally. You are a true friend of Israel, and of the Jewish people.”

He also highlighted the significance of Jerusalem saying, “Mr. President, today I will have the honor to host you in Jerusalem. We are honored to have you here with us, as we mark fifty years of ‘Jerusalem Day’, Yom Yerushalayim. It makes us very happy to know that Israel’s most important ally recognizes the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish People. Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish People: as it has been for 3000 years.”

Here’s Trump’s schedule for the rest of his visit:

Monday – Day 1

1:15pm – Trump and the First Lady will be welcomed by Rivlin and his wife at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Trump and Rivlin will meet privately and then hold a press conference. Rivlin and his wife will then take Trump and the first lady to the garden at the President’s Residence, where an almond tree was planted to mark the visit. A sign near the tree bears a quote in Hebrew, English and Arabic from the Song of Ascents in the Book of Psalms: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”

2:30pm – Trump will privately visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

3:15pm – Trump, joined by Melania, Jared and Ivanka, will have a private visit to the Kotel, accompanied by the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch. The entire Western Wall plaza will be totally closed off during the visit.

4:45pm – First Lady Melania will join Prime Minister Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, on a visit to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Karem. They will talk with the medical staff and meet with children in the play area for a joint artistic activity.

6:00pm – Trump and Netanyahu will meet privately at the King David Hotel, where Trump and his team are staying.

7:15pm – Trump, Netanyahu and their wives will travel to the Prime Minister’s Residence for dinner, which will be cooked by Israeli chef Moshe Segev. Singer Shiri Maimon will perform two songs, one of them being the Frank Sinatra version of “New York, New York.”

Tuesday – Day 2

10:00am – Trump will visit Bethlehem where he will meet with PA President Abbas.

1:00pm – Trump and Melania will visit Yad Vashem (Holocaust museum and memorial) where Trump will participate in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. During the ceremony, Trump will rekindle the eternal flame and lay a wreath on a stone slab under which ashes from extermination camps are buried.

The Trumps will be accompanied by Nad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.

1:30pm – Trump will make a speech, concluding his visit.

3:40pm – Trump leaves Israel for Rome.

Trump will be accompanied on his visit by some 1,300 Americans, including security guards, Secret Service, Marines, and his entourage, all of whom will take up almost all of the available rooms in Jerusalem’s hotels. His convoy will include dozens of limousines, trucks and nine helicopters.

For further reading click here.

Josef’s Tomb
Late last night, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee visited Joseph’s Tomb near Shechem (Nablus). The area is under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Jews have restricted access to the holy site.

Huckabee was accompanied by Samaria Regional Council leader Dagan and joined by Dagan’s deputy Davidi Ben-Zion, Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, Samaria Division Commander Col. Gilad Amit, and the Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria District Commander Moshe Bareket.

Huckabee said, “It’s an amazing experience to have to come to this type of difficulty just to be able to come to a holy site for Jews and frankly even for Christians, who pay tribute to Joseph. To have to do it in the dead of night, under armed guard, with the smell of tear gas in the air, burning tires along the route, it’s a stark reminder (to how different) it is in the heart of Israel, where the Israeli government protects every Muslim that accesses their holy site.”

For further reading click here.

Holy Harvesting
As the harvest festival of Shavuot approaches, dozens of hasidic young men took to the fields to manually harvest wheat that will be used to make the matzo used by the Rebbe of Vishnitz (never to early to prepare for Passover).

To see images of this (unusual) undertaking, click here.

terror lynching

Israel News for May 19, 2017

Palestinian Lynching
A Jewish man (father of 8) and his wife were driving to their home in Itamar (Samaria) when they stumbled on a Palestinian demonstration (about 200 people) on the main road, Route 60, that passes through the village of Hawara. Palestinians surrounded the vehicle, banged on it and tried to open the doors. The car lurched forward into the crowd. Then a Palestinian ambulance moved in front and blocked the car from moving forward.

As the crowd threw rocks at the car and tried to force the doors open to lynch the passengers, the driver fired in self defense. One attacker was killed and another wounded.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, “An Israeli citizen was cruelly attacked by a group of Arab terrorists who threw stones at his vehicle and tried to him. In order to prevent a lynch, he opened fire on his attackers and killed one of them.” He added, “Every one of us, as parents to our children, as citizens, would have acted this way. The Israeli government needs to provide security to Israeli citizens everywhere, including in Samaria and Judea.”

To watch videos of the incident click here.

IDF Prepares
The IDF is preparing for a possible increase in unrest and terror activity in the West Bank during June as a result of the upcoming Muslim holiday month of Ramadan as well as other recent events. The IDF is assigning hundreds of combat soldiers to reinforce existing forces in Judea and Samaria.

For further reading click here.

Trump Video
The White House has released a short video depicting President Trump’s upcoming overseas visits. The video, set to music, features white maps of the various countries Trump will visit. The map of Israel does not include the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) or the Golan. On the flip side it also doesn’t indicate any Palestinian territory or state.

The President’s Israel itinerary does not include a speech as Masada, as was originally planned, because the White House was told that the President’s helicopter would not be permitted to land on the historical site. Instead the President will deliver his speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

A White House official has also said that no joint meeting between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas is planned, although such a meeting will be included in future plans. The official confirmed that Trump has decided not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, at least for the time being.

PM Netanyahu and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer met yesterday with Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, to prepare for the upcoming visit.

To watch the video click here.

Massive Sandstorm
A massive sandstorm blew in from Sinai and hit Eilat yesterday, covering the city with sand and dust and shutting down the airport.

To view images click here.

Cheaper Shoes
Israel’s Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon has canceled the 12% customs duty imposed on shoes. Cancellation of the tax will cost the state treasury about NIS 188 million in lost revenues.

Kahlon said, “We are talking about a further step in the implementation of our family tax cut plan. Cancelling the import duties will bring down the price of shoes in Israel and is good news for consumers and families. We see the huge gaps in prices between Israel and abroad, and we are not prepared to reconcile ourselves with them. We will carry on with our policy of cutting import duties in all sectors that will not harm domestic industries. We’ll lower prices for consumers and make life easier for working families.”

New Hamashbir Lazarchan Ltd. (TASE:MSZB) department store chain owner and CEO Rami Shavit said, “From Sunday we will already put down prices even though we paid import duties on the goods currently in the stores. We will sell the new goods that are yet to arrive at even lower prices because of additional cuts. We welcome Kahlon’s measure and are happy that he has cancelled this distortion that for years has harmed our competition with online sales. An average Israeli family today buys 8-14 pairs of shoes per year so this is a major saving on their pockets.”

How about removing import taxes on all clothing to bring prices down?

For further reading click here.

Dog Walking Ban
Hamas has banned dog walking in Gaza. Hamas spokesman and leading religious figure Ayman al-Batniji explained, “In recent weeks, the phenomenon of young men walking with their dogs in the streets has widely spread. It is neither of our culture nor of our traditions. Children and women feel scared when they see dogs.” He added that it is Hamas’ “duty to maintain the safety of citizens.”

The ban reportedly only applies to populated areas such as cities, markets and beaches, while allowing residents to walk dogs in the countryside. No specific penalty has been announced for violating the ban.

Perhaps Hamas is looking to Iran for inspiration? Iran bans keeping dogs as pets outright. The punishment for breaking the ban can entail hefty fines, lashes and also confiscation of the pet, which will subsequently be killed.

For further reading click here.

Kotel Elevator
The Cabinet is expected to approve a plan to build an elevator from the Jewish Quarter in the Old City to the Western Wall plaza. The elevator shaft will be about 108 feet long and will be a Godsend for those who have difficulty walking up and down the massive existing staircase.

It’s about time!

For further reading click here.

Prison Paradise
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger has begun serving his 3 and a half year sentence at Israel’s VIP prison, where former PM Ehud Olmert and other VIP’s are also incarcerated. In a recorded phone conversation Metzger described the wonderful conditions at the “prison”

To read the transcript of the conversation, click here.

Israel News for May 17, 2017

Arab Overtures
The Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have floated a proposal offering Israel improved relations in exchange for a freeze in settlement construction and easing restrictions on Gaza.

The improved relations would reportedly include the establishment of telecommunications lines with Israel, the approval of Israeli planes to pass through their national air space and the removal of various trade restrictions. One Arab official involved in the initiative was quoted saying, “We no longer see in Israel an enemy but a potential opportunity.”

Could this be part of Trump’s master plan for bringing peace to the region?

For further reading click here.

Haley Speaks
In the aftermath of the incident earlier this week in which a US diplomat in Jerusalem told Israeli officials that the Western Wall (Kotel) was not part of Israel, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stated her view on the issue in an interview yesterday saying, “I believe that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”

Haley said she wasn’t sure what the official administration policy was on the matter but added, “I think that’s how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it. I’m not really sure what happened with that issue but I know that they’re trying to fix that and get that taken care of but you know we’ve always thought that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”

Apparently Haley isn’t the only senior government official who isn’t clear on US policy regarding Jerusalem. During a White House press conference held on Tuesday, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster avoided answering a question on whether he recognized the Kotel as being part of Israel. He said, “Oh, that sounds like a policy decision, you know—and that’s the President’s intention…The President’s intention is to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity amongst three of the world’s great religions.”

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer responded to a question on the matter by saying, “The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in Jewish faith. It’s clearly in Jerusalem.”

Does anyone know what the policy is?

The fact that the US embassy is still in Tel Aviv and looks like it’ll be staying there says it all. Unless Trump changes it, US policy remains the same as it’s been for decades: the West Bank and east Jerusalem are not officially part of Israel.

For further reading click here.

Intelligence Compromised
According to ABC news, US intelligence officials believe that the classified information regarding ISIS shared by President Trump with the Russian Foreign Minister could jeopardize an Israeli spy embedded within ISIS. The White House is denying that Trump shared any sensitive information.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Mayor
Fatah representative Taysir Abu Sneineh, who was convicted of being part of a terror cell that murdered six Israelis in 1980, has been elected as the new mayor of Hebron, the largest city in the Palestinian Authority. Abu Sneineh had been in an Israeli prison until he was subsequently released in a prisoner exchange deal.

The new mayor expressed a willingness to work with Israeli authorities in order to provide services for the people of Hebron. He has no regrets for his previous terror activities.

For further reading click here.

Cheaper Taxis
Starting May 30, travelers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport will be able to order a taxi using the Gett app (formerly GetTaxi) and the price will be 30% cheaper than the current rates. Until now only one taxi company had a monopoly on rides from the airport.

For further reading click here.


Israel News for May 16, 2017

Kotel Not Israel
According to a Channel 2 news report yesterday, sources close to the Prime Minister asked that Netanyahu and an Israeli TV crew accompany Trump to the Kotel. The Americans (based in the US Consulate in Jerusalem) refused, claiming that the visit was a private one, not an official visit.

A senior US official also said, “This is an area that is in dispute, the Western Wall is not Israeli territory and is located in the West Bank.” This infuriated the Israelis and caused an uproar in the Israeli press.

In response to the comment, a White House spokesman told reporters, “These comments, if true, were not authorized by the White House. They do not reflect the U.S. position, and certainly not the President’s position.”

But the fact of the matter is that, while clearly insensitive, the comments do reflect the US position that east Jerusalem is not officially part of Israel but is disputed territory. That’s why the US embassy isn’t located in Jerusalem and why US administration officials visiting the Kotel on official state visits are never accompanied by Israeli government leaders.

The Trump administration has yet to change that US policy, and apparently isn’t going to. But since Trump is known for his spontaneous statements, you never know what might happen during his upcoming Israel visit.

So while Trump might be the best friend Israel has ever had, and the US continues to defend Israel in the UN, the US policy that considers the Old City and yes, the Western Wall, as disputed territory and not part of Israel remains in place.

For further reading click here.

New Ambassador
President Rivlin today accepted the credentials of David Friedman, the new US Ambassador to Israel. The Israeli president welcomed Friedman, his family, and staff to Israel and congratulated him on his new position saying, “I’m happy to welcome you and your dear wife to Israel, to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, and I’m welcoming you, not only as the President of Israel, but also as a Jerusalemite – seventh generation. I know you have been to Israel many times before. But this time you are an ambassador representing the United States of America, Israel’s greatest and most important ally.”

Rivlin also stressed that, “It is time for the whole world to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel.”

Friedman then headed to his office at the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

To view a video of the ceremony click here.

Time to Kill
Housing Minister Yoav Galant has called for the assassination of Syrian President Assad. He said, “The reality in which people are executed in Syria, being hit deliberately by chemical weapons, their bodies being burned, something we haven’t seen in 70 years, we are crossing a red line and it is time to eliminate Assad, literally.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbinic Conviction
Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, 76, was convicted of issuing fake rabbinic credentials to 1,500 police and security services employees, who used them to apply for pay raises. He was first indicted in 2012. Sentencing has not yet been set.

For further reading click here.

Wrong Turn
An Israeli family of six (parents and 4 kids) were driving in the West Bank (Samaria) on their way to Modiin Illit when got lost and suddenly found themselves driving through the Arab village of Bir Zeit near Ramallah. [It’s a small country, so getting lost and ending up in an Arab village can easily happen.]

In the words of Ayelet Cohen (the mother):

“It was nearly 1am, the kids were asleep in the back seat and the village seemed to never end. At some point, there was no cell reception either. I was terrified the whole time for the safety of the children. We eventually managed to call the police.
“The police told us not to get out of the car and to continue driving back and forth for almost 40 minutes. Inside the car, there was a sense of tension and fear. All of a sudden, four cars came speeding up and blocked the road.
“I was sure they were going to lynch us. A lot of young Arabs came out of the cars and started banging on our car and my husband told them he was on the line with the police. They then opened our car doors and took us to the (Palestinian) police and they spoke Arabic. They took our phones and drove us to the Palestinian police station. At this stage, I had no idea where we were going at all.”

Thankfully, Israeli forces had already contacted Palestinian security forces. The Palestinian police transported the Cohens to a Ramallah checkpoint where they were released back into Israeli territory.

For further reading click here.

Cheap Airfare
Icelandic low-cost airline WOW Air will soon begin flights from Tel-Aviv to Reykjavik for $99 and from Tel Aviv to New York, Boston and Montreal (via Reykjavik) for $149. The fares don’t include luggage, which will cost you about $50 per bag. The fares are also only starting prices, and could be higher depending on the flight date.

Any competition in the Israel flight market that might lower the sky high airfares is welcome.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for May 15, 2017

Embassy Diplomacy
In anticipation of US President Trump’s visit to Israel on May 22, the Egyptian and Jordanian Foreign Ministers joined with the Secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee Saeb Erekat to declare that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state. They stressed the two-state solution as the only way to arrive at peace in the region.

The question of whether Trump would fulfill his promise to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was posed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday on the Meet the Press news show. Tillerson replied, “The president I think rightly has taken a very deliberative approach in understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region in understanding what such a move, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have. The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”

When pressed on the issue Tillerson said, “Well, I think it would be informed, again, by the parties that are involved in those talks, and most certainly from Israel’s view, on whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction. It think the president is being very measured as to how he goes about this, and appropriately so.”

In other words, Tillerson said that Israel might be the one who is holding back the transfer of the embassy because it doesn’t view the move as helpful to advancing the peace process.

Reacting to the implication, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying, “Israel’s position has been expressed many times to the American administration and to the world … The transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem not only will not harm the peace process, but will promote it by correcting a historic injustice and by smashing the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on Netanyahu to “make it clear that we expect the US administration to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.”

There are no indications that Israel is pressuring or lobbying Trump to keep his promise regarding the embassy. Is it because it understands that Trump has already made up his mind that moving the embassy would not help the peace process at this time, or is it because Netanyahu himself realizes that very same thing?

From Tillerson’s words, it seems like it might be a combination of the two.

For further reading click here.

Terror in Jerusalem
On Shabbat, a 57 year old Jordanian citizen attacked a policeman in Jerualem’s Old City. The terrorist charged at the officer with two knives and stabbed him in the neck and head. The policeman managed to shoot and kill the terrorist.

In response to the attack, the Jordanian government issued a statement in which it, “condemns as heinous the crime committed against the Jordanian citizen and demanded Israel to reveal the full details of the crime.” The statement also said, “The Israeli government, as the occupying power, bears responsibility for the shooting of a Jordanian citizen in the occupied East Jerusalem on Saturday, which led to his martyrdom.”

The Prime Minister’s Office responded, “It is outrageous to hear the support that the Jordanian government spokesman gave to the terror attack. It’s about time that Jordan stops this double game. Just as Israel denounces terror attacks in Jordan, so must Jordan denounce terror attacks in Israel. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter where it is.”

To watch a video of the attack click here.

Party Cancelled
Israel’s new ambassador to Nigeria, Guy Feldman, decided to cancel the embassy’s official Independence Day reception and instead, use the money to help Refugee children in the country.

The ambassador created a soccer league for children in refugee camps as a result of being displaced by the terror group Boko Haram. The embassy bought uniforms and balls and arranged coaches and judges. Ambassador Feldman said, “Our intention was to bring a message of hope to the children, which is also the Zionist message.” He named the league, “Israel cares—Kids’ Football League.”

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for May 12, 2017

Moving Right
According to a study just published by a respected Israeli think tank, Israel’s younger population (aged 15-24) is moving to the Right. The study found that 67% of Jewish youth in Israel today define themselves as Right-Wing, while only 16% associate themselves with the Left. Only 40% categorized themselves as secular, while the rest claimed to be religious, including 15% who classified themselves as Haredi (ultra-orthodox).

Most of the young people believe that the number one problem the government must deal with is the cost of living issue. They also are losing trust in the courts, the police, the Knesset and even the IDF.

For further reading click here.

Soccer Vote
FIFA, the international soccer federation, decided to postpone until next year a vote on whether to prohibit Israeli teams based in the West Bank from competing in the international league. FIFA regulations prohibit a member’s association from holding competitions on the territory of another member’s association without the latter’s permission, and the PFA considers the West Bank to be Palestinian—not Israeli—territory.

PM Netanyahu reacted to the decision saying, “We won another victory in Israel’s battle for its international standing. We thwarted an attempt to undermine Israel’s standing in FIFA. This is an important achievement. We will continue to defend the State of Israel and will continue to strengthen our international standing.”

For further reading click here.

Ancient Pigs
Archeologists have recently determined that the ancient Philistines, who migrated to the Israeli coast from the Aegean (Cyprus, Turkey, Greece), brought pigs with them — herds of them. Pigs are easily transportable, as opposed to cows, are low maintenance and provide a tasty meal for those not bound by Jewish law — or Moslem law.

You won’t find many pig farms in the area today, but if you know where to look you can find your swine delights in specialty delis, usually in areas with large Russian immigrant populations.

For further reading click here.

Conversion Bill
The Interior Ministry, headed by former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, has submitted a bill to the Knesset that would require the State to recognize only conversions under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate.

This would apply to conversions performed in Israel. Conversions performed by Reform, Conservative or Orthodox rabbis abroad are recognized by the State for purposes of the Law of Return. But in order to register for marriage with the Israeli Rabbinate (which is the only way to get married in Israel) the conversion must be performed by an Orthodox rabbi who is on an official Chief Rabbinate list of acceptable rabbis.

In 2016 the Supreme Court ruled that the State must recognize conversion performed in Israel by private Orthodox rabbis. The proposed bill would change that.

For further reading click here.

Kabbalistic Wedding
On Saturday night, hundreds of thousands of Jews will celebrate the “hilullah” of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), the second century sage who is believed to have authored the Zohar, the cornerstone text of the kabbala (Jewish mysticism), in Meron (near Tzfat), where he is buried. The Aramaic word “hillulah” literally means wedding, but it is used to commemorate the Rashbi’s day of death, during which he is believed to have revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah to his close circle of students (a good reason to celebrate).

The day is also Lag B’omer, the 33 day in the traditional counting of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. During that time period the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva (the Rashbi’s teacher) were stricken by a plague and died as punishment for their lack of mutual respect and brotherly love. But on the 33rd day, Lag B’omer, the dying ceased.

The celebration at Meron is highlighted by the burning of a huge bonfire that is lit by many prominent Hassidic Rebbes, with the Boyaner Rebbe leading off the festivities. Thousands of smaller bonfires are also lit in the Meron area and throughout Israel — and barbecue, marshmallows and amores are often not far behind.

It’s also customary for young boys to get their first haircuts at Meron (after letting it grow until age 3), so barbers eagerly join the crowds and do a brisk business — as do vendors of all sorts of cabalistic amulets and charms.

Ten of thousands of people are camping out at Meron for Shabbat. Hundreds of buses carrying thousands more will be making the trek after Shabbat ends. Some rabbis have demanded that the celebration be moved to Sunday night so as to avoid potential desecration of Shabbat by people either traveling to or preparing for the event on Shabbat. But they were ignored. Tradition stands.

Any event that can bring together hundreds of thousands of Jews from different religious walks of life is something to celebrate. May the merit of Rashbi and the Jewish unity at Meron bless Israel and the Jewish People with peace and success.