passover

Passover 2019

Passover Break
As PM Netanyahu begins the process of forming his fifth governing coalition, the Israeli government and most of the country shuts down for the Passover holiday, so we’ll be doing the same. We’ll see you back after the holiday. Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Passover!

Destroying Haughtiness
The Torah commands us to destroy our chametz – leavened products — before the onset of Passover. Jewish law dictates that we conduct a search for any chametz in our homes, to make sure that none remains in our possession during Passover. In a spiritual sense, chametz represents haughtiness and misplaced pride and self importance. In preparation of our redemption (on Passover) we are meant to destroy the chametz within us. It is then that true redemption, both personal and national, can be achieved.

Getting rid of physical chametz is not too difficult. But vanquishing our spiritual chametz is a challenge of epic proportions. For it is that chametz that gives us the permission to belittle, mistreat, mock or simply ignore those whom we deem to be not quite good enough for us. It’s what often makes us feel good about ourselves when we do things that we shouldn’t and directs us to put our own interests before those of others, even if those interests are ethically or morally corrupt — or simply not very nice.

So here’s a challenge: in addition to getting rid of our physical chametz, let’s put at least as much attention into getting rid of our spiritual chametz. Doing so will allow us to experience redemption in its truest sense.

Is it Enough?
One of the most famous and beloved songs we sing at the Passover Seder is Dayenu, which means “it would be enough for us”. The song enumerates the great miracles performed for the Jewish people from the Exodus until their entrance into the Land of Israel and after each one proclaims “Dayenu”. For example, “If God had just taken us out of Egypt but not split the sea, that would have been enough for us”. But would it really have been enough if God had taken us out of Egypt but not split the sea? The same question can be asked about nearly every even mentioned in the song. Would it really have been enough?

In order to answer this question, we need to understand that Dayenu is really a love song. When someone is truly in love, every moment and memory with their beloved is precious. Of course we’d love to have it all – – the best house, car, job, vacations, clothing, jewelry etc. But if we truly love our spouse, family or friends, then we can still be happily fulfilled with less. When you have love, then the other stuff isn’t that important.

Let’s use this Passover holiday as an opportunity to appreciate the love in our lives. If we do, we’ll find that the other things are not so important after all. And we’ll also gain a greater appreciation for the things we have been blessed with.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-17-19

Final Results
The final election results (for real this time) were released yesterday and presented to President Rivlin. In the end, Likud dropped from 36 to 35 seats and UTJ gained moved up from 7 to 8. It doesn’t change the overall balance of power between left and right, with the right wing block holding 65 seats and the left 45 (or 55 if you include the Arab parties).

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party did not manage to cross the minimum threshold to enter the Knesset, despite their complaints of voting irregularities. Shaked announced that she’s quitting politics, at least for the time being.

President Rivlin will give PM Netanyahu the green light to form a new government, and the PM will have 42 days to do so. He is expected to hand out around 26 ministerial portfolios to satiate his coalition partners, which will make for one of the largest governments ever. But just a few of those portfolios will probably end up going to members of his own Likud party.

Avigdor Lieberman has pledged his Yisrael Beytenu’s 5 seats to join the PM’s coalition. But one of the main points of his party’s platform is to do away with IDF draft exemptions for yeshiva students, and the 16 seat strong Shas-UTJ ultra orthodox block will never let that happen. So how will they all coexist in a coalition? They’ve managed to do it in the past.

New Map
The US government has published a new map of Israel which, for the first time, includes the Golan as part of Israel. The map shows the West Bank as territory occupied by Israel.

For further reading click here.

Heart Print
Israeli scientists have printed a living heart using a 3D printer. The technology was developed by Dr. Nadav Nur and Dr. Assaf Shapira working at the life science lab of Prof. Dvir at Tel Aviv University in cooperation with the faculty of engineering and the Segol biotechnical center. They say that the technology will be widely available for use in 10 years.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-15-19

Syria Attack
On Saturday, aircraft believed to be Israeli attacked and destroyed a missile production facility in Syria. The site was built during the years 2014-2016 on the western section of a Syrian military base and is isolated by a wall. It is unclear whether the site is controlled by the Syrians or the Iranians. The industrial structures, including all the equipment inside them, were completely destroyed. Other nearby buildings also were damaged. Syrian opposition forces claim that 17 people were injured in the strike including Syrians and Iranian militia personnel.

For further reading click here.

Visit Cancelled
A spokeswoman for Israel’s Economy Ministry said a planned visit to Bahrain this week by Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen had been “delayed because of political issues.” The group of around 30 Israeli business executives and government officials was scheduled to participate in a congress organized by the U.S.- based Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) in Bahrain on April 15-18.

The proposed visit caused protests by members of Bahrains parliament as well as street protests. The parliament members released a statement saying, “Bahrain’s parliament announces that the people of Bahrain reject any Israeli presence on its territory and its lands and any decision allowing this presence is unacceptable.”

For further reading click here.

 

Women in Tanks
The IDF has decided not to integrate female soldiers in the Armored Corps despite conducting a successful pilot course last year to train female troops as tank crewwomen. The 10 crewwomen who underwent the special training have in recent months been integrated into other combat units, such as the Karakal Battalion, composed of both male and female combat soldiers.

For further reading click here.

Pay Raise
Israel’s non military security forces are getting a, well deserved, 7.5% pay raise. The first payment was made on the eve of the elections last week.

For further reading click here.

Matzah to Poland
The Shavei Israel organization, led by Michael Freund, has delivered to the Jewish community in Poland 2 tons of matzah, consisting of 1,692 boxes of Matzot Aviv, along with 90 boxes of machine-made special shmura (“guarded”) matzah and 45 boxes of hand-made shmura matzah. The matzah will be distributed to nearly a dozen Jewish communities throughout Poland, including Bielsko-Biala, Gdansk, Katowice, Krakow, Legnica, Lodz, Lublin, Poznan, Szczerczin, Warsaw and Wroclaw.

There are approximately 4,000 Jews registered in Poland today, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands more throughout the country who, to this day, are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of so-called “Hidden Jews” have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people. Shavei Israel has been active in Poland for over a decade, working closely with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and these “Hidden Jews.”

Rabbi Schudrich said, “As more and more Poles discover their Jewish roots. Passover especially speaks to them as a celebration of freedom and the end of slavery or occupation. Matzah represents that freedom and every Jew wants to have his box of matzah for Pesach. Thanks to Shavei Israel, many Jews will have matzah this Pesach. Thank you, Shavei Israel.”

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-12-19

Final Results
The final election results were released yesterday, after roughly 200,000 votes of soldiers, diplomats and a few other groups were counted. The newly counted votes gave Likud another seat and caused UTJ to lose one.

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked had hoped that their party would be pushed over the threshold, but they apparently fell 1,461 votes short. Had they not broken off from their Jewish Home party to start their own party, they would have probably added another 3 or 4 seats to the right wing block and been in a strong position to attain important ministerial portfolios and materially impact government policies. Instead, they weakened the right wing and ended up with nothing.

Arab voter turnout, which is usually very low, was even lower, resulting in only 10 seats for the Arab block, which is far lower than their proportion of the population. It’s possible that some Arabs voted for Jewish parties, but much more likely that they have simply lost hope in the political process.

Here are the final results:

Likud (Netanyahu) – 36
Blue White (Gantz) – 35
Shas (Ultra Orthodox) – 8
UTJ (Ultra Orthodox) – 7
Hadash-Ta’al (Socialist-Arab) – 6
Labor (Left) – 6
Yisrael Beytenu (Right) – 5
United Right – 5
Kulanu (Right) – 4
Meretz (Left) – 4
Ra’am-Balad (Arab) – 4

President Rivlin will meet with both the Likud and Blue White leaders next week to determine which to choose to form a government. But with a right wing block of 65 seats versus 55 on the center-left, it’s clear that the Netanyahu will be forming the next government.

Ganz and Lapid have pledge to remain in the opposition. But would they join a unity government under the right circumstances? They’ve said they won’t, but anything can happen in Israeli politics. Even if they remain in the opposition, they would probably support the PM in the event that he proposed making concessions required by a soon to be released US peace proposal. How could they not?

Moon Miss
Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft was set to land on the moon and make Israel the fourth country to ever do so. But complications with one of the engines got in the way, and the spacecraft was lost while attempting to land.

Morris Khan, president of SpaceIL, said “I’m happy. The flag of Israel is on the moon. The slogan of ‘Small country, big dreams’ and Am Yisrael Chai (the nation of Israel lives) is on the moon. I think we’ve done something. We got around the moon, we landed on the moon. It just happened to be a hard landing.”

PM Netanyahu remarked, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. We’ll try again, and next time we’ll just try it more gently.”

The mission cost over $100 million and was funded primarily by private philanthropists. Could that money have gone to more worthy endeavors, like helping Israel’s poor? I guess reaching the moon must be pretty important too…

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-10-19

Election Results
With 97% of the votes counted, here are Israel’s election results, indicating the number of Knesset seats each party won:

Likud (Netanyahu) – 35
Blue White (Gantz) – 35
Shas (Ultra Orthodox) – 8
UTJ (Ultra Orthodox) – 8
Hadash-Ta’al (Left) – 6
Labor (Left) – 6
Yisrael Beytenu (Right) – 5
United Right – 5
Kulanu (Right) – 4
Meretz (Left) – 4
Ra’am-Balad (Arab) – 4

The New Right, led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked fell just over 4,000 votes short of crossing the 3.25% vote threshold, which means they get 0 seats. However, there are still around 200,000 votes (3%) that have yet to be counted. They are expected to be counted sometime on Thursday. These votes, cast by IDF soldiers, police officers, diplomats and their families, prisoners and hospital patients and staff, could potentially push the New Right over the threshold, giving them 4 seats. The votes could also push the Arab party or Meretz below the threshold and out of the Knesset.

So while the final standings are not yet final, the overall outcome is clearly a big win for Likud, Netanyahu and the right wing, which holds a 65 seat majority.

The clear majority of the country’s Jewish voters voted to the right. But they did not vote for the more extreme right wing parties, as is evident from the New Right’s inability to (at least for now) cross the threshold, and the United Right’s 5 seats. Had Bennett and Shaked not broken away from their Jewish Home party to start their own party, their combined block would probably have close to 10 votes. But that didn’t happen.

In order to form a governing coalition, PM Netanyahu will have to cater to his smaller partners. For the most part, these partners are more focused on domestic and economic issues rather than foreign policy and the peace process.

The Ultra Orthodox parties, which make up the third largest Knesset block with 16 seats, are primarily concerned with religious issues, financial aid and draft exemptions. Kulanu is also focused on domestic and economic issues. They are moderate on foreign policy. While Yisrael Beytenu is tough on security issues, its policies are not based on ideology.

What all that means is that PM Netanyahu will not be forced to make ideologically based policy decisions such as annexing territory (even though he promised to do just that), which would most likely put him at odds with the soon to be released Trump peace plan. As long as the PM gives his more moderate partners what they want domestically, he should have free rein over foreign policy and security.

Once all the votes are counted and President Rivlin directs Netanyahu to form a new government, the horse trading will begin with the prizes being ministerial portfolios. The religious parties will most likely be happy with the Interior Ministry and the Health Ministry, which they held in the previous government. Kulanu, with Moshe Kahlon, will probably want the Finance Ministry again. The big prizes of the Foreign and Defense Ministries will most likely remain within Likud, unless Netanyahu decides to hold on to one for himself.

Let the games begin.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-8-19

Annexation Pledge
During an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 TV news, the Prime Minister was asked why he had not annexed some of the larger settlement blocks during his current term. Netanyahu answered, “The question you are asking is an interesting question, whether we will move to the next stage and the answer is yes. We will move to the next stage, the imposing of Israeli sovereignty.”

The PM added, “I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

Annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), or its entirety, has been a hot issue in the right wing camp for years and most right wing politicians, including Likud members, have either pledged to do so or indicated that they are in favor of doing so. The notable exception has been the PM, until now.

Whether Netanyahu’s annexation pledge is just a tactic for galvanizing right wing voters before Tuesday’s election, or whether he will actually carry it out in the face of immense international pressure and massive diplomatic and economic repercussions is anyone’s guess. Annexation would also most likely go against the soon to be released Trump Middle East peace plan, and the PM definitely does not want to cross the US President.

For further reading click here.

To better understand the potential consequences of annexation, it’s worthwhile reading a report published by Commanders for Israel’s Security, a non partisan movement of over 280 retired generals and equivalents in Israel’s security services, including the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and Israel Police.

The Commander’s report is unequivocally against the unilateral annexation either the entire West Bank, or even just Area C (which includes the areas with an Israeli presence and encompasses 60% of the West Bank), for the following reasons:

1. The cost of securing the area and of providing the Palestinian residents with social services will be prohibitive (tens of billions of dollars annually).

2. The international ramifications, including government sanctions and private BDS actions, will be crippling to the Israeli economy.

3. Israel will eventually be forced to grant citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians in the territories or face being labeled an apartheid state and be isolated and shunned like was the case with South Africa. Granting them citizenship will destroy the concept of a Jewish democratic state in Israel.

4. The annexation of territory will cause the downfall of the Palestinian Authority (which will lose the little credibility it still has) and will force Israel to take full security and administrative control over the entire territory, again causing a huge strain on the Israeli economy and the IDF.

To read the report click here.

Cyber Threats
Israel’s security services are warning that Israel’s elections are potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks. Cybersecurity firms have identified efforts by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to breach party databases. Despite Israel’s use of paper voting ballots, the actual vote count is done digitally, which opens up the potential for manipulating the final totals.

For further reading click here.

Election Update
Israel’s elections will take place tomorrow. There are 39 political parties running for election to the Knesset. Most will not pass the required threshold of 3.25% of the total vote to win any seats. To get a better understanding of what all the parties stand for, check out this comprehensive guide by the Times of Israel – click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-5-19

Laid to Rest
Zachary Baumel, the IDF soldier who went missing in action during the 1982 Lebanon war, was laid to rest at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem Thursday. His body was returned to Israel a few days ago after Russian troops located them in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Syria. The funeral was attended by PM Netanyahu, President Rivlin and other government ministers and officials.

Baumel’s body was located as a result of a 2 year long Israeli military intelligence mission, called Operation Bittersweet Song, initiated by then Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Israel asked Russia’s help in located the body, after Russia began military operations in Syria. Baumel’s was identified by his IDF overalls and Tzizit (ritual fringes), in addition to other forensic methods.

Russia’s President Putin said that Russian troops located the body, and will continue searching for the other 2 IDF soldiers who went missing along with Baumel. He said, “Russia considers it its duty to search for MIAs and that is what we will do.”  

In an unrelated news item, the Russian army chief of staff demanded that Israel give more warning time before any attacks on military targets in Syria.

For further reading click here.

Election Update
According to the latest and final pre election poll released today, Blue and White will win 28 seats vs Likud 27. According to a poll released yesterday, Blue and White will win 30 seats vs Likud 26. A poll published on Wednesday showed Likud winning 30 seats and Blue and White 27.

In any case, the right wing block is still projected to win a 64 seat majority, which would give PM Netanyahu the only clear path towards forming a government. There doesn’t seem to be any clear path for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government, even if he wins the most seats. A lot will depend on the actual voter turnout on election day, next Tuesday. And of course, political parties have been known to make deals that they said they never would, in order to be in the government.

Yair Lapid, the number 2 Blue and White candidate, is in France today to meet with French President Macron, who invited him to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian and Iranian issues and the fight against antisemitism in Europe. It seems like Macron wants to give Lapid a pre election boost, similar to the one President Trump apparently gave to PM Netanyahu by recently meeting with him in the White House.

For further reading click here.

Moon Pics
The Beresheet lunar lander, Israel’s first spacecraft, has sent back its first pictures taken from the far side of the moon after successfully establishing a lunar orbit.

For further reading click here.

Healthy Diet
Research carried out by Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington in the US has found that Israel has the world’s least unhealthy diet. His study says, “The countries with the lowest rates of diet-related deaths were Israel (89 deaths per 100,000 people), France, Spain, Japan, and Andorra.” The UK ranked 23rd and the US 43rd.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-3-19

Terrorist Stopped
A terrorist with a knife attempted to stab an Israeli man sitting in his car with his daughter at a junction on Rt. 60 near the village of Hurawa, close to Nablus (in Samaria). The driver, Yehoshua Sherman, exited his vehicle and fired at the terrorist. A nearby Israeli truck driver also fired at the terrorist. The terrorist was killed.

For further reading click here.

IDF Attacked
IDF forces came under attack during an arrest raid in the Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem. The troops responded with live fire. Palestinian sources reported that one man was killed and 3 injured. Israeli forces arrested 12 Palestinians wanted for “involvement in terror activity and violent disturbances.”
Israeli forces also arrested a senior Hamas official, Hassan Yusif, in Ramallah. 

For further reading click here.

Ramon Airport
Starting yesterday, all international flights to and from Eilat will land at Ramon airport, 18 kilometers north of Eilat. All domestic flights began using the newly opened airport two weeks ago when the airport in the city center was closed. Sixty two international flights from Europe are scheduled to land at Ramon Airport during April.

Israel is also in the process of deciding where to build an additional international airport closer to the center of the country. The choice is between Ramat David in the Jezreel Valley east of Haifa or in the Negev.

For further reading click here.

New Crop
More than 500 Israeli farmers have applied for permits to grow cannabis to be used for medical purposes. Around 40,000 patients use medical marijuana in Israel, where the potential market is valued at $165 million. At the moment, the government has approved the use of the plant for the treatment of a wide array of ills, including cancer, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and terminal illnesses. There is a severe shortage of supply.

Under new guidelines set to take effect at the end of the month, patients will purchase marijuana at pharmacies with a physician’s prescription. Hundreds of doctors will undergo training in order to be legally permitted to prescribe cannabis for treatment.

For further reading click here.

Stay Home
The Belzer Rebbe, the leader of a major Hassidic community, told followers not to be abroad during election day. He urged his followers to vote for the UTJ (United Torah Judaism) saying, “Everyone must help, work, act, and volunteer for election work in order to increase the number of people voting for UTJ.” Anyone who has a vehicle should offer to transport people to the voting polls on election day.”

For further reading click here.

Kinneret Rising
The Kinneret has risen to its highest level in 6 years. As of yesterday, the level of the Kinneret was 211.86 meters below sea level having risen 25 centimeters since Thursday and is now 306 centimeters below its maximum level, according to the Israel Water Authority. March was the fourth consecutive month of above average rainfall this winter, the first time that this has happened since 1992.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-1-19

Islamic Jihad
Sources in the security forces are reporting that the Gaza terror group Islamic Jihad is preparing a “significant” terror attack in the coming hours or days in order to undermine a possible ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas. Security forces along the Gaza border have noticed unusual activity by Islamic Jihad forces. The terror group denied the reports.

Gaza Fishing
In an apparent move towards a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, Israel has expanded the permitted fishing zone in Gaza from 22km (12 nautical miles) to 28km (15 nautical miles). The zone has been totally closed since the first rocket attack from Gaza last Monday.

This move is part of the smaller scale ceasefire agreement reached last week following the escalation on the Gaza border, and it might potentially be a part of the broader deal currently being indirectly negotiated. In addition, the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings, which have also been closed since last Monday, were reopened on Sunday morning.

For further reading click here.

PA Penalty
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) last night signed an order to deduct 42 million NIS ($11,578,350) from the taxes transferred each month to the Palestinian Authority. Under a law passed last summer, Israel can withhold PA tax funds as long as the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists who attacked Israeli citizens.

Kahlon said, “I believe there is no place for giving prizes to terrorists. This is an important battle in our justified war against Palestinian terror. We have national honor, and there is justice in the world. It is unthinkable that we should ignore the salaries paid to terrorists, and this is why I made this decision. We are committed to terror victims.”

For further reading click here.

Fake Social
An internet watchdog group called the Big Bots Project released a report claiming that a large network of fake social media accounts has been disseminating over 130,000 posts in support of PM Netanyahu and Likud and against Ganz and Lapid.

The report does not identify a direct link between the network and the Likud or any of its staff. It says, however, that the network’s activity raises suspicions of serious criminal offenses, including violations of the Election Law, campaign financing, privacy laws, income tax and more. Likud denies the allegations.

For further reading click here.

Brazil Mission
During a visit by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Israel, Brazil opened a new trade mission in Jerusalem last night. The move falls short of earlier signals that Brazil would relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. The Brazilians are apparently reluctant to damage their trade relations with Arab countries. Brazil has not officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

For further reading click here.