Israel news summary

Israel News for 5-24-2019

Raging Fires
The combination of unseasonably high temperatures above 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) for the last few days along with bonfires lit on Lag B’omer and not properly extinguished has resulted in several major forest fires in the Beit Shemesh and Beit Shemen area and in the Jerusalem hills.

On Thursday night around 200 firefighters battled blazes at Mevo Modi’im and Kibbutz Harel. Several thousand residents of Gimzo, Shilat, Kfar Rut, Neot Kedumim, Kfar Daniel, Mevo Modi’im and the Adam IDF base were evacuated. Forty of the 50 homes in Mevo Modi’im were damaged or destroyed.

A JNF official (the Jewish National Fund manages many of Israel’s nature areas) said, ”The damage is enormous, not just to the woodland, but also to the animals. Large swaths of the woodland, the green lung of the Dan region were burnt. We did not expect such a painful blow since we spent the whole night expelling people who lit bonfires.”

PM Netanyahu called on firefighting assistance from Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia to supplement the 12 planes and 2 helicopters Israel is already using. Egypt also sent 2 helicopters.

To donate to the Mevo Modi’im Emergency Relief fund click here.

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Coalition Progress
PM Netanyahu is reportedly making progress in forming his coalition government with only a few days left to the deadline. Avigdor Lieberman is expected to become defense minister again, but it is unclear how he will deal with the draft law that exempts yeshiva students from IDF service, which he claims is a dealbreaker form him and that the Haredi parties refuse to compromise on either. There is some sort of possible compromise in the works, but the decision whether to accept it or not lies now in the hands of the Gerrer Rebbe, the leader of the largest Chassidic sect in Israel, who will give his instructions to MK Yaakov Litzman of the UTJ party.

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Economic Peace
Despite the Palestinian Authorities rejection of the US sponsored Bahrain conference, which is meant to discuss ways to improve the economic condition of the Palestinians, some Palestinian businessmen are very interested in participating.

For further reading click here.

Meanwhile, at least 15 major Palestinian businessmen have publicly refused to attend. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman will participate in the conference. Saudi Arabia is reportedly pressuring Jordan to attend too.

For further reading click here.

Meron Gathering
Over a quarter of a million Jews flocked to Meron last night on Lag B’omer to mark to anniversary of the death of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai, the 2nd century sage and author of the Zohar. Chassidic rebbes lit massive bonfires. There was lots of praying, singing, dancing and celebrating.

To watch some of what went on there, click here.