chief rabbis

Israel News for 6-30-17

Conversion Controversy
PM Netanyahu is meeting this morning with the heads of his coalition partners to attempt to work out a solution to solve the controversy generated by a bill that would make the Chief Rabbinate the only body authorized to convert people to Judaism in Israel. The bill would pull the government’s recognition of private conversions, namely those not conducted by the Chief Rabbinate, even when those conversions are conducted by Orthodox rabbis or courts.

While the bill does not directly effect conversions conducted outside of Israel, the fear is that it might eventually impinge on those too.

The approval of the bill by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation gives the proposal coalition support, which generally all but guarantees its passage in the Knesset. But statements against the proposal by Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman could potential threaten its passing.

The PM is leaning towards delaying the Knesset vote on the bill for at least six months.

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Congressional Critics
Four Jewish Democratic members of Congress criticized PM Netanyahu’s suspension of the agreement to build a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall. They are Representatives Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey and Jerry Nadler of New York and Ted Deutch of Florida.

Engel said, “I typically refrain from weighing in on internal Israeli government decisions, but the recent developments affecting Kotel prayer and conversion have deeply affected the entire Jewish community, including communities in my district. Certainly, the Jewish community is stronger when united rather than divided. I implore the Israeli government to reverse these decisions and engage in a dialogue with the diverse diaspora Jewish community on how to move forward.”

Lowey said, “Israel should provide an opportunity for all Jews, men and women, to have egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.”

Nadler said, “I am deeply concerned by trends showing young American Jews’ dwindling levels of support for and identification with the state of Israel, and I worry that this decision by the Israeli government will only affirm suspicions that their voices and perspectives have been deemed irrelevant.”

Deutch said he some of his Jewish constituents had expressed disappointment to him about Netanyahu’s decision. “These are members of the community who deeply love and support Israel and they’re hurt and disappointed. I have to say I’m disappointed, too. And I say that not just as a member of Congress, but also as an American Jew.”

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No German Deal
Germany has scrapped a billion dollar deal to lease Heron-2 drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The reason for the cancellation is because the new drones were already equipped with offensive weapons systems. Germany’s government coalition is against using drones for attacking targets. They want to use them exclusively for intelligence gathering. Germany is currently operating more than ten Heron-1 drones around the world.

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Olmert Out
Former PM Ehud Olmert will be paroled from prison on Sunday after serving a year and four months or two thirds of his sentence.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement:

“In a discussion at the attorney general’s office this evening, with the participation of the state prosecutor and the top echelon of the State Attorney’s Office, the parole board’s decision in the case of Ehud Olmert was thoroughly studied.”
“The State Attorney’s Office recommended that, on considering all the circumstances of the case, there is no basis for appealing to the district court against the parole board’s decision. The attorney general adopted the recommendation, and accordingly it was decided not to file an appeal with the district court.”

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Super Shekel
The Israeli shekel continues to gain strength over the dollar and euro. That’s bad news for tourists heading to Israel. It’s also bad for Israeli exporters, whose products are now more expensive. Today the shekel fell below NIS 3.50 per US dollar.

The Bank of Israel is now coming under intense pressure to intervene in foreign currency trading and buy foreign exchange in order to weaken the shekel and help exporters. In April and May, the Bank of Israel bought over $2 billion in foreign currency, intervening every time the exchange rate went below NIS 3.60 per dollar. But for the past month now, the Bank of Israel has sat on the sidelines while the shekel slipped below NIS 3.50/$.

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Math Wiz
According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), a prominent annual publication of university rankings by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem ranks 11th in Math. The Weizmann Institute was ranked 10th in computer sciences and 50th in chemistry.

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Jewish Link
The Jewish Link of New Jersey has published a great feature article about IsraelAM. To read the article click here.