Israel News for February 1, 2016

Terror Attacks
Today, an 18 year old Palestinian male got through the security barrier near the settlement of Jewish settlement of Sal’it, south of Tulkarm in Samaria. IDF troops were alerted and began a search. When they found him, the terrorist attempted to stab the soldiers and was shot and killed.

Yesterday, a Palestinian drove up to an IDF checkpoint near Beit El in Samaria (near Ramallah) in a car marked as VIP (which is used by Palestinian officials) and shot three soldiers before being shot and killed by soldiers at the scene. The terrorist was identified as Amjad A-Sukari, a 34-year-old Palestinian Authority police officer who was employed as the personal driver of the Ramallah district attorney Ahmad Hanun.

In response to the attack and to prevent more, Israel has restricted non-residents from entering Ramallah. Tens of thousands of Palestinians commute daily from the Jerusalem area and from around the West Bank to the city. Israeli forces are also preventing non-residents from leaving the city. Only journalists and people with permits to work in Israel will be allowed free passage into and out of Ramallah.

PM Netanyahu blasted PA President Abbas for incitement and for not condemning the attack by one of his employees.

For further reading click here.

Hamas vs. Iran
Iran has always been assumed to be a primary supporter of Hamas in Gaza. That assumption might have to be reevaluated. According to a secretly recorded conversation published in an Arab newspaper in London, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said that Iran has not given any support to Hamas since 2009. He said, “They are crafty and play with words; they are very cautious in their diplomatic conduct. Since 2009 we’ve gotten nothing from them, and even what our members got was not from them, but from others. All their claims about assistance are lies.”

Iranian relations with Hamas have been tenuous ever since Hamas expressed support for the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad’s Iranian backed government. Hamas has also been reluctant to accept Iranian help, fearing that doing so would strain their relations with the Persian Gulf Sunni states, who are enemies of Iran’s Shiite government.

So, things aren’t as clear as they seemed, which is probably a good thing for Israel.

For further reading click here.

New Kotel
The cabinet yesterday approved a compromise between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox movements permitting the establishment of a separate area of the Western Wall (Kotel) where men and women can pray together, without being segregated by gender. The compromise was passed by a vote of 15 to 5, with the nays being cast by Orthodox cabinet members.

Currently, the prayer area directly in front of the Kotel is divided into a large section for men only and a smaller area for women only. This prayer area, along with the large plaza beyond the prayer area, is administered by the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinowitz according to Orthodox Jewish law and custom.

According to the compromise agreement, a new 900 meter section will be constructed along the southern part of the Kotel, which lies south of the ramp that leads up to the Temple mount and which is adjacent to the archeological excavations near Robinson’s Arch. The area has already, in recent years, become the place used by people who want mixed services for their bar mitzvahs or other special events.

The agreement also transfers control over the Kotel Plaza, the area beyond the prayer sections, from the rabbinate to the government, thereby permitting mixed events and ceremonies there, which are currently not permitted.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements lauded the compromise as the first step to full government recognition of the movements.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, said, “Once and for all, the government has put an end to the ultra-Orthodox monopoly at the Kotel and has determined that at this most holy site for the Jewish people, there will be more than one way of praying and connecting to Jewish tradition.”

Leaders of the world Conservative movement said they were, “thrilled to witness our efforts resulting in recognition of the diversity and pluralistic nature of the Jewish people, as well as the legitimacy of the Conservative and Reform religious streams.”

Why hasn’t this compromise triggered war and “fight to the death” cries from the Orthodox establishment, considering that it infringes on Judaism holiest and most prominent place of worship?

Apparently, the southern area of the wall conceded in the agreement is not seen as containing the same level of holiness (if any at all) as the current area known as the “Kotel”. That’s probably why there have never been any religious restrictions imposed in that area. The part of the agreement removing rabbinate control over the Kotel Plaza is probably seen as more disturbing.

In any case, let’s home and pray that all Jews can now pray in peace along the entire length of the Western Wall.

In the words of Chief Rabbi Rabinowitz, “The Western Wall will continue to be open to every worshiper, both male and female, at every hour of every day with respect and devotion to Jewish tradition and Jewish heritage of which the Western Wall are clear symbols.”

For further reading click here.

Anti Reform
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin attacked the American Jewish Reform movement during Sunday’s cabinet session on the compromise regarding a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall.

He said, “The Reform Jews in the U.S. are a waning world. The assimilation there is of enormous extent. They don’t even properly track [the assimilation] inside their communities. The evidence is that a man who calls himself a reform rabbi is standing there with a priest and weds Hillary Clinton’s daughter, and no one condemns it, thereby legitimizing it.”  

Levin ended up supporting the compromise because he was concerned that if it didn’t pass, the High Court of Justice would grant the non-Orthodox groups even greater concessions. He also believes that the Reform movement won’t be around within two or three more generations because of assimilation, so any compromise will become moot.

For further reading click here.

Dead Sea Drop
A new study by the Geological Survey of Israel has revealed that the main reason for the rapid drop in the Dead Sea’s water level in recent decades is the increased pumping of water from the Jordan River’s tributaries in Jordan and Syria, and not the potash industries in Israel and Jordan, as previously thought.

The study attributed the accelerating drop in the sea level to the construction of dams along the Jordan River’s tributaries in Syria and Jordan. These dams can store up to 500 million cubic meters of water, and both countries use much of that water. Syria alone has built more than 40 dams that shut off the flow of water in the Rukad and Yarmouk rivers.

These dams account for much of the increased annual shortfall in the Dead Sea’s water intake, which stood at 400 million cubic meters 30 years ago but has risen to 700 million cubic meters over the last decade.

How can Israel stop Syria and Jordan from killing the Dead Sea?

For further reading click here.

Skating First
In a historic first, an Israeli won a silver medal at the European Figure Skating Championships, held in Bratislava, Slovakia. Yes, the skater, Alexei Bychenko, is clearly Russian … but who cares. He’s Israeli now!

For further reading click here.