Israel News for March 7, 2016

Fight After Death
Sergeant First Class Tuvia Yanai Weissman was killed in a terror attack two weeks ago in a supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin when he ran to the aide of other victims being stabbed by two terrorists. Weissman was on leave from the army and was not carrying his weapon at the time.

Weissman’s widow, Yael, requested that the words “fell in battle during a terror attack” be inscribed on her husband’s tombstone. The government has denied her request. Instead, the inscription recommended by the army’s commemoration unit is “fell in a terror attack.”

According to Yael’s Facebook post, the army has two approved inscriptions — “fell in battle” and “fell in a terror attack”. She feels that the latter does not reflect the fact that her husband gave his life fighting the terrorists. The army apparently sees it differently.

So the argument hinges on one word: battle.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said, “The Ministry of Defense shares the heavy grief of the Weissman family. The soldier commemoration unit works according to the regulations of gravestone writing, and determines the circumstances of death according to information it receives from different security bodies.”

Yael continues to fight for her husband’s honor.

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IDF Investigation
Last week two soldiers of the Kfir Brigade were stabbed at a military post outside of the settlement of Har Bracha near Shechem (Nablus). An IDF investigation into the incident has found that the soldiers were not carrying their weapons at the time of the stabbing, which is a serious breach of army regulations and procedure. The investigation also revealed other deficiencies and irregularities in the operating procedures of the unit and their overall dedication to their mission.

As a result, a company commander in the Kfir Brigade has been suspended for the year and a platoon commander and sergeant have been dismissed from their duties.

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Loudspeaker Bill
Last week we told you about a bill proposed by MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) that would prohibit the loudspeakers that Mosques use to blast out their call to prayer five times a day. The bill came before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for discussion yesterday, but it failed to get the support of the committee. As a result, Yogev has decided to withdraw the bill. However, he hasn’t given up on his idea. Yogev is now working on an amended bill which would prohibit the loudspeakers during specific hours defined by the law and regulate the permissible volume of the loudspeakers.

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Falash Mura Deadlock
Three months ago the government reached a decision to bring 9,000 Falash Mura from Ethiopia to Israel. The Falash Mura are Ethiopian Jews who were converted to Christianity under pressure from missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. They have been granted the right of Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return if they officially convert to Judaism in Israel.

Despite the government’s decision, the Finance Ministry is refusing to fund the Falash Mura aliyah. The ministry claims that according to a new budget law passed recently by the Knesset, every major spending initiative undertaken must first have its allocated funding in place. And the Falash Mura aliya initiative does not have the required funding.

The treasury estimates the cost of bringing the Falash Mura to Israel will run to about 2 billion shekels ($510 million) over five years. But David Amsalem, the Likud lawmaker who has led the campaign to bring the Falash Mura to Israel, estimates the cost won’t exceed 100 million shekels annually and may be even half that. Amsalem is due to call a special meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, and demand the treasury explain itself.

Amsalem claims that the decision to bring the the Falash Mura was reached before the new budgetary law was passed, so the new law does not apply to it. The Finance Ministry disagrees.

Amsalem believes that racism is behind the governments current refusal to bring the Falash Mura. “They don’t want to bring black people to the country from a troubled place. They’ll have to take care of them, putting many in the care of welfare institutions. The country loves to bring strong immigrants from the United States and France.”

In fairness, the government has already brought tens of thousands of Falash Mura to Israel. The 9,000 waiting in Gondar, Ethiopia constitute the final remaining group.

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Kotel Warning
PM Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from the ultra-Orthodox establishment to revoke, or at least seriously amend, the compromise recently approved that allows the opening of an egalitarian prayer space at the southern area of the Kotel.

But Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, has warned that if the ultra-Orthodox push the PM too hard, they might ultimately find themselves with a worse deal forced upon them by the High Court. As a case in point, he noted the court’s recent decision that forces the ultra-Orthodox establishment to allow Jews converted by the Conservative and Reform movements to immerse themselves in state run mikvehs (ritual baths).

He said, “For six years, we brought various pragmatic proposals to the Religious Affairs Ministry on this issue of the mikvehs, but they refused to talk to us. If what the Haredim want is a High Court ruling that goes much beyond the agreement and compromise in this case as well, then let it be.”

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative-Masorti movement in Israel, said that while he will not agree to any amendment of the compromise agreement, he would not bring the case before the High Court. Instead, he said, “We will go back to our original plan for holding egalitarian services twice a week, on Mondays and Thursday, at the upper plaza.”

Will the compromise agreement hold?

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