Israel News for September 10, 2015

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Temple Mount Crackdown
Jews who visit the Temple Mount are often harassed by groups of Muslims called Mourabitoon and Mourabitaat — Arabic for male and female “sentries”. The mission of the “sentries” is to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque from the infidels, and they use physical violence and intimidation to get their job done. The Israeli government has finally had enough.

The defense ministry yesterday banned the groups, making anyone who takes part in, organizes or funds the group’s activities subject to criminal prosecution.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who signed the ban, said in a statement that the Mourabitoon and Mourabitaat are a “main cause in the creation of tension and violence on the Temple Mount specifically and Jerusalem in general”.

It’s already illegal for Jews to even move their lips in prayer on the Temple Mount. Now it’s illegal for Muslims to harass and incite violence against them. Sound fair?

Israeli Murdered in Nigeria
Nir Rozmarin, a 42 year old Israeli working in Nigeria, was killed in an attempted kidnapping yesterday. The local Chabad emissary, who is organizing the transfer of the body to Israel, said that a jeep entered the building site where the Israeli worked in the morning, and that four men got out and grabbed him. He started shouting and tried to resist. People who were working in the office went downstairs, and a police officer who was outside the site immediately came to see what was happening there. The men began beating the officer. Rozmarin tried to run away, but they shot him in the head from close range.

May his memory be a blessing.

No More Judges
The government committee tasked with appointing rabbinical judges will meet today but is not expected to vote on new appointments.

In addition to the regular civil and criminal courts, Israel maintains a system of rabbinic courts. The rabbinic courts can hear cases relating to business or monetary matters, but their main purpose and power is in the realm of divorce and conversion. The only way to marry and divorce in the State of Israel is via the official rabbinate. That makes the rabbinic courts the only place to adjudicate divorce cases.

Many Israelis feel that the rabbinic court judges are out of touch with modern, secular Israelis and that they make it difficult for women to obtain divorces and thereby remarry. That’s because most of the judges are charedi rabbis who generally abide by stringent positions in Jewish law.

The non-charedi public wants the committee to appoint religious zionist rabbinic judges, many of whom identify with Tzohar, a rabbinic organization seen as more sensitive to the needs of the non-orthodox public.

The charedi establishment, which in effect controls the official Israeli rabbinate, doesn’t feel that the Tzohar affiliated rabbis are strict enough and can be trusted to follow Jewish law according to charedi standards (which they believe are the only correct ones).

The dispute is reflected in the appointment committee, which is currently split. So instead of appointing 24 new judges to regional courts and 6 new judges to the supreme rabbinic court, no new judges will be appointed, and the system will remain backlogged and charedi dominated.

Yesterday, 30 agunot (women who are unable to obtain a religious divorce from their husbands and therefore cannot remarry) wrote a letter to the PM and the head of the committee begging them to appoint rabbinic judges who will be more likely to release them from their “chained” status.

This is just another version of the battle that’s being fought over conversions, which led to the formation of an alternative court by a segment of the religious zionist rabbinate. It looks like the same thing might eventually happen in the general rabbinic court system. Unless the charedi and religious zionist rabbis can learn to live in peace, the future of Jewish unity in Israel doesn’t look great.

US in Sinai
In a previous issue we wrote about the 720 US peacekeeping troops stationed in Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and how the US was evaluating ways to protect them from increased terrorism in Sinai or whether to simply withdraw them.

Last week four US soldiers and two Fijians were wounded when their vehicles were hit by a roadside bomb during a routine patrol near their base.

Anonymous US officials have told the Associated Press that the US will be sending at least 75 additional troops to the Sinai force, including a light-infantry platoon, a surgical team, surveillance equipment and other assets designed to beef up security.

US Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that the US supports the role of the MFO and will continue to evaluate ways to better increase the security of the troops.

Back to Egypt
After four years of working out of the ambassador’s residence, the Foreign Ministry reopened the official Israeli embassy in Cairo, in a new location. The old embassy was closed after rioters stormed it in 2011.

The Israeli flag was raised and the national anthems of both countries were played during the ceremony. Israeli diplomats including the ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren and Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold attended, along with U.S. envoy to Egypt, Ambassador R. Stephen Beecroft.

The Egyptian government did not send any minister, or even a senior foreign ministry representative, to the opening ceremony. The deputy director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s protocol department represented Cairo.

Are the Egyptians just not that excited about the new embassy, or are they just playing to the Islamic masses by snubbing Israel? Hey, as long as there’s peace.

Shabbat Soccer a Go
Yesterday we told you that the Israeli Football Association decided to cancel all Shabbat games based on a recent labor court ruling. We also told you that Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev was against the ruling and had instructed the Attorney General to find a way to allow the games to continue.

Well, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said yesterday that he would not enforce the Shabbat prohibitions. His reasoning: since the regulations haven’t been enforced for the past decade, why rock the boat and start enforcing them now? Solid.

The games, and the legal battle, will continue.