Israel News for July 25, 2016

Olympic Shabbat
The opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Rio will take place on Friday evening, August 5th, and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has announced that she will not be attending because of Shabbat. Regev tried to get housing for herself and her staff within walking distance of the ceremonies, but her security detail could not guarantee her security if she walked back. So the minister, who is not personally religiously observant, decided to put Shabbat before the Olympic ceremonies, explaining, “Shabbat our national day of rest is one of the most important gifts that Jewish people have given to the culture of humanity. As the representative to the state of Israel, the sole Jewish state on the planet, I unfortunately cannot take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because it would require me to break the holy Shabbat.”

Regev’s decision was praised by United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher, who said she deserves a medal for keeping the tradition. “Regev’s actions should set an example for other ministers for how to behave when they represent the Jewish people.”

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Olympic Team
Israel will be sending its largest team ever to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil next week. The 51 qualifiers will compete in 17 sport categories, including Israel’s first Olympic competitors in golf, triathlon and mountain biking. The delegation also includes 34 coaches and about 25 support staff.

Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will lead the Israeli delegation and carry the flag in the opening ceremony. She just won a bronze medal at the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) World Cup Final in Rhythmic Gymnastics in Baku, Azerbaijan on Sunday. The Israeli team won the gold medal at the ribbons event, narrowly beating out the Russians.

Rivkin, along with her fellow gymnasts and the rest of the Israeli team, are hoping to bring home some Olympic medals. Go Israel!

To read more about the Israeli olympic team, click here.

Saudi Visit
A Saudi delegation led by retired general Anwar Eshki met with foreign ministry director Dore Gold at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem yesterday. During the official visit, Eshki also met with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the COGAT, the military body that coordinates Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and spoke to a group of Israeli opposition MKs in the West Bank on Friday.

While Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had diplomatic relations, there have been reports that the two countries have shared intelligence related to fighting terrorism in the region. But Eshki, who is the chairman of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, denied that there was any security cooperation between his country and Israel.

The Saudis are the primary sponsors of a 2002 Arab peace plan that calls for Israel to withdraw from territories captured in 1967 and to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue in exchange for peace with the Arab nations.

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Cyprus Worries
The recent reconciliation in relations between Israel and Turkey have raised worries in Cyprus, which has been in conflict with Turkey for decades, since Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island (which they continue to occupy – apparently they don’t feel the need to withdraw from their occupied territories. Hey, aren’t they in NATO??).

Yesterday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, along with his energy minister and foreign minister, paid a quick visit to Jerusalem to meet with PM Netanyahu and other government officials.

Netanyahu apparently allayed the Cypriots’ fears by committing to protecting Israeli-Cypriot interests and coordinating policies with them.

Israel will be exporting natural gas to Turkey through a pipeline that will run through Cypriot waters.

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Haredi Education
The government yesterday voted to cancel the requirement for Haredi (ultra-orthodox) schools to teach core subjects such as English, math and science, in order for them to receive government funding. So now these schools will be able to receive government funding without having to teach the core subjects. The vote was the result of the coalition agreement that brought the Haredi parties into the government.

Around 430,000 pupils are currently studying in ultra-Orthodox education institutions. The new change of regulations will directly affect around 30,000 students.

The core studies requirement was meant to help prepare students for eventually getting jobs in the mainstream economy.

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