Israel News for July 6, 2016

Attack Video
Netanel Peretz was driving by a bus stop at the Gitai Evyashar junction just outside of the city of Ariel with his dashboard camera on, when he witnessed an attempted stabbing attack. A Palestinian woman holding a knife above her head, ready to strike, approached two Israeli soldiers. They apparently ordered her to stop, but she continued at them. They shot her in the chest and neutralized her. She was taken to hospital in critical condition.

When you watch the video you can make your own judgement as to whether the soldiers could have stopped the attacker by non lethal means or whether they should have attempted to shoot her in the legs instead of in the chest. Then again, who are we to judge what soldiers do under attack?

To watch the video of the attack, click here.

US Slams Construction
Responding to Israel’s decision to approve the building of hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said, “If true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also questioned Israel’s commitment to reaching peace with the Palestinians, saying, “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank.”

There apparently was no comment regarding the 600 new Arab housing units approved by the government for East Jerusalem.

For further reading click here.

Rabbinate Protest
Dozens of protesters, including Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Likud MK Yehuda Glick, demonstrated outside of the offices of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem today, accusing the Rabbinate of violating the Torah command to “love the convert,” over its refusal to recognize conversions by a prominent US rabbi.

The Rabbinate High Court of Appeals is hearing the case of a female American immigrant whose conversion was rejected by a Rabbinate court in Petah Tikvah, when she attempted to register for marriage. The only way a Jew can marry in Israel is via the official rabbinate of their locale. It is during this registration process that the rabbinate gets the opportunity to question the Jewish credentials of people born outside of Israel.

This sort of thing happens quite often in Israel, but the fact that the woman was converted by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, one of the most prominent senior rabbinic figures in the US has brought the case into the spotlight. The story has been widely covered in the Israeli and Jewish press, as well as in the New York Times.

The case goes way beyond the particular woman in the case, since it calls into question all of the people converted by Rabbi Lookstein, including Ivanka Kushner, the daughter of Donald Trump. It also has raised an outcry of protest from just about everyone, across the political and religious spectrum. It seems that everyone accepts R. Lookstein’s Orthodoxy, except for the Israeli Rabbinical Court.

Speaker of the Knesset MK Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader MK Issac Herzog sent an joint letter to the Chief Rabbis urging them to quickly resolve the matter.

In response, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau said that while the Chief Rabbinate absolutely recognizes the validity of R. Lookstein’s conversions, the case must be decided by the Rabbinical High Court.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef sent a letter to Edelstein in which he also reaffirmed that the Chief Rabbinate accepts R. Lookstein’s conversion, but he added that since each Rabbinical Court has the independence to rule as it sees fit, the only way to overturn the lower court’s decision is to bring the case before the Rabbinical High Court.

So the ball is in the High Court. Let’s see how they rule.

For further reading click here.

The Claims Conference, which represents Holocaust survivors in negotiations with the German and Austrian governments and manages and disburses reparation payments to survivors, has secured nearly $312 million in home-care funding for survivors in 2016, $350 million for 2017 and more than $380 million for 2018.

The newly negotiated agreement also removes the cap on the number of home-care hours many survivors can receive. Previously, survivors were entitled to a maximum of 25 hours per week of home-care. Now, survivors of ghettos and concentration camps may receive unlimited homecare. Other survivors may receive a maximum of 40 hours per week.

Including social services and direct payments to survivors, the Claims Conference will distribute some $835 million this year. The group provides aid to 121,000 survivors, including home-care aid to 67,000.

Claims Conference President Julius Berman said, “We have been fighting for the rights of survivors for 65 years and this new agreement will have a huge impact on the most vulnerable, poor and disabled of survivors.”

The new agreement is subject to approval by the German Parliament.

For further reading click here.

For the Birds
Every year hundreds of thousands of birds, comprising over 400 different species, stop over in Israel on their migration route from between Europe and Africa. As a result, certain areas of the country, particularly the Hula Valley in the north, have become havens for bird watchers from all over the world. According to Yossi Lessem, director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, every year the Hula Valley’s Agamon bird sanctuary attracts 398 bird species, more than 400,000 visitors and 50,000 hardcore bird watchers.

What about the birds that arrive injured and in need of medical attention? Not a problem. Israel’s Wildlife Hospital has decided to open a blood bank for birds.

The project, which the hospital says is the first of its kind in the world, is being led by Dr. Elad Smit. He explained, “We already have 16 samples in our blood bank. And now we’re considering taking a blood sample from every bird we treat, to aid in the saving of the next bird that would come.”

The blood bank has already helped save a common buzzard that was brought to the hospital in serious condition. The blood transfusion the bird received helped it recover, and it has already been released back to nature.

For further reading click here.