Israel News for June 7, 2016

Rice Promise
In a speech before the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington yesterday, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice promised that the upcoming military aid agreement between the the US and Israel will constitute “the single largest military assistance package — with any country — in American history.” The new ten year package is estimated to be close to $40 billion.

Rice proclaimed that, “Israel’s security isn’t a Democratic interest or a Republican interest—it’s an enduring American interest.” She strongly condemned Palestinian terror attacks, but also said that settlement activity was detrimental to a two state solution, which the US supports.

Referring to the recent French sponsored peace summit in Paris that did not include Israel or the Palestinians, Rice said, “A solution cannot be imposed on the parties.” She added, “But, we continue to urge them [the Israelis and Palestinians] to undertake meaningful actions on the ground that are consistent with their rhetorical commitment to two states.”

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Wall Women
Jerusalem Police detained Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs for allegedly smuggling a Torah into the women’s section of the Kotel. The Torah was allegedly hidden under her skirt.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel, complained to the police about the smuggling and pledged to fast because of the debasement of the Torah.

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Kashrut Ruling
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the law which grants the Chief Rabbinate the sole right to issue kashrut certificates (indicating that a food establishment is kosher).

Last May, the then Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued a ruling that permitted private organizations to issue kashrut certificates as long as the certificates did not actually use the word “kosher”. At least 25 businesses across Israel currently display kashrut certificates from organizations other than the Chief Rabbinate. Yesterday’s ruling puts them at risk of fines or other punitive measures.

The case was brought before the Supreme Court by two private businesses and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), who demanded to right to use the word “kosher”. The court decided that the former Attorney General had misinterpreted the law and ruled that any certificate that even “refers” to kashrut can only be issued by the Chief Rabbinate. The ruling said, “The correct interpretation of the law is the one presented by the Chief Rabbinate. In the absence of certification by one of the authorized agencies any reference to kashrut is prohibited.”

Despite their ruling, the Justices were critical of the current kashrut system, referring to deficiencies including, “supervisors not visiting premises for more than a few minutes a week, asking for under-the-table funds. Some of them lack the required Halachic knowledge or do their jobs superficially. Some members of the Chief Rabbinical Council don’t trust kashrut certification that they themselves authorize.”

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who founded the alternative certification movement, said that despite the court’s decision, alternative certification would continue. “We continue to provide quality supervision for a public that’s lost its trust in the Rabbinate. We’re studying the ruling and are preparing to continue and grow. The justices also testified to the serious defects in the rabbinical apparatus. As a professional and value-driven group we won’t abandon the public to the Rabbinate and will continue to provide our services to Israel’s citizens.”

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Health Wars
The Health Ministry, led by MK Yaakov Litzman (UTJ), recently launched a campaign against sugared drinks in which it claimed that 43% of people’s daily sugar intake comes from them.

In response, the beverage companies claim that the statistic relates to the population of the US and that the percentage in the study is really only 31%. They claim that they are being unfairly targeted by the ministry.

One industry source said, “On average, a person consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, and there’s sugar everywhere, not just in drinks. There’s sugar in ketchup, in baked goods, in breakfast cereals, in sauces, in mayonnaise, in prepared salads, in dairy desserts, in frozen processed foods. According to our research, only 16% of added sugar comes from sweetened beverages. What about the remaining products that are responsible for the other 84%?”

The Health Minister is continuing with his crusade to make Israelis healthier. He has appointed a “Committee for Regulation to Promote Healthy Nutrition” headed by ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov. In the appointment letter, Litzman wrote, “The rise in the extent of obesity, and the chronic ill-health connected with it, makes necessary significant action on the national policy level.”

Sales of processed foods and sugary beverages have been steadily declining in recent years, even without the Health Ministry’s assistance.

Good news for Israeli health. Bad news for the processed food companies.

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