Israel News for March 21, 2016

Terror in Turkey
On Saturday an ISIS linked terrorist blew himself up on a busy street in Istanbul, Turkey. Among the forty casualties were three Israelis who were killed and eleven wounded. The Israeli fatalities were Avraham Goldman, 69, from Herzliya; Yonatan Suher, 40, from Tel Aviv; and Simcha Damri, 60, from Dimona.

Early on Sunday an IDF plane arrived in Istanbul with forces from the Home Front Command and the Air Force, as well as a mobile operations room and intensive care unit, to return the bodies of the killed Israelis and five wounded Israelis – four in serious condition and one in moderate condition – who were still in Istanbul. The other wounded were evacuated on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, in which he said, “I would like to convey my deepest condolences to the people of Israel and to the families of Israeli citizens who lost their lives in this treacherous attack which happened in Istanbul, where they were visiting our country to get better acquainted with our culture, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office issued a new travel warning yesterday urging Israelis to refrain from traveling to Turkey.

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Iranians Arrest Jews
Iranian police recently arrested two Jewish seventeen year olds for the crime of scribbling “death to Haman” on a Tehran wall, in Hebrew. Officials in the American Jewish Community are working on getting the boys released. The Iranians have indicated that they would free the boys after confirming that the Hebrew words were part of a holiday prank and not a political statement.
The Jewish community in Iran currently numbers about 13,000, half of whom live in Tehran. Let’s pray for the boys’ safety, and for the fulfillment of their graffiti.

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Mikvah Bill Unconstitutional
Last week we told you about a new bill making its way through the Knesset that would prohibit non-Orthodox movements from using State funded mikvahs for conversion ceremonies. The bill would circumvent a recent Supreme Court ruling permitting the ceremonies.

In a legal opinion submitted to the government yesterday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said that the bill violates the rights to freedom of religion, human dignity and equality.  Mendelblit said the use of public mikvahs could not be restricted to those who follow a particular interpretation of Jewish law, as doing so would violate the core of religious freedom and constitute unacceptable discrimination.

The bill will now have almost no chance of passing without significant changes. The coalition had agreed to the bill’s passage in preliminary reading primarily so that UTJ and Shas (the ultra-Orthodox parties) could show their constituents that they were taking action on the matter.

So the mikvah battle continues.

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Purim Rabbinic Dispute
As the Purim holiday approaches, a dispute has broken out between the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem. According to Jewish law, Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which this year falls out on Wed. night and Thursday of this week. However, cities that were walled in the days of Joshua (who led the Jewish people after Moses) celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar.

Based on this, Jerusalem celebrates Purim on the 15th. However, the question is whether some of the newer neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city should be considered part of the “walled” city and celebrate on the 15th. The residents of Ramot, one of these neighborhoods, asked Jerusalem Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern what day they should celebrate. Rabbi Stern told them to celebrate on the 15th.

Rabbi Stern’s ruling is contrary to the ruling of Jerusalem’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who has ruled that residents of Ramot should celebrate Purim on the 14th and then read the Megillah (Book of Esther) again on the 15th, but without a blessing. He basis his ruling on a previous ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel recognized as one of the greatest sages of modern times, particularly in the Sephardic community. Both Rabbis Stern and Amar claim that their positions are supported by the majority of rabbinic opinions.

So if you’re looking to avoid conflict this Purim, stay away from Ramot.

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Yemenite Aliyah
Yesterday, nineteen Jews were secretly flown out of Yemen and brought to Israel in a joint operation of the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, with help from the US State Department.

Fourteen of the Jews were from the town of Raydah and included the local rabbi, Rabbi Saliman Dahari, who brought with him a 500-600 year old torah scroll. The other five were members of a family from Sana’a, the capital. The Jews were taken to an absorption center in Beersheva and were reunited with family members.

Over the last few years, as a result of the instability created by the civil war raging in the country, about 200 Jews have been secretly airlifted from Yemen to Israel. The are still around 50 Jews, 40 of whom live in a protected compound in Sana’a, who have chosen to remain in Yemen.

Jewish Agency Chariman Natan Sharansky proclaimed,”From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, The Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close. This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”

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