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Israel News for May 12, 2017

Moving Right
According to a study just published by a respected Israeli think tank, Israel’s younger population (aged 15-24) is moving to the Right. The study found that 67% of Jewish youth in Israel today define themselves as Right-Wing, while only 16% associate themselves with the Left. Only 40% categorized themselves as secular, while the rest claimed to be religious, including 15% who classified themselves as Haredi (ultra-orthodox).

Most of the young people believe that the number one problem the government must deal with is the cost of living issue. They also are losing trust in the courts, the police, the Knesset and even the IDF.

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Soccer Vote
FIFA, the international soccer federation, decided to postpone until next year a vote on whether to prohibit Israeli teams based in the West Bank from competing in the international league. FIFA regulations prohibit a member’s association from holding competitions on the territory of another member’s association without the latter’s permission, and the PFA considers the West Bank to be Palestinian—not Israeli—territory.

PM Netanyahu reacted to the decision saying, “We won another victory in Israel’s battle for its international standing. We thwarted an attempt to undermine Israel’s standing in FIFA. This is an important achievement. We will continue to defend the State of Israel and will continue to strengthen our international standing.”

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Ancient Pigs
Archeologists have recently determined that the ancient Philistines, who migrated to the Israeli coast from the Aegean (Cyprus, Turkey, Greece), brought pigs with them — herds of them. Pigs are easily transportable, as opposed to cows, are low maintenance and provide a tasty meal for those not bound by Jewish law — or Moslem law.

You won’t find many pig farms in the area today, but if you know where to look you can find your swine delights in specialty delis, usually in areas with large Russian immigrant populations.

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Conversion Bill
The Interior Ministry, headed by former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, has submitted a bill to the Knesset that would require the State to recognize only conversions under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate.

This would apply to conversions performed in Israel. Conversions performed by Reform, Conservative or Orthodox rabbis abroad are recognized by the State for purposes of the Law of Return. But in order to register for marriage with the Israeli Rabbinate (which is the only way to get married in Israel) the conversion must be performed by an Orthodox rabbi who is on an official Chief Rabbinate list of acceptable rabbis.

In 2016 the Supreme Court ruled that the State must recognize conversion performed in Israel by private Orthodox rabbis. The proposed bill would change that.

For further reading click here.

Kabbalistic Wedding
On Saturday night, hundreds of thousands of Jews will celebrate the “hilullah” of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), the second century sage who is believed to have authored the Zohar, the cornerstone text of the kabbala (Jewish mysticism), in Meron (near Tzfat), where he is buried. The Aramaic word “hillulah” literally means wedding, but it is used to commemorate the Rashbi’s day of death, during which he is believed to have revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah to his close circle of students (a good reason to celebrate).

The day is also Lag B’omer, the 33 day in the traditional counting of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. During that time period the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva (the Rashbi’s teacher) were stricken by a plague and died as punishment for their lack of mutual respect and brotherly love. But on the 33rd day, Lag B’omer, the dying ceased.

The celebration at Meron is highlighted by the burning of a huge bonfire that is lit by many prominent Hassidic Rebbes, with the Boyaner Rebbe leading off the festivities. Thousands of smaller bonfires are also lit in the Meron area and throughout Israel — and barbecue, marshmallows and amores are often not far behind.

It’s also customary for young boys to get their first haircuts at Meron (after letting it grow until age 3), so barbers eagerly join the crowds and do a brisk business — as do vendors of all sorts of cabalistic amulets and charms.

Ten of thousands of people are camping out at Meron for Shabbat. Hundreds of buses carrying thousands more will be making the trek after Shabbat ends. Some rabbis have demanded that the celebration be moved to Sunday night so as to avoid potential desecration of Shabbat by people either traveling to or preparing for the event on Shabbat. But they were ignored. Tradition stands.

Any event that can bring together hundreds of thousands of Jews from different religious walks of life is something to celebrate. May the merit of Rashbi and the Jewish unity at Meron bless Israel and the Jewish People with peace and success.