Israel News for October 5, 2016

Rocket Hits Sderot
A rocket fired from Gaza landed and exploded next to an elementary school in the southern city of Sderot at 10:19 this morning. The kids were at recess and ran to the bomb shelter when the sirens sounded. No injury or damage was directly caused by the rocket, although two people were treated for shock. IDF tanks responded by hitting Hamas targets in Gaza.

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Talks of Unity
Sources have confirmed that talks to bring the opposition Zionist Union party into the government are in full swing, again. According to a report confirmed by Haaretz, the center-left Zionist Union party will join PM Netanyahu’s Likud-led government in exchange for eight ministerial portfolios, including the highly coveted Foreign Ministry.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog has vehemently denied the report, calling it “baseless”, and saying that there have been no contacts with Likud over the Rosh Hashanah holiday as the report claimed. Likud also officially denied the report. But sources “in the know” claim that a new government could form within a month when the Knesset returns from its summer recess.

Herzog is reportedly trying to woo Tzipi Livni into the unity government by offering her the Foreign Ministry, while he would become Deputy Prime Minister, chief negotiator and Minister of Regional Development.

Bringing the Zionist Union into the government would free PM Netanyahu from pressure coming from the more extreme right wingers in the government, as well as from the Ultra-Orthodox parties. It would also show the international community that Israel is more willing to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians, which would also help avert any potential Israeli-Palestinian related UN resolution that US President Obama might want to push through before leaving office.

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Defense Contract
Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems Ltd. announced today that its US subsidiary Elbit Systems of America LLC has received a $7.3 million contract to supply the Bradley Fighting Vehicle Gunner’s Hand Station to the US Army. The Defense Logistics Agency sole-source contract will be performed during a two-year period with work being completed in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Nature Break
A good number of Israelis decided to say their prayers on the second day of Rosh Hashana out in nature. According to the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) around 100,000 citizens visited the country’s nature reserves and national parks yesterday. Kite flying was particularly popular, as 2,000 people participated in NPA organized kite flying activities in various locations. Over 50,000 people visited the Kinneret, with around 16,000 filling the lake’s 15 beaches.

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Fast Day
According to Jewish tradition, today is the Fast of Gedaliah, on which we refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset and we try to engage in repentance and spiritual pursuits. The reason for the fast has nothing to do with helping you shed the pounds you put on from all that Rosh Hashana feasting. It has a historical basis.

After the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 423 BCE and exiled tens of thousands of Jews, they appointed Gedaliah ben Achikam as governor of the remaining Jews in Israel, of which there were a significant number. Jews who had taken refuge in surrounding lands herd of his appointment and returned to Israel. While they were still under Babylonian control, the Jews were still able to enjoy a good degree of autonomy under their Jewish governor and government.

But of course, not all Jews were satisfied. Extremists viewed Gedaliah as a collaborator with the Babylonians and as an illegitimate leader. Ishmael ben Netaniah, the leader of the “opposition”, brought a group of ten men to ostensibly celebrate the Rosh Hashana holiday with Gedaliah, but assassinated the governor instead. His men also killed the governors Babylonian military contingent. Fearing lethal retribution, most of the remaining Jews in Israel fled to Egypt, extinguishing the last vestige of Jewish autonomy in Israel until the return of the exiles nearly 70 years later.

While on the grand scale of Jewish suffering throughout history the murder of Gedaliah seems almost insignificant, the fact that our Sages instituted a fast day to commemorate the event teaches us an important lesson about Jewish unity and what can happen when we fight amongst ourselves. It’s a lesson that we need to internalize now more than ever.