Israel News for September 6, 2016

Building Collapse
A four-level subterranean parking lot in a building site on HaBarzel Street in the Ramat Hahayal neighborhood of Tel Aviv collapsed Monday morning. Four people were killed and over 23 injured (most of whom have already been released from hospital). Three people are still missing in the rubble and a frantic search has been underway throughout the night to locate them. One of the missing was in phone contact with the rescuers a few hours after the collapse, but rescuers have not been able to make contact with his since. The dead include a Palestinian Authority resident and a Ukrainian citizen.

Over 500 IDF soldiers from the Homefront Command are participating in the search. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the disaster site before departed on his official visit to the Netherlands.

Africa-Israel Properties, the owner of the property, said it had a comprehensive insurance policy for the site worth NIS 122 million, and that although the incident had a tragic outcome it would not have a material financial impact on the company. The company said it was assisting in the rescue efforts and conducting an investigation into the collapse. The police is also investigating. The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee will hold an emergency hearing on the disaster this Thursday.

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Moscow Meetup
Palestinian Authority President Abbas has accepted an invitation from Russian President Putin to meet with PM Netanyahu in Moscow. Netanyahu has been calling for direct talks with Abbas, but has gotten the cold shoulder, until now. Apparently, Putin’s invitation carries some additional clout. The talks are expected to be held in October.

Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu kicked off a two day visit to the Netherlands today, where he will meet with the Prime Minister, the king and members of Parliament.

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Rabbi Passes
The Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Eliyahu Shaar Yashuv Hakohen, passed away yesterday at the age of 89. He served as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the city from 1975 until 2011.

Rabbi Hakohen was the son of Rabbi David Hakohen, who was known as “the Nazir” and was one of the leading students of the great Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook. A Nazir is someone who refrains from eating meat, drinking wine or cutting his hair. Rabbi Shaar Yashuv Hakohen followed in his father’s footsteps and refrained from eating meat (and fish) and drinking wine for his entire life.

He fought in the underground during the British Mandate and was part of the defense of the Jewish quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1948 War of Independence and was wounded in the foot. When the quarter fell he was taken captive by the Jordanians who operated on his foot, which resulted in him limping for the rest of his life.

Following his release from captivity the Rabbi served in the IDF for seven years, eventually becoming Rabbi of Military Command and Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force. He earned a Master’s degree with honors from the Hebrew University School of Law, and was deputy mayor of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War when the city was liberated. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he volunteered and was chaplain of the brigade that crossed the Suez Canal.

Rabbi Hakohen was one of the leading figures of Religious Zionism. May his memory serve as a blessing for us all.

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Trump in Samaria
The Trump campaign in Israel has opened an office in the settlement of Karnei Shomron, which is in Samaria (West Bank). The office is temporarily located in the home of Rabbi Chaim Springer, an American who moved to Israel 40 years ago. The office will be moved around to different settlements in Samaria over the next few weeks to help American citizens register to vote. According to figures provided by Republicans Overseas Israel, American citizens comprise around 25% of the Jewish population living in West Bank settlements.

This is the first time that an American campaign office has ever been opened in the West Bank, and is indicative of Trump’s stated policy to refrain from interfering in the Israeli government’s actions and policies relating to the West Bank.

Mark Zell, the American-born lawyer who serves as chair of Republican Overseas Israel, explained, “I worked along with representatives of the Trump campaign to get passed a historic amendment to the Republican Party platform, and this amendment specifically omitted any reference to Israel as an occupier and coincided with Trump’s own statements that building homes, synagogues and schools for Arabs and Jews in Judea and Samaria was an issue for the Israeli government and people to decide – not something that America should be dictating to Israel.” 

The Trump campaign already has offices in Jerusalem, Modiin and Tel Aviv, and is planning to open another three in Rehovot, Beit Shemesh and in the Gush Etzion region (also in the West Bank).

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