Israel News for September 9, 2015

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The Book of Life
In anticipation of the upcoming Rosh Hashana accounting of “who shall live and who shall die”, the Central Bureau of Statistics has released its own accounting of the Holy Land’s population for the year 5776 (Hebrew calendar).

The population in Israel grew by 158,000 or 1.9%, in line with recent years. That’s made up of 170,000 births, 40,000 deaths and 28,000 new immigrants (do the math).

Aliyah increased by 35%, with new immigrants coming from Ukraine (26%), France (25%), Russia (21%) and the United States (9%).

The total population of Israel: 8,412,000. That’s made up of 6,300,000 Jews (75%), 1,746,000 Arabs (21%) and another 4% that don’t fit into either category.

To put this in perspective, the population of Jordan is 6.5 million and that of Lebanon is 4.5 million. Syria was at 22.85 million, but it’s probably closer to 18 million today.

At the current rate, in ten years there should be close to 8 million Jews in Israel. That means that for the first time in over 2000 years, the majority of world jewry will reside in the land of Israel.

Shabbat Soccer
Last week an Israeli labor court ruled that soccer games on Shabbat constitute a criminal offense (based on Israeli law, not Jewish law) unless the teams obtain a waiver excusing them from the Shabbat restrictions.

Hundreds of Israeli companies and businesses have received these waivers. The problem in this case is that the waivers are issued by the Economy Minister, who happens to be Aryeh Deri, the leader of the charedi Shas party. The chances of him issuing the waivers are less than the likelihood of getting a snowstorm in Eilat — in the summer.

So, the Israeli Football Association has decided that there won’t be any soccer games next Saturday.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev doesn’t like this situation one bit (maybe she has season tickets?). She’s established a committee to figure out a solution within 60 days. She’s also pressing the attorney general to figure out a way around the immediate crisis, telling him to, “find a way of opening the league and continuing the policy of non-enforcement for 60 days, during which time the association and the directorate will have to find a solution.”

Regev feels that the decision to play or not play on Shabbat should not be decided by the courts. She wants the decision to be in the hands of the teams. “Teams that don’t want to play on Shabbat won’t play on Shabbat. And those that want to play will play.”

The case originated from complaints by religious players in the National Soccer League who protested the scheduling of league games on Shabbat.

In a related story, Economy Minister Deri has ordered the closure of the Israeli pavilion at the IBC 2015 exhibition in Amsterdam on three of the five days of the exhibition, since they fall on Shabbat and Rosh Hashana. IBC is the premier annual event for professionals engaged in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment and news content worldwide.

The simple solution to the soccer dilemna is to turn Sunday into a day off and have the games then. That would make a lot of working folks very happy.

Labor and Charedim Unite
Liat Shochat has won the election for mayor of the town of Or Yehuda, outside of Tel Aviv. The interesting part of the story is that she was supported by the Charedi and Religious Zionist parties and her top aide was a charedi man. Shochat, 43, is a wife and mother of four. She isn’t religious.

Mutual respect and common goals, which Shochat and the Religious parties share, are the keys to unity and peace among all Israelis. If only this would happen more often.

Poor Judgement
A 64 year old man who immigrated to Israel from Yemen twenty years ago decided to return to Yemen to bring back his brother. He’d been there several times on visits, but the last time he went he was accused of spying and imprisoned. He was released with all of the other prisoners when rebels attacked the city. You’d think that would have been enough to keep him from returning. It wasn’t.

The man traveled to Jordan last week, but couldn’t find any flights to Yemen. Then he met three Saudis who offered to take him to Yemen with them, for free. It seems like he accepted their offer. Ok, calm down, we’re just telling you what happened.

Now he’s missing. Surprised? The Israeli foreign ministry can’t help, since Israel has no diplomatic relations with Yemen. All we can do now is pray for his safety.

Shabbat Tragedy
A husband and wife were found dead yesterday in their Jerusalem apartment. The preliminary investigation shows that they died from suffocation caused by their Shabbat blech (a piece of metal that covers the gas stovetop burners and allows one to warm food on Shabbat according to Jewish law). The couple had set up their blech and then closed all the windows in their home. The burner flame consumed all of the oxygen in the apartment and then went out, allowing carbon monoxide gas to fill the air.

The couple had been married for two years. The husband, Yaniv Yehuda, 32, was an immigrant from France. His wife Rachel, 30, was an immigrant from the US.

According to reports, the couple’s table was set for Shabbat with a tablecloth, Kiddush cup and challah. May their memory be a blessing.

Dust in the Wind
Israel’s sky turned brown and yellow yesterday as a massive sand and dust storm, which moved in from Syria, settled over the country. Israel hasn’t seen a storm like this in 75 years.

The poor air quality, combined with a drastic increase in heat and humidity, led to a huge number of people with health complications. Magen David Adom treated 290 people for asthma attacks, fainting and heart problems connected to the weather. Hospitals also treated their share of storm casualties.

Lebanon and Syria got hit at least as bad.

Meteorologists predict clear skies on the horizon. Hope they get it right.

See cool pictures here.

Another Spirit Lifting Gift
Yesterday we told you that the electric company was cutting its rates. Now Israelis will be able to toast to even more savings. That’s because the Finance Ministry and tax authority have decided to cut taxes on alcoholic drinks including beer and hard liquor. They doubled the taxes on these drinks two years ago thinking that they would prevent Israelis from harming their health by drinking too much. But it turns out that Israelis are drinking just as much as they were before. In addition, the higher prices have boosted black market “moonshiners” who are producing and selling low quality alcohol that really is harmful.

Israelis will be able to have their booze and put money in their pockets. Happy New Year!!