Israel News for August 14, 2015

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New IDF Strategy
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot yesterday published the new “IDF strategy” document, which maps out the various threats against the state of Israel and the IDF’s methods of confronting them. Part of the document was, for the first time ever, made public.

The document outlines necessary changes the IDF needs to make in light of future challenges and the changing face of the enemy. The changes include improving the effectiveness of ground force maneuvers, broadening the capacity of forces to mount military operations in non-wartime situations, improving cyber warfare capabilities, and generally preserving the IDF’s intelligence, aerial and naval superiority.

Eizenkot explained that the new document aims to prepare the IDF’s forces in the coming years to defend Israel in all scenarios, including simultaneous operations on several battlefronts and complex cyber warfare. “The IDF will prevail in every mission and challenge, and will achieve its goal – to defend and to win.” [source]

The document recognizes that times are changing and that the IDF must change with them. These changes will likely result in a smaller IDF that is more focused on successfully fulfilling its mission to defend Israel.

New UN Ambassador
PM Netanyahu has announced that he will appoint Danny Danon, currently the Minister of Science, Technology and Space, as Ambassador to the UN. Danon, a Likud member, is considered to be a staunch right-winger who is opposed to any two state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has also been one of the most outspoken critics of US President Obama’s Middle East policies and has forged relationships with Republican Party conservatives. The opposition party Zionist Union called Danon’s appointment “another nail in the coffin of Israel’s foreign relations.” [source]

Opposition to Conversion Court
Hundreds of rabbis, including the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, gathered at the headquarters of the Rabbinate in Jerusalem yesterday to inaugurate a new organization (Noam) meant to strengthen and protect the power of the Chief Rabbinate.

The impetus for Noam was the establishment of an independent conversion court by a group of prominent religious zionist rabbis who believe that the Chief Rabbinate is preventing the conversions of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are considered non-Jewish according to Jewish law (Halacha).

Out of the 1 million immigrants that came to Israel from the former Soviet Union over the last 20 years, at least a third do not have Jewish mothers. They do have Jewish fathers or spouses, or at least one Jewish grandparent, and are fully integrated into Israeli society. In practice they are part of the Jewish people and the overwhelming majority want to make it official.

The problem is that most of them aren’t fully religiously observant which, according to the strict position of the Chief Rabbinate, invalidates them from converting. The founders of the independent court claim that since:
1) they have Jewish roots and are already fully part of the Jewish people in the land of Israel
2) if they aren’t converted they pose a grave danger of assimilation to the existing Jewish population
they can be treated leniently and converted within the bounds of Halacha.

The Chief Rabbinate and the majority of prominent rabbinic leaders from the religious zionist and the charedi camps disagree.

Since all legal marriages in Israel must be registered by the Rabbinate, it has ultimate control in preventing “non-sanctioned” converts from marrying, at least in the eyes of Israeli law. That could lead the “break-away” rabbis to form their own marriage registration system, which would represent a complete and likely irreparable break from the Rabbinate.

Hebrew for Arab Kids
Education Minister Naftali Bennet has implemented a new elementary school curriculum which requires Hebrew language studies in Arab schools to begin in kindergarten. Until now required Hebrew language studies have begun in third grade. More hours of Hebrew language study will also be added to grades 3 to 12. Bennet claims that greater fluency in Hebrew will give Arabs greater economic and social opportunities. The changes will take effect in the coming school year and cost the government 30 million shekels. If Bennet is right, it will be money well spent. [source]

Army Radio
Ofir Akunis, the cabinet minister (Likud) in charge of the Israeli Broadcast Authority, told the Al-Monitor website that he believes public broadcasting should be balanced and that the opinions of those on the Right should get equal exposure with those on the Left. Except on Army Radio. “There I wouldn’t want balance,” he said. “There I would expect to see absolute support for the Israeli position and the position of the Israel Defense Forces. Army Radio is the station of the Israeli public and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and I don’t think it should provide broad coverage of the Palestinian position, for instance, or the position of illegal infiltrators.”

When asked whether this is “muzzling freedom of speech” he replied, “Just the opposite. We’re allowing people to speak. But when it comes to Army Radio, which is funded by the Ministry of Defense, the station’s purpose is to be a station for soldiers.” Sounds reasonable enough.

Stand by Your Man
In a taped phone conversation with the Chief Rabbi of Safed (R. Shmuel Eliyahu), the wife of Ezra Sheinberg, the Safed rabbi accused of molesting and raping 13 women, told him that she was aware that her husband had slept with at least two women. She claimed that he told her that he slept with the women as part of his “healing treatments”, and that it was all part of his blessing to them. She accepted his explanation. Enough said.

Never too Late
Semion Simkin, a 91-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor won the world championship for senior runners in Lyon, France on Monday. He ran 10 kilometers in 1 hour and 20 minutes. He beat out his only competitor in the race for men between the ages of 90 and 95, a 93 year old Argentinian, by just over 21 minutes. The day before the 10k race, Simkin won the silver medal in the 5 kilometers race, with a time of 39 minutes and 47 seconds, merely five seconds behind the winner, the Portuguese Jose Canelo, 90.
Not too shabby for a man in his 90’s. Can you run a 10k? [source]