Israel News for August 19, 2015

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Stoning Attack in Jerusalem
Stone throwing attacks are increasing in the predominantly Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. Last night four Jewish teenagers and one Arab were injured when the bus they were in was stoned in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Two cars were also stoned.

Ironically, the Jewish teenagers, three girls and a boy, were active in efforts to improve peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews.

The Knesset recently passed a law increasing the punishment for rock throwers to up to 5 years in prison. The Arab Knesset members vehemently protested the law, calling it vengeful, and claimed that rock throwing by Arabs was a legitimate form of protest against what they call the Israeli occupation. Even when those rocks wound or kill. Right.

Hunger Strike Continues
Doctors at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon woke Palestinian hunger-striker Mohammed Allaan from an induced coma yesterday, and are continuing to give him medication and intravenous nutrition. Allaan, now able to communicate, declared that he rejects the government’s offer to release him on the condition that he leaves the country for four years, and that he will continue his 64 day hunger-strike. He wants to be released in September.

Islamic Jihad claims that now that Allaan is conscious he will intensify his hunger strike and refuse all medical treatment, which will lead to a drastic deterioration in his condition. Islamic Jihad is considering ordering a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons in solidarity with Allaan. There are already several prisoners who are on a hunger strike in solidarity with him.

Palestinian security officials warn that if Allaan dies it will lead to even more tensions in the region and an increase in terrorist attacks.

Herzl Meets Abbas
Israeli opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog met yesterday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Herzog emphasized the importance of Abbas doing everything possible to prevent Palestinian violence and acts of terror in order to prevent a third intifada. He also told Abbas that he believes a peace agreement can be reached between the two sides within two years, if serious negotiations are resumed.

After the meeting Herzog said, “The terror of recent days is liable to lead to a third intifada, and that must be prevented with everything at our disposal. That means an uncompromising war against terror, and on this subject I’m even more extreme than Netanyahu.”

Shabbat Wars Escalate in Jerusalem
The Jerusalem municipality is planning to start enforcing fines against grocery stores (makolets) that are opened on shabbat. Municipal law allows places of entertainment and culture to do business on shabbat, but all commerce is forbidden.

Secular activists claim that this is simply a case of the municipality folding to the will of the ultra-orthodox, who protested last week against the opening of the Yes Planet cinemaplex on shabbat. They claim that the restrictions apply to a small number of businesses who have been open on shabbat for decades and that there is no reason to change the status quo.

Two years ago the Supreme Court accepted the appeal of grocery stores against the Tel Aviv municipality, ruling that the Tel Aviv shabbat laws discriminated against small grocery stores that could not afford to pay the fines that larger establishments paid in order to stay open. This forced the Tel Aviv municipality to modify their policy.

Recently, the Jerusalem municipality also changed their policy by delineating specific neighborhoods in the city, like Talpiot and Ein Kerem, where they would have less enforcement against grocery stores opened on shabbat, and neighborhoods where they would increase enforcement, like the center of town. As a result of the increased enforcement, eight grocery stores in the center of town are expected to close on shabbat. The store owners are furious and have vowed to battle this out.

Creating Land
One of Israel’s greatest long term challenges is the scarcity of land available for residential construction, especially in the center of the country. The municipal engineering department in Herzliya might have a solution: offshore building. The proposed plan involves building two artificial islands 1.5 kilometers from the southern coast of Herzliya, opposite the existing marina. The project would cost billions of shekels and enable the construction of 40,000 housing units. For now 650,000 shekels will be spent on an initial feasibility study. Imagine the views.

Real Estate Magic
If you’re looking to buy an apartment in Kfar Saba, a popular residential city not far from Tel Aviv, you might want to check out the new development being advertised by Trigo Investment Group. For only $89,000 you can purchase the right to an apartment in a development they are planning to build. There’s only one catch: the city hasn’t approved the project. So the city is demanding that Trigo stop advertising the project. Trigo seems to think that they aren’t doing anything wrong. As Theodore Hertzl said, “if you will it, it is no dream.”

Ketchup Wars
As if there wasn’t enough conflict in Israel, now there’s a fight about condiments. Osem, Israel’s giant food manufacturer, has filed a complaint with the Health Ministry against American food giant Heinz. Their claim is that Heinz Ketchup cannot be technically called ketchup in Israel, since it doesn’t have the amount of tomato paste required by Health Ministry regulations. The regulation requires 10% tomato solids while Heinz only contains 6%.

So, Osem is demanding that Heinz use “tomato seasoning” instead of ketchup on their Hebrew labels. Apparently, the regulations don’t apply to non-Hebrew labels, so English readers will still be able to enjoy good old “ketchup” while Hebrew only Israelis will have to settle for “tomato seasoning”.

In the tradition of classical Talmudic reasoning, Heinz’s local importer Diplomat is filing its own petition asking the Health Ministry to revise the regulation from 10% tomato solids down to 6%.

The Histadrut, Israel’s all powerful (and only) labor union is against revising the regulation, claiming that doing so would harm children by depriving them of their tomato fill. The fact that Osem is one of Israel’s largest employers might have something to do with it too.
How important is this? Think about it. Would you put “tomato seasoning” on your burger?

Returning Home
A chartered flight sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh landed in Israel yesterday carrying 232 Olim (new immigrants) from North America. Fifty nine of them will be enlisting in the IDF as lone soldiers.

“And your children shall return to their borders,” — Jeremiah 31:16