Israel News for February 18, 2016

Syrian Strikes
According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian army outposts south of Damascus were hit by three Israeli rockets last night. It did not detail the amount of damage caused. A Pro-Assad military source denied the report, claiming that there were no Israeli strikes inside Syria on Wednesday. The Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar also denied the report.

Israel had no comment, which is what usually happens after reports of Israeli strikes into Syria are reported by Arab media or groups. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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Eisenkot Remarks
During a meeting with high school students in Bat Yam who are preparing to join the army, IDF Chief of Staff LT. General Gadi Eizenkot was asked whether he intends to change the strict rules of engagement to permit soldiers to open fire sooner than they are currently permitted to.

Eizenkot responded by citing (and dismissing) a famous Talmudic dictum saying, “The IDF cannot speak in slogans like ‘when someone comes to kill you – kill him first.’” The Talmudic dictum was recently quoted by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef last October, when he praised soldiers who kill attacking terrorists and lauded them for performing a mitzvah. Other rabbis have also used the phrase to permit soldiers and civilians to kill terrorists rather than capturing them alive.

Eizenkot also said that the IDF cannot follow the slogan, “everyone holding scissors must be killed.” That statement infuriated senior Jerusalem police officers, who took it as referring to an incident in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market where two teenage girls who stabbed a 70 year old man were shot by two police officers. One of the officers was later accused of using excessive force.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon today supported Eisenkot’s remarks saying, “I give my full backing to Eisenkot’s remarks vis-à-vis the rules of engagement. We can’t allow our senses to get dull and our finger to be quick on the trigger.”

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Popcorn Problem
Earlier this week the Knesset Economic Committee approved a bill that, if passed by the Knesset, will hopefully solve one of the biggest problems facing Israelis these days: popcorn at the movies.

You’re all familiar with that little scam, where movie owners charge five times as much for popcorn and other snacks and drinks at their theaters, and there’s not much you can do about it. Well, Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov has had enough. She’s proposing giving movie goers the right to bring their own popcorn and snacks to theaters in the hope of forcing theater owners to lower their prices to normal levels.

The Knesset already tried to solve this vexing issue back in 1981 when they passed a consumer protection law called the “popcorn law” that was meant to prevent theater owners from selling food and allow people to bring their own. But theater owners simple hired outside vendors to sell the food, which apparently was sufficient to circumvent the law and prohibit people from bringing in their snacks.

But enough is enough. No one should have to pay those insane prices for popcorn, soda and snacks! Can the Knesset finally destroy one of the most hated monopolies to ever exist, anywhere?

Let’s hope that Israel can lead the way in the fight for freedom of popcorn expression.

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Kippah Tool
If you wear a kippah and use a clip to hold it in place, you might want to look at a new product developed in Israel that recently hit the market. It’s called Clippa and it’s a hair clip commonly used as a kippah clip, that has been modified to do all sorts of things like cut boxes, open bottles, file nails, serve as a screwdriver and all sorts of other useful tasks.

The clips look like ordinary clips but are reinforced with steel to prevent them from breaking. They come in black, pink and silver. The Tel Aviv inventor, Yaakov Goldberg, said that despite its cutting functions, the clips are totally safe. “The knife can cut ‘all sorts, from fruit to rope’, but it won’t cut your hair while wearing it.”

So whether you’re a woman looking to keep your hair in place or a man looking to keep your kippah in place, the Clippa might open up new possibilities for you. The clip is available for purchase online via Amazon or the website “Monkey Business” where it sells for between $6-7 dollars a piece.

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Mazal Tov PM
Mazal Tov to PM Netanyahu on the birth of a new granddaughter. The baby girl was born to Netanyahu’s daughter Noa Roth, 36. Noa is the PM’s daughter from his first marriage, to Dr. Miriam Weitzman (Haran). The PM has two other children with Sara.

By the way, Noa has five other children, is married to Daniel Roth, a Chabad businesses man originally from America, and recently moved to Mea Shearim, the historic Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem enclave.

Mazal Tov!

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Israel News for August 12, 2015

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High Court vs. Africans
Israel’s High Court of Justice, the equivalent of the US Supreme Court, struck down part of the Anti-Infiltration law passed by the Knesset that allowed illegal immigrants to be held in detention for up to 20 months. The court ruled that they can be only be held for a maximum of 12 month and ordered the release of some 1,200 of the 1,700 asylum-seekers being held for over a year at the open detention facility in Holot.

There are currently more than 45,000 Africans in Israel who infiltrated into the country, primarily via the Egyptian border. Most are from Eritrea and Sudan. Since they are fleeing from war-torn countries where their lives are in danger, they are considered asylum seekers and cannot, according to Israeli law, be deported back to their home countries unless they pose a clear security threat (which they don’t). International law requires asylum seekers to immediately report their arrival to the authorities in order to be protected from deportation. The Africans skip that step and go directly to the find work stage.

In order to control this influx of African asylum seekers, which poses a demographic threat to the stability of the country, the Knesset passed the Anti Infiltration law allowing the government to imprison the illegals for up to 3 months and then detain them for up to 20 months. These measures are meant to persuade the migrants to leave the country. Approximately 9,000 have already left.

Just hours before the court’s ruling, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked warned the court against overturning the law, saying that it would be a “declaration that south Tel Aviv (where many of the Africans reside) is the official facility for accommodating infiltrators.” Some Jewish residents of south Tel Aviv echoed her warning with a small demonstration.

The High Court reduced the 20 month detention term to 12 and kept the rest of the law in tact. In other words they basically agreed with the government’s position of trying to force the asylum seekers to leave voluntarily and issued a clear message that the borders of Israel are not free to be infiltrated.

Hamas Hard at Work
The Shin Bet announced the arrest of a Hamas terrorist, Ibrahim Adel Shahadeh Sha’er, early last month. On July 31 Sha’er was charged with attempted murder, contact with a foreign agent, forbidden military training, various weapons offenses and membership and activity in an illegal organization. He provided interrogators with a treasure trove of information on Hamas activities.

What He Spilled
Sha’er provided interrogators with immense detail regarding Hamas activity and plans, including the construction of a tunnel from the Rafah area in Gaza to just beyond the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel. He also revealed Hamas plans to use a new road that they had paved near the border in a surprise attack against Israel, using vehicles that would race to the border from the road.

The Shin Bet also said that Sha’er gave them extensive information on the tunnels near Rafah, including the location of the entrances and exits, where the tunnels were being dug, and their routes.

Sha’er revealed information on the activities of the Hamas elite Nukhba forces, and changes in their military tactics and structure following Operation Protective Edge last summer. He explained how Iran provides funds, advanced weaponry and electronic equipment to Hamas and that they have trained Gaza fighters in the use of hang gliders to penetrate into Israel. He said Hamas has observation points that provide it with a view of up to three kilometers into Israel.

The IDF claims to have further intelligence on a significant number of additional tunnels that have been built and are currently ready for use.

Clearly Hamas hasn’t given up and is hard at work preparing for their next war with Israel. The IDF knows this, but is reluctant to enter into another round of violence by destroying tunnels, as long as Hamas doesn’t seem interested in war either, at least for now.

IDF Modifies Shooting Rules
The IDF has issued a temporary change in their rules of engagement for dealing with violent Palestinian protesters in the West Bank. The standard procedure has been that when a protestor throws a rock or other weapon at soldiers and then runs away, the soldiers can pursue the attacker and stop him by firing warning shots into the air or, as a last resort, firing at his legs. The reasoning is that if someone attacks soldiers once, he will try again. Therefore, stopping him is a matter of self defense for the soldiers.

According to the new rule, soldiers are not permitted to shoot at attackers who throw and run unless they determine that they are in immediate, life threatening danger at that moment. They can, however, still use other means to apprehend the attackers.

The new rule is meant to prevent violent escalations and increased unrest as a result of the heightened tensions in the wake of the Duma arson attack two weeks ago that killed a Palestinian toddler and his father.

Pro Rabbinate Group
In response to the establishment of an independent conversion outside of the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate, a group of senior rabbis has formed an organization to strengthen the Rabbinate’s prestige and influence.

The new organization, Noam, is lead and manned primarily by religious zionist rabbis, not very different than the ones who started the break-away court. Some of the prominent rabbinic leaders of Noam include the head of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, which is the flagship institution of religious zionism, and the head of the Tzomet Institute, which is at the forefront of applying modern technology within the framework of traditional Jewish law (halacha).

According to a statement made by the new group, the purpose of Noam is not to blindly support all the actions of the Chief Rabbinate. Rather, it’s goal is to “create a platform” to enable better dialogue and communication between the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbis of the country to discuss contentious issues and find amicable solutions.

The charedi rabbinical establishment that heavily influences the actions of the Chief Rabbinate have, for the most part, remained silent on the establishment of the independent conversion court. They seem to be satisfied to let the religious zionist rabbis fight it out amongst themselves.

In any case, the charedim already operate their own independent courts and kosher supervisors outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s jurisdiction, so they can’t really dispute the fundamental basis for an independent court.

New Jerusalem Cinemaplex
The Yes Planet theater chain opened a new NIS 200 million entertainment complex in Jerusalem today. The six story, 28,500 sq. meter complex contains a 16 screen cinema, auditoriums, exhibition space and room for coffee shops, restaurants and stores. It’s located in a bustling area between the Old City and Talpiot.

Unlike rivaling center Cinema City, which sits at the western entrance to the capital, the Yes Planet will operate on Shabbat. Since it’s built on private property, the city council can’t prevent that. It doesn’t look like the religious elements in the city will actively protest it either.