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December 8-9

Ron Itzhak Kokia, z”l

Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia—a 19-year-old soldier from Tel Aviv who served in the Nahal infantry brigade—was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus outside a mall in Arad last week.

Ayala Schwartz, a resident of Arad who visited the scene of the murder to light a candle for Kokia, described her feelings after the usually calm city had been subjected to the horrors of terror. “I was in an emotional turmoil. It is a difficult experience for everyone in the country,” she said. “A life that was plucked so prematurely and in such a cruel way. It is a feeling of helplessness, but also one of togetherness.”

Like most mothers in Israel, Ayala also has a son who serves in the IDF, a fact that she says enables most people to relate. “This boy could have been my soldier, or another boy from within or outside the community,” she said, adding that the frequency of attacks in Israel does nothing to alleviate the pain when terror strikes. It demands preparation that is not new in our country, but it hurts every time. It isn't something you get use to and it isn’t something that should be gotten used to,” she said.

 

Some of the late soldier's friend took to social media to express their grief. “You were my best friend. I cannot believe I'm talking about you in past tense," Wrote Kokia's friend Sapir in an emotional post, adding she will miss “the endless joy of life that you had, an enchanting smile that never left your face and of course your heart of gold.”

 

Nearly 1,000 people came to the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv to pay their respects as Sergeant Ron Yitzhak Kokia was laid to rest. Kokia’s family members gave a series of emotional eulogies, with his older brother Dor lamenting his inability to save his sibling, saying, “Forgive me that I wasn’t at your side and I did not defend you with my body at the moment they attacked you.”

 

We have no words to describe how to continue living with the thought that you are not with us,” Kokia’s sister Shani said between sobs. “How were you there [in the bus station] all by yourself without us around to protect you? We so badly want to have been there during your last moments to hug you and not let go.”

 

The soldier's family agreed to donate the corneas of Kokia's eyes. “Our whole family registered as donors. Saving lives is a supreme value,” said Boaz, the soldier's father.

 

Women of Note

The poet Rachel Bluwstein, known simply as "Rachel",was born in Russia in 1890, Rachel began writing poetry in Russian at an early age. In 1909 she and her sister Shoshana visited Palestine, and decided to settle there. Her poetry has become a mainstay of Hebrew culture. It has been part of the educational curriculum for decades and many of the poems have been put to music and performed by many Israeli artists. Here is one of her poems.

To My Land
I cannot offer you, my land,
In praise, heroic deeds;
One tree I planted on the way
Which to the Jordan leads.
One narrow path to my feet yields,
Which runs across the fields.

I know how humble are the gifts
The child offers her mother:
A cry of joy one glorious day,
When shines the sun in splendor;
And, shed for you, a secret tear
To see the shabby clothes you wear.

 

Leah Goldberg was born in 1911 in what was then East Prussia. In 1935 she settled in Tel Aviv where she became one of Israel's leading intellectuals and poets. She joined the staffs of the newspapers Ha'aretz and Davar and became children books' editor of Sifriyat Po'alim publishing house, as well as literary consultant to the Habima theater. Here is one of her poems:

 

White Days

White, long days, like the sun’s rays in summer
Long, solitary peace on the riverfront,
Windows wide open to azure silence
Straight, tall bridges between yesterday and tommorow

Your silence, empty white days,
Is so easy to bear,
See, my eyes have learned to smile. They long ago stopped
rushing the slender ones on the clock face.

My heart got used to itself, it counts softly its beats
And to the sweetness of the soft rhythm, is pacified, yields and calms down
Like a baby singing his own lullaby before closing his eyes
once the tired mother had shut hers, fell asleep.

December 1-2

PM pans Hotovely's comments on US Jews having 'convenient lives'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted last week to allay furor sparked by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who on an interview with i24NEWS the previous day, said that Jews living in the US fail to understand “the complexity of the region” and live “quite convenient lives.”

Seeking to distance himself from Hotovely’s comments, Netanyahu stepped in to clarify matters, issuing a statement against what were described as “offensive remarks.” "The Jews of the Diaspora are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people," Netanyahu said. “There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel,” he added.

The comments came after Hotovely told i24NEWS that Jews in the diaspora struggled to grasp the realities faced by Israelis.

“There is another issue and I think the other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region. People that never send their children to fight for their countries. Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan or to Iraq,” she said in relation to the US Jewish community. Most of them are having quite a convenient life. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis."

 

Earlier in the same interview, Hotovely risked stoking further outrage among the more liberal denominations of US Jewry when she said most of the time the non-Orthodox Ezrat Yisrael plaza at the Western Wall was empty because American Jews had no interest in visiting the holy site.

 

She further claimed that a suggestion by the government to reserve a section for egalitarian prayer services was rejected because all the liberal streams really sought was recognition of their movements, using the Kotel as a tool to that end.

 

“I think it’s a very important goal to bring American Jews closer to Israel, I think this is one of my goals, but we need to be open about this,” Hotovely said.

 

Referring to the non-Orthodox section, Hotovely claimed, “Most of the time it’s empty. And the reason it’s empty, if you’re asking me, it’s not because they don’t like the arrangement, it’s empty because most of the time those people are not even interested in going to the Kotel.”

 

She praised the Israeli government for finding a solution to the crisis that ensued after the government frozein June progress on plans to construct an egalitarian section at the Western Wall to cater for the holy site’s more liberal visitors.

“The Israeli government was doing a lot in order to make sure that they can have egalitarian prayer, that women can go together with their family, that men can go together with their daughters,” she said, adding that the controversy was really of a political, rather than religious character.

“Everything is set up but they are not willing to get that because if you’re asking me this is a political matter. They want to get recognized through the Kotel issue and they are making a religious, holy place something for political dispute and I really think the solution that was offered was quite good,” she said.

President Reuven Rivlin also sought to mend cracks potentially left by Hotovely between Israel and US Jewry. “I returned here from a trip to the US. I saw huge love of the Jewish diaspora for Israel. I saw the deep concern and pain from the crumbling of bridges that connect Israel with the diaspora,” Rivlin said.

 

“Israel represents its citizens only, and speaks only in their name,” Rivlin said. “American Jews are citizens of the US and the US alone has their loyalty,” he went on. “Israel doesn't expect from American Jews to make Aliyah. No side will intervene in the political decisions of the other.” Rivlin called for Israeli and American Jews to embark on “a new path,” characterized “not by mutual criticism, but by openness, courage and frankness.”

 

Under Netanyahu's initiative, the government will appoint a task force to prepare a multi-year plan involving collaboration between the State of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora. The plan focuses on efforts by the state, under the auspices of the Jewish Agency, to reinforce Jewish identity among Jewish students on U.S. campuses.

Israel will invest 50 million shekels ($14.2 million) in the project and the Diaspora communities will invest a further 100 million shekels ($28.5 million). The project will be overseen by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.

According to the proposal, the project will "engage the Jewish world in dialogue with the aim of strengthening the Jewish identity in the Diaspora and the bond between Diaspora Jews and Israel and Zionism in all areas. In matters pertaining to personal and communal life, in Israel and abroad, among various age groups, ethnicities and cultures, and in a way that will allow every type of Jew to find their place in the program."

November 24-25

Seven Reasons to be Thankful This Year (When You Live in Israel)

  1. Turkey: Did you know that Israelis are the highest per capita turkey eaters in the world? BUT if you want Turkey for Thanksgiving day you need to special-order the bird in advance.
  2. Our Soldiers: They bravely give their time to make our lives safer. Whether out on patrol, guarding in the rain, packing parachutes, visiting the sick in the hospital, or just watching the skies, our soldiers make sure that we can live our dreams.
  3. Rain: We pray for it to come, we bless the first rain and then complain when it rains again. We talk about it to no end (is the Kinneret up or down??), but we never take it for granted. Rain in Israel is a sacred thing. It is a barometer of our health and although it disrupts our schedules and soaks our socks, we are mostly positive about the downpour.
  4. Diversity: People from all over the world get to call Israel their home. We are surrounded by people of every color and denomination. Someone once asked me if I live in a “mixed community” and I wasn’t sure how to answer. My community is made up of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Arabs, Christians, old people, young people, Europeans, Africans, and people of all shapes and sizes!
  5. Snow: If you thought Israelis loved rain, then snow is the icing on the cake. Just a rumor of snow in Jerusalem will melt the heart of the hardest Israeli, cause panic at the supermarkets, and get school cancelled! There is a refreshing feeling seeing a blanket of snow, reminding us Olim a bit of the winters of our pasts, but also making us more appreciative of the 8 months of super sunny and stable warmth we are thankful to get each year.
  6. Our Streets: The streets of this country bear the names of our leaders and teachers, our prophets and streams, the characters from our bible and the countries that voted for partition. We get to literally walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and our stories will be part of our nation’s legacy.
  7. Chanukah: A pleasant reminder that it is safe to go to the mall and not be overstimulated by Santas and jingle bells – you’ll just be faced with Israelis and their opinions about sufganiyot. Chanukah also reminds us of this quote from David Ben Gurion, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” We have the honor of lighting our candles or oil lamps and saying, “A great miracle happened HERE,” and celebrating that we are here now, thriving.

And, a Reason to be Thankful for Israel… If You Live in Syria

Extraordinary footage showing Syrian mothers crossing into Israel with their sick children for medical care was broadcast by Israel's Hadashot news after the Israel Defense Force (IDF) permitted the channel to film for the first-time operations part of its ongoing policy of providing care for civilians injured in the country’s civil war. Israel has treated some 3,000 Syrians since the beginning of the civil war raging across its northern border since 2013.

In interviews accompanying the footage, several Syrian mothers expressed deep gratitude to Israel for providing medical assistance and said that many Syrians living near the border no longer view Israel as the enemy, while another said that "all Syrians" would come to Israel if given the opportunity.

“Israel was thought of as the enemy… Now that you are helping us, most [on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights] are with you. They love Israel. They see the true face… the reality,” one mother said. Another added that the real enemies are "Islamic State, Hezbollah, Bashar [Assad]."

"I wish we could stay here for good," another interviewee told the reporter. "I’d be the first to cross [if the border were open]", adding that "all of Syria would follow me. All the civilians left in Syria would come." Another mother concurred: "Everyone wants to come here. Adults too; not just the children." She added that "it has become unremarkable" for Syrian civilians to come to Israel for medical care.

Hadashot said that 21 mothers and 23 children entered Israel during the filming of its report, noting that Syrian doctors had selected the cases for treatment. Many of the children had suffered shrapnel wounds, while others had chronic illnesses for which no effective treatment was available in their war-ravaged homeland. One mother told the Israeli reporter that she had come to the border from Islamic State held territory.

Honor IDF Disabled Veterans: Thursday, November 30 at 7:00 PM

Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street

Join the Israel American Council to recognize the sacrifices and struggles of our disabled veterans of the IDF. Join us for an inspirational event that brings us the emotional and personal stories of these brave soldiers, including their determination throughout their difficult rehabilitation. This talk will be in English. Refreshments will be served. To register, click HERE in the online version of the Israel Corner. Enter code “LSS” (without the quotation marks) for free admission.

November 17-18

Thanksgiving is Coming: “Host” Israeli Lone Soldiers

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levine is the home away from home for thousands of soldiers serving in the IDF. This year, as in past years, they will host Thanksgiving dinner for over 1,000 lone soldiers from all over the world – including some who are LSS members!.

This is a wonderful way to thank our lone soldiers who are bravely defending Israel. The annual celebration includes all of the traditional fixings - turkey, stuffing, pecan and pumpkin pies, green beans, mashed potatoes and more! This year, before sitting down to your feast with your family, please make a donation, visit www.lonesoldiercenter.org

Natalie Portman honored in Israel with 'Jewish Nobel Prize'

Natalie Portman has been awarded Israel's 2018 Genesis Prize in recognition of her commitment to social causes and deep connection to her Jewish and Israeli roots. The $1 million award, known as "the Jewish Nobel Prize," is granted each year to a person recognized as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through professional achievement and commitment to Jewish values.

Portman was born in Israel and moved to the United States as a young girl, evolving from a child actress into a widely acclaimed A-list star. She won the 2011 Best Actress Academy Award for her work in "Black Swan," and in 2015, she directed and starred in "Tale of Love and Darkness," a Hebrew-language film made in Israel based on an Amos Oz novel.

 

The Genesis Prize noted Portman's social activism in areas such as gender equality, combating poverty, microfinance and animal rights.

 

"She exemplifies the core traits of the Jewish character and values of the Jewish people -- persistence and hard work, pursuit of excellence, intellectual curiosity, and a heartfelt desire to contribute to make the world a better place," said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the prize's foundation. He called her a "role model" for millions of young Jews worldwide.

 

The foundation said Portman's award money would go to a number of women's causes, promoting education, economic advancement, health and political participation. It said a "significant portion" of the funds would advance women's equality in Israel.

 

The Genesis Prize was inaugurated in 2014 and is run in a partnership between the Israeli prime minister's office, the private Genesis Prize Foundation and the chairman's office of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit group with close ties to the Israeli government. It is funded by a $100 million endowment established by the foundation.

 

Portman is the fifth winner and first woman to receive the prize. Previous recipients included former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman and sculptor Anish Kapoo.

Sotheby’s Annual Israeli Art Auction:

December 18 – Two showings, one at 10:30 AM and one at 1:00 PM

To register, click here in the online version of the Israel Corner (available at www.lss.org/israelcorner)

November 10-11

First female deputy commander in IAF combat squadron

Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin has appointed a woman as a deputy commander of a combat squadron in a first for the IAF.

The officer, an F-15 navigator, will serve in the Spearhead Squadron at the Tel-Nof Airbase. She will be promoted to the rank of major in the summer. She received the news of her promotion while flying a mission. In addition to being a navigator, the officer also has an operational role at the IAF Headquarters.
 

Two additional female officers were appointed deputy commanders in the drone unit. Women have been making leaps and bounds in combat roles in the Israeli Air Force. Two women recently graduated from the IAF Flight Academy'—Lt. T. as a helicopters pilot and Lt. Dafna as a transport navigator.

 

PM: Seeing the Balfour Declaration as a crime is the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Knesset plenum on Tuesday, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which recognized the Jewish people’s right to a "national home" in the Land of Israel.

 

"When the leaders of the Palestinian leadership define the Balfour Declaration as a 'crime', when they call on the British government to apologize for it, they are not going forward—they are going back, a hundred years back," Netanyahu said. "And that is the root of the conflict—the 100-year refusal to recognize Zionism, to recognize the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, to recognize the State of Israel within any borders."

 

"The tragedy of the Balfour Declaration is that it took 30 years to implement it," said Prime Minister Netanyahu. "It is now absolutely clear: the key to the future of the Jewish people is the Jewish state, and our basic obligation is to stand firm against those who seek to harm us and ensure the existence and future of the State of Israel.

 

"After it was granted, the Balfour Declaration was supported not just by the League of Nations but also gained the sympathy of some in the Arab world. Prince Feisal (of Syria) was at the head of the Arab camp that had rebelled against the Ottoman Empire—he recognized the right of the Jews to establish their national home in Palestine, and Faisal favored cooperation between Jews and Arabs on the basis of mutual understanding and brotherhood.

 

"The Arab nationalistic movement, however, strongly attacked the Balfour Declaration, providing grounds for incitement and violence, not least with the encouragement of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

 

He continued to state that Israel has been working to strengthen its ties with Arab countries recipient to its efforts. "We are tightening our relations with the moderate elements in the region and establishing peace with Egypt and Jordan. We are acting to achieve peace with other Arab countries who stand with us in the face of radical Islam, and I can only hope that the Palestinians finally adopt this approach and turn to peace. "

 

Chesed Opportunity

Last Shabbat, the congregation listened in rapt attention to Lt. Col. (Res.) Tiran Attia, Director of Special in Uniform, a program that integrates young people with disabilities into the IDF. Special in Uniform helps usher its graduates toward a self-sufficient life, through employment or other meaningful societal involvement following their service. The benefits of the program are immense, to the soldiers themselves, their families and to the IDF. Tiran explained how Special in Uniform soldiers who have Asperger’s can stare at air recognizance maps of enemy for hours on end and detect minor changes that typical soldiers would not spot.

 

While the benefits are priceless, the program costs $5,000 per soldier, per year. and here is where you could help. Please consider making a donation, in whatever amount you feel comfortable. The easiest way to do this is by using this link in the online edition of the Israel Corner. Or, if you prefer, call Sarah Azizi at the JNF (which helps sponsor the program) and pay by credit card. Sarah’s number is 212.879.9300 extension 105.

 

Upcoming Israeli Programs

This Sunday at 10:00 AM: Meet the Author. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner will discuss “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters”. See the Echod for details. Nitsana will discuss her book and autograph purchased copies. The program includes breakfast, lecture and book sale. Note new location: Nathaniel Richman Cohen Sanctuary . While this program is free and open to all , please help us plan for the breakfast accordingly by registering at www.lss.org/harpoon

Monday, November 13 • 8:00 pm • Tanakh and Archaeology: Discovering the Historic Kings David and Solomon, lecture by licensed tour guide and historian Shulie Mishkin. See the Echod for details. Admission is free. Location: Room 206/207.

Thursday, November 16 • 6:30 pm • Balfour Then, Balfour Today: 100 Years of Diplomacy. Scholar Karen Spira will lead a discussion about the significance of the Balfour Declaration, how it was perceived by Arabs and Jews at the time, and how it resonates even today. Note that this program will be held at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 West 68th Street. Register at response@swfs.org

November 3-4

Satmar Rebbe's great-grandson becomes IDF officer

"I grew up as a haredi child in Brooklyn, United States. I had the feeling that something was missing, but I didn't know what. My first visit to Israel was at the age of 11. I discovered the State of Israel, a Jewish state. I did not yet know how it would affect me, but I felt that I had come home.

When we returned to Brooklyn a few days later, I felt like another person. Suddenly there was something I connect to, the State of Israel. Because I am the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe, and the community in which I grew up does not support Israel, I had no one to talk about it with.

I came to Israel again at the age of 15, this time to study in a yeshiva in Bnei Brak. The only language I spoke at the time was Yiddish, and I could not communicate with the outside world like I wanted to. When I returned to the United States a year later, I bought a phone with Internet (we were not allowed to own one in a yeshiva), decided to learn English, learn about Israel and a little about the world.

At the age of 17, I realized that I wanted to leave the haredi world, but most of the people I knew who had left didn't succeed. The social gap and the language made it difficult for them to cope with a different kind of lifestyle. I decided to turn to the Rebbe, to tell him that for years I was no longer Shabbat-observant. His answer was that I got where I was because I wasn't yet married, that once I had a wife of my own, I wouldn't want to leave anymore because the girl would no longer be happy. He explained that when I was married I could do more to help outside the yeshiva; I would be a freer person.

Two weeks later I met with the girl's parents who asked me questions about the Talmud. I passed the test and had a meeting with the girl while our parents were in the next room. I agreed to marry her after speaking to her for 50 minutes. We got engaged that night. A few months later the wedding came. Right after the wedding, I realized that I was not really with her. I would think about the State of Israel while she would think about what the Rebbe said.

Six weeks later, I arrived home and my wife told me she was pregnant. I was happy, I was very excited, until slowly I began to think about what I had done. How I was going to raise a haredi child in a world that I disagree with? I knew it was too late, that in another moment a girl would come to the world, that in another second I would be a father.

I couldn't stay any longer. I thought about it a lot, I tried to talk to outsiders, both friends who left and those who remained. In the end, I left. I parted from my wife and the community and most of my family left me. I found a good job. I started life from scratch and like a little child I learned how to dress (in clothes that weren't black and white), and how to talk to people.

A few months before 2014's Operation Protective Edge, almost a year after I left the community where I grew up, I decided that I wanted to enlist in the IDF. I registered to immigrate to Israel, but after two meetings they told me that because I was 19, divorced plus one, I wasn't suitable for the army. Everyone told me I wouldn't succeed in the army. They said that I had no chance.

I bought a plane ticket and arrived in Israel. At first, a friend connected me to the Chayal El Chayal lone soldier support organization, and to the Michael Levine Lone Soldier Center, who helped me out tremendously. In August 2014, I joined a Hebrew course at the IDF's Alon base. After 3 months of basic training and the Hebrew course, I reached the Golani Brigade. I went to commander's school and became a squad commander in Golani's 13th Battalion. I was deployed for a few months and went to IDF Officer School, where I learned for eight months how to be a professional officer.

Rivka, my daughter, is already four years old. Her family doesn't let us be in touch because I'm not haredi. I hope one day when she grows up, I'll be able to renew the relationship with her and explain to her why I had to leave her and immigrate to Israel. To explain to her that I chose a different way from what she knows.

I love my family, who simply don't understand or accept how I view the world. I chose a way in Judaism that is different from them - a Judaism in which establishing and defending the Jewish State is just as important as learning Torah. The reason I tell you this is for you to learn that if there is a will there is a way. No matter what you say or who tells you - if you really want to be successful and willing to invest, you will eventually succeed. We have the best army in the world, and it doesn't matter where you come from and what you've done until now; if you give your 100 percent, you'll find the way."

Upcoming Events

 

Sunday November 12 • 10:00am-12:00pm • Room 207

Meet the Author!
Nitsana Darshan Leitner, author of the just released “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters” will discuss her book and autograph purchased copies. “Harpoon” is the story of legendary Mossad director Meir Dagan and his campaign of targeting the finances of organizations that fund attacks against Israel. Dagan’s concept became the cornerstone of America’s war on terror and is one of the many joint efforts between the United States and Israel. The program includes breakfast, lecture and book sale. The program is free but please register at www.lss.org/harpoon so that we know how much food to order.

Monday, November 13, 8:00 pm to 9:15 pm • Room 207

Tanakh and Archeology: Discovering the Historic Kings David and Solomon

Licensed tour guide and historian Shulie Mishkin will discuss how archaeological findings both strengthen and challenge our faith in the Tanakh.

Her lecture will focus on what recent excavations have revealed about the David and Solomon story. Admission is free.

October 20-21

Good Riddance UNESCO

UNESCO was once a low-profile UN agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programs internationally. But in addition to the decision to admit the Palestinians in 2011, it has been the scene of repeated diplomatic flare-ups after Arab countries succeeded in passing a number of resolutions critical of Israel.

In May, Israel was infuriated by a resolution identifying Israel as "the occupying power" in the divided city of Jerusalem and calling on it to rescind any move changing the city's "character and status". In July, the agency again delighted Palestinians when its members declared the city of Hebron an endangered World Heritage site—described as "another delusional decision" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Washington's withdrawal is set to take effect on December 21, 2018, when it will establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday night Israel plans to pull out of the United Nations' cultural agency following the "brave and moral" decision by the United States to withdraw from UNESCO.

 

Netanyahu said UNESCO has become a "theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.” He has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the UN, where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel."

"UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and purpose," Danon said in a statement. "The organization's absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences." "The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the UN," he lauded, adding "the alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever."

 

Parts of Western Wall, ancient Roman theater uncovered

 

After removing a thick layer of soil, archeologists were surprised to uncover what they believe to be an ancient, unfinished theater-like structure from the Roman period—confirming historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount, found in written sources from the Second Temple period, and in sources from the period following the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

 

Referring to the theater's discovery, site excavators Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon said that "from a research perspective, this is a sensational find," adding that "the discovery was a real surprise."

 

"When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater. Like much of archaeological research, the expectation is that a certain thing will be found, but at the end of the process other findings, surprising and thought-provoking, are unearthed.

 

"There is no doubt that the exposure of the courses of the Western Wall and the components of Wilson’s Arch are thrilling discoveries that contribute to our understanding of Jerusalem. But the discovery of the theater-like structure is the real drama."

 

The excavators noted that the theater, which contained approximately 200 seats, "is a relatively small structure compared to known Roman theaters (such as at Caesarea, Bet She’an and Bet Guvrin)."

 

This fact, in addition to the structure's location under a roofed space, led them to believe that this is either an odeon—used, in most cases, for acoustic performances, or a bouleuterion—the building where the city council met, in this case the council of the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

 

Save the Date! You Won’t Want to Miss this Program

Thursday October 26 • Arabs Breaking the Silence: Arab Christians, Muslims and Druze from Israel and the West Bank will share their unique stories about living in Israel and serving in the IDF. The program will be held in the Nathaniel Richman Cohen Sanctuary. Light refreshments available starting 7:00 pm; the program itself will start at 7:30pm. Registration is free to LSS members but please help us plan for refreshments an seating by preregistering at https://arabsbreakingthesilence.eventbrite.com/

In the Promotional Code space enter LSS.

Oct 5-7

Young Voices from Israel: Corporal Olivia Tulkoff

Today​ ​my​ ​name​ ​is​ ​Corporal,​ ​or​ ​Rabat, Olivia Tulkoff, and I am serving in the Israel Defense Forces as a marksmanship​ ​instructor.

I​ ​started​ ​over​ ​a​ ​year​ ​ago​ ​in​ ​a​ ​month-​long​ ​Mechina​ ​program​ ​with​ ​40​ ​other​ ​lone​ ​soldiers​ ​from​ ​all​ ​over​ ​the​ ​world. We​ ​traveled​ ​the​ ​country,​ ​from​ ​Sde​ ​Boker​ ​to​ ​Ramat​ ​HaGolan,​ ​and​ ​many​ ​places​ ​in​ ​between.​ ​I​ ​forged​ ​close friendships​ ​with​ ​my​ ​contemporaries​ ​from​ ​Australia,​ ​Holland,​ ​Brazil,​ ​Israel,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States.​ ​The​ ​mechina, or​ ​pre-army​ ​preparatory​ ​program,​ ​was​ ​just​ ​that:​ ​preparation​ ​for​ ​our​ ​service;​ ​what​ ​job​ ​to​ ​consider;​ ​how​ ​to interact;​ ​where​ ​to​ ​find​ ​good​ ​food;​ ​and​ ​what​ ​to​ ​do​ ​on​ ​the​ ​weekend.

Once​ ​I​ ​graduated​ ​the​ ​Mechina​ ​and​ ​said​ ​goodbye,​ ​I​ ​had​ ​two​ ​months​ ​to​ ​wait​ ​for​ ​enlistment.​ ​Being​ ​my​ ​mother's daughter,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​immediately​ ​enlisted​ ​to​ ​work​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Jerusalem​ ​Botanical​ ​Gardens.​ ​Although​ ​brief,​ ​this​ ​was​ ​a wonderful​ ​introduction​ ​to​ ​real​ ​life​ ​in​ ​Israel.​ ​Bussing​ ​to​ ​work,​ ​meeting​ ​talented​ ​and​ ​inspired​ ​professionals​ ​and watching​ ​the​ ​visitors​ ​enjoy​ ​the​ ​gem​ ​created​ ​in​ ​the​ ​heart​ ​of​ ​Jerusalem.

On​ ​September​ ​18th,​ ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​the​ ​gius​ ​(induction​ ​center)​ ​in​ ​Tel​ ​HaShomer​ ​and​ ​got​ ​on​ ​the​ ​bus​ ​to​ ​basic​ ​training. I​ ​was​ ​shell​ ​shocked.​ ​Basic​ ​training​ ​was​ ​challenging​ ​and​ ​totally​ ​foreign,​ ​but​ ​an​ ​extremely​ ​enriching​ ​experience (in​ ​retrospect).​ ​By​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​8​ ​weeks,​ ​I​ ​graduated​ ​with​ ​my​ ​group​ ​and​ ​achieved​ ​the​ ​honor​ ​of​ ​outstanding soldier,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​being​ ​posted​ ​to​ ​a​ ​role​ ​as​ ​a​ ​marksmanship​ ​instructor.​ ​Exactly​ ​what​ ​I​ ​wanted.

Over​ ​the​ ​last​ ​year,​ ​my​ ​service​ ​has​ ​been​ ​training​ ​combat​ ​soldiers​ ​in​ ​shooting​ ​ranges​ ​and​ ​teaching​ ​classes​ ​in how​ ​to​ ​use​ ​an​ ​M4,​ ​Micro-Tavor,​ ​Negev,​ ​Mag,​ ​and​ ​sharp-shooting​ ​guns​ ​safely​ ​and​ ​effectively.​ ​Every​ ​week​ ​I travel​ ​to​ ​a​ ​different​ ​base,​ ​usually​ ​within​ ​the​ ​five​ ​infantry​ ​units,​ ​and​ ​for​ ​one​ ​week​ ​I​ ​am​ ​the​ ​sole​ ​instructor​ ​in​ ​the shooting​ ​range,​ ​teaching​ ​the​ ​soldiers​ ​everything​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​know​ ​about​ ​the​ ​object​ ​they​ ​hold​ ​closest​ ​for​ ​the three​ ​years​ ​of​ ​their​ ​service.​ ​Last​ ​month,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​promoted​ ​to​ ​the​ ​position​ ​of​ ​commander​ ​in​ ​the​ ​course​ ​for marksmanship​ ​instructors;​ ​another​ ​challenging​ ​and​ ​enriching​ ​experience​ ​I’ll​ ​never​ ​forget.

My​ ​service​ ​is​ ​quickly​ ​coming​ ​to​ ​a​ ​close,​ ​this​ ​coming​ ​November.​ ​After​ ​I​ ​am​ ​discharged,​ ​I​ ​plan​ ​on​ ​staying​ ​in​ ​Tel Aviv​ ​for​ ​about​ ​6​ ​months​ ​and​ ​working​ ​(currently​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​a​ ​job​ ​in​ ​the​ ​philanthropy​ ​and​ ​volunteering​ ​world). After​ ​which​ ​I​ ​plan​ ​on​ ​spending​ ​my​ ​summer​ ​with​ ​my​ ​family​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York​ ​and​ ​then​ ​start,​ ​two​ ​years​ ​in​ ​delay,​ ​my first​ ​degree​ ​at​ ​Brown​ ​University.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​sad​ ​that​ ​my​ ​service​ ​is​ ​shortly​ ​coming​ ​to​ ​a​ ​close,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​appreciate​ ​how unique​ ​an​ ​experience​ ​I​ ​have​ ​had​ ​in​ ​my​ ​short​ ​life​ ​so​ ​far,​ ​and​ ​can​ ​only​ ​hope​ ​that​ ​what​ ​I​ ​have​ ​taught​ ​should​ ​never be​ ​needed.

Haredi draft law needed to restore the glory of Torah
 

When an ultra-Orthodox young man appears before the IDF draft board to receive his exemption from serving in the army, he does not say “I am ultra-Orthodox.” He declares that “his Torah study is his trade.” That phrase in Jewish tradition refers to someone who is so dedicated to Torah study that he cannot do anything else. We are talking about unique individuals who separate themselves from the physical world and engage in Torah study alone.

The Talmud teaches that these people are so committed to Torah study that they shouldn’t pause their studies for prayer! The great Rabbi Yochanan comments that this category only applies to someone like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai but it doesn’t apply to people like himself. The Talmud relates that many people tried to live in accordance with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s way of life in which Torah was his trade and he did not work for a living — and they failed. The Talmud makes it clear that “Torah is his trade” is a category limited to a select few in each generation. It doesn’t apply to the great Rabbi Yochanan, and didn’t apply to most of the people in generations filled with the greatest of Torah scholars.

The 400 ultra-Orthodox men whom Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion agreed to exempt from army service fell into this category. These 400 young Torah scholars – constituting 0.07% of the population in Israel at that time – matched the historic tradition of a select few in each generation who studied Torah day and night as their only pursuit.

As time went along, more young men started to learn in yeshiva, and the issue of ever-increasing blanket exemptions for yeshiva boys arose again and again. This ultimately led to a decision in 1975 that limited the number of exemptions to 800 — a ruling that was never adhered to. That small number and percentage of the population exempt from serving has now reached over 60,000, creeping toward 20 percent of all draft-eligible males.

Many have bemoaned the inequality and unfairness of such a high percentage of young men receiving draft exemptions. While I agree with these claims, there is another reason why these numbers are disgraceful: they disgrace the Torah. The term “his Torah is his trade” is not simply a code word to say “I am ultra-Orthodox.” It means that all the person ever wants to do is study Torah. But when every single Haredi who wants to study in yeshiva claims “Torah is my trade” it reduces the meaning of that phrase, and dishonors the glory of Torah.

No one would ever consider exempting 95% of yeshiva boys from prayers due to their non-stop Torah study without distraction. They are not on this level, which has always been reserved for a select few in each generation. Anyone who has spent any time in a yeshiva or kollel knows that most of the young men there do not fall into this category. This is not to say anything negative about them — these fine yeshiva students simply don’t spend every moment they have studying Torah.

But more so: the moment every single yeshiva boy claims that “his Torah is his trade,” we as a people have lost the meaning and reverence that should be attached to that phrase. And those young men who truly fall under this category — who deserve their exemption from military service and are worthy of the admiration and praise of the entire nation — become instead the subject of the nation’s derision amid the controversy surrounding their not serving in the IDF.

The time has come to make a clear distinction between the elite scholars who do nothing other than study Torah, and those yeshiva students who study Torah but have other interests, and do not spend all their time studying Torah. Those who can truly claim that “his Torah is his trade” should stay in the study halls and reach the highest levels of Torah scholarship imaginable. Their days and nights engrossed in nothing but Torah study should serve as their service to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. And all the rest — the overwhelming majority of students in the Haredi yeshiva system — should study Torah for a few years after high school if they choose to do so, and then serve the country, either in the IDF or National Service.

And this is precisely what the Yesh Atid law passed in 2014 — which the current government cancelled — accomplished. It identified the Torah study of select, elite scholars as their service to Israel, and required those who are not being accurate when declaring “his Torah is his trade” to leave yeshiva after a few years, and serve the country through a variety of service options. Full implementation of this law would put this source of tension between the secular and religious communities to rest, would enable tens of thousands of yeshiva boys to combine Torah study with IDF or National Service, help pave the way for their joining the workforce, and restore the glory of the Torah and the scholars who truly fit the time-honored category of “his Torah is his trade.”

September 21-23

A Rabbi’s Sorrow – צער רב

The Agunah Issue

“I think that what is happening on this issue is scandalous,” says Riskin. “There is a serious problem of women who are refused a get. It is written in the Torah, ‘And write her a bill of divorce,’ and based on this, the husband unilaterally gives the get. I believe with all my soul in a divine Torah. About 4,000 years ago, God gave the Torah to Moses. Then, there was no situation in which a woman would want a get; she had no social or economic standing and therefore the man would give the get. But our women are not prisoners of their husbands. We must find a solution to a situation in which a husband can refuse to divorce his wife, and there are many such solutions. I wrote a whole book on it. There is also disagreement in the Gemara if this is a precept from the Torah or from the rabbis. During the time of the Talmud, there was a solution of ‘hitting him until he cooperates,’ but that is impossible to implement today.”

 

What can be done? The court can obligate a get, and if the husband does not comply – he can be put in jail, and his professional license can be revoked if he is a doctor or some other licensed professional. And the idea of prenuptial agreements also exists, although in most cases the rabbis are not prepared to use it. The prenup essentially says that someone who does not want to give or receive a get will have to pay a large amount each month, until he cooperates. I wrote about this in my book ‘Yad L’isha’ and it received the approval of Rabbi Yaakov Bezalel Zolty, who was the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. And now the rabbis say that it creates a ‘get me’useh‘ (a ‘coerced divorce,’ which is not based on the wishes of the husband and therefore is not kosher – Z.K.) and should not be used. But in fact the Rambam himself, based on the Gemara, used the get me’usehwhen he ruled on the halacha of ‘hitting him until he cooperates.’ The reasoning for that is, ‘Our wives are not like prisoners of their husbands.’ Furthermore, the Rambam writes on the verse ‘good and righteous laws’ that our halacha must be good and righteous. That, for the Rambam, was the core of the Oral Law.

“The problem is that there are rabbis who say that someone who signs a prenuptial agreement or has someone sign one is not Orthodox,” says Riskin, and he points to the letter signed by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, as well as some from the National Religious sector, such as Rabbi Tzvi Tau and Rabbi Dov Lior. “Don’t misunderstand me, I am friendly with many ultra-Orthodox rabbis, but not when they are monochromatic. They don’t want to accept prenuptial agreements? Ok, but don’t reject someone who does.”

 

On the one hand, you are identified with the religious left and with liberalism but on the other hand you have made right wing statements regarding Judea and Samaria. Is there a contradiction here?

“Absolutely not,” he responds with a smile. “I think that I have the full right to be where I am. Every inch of Efrat was checked ahead of time and there have been no Arab claims here. I always say: God promised Hebron to Abraham our Father and nonetheless Abraham paid 400 shekels, because God’s promise will be fulfilled, but not necessarily right away and in the meantime, we must not steal anything. I want peace and I believe in all the possible compromises, but not with a people that does not accept us as a Jewish state. I think that it would be crazy for us to encourage the creation of a state that does not recognize us.

Rabbi Riskin’s four children have followed in his footsteps. “My oldest daughter is studying toward Morat Hora’ah[certification providing license to rule on matters of Jewish law] ,” he says. “There are at least four heads of yeshivas in Israel which certify women.”

 

What is the difference between the morot hora’ah and ‘maharat,’ the female Orthodox rabbis being certified in the US?

“I think that the difference is in the intensity and scope of the learning. In our program we ensure that the women learn in accordance with the Chief Rabbinate’s criteria for men who are studying to be certified by the rabbinate. They are taught by Rabbi Shuki Reich, my close friend and my first chavruta here in Israel.”

 

And these women rule on halachic matters?

“Of course. They are involved in halachic rulings and two of them have even written a book of responsa.”

Rabbi Riskin mentions another reservation about the maharat: “Some of them call themselves Rabbi or Rabba. This is not prohibited, but I don’t think that a woman can be parallel to a man as the ‘baalat habayit‘ of a synagogue. After all, the main function of a synagogue is public prayer and the reading of the Torah, and a woman cannot be motzi a man [to relieve him of his obligation], because she herself is not obligated in this.”

 

Can she lead the congregation in Kabbalat Shabbat?

“I don’t see any halachic problem, considering that even a minor can lead Kabbalat Shabbat, but from an educational point of view I wouldn’t recommend that a woman do so. If you start with Kabbalat Shabbat, this might lead to the evening service as well – and that is problematic since a woman cannot be motzi the congregation on devarim shebekedusha [prayers for which a quorum of ten men are required].”

 

What about the prohibition of hearing a woman sing?

“I know there are some Zionist rabbis, perhaps a bit Chardal [nationalist-ultra-Orthodox], who say that hearing a women sing is a matter of yehareg ve’al ya’avor [the requirement to sacrifice one’s life rather than transgress a law]. But the Sde Hemed brings an opinion that in matters of holy texts there is no prohibition on hearing a woman sing. This is based on the Gemara in the tractate of Arachin, which says that a woman can be motzi a man in the reading of Megillat Esther. Also Hachaham Ovadia [Yosef] ruled that way. I personally include the songs of Naomi Shemer as songs with holiness, with all my heart. There are exemptions – one needs to examine the situation.”

 

What was the best decision you ever made?

“Making aliya. When I first made aliya, I was angry at the Orthodox Jews who weren’t coming. After all, it is a positive mitzva, so how can you not be in the Land of Israel? Now, I only pity them. We have the privilege of seeing the realization of the greatest dream there is – the return to our land from the exile, and I believe that we are already in the time of the coming of the Messiah. To see the Torah learning we have today, even the Torah learning for women – this is part of the great miracle of the State of Israel. I am only very concerned when I see baseless hatred instead of baseless love. I hope this won’t endure, particularly among the rabbinic establishment. It should love every Jew wherever he is.”

 

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to Carnegie Hall and we have tickets

We have reserved a block of group rate tickets for the Thursday, November 9 concert. The concert will feature Weber’s Overture for Oberon, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (with Gil Shaham) and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “Great Symphony”.

To purchase tickets please email nvogel212@gmail.com for information. Full payment must be received by October 5.

September 15-16

A Rabbi’s Sorrow – צער רב

Is there really a crisis with American Jewry on the issue of the plan for the Western Wall and the modified conversion law, or is it just media spin that has been blown out of proportion?

“There is indeed a serious crisis,” Riskin answers without thinking twice. “I am not sure that it can be resolved.”

The solution that was originally achieved with regard to the Western Wall, i.e. the establishment of an egalitarian plaza in the southern section, near the Robinson Arch, is in Riskin’s opinion an “excellent option.” Rabbi Riskin is even happy about the demand of the Reform and Conservatives that one entrance will lead to the three plazas – for men, for women and mixed. “They wanted a common entrance for all of the Jewish People. That is an excellent idea. That’s exactly what I would like. Where is your ‘love of Israel’?”

He recounts that when he began serving as the rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue, the prayers there had mixed seating – men and women together. “At that time, it was a small minyan, in which no one even knew the Hebrew alphabet. As long as the seating was mixed, I didn’t pray with them. I would pray beforehand at home. I also didn’t take any money. I wanted to show them that from my point of view this kind of prayer is problematic.” Over time, the members were convinced and seating was made separate. “This was the beginning of one of the greatest synagogues in the world,” says Rabbi Riskin proudly.

 

How distant is the left wing of Orthodoxy from the right wing of Conservatism? Even in Efrat there are synagogues that are similar to other denominations and which, for example, allow women to read the haftara.

“First of all, we in Efrat maintain a mechitza separation between men and women, which is a big difference, and we maintain the halachot of prayer as they appear in the Shulhan Aruch. I am against Conservatism and I don’t accept their ‘halachot’. But for God’s sake, I have to love them and respect them. I also refer to them as my partners. We have a lot to do together, particularly in the war against anti-Semitism. It needs to be understood that Conservatives reach people that an Orthodox rabbi—even a Chabadnik— will never reach. They try to attract those individuals in their own way. Even the Reform are my partners. I don’t accept their synagogues, which use electricity on Shabbat, but even if we don’t agree – there is one mission for us all.

 

“I don’t understand how the rabbinic establishment calls them ‘goyim‘ or ‘apikorsim.’ That is not right. That can’t be the face of halacha, and I will not accept that as my establishment. They are part of the Jewish People and they do not, for example, say that the Orthodox are ‘not religious’.”

 

The positive approach to the Reform and Conservatives, according to Rabbi Riskin, can also produce benefit for Orthodoxy. “Many of those who attended their schools and summer camps come to us in the end. Before they took part in Conservative activities, they were not ready to come to me. When Naftali Bennett visited a Conservative school in New York, one of the chief rabbis said that he should not have done so (it was Rabbi Lau – Z.K). Why not? I accept any invitation from a Conservative institution. I speak to them about halacha, Torah. What can happen? Thank God, many times they started to pray in my synagogue as a result of my visits. There was even a well-known Reform rabbi who started to visit his mother, who prayed in my synagogue. He would come to us on every second day of the holiday (for the Diaspora) and as a result, he decided to become Orthodox.”

 

Rav Kook would have gone to a Reform synagogue?

“He went to the Shomer Hatzair and danced with them. My Judaism is that of Rav Kook.”

I DON’T WANT TO BE MAINSTREAM

On a different issue, Rabbi Riskin found himself among a group that is under attack. Rabbi Riskin, the rabbis of Tzohar, Beit Hillel and the RCA (the umbrella organization of Modern Orthodoxy in North America) have been severely criticized for their support of prenuptial agreements, which are meant to prevent future aginut. “I think that what is happening on this issue is scandalous,” says Riskin. “There is a serious problem of women who are refused a get. It is written in the Torah, ‘And write her a bill of divorce,’ and based on this, the husband unilaterally gives the get. I believe with all my soul in a divine Torah.

 

About 4,000 years ago, God gave the Torah to Moses. Then, there was no situation in which a woman would want a get; she had no social or economic standing and therefore the man would give the get. But our women are not prisoners of their husbands. We must find a solution to a situation in which a husband can refuse to divorce his wife, and there are many such solutions. I wrote a whole book on it. There is also disagreement in the Gemara if this is a precept from the Torah or from the rabbis. During the time of the Talmud, there was a solution of ‘hitting him until he cooperates,’ but that is impossible to implement today.”

 

Are you in the mainstream or on the margins?

“I don’t even want to be in the mainstream today; I hope to be in the mainstream in another ten years. I think that I have had some influence on several issues, especially with respect to Orthodox women in the army. The first program to combine military service and Torah study for women was our initiative. We were also the first to train female rabbinical court advocates. When I arrived in Israel, a woman could not serve as an advocate in the courts, because it was assumed that she couldn’t learn halachaand could not speak halacha. We at Ohr Torah Stone changed that. We went to the Supreme Court and we won. Today, there are female rabbinical court advocates all over Israel. In addition, in our hesder yeshiva students study university studies, which is also something that didn’t exist when I arrived in Israel.”

 

The third and last installment of the interview will appear in next week’s Israel Corner.

 

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to Carnegie Hall and we have tickets

The world famous Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) under the baton of conductor Zubin Mehta is coming to New York for three concerts at Carnegie Hall. This is maestro Mehta’s final season with the IPO following an illustrious 50 year career.

We have reserved a block of tickets available on a first-come, first served basis for the Thursday, November 9 concert. The concert will feature Weber’s Overture or Oberon, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “Great Symphony”. The violinist in the concerto will be Gil Shaham.

The tickets are priced at the group rate (you save $6.50 handling fee per ticket compared to purchasing the tickets on an individual basis). To purchase tickets please email nvogel212@gmail.com for information.

September 1-2

A Rabbi’s Sorrow – צער רב

This is an excerpt from an interview with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin which appeared in Makor Rishon, a publication of the Ohr Torah Stone institution. Rabbi Raskin was, of course, the Founding Rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue and is currently the Chief Rabbi of Efrat. This is Part I of a three part series. To read the entire interview, please click here in the online version of the Israel Corner.

“If I could ask God one thing, I would ask him, ‘How it is that the Talmud is the most pluralistic piece of literature, but those who study it more than anyone else are the most narrow-minded?'” says Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. “That is a shame, and it destroys and distorts the halacha. If we aren’t faithful to the halacha, we won’t be able to survive, but in my opinion the most praiseworthy thing about the halacha is that is not monochromatic. Halacha is pluralistic. The chief rabbis in the past also understood this. Rabbis Yitzhak Herzog and Shlomo Goren took bold steps when they were needed. That is how the halacha has always been, and that is what we teach our students.

“I can’t look an aguna in the eye and say, ‘I have no solution for you, all of your life you will not have a husband and no possibility of marrying.’ How could anyone do such a thing? Is that fulfilling ‘For Torah will go out from Zion’? The rabbis that behave this way put a stain on the Torah. It is a desecration of God and of the halacha.”

 

Rabbi Riskin is known as an entertaining and good-natured person, but according to him, he has been saddened lately by the situation in Israel. In the background is the recent clash between the religious establishment in Israel and Diaspora Jewry—the crisis surrounding the Western Wall and the cancellation of the plan that was meant to provide a solution for Reform and Conservative Jews; the controversy surrounding the conversion law and the absolute monopoly that it provided to the Chief Rabbinate, which is considered to have a more stringent approach than the local rabbis; and even the “blacklist” of senior rabbis in the Diaspora, who have been marked by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel as not having any authority in matters of Judaism and personal status.

 

“You are opening a Pandora’s Box,” says Rabbi Riskin when I ask him whether, in his opinion, this series of events proves that religion and state should be separate. “I’ll say this in the clearest way possible: when there is a monochromatic Chief Rabbinate which is not ready to accept courts that rule in a certain way within the framework of halacha – that is a problem. I would certainly not want to see conversions that are not according to halacha. The goal is for any Jew in Israel to be able to marry any other and to that end we need to support conversion initiatives. We don’t want a society in which there are Jews by halacha and Israelis that are not Jews by halacha. But unfortunately that is what will happen if the possibilities of conversion are restricted. And that is a real shame. So I think that it is preferable to have separation. And I say that with sadness.”

 

If the Rabbinate approaches the halacha from only one viewpoint, perhaps even an ultra-Orthodox one, then there is a need to separate religion and state?

“I say it with tears in my eyes, but yes.” I came to Israel in order to realize my dream and my vision. What they are doing – that is halacha which distorts the halacha. When you are very stringent, especially with zera Yisrael [literally, embodying the ‘seed of Israel,’ though not Jewish according to halacha], where is ‘And you will love the stranger’?”

“One of most important things I am currently involved in is the “Giyyur KaHalacha” framework under the leadership of Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinovitch. We had about 400 conversions this year. That is our current task. We see a huge need among immigrants from the FSU who are not considered Jews by halacha. There are also references in halacha to what is called the ‘seed of Israel’ – if that person has a Jewish father, he has Jewish genes. And indeed, Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel, a former chief rabbi, has ruled that for such a person, a bet din needs to convert him only as a formality.”

Is the Chief Rabbinate different now than when it was established or during the early years of the State of Israel?

“It is 100 percent different. In the past, they understood that humane solutions had to be found for difficult problems. Today, they are the ones making the problems because they want absolute control. The halacha is so beautiful and good, accepting and loving. The Chief Rabbinate has a rich history and I hope they will change their ways. They need to retract statements they have made. I would be very happy if the chief rabbis would serve all of the Jewish People, all over the world.”

Excerpts from the rest of the interview will appear in the Israel Corner the next two weeks.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to Carnegie Hall and we have tickets

The tickets are priced at the group rate (you save $6.50 handling fee per ticket compared to purchasing the tickets on an individual basis). To purchase tickets please email nvogel212@gmail.com for information.

Update this content.

August 25-August 26

Israel High Court: Women Can be Rabbinical Court Administrators

Women can be chosen for the highest administrative position in the Rabbinical Court system, the High Court of Justice ruled last week in a historic decision following seven years of legal battles. The 2014 petition that led to the decision was filed by Mavoi Satum, or “Dead End,” director and lawyer Batya Kahana-Dror, whose candidacy for the position of Rabbinical Courts chief administrator had been ignored due to her being female.

The 2014 petition that led to the decision was filed by Mavoi Satum, or “Dead End,” director and lawyer Batya Kahana-Dror, whose candidacy for the position of Rabbinical Courts chief administrator had been ignored due to her being female.

A three-justice panel of Elyakim Rubinstein, recently retired, Uri Shoham and Menahem Mazuz said that a combination of the Rabbinical Courts, the Religious Services Ministry and the State Attorney’s Office had failed to create updated eligibility criteria that did not discriminate against women. “The absence of equal representation in the Rabbinical Courts has stood out for a long time,” wrote the court. This failure despite being given extensive time, the justices noted, had forced them to declare a set of eligibility criteria and to cancel criteria which could lead to discrimination.

Under to the new criteria, a religious female lawyer or a woman who is a recognized Rabbinical Court’s litigator – a position that has been open to women for years – can submit her candidacy for the top position after practicing in the courts for seven years. The old criteria provided a variety of vague reasons that the Rabbinical Courts had used to block women’s candidacy.

Mavoi Satum said the decision “constitutes a historic jump forward in the area of religion and state, and an important achievement in the struggle for the rights of women in the Rabbinical Court system.” Kahana-Dror added, “I am happy that I had the honor to head this important proceeding to improve the status of women in Israel,” adding that it also would “strengthen the values of Judaism and democracy” that underlie the state.

Still, even after the High Court ruling there is no guarantee that the Rabbinical Courts will select a woman for the top administrative position. The High Court only ordered the Rabbinical Courts that it must fully and equally consider women’s candidacy, not that there must be affirmative action toward selecting a woman.

Some women’s activists are still concerned that the Rabbinical Courts will find clever unofficial reasons, such as objecting to the ideology of female candidates, for blocking women’s candidacies or for not selecting them. Furthermore, the decision does not allow women to become Rabbinical Court judges. The chief administrator is a bureaucratic position for managing human resources, budget and operations issues, not for deciding Jewish law.


Weizmann Institute named world's sixth best research institute

 

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot has been named the top research institution in the world outside the United States, and the sixth-best overall in an international ranking. Weizmann President Professor Daniel Zajfman credited the school’s approach to research for the ranking, saying “We recruit scientists who are among the best in the world and let them follow their curiosity. “That is what leads, in the end, to innovative and surprising new applications that shape the future,” Zajfman said.

 

The Institute was the only overseas body to make it into the top 15 of the 2017 Nature Index, published by nature.com, beating out American West Coast powerhouses Caltech and Stanford University. Scripps Research Institute in San Diego topped the list, while Rockefeller University in New York came in second and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston third.

 

The Index ranked the world’s top 200 research institutions according to the impact each institution’s academic research has had on innovation by examining how research articles are cited in third party patents. "By looking at patents owned by third parties—informed by and citing academic work—rather than those held by the academic institutions themselves, the influence of research on the development of products and services is exposed,” the site said.

 

David Swinbanks, founder of the Nature Index, said the academic players featured in the index may well shape tomorrow’s inventions, at a time when the transfer of scientific knowledge into industry and the economy is a growing priority for governments and research-funding agencies alike. “The need to demonstrate that publicly-funded science is being used for society’s benefit is paramount,” Swinbanks said.

July 21-22

Chesed Opportunity: Lone Soldier Center:

Traveling to Israel this summer? Know someone who is? Students going to Israel for their gap year studies? There are nearly 7,000 young men and women currently serving as lone soldiers in the IDF, including at least four soldiers from LSS. The Center would appreciate donations of personal care items such as Advil, razors, Q-tips, bug spray. You could bring the items from the States or buy them in Israel (and help Israel’s economy!). For a complete list and instructions how to donate, email nvogel212@gmail.com

Israelis and Palestinians join hands in W. Bank to fight car accidents

Jews and Arabs Want to Return Home Safely

High mortality rates from vehicular accidents have spurred Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank to erect a volunteer organization that will campaign for more careful driving. Israelis and Palestinians decided to fight together against vehicular road accidents, in the West Bank's Judea and Samaria. The organization has already come out with a campaign whose slogan is “Jews and Arabs Want to Return Home Safely”. Vehicular accident-related deaths in Judea and Samaria have become a cause of great concern for the area's residents. Ten people have recently died in a span of ten days on Road 60, running through Judea and Samaria.

Israeli and Palestinian volunteers will begin an education campaign with talks and lectures on the matter. The organization will also fight the use of cars that do not meet the necessary safety standards. Such cars are normally taken off the road after not meeting official regulations, before ending up in the hands of Palestinian mechanics who resell them, as complete units or as parts, for thousands of shekels.

"The #1 cause of death in Judea and Samaria is car accidents," said Dagan, the Head of the Regional Council for Judea and Samaria. "Whoever gets on these roads is taking a chance." He added that "The infrastructure isn't good enough. We expect the government to make this a top priority." One of the Palestinian officials "This isn't a political matter. There are Jews and Arabs who die on the road. We call Road 60 'the Road of Caskets’.

Israel, Palestinians Reach Landmark Water Deal for West Bank, Gaza

Israel and the Palestinian Authority announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process. The agreement is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 137-mile pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water.

The water sharing deal calls for an Aqaba desalination plant in Jordan to sell water to southern Jordan and Eilat, while water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan. Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority from Mediterranean desalination plants — 10 million to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank — according to Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace, an organization involved in water research and advocacy.

U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt hailed the agreement: “Water is a precious commodity in the Middle East. The US welcomes the agreement reached by the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. In addition, we hope that the deal will contribute to the healing of the Dead Sea.”

Bromberg identified water as a low-hanging fruit, and this water deal between Israel and the PA is really significant, because it is going to help improve the water situation first and foremost in Gaza.” “The original 2013 water deal did not include Gaza at all; the original deal was only for the West Bank. It’s because of the crisis in Gaza; both sides realize that it’s not just a water security issue, it’s a national security issue. If more water is not provided to Gaza, there could be a potential outbreak of pandemic disease, which even Prime Minister Netanyahu has said won’t stop at the border.”

Taylor Force Act

The bill is named after former US Army officer Taylor Force, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Jaffa last year. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is leading the effort, expressed hope that the measure will receive bipartisan support should it reach a vote. “If a young Palestinian is convicted in a court in Israel of being a terrorist, the longer they’re in jail, the more their family receives from the Palestinian Authority” said Sen Graham. If you die as a terrorist, as a ‘martyr,’ your family will get an annual stipend greater than the average Palestinian earns,” he added, noting that over 300 million US taxpayer dollars go to the PA each year.
Historically, career diplomats at the State Department have been hesitant to cut off funding to the PA regardless of its questionable practices: Both the US and Israeli governments fear that such a move could prompt a collapse of the authority, creating a security crisis in the West Bank.

While in Israel….

Join the Jewish National Fund’s weekly bus tour and see how the JNF is transforming the Northern Negev. Visit the Ayalon Institute home of the secret underground bullet factory that provided much needed ammunition to Haganah troops from 1945-1948…. Sderot, including the Interior Recreation Center, a safe, secure place for youth who live right next to Gaza…. Be’er Sheva, where you can tour the River Park… Givot Bar, a new Negev community. Bus leaves from Yafo Road in Jerusalem every Wednesday at 7:45 AM and returns by 5:00 PM. Cost: NIS 200 ($50) per person includes lunch. Registration required: jnf.org/bustour or call 02-563-5638 in Israel.

July 14-15

Chesed Opportunity: Lone Soldier Center:

Traveling to Israel this summer? Know someone who is? There are nearly 7,000 young men and women currently serving as lone soldiers in the IDF, including at least three from LSS. The Center would appreciate donations of personal care items such as Advil, razors, Q-tips, bug spray. You could bring the items from the States or buy them in Israel (and help Israel’s conomy!). For a complete list and instructions how to donate, email nvogel212@gmail.com

UNESCO Rewrites History. Ambassador Haley Objects

Hours after UNESCO declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank, an endangered Palestinian world heritage site, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the move was both “tragic” and an “affront to history,” and that the US would review its ties with the world body as a result of the decision.

During the World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit, twelve countries voted in favor of the Hebron decision while three opposed it and six countries abstained. Both the US and Israel protested vigorously against the motion. The voting took place in secret, whereas in the past, votes to inscribe sites onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List are done by a show of hands among all the member states. But three countries — Poland, Croatia and Jamaica — requested a secret ballot, much to the objection of other countries.

“The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. It represents an affront to history,” Haley said in a statement. The resolution, she said, would stultify ongoing attempts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a major foreign policy priority for Washington. “It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful,” she said. “And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency. Today’s vote does no one any good and causes much harm.”

Historic First: Indian PM Narendra Modi Visits Israel

The Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy visited one of the world’s smallest democracies.

The Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy visited one of the world’s smallest democracies. They also visited the Volcano Agricultural Institute, site of hundreds of innovations which have made Israel’s desert bloom, feed its people and export its agricultural knowledge all over the world, including many developing countries in Africa.

According to a statement released by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 12 agreements worth as much as $4.3 billion were signed between Indian and Israeli companies at the first meeting of the forum, a joint venture with the Manufacturers Association of Israel (MAI).

"There was a consensus that the current trade volume amounting to just over $4 billion has the potential to reach $20 billion in the next five years. To realize this goal, the forum underlined key recommendations to two heads of states," the FICCI said in a statement.

 

Israel and India committed $4 million a year each over a five-year period to set up the Israel India Innovation Initiative Fund. The fund is modeled on the The Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation which has invested in more than 900 project since being founded in 1977 with an endowment of $30 million each from Israel and the US. BIRD has provided more than $300M in grants leading to $10 billion in direct and indirect revenues.

 

"Innovation is life. Israel is the 'innovation nation,' so is India," said Netanyahu. "Together we have tremendous potential, potential not only in markets but in creating new possibilities, new opportunities.”

 

PM Modi also met with one special little Israeli boy: Moshe Holtzberg, 10, who survived a terrorist attack on a Jewish center in Mumbai in 2008 in which both his parents and six others were killed. Moshe, then 2 years old, was saved by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel, who hid in a room after the two gunmen stormed the house. She later managed to escape with the child. Samuel, now 53, was granted honorary citizenship by Israel. She lives in Jerusalem and visits Moshe every Sunday at his grandparents' home in Afula.

 

While in Israel….

Maybe, Maybe Not exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

On display for the first time in Israel, works by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, one of the most influential and esteemed members of the international contemporary art scene. This exhibition – spread out over a number of galleries – features powerful and visually captivating works exploring issues facing contemporary culture. Weiwei was imprisoned without trial in his native China, and his movements were restricted by the government due to his political activism and outspoken stance on human rights and freedom of expression, messages which are central themes in his art.

June 30- July 1

Israeli Cabinet Suspends Plans for Egalitarian Prayers at the Kotel, Restores Monopoly of Conversion Process to Chief Rabbinate

 

Bowing to haredi pressure, the government delivered two blows to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in Israel and the Diaspora, as well as moderate Orthodox groups in Israel, by indefinitely freezing its Western Wall resolution and approving a bill granting the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly on conversion.

The cabinet decision to repeal the resolution creating a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall puts an end to dreams of the Reform and Conservative movements for a grand site for their worshipers at the heart of the Jewish people.

 

The conversion law will continue on to the Knesset and, if enacted, will revoke all state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of registration with the Interior Ministry. It will also revoke state recognition of Orthodox converts who converted in nonstate, Orthodox rabbinical courts and the right of such converts who are not citizens to gain citizenship under the Law of Return.

 

The decision to repeal the Western Wall agreement was taken through a cabinet vote opposed only by Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud, with no abstentions. Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said he was at an intelligence briefing during the vote, but would have abstained or voted against had he been present.

The move comes as a severe blow to the Reform and Conservative movements both in Israel and the Diaspora, who had hailed the January 2016 Western Wall agreement as a historic day of recognition by the Israeli government of their forms of Judaism.

The decision to scrap the agreement was largely prompted by the June 26 deadline set by the High Court of Justice for the state to respond to petitions against the government by the progressive Jewish moments over implementation of the agreement. The haredi parties were extremely concerned that the High Court would intervene on the side of those demanding a government-recognized egalitarian section and, therefore, sought to preemptively circumvent such a situation.

The original resolution had determined that a large, state-recognized egalitarian section would be created at the southern end of the Western Wall that would be accessible from the main Western Wall complex and run by a board including progressive Jewish representatives and members of the Women of the Wall organization.

 

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky accused the Israeli government of “weakening relations” following the decision to freeze progress on plans to construct an egalitarian section at the Western Wall to cater for the holy site’s more liberal visitors.

“We are not prepared to accept that the Israeli government takes steps that weaken the relations between the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Sharansky said, adding that the agency was taken by “complete surprise” by the turnaround.

“There was a simple meeting,” Sharansky fumed. “We gathered from all over the world to celebrate 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem and the Kotel and 120 years since the (creation of) the Zionist movement. Suddenly we are encountering a complete surprise in the government’s decision that goes against Herzl’s vision, against David Ben-Gurion’s and Ze’ev Jabotinsky's, according to whom the State of Israel is the home for all Jews.”

 

Sharansky asked rhetorically whether the symbol that unites Jews should also be the thing that divides them. “We won’t agree or allow this to happen. We will go to every politicians in Israel and explain to him the severity of the decision.”

 

The second haredi victory was the approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation of the controversial conversion law advanced by United Torah Judaism and Shas to grant the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel. Pursuant to a High Court ruling in March 2016, converts who converted through non-state Orthodox rabbinical courts could register as Jewish in the Interior Ministry and gain citizenship under the Law of Return if they were not already citizens.

The new law, however, would abolish all such recognition and rights for such converts and make conversion through the State Conversion Authority, which is under the guidance of the Chief Rabbinate, the only conversion with any legal standing in the country.

The proposed law explicitly states that it is designed to reverse the legal situation created by the March 2016 ruling. That decision was seen as an especially severe blow to the Chief Rabbinate and religious establishment, and set a precedent whereby it was possible to envision a situation in which the Chief Rabbinate would be forced to recognize non-state Orthodox converts for the purposes of marriage.

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef warmly welcomed the decision, saying it was “unthinkable that non-Orthodox conversions and unsupervised private conversions could be recognized here in Israel.”

However, Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich, a widely respected arbiter of Jewish law, dean of the Birkat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim and leading rabbi of the independent Orthodox rabbinical court, denounced the bill. “The proposed legislation directly hurts thousands of converts who converted in Israel over the years and is also in complete contradiction to Halacha,” Rabinovich wrote, referring to Jewish law.

“There was never a precedent for a senior rabbinical authority interfering with these matters [of conversions in private communities],” he continued. He added that, were Bayit Yehudi leaders to support the bill, it would be “a permanent stain” on the party.

Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the religious Zionist organization Tzohar and a rabbinical judge on the Giyur Kahalacha court, also condemned the approval of the bill and Bayit Yehudi’s support of it. “Both the government and those representatives of Religious- Zionism within it established that they prefer a coalition including anti-Zionist elements over the unity of the Jewish people,” said Stav.

Rabbi Seth Farber, one of the founders of Giyur Kahalacha, said that by approving the bill, the government was turning its back on tens thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

 

“For the first time, there is a real chance of converting tens of thousands through the model of converting children [with parental consent] used by Giyur Kahalacha,” said Farber. “Instead of embracing the private conversion program, the government has outlawed it. This behavior is unprecedented in Jewish history. Even when Hillel converted those Shamai rejected, the Sanhedrin didn’t insist on outlawing Hillel’s bet din [court]. Bayit Yehudi, which was once the great champion of the Russian aliya, today turned its back on immigrants.”

 

Meet Internationally Celebrated Artist: Guy Yanai

Wednesday, July 5th, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, 525 West 22nd Street, New York

Guy Yanai lives and works in Tel Aviv. He attended Parsons School of Design and the New York Studio School, and received a BFA from Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. Guy Yanai's paintings are characterized by bold colors, simplified shapes. Guy has had numerous shows in Israel and abroad and his work is very often represented in the important contemporary art fairs.

This is a unique opportunity to meet Guy Yanai, hear him talk about his practice, and view his latest body of work before the exhibition opens to the public. Israeli wine and kosher refreshments will be served. Couvert is $36. To register, email ronnit@artconnect.com

 

June 30- July 1

Israeli Cabinet Suspends Plans for Egalitarian Prayers at the Kotel, Restores Monopoly of Conversion Process to Chief Rabbinate

Bowing to haredi pressure, the government delivered two blows to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in Israel and the Diaspora, as well as moderate Orthodox groups in Israel, by indefinitely freezing its Western Wall resolution and approving a bill granting the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly on conversion.

The cabinet decision to repeal the resolution creating a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall puts an end to dreams of the Reform and Conservative movements for a grand site for their worshipers at the heart of the Jewish people.

The conversion law will continue on to the Knesset and, if enacted, will revoke all state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of registration with the Interior Ministry. It will also revoke state recognition of Orthodox converts who converted in nonstate, Orthodox rabbinical courts and the right of such converts who are not citizens to gain citizenship under the Law of Return.

The decision to repeal the Western Wall agreement was taken through a cabinet vote opposed only by Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud, with no abstentions. Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said he was at an intelligence briefing during the vote, but would have abstained or voted against had he been present.

The move comes as a severe blow to the Reform and Conservative movements both in Israel and the Diaspora, who had hailed the January 2016 Western Wall agreement as a historic day of recognition by the Israeli government of their forms of Judaism.

The decision to scrap the agreement was largely prompted by the June 26 deadline set by the High Court of Justice for the state to respond to petitions against the government by the progressive Jewish moments over implementation of the agreement. The haredi parties were extremely concerned that the High Court would intervene on the side of those demanding a government-recognized egalitarian section and, therefore, sought to preemptively circumvent such a situation.

The original resolution had determined that a large, state-recognized egalitarian section would be created at the southern end of the Western Wall that would be accessible from the main Western Wall complex and run by a board including progressive Jewish representatives and members of the Women of the Wall organization.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky accused the Israeli government of “weakening relations” following the decision to freeze progress on plans to construct an egalitarian section at the Western Wall to cater for the holy site’s more liberal visitors.

“We are not prepared to accept that the Israeli government takes steps that weaken the relations between the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Sharansky said, adding that the agency was taken by “complete surprise” by the turnaround.

“There was a simple meeting,” Sharansky fumed. “We gathered from all over the world to celebrate 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem and the Kotel and 120 years since the (creation of) the Zionist movement. Suddenly we are encountering a complete surprise in the government’s decision that goes against Herzl’s vision, against David Ben-Gurion’s and Ze’ev Jabotinsky's, according to whom the State of Israel is the home for all Jews.”

 

Sharansky asked rhetorically whether the symbol that unites Jews should also be the thing that divides them. “We won’t agree or allow this to happen. We will go to every politicians in Israel and explain to him the severity of the decision.”

 

The second haredi victory was the approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation of the controversial conversion law advanced by United Torah Judaism and Shas to grant the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel. Pursuant to a High Court ruling in March 2016, converts who converted through non-state Orthodox rabbinical courts could register as Jewish in the Interior Ministry and gain citizenship under the Law of Return if they were not already citizens.

The new law, however, would abolish all such recognition and rights for such converts and make conversion through the State Conversion Authority, which is under the guidance of the Chief Rabbinate, the only conversion with any legal standing in the country.

The proposed law explicitly states that it is designed to reverse the legal situation created by the March 2016 ruling. That decision was seen as an especially severe blow to the Chief Rabbinate and religious establishment, and set a precedent whereby it was possible to envision a situation in which the Chief Rabbinate would be forced to recognize non-state Orthodox converts for the purposes of marriage.

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef warmly welcomed the decision, saying it was “unthinkable that non-Orthodox conversions and unsupervised private conversions could be recognized here in Israel.”

However, Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich, a widely respected arbiter of Jewish law, dean of the Birkat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim and leading rabbi of the independent Orthodox rabbinical court, denounced the bill. “The proposed legislation directly hurts thousands of converts who converted in Israel over the years and is also in complete contradiction to Halacha,” Rabinovich wrote, referring to Jewish law.

“There was never a precedent for a senior rabbinical authority interfering with these matters [of conversions in private communities],” he continued. He added that, were Bayit Yehudi leaders to support the bill, it would be “a permanent stain” on the party.

Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the religious Zionist organization Tzohar and a rabbinical judge on the Giyur Kahalacha court, also condemned the approval of the bill and Bayit Yehudi’s support of it. “Both the government and those representatives of Religious- Zionism within it established that they prefer a coalition including anti-Zionist elements over the unity of the Jewish people,” said Stav.

Rabbi Seth Farber, one of the founders of Giyur Kahalacha, said that by approving the bill, the government was turning its back on tens thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

“For the first time, there is a real chance of converting tens of thousands through the model of converting children [with parental consent] used by Giyur Kahalacha,” said Farber. “Instead of embracing the private conversion program, the government has outlawed it. This behavior is unprecedented in Jewish history. Even when Hillel converted those Shamai rejected, the Sanhedrin didn’t insist on outlawing Hillel’s bet din [court]. Bayit Yehudi, which was once the great champion of the Russian aliya, today turned its back on immigrants.”

 

Meet Internationally Celebrated Artist: Guy Yanai

Wednesday, July 5th, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, 525 West 22nd Street, New York

Guy Yanai lives and works in Tel Aviv. He attended Parsons School of Design and the New York Studio School, and received a BFA from Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. Guy Yanai's paintings are characterized by bold colors, simplified shapes. Guy has had numerous shows in Israel and abroad and his work is very often represented in the important contemporary art fairs.

This is a unique opportunity to meet Guy Yanai, hear him talk about his practice, and view his latest body of work before the exhibition opens to the public. Israeli wine and kosher refreshments will be served. Couvert is $36. To register, email ronnit@artconnect.com

 

June 23-24

Staff Sgt. Hadas Malka, z”l

Malka, 23, was on patrol outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem when she was attacked on Sultan Suleiman Street near Damascus Gate last Friday evening. She was stabbed in the upper torso and transferred in critical condition to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, where she underwent emergency surgery but later succumbed to her injuries.

She had been in a group of troops responding to an attack seconds earlier by two other Palestinian assailants who targeted troops with knives and an automatic weapon at the adjacent Zedekiah’s Cave.

“You cared for everyone, always lent a helping hand; your joy for life swept everyone away,” police chief Roni Alsheich eulogized at the funeral. “You loved everyone. You stayed away from gossip and speaking ill of others. You were a fighter who loved people.” Malka, a resident of Moshav Givat Ezer in central Israel, left behind her parents, three sisters and two brothers.

Are You Thinking of Making Aliya? You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Monday, June 26 at 8:15 pm in Classroom 207

Making aliya is a very praise-worthy but not easy decision. Come to this program whether you are seriously thinking of making aliya in the very near future and even if you are just toying with the idea. Representatives from the Jewish Agency will discuss such topics as: How do you know if aliya is right for you? How do you determine the “right” community for you to live in? If you’re working, what are the job opportunities in your field? What about health care coverage? Plenty of time will be allocated for Q&A.

JUNE 16-17

Are You Thinking of Making Aliya? You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Monday, June 26 at 8:15 pm in Classroom 207

Making aliya is a very praise-worthy but not easy decision. Come to this program whether you are seriously thinking of making aliya in the very near future and even if you are just toying with the idea. Representatives from the Jewish Agency will discuss such topics as: How do you know if aliya is right for you? How do you determine the “right” community for you to live in? If you’re working, what are the job opportunities in your field? What about health care coverage? Plenty of time will be allocated for Q&A.

“Like I Do My Own Son”

The baby’s family had been involved in a head-on collision with a bus on Route 60 in the West Bank, which left the baby’s father dead and his mother with a serious head injury. The baby, who was slightly injured, cried for seven hours in the emergency room and refused a bottle, according to the report.

The baby’s aunts asked Ostrowski-Zak to help them find someone to nurse the boy and the nurse reportedly volunteered to do it herself. She nursed the baby five times during the next day.

“They asked me if I could find someone to breastfeed the baby,” Ostrowski-Zak told the Ynet news site in an article headlined, “I breastfed him like I do my own son.”

She said the baby relaxed and looked into her eyes as she fed him. She then posted a request for help with nursing the baby on an Israeli Facebook page for nursing mothers and received many responses from women willing to come to the hospital, from as far away as Haifa, to help feed the baby until he is discharged.

She said the baby’s aunts later thanked her and told her they didn’t know other Jewish mothers who would have done what she did. “I told them that any breastfeeding mother would have done so.”

The baby’s mother remains in serious condition.

Palestinian man donates recovery room to Haifa hospital

A Palestinian man donated tens of thousands of shekels to the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa to improve treatment of childhood cancers and Israeli-Palestinian medical cooperation after he himself underwent cancer treatment at the Israeli hospital.

After being diagnosed with cancer, a senior Palestinian official was directed to Rambam for further medical examinations and treatment. While hospitalized in the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, he met with several families of patients from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, and showed a particular interest in the needs of hospitalized children, both Israeli and foreign.

“When I arrived at Rambam (Hospital), I saw a medical team caring for patients, but I also saw the suffering of the sick children,” recalled M. in a statement (Rambam Medical Center spokespeople said they were not at liberty to reveal the man’s identity). “Palestinian, Israeli, Syrian and children from other countries receive treatment in the hospital for a variety of serious illnesses and need all the help they can get. I decided to contribute as much as I could, both a humanitarian act and a symbol of solidarity.”

Rambam estimates, that approximately 1,200 Palestinian children and adults from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza visit the hospital every year for cancer treatment.

 

“Israeli and Palestinian both societies suffer from the damage of violence and I am striving towards a situation where we can all contribute to peace and health,” continues M. “One where we can take care of children, save lives, share knowledge and train Palestinian doctors at Rambam Hospital.”

 

M. added his goal is to improve the state of health systems and treatment capacities within the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, and encourage more Palestinians to contribute to health promotion between the two peoples.

Meet Internationally Celebrated Artist: Guy Yanai

Wednesday, July 5th, 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, 525 West 22nd Street, New York

Born in 1977 in Haifa, Israel, Guy Yanai currently lives and works in Tel Aviv. He attended Parsons School of Design and the New York Studio School, and received a BFA from Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. Guy Yanai's paintings are characterized by bold colors, simplified shapes. His subject matter includes everyday objects and spaces to which he gives a digitized pixilated appearance. Guy has had numerous shows in Israel and abroad and his work is very often represented in the important contemporary art fairs.

This is a unique opportunity to meet Guy Yanai, hear him talk about his practice, and view his latest body of work before the exhibition opens to the public. Israeli wine and kosher refreshments will be served. Couvert is $36. To register, email ronnit@artconnect.com

 

 May 19-20

Paying It Forward

The disaster in 2013 struck a region where Arpon, an Israeli-born Filipino, had relatives. Amid the chaos, a search and rescue unit of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) was dispatched to provide disaster relief, and ended up rescuing her grandmother. "Then I chose to serve in the same unit that saved her," Arpon told Reuters.

She has since been honored by Israel's president as one of the country's most outstanding soldiers and was recognized at a festive ceremony last week. Arpon's service is all the more unusual for the fact that, as the daughter of economic migrants from the Philippines, she is not an Israeli citizen - though she hopes to change that. "I hope for myself to be an Israeli (citizen), to have it, and also to help other people in other countries as I do here in the army," she said.

US Consulate’s Political Counselor Tells Israelis: Western Wall is Not Yours

The American official who sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall, the holiest place for Jews to pray, is not part of Israel and not Israel’s responsibility was named Tuesday in a TV report as David Berns, the political counselor at the US Consulate in Jerusalem. A second US official, the consulate’s economic counselor Jonathan Shrier, was also involved in the bitter diplomatic incident, which deteriorated into an angry shouting match.

After publication of the remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office expressed shock, sought clarifications from the White House, and said it did not believe the comments reflected Trump’s views.

Shortly afterwards, the White House told The Times of Israel, “The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president.”

The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point to the site of the Temple itself where Jews can pray. It was captured along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.

Ambassador Haley: 'Western Wall is Part of Israel'

Amid prevailing uncertainty as to where the US Trump administration stands on the status of the Western Wall (the Kotel), US Envoy to the UN Nikki Haley sought to clarify Tuesday night her own stance, saying in an interview that “I believe that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”

Haley was asked about a recent spat that took place between an Israeli and American team at the Kotel during which a member of the US delegation told his counterparts, “This isn’t your territory. It’s the West Bank’s.”

 

Stressing that she did not know what the US administration’s official policy was, Ambassador Haley nonetheless reaffirmed her belief that the Kotel belonged to Israel. “I think that’s how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it. I’m not really sure what happened with that issue but I know that they’re trying to fix that and get that taken care of but you know we’ve always thought that the Western Wall is part of Israel,” she stated unequivocally.

 

March in the Annual Celebrate Israel Parade

Sunday, June 4

 

Show your support for the State of Israel by marching in the annual parade. Lincoln Square will be marching under the banner of the United Congregations for Israel. We will assemble at 1:30 PM rain or shine on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues (right behind the Hillel contingent).

May 11-12

Israel Advocacy: Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017

Despite hopes for moderation, Iran has increased its malign activities at home and abroad since the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aka “The Iran Nuclear Deal”. Bipartisan legislation is currently under consideration in the Senate that would push back on Iran’s non-nuclear behavior in the Middle East. The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and SFRC Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), bolsters sanctions against individuals and entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile activity, conventional arms trade, human rights abuses, and terrorism.

Thirty-seven Senators co-sponsored the bill; unfortunately, neither New York State Senator was among the sponsors. You can easily send them a message urging them to support this legislation. AIPAC has set up an automatic email generator, all you need is to enter your personal contact information and they will send an email on your behalf to Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Visit www.aipac.org and follow the directions. If you have any questions, please contact LSS’s liaison to AIPAC, Ann Crane at anncrane2750@gmail.com

“Happy Yom Ha’Atzmaut” … UNESCO Style

The United Nations’ cultural agency voted to condemn Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.

UNESCO — the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — passed a resolution called “Occupied Palestine” by a vote of 22-10, with 26 countries abstaining or absent.

The resolution calls on Israel to rescind any “legislative and administrative measures and actions” it has taken to “alter the character and status” of Jerusalem. It rejects the idea of a “basic law” in Jerusalem, based off of a 1980 Knesset law, which implies that the city is one unified whole and governed solely by Israel. The vote was taken on Israel’s Independence Day and follows a highly controversial UNESCO resolution passed last October that ignored Jewish ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount sites.

Controversial 'Jewish State' bill passes first reading in the Knesset

The "Jewish nation state" bill passed its first Israeli parliament reading, with 48 lawmakers voting in favor and 41 against. The legislation, sponsored by Likud Member of Knesset (MK) Avi Dichter, says that “the State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it realizes its aspirations for self-determination according to its cultural and historic traditions” and that “the realization of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The legislation states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the official language of the state. It gives special status for the Arabic language, a downgrade from its current position.

The bill must pass further readings by the Knesset before becoming law.

The bill also recognizes that “every resident of Israel, without distinction of religion or national origin, is entitled to work to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity.” Dichter celebrated the Committee's decision as "a big step toward defining our identity, not only in the eyes of the world but primarily for ourselves, Israelis. To be a free people in our land."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin appeared to refer to the bill during an interview with Army Radio when he said that Israel should not stray from the principles of the country's Declaration of Independence.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint (Arab) List party, called the Committee's decision to approve the updated text a "declaration of war" on Israel’s Arab citizens. Zionist Union lawmaker MK Erel Margalit, a contender for the leadership for the center-left party, called the bill "reminiscent of dark periods" in Israel's history, calling the bill "an effort to erode the only democracy in the Middle East."

Figures from 2016 show that the Jewish population of Israel stands at 6.377 million, (74.8% of the population), while the Arabic population numbers about 1.771 million, or 20.8%. Another 374,000 people – 4.4% of the population – are non-Arab Christians, members of other religions, and people with no recorded religious affiliation.

Lancet Medical Journal Publishes Issue on Israeli Healthcare

After publishing a harshly-worded letter critical of the Israeli Defense Forces during the 2014 Gaza war, the prestigious British medical journal, the Lancet, shifted gears and dedicated its latest issue to Israel's healthcare system.

Professor Karl Skorecki, director of medical research and development at Rambam hospital in Haifa, commended the Lancet for its change of heart after the most recent edition was published on Monday.

"It's the most comprehensive overview of the Israeli health system published in a major journal," Skorecki said about the issue, entitled "Health in Israel."

 

This edition of the Lancet features ten articles which range from showcasing Israeli lifesaving medical devices and detailing groundbreaking genetic research among the country's diverse population to highlighting Israeli efforts to treat Syrian refugees injured in the civil war.


The op-ed provoked a firestorm of comments and responses from medical academics who questioned whether the letter was the proper platform for discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In response, Skorecki decided to reach out to the Lancet and invite its staff to see Israel for themselves.

Lancet editor, Professor Richard Horton, who was visiting Tel Aviv on Monday, had previously apologized for the letter and promised to make amends by publishing an edition that would highlight Israel's contributions to the medical profession.

During Horton's trip, Skorecki blasted efforts by the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement to isolate Israel over its alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians. The idea of boycott and sanctions is not only wrong but it's counterproductive," Skorecki said, because "Israel's experience and insight has a great deal to offer for world health challenges." Skorecki mentioned how his own hospital hosts residents from the Palestinian city of Ramallah, and he has trained two kidney specialists from Gaza.

 

April 28-29

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel

To see and hear the United Nations roll call on the motion to recognize the State of Israel on December 29, 1947, click >>> here

To see and hear David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, click >>> here

And here is the text of the declaration of statehood:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, defiant returnees, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

Accordingly we, members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

We declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel." 

The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

The State of Israel is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the community of nations.

We appeal - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the up building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and up building and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.

Placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional Council of State, on the soil of the Homeland, in the city of Tel-Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948). 

April 21-22

Yom HaShoah Commemoration: Monday, April 24, Room 207

 

On Monday, April 24, LSS will host two programs to commemorate Yom HaShoah; one in Hebrew and one in English. Both programs will be led by Hai Piaszky, Shaliach for the UWS.

 

7:00 PM: The Story of Piotr Budnik, Righteous Among the Nations (in HEBREW)

8:00 PM: Israel and the Shoah (1948-2017): The Effect of Eichmann’s Trial, Survivors in Israel Today, Yom HaShoah Observance in Israel (in ENGLISH)

Upper West Side Celebrates Israel: Sunday, April 30 – Tuesday, May 2

From commemorating the darkness of the Holocaust, we move to the celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The 5th UWS Celebrates Israel festival offers nearly two dozen programs that include films, lectures, kosher food, chesed opportunities, and much more. For a list of the programs, visit www.uwsISRAEL.org

No Need to Strike a Rock: Israel Firm Extracts Water from Air

Water covers 70 percent of Earth, but only three percent of the world’s water is fresh, and two-thirds of that is unavailable for use, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. As a result, “some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.”

Water-Gen Ltd., an Israeli company has developed technology that captures humidity in order to make drinking water out of air. Engineers use a series of filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs; it also includes a proprietary software that operates the devices.

The atmospheric water generators developed by Water-Gen allow the production of 4 liters of drinking water (one gallon) using 1 Kilowatt of energy. Other companies by comparison, consume three to four times more energy. This makes Water-Gen cheaper than similar solutions offered by other companies.

Water-Gen’s water is still more expensive than desalinated water, but is the best and cheapest alternative when desalinated water cannot be used because of bad infrastructure. In developed markets, the Water-Gen solution is much cheaper than mineral and purified water in bottles, and avoids the use of plastic bottles which are an environmental hazard. [Source: The Times of Israel]

Record Number of Jews Visit the Temple Mount During Pesach

A record number of Jews visited the Temple Mount over Passover, breaking the record for most Jewish visitors to the site in one day as well as over the course of Passover. Approximately 1,600 Jews visited the site throughout the seven days of Passover, compared to last year’s Passover record of 1,015.

In accordance with the so-called status quo arrangement at the site, non-Muslim prayer is de facto banned, due to the concern that permitting it will lead to Arab rioting and violence and a severe deterioration of the security situation.

Temple Mount activists seek to advance Jewish prayer and visitation rights at the site, and view the increase in number of visitors to the site as a tactic to gain political force and backing for such efforts. Palestinians and Jordanians fiercely oppose such moves, and claim that by doing so Israel is seeking to change the long-established status quo at the site. [Source: Jerusalem Post]

Israel State comptroller slams government treatment of Holocaust survivors

A special report by the state comptroller published days before Israelis mark Holocaust Remembrance Day paints a shocking picture of government failure to extend help to Holocaust survivors, who are dying at the rate of 1,000 a month.

The report describes poor government coordination, a failure to use funds already budgeted, complex laws that are difficult to navigate for aging survivors — many of whom can neither use the internet nor are sufficiently proficient in Hebrew — and a complete lack of government support for survivors who arrived in Israel in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union.

Some 158,000 survivors live in Israel, in addition to 56,000 individuals recognized as the victims of racism and anti-Semitism. Their average age is 85. The report found that despite a government decision to expand welfare services for survivors and allocate NIS 60 million ($16.5 million) for the purpose, the Social Welfare Ministry had failed to finalize a program for use of the funds or to seek Finance Ministry approval for the program.

“Because of delays in approving the program and allocating it funds, Holocaust survivors are being prevented from getting services that could improve their welfare, including hot meals, medical treatments, emergency buzzers, and mainly social activities which could reduce, in no small way, the feeling of loneliness.”

“In light of the age and medical condition of Holocaust survivors, the delay in the provision of necessary social services is critical, and any delay causes significant harm to the survivors’ welfare, whose numbers are dwindling. The survivors, who experienced the events of the Holocaust, deserve to live out the remainder of their lives in dignity and to be recognized in an appropriate fashion.”

April 14-15

Yom HaShoah Commemoration at LSS: Monday, April 24, Room 207

7:00 PM: The Story of Piot Budnik, Righteous Among the Nations (in HEBREW)

8:00 PM: Israel and the Shoah (1948-2017): The Effect of Eichmann’s Trial, Survivors in Israel Today, Yom HaShoah Observance in Israel (in ENGLISH)

Program led by Hai Piasezky, Shaliach for the UWS

2018 AIPAC Policy Conference

Next year's AIPAC policy conference will be on March 4-6, 2018 in Washington DC. For a limited time, you can register at the reduced rate of $399 (normally $599). Can't plan that far ahead? No problem. Your fee is fully refundable before January 5, 2018. See www.PolicyConference.org to register.

Israelis raise $100k in two days to aid Syrian kids

An Israeli grassroots campaign aimed at bringing emergency supplies to embattled Syrians has raised some NIS 410,000 ($105,000) in just over two days. The “Just Beyond the Border” initiative has seen thousands of Israelis purchase goods such as blankets, jackets, medicine and food that will be delivered directly to Syrians on the other side of the border.

The donated goods will be handed over to Syrians by the Israeli organization Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), which, according to their website, “specializes in bringing life-saving aid to communities affected by natural disasters and human conflict, especially where local regimes prevent entry from formal international humanitarian organizations.”

Yoav Yeivin, one of the lead organizers of the campaign, told The Times of Israel: “As an Israeli child I grew up asking where the world was when we needed them most. As a Jew I always knew that I was expected to be there, to help and lend a hand. There is no nation that knows better than us how lethal apathy can be,” Yeivin said, alluding to the Holocaust.

Mobileye deal to fuel investment in late-stage Israeli start-ups

Intel's $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye has catapulted Israeli hi-tech into the global league, and is likely to stimulate investment in the sector's other late-stage startups, where funds are most needed.

Fundraising in late-stage startups - more mature firms that are already selling products rather than just the bright but unexploited ideas of entrepreneurs - has begun to increase. According to the Israel Venture Capital (IVC) Research Center, it rose to $2.9 billion in 2016 from $2.4 billion in 2015 as investors search for a higher yield on their investments. Venture capitalists believe the U.S. semiconductor giant's purchase last week of Mobileye, which specializes in technology for driverless cars, should accelerate the trend.

"A concern over the years has been that compared to the U.S., Israel cannot produce outsized returns," said Adam Fisher, a partner who manages the Israel office for California-based venture capital fund Bessemer. "Mobileye is a perfect example of how a big business can be built in Israel and how a large corporate will not hesitate to pay a strategic premium for the business despite its location." [Reuters]

How Much is an Israeli Life Worth (Adjusting for Inflation)?

Families of Palestinian terrorists receiving monthly payments from the Palestine Liberation Organization are pushing for an increase, amid growing pressure from the United States and other donor countries on the Palestinian Authority to end the practice.

The monthly payments, which totaled $173 million in 2016, are doled out to relatives of “martyrs” — the families of terrorists who have murdered Israelis, as well as those wounded or killed in any confrontation with Israelis.

According to Muhammad Sbeihat, the Secretary-General of the National Association of the Martyrs’ Families of Palestine, a non-governmental umbrella group, members of his organization are asking for the payments to be linked to the cost of living in the Palestinian Territories.

“In the upcoming period, the allowances of the martyrs’ families will be linked to the cost of living index, which will cause an improvement in these allowances, if only slightly,” Sbeihat said last Tuesday at an event for “martyr” families in Tulkarem, according to a translation in a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) report published Sunday.

Currently there are around 35,100 families in the West Bank and Gaza receiving payments from the PLO — the $173 million paid out in 2016.

In addition, the PLO gives monthly payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their families. In 2016 the PLO budgeted $137.45 million for payments to prisoners.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham reintroduced legislation in March that would cut US funding to the PA if it continues to provide monetary support to the families of those who commit acts of terror against Israelis and others. [Source: The Times of Israel]

April 7-8

Chesed Opportunity: Support the IDF Lone Soldier Program

The Lone Soldier Center in Israel provides support to the 6,300 soldiers from around the world who left their families in order to serve in the IDF, not because they “have to”, but because they want to. The Center will host hundreds of “chayalim and chayalot bodadim” for the Seders and will distribute vouchers so that needy soldiers can buy food for Pesach. You could help by making a donation through www.lonesoldiercenter.com/passover

Going to Israel for Pesach? Know someone who is? The Lone Soldier Center has asked for donations of books, toiletries, personal care items and over-the-counter meds. Please email nvogel212@gmail.com for a list of items that soldiers would like to receive which you or a friend could drop off in Israel.

A Woman’s Place is in a…. Tank?

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has launched a pilot program to train women as tank operators, an official announced recently. As part of the IDF’s efforts to increase gender integration in infantry combat units, the four-month long course will include 15 female participants, who will begin the program this summer after completing basic training.

The screening process for suitable candidates among new recruits is already underway, the IDF said, and the program will be heavily supervised by IDF Medical Corps personnel and combat fitness experts. An Armored Corps official said the main physical obstacles the trainees are likely to face are loading shells into a tank’s gun and dealing with a tank’s tracks coming off.

The IDF plans to form both mixed and all-female tank units, but the close-quarters of serving in tanks has made creating all-female units a priority, one official said. “We are giving this a real chance and we’ll be wiser after the pilot program concludes,” Armored Corps Commander Brig. Gen. Guy Hasson said. [Source: Algemenier]

 

World to BDS Movement: Dayenu

The Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel is by no means dead, but there are signs that it is beginning to fail, according the The UK Media Watch. The article includes a wonderful video by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that explains the underlying goal of the BDS movement (hint: it is not to help the people that it claims to want to help). Here are some examples of how the tide is turning against the BDS movement.

 

Every year, the Swiss Federal government provides about 1 million Swiss francs to a framework based in Ramallah and known as the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat. From there, the money is distributed to over 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). More than half of these groups are active in BDS and lawfare campaigns (seeking to label Israeli officials as war criminals). The Swiss Parliament voted to “amend the laws so that Switzerland can no longer subsidize development cooperation projects carried out by NGOs involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions, or in BDS campaigns.”

 

In the United Kingdom, the University of Central Lancashire has cancelled an event which was due to take place as part of “Israel Apartheid Week” activity on its campus. The session was billed as a discussion looking at the boycott of Israel. In cancelling the program, a spokesperson for the university said: “We believe the proposed talk breaches university protocols, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.”

Israel-Australia trade increased by 8% in 2016….talks have begun between the Israel Airports Authority and Thai Airways to possibly create a new direct route between Ben Gurion International and Bangkok, Thailand….Israel plays an important role in helping supply medicines for the NHS in the UK. Some 100 million prescription items for medicines used in the community in England are estimated to come from companies based in Israel. Teva also funds clinical development in the United Kingdom, including research into dementia…Israeli startups have raised $800 million so far in 2017. This is keeping pace with last year when Israeli startups raised $1.09 billion in the first quarter.

China’s involvement in Israel’s economy has grown over the past five years as evidenced in major M&A activity like the purchase of controlling shares in Makhteshim Agan by ChemChina in 2011, the purchase of Alma Lasers by Fosun Pharma in 2013, the sale of Tnuva in 2014 to China’s Bright Food and the acquisition of Ahava Cosmetics by Fosun in 2016. Growing Chinese investment in Israeli hi-tech is further evidence of this phenomenon.

China’s unique interest in Israel is evidenced by the dozens of delegations of senior government officials and businesspeople who have visited Israel in recent years. Representatives of large companies and private investors from China often arrive in Israel in an attempt to crack “the Israeli code,” to understand the local innovation ecosystem and to implement the innovative and entrepreneurial Israeli character into their own DNA.

Bottom line: Despite BDS movement efforts to disrupt Israel's economy, the economy actually grew by 4% in 2016. For the sake of comparison, GDP grew 3.2% in 2014 and 2.5% in 2015.

March 31- April 1

Chesed Opportunity: IDF Lone Soldier Program

There are over 6,300 lone soldiers from around the world serving in the IDF. The Lone Soldier Program in Israel will host hundreds of soldiers at its seders and will issue hundreds of vouchers for lone soldiers to purchase food for Pesach. They need our help. To make a donation,click on Pesach Meals for Lone Soldiers

Going to Israel for Peesach? Know someone who is? The Lone Soldier Center has also asked for donations of books, toiletries, personal care items and over-the-counter meds. Please email nvogel212@gmail.com for a list.

Naftali Bennett: The Key to Israel’s High Tech Boom

I am often asked how a country the size of New Jersey became a global high-tech force. Israel lists 93 companies on Nasdaq - more than India, Japan and South Korea combined. In 2016 investors sank $6 billion into Israel's more than 6,000 startups. Naftali Bennett, is  a former high-tech CEO, is Israel's minister of education. (Wall Street Journal)

 

During my two years as minister of education I have come to understand that our secret weapon is a parallel education system that operates alongside the formal one, where our children learn to become entrepreneurs. The first component is our heritage of debate - it's in the Jewish DNA. For generations Jews have studied the Talmud, our legal codex, in pairs instead of listening to a lecture, engaging in debate. They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions. Multiple answers to a single question are common.

 

The second component is the peer-teaches-peer model of Jewish youth organizations. The third component is the army. Because we are constantly defending ourselves from Islamic terror, young Israeli adults must literally make life-or-death decisions every day. Real-life tasks show young adults how much they are capable of achieving.

 

US Ambassador to the UN: “The Days of Israel Bashing Are Over”

 

"Never do we not have the backs of our friends. We don't have a greater friend than Israel," she added. "And to see that happen was not only embarrassing it was hurtful." "What I can tell you is that everybody at the United Nations is scared to talk to me about Resolution 2334," Haley declared, to warm cheers from the large pro-Israeli crowd. "And I wanted to let them to know that, look, that happened but it will never happen again. The days of Israel-bashing are over."

 

In addressing the annual AIPAC policy conference, Ambassador Nikki Haley described Resolution 2334 as a "kick in the gut" to all Americans, and warned other UN members that the United States would retaliate against any new attempt to isolate Israel.

 

[U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 states that Israel’s settlement activity outside the pre Six Day War borders including Jerusalem and including the kotel have no legal validity. The resolution passed by a vote of 14-0 with the United States abstaining.]

 

"Incredibly, the UN department of political affairs has an entire division devoted entirely to Palestinian affairs! Imagine that! There is no division devoted to illegal missile launches form North Korea. There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, Iran… the double standards are breathtaking," she asserted. Follow this link in the online version of the Israel Corner to watch a video of Haley’s talk at AIPAC.

 

Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis Team Up to Combat Earthquake Risk

The area along the Israel-Jordan border is highly susceptible to earthquakes. Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians joined forces to provide the best possible response in case such a disaster strikes. Israeli institutions are collaborating with the Jordanian Red Crescent and Hebron’s Greenland Association to train local residents as first responders in the event of such a catastrophe. The joint project, called “Community Emergency Response Teams,” was conceived by Ben-Gurion University, the European Union and Magen David Adom.

This training will give residents tools to provide first aid, shelter and psycho-social support before professional rescue teams appear. Participants underwent a 100-hour course on subjects such as needs assessment, first aid, shelter, hygiene promotion, psycho-social support, search and rescue, firefighting and community resilience.

The teams will be scattered along the Jordan River bank in Israel’s Emek Hama’ayanot region, Hevel Eilot region and Kuseife, a Beduin town. Similar training took place simultaneously in Palestinian and Jordanian communities. First-response teams throughout the region will also be prepared to assist one another in case of an emergency.

The project culminated with a drill that took place in Kibbutz Gesher in Beit She’an. A ceremony attended by the president of the Jordanian Red Crescent, a senior representative of BGU and the head of the Emek Hama’ayanot Regional Council was held after the drill.

Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, BGU’s deputy rector for international academic relations and head of the prepared center for emergency response research, who leads the project, said: “The project is funded by the EU’s Peace Partnership and has granted us the opportunity to once again promote lifesaving activities together. The collaboration, which began with training the first Jordanian paramedics a decade ago, continues with the establishment of local emergency-response teams over the past three years. In the future we aim to establish a master’s program in emergency response and crisis management. Above all, the project has sparked personal relationships and friendships that prove that regional collaboration is indeed possible.”

Update this content.

March 24-25

Going to Israel for Pesach?

The Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem has asked for donations of books. Please email nvogel212@gmail.com for details if you could help.

Meet DOGO

The robot is equipped with eight cameras that supply its operator, who uses a special tablet to control it, a 360 degree sight range, even at night. Moreover, it also has caterpillar tracks that allow it to climb over obstacles and travel in difficult terrain.

There is an amazing video of the robot in action, click on Ynetnews in the online version of the Israel Corner. What makes the DOGO unique is the fact that it's armed with a 9mm GLOCK 26 pistol capable of carrying 14 rounds of ammunition. It can even fire non-lethal rounds according to the requirements of any given mission.

The robot essentially serves as an extension for the operating combatant, who will be able to neutralize their target without exposing themselves to danger. In most cases the enemy won't even know that the little rolling assassin has firepower capabilities since the weapon is concealed.

 

In addition, the robot's operator can also communicate with the enemy in sighg a special speaker, allowing for negotiations prior to shots being fired or to confuse him with simulated noises and distractions, like barks or sirens.

 

"Our aim is that the enemy combatant will deal with the robot and not the soldiers," explained Gal, adding that "the DOGO is intended for the last 50 meters of a scene involving terrorist holding hostages."

 

Mossad Chief Contradicts Report from State Comptroller on Gaza War

The cabinet was informed of all major threats and issues during the 2014 Gaza war, Mossad Director and former National Security Council chief Yossi Cohen told the Knesset State Control Committee on Sunday, contradicting the state comptroller’s recent report.

The state comptroller’s report had slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a range of officials and Cohen, who was NSC chief at the time, for failing to fully explain to the cabinet the scope of the tunnels threat, the disastrous Gaza humanitarian situation and alternative options to Operation Protective Edge.

 

IDF forces operate inside the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

 

Cohen told the committee that every member of the cabinet had the ability to ask at any moment for information and there was no subject that was not known to the ministers.

“As NSC chief, I did my best, however, I certainly still made mistakes,” he explained to the committee.
“I look straight into the eyes of the families of the fallen and say to them that every lesson will be learned in order to improve in anticipating the next conflict,” Cohen added.

Top comptroller security official Brig.-Gen. Yossi Beinhorn responded to Cohen and critics of the report, saying: “We checked the process by which decisions were made and the information that was presented to the decision- makers. It was noteworthy the absence of a discussion of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.”

He added that the report had uncovered that Netanyahu and others had not properly prepared the security cabinet for the various military threats the IDF would face nor had the cabinet had the opportunity to strategically direct the IDF.

Source: Jerusalem Post

March 17-18

New Class at LSS: Israel Café, Monday 8:00pm-9:00pm, Classroom 207

Join us for the first of a monthly series of discussions of relevant Israeli topics. This coming Monday (3/20), Hai Piasezky, the shalaich for the UWS will describe his personal experiences in the IDF, the meaning of “the people’s army”, and the IDF moral code.

Intel CEO: We Think of Ourselves As an Israeli Company As Much As a US Company

Intel’s $15 billion plans to acquire Jerusalem’s Mobileye not only demonstrate the company’s belief in Israeli innovation, but also position the country to become the global leader in autonomous driving, according to the chip giant’s CEO, Brian Krzanich. [Source: Jerusalem Post]

PM Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at his office on Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye, as (from left) Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Mobileye president Ziv Aviram look on.

Intel declared its intentions to acquire Israel’s autonomous driving company Mobileye for about $15 billion – the biggest deal to hit the country’s hi-tech industry. Alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Mobileye’s leaders Ziv Aviram and Amnon Shashua, Krzanich stressed how the deal will enable Israel to accelerate and steer the international autonomous vehicle industry. “This is one of the largest acquisitions in Israel, but it’s also the second-largest acquisition effort that Intel has done in history of the company,” he said.

“This opens up avenues for the Israeli economy, for growth that we see, for all our collective and individual purposes,” Netanyahu said. “The world sees in Israel a center of innovation that is unique. I think outside the United States, this is the other place where you see this cross-fertilization of great minds that are producing new conceptual products that are indeed changing the world, changing the world for the better.”

The significance here for Israel and for the world is not merely that the Israeli economy is going to grow more robust and that there are going to be more jobs in Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The significance is that if you want to see the industries of the future, which I think are the industries of the present, come to Israel, and I’m very glad Intel has already done that.”

Secretary of State Tillerson Threatens to Withdraw US from UN Human Rights Council

The Trump administration is reviewing membership in the UN Human Rights Council, and “considerable reform” within the organization would be necessary for the US to remain, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In a letter addressed to organizations lobbying for continued US membership, Tillerson said the State Department would “continue to evaluate the effectiveness” of the body and its fixation on the State of Israel. State Department officials – including Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley – say their goal is to fix the organization and its “bias” against the Jewish state. The Human Rights Council and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are the two organizations are under the most intense scrutiny by Trump administration officials over their treatment of Israel.

US Ambassador Haley meets with Goldin family

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, met with Simcha and Leah Goldin, the parents of fallen IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The family asked Ambassador Haley to help return the bodies of Hadar and Oron Shaul, another IDF soldier whose body is also being held by Hamas. Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said: "We thank Ambassador Haley for meeting with the Goldin family. Hadar was killed and kidnapped by despicable terrorists during a UN sponsored ceasefire and we won't rest until this organization ensures his and Oron's return for proper burial in Israel."

Sign the Petition! The World Jewish Congress has started a petition asking the International Committee of the Red Cross to help bring the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul home. To sign the petition, you need to visit the online version of the Israel Corner and click on Bring Hadar and Oron Home

March 10-11

Special Report on the 2014 “Protective Edge” Gaza War

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira published his report on the conduct of the 2014 Gaza war and the Hamas tunnel threat two weeks ago that accused a wide range of the political and security establishments of major failures.

The 50-day war led to the deaths of 74 Israeli soldiers, a number of whom were killed by Hamas tunnel surprise attacks. It also included 4,251 rockets being fired on the home front – paralyzing the South, briefly halting flights at Ben-Gurion Airport and leaving most of the country a target at one point or another.

The report found that the tunnel threat, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon had defined as “the highest level of strategic and significant threat,” had only been presented to Israel’s Security Cabinet “in general and limited statements which were insufficient to clarify the severity of the threat and to establish the necessary level of awareness for the rest of the cabinet.”

In fact, the report found that only after the cabinet met on June 30 and after its first meeting in July – just days before war broke out – did the cabinet understand the severity of the threat from the tunnels.

Shapira also slammed the Security Cabinet ministers themselves for failing to show interest; request a wider presentation of the tunnel threat; and demand that the IDF present them a plan for counteracting that threat. Within the IDF, insufficient resources and attention were allocated to cope with the tunnel threat, leaving forces on the front needing to come up with ad hoc solutions for destroying the tunnels.

Shapira’s conclusions and criticism threaten to wound Netanyahu’s “Mr. Security” image, making him far more vulnerable when the next election comes along. [Source: Jerusalem Post]

Knesset holds emergency debate about US anti-Semitism

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) slammed the government for displaying indifference to the wave of anti-Semitism that has swept the United States in recent weeks, in contrast to Israel’s history of standing up for Jewish communities under threat in other places. "We have seen dozens of terrible incidents in recent times, including vandalism, defacing of Jewish cemeteries, threats against Jewish community centers and more. But despite our long-standing practice of coming to the defense of threatened Jewish communities, when it comes to the United States, we are silent,” said Shai. “Jews have always fought for the rights of minorities,” Shai told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) by email. “I call on the Israeli government to put the theory of being the leader of the Jewish people into practice by standing up for Jewish communities in the United States. We must defend them, like they have done for us so many times.” [Source: Ynet News]
Army launches new effort to end combat soldiers’ reliance on families, donors for gear

Surprisingly, soldiers’ gear — including tactical equipment — often comes in part from donations, both by parents of troops and from abroad. But a new IDF program, rolled out this month, hopes to end that, in what the army is describing as a “revolution.” Combat soldiers who finish their advanced training will now receive a kit of brand new equipment, including a tactical vest, helmet, protective glasses and more, which they will use throughout their service. By giving equipment “fresh out of the plastic” to every combat soldier, the army hopes to cut down on the need for outside donations, often solicited by soldiers or individual unit commanders from families, corporations or Jewish communities overseas. The change is meant to ensure equality among soldiers and better control over the type and quality of the equipment used by IDF soldiers, the army said. [Source: Times of Israel]

The Boycott of Israel Nobody is Talking About

Jewish foundations and federations effectively boycott investments in Israel. This strange phenomenon, while unintentional and seemingly preposterous, is true. Worse still, Jewish endowments actually invest more in Qatar, a primary funder of Hamas, than in Israel. Yet these very same organizations also fund Israel advocacy and efforts to combat BDS, the effort to delegitimize Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. So says Scott A. Shay chairman of the investment committee of the Elah Fund, a private equity fund that invests in the north and south of Israel.

How did this come to happen? According to Mr. Shay, Based on the current approach, Jewish endowments rely on the advice of investment consultants alone. Most consultant rely heavily on index funds. Israel is a small component of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa), one of the indexes whose funds consultants usually recommend as part of any endowment portfolio. Since this index includes enormous markets that are weighted approximately proportionally, Israeli stocks are excluded by sheer statistical insignificance.

 

What should Jewish endowments do? First, Jewish endowments should invest according to Jewish values. Jewish endowments should not invest in funds including companies that cut down redwood forests or engage in blood mining. Nor should they choose investment funds that essentially boycott Israel. There are about $90 billion in endowment funds in Jewish organizations across the U.S. No more than a small handful by number — and even a tinier proportion by assets — has taken any meaningful action to align their values with their investments. If an organization is against BDS, they should not at the same time be effective boycotters of Israel. As the saying goes, it is time to put your money where your mouth is. [Source: Times of Israel]

March 3-4

Register for the AIPAC Policy Conference: March 26-28

Join Rabbi Robinson and fellow LSS members at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. Register at www.aipac.org To receive a $100 discount, enter code PC17LSS. Previous attendees have greatly enjoyed attending the Shabbaton just prior to the conference. It is a wonderful way to meet Jews from all over the country in relaxed, achdut atmosphere. For any questions about the conference, speak with Ann Crane or email her at anncrane2750@gmail.com

The Regulation Bill [ההסדרה חוק ]

Probably the most controversial legislative issue in Israel now is the so called Regulation Bill [חוק ההסדרה]. The legislation is set to retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes built on private Palestinian land and offers to compensate its owners. The intention is to prevent future demolitions, like the one that occurred a couple of weeks ago in the Amona outpost. The legislation passed by a vote of 60-52 on February 6.

"This is a historic step toward the completion of a process that we plan to lead; the application of full Israeli sovereignty on all the cities and communities in Judea and Samaria,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi). Smotrich and Likud MK Yoav Kisch both are co-chairs of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, that helped sponsor the bill. Bayit Yehudi party Naftali Bennett tweeted one word. “Revolution.”

Ahead of the voting, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog called on the coalition to halt the vote, claiming that its consequences will harm Israel. “This vote is not about whether we are with or against the settlers, it’s about what the State of Israel needs,” he said. “This government is passing a bill that is an acute danger to the State of Israel,” he continued. “Never in the history of Israel has the Knesset passed a bill against state laws and against the senior legal advisers of the government.

The bill’s passage ended months of bitter debate over the legislation, both within the right-wing parties and between the coalition and the opposition. Prime Minister Netanyahu had initially appeared to oppose the legislation, and there was much speculation that he had changed his position due to pressure from Bayit Yehudi.

The bill was brought for its second and third reading in the Knesset, despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request from Bayit Yehudi leader MK Naftali Bennett to postpone the vote until his return from his state visit to the UK to meet with Prime Minister Thersa May.

 

According to the proposal, the state will transfer the rights of the lands’ use to the Commissioner of Government Property in the West Bank while Palestinian landowners will be compensated with a financial package amounting to a sum exceeding the land’s actual worth, or receive alternative plots in accordance with their choice.

 

The bill’s chief proponents were aware even as MKs cast their vote that should it pass its second and third reading in the Knesset, a far greater, and possibly insurmountable, stumbling block lay ahead in the form of the High Court of Justice. Indeed, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would not defend the bill in the High Court.

Israeli Right Wing Wins Historic Fight Over Supreme Court Justices

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was the biggest winner in the battle over the Supreme Court’s future, with three of four justices appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee either reflecting a more conservative approach to the law or being on her list of acceptable non-activist judges. The selection of all four new justices at once put in question the path the court will take on fateful issues – such as the settlements, migrants, natural gas and human rights – for decades to come.

Justice Minister Shaked hailed the new appointments to the Supreme Court, saying the four fresh faces will restore right-wing trust in Israel’s highest legal authority. The minister, who headed the judicial appointments committee, appeared to corroborate claims she was responsible for securing nominations for justices with a more conservative and non-activist legal worldview, putting a large dent in what is seen as a liberal-dominated bench.

Natan Sharansky: Global Strategies to Defeat History’s Oldest Hate

Soviet Jewish Refusenik, Global Human Rights Icon, Lover of Zion, Author, Politician, and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky will speak at Temple Israel at 112 East 75th Street on Tuesday, March 28th at 6:30 PM. Admission: $36. To register, click here in the online version of the Israel Corner or call 212.697.1291

Israeli hospitals to stop treating wounded Syrians if no funding found

Israeli hospitals will stop treating wounded Syrians starting next week if they do not receive additional funding to cover their expenses. In a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, senior Health Ministry official Orly Weinstein wrote that despite repeated government promises, hospitals in Israel’s north have not been reimbursed for caring for Syrians injured in the civil war. Even though the state determined a number of times that there is no dispute on the need to compensate hospitals for this treatment, until now they have only received partial payment.”

Doctor Masad Barhoum, who heads the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, where over 1,000 of the more than 2,000 wounded Syrians brought to Israel have been treated over the past few years, told the Knesset Finance Committee earlier this month that the hospital has received only NIS 54 million ($14.5 million) of the NIS 300 ($81 million) it was promised by the government.

Weinstein said that due to the lack of compensation, “Syrian patients will no longer be transferred to government hospitals, unless the patient is in life-threatening danger,” starting March 5 until “the resolution of the issue.”

She also wrote that due to the “dedicated and professional care” provided to wounded Syrians, there is a “significant strain on hospital resources, on operating rooms, manpower, equipment and medical devices.”

February 24-25

Back in the USSR: Two Special Programs on Sunday, February 26

The 1970 "Leningrad hijack affair" was a pivotal event in Jewish history. A band of Soviet Jews, desperate to emigrate to Israel despite the USSR's shut doors, planned to steal a Russian airplane and fly it to freedom. They never touched the craft. The KGB was on to them and they were all arrested at the airport. Their trial a half year later and the death and long prison sentences meted out provoked outraged international protests. The Kremlin backed down; the death sentences were converted to prison, and some of the years of sentences were cut.

On Sunday, February 26th in New York City, two events will recall those fateful days. At 2 pm, join the official New York premiere at Columbia University of the acclaimed film documentary, "Operation Wedding". Director Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov, daughter of two of the plotters, Sylva Zalmanson and Edward Kuznetsov, will hold a Q&A, and there'll also be a panel discussion. Click on http://www.operation-wedding-documentary.com/nyc to see a trailer and to purchase tickets.

Then, at 7 pm, listen to one of the plot leaders, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, who will present an inspirational talk, "Against All Odds: How One Jew Stood Up to the KGB" at Congregation Ohab Zedek, 118 West 95th Street, Manhattan. Admission is free. Rabbi Mendelevich withstood 11 long years in the Gulag, and remained firm in his devotion to Judaism and Zion. Speak with Glenn Richter about both of these programs.

Can You Hear Me Now? Palestinian children get to hear for the first time

Sixteen deaf Palestinian children underwent cochlear implant surgery at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Following these procedures, the children could hear for the first time in their lives.

The cochlear implant surgery is quite common nowadays in the western world, but it is not appropriately accessible for struggling populations in developing regions. The operation was conducted under the auspices of the Peres Center for Peace program, for Palestinian children residing in the West Bank and in Gaza.

 

"The operations posed quite a logistical challenge," said Dr. Michal Kaufmann, the performing surgeon, "many authorizations were required from the Defense Ministry, some of the children arrived without a medical record and required extensive tests at Hadassah, alongside the emotional and psychological treatment."

 

The cochlear implant is an implanted hearing device, which is surgically inserted into the inner ear, bypassing the damaged organ and directly stimulating the hearing nerve. It was intended for children who were born deaf or adults who lost their hearing during their lives, and it potentially has the ability to return one's hearing.

The surgical procedure is performed under general anesthesia and is only the first phase of the procedure. About a month after the procedure, the first fitting with the external part takes place. This phase is done by a speech therapist and is followed by a months-long rehabilitation process. The entire procedure requires the collaboration of otolaryngologists, ear surgeons, and speech therapists specialized in the field of implants.

 

"This is an amazing project that gives these children the opportunity to step out of their world of silence and live their lives normally and fully," said Dr. Kaufmann. "These children couldn't speak prior to the surgery, they were bereft of any supporting environment, uncommunicative. The surgery opened up their world, the ability to communicate and spread their wings... We are happy to have been able to contribute to such a dramatic change in their lives," she continued.

 

How Israeli Women Are Steering the Start-Up Nation Into New Global Markets

Yali Harari CEO, Entrepreneur

Monday, February 27 at 7:00 pm

Shaaray Tefilla, 250 East 79th Street (corner of Second Avenue)

Free admission

 

How can Israel maintain its leadership position as the Start-Up Nation in a rapidly globalizing world? How can Israel maintain and increase its creativity levels and investment opportunities? What needs to happen differently in the next decade?

 

Mrs. Harari has been leading organizations for over 25 years, and has extensive management background in the Technology, Software, Hardware and Services space both in Israel and in the USA.

 

 

February 17-18

Treat an IDF Soldier to Mishloach Manot

Purim is coming and with it, the delicious obligation to send Mishloach manot. Please consider sending Mishloach Manot to our beloved IDF soldiers. There are quite a few organizations that can make this happen, but to access their links you will need to read this in the electronic version of the Israel Corner. One way to do so is by donating to ConnectionsIsrael.com Also, Young Israel delivers Mishloach Manot to chayalim and chayalot through its WarriorTorah.org program. Last but not least, the ZOA

 

 

Treating Wounded Syrians….

In a recent Shabbat drasha, Rabbi Robinson described his experience in visiting a hospital in Tzfat to see for himself how Israelis treat wounded Syrians. Subsequently, the following article appeared in Reuters.

 

It happens nearly every night. After dark, the Syrian wounded come to known locations on the Israel-Syria front in the Golan Heights, driven by desperation to seek help from an enemy army. Israeli soldiers on lookout or patrol spot them waiting by the fence and whisk them away to a rear position where army medics soon arrive, according to army officials operating in the area that was seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

On one bitterly cold January night, gunfire and explosions could be heard in the near distance as Israeli medics dressed the injuries of two Syrian men, one suffering a head wound.

"We're doing everything we can to save their lives, to stabilize them and evacuate them to hospital," said Captain Aviad Camisa, deputy chief medical officer of the Golan brigade.

The medics lift the wounded men onto an army ambulance which slowly drives off down a dirt road. A Syrian family -- two grandparents, a mother, father and a child aided by a walker -- pass by as they prepare to cross back into Syria in the dead of night. "Some of the stories stir your emotions. When children come, as a father, it touches me personally," Camisa said.

Those who spoke to Reuters at Ziv medical Center in Safed, northern Israel, did so freely but asked not to be identified by name or have their faces photographed or filmed for fear of retribution back home.

One man, his legs pierced by shrapnel, survived a bomb attack in his village in which 23 people were killed. "In the past we used to know Israel as our enemy. That's what the regime used to tell us," he said. "When we came to Israel we changed our minds, there is no enmity between us. In the end we discovered that our regime is the enemy of us all," he said, referring to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

And now: Operation Human Warmth

Refugees in Syria will soon be receiving donated winter supplies — but they won’t know that the coats and boots keeping them warm came from Israel, an enemy state. Any logos or tags featuring Hebrew writing has been removed from the more than 100 tons of supplies collected by three Israeli groups, in order “to protect the effort and the recipients,” according to a statement. The organizers collected about 3,000 boxes of blankets, coats, sleeping bags, gloves, boots and other winter supplies.

“I thought people would be reluctant to support an effort they would not get credit for,” Gilad Perry, Dror Israel’s international collaborations director, said in a statement. “I was amazed to see how wrong I was. The generosity of people just caring for those who suffer from the cold winter on the other side of the border, in an ‘enemy country,’ overwhelmed me.” This year the initiative, which began in 2014, saw a record number of donations, with supplies collected from Jewish, Arab and Druze neighborhoods across Israel.

How Israeli Women Are Steering the Start-Up Nation

Yali Harari

Monday, February 27, 7:00 PM

Shaaray Tefila

250 East 79th Street (Corner of 2nd Ave)

 

Join Yali Harari in a dynamic conversation exploring Israel’s role in the world of creativity, and what’s in store for the Start-Up Nation.

 

How can Israel maintain its leadership position as the Start-Up Nation in a rapidly globalizing world? How can Israel maintain and increase its creativity levels and investment opportunities? What needs to happen differently in the next decade?


Mrs. Harari has been leading organizations for over 25 years, and has extensive management background in the Technology, Software, Hardware and Services space both in Israel and in the USA.

 

February 10-11

The Battle for Ammunition Hill: 50 Years Later

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war and the reunification of Jerusalem. Probably the most famous battle in Jerusalem was the battle for Ammunition Hill (Givat Hatahmoshet) in which Israeli soldiers fought their way up a steep hill against a heavily fortified Jordanian bunkers.

The Jerusalem Post recently ran an article in which they interviewed one of the heroes of that battle. Here is an excerpt.

I was really scared cared,” recalls Jacob Haimovitch, better known as Yaki Hetz, as he ponders the heroic role he was thrust into during the Battle for Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. “It all happened so quickly.”

Hetz was just a 21-year-old private when he and his comrades in Motta Gur’s 55th Paratroopers Brigade’s 66th Regiment attacked the strategic site from the west at 2:30 a.m. on June 6, 1967 and came under unexpectedly intense Jordanian resistance. When his platoon’s bazookaman and then its commander were hit by Jordanian fire, he swiftly took command and led his men into the dark trench.

“Although I was a simple soldier, I knew we couldn’t lose the momentum of the battle,” he says, sitting at the entrance to the Ammunition Hill National Heritage & Memorial Site. “My friends told me afterwards that I actually shouted, “Aharai!” [Follow me] and then shot two bullets in the air.”

Hetz administered first aid to one of his soldiers, then shot two Jordanian soldiers as he and his men proceeded to move through the trench under heavy fire. They eventually blew up the main Jordanian bunker with hand grenades and took control of the Hill. Thirty-six Israeli soldiers and 71 Jordanians were killed in the bloody battle that ended at 6:30 a.m. the next morning. Hetz received an IDF Medal of Courage for his leadership role in a key battle to reunite Jerusalem. He went on to receive an IDF Southern Command citation for his heroism in the Battle for the Chinese Farm during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Asked what he had learned in the past 50 years, Hetz pauses and says: “I am very much for peace, but we must first of all be strong. If we’re not strong, our enemies will slaughter us. Our strength is in our spirit. The Jordanians were better soldiers from a professional point of view, and they had better weapons. But we won because of our fighting spirit. We have to pass this spirit on from generation to generation. That’s the most important thing, and it’s why I still come here regularly to guide groups and tell my story.”

To read the entire article from The Jerusalem Post, click here in the online version of the Israel Corner at https://www.lss.org/israelcorner

A very famous song about the battle of Ammunition Hill was written by Yoram

Febrebruary 3-4

Celebrate Tu B’Shevat: Plant a Tree  Chance to Win a Trip to Israel  

Tu B’Shevat celebrates  the beginning of a “new year” for trees. What more appropriate way to mark the holiday than by planting trees in Israel! The JNF makes it easy, simply visit www.jnf.org Each tree that you purchase counts as an entry in a sweepstakes for a chance to win a RT to Israel, 2 nights stay at the Carlton, Tel Aviv and 2 VIP tickets to the Yom Yerushalayim celebration on May 24, 2017. Someone is going to win the raffle, it could be you!

Hakarat HaTov: Palestinian family saves Israeli lives in nighttime bus crash

In his drasha last Shabbat, Rabbi Rosenfeld mentioned a bus crash in Israel on a route that he himself used to travel when he served in the IDF. There was a very positive angle to the story. Read the recounting of the events as they were reported by Ynetnews

It's nighttime in the Binyamin region. A Palestinian family from the village of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya notices an upturned bus that had rolled downhill from the nearby road leading to the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Levona. Without a moment to lose, the family heads out while still in their pajamas, and under the pouring rain assist those hurt in the accident, where two people had lost their lives.

Capt. Sivan Raviv, a medical officer in the Binyamin Division, told Ynet that the family was the first to call emergency services late Friday night, and that their quick thinking saved lives. "They didn't hesitate or stop to weigh things out. They saw that human lives were on the line. When we arrived at the site we saw the family members already trying to extract the injured parties and offer them treatment."

At that very moment, the region's complex reality was underscored when a few kilometers away from the accident infantry soldiers from the Kfir Brigade were in hot pursuit of an armed terrorist near the Palestinian village of Aboud, where two shooting attacks had taken place with a 24-hour period. When word of the accident reached them, the soldiers divided into two groups—one to continue the chase after the terrorist, and the other to go tend to those hurt in the accident. Once arriving on the scene, they worked together with members of the Palestinian family to help rescue the injured parties.

Shortly after the family called to report the accident, Magen David Adom, a fire fighting unit, residents from Ma'ale Levona and additional medical teams arrived, and together they managed to evacuate those injured to several hospitals within an hour and a half. "We didn't give up," said Sivan. "It was hard to carry those injured on gurneys through the mud, while we fell down, got back up and lifted them once more, until reaching the ambulances and the two helicopters belonging to Unit 669 (the IDF Combat Search and Rescue unit—ed) that were waiting for us nearby."

An Inconvenient Truth (for Some)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who assumed office Jan. 1, said it is “completely clear” that Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was home to the ancient Jewish Temple.

Guterres told Israel Radio last Friday that it is “completely clear the Temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple,” referring to the second of the two Jewish Temples. He added that there is “no doubt” that Jerusalem is holy to all three Abrahamic religions.

While this might seem obvious to all of us, the statement went against resolutions that were passed by UNESCO last year which referred to the Temple Mount and the adjacent area only by their Arabic names and ignored Jewish and Christian ties which go back millennia. Not surprisingly, Palestinian officials were quick to condemn Guterres’s remarks. 

“[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told China’s Xinhua News Agency that Guterres’s comments “ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aqsa mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” and “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary-general…and [he] must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”

Hakarat HaTov: Palestinian Family Saves Israeli Lives in Nighttime Bus Crash  February  3, 2017

It's nighttime in the Binyamin region. A Palestinian family from the village of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya notices an upturned bus that had rolled downhill from the nearby road leading to the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Levona. Without a moment to lose, the family heads out while still in their pajamas, and under the pouring rain assist those hurt in the accident, where two people had lost their lives.

 

Capt. Sivan Raviv, a medical officer in the Binyamin Division, told Ynet that the family was the first to call emergency services late Friday night, and that their quick thinking saved lives. "They didn't hesitate or stop to weigh things out. They saw that human lives were on the line. When we arrived at the site we saw the family members already trying to extract the injured parties and offer them treatment."

 

At that very moment, the region's complex reality was underscored when a few kilometers away from the accident infantry soldiers from the Kfir Brigade were in hot pursuit of an armed terrorist near the Palestinian village of Aboud, where two shooting attacks had taken place with a 24-hour period. When word of the accident reached them, the soldiers divided into two groups—one to continue the chase after the terrorist, and the other to go tend to those hurt in the accident. Once arriving on the scene, they worked together with members of the Palestinian family to help rescue the injured parties.

 

Shortly after the family called to report the accident, Magen David Adom, a fire fighting unit, residents from Ma'ale Levona and additional medical teams arrived, and together they managed to evacuate those injured to several hospitals within an hour and a half. "We didn't give up," said Sivan. "It was hard to carry those injured on gurneys through the mud, while we fell down, got back up and lifted them once more, until reaching the ambulances and the two helicopters belonging to Unit 669 (the IDF Combat Search and Rescue unit—ed) that were waiting for us nearby."

 

An Inconvenient Truth (for Some)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who assumed office Jan. 1, said it is “completely clear” that Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was home to the ancient Jewish Temple.

Guterres told Israel Radio last Friday that it is “completely clear the Temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple,” referring to the second of the two Jewish Temples. He added that there is “no doubt” that Jerusalem is holy to all three Abrahamic religions.

While this might seem obvious to all of us, the statement went against resolutions that were passed by UNESCO last year which referred to the Temple Mount and the adjacent area only by their Arabic names and ignored Jewish and Christian ties which go back millennia. Not surprisingly, Palestinian officials were quick to condemn Guterres’s remarks.

“[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told China’s Xinhua News Agency that Guterres’s comments “ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aqsa mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” and “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary-general…and [he] must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”

Trump Administration to Review $221 million payment to Palestinians :  January 27

The Times of Israel reports that The State Department is reviewing a last-minute decision by former Secretary of State John Kerry to send $221 million dollars to the Palestinians in the waning hours of the Obama Administration, over the objections of Congressional Republicans. The department said Tuesday it would look at the payment and might make adjustments to ensure it comports with the Trump administration’s priorities.

Israelis, Palestinians sign water agreement

Palestinians and Israelis have agreed  to renew activities of the Joint Water Committee after a six-year freeze that has made it difficult to advance projects to benefit Palestinians and Israelis living in the West Bank and contributed to acute water shortages in the summer months.

Major General Yoav Mordechai sat with Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh at a table adorned with small Israeli and Palestinian flags. They were joined by Moshe Garazi and Mazen Jenim, the Israeli and Palestinian heads of the respective water authorities.

“Signing the water agreement proves that you can reach agreements and understandings when you discuss matters in a substantive, bilateral manner that is clean of foreign considerations when it concerns matters of natural resources and other infrastructural issues that affect the entire population,” said Mordechai. 

“In the last year and a half, we [Israelis and Palestinians] signed four agreements for electricity, water, postal services and 3G infrastructure in telecommunications, which are designed to improve the welfare of the entire population in the region,” Mordechai said.

Once the committee reconvenes, it will look to improve and modernize the water infrastructure in the West Bank, which is out of date and cannot handle the needs of the growing population in the area.

The committee will look at allocating more water to the Gaza Strip and discuss taxes and the use of recycled water for agriculture. It also will work on a 23-year strategic plan to provide water to the area until 2040.

Despite BDS, West Bank industrial zones are booming

While EU labeling decisions and BDS are pushing for international boycotts, West Bank industrial parks are seeing a boom, with a new park set to be built soon; regional council head: companies marketing to Africa, India, and China. At the Shahak industrial park being built in the northern West Bank, over 100 dunams have been sold to developers. The Barkan industrial park outside of Ariel - which already has 160 factories and companies – has registered a further 60 companies who want to relocate to the area.

Due to this huge increase in demand, another industrial park is set to open. Called the Nahal Rabah – Gates of Shomron Industrial Park, it will be located next to Sha’ar Tikvah and Oranit, putting it within a 20 minute drive of Petah Tikvah

The industrial park will include both manufacturing and hi-tech companies, and will be owned by the Shomron Regional Council in conjunction with the Oranit and Elkana local councils.

Head of the Shomron Regional Council Yossi Dagan was one of the drivers behind the opening of the new industrial park. He said “on the one hand, international companies don’t really comply with EU decisions. On the other hand, Israeli companies aren’t ready to give up on the advantages (of operating in these areas), and are marketing their products to places other than Europe, such as Africa, India, and China.”

China is now Israel’s largest trading partner

 “Innovate the Future” was the theme of a December 27 forum at Tel Aviv University, where dozens of entrepreneurs, thought leaders and innovators from China and Israel gathered to discuss tech links between the two countries.

Hosted by Chinese media group Caixin, which sent a delegation to visit Israel and its leading tech firms, the forum highlighted the fact that China is now Israel’s largest trading partner to the tune of $11.4 billion annually.

Chinese investment in Israel stands at around $6 billion, while Israeli investment in China is about $1 billion.

Caixin Editor-in-Chief Hu Shuli said China is especially interested in Israel’s tech innovation and talent in fields such as cybersecurity, agriculture, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things. 

The event included a dialogue between Caixin’s Yue Yue and legendary Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, who has founded dozens of companies and is credited with launching Israel’s startup boom.

Vardi has been visiting China since 1995 and recently organized an Israeli innovation festival there. He shared thoughts on criteria for investment – looking at team talent more than the business plan – and how failure can be a driver for success.

Representatives of the new Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT), a cooperative academic and research center for engineering, science and life science in China, told attendees that 60 percent of GTIIT’s faculty will come from the Technion, exposing thousands of Chinese undergraduates to Israeli technology expertise.

Participants talked about Israeli chutzpah – characterized by a willingness to take risks – which gives Israelis an entrepreneurial edge but isn’t always understood in China’s more reserved culture.

Eytan Schwartz, CEO at Tel Aviv Global, predicted that despite cultural and regulatory differences, Israeli and Chinese businesses may one day enter other foreign markets together rather than simply engaging in acquisitions.

Why You Should Call Rather than Email Your Legislators January  13

May Their Memory be a Blessing

 Four young lives were snuffed out this past Sunday in a vehicular terror attack on IDF soldiers in Jerusalem while they were on a cultural trip. 

Cadet Shir Hajaj (22), from Ma'ale Adumim, was the oldest of four daughters. "Shir, my sister, what a loss. I am so sorry. Where are you? I'm sorry you didn't get your life. What a good family we had. What a good childhood. From now on, all your beauty will be robbed in the sadness of your song," said her sister, Bar, in reference to Shir's name, which is the Hebrew word for "song."

"She was a flower and we expected great things from her. She had great determination and perseverance. There are no other children like her" added her mother, Merav.

Lieutenant Yael Yakutiel (20) from Givataym. Her parents, Yaakov and Shelly, stood together while Yael's father eulogized his daughter. "There is no beginning, middle or end. We don't have enough of you. You were so loved. Your wonderful smile, love of life, love of others and the fun we had with you."

"You were funny, studious and good-natured. After you got angry, you would forgive. You thought a lot. We didn't get enough of you. You were a teacher, a soldier, and wanted to do something meaningful in education. You took us on a tour of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in order to practice the tour you would give to cadets.”

Second Liutenant Shira Tzur, 20, from Haifa, began her military service in the Israeli Air Force flight academy, but transferred to her current unit with the intent of becoming an officer.

Shira was "full of happiness and loved to give and contribute. She was a counselor in the scouts and excelled in everything she did. Shira and her family were the salt of the earth and we all embrace them at this difficult moment. She was a child full of energy and was always smiling."

"Shirush, where are you? Why did you leave me?" her grandfather called out over her grave. "Who's going to call now and tell me, ‘Sabba, how are you doing'?"

Erez Orbach, 20, from Alon Shvut, volunteered for IDF service and was a cadet at the IDF's Officer's Training School. He was born and raised in the settlement of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. He was excelling student at the high school yeshiva he attended in Efrat and later attended the Ma'alot hesder yeshiva, which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service. 

Rabbi Yaakov Fisher, who heads the yeshiva Erez studied in, remembered the person he was. "Erez was a guy full of willpower and motivation, very determined, but inside he was tender, gentle and sensitive, with principles and values, who was beloved by all.” "He will be remembered for his constant smile and his willingness to assist and volunteer for any good cause."

To honor their memory, please consider making a contribution to one or more of these worthwhile organizations that help victims of terror and their families: Magen David Adom, ZAKA and OneFamily Fund. 

The New York Times reports that  activists of all political stripes recommend calling legislators, not just emailing — and certainly not just venting on social media. Even if you don’t speak directly to the lawmaker, staff members often pass the message along in one form or another. Often, when a caller offers an opinion, staff members write the comments down in a spreadsheet, compile them each month and present reports to top officials. When you call, identify yourself as one of their constituents. Of course, always be polite when you call. Keep these phone numbers handy:

Senator Chuck Schumer   (212) 486-4430 in New York and (202) 224-6542 in Washington

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand      (212) 688-6262 in New York and (202) 224-4451 in Washington

Congressman Jerold Nadler (212) 367-7350 in New York and (202) 225-5635 in Washington

Fighting Back Against U.N. Security Council Resolution

In recent editions of the Israel Corner we reported on the passage of UNSC Resolution 2334 which condemned Israeli settlements and went so far as to label the Kotel as occupied territory. The resolution passed when the United States chose to abstain from voting rather than do what it normally does in these one-sided resolutions, which is to veto it. Last week we reported that the House of Representatives as one of the very first acts of the new Congress voted 342 to 80 to call for the repeal of the UN vote. 

Now, the action moves to the Senate.  Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced a bipartisan resolution in the Senate that expresses opposition to UNSC Resolution 2334 and calls for it to be repealed or significantly altered. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are both co-sponsors of the Senate resolution. Please contact their office and thank them for their support.  Also, spread the word to your friends and family across the country so that they may contact their respective Senators. The easiest way to do so, is to go to aipac.org and click on the link provided to have AIPAC send requests for support to the Senators on behalf of the behalf constituents. Visitors to the site are asked to provide their address which is then used to route the message to the appropriate Senators. Better yet, call their offices. 

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 2334 ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS   January 6

HaKarat HaTov to all those who contacted their Congressman and urged them to support the Congressional resolution  that expresses opposition to UNSC Resolution 2334 and calls for it to be repealed or significantly altered. The resolution passed by a vote of 342 to 80. Congressman Jerry Nadler voted in support of the resolution. 

Who Cares What the UN Says?

We all should and here is why:

The resolution makes Israeli citizens that are involved in the settlement enterprise in the West Bank vulnerable to lawsuits in courts all over the world. The resolution opens the door for lawsuits against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court: government ministers and senior IDF officers who make decisions about construction in the settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the expropriation of lands could be accused of war crimes under the Geneva Convention.

The resolution creates a distinction between the State of Israel and the settlements built on lands captured in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. So, the next time that you are davening at the kotel you are, according to the UN, treading on occupied territory. It calls on the international community not to aid those settlements and allows for countries and organizations to boycott the settlement enterprise. Such a move would lead banks, gas stations, HMOs, retailers, high-tech companies and others to close their branches beyond Green Line to avoid being included in the "blacklist" of companies doing business in the settlements and consequently being boycotted as a result.

Senator Chuck Schumer 

“The U.N. has been a fervently anti-Israel body since the days of ‘Zionism is racism’ and, unfortunately, that fervor has never diminished. Knowing this, past Administrations - both Democrat and Republican- have protected Israel from the vagaries of this biased institution. Unfortunately, this Administration has not followed in that path and its actions will move us further from peace in the Middle East.”

Congressman Jerry Nadler

“Rather than bringing a peaceful accord nearer, the United Nations Security Council’s approval of today's one-sided resolution pushes both sides further apart.  The resolution seeks to create an irresponsible and inaccurate narrative, making no mention of Palestinian responsibility, either for their incitement of violence or their refusal to return to talks with the Israelis, and only serves the purpose of seeking to delegitimize Israel on the world stage.” For more articles, visit www.lss.org/advocacy

What You Can Do

Last Shabbat, Rabbi Robinson gave a tremendous drasha lambasting  the United Nations Security resolution 2334 and the American decision to abstain, rather than veto it. Rabbi Robinson proceeded to urge us to join him at the upcoming AIPAC Policy Conference on March 26-28. This is a tremendous way to show Israel, our politicians and the world that we stand with Israel. Register for the conference http://www.aipac.org    If you have any questions about the conference, please speak with Ann Crane.

A great way to support Israel is to visit. El Al is running $999 promotions that include airfare and six nights in a hotel. Fight BDS by seeking Israeli goods for purchase. Visit www.buyisraeligoods.com to find stores in your area.  Locally, look for Israeli products when you do your regular shopping; for example, Fairway carries a great selection of Israeli cheeses and yogurts next to the cheese counter. 

Chanukah Gifts      December 23

Chanukkah Gifts in Israel

Do you have friends and family in Israel? Do you have a child or grandchild spending their gap year in Israel? Send them a Hanukkah gift package from Gilis Goodies

Use coupon LIJWCHAN  for a 10% discount. Good for them, good for you, good for Israel.

Chanukkah Gifts in New York

Apthorp Pharmacy (Broadway  & 78th) carries a wide variety of Ahava products to give as gifts and to pamper yourself.  Sabon (Broadway between 70th & 71st) carries an all-Israeli line of health and beauty products. Mention that you are a member of LSS and receive a 10% discount from now through Hanukkah in both stores

Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky is one of the leading women Talmud scholars and educators in the world today, a sought after lecturer in Talmud, Jewish law and women's issues. She holds a Master's Degree in Law and a Doctorate in Talmud from Bar Ilan University.

Through her scholarly and incisive articles Rabbanit Tikochinsky has had a profound influence on the Halakhic discourse regarding women's issues. She has also established an umbrella organization for women Torah scholars in educational leadership positions, enabling greater collaboration and support between women Torah leaders and institutions, and facilitating the transformation of women's Torah study into an organized movement.  

Rabbanit Tikochinsky currently teaches in the Beit Midrash of Michlalat Herzog, a Torah committed academic institution that provides high level academic studies for teachers and educators in Israel and abroad.  Rabbanit Tikochinsky was born and raised in Israel.  She is married and resides with her husband and seven children in the community of Nof Ayalon.  

U.S. Senate authorizes $600 million in defense fundingDecember 16

Thanks to the overwhelming support of Congress and the leadership of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), this measure will ensure that Israel maintains a military edge over potential aggressors and strengthens America's anti-missile capabilities.

This funding in the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) for Fiscal year 2017 (FY2017) will go toward US-Israel joint developed anti-missile programs such as Iron Dome ($62m), David's Sling ($150m) and Arrow 3 ($120m). It will also provide funds for research and development of new counter-terrorist measures, and additional funding for anti-tunneling technology. The funding in this bill is above and beyond the $3.1 billion military aid package already allocated as part of the outgoing Memorandum of Understanding. [Source: Norpac]

Donate to Israel…. Wisely

The end of the year is a time when many people make contributions which they can then apply towards this year’s taxes. There are tens of thousands of charitable organizations in the States and in Israel. How do we select which ones use the money wisely? For American institutions, many people turn to web sites like www.charitynavigator.com

What about donations to organizations in Israel? 

Midot is a non-profit company that strives to promote effectiveness and impact as the main criterion for social investors and for Non-Profit Organization (NPO) leaders by rating NPOs and producing sector analysis reports. There web site  www.midot.org.il/english  explains the methodology they use to measure organizations’ effectiveness and lists those that meet their stringent criteria. 

Letters to the Editor

Suggestions for items to include in the Israel Corner. Email nvogel212@gmail.com

Other, relevant sites

To learn about ways to support Israel, including but not limited to fighting BDS, please visit www.lss.org/advocacy

For suggestions about "off-the-beaten path" places to visit and things to do in Israel, click here   Share your favorite activities in Israel, email nvogel212@gmail.com

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Sun, December 17 2017 29 Kislev 5778