Female Israeli lone soldiers may finally get their home away from home

Part of the widely admired strength of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) comes from the military’s many “lone soldiers,” who leave their homes and families abroad in order to help protect the Jewish homeland. Significant media attention has focused on Israeli lone soldiers in recent years, particularly after two American-born soldiers were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. There are currently three “homes” that provide lone soldiers with communal living quarters, camaraderie and support. Until now, female lone soldiers—who fill key behind-the-scenes roles in the IDF, and are increasingly joining combat units—have not enjoyed the same group residential facilities as their male counterparts. But that is likely about to change.

Posted on February 26, 2017 and filed under Features, Israel.

Netanyahu’s Australia visit: sunny outlook on bilateral ties, cloudy picture on 2 states

Fresh off his first official visit with President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again shifted his focus towards bolstering Israel’s alliances beyond the North American continent. Netanyahu took a historic trip to Australia this week in a bid to refresh Israel’s relations with an important and longtime ally. Yet the prime minister’s visit also came at a time of questions—including within Australia’s political opposition—over the future of the two-state solution and Israel’s settlement policy. “The biggest danger for Israel is losing the bipartisan support, like we have seen over the last week or two inside the Labor Party,” said Shahar Burla, an Israeli-born journalist based in Sydney, referring to that Australian party's push for Palestinian statehood recognition.

Posted on February 24, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, World.

On anti-Semitism, difficult questions and contested answers

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist in the anti-Israel BDS movement, helped raised more than $100,000 to repair the desecrated Chesed Shel Emet cemetery in St. Louis, earning plaudits from nearly every mainstream media outlet. But can the enemies of Israel be, at the same time, the friends of Jewish communities outside the Jewish state? Conversely, do friends of Israel get a pass when they play down or outright deny the presence of anti-Semites among their political allies? Why should Sarsour be acceptable to the Jewish community, but not Richard Spencer, the pudgy racist at the helm of the so-called National Policy Institute? Are we that easily taken in? JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen fears the answer is yes.

Posted on February 24, 2017 and filed under Opinion, World, U.S., Israel.

Diverse array of US Jewish leaders engages Israeli officials amid shifting landscape

Amid a sea change in U.S. politics and an ever-changing Middle East, Israel has counted on a constant source of support for nearly half a century: the engagement of America’s most influential Jewish organizations. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations this week convened its annual mission to Israel with a delegation of more than 110 leaders from the umbrella body’s 53 member groups. Conference of Presidents CEO Malcolm Hoenlein told JNS.org that “the diversity of participation” is what distinguishes the group from any other that visits the Jewish state.

Posted on February 24, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

What Israel’s counter-terrorism experts are saying about their ‘art’

In 1996, when Boaz Ganor founded Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, top security figures around the world gave short shrift to the academic study of terrorism. That is, of course, until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Only then did the world take note of the great importance of bridging the gap between academics and practitioners. But while the study of counter-terrorism is now considered crucial in the fight against global terror, the “art” of counter-terrorism, as Ganor calls it, is anything but intuitive for heads of state. The Israeli academic and his team believe that world leaders often self-sabotage with counter-productive policies and doctrines. Israel correspondent Eliana Rudee reviews the factors that counter-terrorism experts like Ganor deem some of the most important current challenges in their field.

Posted on February 23, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Convicted killer of Israelis finds friends on the Jewish left

A Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Hebrew University of Jerusalem students has found a new ally, the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) group. How mainstream Jewish liberal groups respond to JVP’s hosting of Rasmea Odeh at its national conference in March will be telling, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Posted on February 22, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Media and politicians overhype chances of Israeli-Arab regional deal, experts say

The chances of a formal peace agreement between Israel and the wider Arab world in the near future are slim, contrary to media reports and the posturing of Israeli opposition politicians, experts say. Citing unidentified former senior Obama administration officials, the Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met with Egyptian and Jordanian heads of state in a secret meeting last year in Jordan, in order to promote a regional peace agreement. The talks led nowhere, and Haaretz’s report blamed Netanyahu for the negotiations’ failure because he backed out over opposition from within his governing coalition. “This was a one-sided leak by Obama officials, suggesting there is no reason to believe there was any real prospect of negotiations on serious terms,” said Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and an expert on international law.

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

A Jewish youth convention’s delicate balancing act on the refugee debate

In an ever-polarizing age in America, nonprofits often need to decide how to make their organization’s voice or constituency’s voice heard on policy issues without making overtly political statements. Such was the delicate balancing act navigated by the BBYO Jewish teen movement and the thousands of attendees at its recent International Convention. President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on the entry of non-citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations continues to dominate the national discourse, and BBYO’s convention was no exception, with the travel ban and the refugee issue frequently finding their way into speeches and discussions. “We’re very sensitive to this concept of everyone being at odds about how they feel we should be handling the global refugee situation,” said Aaron Cooper, the top youth leader in BBYO’s men’s order, AZA. “With that in consideration, we found success in not framing it as a conversation on whether we are we letting refugees into one country or another. Rather, it’s about, ‘What are we going to do so that we are helping them in some capacity?’”

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Features, Jewish Life, U.S..

At Olympic-style confab, BBYO teens showcase energy and international flair

An interview with Aaron Mantell and Danielle Wadler, two teens from New York, is drowned out by chanting students passing by. Welcome to the BBYO International Convention. “It’s a little overwhelming, but it always ends up being really really fun. Like you get past the overwhelming, and you get used to a thousand people screaming at you all day,” says Wadler, 17. The enthused BBYO delegates who interrupt the interview, en route to the convention’s opening ceremony Feb. 16, are just the tip of the iceberg. The energetic opening ceremony is nothing short of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games. The pluralistic Jewish youth movement’s convention drew 5,000 people from 48 U.S. states and 30 countries. “The global nature of what we offer is a differentiator in their lives. There’s nowhere else, or very few places, where a teen from Dallas, Texas, can find a best friend from Slovakia,” says Matt Grossman, BBYO’s CEO.

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Features, Jewish Life, U.S..

Passover ‘showstopper:’ Israeli library buys book collection with 1500s haggadah

On the right, a man sits and prays holding a liturgical book. On the left, a rabbi is seen explaining the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt to a child. These images were printed on the pages of a Passover haggadah in the city of Prague in 1556. This nearly 500-year-old haggadah, one of only two remaining copies, is part of the Valmadonna Trust Library collection that was recently sold to the National Library of Israel. The Valmadonna collection was a “showstopper” when it was displayed at the Sotheby’s auction house before the sale to Israel, attracting more than 3,000 visitors a day, said Sharon Mintz, senior consultant for Judaica at Sotheby’s.

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Passover, Special Sections.

4 cups, 5 stars: sophisticated kosher wine increasingly popular at Passover seders

Even the most finicky wine snob won’t be able to “pass over” the new generation of kosher wines. Increasingly, the current mindset is that since Jews are commanded to drink four cups of wine at the Passover seder, they might as well drink high-quality wine in the process. “Today’s Jewish consumer is more sophisticated and discerning, and not satisfied with sacramental wine,” says Jay Buchsbaum, a vice president at the New Jersey-based Royal Wine Corporation. “They have more disposable income and they’re willing to spend a little more for a good wine. They’re not willing to settle.” 

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Passover, Special Sections.

Jewish civil rights groups ignore Jewish victim of discrimination

What if you got fired for observing Passover? “Not possible in 21st-century America,” you confidently reply. What if you sued, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as well as the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) kept a studied silence during your entire legal fight? “Again, not possible,” you insist. Guess again. Because that’s exactly what happened to Susan Abeles. The ADL and JCRC can move quickly when they want to, even on major issues. But at least in this instance, they have refused to advocate for the rights of a Jewish victim of discrimination, writes columnist Joshua Sharf.

Posted on February 21, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S..

Trump-Netanyahu meeting shatters ‘Palestine First’ regional peacemaking strategy

The morning after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first official meeting with President Donald Trump, multiple headlines proclaimed Feb. 16 that the two-state solution was fast approaching death's door. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen suggests that those who interpret the outcome of the Trump-Bibi meeting in that manner should dig a little deeper. There is something of a revolution in thinking going on, and what's being overturned is what you might call the "Palestine First" strategy of regional peacemaking. But that doesn't have to mean that a solution involving Palestinian sovereignty has been extinguished, writes Cohen.

Posted on February 16, 2017 and filed under Opinion, Israel.

With Israel mostly on the sidelines, Hamas-Islamic State conflict intensifies in Gaza

Islamic State-affiliated armed organizations are challenging the Hamas terror group’s rule in the Gaza Strip and are seeking to topple the Islamist regime, which they accuse of being un-Islamic and lacking in jihadist spirit. The complex situation reflects how Hamas prefers to exploit the current absence of a full-scale conflict with Israel to build up its military wing, fill up its rocket depots and dig tunnels for future cross-border attacks. Yet at same time, the Islamic State-affiliated smaller groups, known as Salafi jihadists, insist on armed conflict with Israel right now. 

Posted on February 16, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Jewish leaders applaud Trump’s focus on Palestinian incitement

American Jewish leaders are enthusiastically applauding President Donald Trump’s call on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to remove anti-Jewish hate material from its school books. At his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Feb. 15, Trump said “the Palestinians have to get rid of” the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish material that appears in PA school texts. “They're taught tremendous hate,” he said. “I’ve seen what they’re taught…it starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room.” Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS.org, “The U.S. government should use all leverage at its disposal to do something about changing the Palestinian school books, especially when the U.S. provides the Palestinians with over $350 million in aid each year.” 

Posted on February 16, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..