While much of the media focused on the recent terror attack in Nice, the failed coup in Turkey, and the Republican National Convention, thousands of evangelical Christians gathered in the nation’s capital this week to show their support for Israel as part of the 11th annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit. Although world events may have overshadowed its latest gathering, CUFI’s base of support—3.1 million members—is louder than ever. CUFI has become not only the self-described largest pro-Israel organization in America, but also likely the largest evangelical Christian organization of its kind. Much of CUFI's momentum stems from how Israel has become “one of the top issues for evangelicals” in a post-9/11 world. “All of a sudden [after 9/11] this distant land of Israel, battling these Islamic enemies, many realized that we are also facing the same threats and enemies,” said David Brog, one of CUFI’s founders and the director of its executive board.
"Israel Girl" columnist Eliana Rudee praises the extent to which the Israeli police worked to ensure marchers' safety at Jerusalem's 2016 gay pride parade. She writes that she is thankful for the Israeli public’s progressiveness on LGBTQ issues; significant police and political support; and the safe space that Israel offers for the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim LGBTQ communities. She left this year's Jerusalem parade with hope and confidence for the future.
Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city. Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. In this gentrifying neighborhood, Israeli investors are hoping to find some of the remaining affordable gems in the German capital’s increasingly competitive housing market. According to Gili Waldman—an investment consultant for Berlin Inspiration, one of several Israeli real estate companies marketing Berlin properties to Israeli investors—Berlin property values increase at a rate of about 10 percent a year. The rising costs have made Israeli investors in Germany turn east for real estate bargains.
Israel’s parliament this week took action in response to an Arab Knesset member’s public support of a terrorist who murdered an American-Jewish peace activist. But if you read the account by New York Times correspondent Isabel Kershner, you wouldn’t know anything about the terrorist or his victim—all you would learn is that Israel’s rulers are suppressing dissent and might be infected by “budding fascism.” It’s as if Kershner and her editors are living in some kind of alternative universe in which Israel is always guilty, Arab extremists are always innocent, and the 141 Americans who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists simply don’t exist, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
We live in an era of resurgent, strongman leaders. There’s one class of strongman leader who accumulates more and more power by presenting himself as the innocent victim of murky outside conspiracies, spinning his unfortunate condition as an attack on the sovereign will of the people. Case in point? Enter Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has established himself as a dictator and is dismantling what precious few civil liberties remain in his country. There was a time when Turkey’s apologists, particularly in the American-Jewish community, sycophantically described the country as “the only democracy in the Middle East besides Israel.” Only the most foolish of them would do so now. This is what fascism looks like, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer told JNS.org. Last month, Kremer became the first Israeli citizen to sign with an MLB team. The right-handed pitcher was selected by Los Angeles in the 2016 draft and subsequently joined the Dodgers’ Ogden Raptors minor league affiliate in Utah. “I was raised in the Jewish tradition and we speak Hebrew at home,” said Kremer, who grew up in Tel Aviv. “Everything will stay the same [while I’m playing professional baseball], but it is difficult, especially when we get meals catered here. But I try not to eat pork….The values and morals of a Jewish person were instilled in me, and that’s the way I live my life.”
A new technology endorsed by the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCCA) could play a key role in preventing future attacks such as the 2014 shootings at the JCC of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom geriatric center. Earlier this year, JCCA announced FST Biometrics, an Israeli developer of In Motion Identification (IMID) technology, as its preferred identity management vendor. Brian Soileau, JCCA’s manager of corporate partnerships, told JNS.org that he immediately found favor in the IMID solution, which uses biometric identification technology—including facial recognition and body behavior analytics—to allow JCC staffers and members to move freely into and through facilities, while restricting access to unauthorized visitors.
In the era of e-books, tech and publishing companies compete aggressively for market share. Writers, artists, and readers often get caught in the fray. While new media innovations empower individuals to experiment, creative works are readily exploited. In 2013, this situation prompted Israeli innovator and children’s book author Prof. Mel Rosenberg to found Ourboox.com. Described as “the world’s simplest platform for uploading and sharing digital picture books of any genre, in any language, for free,” the Ourboox community is growing rapidly in Israel. “We have books on 70 different genres, including biographies, picture books…you name it, and we’ve got it,” Rosenberg tells JNS.org.
On July 11, the History Channel reaffirmed its commitment to accuracy and truth by revising its “Albert Einstein: Fact or Fiction?” webpage to replace erroneous wording tending to negatively portray Israel: “Though he (Albert Einstein) was very sympathetic to Israel, he was never an ardent Zionist—he believed in ‘friendly and fruitful’ cooperation between Jews and Arabs.” There were two problems here: the erroneous characterization of Einstein’s attitude toward Zionism, and the erroneous implication that Zionism and Israel from the outset did not believe in cooperation between Arabs and Jews. The History Channel’s revised wording reads, “Einstein was, however, very sympathetic to Israel. In 1947 he expressed his belief in Zionism as well as the importance of ‘friendly and fruitful’ cooperation between Jews and Arabs.” The case for revision was made to the network by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), writes CAMERA research analyst Myron Kaplan.
The omission of Palestinian statehood from this year’s Republican Party platform is neither a radical change nor a departure from immutable U.S. policy, as some critics are claiming. In fact, both parties’ platforms have repeatedly changed positions on Israel-related issues over the years, in keeping with the preference of the presidential nominee or the changing mood among their rank and file, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
The names of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are familiar as prominent symbols of strong female leadership in times when women heads of state were rare. By 2015, however, the number of female leaders of nations reached 19, according to the United Nations. On July 13, British Home Secretary Theresa May joined the club by replacing outgoing U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, becoming the U.K.’s second female prime minister after Thatcher. As America waits to see if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton becomes the country’s first female president in the November 2016 election, JNS.org provides eight examples of current and former non-Jewish female heads of state, their relations with Israel and the Jewish community, and how they embody tikkun olam—the Jewish value of repairing the world.
After a selection process that more closely resembled a reality television show than the usual political appointments, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that his choice for vice president is Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who beat out flashier contenders such as former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. For the pro-Israel community, Pence is viewed as a strong advocate for the Jewish state who can bolster Trump’s sometimes shaky relationship with Jewish leaders. Pence, an evangelical Christian, has noted that his strong support for Israel is rooted in his faith. “Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel,” Pence said in an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2009, while he was serving in Congress.
On Tuesday, the Republican Platform Committee unanimously approved significant changes to its platform in an attempt to further set the party’s pro-Israel credentials apart from the Democrats. The GOP’s platform changes included removing language encouraging a two-state solution as well as reinstating a reference to an “undivided” Israel that was previously included in the party’s 2008 platform, but was removed in 2012. The push to bolster the Republican Party’s language on Israel follows a four-year effort by pro-Israel leaders to reach out to the party’s base—evangelical Christians—as well as to Jewish and other ethnic groups to reach a Republican consensus on Israel policy. Most recently, pro-Israel groups worked on the platform changes with the campaign of presumptive nominee Donald Trump. “It’s the most pro-Israel platform that either party has ever issued, so we’re obviously very proud of the accomplishment,” David Friedman, one of Trump's Israel advisers, told JNS.org.
Ten years on from the trauma and devastation visited upon Israeli and Lebanese civilians alike in the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah is stronger than ever in southern Lebanon, and still faithful to its tactic of embedding itself within the civilian population. Far from disbanding, as mandated by the U.N. Security Council, Hezbollah fighters have been refining their battlefield skills in the defense of Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in neighboring Syria. The cost of the Syrian war upon Lebanon has been merciless. The Lebanese population of 4.5 million has now been joined by a staggering 1.5 million Syrians. Alongside this humanitarian crisis is a political one. Lebanon has not had a president since the stalemate election of 2014, a dire situation fully exploited by Hezbollah, which has never respected Lebanon’s sovereignty and which regards the republic as little more than a staging post for its attacks on Israel. The stakes of another war involving Israel, then, are frighteningly higher this time around, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
The current fight for access to the Kotel (Western Wall) by Women of the Wall and the Reform and Conservative movements is real and legitimate, yet at the same time is based upon a limited conception of the holy site as only a place for prayer. Reimagining the Kotel requires a radical shift to imagine new and other possibilities befitting the "start-up nation" of Israel. What would happen if we were to shift our understanding of the Kotel problem from one of access, to one of modern design based on its original functions? It may be time for the Jewish people to use the modes and ethics of the computer world to rethink this problem. In other words, it may be time to hack the Kotel, writes Joshua Ladon is the San Francisco Bay Area manager for the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.