Hippos in Israel? New museum re-animates forgotten biblical wildlife

Did you know that the hippopotamus is an animal indigenous to the land of Israel? That's just one example of an animal people associate more with African safaris than the Jewish state. The new Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Israel, aims to bring Jews back in touch with biblical wildlife, a subject neglected by the people of Israel as they were exiled from the land. “It’s our connection to historical Israel,” said museum founder Rabbi Natan Slifkin, who is also known as the “Zoo Rabbi.”

Posted on February 27, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

Kosher conundrum: If water doesn’t need certification, why have the symbol?

The new Clearly Kosher® bottled water brand says its product is, “Better than perfect.”™ What might not be so clear to Jewish consumers, however, is why water would need to brand itself as “kosher.” Kosher experts tell JNS.org that there are advantages to having a kosher certification even when a particular product doesn't need one. “It is all marketing. ... There is a perception among consumers in general that when something is kosher certified, it is enhanced—that may or may not be true,” says Dr. Avrom Pollak, president of the Star-K certifier.

Posted on February 27, 2015 and filed under Features, Jewish Life, U.S., Food.

Assyrian Christians under increasing assault from Islamic State in Syria

The number of Assyrian Christians captured by the Islamic State terror group in northeastern Syria continues to rise, marking the latest brutal campaign waged by Islamic State against Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq. “We are absolutely appalled, but not surprised, by the actions of the Islamic State,” Jeff Gardner, a spokesman for Restore Nineveh Now Initiative, a group promoting protection and relief for Assyrian Christians, told JNS.org. “They (Islamic State) continue to do what they do—terrorize, murder, and pillage.”

Posted on February 26, 2015 and filed under News, World.

I’m so bored with the Obama administration

In 1977, after telling us that he was “so bored with the USA,” British punk legend Joe Strummer plaintively asked, “But what can I do?” Today, we have no reason to feel so powerless, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen. The pro-Israel community should declare its boredom with the Obama administration, which seems to view Israel as an obstacle to the betterment of the Middle East region rather than part of the solution. What can we do? In Cohen's estimation, the aim should be to wreck the emerging nuclear deal with Iran by demanding unfettered International Atomic Energy Agency access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and by reaffirming that any attempts to weaponize the Iranian nuclear program will be met with a military response if necessary.

Posted on February 26, 2015 and filed under Opinion, Israel, U.S., Analysis.

Forthcoming major action movies inspired by Jewish comic artist Jack Kirby

With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two major action films coming up in 2015—“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the “Fantastic Four” series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East Side to create the superheroes in “Fantastic Four” and “Captain America.” (The “Captain America” protagonist appears in “The Avengers.”) Born Jacob Kurtzberg to Austrian Jewish immigrants, Jack Kirby became an iconic American comic book artist and writer. But his road to the throne of comics wasn’t an easy one. Experts reflect on Kirby's legacy, and on how his Jewish background influenced his work, in interviews with JNS.org.

Posted on February 26, 2015 and filed under Features, Arts.

Donald Rumsfeld blasts ‘stunning’ White House rhetoric on Netanyahu speech

Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-debated March 3 address to a joint session of Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat, former U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the focus on protocol and the speech’s venue, rather than on the content of Netanyahu’s message, “plays into the hands” of the U.S.-Israel relationship’s opponents. “I find it stunning to see the comments out of the White House on this issue,” Rumsfeld said in an interview with Israel Hayom, whose English-language content is distributed exclusively by JNS.org. “It plays into the hands of those people who are not in favor of the relationship [between Israel and the U.S.], who are not in favor of Israel, or who are in favor of Iran, and the idea that people are saying what they are saying I find most unfortunate.”

Posted on February 26, 2015 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

Palestinian terrorism verdict shatters long-held myths and illusions

The illusion is shattered. When confronted with claims of complicity in terror attacks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) can no longer lift their hands and say in puzzlement, “Who, me?” Some other myths have been shattered after 10 American families victimized by Palestinian terrorism in Israel were awarded $218.5 million by a U.S. court. Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995, writes that one myth is that suicide bombers are “lunatics”—which late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Flatow family when he visited them a month after Alisa's death. Flatow writes that the treatment of Palestinians as children who do not know better, allowing the PA and PLO to duck from responsibility for terrorist acts carried out under their watch, must be discarded.

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

U.S. victims win landmark ruling on Palestinian accountability for terrorism

A New York City-based federal jury on Monday ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay $218.5 million in reparations to American citizens who were targeted by terror attacks in Jerusalem, and to the victims’ families. The ruling is seen as a major victory for those seeking to hold so-called moderate Palestinian factions accountable for terrorism. “This is a significant ruling because the jury has discarded the long-held fiction that the Palestinians are not responsible for their actions,” Stephen M. Flatow, a New Jersey-based attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad in 1995, told JNS.org

Posted on February 24, 2015 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

From tragedy, families of slain Israeli teens create the gift of unity

“In the Diaspora, people say they can’t remember a time when [Jews] came together across denominations,” Racheli Frenkel, the mother of one of the three Jewish teenagers who were kidnapped and killed by Hamas in Gush Etzion last summer, tells JNS.org regarding her recent visit to the United States. “I’m convinced that it wasn’t an illusion. Hasidic Jews, Orthodox, [and] seculars all came together, and we were one family.” Frenkel refers to last June, when world Jewry displayed what many considered to be uncommon unity during Israel’s search for abducted teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach. The families of the three boys have teamed with Gesher, an organization dedicated to bridging rifts in Israeli society, and with the city of Jerusalem to establish the $25,000 Jerusalem Unity Prize, whose first three recipients will be announced June 3.

Posted on February 23, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

Election spotlights increasingly vocal Israeli Christian community

As Israel’s March 17 election nears, some Israeli Christians are using the race as an opportunity to draw more attention to their community. Bolstered by a recent change in Israeli law that allows Christians to self-identity as a distinct ethnic group in the Jewish state, members of that faith are seeking to let their voices be heard. “We as Christians want to live here together with the Jews, and we have own our issues and needs without any connections to the Arab [political] parties,” said Shadi Khalloul, a Knesset candidate with the Yisrael Beiteinu Party and a proponent of Christian enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces.

Posted on February 23, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

‘Officers’ hearts’: Israeli cops to walk with children with disabilities in marathon

For a child with a severe developmental disability, walking just one step could be a feat. To complete 800 meters (2,625 feet) would be a miracle. But on March 13, that will be a reality as 15 youths “run” a special course as part of this year’s Jerusalem Marathon. The race was arranged by ALEH, Israel’s largest organization serving people with the most severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. The youths will use special walkers and other support devices to complete the race, and will be accompanied by one or two Jerusalem police officers apiece. “The police are a hard organization—they are not used to bringing emotion into their work,” says Alon Hassid, whose son has brain damage that cripples his ability to walk and talk. “Here, you can see the officers’ hearts.”

Posted on February 23, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

Revised law lays foundation for a more inclusive Israeli society

Approximately 1 million people in Israel have a disability, defined as a health problem that interferes with their daily activities. That means they are unable to do what most others do easily every day—get up, get dressed, grab something to eat, head off to work or school, run errands, play with friends, or stroll through the park. But disability-rights advocates hope that the solution lies in the recent revision of Israel's Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law to mandate “accessibility of services.”


Posted on February 23, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

Oscars 2015: reflecting on love at first sight and what makes a film ‘Jewish’

What is a Jewish film? In 2011, Tablet Magazine topped its "100 Greatest Jewish Films" list with the surprising choice of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the story of the little alien who made Cindy Sher fall in love with movies in the first place. According to Tablet, the “E.T.” themes of home, love, family, friendship, and enchantment make it a beautiful choice for the quintessential Jewish movie. Any film professor worth her salt would find it great food for thought to think about what makes a film Jewish or even what makes a decent film in general, but the joy of movies doesn’t have to be proven like a mathematical equation, writes Sher, the executive editor of Chicago’s JUF News.

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Arts, Opinion.

The 2015 Israeli election video wars

Forget pollsters. These days, to get a sense of an Israeli politician’s popularity, the place to go is his or her Facebook and YouTube video portals. Whether it be the Likud party's “Bibi-sitter” ad, the Zionist Union's animated video about its socialist economic platform, or a vignette casting Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett in the role of a Tel Aviv hippie, more and more politicians and political parties are promoting their respective brands with viral videos ahead of Israel’s March 17 election.

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Features, Israel.

For victim Adele Biton, Palestinian rock-throwing is murder, not ‘resistance’

In the case of 4-year-old Jewish girl Adele Biton—who died on Feb. 17, two years after she was severely injured in a Palestinian attack on Israel's Route 5—rock-throwing was murder. Yet some will have the nerve to say that rock-throwing is not serious, or that it’s nothing more than teens or young men letting off steam, writes attorney Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995.

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Israel, Opinion.