Following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge this summer, Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip and openly considers any truce with Israel as a time to re-arm for the next conflict. Across Israel’s northern border, Hezbollah has been fighting to preserve the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but still poses a danger to the Jewish state. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has exploded across Iraq and Syria in a spectacle of unprecedented brutality that could one day also knock on Israel’s door. What should Israel’s strategy be regarding this triumvirate of terror groups? JNS.org took the pulse of three Middle East and terrorism experts on the issue.
After a contentious debate lasting several years on the presence of anti-Israel texts in the public school curriculum of Newton, Mass., a Boston suburb, an independent third party has issued a comprehensive 152-page report to try to bring some clarity to the situation. The Verity Educate non-profit's new report addresses more than 300 specific points of inaccuracy and inconsistency in the Newton school district’s Mideast curricula. The school district, however, has refused to respond to the report. “It actually was an anomaly,” Verity Educate Executive Director Ellen R. Wald told JNS.org regarding the Newton district’s failure to respond to outreach before the report’s release. “In other instances, we’ve not only received responses, but have found that school districts were very interested in what we had to say and have responded not just cordially, but in many instances positively.”
Nationalisms are formed in response to the surrounding conditions that nurture them. For the Jews of Europe, Zionism was a means to ensure survival in the physical sense of that word. For the Jews of Israel, Zionism reinforces the sense of a common destiny, of flourishing as an independent society even as too many of their neighbors question their right to be there in the first place. But no one has ever challenged the existence of a country called Scotland, and the Scots have never experienced the sheer barbarism of a modern-day genocide. That is the difference between Scottish nationalism and Zionism, and part of the reason why the defeat of the Scottish independence effort makes sense, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
When Noah Slepkov started using online genealogical tools to build a family tree, little did he know that his personal exploration might have significant implications for all of the Jewish people—including those not even aware of their Jewish roots. “I was fascinated by the ability of normal genealogical tools to find relatives,” says Slepkov, an associate fellow of the Jewish People Policy Institute think tank in Jerusalem. “When I realized the potential of combining that with DNA techniques, it is quite amazing what can be done.” A subsequent report penned by Slepkov on direct-to-consumer DNA testing's implications for the Jewish community was the basis for a set of recommendations presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the entire Israeli cabinet this summer.
As Rosh Hashanah approaches and the Jewish calendar turns to 5775, JNS.org takes a look at the biggest Jewish news stories from the past year, including the Israel-Hamas war, Palestinian unity and failed peace talks, anti-Semitism in Europe, the rise of Islamic State, and more.
The 52nd installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." See the color version above, and the black and white version below. Click here for an introduction to the series. Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.
A recent in-depth report of think tank financing in the U.S. has raised eyebrows in the pro-Israel community as well as questions about how much influence sponsors of think tanks have over those institutions’ research. The New York Times reported that the Brookings Institution think tank received a $14.8 million donation last year from the government of Qatar—a major sponsor of the Hamas terrorist organization. The Hamas-backing nation's gift to Brookings has spurred allegations of a conflict of interest because earlier this year, the think tank’s vice president and director of research, Martin Indyk, served as America’s special envoy to the Middle East and directed the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
According to Jewish law, every seventh or "Shmita" year, the land in Israel must remain fallow. Shmita has inspired much legal debate, but Rabbi Avi Weiss instead delves into how it resonates in contemporary times: How do we respond to terrorism? One response is to incorporate the message of Shmita into our lives—to not take our blessings for granted, to take time celebrate the beauty around us. This message declares our commitment to a merciful God, who mandates that we respect the world and its inhabitants by living lives of meaning, godliness, and goodness, writes Weiss, the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Yeshivat Maharat.
Since the declaration of a final cease-fire between Israel and Hamas last month, there has been very little movement to resolve the situation in Gaza. With the Middle East preoccupied by the threat of Islamic extremism as well as the growing rivalries between Arab states over how to handle these threats, there appears to be little appetite in the Arab world to deal with the Palestinian issue. “It is striking to me that even during [this summer’s] Gaza war, you were seeing widespread demonstrations in Europe, but not in the Arab world,” Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security advisor for President George W. Bush, told JNS.org.
The 51st installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." See the color version above, and the black and white version below. Click here for an introduction to the series. Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.
Following the 50-day summer war in Gaza, the Haifa-based Rambam Health Care Campus (RHCC) is proving that medicine has “no borders,” in the words of Director General Prof. Rafael Beyar. This week, RHCC doctors conducted a successful kidney transplant on a 14-year-old Gazan boy. In addition to treating Gazan patients, the hospital is receiving wounded Syrian refugees. While the Syrian civil war also presents a looming danger for the hospital, RHCC is equipped for the escalation of any conflict due to its fortified 2,000-bed underground hospital.
The war against Islamic State is a war against the philosophy of jihad. As with any war involving multiple parties fighting on the same side, an overarching political vision is nearly impossible to achieve. During the Second World War, the U.S. and Britain had few illusions about the Soviet Union, even as they allied with it. Similar cynicism is warranted now when it comes to Turkey—specifically regarding its contradiction of membership in a democratic alliance like NATO and support for jihadist organizations like Hamas, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
“Visits of condolence is all we get from them. They squat at the Holocaust Memorial, they put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall, and they laugh behind the heavy curtains in their hotels,” Israeli author Yehuda Amichai wrote in a poem about tourists visiting the Holy Land. MEJDI Tours seeks to offer the antithesis of Amichai’s image, looking at the concurrent narratives of Israelis and Palestinians as a means of helping visitors understand the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Paired with both Israeli and Palestinian tour guides for their trips, participants can meet with a Palestinian living in Hebron and a Jew from a Judea and Samaria community like Susya—in the same day.
Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. His doctors told him his prostate cancer had metastasized to his liver, and that he had only three months to live. Zacks—who would die in February 2014—decided to make his bedroom a school in which he and those he loved would study together about how to live at the end of life. The details are chronicled in Zacks’s posthumously published book, “Redefining Moments: End of Life Stories for Better Living.”
Many observant Jews own a sukkah that they put up every year for the weeklong fall holiday of Sukkot. Renting the temporary structure is a lesser-known option than owning, but is it a growing trend? “We were the first ones to rent sukkahs,” Evan Litton—father of Steven and Jonathan Litton, who run a 15-year-old family business called “Build My Sukkah”—told JNS.org. “We were the innovators in that field. There is a small niche market. Whether it is a real trend or not, I’m not sure, but for us, there is small growth every year.”