Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World
JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.
It was eerily quiet in the old Ben Gurion Airport building in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, considering the bustle of vacationers flying out to Eilat. In fact, of the 500 people gathered, many of them were students spending the year after high school in Israel’s yeshivas, seminaries, and assorted other programs. Still others were former neighbors of the Schwartz family, those who have made aliyah from the Boston suburb of Sharon, Mass., over the years. Deborah Fineblum, herself a former resident of Sharon, reports from the farewell ceremony in Israel for the late 18-year-old American "gap year" yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz, who was killed Nov. 19 in a Palestinian terror attack in Gush Etzion.
With evidence that one of the Islamist suicide bombers hid among Syrian migrants to France, the Paris terror attacks have raised concern among many American leaders that allowing Syrian refugees into the country would pose a security risk, while simultaneously igniting a debate on whether refugees’ religion should factor into their suitability for admittance. While more than half of the governors of U.S. states have said they will ban Syrian refugees from entering, Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently called on America to give priority to Middle Eastern Christian refugees because they do not pose a terrorism risk. “[Iraqi and Syrian Christians] are being persecuted and their case for asylum should stand. It will be very important to recognize Christians alongside Yazidis among the victims of genocide committed by ISIS, with the apparent charge of genocide leveled at ISIS in the works,” Joop Koopman, communications manager for the U.K.-based Catholic charity group Aid to the Church in Need, told JNS.org.
The Islamic State terror group took credit for the coordinated attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris last Friday, but the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian factions as well as the Swedish government found a different scapegoat: Israel. While Israel has long been accustomed to Palestinian media incitement and conspiracy theories, the Jewish state was particularly jarred by Monday’s rhetoric from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who in a televised interview linked the Paris attacks to Palestinian grievances.
The latest meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama experienced less tension than previous showdowns, with Netanyahu calling it “one of the best” meetings he has ever had with Obama. Yet amid those good vibes, a report emerged regarding an under-the-radar dispute on Netanyahu’s request that Obama recognize Israeli claims on the Golan Heights region—followed by the Obama administration's rejection of that request. In the meeting, Netanyahu told Obama that he doubts Syria could ever be reunited into a functioning state and that the current situation “allows for different thinking” about the status of the Golan Heights. “Obama’s response was not surprising,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank. “But I don’t believe we have heard the last of this initiative. As long as the Syrian civil war rages, this will be a live issue.”
Despite their disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal, America and Israel “can and should work together now” to ensure that Iran complies with the agreement and to curb Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in Washington, DC, a day after he met with President Barack Obama at the White House.
The Vista Club at Tel Aviv Hilton sits 17 stories above the Mediterranean shoreline. As Hilton’s Israel chief, Ronnie Fortis, spoke to reporters over breakfast late last month, storm clouds began to roll in and obscure the panoramic view. The windows began to shake loudly, but inside, breakfast went on without a hitch. The analogy is hard to miss: even as violence rages in full view, Israeli society refuses to miss a beat. When it comes to the international community, Israel faces a messaging challenge. Yes, the country is battling an ideological enemy intent on destroying its way of life with all available means, including knives and cars. But is the Jewish state safe to visit? Absolutely, Israeli government and hospitality officials say.
You’re a journalist on the ground in Israel during the current wave of terror. Murders are committed on your street corner. Protests are organized by your neighbors. How do you tell the story dispassionately? “Journalism is rooted in culture and society, so obviously a journalist covering a conflict that is within a nation or a culture he is involved with is not an objective journalist,” says Motti Neiger, a member of the Department of Communications at Netanya Academic College. While there is a need to maintain transparency and “keep reporting on every attack that happens,” the constant news reporting can cause public alarm, acknowledges Tamara Zieve, Jewish world editor at the Jerusalem Post.
The Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center recently submitted a lawsuit against Facebook, signed by 20,000 Israelis who claim that Facebook has facilitated pages and posts that incite violence against Israelis. According to Facebook’s community standards, the social network reviews “reports of threatening language to identify serious threats of harm to public and personal safety,” and removes “credible threats of physical harm to individuals.” But in one example cited by Shurat HaDin, Palestinian terrorist Muhannad Halabi wrote on his Facebook page, “I want to become a martyr,” prior to carrying out a fatal stabbing attack the following day. Has Facebook lived up to its standards when it comes to Palestinian incitement? “Whether or not it qualifies as legal ‘incitement’ or a court might deem it speech protected by the First Amendment, a responsible speaker should not distribute instructions on how to commit assault or murder or the self-justification of a murderer that will encourage others to emulate him,” said prominent constitutional law attorney Nathan Lewin.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) this week praised a video produced by the Israel Collective, a project of Christians United for Israel, showcasing an Israeli charitable organization and medical center dedicated to saving the lives of children regardless of race, religion, or culture. Presented in Chicago on Nov. 3, the video—titled "The Heart of Israel"—was recognized as an “Official Selection” at the APHA's film festival. The video features the work of Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), a non-profit that provides life-saving heart procedures for children from developing countries. “We are very proud that this represents the best of Israel, based on the core Jewish values that each and every one of us has been brought up on, and that value is life,” SACH Executive Director Simon Fisher says.
Under the leadership of former U.S. House of Representatives speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House has steadfastly approved pro-Israel legislation such as financial support for the Iron Dome missile defense system and majority opposition (but not enough to override a presidential veto) of the Obama administration-brokered Iran nuclear deal. Yet Israel also became an increasingly partisan issue under Boehner's leadership. Can new House speaker U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) alleviate the political divide on the Jewish state? “Paul Ryan could potentially create a blank slate where he can have strong bipartisan support for Israel, which is the place we need to be,” said Tevi Troy, who served as White House liaison to the Jewish community under president George W. Bush.
In the midst of the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, a controversy has brewed with regard to how Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations decide whom to treat first on the scene of an attack. The firestorm began after Eli Bin, director general of Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency response group, said that paramedics could choose to treat injured Palestinian terrorists before treating Jewish Israeli victims with lighter wounds. But in reality, how often does a clear-cut choice between providing first treatment to a terrorist or a victim actually exist? JNS.org examines the issue from the lens of Israel's major emergency response organizations.
For nine years under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party, Canada has become one of Israel’s most outspoken allies amid growing anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism worldwide. But Canada has elected a new prime minister, Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau, who has promised Canadians a return to “sunny ways.” Will Canadian-Israeli relations fall under the umbrella of that promised bright future, or are darker days ahead? Trudeau “is such a new phenomenon that it is really difficult to say,” said Canadian journalist Terry Glavin.
Operating on a parallel track to the wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and security personnel, a physical and diplomatic war against Jewish holy sites is also underway. Last week, a Palestinian resolution was passed by UNESCO, in a vote of 26-6 with 25 abstentions, to list two revered Jewish holy sites—the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the tomb of the matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem—as Muslim holy sites. Jewish holy sites are also under siege physically, including the recent firebombing of Joseph’s Tomb. “This ongoing assault is the merging of classical terrorism and political warfare,” said Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The same Rabbi Yehudah Glick who lay near death in the ICU with four bullet wounds in his neck, stomach, and chest was seen dancing with friends and well-wishers Sunday night at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, the same place where the Temple Mount activist was shot by an Arab terrorist exactly a year earlier. Glick—tour guide, civil rights advocate, public speaker, and a redheaded ringer for Abraham Lincoln—is best known as a man who just won’t quit. Not when it comes to Jews being able to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He’s been going up there for a quarter of a century, during years when he was allowed to peaceably and, of late, when it means getting heckled and harassed. And sometimes even when it means getting shot. “I’m feeling great,” Glick told JNS.org. “Like someone who received his life back as a present.”
In the first-ever official visit by an Indian head of state to Israel, President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Jerusalem this week to discuss a wide range of issues including the negotiation of an extensive free-trade agreement, bilateral cooperation in agricultural and other technologies, and expanded counter-terrorism coordination. “India attaches high importance to its relationship with Israel, a relationship which has taken great strides in the last few years,” said Mukherjee.
In 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization entered into the Oslo peace process, in the hopes of reaching a final status peace agreement by 1999. In 2015, Palestinians born after the signing of the Oslo Accords are distancing themselves from the agreement, instead turning toward violent acts of terror. In a briefing to the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee on actions to quell the current violence, acting Israeli Police Chief Bentzi Sau claimed that “more than half of the detainees” in recent terror attacks in Israel are minors. “The older generation remembers the pre-Oslo conditions and therefore tend to be less critical of that agreement than the younger generation who sees Oslo as a miserable failure,” Khalil Shikaki, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, told JNS.org.
The Hamas terrorist group is open about its mission of destroying Israel. But the current wave of Palestinian terror consuming the Jewish state has led Israeli leaders to instead blame the unrest on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas over his failure to condemn terrorism and his incitement of violence, casting doubt on the common assessment of Abbas as a moderate by Western governments and media.
Their pictures and names are burned on our hearts—victims of terror whose final moments we can’t even imagine. It’s in precisely these times that the job of spiritual leaders is both most challenging and most needed. All across Israel, rabbis are being asked to make sense of the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Jews doing the kinds of regular things people do daily: going to work, dropping off the kids, visiting friends, going shopping, attending synagogue. “Some rabbis say, ‘Stay the heck out of the Old City,’ but we can’t forsake it because God is not forsaking Jerusalem and He doesn’t want us to either. I tell people, ‘Look, practically, we don’t know any single location the terrorists are coming from so stopping them is next to impossible. So we need to daven (pray) that God gives the police and border patrol the skills and tools necessary to protect all of us, even as we ultimately realize it’s God protecting us,’” says Rabbi Zev Shandalov, a popular teacher in Ma’ale Adumim.
After he personally consulted with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, whom President Barack Obama pulled away from attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent address to the U.N. General Assembly, prominent Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein shed light on the controversy in an interview with the Nachum Segal Network radio station on Friday.