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.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has found Muslim-majority allies hard to come by. Yet an improbable romance continues to develop between the Jewish state and Azerbaijan. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon took a surprise trip to Azerbaijan in September, marking the first-ever visit by the holder of his position to a Muslim-majority nation in the Southern Caucasus region. Though it is most often attributed to a shared interest in combating the threat posed by Iran, experts say the blooming Israeli-Azeri friendship goes much deeper.
There are two kinds of olim (immigrants) these days in Israel: those who are living through their first sudden call for early elections, and those old-timers who have seen it all before. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jettisoned two members of his coalition’s cabinet, the Knesset scrambled to dissolve itself on Dec. 8 and set elections for March 17, 2015. While they struggle to understand the rules of the game, the newer immigrants’ faces look hopelessly befuddled. “I try to understand it, but it’s very confusing. … This system seems to generate so much insecurity,” says Peruvian immigrant Betty Anschlawsky.
Everyone knew that Dec. 4 wasn’t the usual Thursday night at the Rami Levy supermarket in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Park near Jerusalem. The customers knew and the workers knew. There were still people pushing their carts through the parking lot with groceries in the distinctive pink Rami Levy bags, but everyone could see the place was uncommonly low on shoppers stocking up for Shabbat due to the Palestinian terrorist stabbing of two Israeli men at the store one day earlier. JNS.org reports from the scene of the attack.
A meeting on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (leader of the Yesh Atid party), intended as a bid to salvage Israel’s coalition government, ended in a stalemate. As a result, a new election is expected in the country. On Tuesday, Netanyahu proceeded to fire Lapid as well as Hatnuah leader and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Jewish students at Wellesley College, a Boston-area school for women, fear that anti-Semitism is growing on their campus following what they call the school administration’s lax response to the anti-Israel activities of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Wellesley also decided to eliminate the staff positions of Hillel director and Jewish chaplain, a move some Jewish students describe as the removal of their support system.
The Nov. 18 killing of Israeli Druze police officer Zidan Saif, who was the first officer to enter the scene of a Palestinian terror attack on worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue, has spotlighted the Druze and Jewish communities’ united front against Muslim terrorism in Israel. Another Druze policeman was killed Nov. 5 in a Palestinian vehicular terror attack on a Jerusalem light rail station. “Most in Israeli society view the Druze very positively,” Shmuel Shamai, a professor at the Golan Research Institute and the Tel Hai College in Qiryat Shemona, told JNS.org.
With the gruesome images of the Nov. 18 terrorist attack at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem still fresh in the minds of Israelis and not likely to go away anytime soon, leaders of synagogues around the country are grappling with setting the right tone and safety procedures for an uncertain future. “By attacking people in a synagogue, they attacked us where it hurts the most, literally at the heart of the Jewish people,” says Gabie Sykora, a board member at the Kinor David synagogue in Ra’anana.
There are few subjects in Israel these days that arouse greater passion than prayer rights at the Temple Mount. The dramatic uptick in Palestinian terror attacks on Jews in Jerusalem in recent weeks has raised the temperature of the long-simmering debate over control of the holy site to a boiling point. Increased Muslim riots have prompted police to further clamp down on Jews visiting the site. “The real question is, why would we not have the right to pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest spot in the Jewish world? But now, if you are caught swaying, you can be arrested,” said Jeff Bell, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
What message is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sending to the Jewish community through its recent selection of White House aide and social entrepreneur Jonathan Greenblatt to succeed longtime National Director Abraham Foxman? While some are praising ADL for thinking outside the box with its hire and trying to appeal to a younger demographic, others are concerned that Greenblatt is too visibly partisan and that his past experience may signal ADL’s de-emphasis of the fight against anti-Semitism in favor of civil rights work.
After recently advancing in the legislative process, a controversial bill to ban free print newspapers in Israel has reignited a debate in the country about journalism’s relationship with democracy and capitalism. The bill, which passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli Knesset on Nov. 12, is widely viewed as an attempt to shut down Israel Hayom, the only Hebrew-language print newspaper that is distributed to the Israeli public free of charge. Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, head of the Media Reform Project at the Israel Democracy Institute, submitted a legal opinion to the Knesset that says the bill “impinges on the right of freedom of expression and the press, and is a threat to democracy.” Others argue the bill flies in the face of capitalism and is motivated by the desperation of Israel Hayom’s reeling competitors.
While reports suggest that Iran and its Western negotiating partners are close to striking a nuclear deal before the Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement, the Iranians find themselves at a crossroads. Iran—which has long promoted Islamic extremism and exported terrorism—must choose between security cooperation with the West against the Islamic State terror group and economic relief, or continuing down its current path towards becoming a nuclear pariah state. That choice comes against the backdrop of a growing push within Iran for a change in the country’s direction, following years of isolation and economic stagnation.
Iranian Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is known for his anti-Zionist rhetoric, has issued perhaps his most detailed tirade to date in a Twitter post titled “9 key questions about the elimination of Israel.” Khamenei proposed a “public and organized referendum” on Israel's destruction for all the “original people of Palestine including Muslims, Christians, and Jews,” excluding “the Jewish immigrants who have been persuaded into emigration to Palestine.”
The U.S. Senate has the right and duty to examine any nuclear deal reached with Iran, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, vowing that the Senate would block a “bad deal” with the Islamic Republic. In Graham’s view, a bade deal is any agreement that permits Iran to enrich uranium. “Today, there are new bosses in Washington,” Graham said in interview with Israel Hayom, referencing the Republican Party’s recent retaking of a Senate majority. “The biggest losers, after the midterm elections, are Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian nuclear program.”
Known primarily for their military prowess and high-tech ingenuity, Israelis are often overlooked when it comes to their global engagement. But since its founding in 2001, IsraAID has been on the frontline of every major humanitarian crisis of the 21st century—including today’s most difficult hotspots in Iraq and West Africa. “Our mission is to efficiently support and meet the changing needs of populations as they strive to move from crisis to reconstruction and rehabilitation, and eventually, to sustainable living,” Navonel Glick, IsraAID’s program director, told JNS.org.
While anti-Semitism in Europe and anti-Zionism on U.S. college campuses are on the upswing, how is American Christian support for Israel trending? Stronger than ever, says the founder of the country’s largest pro-Israel organization. “I can assure you that the evangelical Christians of America support Israel right now in a more aggressive mood than at any time in my lifetime,” Pastor John Hagee, chairman of the 1.8-million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI), told JNS.org after 5,000 people attended CUFI's 33rd annual “A Night to Honor Israel” in San Antonio.
Ammunition Hill seems to historically always be in harm’s way. It got its name during the 1930s as a storehouse for British ammunition and was the scene of major battles between Jordan and Israel during both the War for Independence and the Six Day War, due to its strategic location as gateway to the Mt. Scopus area and ultimately the Old City. These days Ammunition Hill is perched on the border of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods now connected by the Jerusalem light rail, and the recent vehicular attack there showed that the site is anything but an ordinary rail station. “Look around and it doesn’t seem like we are at war, but we are at war,” says light rail passenger Ohela Avinir.
About a year after the American Studies Association’s (ASA) widely condemned vote to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the organization’s policy on Israel is receiving renewed scrutiny over a practical application of that vote. The ASA’s 2014 annual meeting, to be held Nov. 6-9 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, has garnered criticism for a policy of excluding Israeli academics.
In Georgia, a state with a sizable Jewish voter block, the U.S. Senate race to fill the seat of the retiring Saxby Chambliss is attracting truckloads of cash from outside the state for advertising buys. “I think that voting in Georgia—not just Jewish voting but voting in Georgia—is likely to give us a glimpse of what the new demographic in the South is going to be like,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
In a wide-ranging interview with Israel Hayom, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gives his thoughts on the summer war with Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S.-Israel relations. “We have a lot of shared interests with the U.S., and that outweighs the disputes,” he says. “Certainly there are shared values on which the two countries are founded. The disputes stem from differences in attitudes and worldviews. Their perspective from there is different than our perspective from here. Disputes are allowed.”