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.

Latest News

Millions of Christians celebrated this Easter Sunday on April 20 under threat throughout the Middle East. In recent years, Christians living in countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Iraq have suffered extreme persecution, with churches destroyed in violent acts of terror and hundreds of thousands killed. Yet in Israel, the one Mideast country where Christian residents have enjoyed security, freedom of worship, population growth, and support from the government, some Palestinian leaders are complaining about Israeli security policies relating to Easter.

Kansas’s tight-knit Jewish community was rocked just one day before the beginning of Passover as an alleged gunman took the lives of three people and injured another in attacks just minutes apart outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park and a local retirement village.

Alarmed by what they believe to be diplomatic failures by the Obama administration in nuclear negotiations with Iran, leading scholars of a Washington, DC-based think tank have proposed to have the United States provide Israel with the largest “bunker buster” bombs in the U.S. arsenal to help restore the administration’s leverage in its negotiations.

After spending more than two and a half hours testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry is fending off criticism from all sides as Democrats, Republicans, and members of the media accuse him of unduly blaming Israelis for derailing peace negotiations. 

On June 1, the annual Celebrate Israel Parade (formerly the Salute to Israel Parade)—billed as the American Jewish community’s largest show of pride and support for the Jewish state—steps off in New York City. While the parade’s theme this year for its 50th anniversary is “50 Reasons to Celebrate Israel,” a group of activists has found one particular reason to take the event to task. Ten Jewish organizations organized an April 8 protest rally outside the UJA-Federation of New York headquarters to make their opposition known to the inclusion of what they call pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) groups in the parade.

After facing growing pressure from faculty members, students, and an outside Muslim advocacy group, Brandeis University said Tuesday that it is rescinding its decision to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist and critic of Islam, over her “past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” But in light of the school’s past decisions to honor American playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who have both made anti-Israel or anti-Semitic remarks, some are now accusing Brandeis of applying a double standard over the move to rescind Hirsi Ali’s honor for her remarks on Islam.

With only weeks left before the planned April 29 deadline to reach an agreement in the U.S. brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Obama administration has been working overtime to salvage talks that unraveled early last week. Despite the effort, experts are bearish on whether any progress can be made with the parties involved, all of whom are embattled at home and abroad.

Against the backdrop of studies revealing rising anti-Semitism both in France and across all of Europe, as well as one particularly brutal attack last month, French Jews are flocking to Israel. The Jewish Agency for Israel recently released figures showing a dramatic 312-percent increase in aliyah from France over the first two months of 2014. In late March, meanwhile, a 59-year-old Jewish teacher in Paris was severely beaten by a group of young men who proceeded to draw a swastika on his chest.

While the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process grabs the latest headlines, a growing group of organizations is calling attention to what it believes to be a major obstacle in fostering understanding between Israelis and Palestinians: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The U.S.-Israel relationship finds itself at a critical juncture as American Jewish opinions and passions swirl regarding the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stand on the brink of collapse. Against that backdrop, six Israeli Members of Knesset (MK), each representing a slice of the diverse Israeli political landscape, had the chance to interact directly with the American Jewish community at a town hall forum in Boston on April 1.

American universities have long been a place of political engagement, where rhetoric far from the sphere of mainstream political discourse is often the norm. But the recent suspension of a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter has thrust Boston’s Northeastern University into a national debate on what constitutes free speech and what crosses into anti-Semitism and intimidation.

Israel’s relations with Turkey, once its closest Muslim ally, have grown increasingly strained under the leadership of Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But after formally severing ties due to the fallout from the May 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Israel and Turkey are reportedly on the brink of restoring full diplomatic relations. Amid a messy election year in which Erdogan faces domestic political backlash over his increasingly authoritarian and Islamist policies, as well as the presence of growing regional threats like Syria and Iran for both Israel and Turkey, what would normalization offer the former allies?

In oral arguments March 25 over the reach of the Affordable Care Act and the religious rights of private corporations, jurists on America’s highest bench seemed to split along predictable lines, with the Supreme Court’s liberal-leaning wing questioning former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement’s reasoning that the health care law runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. On the other side, the more conservative faction led by Chief Justice John Roberts took current Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to task for contending that the free exercise of religion stops as soon as a business incorporates.

A recent border incident in which Israeli troops shot a Palestinian-Jordanian judge has highlighted the dualities of Israel’s stable-yet-tenuous relations with its eastern neighbor. “In regard to Israeli-Jordanian relations, there is a clear distinction between the monarchy and its mechanisms on one side, and the relationship between the people [of the two countries],” said Dr. Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

An analysis of recent letters sent by members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to President Barack Obama pledging support for the administration’s ongoing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program reveal subtle, but crucial differences in tone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month at the 2014 AIPAC conference that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel will fail because various countries “are flocking to Israel” wanting Israeli technology. According to leading academics in Israel, on a practical level Netanyahu is correct. But that doesn’t mean mean BDS isn’t causing any apprehension. Ilan Troen, director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, says professors are now asking themselves, “Will the fact that I am Jewish—that I visited Israel—impinge upon the way I am perceived?”

While the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold, Jews in the disputed region of Crimea have been caught in a battle over nationalism. Like many minority groups in the area, Ukrainian Jews fear for their safety and their future amid the heightened tension. “The main action in Crimea was taking place right across the street from our synagogue,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Meyer Lipszyc, who has been a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, for more than two decades. “There were demonstrations with over 30,000 people. The protestors were pro-Ukrainian. But eventually the ones who took over were in the unidentified uniforms—they were obviously Russian military. There was Cossacks there too; for Jews that was a bit scary because of their history in the pogroms.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 25 on two prominent cases that could have far-reaching effects on Jewish-owned businesses and their employees. Both challenge the legality of an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring firms with more than 50 employees to provide contraception coverage as part of their insurance policies. Jewish organizations have staked out positions on both sides of the issue, filing amicus briefs in what has become the Hobby Lobby case and a similar suit invoking religious freedom protections on the one hand and reproductive rights on the other.

March 15 marked the third anniversary of the beginning of unrest that led to the ongoing Syrian civil war. As the conflict drags on into its fourth year with no end in sight, Israel—which shares a contentious United Nations-patrolled border with Syria in the Golan Heights region—finds itself in a precarious situation due to new threats such as al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel terror groups, as well as old foes like Hezbollah, Iran, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “None of the sides are capable of a decisive victory to end the war and rule over the entire country,” Amos Yadlin, a retired Israeli Air Force general and former head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Directorate, told JNS.org. “It has been a moral disaster.”

Israelis fell asleep to sirens March 12 and awoke to sirens March 13 while enduring a barrage of at least 60 rockets launched by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, the largest rocket attack emanating from Gaza since late 2012. Over and over, Israelis ran into the bomb shelters, taking cover from the threat. They know the drill. Gaza rockets have been raining down on southern Israel since 2000. But what Israelis are just beginning to understand is the long-term impact of these rockets on their society. A researcher in southern Israel says the Jewish state faces a future generation of traumatized youths, and part of the impact on those children could be violent tendencies.