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.
A century after being denied statehood by European powers after the Ottoman Empire fell, the Kurds will hold a referendum on independence from Iraq Sept. 25. For Israel—which has long courted support from the Kurds, most of whom are Sunni Muslims—an independent Kurdistan may prove to be a new and unexpected ally in the fight against Islamic extremism. Prof. Ofra Bengio, head of the Kurdish Studies Program at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center, told JNS.org that an independent Kurdistan “is likely to be more stable, tolerant, pro-Western and secular than its other neighbors, values that can be good glue for relations with Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Aug. 23 to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East. The issue of Iranian forces attempting to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, near Israel’s northern border, is reportedly high on the agenda for the upcoming meeting. Iran’s activity makes “the need to have an open channel of communication between Israel and Russia even more important than it was some years ago,” Prof. Eyal Zisser, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told JNS.org.
As the political and economic situation in Venezuela deteriorates, Jews are fleeing the South American nation. Inflation has skyrocketed, leading to shortages in food and basic supplies. “There is no value to life right now in Venezuela,” said Adele Tarrab, a Venezuelan Jew who moved to Israel in 2015. “I’ve actually seen people get killed for bread.” During the past year and half, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has brought 153 Venezuelan Jews to Israel, providing what the group’s leader called a “lifeline.” At the same time, the immigrants face new challenges in the Jewish state.
Some 80 students from 13 different countries participated in a high-level training conference that prepares students to make Israel's case to various audiences, including anti-Israel professors and campus activists, many of whom lead the BDS campaign against the Jewish state. "There's a global problem, which is attested this year by the many countries the kids are coming from. But the very good news is the spirit and positive energy of the wonderful students who care about Israel and its cause,” said Andrea Levin, executive director of CAMERA, the conference's organizer.
Several top experts on nuclear proliferation and Iran told JNS.org the failure to successfully deal with North Korea sets a precedent for a similar result with the Islamic Republic. “If a short-term delay causes the international community to be lulled into a false sense that the [nuclear] deal ‘is working,’ as we are hearing lately from deal supporters, it is likely to wake up with a nuclear Iran that will be as firmly entrenched as North Korea,” said Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
A quadcopter from Gaza landed in Israel earlier this month, and the IDF released a short message, saying a unit had arrived to take it away for checks. The seemingly mundane incident is, in fact, indicative of a growing trend: the use of drones by Israel’s enemies. Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State and other radical non-state actors have their own drone programs, each at different stages, and posing different levels of threat. One day, the sight of drones defending the skies against other drones may not be science fiction.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a rising star in the Jewish state’s political landscape, was named this month as Forbes Israel’s “Woman of the Year.” Shaked is one of two female Knesset members from her party and one of two women serving on Israel’s ten-member inner security cabinet. At age 41, she portends to help shape Israeli policy for years to come. Shaked gives JNS.org a wide-ranging interview on Israel’s court system, democracy, security and her future.
Two prominent U.S. senators are raising questions about an American-funded school in Ramallah that is running an extremist summer camp for Palestinian teens from around the world, many of them Americans. The controversial summer program, called “Go Palestine,” is run by the Ramallah Friends School, a 148-year-old Quaker institution in the Palestinian Authority’s de facto capital. Its stated mission is to provide Palestinian teens from abroad with “introductions to Palestinian culture, cuisine, life and work, and the Arabic language.” But in addition to traditional summer camp fare, Go Palestine participants are immersed in anti-Israel films and lectures by militants, some with terrorist connections.
As the Trump administration ramps up sanctions against Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the nuclear deal of 2015 is funding the Islamic Republic’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East? President Donald Trump last week imposed new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and human rights violations. The sanctions come amid Iran’s reported fueling of the recent Temple Mount crisis and its agreement to bolster relations with the Hamas terror group.
Some 3,000 demonstrators gathered in Petah Tikva near the home of Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Saturday night, to protest what they view as slow progress in the corruption cases against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The protest came after three separate probes into the prime minister’s conduct came to a head when Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, signed a deal to become a state witness in the investigations, increasing speculation that Netanyahu could soon be indicted on corruption charges.
Palestinians are vowing to continue its efforts to prevent Jews from living in large parts of Jerusalem’s Old City, despite a July 31 Israeli court ruling permitting a Jewish purchase of several properties there. The ruling capped a 13-year legal struggle over Jewish investors’ purchase of two Arab-run hotels and an unidentified third property, all owned by the Greek Orthodox Church and located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The transaction was arranged by the Israeli organization Ateret Cohanim, whose director, Daniel Luria, told JNS.org, “As the indigenous people of this Jewish homeland, we have the moral, historical and natural right to live in peace…in any and every neighborhood of Jerusalem.”
A push for unilateral Palestinian statehood recognition by the New South Wales branch of Australia’s Labor party marks the latest opposition to Israeli interests among far-left elements in English-speaking countries, including in New Zealand’s government, America’s Democratic party and the U.K.’s Labour party. Jeremy Jones, director of international affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said that in the broader Australian Labor party, there is “a solid core of anti-Israel activists, mainly in the party’s left faction, who push for changes of Labor support for Israel as well as a popular perception of Palestinians as victims.”
The Temple Mount remains in the middle of a geopolitical standoff, as more than 1,300 Jewish visitors ascended the Muslim-controlled prayer compound Aug. 1 on the Tisha B’Av day of Jewish mourning. Yitzhak Reiter—a professor of Middle East, Israel and Islamic studies at Ashkelon Academic College—warned that increased Jewish visits to the holy site might be used as a pretext for more terror attacks. “[The Jewish visitors] are being considered ideological visitors…There are challenges ahead of us, and any minor incident can bring us back to the same situation,” Reiter told JNS.org.
The Trump administration has reportedly reached a new contract with the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems to implement advanced security systems on the U.S. border with Mexico. According to reports that emerged last weekend in Hebrew- and English-language Israeli media, an American delegation recently visited Israel to tour the country’s borders with Gaza and Egypt. Delegation members were pitched on a “smart border” security concept for the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before the latest wave of tension over the Temple Mount, much of the Jewish world’s attention had focused on an internal Jewish controversy surrounding prayer rights at the adjacent Western Wall. In June, American Judaism’s Reform and Conservative movements reacted with outrage to the Israeli government’s decision to cancel the construction of a new egalitarian prayer pavilion at the Western Wall. Yet a mixed-gender prayer facility, situated in the Robinson’s Arch compound near the Western Wall’s main worship area, remains intact. JNS.org assesses the reality on the ground regarding Israel’s decision and current prayer rights at the Western Wall.
Some Jewish Democrats and community activists are concerned at what they see as fresh signs that the party is distancing itself from Israel. New York's Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said at a July 22 town hall meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "does not have a plan for peace.” In Massachusetts, Jewish Democrats were riled by a recent attempt by some party activists to promote a position more critical of Israel. In California, critics of Israel brought about the adoption of an anti-Israel resolution at the Democrats’ latest state convention.
On a Friday night July 21, Maj. Hanan (full name withheld for security reasons) received word that a Palestinian terrorist fatally stabbed three members of an Israeli family in Halamish. “We scanned the area searching for more potential attackers, and spent the rest of Shabbat there,” said Hanan, who heads the Counter-Terrorism Branch in the IDF’s Counter-Terrorism School. Hanan’s branch is no ordinary response unit—it is responsible for training all of Israel’s elite special forces. “We need to be ready for the next war, not the last one,” he said.
As a wave of Arab terror attacks once again spreads across Jerusalem and the disputed territories, a much-less-discussed conflict over the identity of Jewish cities is underway in northern Israel. The frontline of this demographic battle is the Galilee region, where Arabs are increasingly leaving their villages for Jewish cities such as Nazareth Illit, Afula and Akko, due to higher quality of life and better access to services such as public transportation. With the Arab population rising in Jewish-majority municipalities, the change in local character is causing residents to express concern over rising crime.
Former Israeli diplomats charge that the State Department is recycling parts of its old reports in order to whitewash the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incitement to violence. The State Department last week released its annual assessment of global terrorism for the year 2016, claiming the PA works “to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.” Alan Baker, former deputy director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told JNS.org the State Department is seemingly “taking previous reports and copying them, making slight changes where they consider it relevant.”
A Palestinian terrorist fatally stabbed three members of an Israeli family last Friday night in the Samaria community of Halamish. The terror attack came on the heels of Palestinian-incited riots in response to Israel’s installation of now-removed metal detectors at the entrance gates to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Several hours before initiating Friday night’s attack, terrorist Omar al-Abed wrote on Facebook, “All I have is a sharpened knife, and it responds to the call of [the Temple Mount compound’s] Al-Aqsa [mosque]…God will take revenge on you.” The Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf, which administers the Temple Mount, is not “addressing Israel’s security needs, or that the metal detectors were installed as a result of terrorism coming out of the Temple Mount plaza,” Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS.org before the metal detectors were removed.