News from Israel and the Jewish World
JNS.org is an editorial content and business-services resource for media, reaching global Jewish communities. Below you will find the most pressing, breaking news from Israel and the Jewish world. JNS.org is updated regularly and includes special Israel news through exclusive English-language syndication of content by Israel Hayom, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers.
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.
Israel stands to generate large profits from its burgeoning medical cannabis industry after a joint committee of the country’s Health and Finance ministries Aug. 13 approved a measure allowing for international exports of the plant. The state could reportedly earn up to $4 billion annually in revenue from medical cannabis exportation. Saul Kaye, CEO of the iCAN: Israel-Cannabis organization, told JNS.org the Israeli government’s move “will significantly increase investment as well as entrepreneurship” in the cannabis technology sector and that “numerous jobs will be created throughout the country.”
Three days, three attempts to execute Jews by stoning. It’s the continuation of an old tradition in the Middle East. At least 13 Israeli Jews, and two Arabs mistaken for Jews, have been killed by Palestinian rock-throwers since the 1980s. Scores of others have been injured. Palestinian Arabs who throw rocks at Jews are richly rewarded, both financially and through media coverage that makes excuses for their murderous actions, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Seventy future IDF soldiers—more than half of them women—immigrated to Israel from North America this week, arriving on an El Al Airlines flight chartered by the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency. “I realized that if [IDF soldiers] felt [Israel] was my home, and I felt it was my home, then shouldn’t it be my duty to protect it too?” said Sophie Stillman of Hopkins, Minn., one of the future soldiers arriving on the aliyah flight Aug. 15.
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.
One of the strongest sources of support for Israel has been found among evangelical Christians in the U.S. Yet today, evangelical Christian millennials, like the rest of their generation, are becoming less religiously observant, which Christian leaders fear may eventually erode support in their community for the Jewish state. In order to counter this trend, Christian leaders are taking a page from the Jewish playbook by launching 10-day trips to Israel for college-age adults.
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.
Compelling the Palestinian Authority to reject a culture of violence that ensures the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue indefinitely is the only hope for the conflict’s resolution. No matter where your political sympathies lie, it’s time to realize that opposing the Taylor Force Act undermines any hope for peace, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
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.
A rapidly aging population and increased environmental risks have led cancer to overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death in parts of the Western world. Researchers remain a long way from eradicating cancer, but several new treatments may offer hope. On the cutting edge of cancer research in Israel is the Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Yosef Yarden, whose findings have laid the foundation for the creation of new cancer treatments such as immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. “The new generation of immunotherapy antibodies are in fact biological molecules and the body naturally uses them, so they come with very mild side effects. The future is very much in immunotherapy,” Yarden told JNS.org.