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.

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In a historic referendum on Friday, the United Kingdom voted to leave the 28-nation European Union (EU), sending shockwaves throughout Europe and the international community. The results of the so-called “Brexit” vote—52 percent in favor of exiting the EU and 48 percent opposed—call into question the identity and strength of the EU while leaving many nations, including Israel, wondering how the vote will affect policy and trade in the years ahead. “There is no doubt that Israel will be left to follow the agreements that will be made between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and to adjust its economic and trade relations with Britain accordingly,” Dr. Oded Eran, the former Israeli ambassador to the EU, told JNS.org

In his book, “To Heal a Fractured World,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recalls how renowned Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman came onto the stage at Lincoln Center in New York City to play a violin concerto—presumably something he had done many times before. But as Perlman sat down to play this time in 1995, one of the strings on his violin broke. The audience assumed that Perlman would have to find another violin or another string. Instead, Perlman waited a moment, closed his eyes, and signaled the conductor to begin. He played the entire concerto on just three strings. Afterwards, Perlman said, “Sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what remains.” On June 23, Perlman received the 2016 Genesis Prize, an award that honors individuals who have attained excellence in their professional fields, have made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspire others through their dedication to Jewish values and the State of Israel. The prize carries a $1 million reward, which Perlman will use to primarily to invest in projects that foster greater integration of people with disabilities into Israeli and North American societies.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be surprised at the international outcry over his accusation this week that Israeli rabbis are plotting to poison Arab wells. After all, Abbas and his colleagues have been making similar allegations for more than 30 years, yet the international community has hardly said a word, writes historian Rafael Medoff.

In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he told JNS.org. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels ($2.36 million) a year into the local cinema industry and shells out millions more to international companies filming there, and his office is decorated with posters of films produced and shot on his watch in Jerusalem. This week, the fund announced the opening of its newest frontier. Beginning this year, it will connect Israeli content creators with three major North American animation studios to turn local intellectual property into globally marketed television series.

A newly released 10-minute online video produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research says that many of the Palestinians who have murdered Israelis during the so-called “stabbing intifada” were educated in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Among other footage, the video reveals a military-themed school play held at the UNRWA Nuseirat School in Gaza, in which students hold an Israeli hostage at gunpoint and emerge from a tunnel in order to carry out an attack against Israelis. Documentary filmmaker David Bedein, director of the Center of Near East Policy Research, says that the U.N. member states who are the funders of UNRWA schools should be held accountable for the agency’s hate education. At the top of that list is the United States—UNRWA’s largest donor, providing $400 million of the organization’s annual $1.2 billion budget. For UNRWA, says Bedein, the film “should be cause...to carry out a self-introspection.”

In geopolitical terms, Russia trades on fear of its hard power in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But fear is not the only factor; national leaders looking for fresh opportunities in the face of American isolationism and retreat are looking more and more to Russian President Vladimir Putin for support. In that regard, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has met with Putin four times over the last year and with President Barack Obama only once, exemplifies this new trend. If we are to prevent the “Russification” of Israel and, indeed, our other allies—meaning a general disdain for classically liberal values, mute acceptance of Russian aggression toward its neighbors, and a resigned attitude to the dilution of American global power—then the solution lies in Washington. Absent that political will, the Putin-Netanyahu bromance will continue to flower, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Obama administration has deleted references to Islamic State from the transcript of the Orlando killer’s 911 calls. She says that mentioning the group would “re-victimize” the families of those whom he murdered. But columnist Stephen M. Flatow has some news for the attorney general. As the father of a victim of radical Islamic terrorism, it’s not the mention of the terrorist group that re-victimizes Flatow and his family. It’s the ongoing refusal of the Obama administration to name the group to which his daughter’s killers belong—Palestinian Islamic Jihad—that causes the family fresh pain every single day, he writes.

Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been fraught with tension. Even within the framework of that tension, strong American military aid for Israel has been a constant during the Obama years. But during the last few weeks, that support has been called into question by the White House’s expression of opposition to additional funding for Israel’s highly touted missile defense systems. “It seems like this whole [defense funding] issue is being manipulated by both sides for political interests internally and externally,” Arik Puder, president of the New York City-based public relations firm Puder PR and a former senior media consultant for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, told JNS.org. “A lot of it has to do with egos and tensions between the two leaders. It is no secret that the relationship between them isn’t the best.”

In a span of less than a week, deadly shooting sprees at the hands of gunmen affiliated with Islamic terror movements rocked Orlando and Tel Aviv. In America, the mass killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub has strengthened calls for stricter gun control laws. Yet in Israel, where many civilians carry firearms, questions on how the Tel Aviv terrorists acquired their weapons did not spark national debate. “Random gun violence is low here because people are more serious,” Avi Dobular, master shooting instructor at the Magnum 88 Range in Jerusalem, told JNS.org. “Israelis grow up in a gun culture. They see people carrying guns from a young age. They serve in the army, where they are taught discipline and responsibility.”

The influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has presented that continent’s leaders and policymakers with some of their greatest current challenges. Those challenges “defy silver-bullet solutions,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken at the 2016 Herzliya Conference. During the June 14-16 conference in Jerusalem and Herzliya, the topic of migration reappeared in many of the dozens of speeches and panel discussions throughout the three-day Israeli event. The migrant crisis has been accompanied by an uptick in European nationalism and support for nationalist political parties, as well as amplified concerns about employment and Islamic terrorism. “[Europeans] fear the new cheap labor endangers their jobs. Others have fury because they have been searching for cheap housing for a long time. They think the politicians have no money for them—only for the refugees,” said Prof. Jurgen Ruttgers, former prime minister of the North Rhine-Westphalia state in Germany.

Dr. Tim Shepherd raised his son Adam, a pre-law student at the University of North Texas, to become a devoted supporter of Israel. The Shepherds not only support Israel from their vantage point as Christian Zionists, but they also prioritize connecting fellow Christians to the Jewish community in order to foster deep, lasting friendships. “We need to be best friends,” Tim Shepherd told JNS.org, detailing how he and his Jewish friends attend each other’s birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals. Tim and Adam Shepherd are both supporters of the Bnai Zion Foundation, a century-old Jewish organization that funds Israeli humanitarian projects. Last month, Adam was among the Christian honorees at Bnai Zion’s Texas Region Spring Reception in Dallas. The event—a night to honor Jewish and Christian donors who have helped raise money to support the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in northern Israel, a Bnai Zion beneficiary—embodied an interfaith community of generosity and special kinship.

Palestinian mom Suhair Halabi is proud of her son, Muhannad. She is so proud that she recently visited the site where Muhannad became famous. We know about her visit because she posted, on Facebook, a photo of herself at the site, flashing “V” for “Victory” signs with both hands. But Muhannad’s “accomplishment” was carrying out a deadly terrorist attack. If Mrs. Halabi were a little more sophisticated in the realm of public relations, she would have stuck to the script that her son was motivated by personal problems rather than ideology, and that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians just want peace. But she went off script. She was honest. She wanted the world to know how she really feels. Columnist Stephen M. Flatow asks: When will the world start paying attention?

After years of discontent with the European Union (EU), the British people will decide on whether or not to leave the 28-country bloc in a June 23 referendum. For the British-Jewish community—which has faced growing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism both within the United Kingdom and the EU—and for Israel, the decision holds a wide range of implications. “It is important to have the U.K. around the table with other EU leaders. The U.K. is a thriving liberal democracy and an important country in Europe. The U.K. has been supportive of Israel, so if it was no longer in the EU, you wouldn’t have those pro-Israel voices at the table,” James Sorene, CEO of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, told JNS.org.

“When it comes to apartheid, Israel sucks.” It’s a key quote delivered by American comedian Brad Stine, a devout Christian and a featured personality in the new documentary film “Hating Israel: In Search of the Truth Behind BDS.” The premiere of the film produced by Laurie Cardoza-Moore—founder and president of the Christian Zionist organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations—was held in Jerusalem on June 8. Stine shapes his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while traveling throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories. He carries out a series of interviews with Jews, Christians, and Muslims to get their thoughts about what life is really like. The comedian is hopeful that his humorous interviews will be an effective tool to help the film's viewers digest a serious message. “Humor helps people ‘take the medicine’ of a documentary,” Stine tells JNS.org.

After four Israelis were killed Wednesday in a Palestinian terrorist shooting at the Sarona market in Tel Aviv, many international media outlets came under fire for initially reporting misleading information about the attack and in some cases not describing the shooting as terrorism. What some commentators considered the most-jarring headline came from Russia’s state-funded English-language news network Russia Today, which initially reported about the attack with the headline, “2 ‘ultra-Orthodox Jewish’ gunmen kill 3 in central Tel Aviv.” The headline referred to how the shooters, according to Israeli police, disguised themselves as Orthodox Jews. Although the reporter used single quotation marks around “ultra-Orthodox Jewish,” the headline could have still been interpreted to mean that the perpetrators might have been Jewish. “Russia Today wins the prize for most off-the-wall, inaccurate headline,” Andrea Levin, executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, told JNS.org.

The June 8 terrorist massacre in Tel Aviv exposed all five of the major myths that cloud discussions of Israel and the Palestinians, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow: “The problem is the settlements;” “It was a reaction to the occupation;” “The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack;” “Ordinary Palestinians are against terrorism;” and “News coverage of Israel is unflattering because of Israel’s own policies, not because of media bias.”

It’s not really a question of “how” Jason Greenblatt, the real estate transactions lawyer and son of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who grew up in New York City’s Queens borough, became a presidential candidate’s adviser on issues related to Israel. For him, it’s more a question of “what”—what will he do with the immense opportunity he has been given? Greenblatt, who in April was named as a primary Israel adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, spoke to The Jewish Link and JNS.org in a jointly published interview about the honor he carries with him in his role each day. “That phrase, of being a ‘light unto the nations,’ is in my mind every single day, it’s part of the responsibility I feel every morning when I get into the car and drive to work. I run that theme through my mind, to make sure I adhere to that principle,” he said. In fact, history-altering roles have contributed to Israel’s very establishment and continued vibrancy by Jewish ad hoc presidential advisers—most notably Eddie Jacobson, who parlayed U.S. president Harry Truman into meeting with future Israeli president Chaim Weizmann before Israel was recognized by any other nation.

Everyone wants to be thought of as the nice guy. Whether handing out roses or handing out entry visas, Israelis hope that such gestures will soften the hearts of the Palestinians. What a pity that the “gestures” strategy never seems to work, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

“So are you, like, fluent yet?” It’s the only question that "Aliyah Annotated" columnist Eliana Rudee is embarrassed to answer as an immigrant to Israel. No, she isn’t fluent in Hebrew. Yet Rudee writes that she needs to embrace the fact that fluency in a language is not a destination, but a journey.

Half a world away from American suburbia, Christians and other Middle East minority populations are facing extinction from Islamic terror groups such as the Islamic State. At the same time, Israel, the world’s lone Jewish state, deals with the organized terrorism of Hamas and Hezbollah as well as so-called “lone wolf” Palestinian terrorists. While these events may seem too distant for most Americans, residents of the Boston suburb of Stoughton, Mass., got a crash course on global dangers as part of an inventive interfaith event at a local synagogue last week. The event featured Dr. Tricia Miller and Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analysts for the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, who addressed an audience of Jews and Christians about the ongoing Middle East threats and efforts to undermine Christian support for Israel. Such events help equip people to “counter terror and propaganda with fact, and encourage them to take action when need be,” Miller told JNS.org.