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.
While critics lament the lack of haredi integration into both the military and the Israeli workforce, the city of Beit Shemesh is home to innovators like Rabbi Joel Padowitz, whose ventures have a direct relationship with the haredi community. Padowitz is co-creator of what he believes is a “game-changing” product called the “Israel App,” which contains GPS-guided tours for any tourist who needs to find sites or hotels or restaurants, a virtual concierge for making reservations, coupons, and background content. Meanwhile, the app's programming team comes from Beit Shemesh-based NetSource, a company whose employees are 95-percent haredi.
Imagine that your child is born seemingly normal, but by age 1 or 2 her or she has mental and physical disabilities. By 3, the child has epilepsy and is virtually vegetative. This phenomenon, known as Progressive Cerebro-Cerebellar Atrophy (PCCA), affects dozens of Israeli families of Iraqi and Moroccan-Jewish descent. But thanks to the team of Dr. Ohad Birk, that number may soon be reduced. On March 8, just four years after Birk’s discovery of genetic mutations in Iraqi and Moroccan Jews that lead to PCCA, he announced that his lab has identified a different genetic mutation that leads to another similar disease in Moroccan Jews, a disease he is calling PCCA2.
While international attention continues to focus on the Iranian nuclear program and diplomatic efforts to address it, the Israeli Navy’s March 5 interception of an Iranian ship full of Syrian-made missiles bound for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza sheds new light on other dimensions of the Islamic Republic’s strategy. “The nuclear program is the fast mover in international discussions, but the delivery capabilities are extremely important,” Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, told JNS.org. “The Iranians are working very diligently on expanding the scope and legality of their missile program (a delivery vehicle for nuclear weapons).”
Unlike its commercial competitors, Al Jazeera America doesn’t care that much about general viewer ratings. Rather, the network aims to influence opinion makers—including teachers, broadcasters, and editorial writers. Its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict features superficially interesting but substantively biased segments that assail Israel while omitting mention of Palestinian Arab terrorism or Muslim persecution of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. A long-term effect of such coverage might be to undermine the current strong U.S. public support of Israel over the Palestinian Arabs, write Myron Kaplan and Eric Rozenman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
The U.S., U.K., and Dutch governments are helping to fund a March 10-14 conference called “Christ at the Checkpoint,” which attempts to sway Evangelical Christian opinion against Israel and whose themes have anti-Semitic undertones, according to a new report by the watchdog group NGO Monitor. The report titled “Christ at the Checkpoint: How the U.S., U.K. and Dutch Governments Enable Religious Strife and Foment in the Mideast Conflict,” first obtained by JNS.org, examines how the American and European governments are directly and indirectly funding the conference.
After he was apparently criticized by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for comments he made last month on boycotts of Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry in his Monday address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference sought to allay skepticism on nuclear negotiations with Iran and Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations.
Close to half a million members of Israel’s haredi public rallied on Sunday protested a proposed bill that would mandate them to participate in the Israel Defense Forces and would criminalize those that refuse conscription. Some political parties—led by Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid—have made the issue of religious enlistment a focal point of their political agendas, while religious leaders, who are conspicuously absent from the current governing coalition, are digging in their heels to fight the impending change in the status quo. “What we are witnessing is the politicization of an important social process,” Professor Yedidia Stern, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute, told JNS.org.
In early 2014, the partners controlling the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields off the northern coast of Israel signed supply contracts with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, establishing the Jewish state as a formidable regional energy supplier in the Middle East. The deals, and the degree to which they can be successfully implemented, highlight a growing number of continuously fluctuating regional developments that affect Israel’s geopolitical position.
For well over a century, Christian Zionists have been steadfast in their support for a Jewish homeland. Emerging from this movement, Evangelical Christians have formed the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement due to a number of theological, moral, and political reasons. At the same time, there has been a movement among mainline Protestants, including the Presbyterian Church, who have grown more critical of Israel. With the support of anti-Israel Palestinian groups as well as non-governmental organizations funded by liberal philanthropists like George Soros, some are seeking to threaten Evangelical support for Israel. Can Israel and the Jewish people take Evangelical support for granted? Or will Evangelicals follow the path of mainline Protestant groups and their growing criticism of Israel?
While Pink Floyd's Roger Waters in recent years has served as a de facto frontman for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production Ltd. for more than three decades has brought the biggest names in entertainment to perform live in Israel. Musical guests attracted by the company have included Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Madonna, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. This summer will be no different, with Neil Young, Soundgarden, and the Pixies signed by Weiss to perform at a rock and roll festival in Tel Aviv, while The Rolling Stones are tentatively scheduled but still unconfirmed. “I’m not getting the message from the artists that they are feeling the pressure [from the BDS movement]. While that might have been true in the past, that’s not the case, today,” says Oren Arnon, the head promoter for Weiss's company.
Far from the “academic conference” it was touted to be, the two-day “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine” conference—organized with the help of New York University professor and president-elect of the American Studies Association Lisa Duggan—was likely nothing more than a platform for anti-Israel activists to spew their hatred of the Jewish state and promote a boycott intended to hasten its elimination, write Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, co-founders of AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to monitoring and combatting campus anti-Semitism.
Israeli Apartheid Week likes to think of its activities as promoting human rights. In fact, its advocates are the ideological inheritors of a modern libel—that Zionism and apartheid are the same—that was deliberately manufactured to oppress Soviet Jews, at the behest of a state that murdered millions of people in its gulags. This is the company that Israeli Apartheid Week keeps, and it is time, as a Marxist might say, to toss the event into the garbage can of history, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
On Feb. 25, Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, a U.S.-based nonprofit supporting the largest independent network of science and technology educational institutions in Israel, held a New York City gala to honor five prominent supporters of the Israeli program. Zvi Peleg—director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network—told JNS.org that his network strives to give the same quality of education to every citizen in Israel. “We are serving the secular [Jews], the religious, the Orthodox religious, the ultra-Orthodox religious, the Arabs, the Druze, all the populations in Israel,” he said.
Dr. Sasha B.—a captain in the 7th Armored Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who is stationed at the IDF field hospital on the border with Syria, under the shadow of Mount Hermon—spoke last week to a group of Americans at the Mount Bental observation point. “The most difficult thing [for Syrian patients] to overcome is their terror,” Sasha said. “All their lives they have been told that Israelis are evil, they are the devil. They come to us because they have no choice. But they are terrified.”
Coming off of what many observers characterized as an off year in terms of getting its agenda implemented in Washington, DC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is welcoming upwards of 14,000 attendees at its March 2-4 annual policy conference, which will set the pro-Israel lobby’s 2014 initiatives. Chief among the organization’s priority items will likely be America’s continued negotiations aimed at preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and the emerging contours of a possible peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority being brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry.
It was one year ago this month that President Barack Obama announced plans for a landmark effort to better understand the workings of the brain. It was seven years before then that a now-burgeoning company in Herzliya, Israel began developing the groundbreaking brain mapping and imaging technology that will play a critical role in achieving the president’s ambitious goal by helping detect and manage a host of brain-related disorders and conditions. ElMindA’s Brain Network Activation (BNA) takes cognitive-electrophysiology (ERPs) to a new frontier, unparalleled by any other test. Next week, roughly 14,000 people will be able to learn more about this breakthrough technology at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference. ElMindA was selected to exhibit over hundreds of other Israeli companies.