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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As both Haredi political parties in Israel—United Torah Judaism and Shas—are currently in the opposition, the Jewish Home party is the only representative of religion in the governing coalition. To address its multifaceted objectives, the party engages in several fronts that often come into conflict with one another. Trying to carry the heavy burden of religion alone, members of the Jewish Home are often adopting positions on religious matters in order to avoid seeming too stringent for their nationalist modern-Orthodox constituency or less religious than the Haredim, writes Moran Stern, a lecturer at Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization in the School of Foreign Service.

Millions of Christians will celebrate this Easter Sunday 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.

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.

“This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection, dubbed “Tears of Color,” represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders.

In the days before Passover, workmen scrambled to put the finishing touches on the grand building that was originally built by the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, in 1929 as the Palace Hotel. The outer shell of the building, with its ornate Turkish designed masonry, has been preserved and restored, while the inside of the hotel has been completely rebuilt—into the new Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. “It’s the longest restoration project in Israel’s history,” explains General Manager Guy Klaiman as he leads visitors through the shiny lobby, replete with exquisite Italian furniture and tasteful oversized flower arrangements.

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.

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 controversy over the Harvard University students who recently posed, smiling, at Yasser Arafat’s grave sent a shot of pain through everyone who has lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks that Arafat and his allies have waged over the years, writes Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a 1995 Palestinian bombing attack. But according to Flatow, it must have been particularly awful for Harvard-educated scientist Dr. Alan Bauer to see students from his own school enjoying a visit to the tombstone of the man responsible for the attack that left Bauer and his 7-year-old son permanently maimed.

As a member of the Israel Defense Forces, Hen Mazzig worked almost five years to protect civilians, human lives, and their dignity in the West Bank. He spent the most important years of his life to make sure the IDF protects human rights and lives up to the Geneva Conventions, to protect his army and his people. Yet in a matter of 45 minutes at Washington University in St. Louis, a former Israeli soldier speaking on behalf of the NGO "Breaking the Silence" invalidated Mazzig's entire military service, accusing him of the very things that he worked so hard to prevent, Mazzig writes in an op-ed.

In Brighton—the languid seaside resort on Britain’s south coast that has become the hub of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protests at the local Israeli-owned Ecostream store—Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI) has responded to BDS with campaigns called “Pies Against Lies,” “Cakes Against Hate,” and “Bagels Against Bigotry.” The programming of SFI, a relatively new pro-Israel organization, is just one example of the grassroots movements that are emerging to counter British BDS on the city streets and on college campuses.

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.

Those of the mindset that religions are inherently at war with one another must have a difficult time reconciling the friendship between the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Yet, in the real world, that friendship makes perfect sense. Although religious principles guide their nations, the tenets of religious freedom and equality for all are a basis for their governments and policies, writes Norma Zager, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

Go back and read about who supported former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who discounted the evidence, who blamed the accusers—and learn, writes columnist Dror Eydar. According to Eydar, Israeli media outlets for years provided Olmert with protection, waiting for the day he might be exonerated and once again take power. But on March 31, Olmert was convicted of bribery.

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?

The recent photo of Harvard College students next to Yasser Arafat’s grave, taken on a trip sponsored by Harvard Hillel, was an attack on American values, an attack on Jewish values, and a disgraceful assault on the families and memories of victims of anyone affected by terrorism against Israel. It is deeply saddening to see that Hillel International has refused to condemn the trip and that the Harvard College students who visited the grave are proud of it, writes Brandeis University student Daniel Mael, who first discovered the photo. 

It’s high time that Kuwait be held accountable for enforcing a system that looks like apartheid against the Bedoon people. But JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen is not aware of any campuses hosting “Kuwaiti Apartheid Week” events like they do to denounce Israel. There’s a whole Division of Palestinian Rights at the U.N., but that organization is silent on the Bedoon. We can whine about the double standards, or we can press our own Jewish leaders to raise cases like the Bedoon with their government interlocutors, in the name of both universal human rights and protecting Israel’s democratic reputation. It is time to go on the offensive, Cohen writes.