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.

Latest News

The IDF struck three Syrian rocket launchers Saturday after five rockets from Syria entered the Israeli Golan Heights earlier that day, and as Iran’s military chief inked an agreement with Damascus pledging to combat “Zio-American schemes.”Meanwhile, Russia has reportedly agreed to slightly expand a buffer zone in southern Syria to prevent Iranian forces and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah from operating near the Jewish state. 

Liberal critics constantly say mainstream pro-Israel groups are toadies of an Israeli government that pursues policies American Jews abhor. Yet the Israeli consensus—which is embraced by the government’s rivals on the center and left—considers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies the only response to a Palestinian political culture that still refuses to accept a Jewish state. It’s time for American Jews to show some humility regarding their knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.

Israeli archaeologists this week unveiled the results of excavations that lend unprecedented insight into the transformation of Jerusalem around the time of its destruction during the Second Temple period. The discoveries include massive portions of the Western Wall unseen for 1,700 years and an ancient Roman theater. One of the most significant aspects of the findings is that they exhibit “the cultural change that Jerusalem underwent around the Second Temple period, when Jerusalem was a Jewish city with Jewish culture, which after the destruction turned into a Roman city with Roman culture,” IAA archaeologist Tehillah Lieberman told JNS.org.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any messier over at the Center for Jewish History, a New York Times columnist who was invited to speak at an event there unleashed a barrage of verbal attacks on Israel. The columnist, Roger Cohen, who was invited to deliver this year’s Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture, said in a pre-lecture interview with the Leo Baeck Institute’s newsletter that Jews “now find themselves in a semi-colonial situation in which they subject the Palestinian people to much of what we once suffered.” The institute should acknowledge its grievous error in judgment, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

The election of the first Jewish director-general of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, French politician Audrey Azoulay, is raising hope that with her background and political experience, she could return the organization to its original mission. UNESCO in recent weeks has seen announcements from the U.S. and Israel of their plans to withdraw from the agency over its anti-Israel bias. Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s European offices, said Azoulay “is generally regarded as a true professional and expert in the field of culture and was a very respected [government] minister.”

Iran is unlikely to halt its drive towards nuclear weapons following President Donald Trump’s refusal to recertify the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, experts say. “Iran just keeps threatening to do what it’s already been doing—continuing its path to nuclear weapons,” said Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “The most it changes is the pace of progress and that’s precisely the problem with the [nuclear deal]: it doesn’t stop Iran.”

Recognizing it is easier to influence those who are prone to be natural supporters of the Jewish state than it is to sway journalists who cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a perceived anti-Israel bias, the Israeli government this week offered Christian media professionals from around the world a crash course in advocacy and diplomacy during a first-of-its-kind summit. Brian Schrauger, a Christian journalist for the USA Radio Network, said Israel “is doing something very, very smart. It’s catering to a group of journalists that don’t often get attention, and it’s educating them. And these are by-and-large friendly journalists that generally support Israel.”

The Gaza-controlling Hamas terror group’s recent decision to sign a unity deal with the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ruling Fatah party may have been motivated by more than just a desire to reconcile after years of bitter rivalry. A cunning plan to pave the way for senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to win the PA presidency could be the true aim of the terrorist organization’s willingness to compromise, Israel Hayom reports.

The Stanford Israel Association—a student group at the California-based university that claims it “aims to engage Stanford students with all that the Jewish State has to offer, through culture, politics, and identity”—pulled its support for a program highlighting the stories of Israel’s minority populations.

As a part of the new Big Idea gap year program in Israel’s de facto cyber capital of Be’er Sheva, tech-savvy young adults can learn from the Jewish state’s “start-up nation” culture. Yael Sahar, director of the program, says she hopes participants will return home with a stronger Jewish identity and “become ambassadors for Israel on their college campuses and in their communities.” The program’s participants hail from the U.S., Colombia and South Africa.

“Today no one talks about Israel in synagogue, because the Jewish leadership doesn’t want to approach a point of conflict,” Shoham Nicolet, CEO of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), says with regret. The IAC, which Nicolet founded with other Israelis a decade ago, describes itself as the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the U.S. It is active in 27 states and serves more than 250,000 Israeli Americans. Nicolet argues he and his team are in a unique position to make Israel a natural part of Jewish life in the U.S. because they are an integral part of the community, but at the same time they represent Israeliness outside Israel in the fullest meaning of the term.

Under the new unity deal brokered last week between the Gaza-controlling Palestinian terror group Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party, Hamas reportedly agreed to cease all terror attacks against Israelis. Yet Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told JNS.org, “Hamas emerged 30 years ago o represent a more Islamist and harder-line approach against Israel, which it has since consistently sustained. For it to give up its tactics and adopt those of Fatah-Palestinian Authority at this late date strikes me as highly unlikely.”

In fulfilling a key campaign pledge, President Donald Trump announced in a White House speech Friday he decertified the Iran nuclear deal as part of a new and tougher approach towards the Islamic Republic. The move brings a new level of challenges and uncertainty in handling one of the most complex international agreements in recent years. While the decertification stops short of pulling out of the agreement, the move sends a decision to Congress regarding whether to reimpose sanctions lifted in 2016.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), in pop culture and science fiction, suffers from an image of being a technology posing a threat to humanity. But in the real world, AI's many benefits are just beginning to come to light. AI is revolutionizing the ways in which Israel defends itself, providing recommendations to military commanders in ways that no human adviser could.

Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 book, “Start-Up Nation,” first captured Israel’s chutzpah-driven culture of innovation. More recently, stunning multi-billion dollar acquisitions—such as Intel’s $15.3 billion purchase of Mobileye—have prompted Israelis to rethink what’s possible. “Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the term ‘start-up nation,’” says Raphael Gross, co-founder of the Israel Aliyah Fund online platform. “People don’t realize that Mobileye was started nearly 20 years ago at Hebrew University. At what point is a venture no longer a start-up but, rather, a full-fledged company?”

European countries are not exactly known for their love of Israel. Yet recent actions taken by the governments of Norway and Belgium suggest that, in at least one important respect, those two nations have gone much further than the U.S. in confronting the problem of Palestinian incitement against Israel, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Adding to Israel’s existing reputation as a major hub of innovation, the Jewish state is a rising star in space and satellite technology. Several key developments in recent years highlight Israel’s growing contributions in the field, including the Aug. 2 launch of Venus, a micro-satellite that monitors climate change. “Israel is one of the few countries that has the entire chain of satellite capabilities, which means launch, design, construction and operation,” Avi Blasberger, director general of the Israel Space Agency, told JNS.org. “It’s an entirely self-sustained program.”

While international interest in Israel’s groundbreaking medical cannabis sector grows, a leading Israeli player in that space will take its flagship annual event overseas. After holding its third innovation conference in Tel Aviv in March, iCAN: Israel-Cannabis is hosting the inaugural CannaTech UK convention Oct. 26 in London. Israel can offer European countries expertise on “how to grow [medical cannabis], how to build a sustainable industry that crosses into pharmaceuticals and regular distribution, how to get medical access to patients before the science is in,” said Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN.

For Leora and the other kindergartners at the Hillel Community School in Rochester, N.Y., a new relationship began when they read Suzanne Berry’s “Under the Same Moon” on one side of the ocean while Yemima and her classmates in Modi’in, Israel, read it on the other side. Bringing Jewish kids from around the world close to their Israeli peers is the raison d’être of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s School Twinning Program, which shrinks the miles for preschoolers to high schoolers in 700 schools on six continents with shared learning activities.

Jews around the world view Sukkot as a time for gratitude. Yet for several at-risk Israeli teenagers, there hadn’t been much to be thankful for—until this year, when they’ll take their first steps toward a productive career, and a life off the streets and away from crime, by working at Liliyot. The upscale Tel Aviv bistro was founded as Israel’s first social business, training young people ages 16-19 as chefs while giving them a new start in life—a mitzvah perfectly suited to this festival, writes Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod.