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 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returned from his Middle East trip last week with an optimistic message, following his latest attempt to foster progress in Israel-Palestinian peace talks and the presentation of a security proposal to both sides, Israelis and Palestinians aren’t sharing his positive outlook.
Now that the U.S. and other P5+1 powers made an interim nuclear deal with Iran without Israel’s involvement, the Jewish state is free to act as it sees fit on the Iranian issue without consulting America, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said in an exclusive interview with JNS.org. “I think now [the Israelis] have really a license to act without having to be scolded for not having consulted the U.S. for their plans,” he said. When asked about the possibility of making a presidential run in 2016, Huckabee—the runner-up to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2008 Republican primary—said, “I’m looking at it very seriously.”
By the end of 2013, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will have enlisted its lowest number of new draftees over the past two decades. Yet there is at least one minority sector of Israeli citizens that boasts dramatically rising enlistment figures and is attracting increased attention from the government for it. There have been 150 Christian IDF recruits this year, more than four times greater than the 35 who enlisted in 2012. Looking beyond what those numbers mean for the IDF, Israeli leaders see a broader opportunity to better integrate Christians into the fabric of the country’s society. JNS.org interviews Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and Father Gabriel Nadaf, major advocates of Christian IDF enlistment.
The awful truth about the recent Iran nuclear program deal is that no deal has actually been agreed upon. At best, the Geneva talks yielded an understanding that Iran’s nuclear program has to come under more stringent monitoring in the near future, in exchange for a significant lightening of the sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime. Amid speculation about the true motives of the partisans of this undone deal, those like "The Israel Lobby" co-author Stephen Walt are quite happy for Iran to have nuclear weapons, because that would involve Israel, a country they loathe, losing its military edge, thus forcing the U.S. to question the strategic wisdom of its historic alliance with the Jewish state, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
In the first collaboration of its kind in Jerusalem, bike tours were recently launched by the Inbal Hotel and outdoor tour operator Gordon Active. Inbal Communications Manager Barak Roth says the initiative offers participants “a new way of exploring Jerusalem and discovering what they didn’t know.”
The P5+1 powers and Iran over the weekend reached an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that highlights the cultural and strategic differences of the major players affected—the U.S., Iran, and Israel. Iran will receive $7 billion in sanctions relief in exchange for what the deal’s opponents call modest checks and reductions on its nuclear development, including the promise by Iran to dilute all existing uranium stockpiles already enriched to 20 percent, while the country maintains its ability to enrich to 5 percent. “I’m afraid Israel is in the most dangerous situation it’s ever been,” U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) told JNS.org.
Archeologists have found what they describe as the “oldest and largest palatial wine cellar” ever discovered in the Near East, in the process unearthing some festive and even psychedelic surprises about Bronze Age. Part of the discovery included wine fortified with honey, mint, cinnamon bar juniper berries, and even special cedar tree resins—possibly giving the wine some psychotropic properties. Dr. Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, one of the leading archeologists on the discovery, told JNS.org that the 40 jugs of wine discovered likely belonged to a king or ruling elite, and that they would be used to throw a large communal party for family and local elites.
A few days before a deal was reached in Geneva on the Iran nuclear program, students, administrators, professors, and honored guests at the University of Haifa celebrated the launching of an academic program for which U.S.-Israel tension on Iran is highly relevant. But that tension did not overshadow the festivities and excitement surrounding the inauguration of the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, which is inspiring lively debate among members of its first class. “Two Jews—ten opinions, two Israelis—50 opinions,” student Nave Dromi tells JNS.org. “Everyone speaks out, discussions are lively.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon both focused on Palestinian incitement when responding to the murder of IDF soldier Eden Atias last week. Earlier this month, Netanyahu said Israeli-Palestinian talks were hindered “because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement,” and last month, after a 9-year-old Israeli girl was shot, he said the Palestinian Authority (PA) “cannot evade responsibility for these incidents” as long as incitement continues in its media outlets. While top Israeli leaders attribute a lack of success in negotiations to PA incitement, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) equips them with much of their information on the topic. “The senior positions in Israeli government are using our material, accepting our material, and presenting this internationally, and this is impacting the way the entire world sees the Palestinian Authority,” PMW Director Itamar Marcus tells JNS.org.
The eclectic Israeli band Diva de Lai—featuring economics PhD Yuval Nachtom on drums, Grammy-nominated bassist and producer Yossi Fine, orchestra specialist Eyal Sucher on guitar and keyboards, and mezzo-soprano Karin Shifrin on vocals—presents Bob Dylan in a way fans have never heard him before in "Dylan at the Opera," their new rock opera album. "Dylan's songs come from deep emotion of the soul, the same place that opera is originated from… We thought our first album would conceptualize different styles and sounds, and cover versions of Dylan’s songs in a new interpretation," Nachtom says.
At a time when Christian communities across the Islamic world are facing vicious persecution in the form of arrests, mob violence, and bombings of churches, it’s no coincidence that an assertive form of Christian identity such as recruitment into the IDF has manifested in democratic Israel, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
At this year’s Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly in Jerusalem—dubbed “The Global Jewish Shuk: A Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate”—Israeli organizations as diverse as the world-renowned Yad Vashem Holocaust museum to the fledgling Hasdera social change organization vied for the attention of the 1,500 North American delegates. Meanwhile, 22 sessions were packed into the one-and-a-half-day conference, headlined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s keynote address.
The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) annual General Assembly, which took place in Jerusalem this year, provided a chance to debate the changing nature of American Jewry within the context of Israel-Diaspora relations. “We are now undergoing a real historical change,” Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told JNS.org. “Israel’s government must take more responsibility for strengthening Jewish identity and to do that our lawmakers must understand the uniqueness of the American Jewish community, its problems, and its challenges.”
With increasing reports of breakdowns in Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations and attempts to jumpstart them by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the parties involved in trying to create a framework for a negotiated peace deal are growing more distrustful of one another—and neither party particularly trusts the role of U.S. “It’s not just on this issue that the Americans display such naiveté, but it’s across the board. It’s Iran, it’s their policies vis-à-vis Pakistan, Russia, it’s everything,” Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told JNS.org.
With more 1.6 million members, Pastor John Hagee's Christians United For Israel (CUFI) has become a powerful force in pro-Israel advocacy in American politics. Yet many Jews remain skeptical of Evangelical support for Israel, a challenge Hagee continues to tackle while CUFI grows. “Before CUFI there was nothing to give American Evangelicals a national voice for Israel,” Hagee told JNS.org in an exclusive sit-down interview on the eve of a major dinner with Jewish leaders in his honor on Nov. 7 in New York.
For Israel Defense Forces Lt. Anastasia Bagdalov, there was no time to ponder the gunshot that penetrated both legs of a man riding with her on a bus ambushed by terrorists. “You just start to not think about anything but him. It’s the goal now. I see only him. I don’t see the smoke, I don’t see the glass, I don’t see the bullets. I don’t hear the bullets. Just do your job,” Bagdalov, now a platoon deputy commander of an IDF paramedics training course, recalls regarding the man she treated on Aug. 18, 2011. JNS.org interviewed Bagdalov last month when she came to Los Angeles for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala.
A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that 73 percent of Israelis do not believe Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations will lead to peace. Another poll, conducted among Palestinians by Arab World for Research and Development, shows that 40 percent of residents in the West Bank and Gaza don’t feel their leadership has given them sufficient information about the negotiations. If the Obama Administration had any courage, it would use these sobering statistics as the starting point of its approach to the talks. But it doesn’t, and that’s why its increasingly bitter entreaties are doomed to fail, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Attitudes on Iran sanctions and the leaking of information on an Israeli airstrike in Syria have exacerbated the Obama Administration’s differences with the Israeli government, while pro-Israel groups in the U.S. find themselves caught in the crosshairs. “After AIPAC went out on a limb to support [Barack] Obama on a Syrian attack, don’t look for them to be running to Obama’s support now,” Lenny Ben-David—who served for 10 years as AIPAC’s director of research and information in Washington and then for 15 years as founder and director of AIPAC’s Israel office—told JNS.org.