U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and JNS Jerusalem bureau chief Alex Traiman at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo by Ronny Przysucha/U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and JNS Jerusalem bureau chief Alex Traiman at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo by Ronny Przysucha/U.S. Department of State.

Top 25 most important news stories of 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iranian women protesting oppression and antisemitism coming back into fashion were just a few of the attention-grabbers this past year.

Coming off the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 has proven to be quite an eventful year, with elections taking place in both the U.S. and Israel, the historic Abraham Accords marking their second anniversary and global antisemitism getting an unexpected boost.

JNS takes you back to our top 25 news stories of 2022:

25. Hanukkah music videos show defiance

JNS introduced you to three Hanukkah music videos that were bound to get people’s attention. All three explicitly or implicitly reference the ongoing rise in antisemitism.

The first is rapper Nissim Black’s song “Victory,” produced in conjunction with American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The second is from rapper Kosha Dillz’s “Happy Chinooka (A Hanukkah Song).” The third comes from Six13, a New York-based Jewish all-male acapella singing group, with a medley of Elton John parodies called “Elton Johnukah.”

24. Famous Jewish couple who perished aboard the Titanic featured in New York exhibit

“Where you go, I go,” Ida Straus told her husband, Isidor, aboard the RMS Titanic in April 1912. With lifeboats available for women and children first, men had to wait. Given a chance for a seat due to his wealth and status, Isidor refused a place on a boat. Though she could have gotten on a lifeboat and lived, Ida chose to share the fate of her husband.

Ida’s choice is included in “Titanic: The Exhibition,” near Union Square in Manhattan. The exhibit features a large picture of the two first-class passengers as well as a monument to Isidor, a co-owner of Macy’s who served for just over one year in Congress as a Democrat representing New York’s 15th district.

23. U.S. Birthright participants 160% more likely to marry Jews

U.S. Jews who participated in Birthright trips to Israel are more highly identified and engaged in communal life than their peers who did not, according to an analysis of the Pew Research Center’s 2020 survey of American Jews conducted by researchers at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

Since 1999, Birthright Israel has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults from 68 countries on free 10-day trips to Israel. The goal is to introduce them to Israel’s ancient roots and modern wonders, as well as strengthen a connection to Israel and encourage them to lead Jewishly-engaged and informed lives.

22. Bnei Menashe inaugurate their first synagogue in Israel

Bnei Menashe immigrants from India dedicated the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, their first-ever house of prayer in Israel, in the Galilee city of Nof Hagalil. About 150 worshippers attended the event.

The Bnei Menashe, or Children of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrian Empire more than 2,700 years ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the far East before settling in what is today northeastern India along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh.

21. New museum to provide comprehensive look at Albanian Jewish life

Vlore, the third-largest city in Albania, plans to build a Jewish museum to commemorate its history. The Jewish presence in the Balkan nation has been documented since the 2nd century, and Vlore was once home to the country’s largest Jewish community. The museum intends to provide a comprehensive look at Albanian Jewish life through the ages.

The Albanian Jewish Museum project is a joint venture of the Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF) and Albania’s Ministry of Culture, which are working together with the small local Jewish community.

20. Mike Pompeo: ‘Anti-Zionist bias runs very deep inside of the Biden administration’

In an exclusive interview with JNS, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chided President Joe Biden for his policies on Israel, called the FBI probe of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death “political” and said Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has the right to choose his cabinet ministers “full stop.”

Pompeo oversaw the foreign policy of one of the most pro-Israel administrations in American history. In particular, what came to be known as the “Pompeo Doctrine” reversed long-standing American policy that held the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were illegal.

19. The airline that is the ‘main cover’ for Iranian arms smuggling

Mahan Air presents itself as a privately-owned airline, established in 1991 by the son of then-Iranian President Akbar Rafsanjani and headquartered at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

But according to a report published by the Alma Research and Education Center, an Israeli defense watchdog that specializes in threats from the northern arena, the airline serves as the Islamic Republic’s main cover for transporting sizable quantities of weapons via the Iranian-Shiite axis.

18. Jewish groups call on FBI to fix ‘useless’ 2021 hate crimes report

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Jewish Federations of North America were among a number of Jewish groups that slammed the FBI’s annual hate crimes report for 2021 for grossly underreporting the rising number of antisemitic incidents.

Among the criticisms of the report, critics highlight how 22% fewer law enforcement agencies submitted data than in 2020. Cities that didn’t submit reports included New York, Los Angeles and Miami, where most American Jews live.

17. Christian Zionists dispute King Abdullah’s claim that their faith is ‘under fire in Jerusalem’

During his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Jordan’s King Abdullah II claimed that Christianity in Jerusalem is “under fire.” Abdullah, who sees Jordan as the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city, said the “future of Jerusalem is an urgent concern.”

Spokespersons for Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and the Philos Project disputed that claim, saying that Jerusalem never knew true peace or prosperity until after its liberation by Israel in 1967.

16. Historic first: Women take Israeli state exam in Jewish religious law

For the first time in Israel’s history, the Ministry of Religious Affairs administered an exam for female Torah scholars to test their expertise in halacha—Jewish religious law. Sixteen women sat for the exam. Among the subjects tested were the Sabbath laws, marriage and divorce, family purity and mourning, with other subjects to be tested in the future.

The exam, equivalent to one given by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to men studying for ordination, took place following a petition to the Supreme Court, filed by the ITIM religious advocacy group on behalf of eight female halacha scholars.

15. Oldest concentration-camp survivor dies at age 108

The oldest known survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Boris Pahor, died in the Italian city of Trieste at the age of 108. Pahor was born on Aug. 26, 1913 in Trieste, which was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time. He was part of the Slovenian minority in the city and fought with the Slovenian resistance against the German occupation during World War II.

Pahor was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and deported to Dachau. He survived the camp, along with four others: Natzweiler-Struthof, Dora-Mittelbau, Harzungen and Bergen-Belsen. Pahor wrote a number of books on the war and was a recipient of Slovenia’s highest award for cultural achievement in 1991.

14. BBC Arabic quietly institutes changes in wake of media watchdog scrutiny

Research by the media-monitoring organization CAMERA resulted in the institution of significant behind-the-scenes changes in BBC Arabic’s coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The move came after the British news outlet underwent months of intense pressure regarding its Arabic-language service’s anti-Israel bias.

Among the changes, the BBC has stopped engaging with Abdel Bari Atwan due to the pundit’s extensive antisemitic and pro-terror sentiments, which he has expressed for decades. Other changes include cuts to the 200-strong BBC Arabic operation, with 70 of about 150 Arabic-language jobs being lost at Broadcasting House. Its radio station will be shut down and its digital arm is set to be relocated to Amman, Jordan.

13. Jewish star of ‘Cobra Kai,’ one of the best on-screen bullies, preaches against them in real life

As the villain in the iconic “Karate Kid” film franchise, Martin Kove starred as John Kreese, a Vietnam War veteran and the sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo. But in real life, Kove has visited many schools with an anti-bullying message. He often goes with SuEllen Fried, an author and bullying prevention activist.

Kove took the opportunity to speak to JNS about his Jewish heritage and his one condition for reprising his iconic role in the hit Netflix show “Cobra Kai.”

12. Magen David Adom builds world’s first subterranean blood bank

Situated more than 50 feet underground in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in the central Israeli city of Ramla is the Jewish state’s version of Fort Knox. The 3,230-square-foot safe room will house Israel’s strategic inventory of 25,000 blood components, safeguarding it in times of war.

The vault is a key part of Magen David Adom (MDA)’s new Marcus National Blood Services Center, the world’s first subterranean, shielded blood bank and processing center, designed to protect Israel’s strategic blood reserves from missile, chemical and biological attack, as well as from earthquakes.

11. Netanyahu to JNS: I intend to achieve peace with Saudi Arabia

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu sat for a wide-ranging interview with JNS on his 73rd birthday to discuss his memoir, upcoming elections and more.

Netanyahu delved into his views on current events, including Israel’s controversial maritime border agreement with Lebanon, the Russia-Ukraine War, protests in Iran, the United Nations and the policies of former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, as well as that of current President Joe Biden. 

He also shares his views on American election interference, elusive peace with the Palestinians, the possibility of full Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the Abraham Accords and what he hopes to accomplish during his new term.

10. Israeli company Mobileye soars after its Nasdaq debut

Mobileye Global (Nasdaq: MBLY), an Israeli self-driving car and advanced driver-assistance systems unit, had a lucrative Wall Street debut after five-and-a-half years as an Intel-owned private company. 

The initial public offering (IPO) was the largest on Wall Street this year, making it the most valuable Israeli company, easily surpassing Check Point Software Technologies (Nasdaq: CHKP) and valuing Mobileye at $14.6 billion.

9. China-Israel conference reveals Israel’s great-power dilemma

At a conference titled “U.S.-China Competition: Meet the Middle East,” high-level participants from Israel, the United States and China gathered in Tel Aviv to examine the primary drivers shaping Israel’s China policy, particularly in view of a sharpening Sino-American Mideast rivalry.

The conclusion was that Israel does not have an overarching China strategy—and it needs one.

8. Unilever settles dispute with Ben & Jerry’s over Israeli sales

Ben & Jerry’s announced in July 2021 that it would not renew its Israeli franchise agreement for the following year, saying that the sale of its ice cream in Judea and Samaria was inconsistent with the brand’s values. This was met with a class-action lawsuit from a U.S. shareholder and countered by moves to divest from parent company Unilever by several U.S. states such as New York and Illinois.

Unilever responded by selling its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream business in Israel to local licensee Avi Zinger for an undisclosed sum. Ben & Jerry’s then filed a lawsuit against Unilever in an attempt to block the sale, but Unilever eventually announced that its dispute with the ice cream giant had been resolved.

7. Maccabiah and Israel: A sporting event of ‘a Jewish nature’

The 21st Maccabiah is the biggest sporting event in Israel and, reportedly, the second-largest in the world. Known as the “Jewish Olympics,” this event brings more than 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries to compete in 42 events that take place across the country.

The Maccabiah was first held in 1932 due to Jews being barred from competing in many sports competitions. JNS explores the games and how athletes are able to return to their home countries as ambassadors and spokespeople for the State of Israel.

6. Jewish community expresses condolences as Queen Elizabeth II’s reign comes to an end

This year, Queen Elizabeth II concluded her 70-year reign with her passing at the age of 96. The longest-ruling monarch in British history’s death came after years of deteriorating health. She was surrounded by the royal family, including her children, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Jews around the world reflected on her reign and what she meant for the Jewish community. Although she never visited Israel, the queen’s interest in supporting Holocaust survivors became part of her charitable work. She also hosted Israeli dignitaries, including Israeli presidents Chaim Herzog—the father of Israel’s current head of state—Ephraim Katzir and Ezer Weizman. The queen conferred a knighthood on former President Shimon Peres in 2008.

5. TIMELINE: Ye’s path to antisemitism

The rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) has been engaged in a months-long attempt to mainstream antisemitism. What began as antisemitic statements made in an interview with Tucker Carlson devolved into courting Holocaust deniers such as Nick Fuentes and bringing them to dine with former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

JNS has compiled a comprehensive list of Ye’s antisemitic statements and actions to date. Ye shows no signs of slowing down, so JNS will continue to add updates as the situation unfolds.

4. Moscow’s chief rabbi leaves Russia after refusing to support Ukraine war

Moscow’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said he was pressured by Russian authorities to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and decided to leave the country instead. Goldschmidt has served as a rabbi in Moscow for the last 33 years and is president of the Conference of European Rabbis. 

Goldschmidt and his wife, Rebbetzin Dara Goldschmidt, flew to Hungary two weeks after the Russian invasion. According to tweets by his daughter-in-law, journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, the rabbi was “put under pressure to publicly support the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine—and refused.”

3. Conservative stars Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro address sellout crowd in Jerusalem

Conservative superstars Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro lectured to a standing-room only audience of approximately 3,000 at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. In their speeches, the Daily Wire pundits addressed major challenges facing the Western world, the dynamics of power and totalitarianism, how the Torah’s well-known stories and a core belief in God serve as pillars of morality for all of mankind and the role Israel can play as an emerging technological and moral superpower on the world stage.

Following the lectures, Peterson and Shapiro sat in conversation with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The event was organized by Tikvah Fund Israel and emceed by its CEO Amiad Cohen.

2. Netanyahu announces formation of Israel’s 37th government

After Israel’s fifth election in four years, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he had succeeded in forming a right-wing/religious coalition just minutes before the midnight deadline. JNS covered the election in partnership with Israel365 and ILTV, eventually seeing Netanyahu’s bloc win a 64-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset.

A total of 4,843,023 people, or 71.3% of eligible voters, cast ballots in this year’s election, according to Israel’s Central Elections Committee (CEC). This represents the highest turnout since 2015.

1. Iranian women: Mahsa Amini incident was the ‘last straw’

Massive protests have engulfed the Islamic Republic following the killing of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amimi by the regime’s morality police for “improperly” wearing her hijab. For women across Iran, this was the last straw.

JNS interviewed three Iranian women to gain a better understanding of the frustration that has been building up for decades: Sayeh Saadet, a Jewish woman who grew up in Iran and was nine years old during the 1979 Islamic Revolution; N., a part-time volunteer for a Norway-based NGO that reports on human rights violations suffered by Iranian Kurds; and Sara Ahmadi, who was raised Muslim and left Iran in 2005 as a teenager.

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