Forward Thinking

Why Did Israel’s President Just Oppose Bibi's Bill?

By Ben Sales

Getty Images

(JTA) Reuven Rivlin just did the one thing Israel’s president — a largely ceremonial post — doesn’t usually do: He publicly, and vehemently, opposed a specific bill endorsed by the government and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Addressing a conference in Eilat, Rivlin lambasted the controversial Nation-State Law, advanced this week by Israel’s Cabinet and which seeks to enshrine Israel’s Jewish character in law.

Supporters of the law say it merely places the two sides of Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” character on equal footing and reinforces the state’s Jewishness against its enemies. But the law’s opponents say it gives primacy to Israel’s Jewish side. They point to the absence of the word “equality” in the bill and note that the bill fails to guarantee collective rights to Israel’s minorities.

Rivlin made clear which side of the debate he’s on.

“Ladies and gentlemen, such a hierarchical approach, which places Jewishness before democracy, misses the great significance of the [Israeli] Declaration of Independence, which combined the two elements together without separating them,” he said. “This is the beating heart of the State of Israel, a state established on two solid foundations: nationhood on the one hand and democracy on the other. The removal of one will bring the whole building down.”

It’s not surprising that Rivlin opposes the bill; he’s long been a crusader for democratic and minority rights. But it is surprising that he came out against the government so publicly. The president’s job is to welcome dignitaries, represent the state at such functions as funerals, and guide the formation of a new government following elections.

The president is not a political position, per se, and he’s not supposed to get involved in legislative battles. Rivlin himself stressed that point in an interview with the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz before he was elected in June. He was responding to a question about his opposition to a Palestinian state.

“I won’t intervene in Knesset decisions,” he told Horovitz.”The president is a bridge to enable debate, to reduce tensions, to alleviate frictions.”

So why did he intervene here? A source in the president’s office, who wished to remain anonymous, said Rivlin sees this bill as not just any piece of proposed legislation but fears it will affect the core nature of Israel’s democracy.

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If America Had Laws Like Israel

By Avital Burg

Thinkstock

A new proposed bill, supported by senators on both sides of the aisle, will finally define and determine the United States of America as the land of the Protestant People, the largest religious constituency in the U.S. and the group out of which America’s founding fathers and ruling leadership emerged.

The new law aims to anchor Protestant values in the laws of the land, inspired by the spirit of the American Constitution. Furthermore, the bill proceeds to state that the U.S. will continue to uphold a fundamentally democratic character. According to the new law, the United States will be fully committed to the foundations of Freedom, Justice, and Peace, in light of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the same time, the bill suggests, the right to implement a national self-definition will be exclusively reserved for the Protestant People. According to the new bill, Protestant values will serve as inspiration to lawmakers and judges at the different levels of the United States’ legislative and judicial branches. In cases where a court of justice encounters difficulties in ruling over issues that have no readily available answers in the Law, in the Christian Canon, or in logical reasoning, it will then rule according to the principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace stemming from the Protestant heritage.

In addition, the national emblems of the United States, such as its flag and national anthem, will be drawn directly from the tradition of the Protestant Church, and the official calendar of the U.S. will follow the Protestant liturgical year. Finally, the United States will further act to preserve and entrench the Protestant historical and cultural tradition and to cultivate it in the U.S. and abroad.

Any reader who has gotten this far would probably note that such a law could not be passed or even seriously proposed by the United States legislature. In Israel, however, it could become a fundamental law, on a level equivalent to a constitutional amendment in the United States.

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VIDEO: 'Fascist' Name-Calling Drama in Knesset

By Yael Even Or

A Palestinian Knesset member, Jamal Zahalka (Balad), was forcibly removed from the podium and dragged out of the Knesset plenary today after he called Moshe Feiglin (Likud) a fascist.

Some parliament members have protested against the move. They stood up, yelling at Feiglin, who served as the Speaker of the Knesset for the day and made this call. When Zahalka was nearly outside of the plenary, Feiglin said he only meant for him to be removed off the stand. Zahalka was still escorted out but got back in a brief moment later to join the protest that had erupted and resulted in chaos.

Zahalka’s speech was about the new nationality law which, if passed, would define the state of Israel primarily as “the national homeland of the Jewish people” instead of “Jewish and democratic.”

Zahalka, chairman of the Balad party, quoted the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt and said that she criticized the idea of a national homeland for the Jewish people in 1941 when she argued that this would make the Palestinians second-class citizens.

After Feiglin, who refuses to acknowledge there are Palestinian people, interrupted with questions about his sources and exact terminology, Zahalka told him: “I suggest you read her. Of course you are in an opposite world from hers… She was anti-Nazism, anti-fascism — and you are a fascist.”

Feiglin ordered him to end his speech promptly, and when Zahalka refused, Feiglin called the security guards.

Watch the video above from the 2:05 mark.

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The Conflict, the Coverage — and the Tribalism

By Mira Sucharov

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One of the most dynamic aspects of modern print journalism is the presence of a “public editor,” a designated staff member who engages with readers around issues of the newspaper’s integrity. In her latest revealing column, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan responds to readers’ critiques of the recent reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And in so doing, she reminds us of the perils to democracy of bringing ethnic partisanship to bear when engaging in media critique.

Sullivan rightly points to the tendency by each “side” to want to see its own interests promoted via the media. Referring to the complaint the Times often receives that a given news article lacks “context,” there is a revealing line by Sullivan. Paraphrasing a senior news editor, Sullivan writes: “The Times does not hear this complaint…from readers who are merely trying to understand the situation.”

When I hear this incisive observation, I’m reminded of groups like Honest Reporting, whose website tagline squarely reveals that it is less devoted to making sure the media is “honest” overall than it is about “defending Israel from media bias.”(Ditto for the Palestinian side, whose advocacy arms — such as The Electronic Intifada — are at least more straightforward about their mission.)

The question which flows from this is what determines which Jews and which Palestinians (and their respective Diasporas) become “partisans,” as Sullivan puts it, and which members of these respective communities seek to position themselves above the fray, and in pursuit of objective analysis (however elusive) and perhaps of overall justice?

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4 Problems With Israel’s ‘Jewish Nation-State’ Law

By Brent Sasley

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Members of the Israeli government have renewed a push to create a Basic Law enshrining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” This time, the effort is being spearheaded by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Although his is meant to be a “softer” version of previous similar bills, it’s still highly problematic for a number of reasons.

Israel’s Basic Laws are meant to serve as the basis for an eventual constitution. In the years immediately after the establishment of the state, Israeli leaders could not agree on whether to write one up, much less what it should look like. In 1950, the Harari proposal was adopted. The Knesset would pass a series of “Basic Laws” as necessary, and each would be issued as a separate chapter, to be combined into a single constitutional document whenever the time came. In 1995, the Supreme Court gave the Basic Laws constitutional status — which means they’re higher than regular laws and are meant to guide the adoption of further laws and practices in the country.

The most obvious problem is that enshrining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people makes constitutional the second-class status of Arab citizens. Netanyahu’s bill does mention democracy and individual rights, but (unlike the Declaration of Independence) it does not refer to the equality of all Israel’s citizens. By tying Israel’s identity only to one people, it gives them constitutional privileges no other community can have access to.

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At Twersky Shiva, Glimmer of Hope for Jerusalem

By Elisheva Goldberg

Ibrahaim Wassim pays respects to Jewish victims’ families in Jerusalem / Yossi Zamir, Tag Meir Forum

Mirrors covered with drapes, pictures stripped from the walls, and the out-of-style black-and-white modernism of North American Orthodox homes — the shiva (mourning) house of Rabbi Moshe Twersky of Har Nof was overcrowded and warm.

On the men’s side, the mourners were seated on low stools as prescribed by tradition. The condensed sea of black and white undulated in silence, waiting for a male relative to speak before they offered condolences. On the women’s side, Rabbi Twersky’s widow, Miriam — in heavily New York-accented but accurate Hebrew — spoke without pause of her late husband to a group of teary-eyed, similarly black-and-white clad women.

The tragedy and horror of Tuesday’s crime in which two Palestinian men, armed with a diverse weaponry, butchered Jews in the midst of prayer has left all those who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict asking: Just how religious is this conflict?

Experts are predicting and op-ed writers are pronouncing that this is a “turning point” in the conflict, shifting its gears into a more religious drive. Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, told reporters, “We don’t want to see ourselves as Jews being in a war with Islam — a religious war is a disaster from every perspective.” Ultra-nationalist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (unfairly) accused P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to turn the conflict into a religious war. The Israeli mainstream media, too, has raised this possibility. Nahum Barnea, Israel’s premier journalist for Yedioth Aharonoth stated dramatically that, “A thousand fighters will not be able to extinguish a fire with God as the fuse.” Ben Caspit, another prominent Israeli journalist, made the same point: “The true danger…is that the wave of terror will turn into a true religious war.”

But as I approached the Twersky’s shiva house in the rain-soaked evening, I saw an Arab man walking out the door with an entourage. His name was Ibrahaim Wassim, and he had come to pay his respects to the victims’ families. He was the deputy head of the Palestinian-Israeli village in the north called Baka el-Garbiyye. He told me that they had come, a delegation of Arab citizens of Israel, because he didn’t want “the extremists to drag us into this.” Har Nof’s residents, too, had sent busloads of community members to the Druze police officer’s funeral, the fifth victim of last Tuesday’s violence. The last thing Wassim said to me was, “We came in the rain and in difficult conditions because we have the same grandfather who commanded us to live together.”

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The Terror Rocking Jerusalem Is Not About God

By Lara Friedman

Israeli emergency services cleans the sidewalk at the scene of the Jerusalem attack / Getty Images

Four ultra-Orthodox Jews at prayer and one Druze policeman, murdered by two Palestinian young men armed with knives, axes and a gun. The heart grieves for the families of the victims and the suffering of the injured.

This past week’s slaughter was the latest development in an escalation of violence in Jerusalem that dates back to the summer, with the kidnapping and murder of three Israel youth in the West Bank, followed by the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen in East Jerusalem. Most of the world ignored the fires burning in East Jerusalem until the flames spread across the Green Line. Two terrorist attacks on the city’s light rail, one attempted assassination of a right-wing activist, several attacks outside Jerusalem, and a horrific synagogue massacre later, the world has woken up to what is turning into a conflagration that threatens to engulf the entire city and beyond.

Following July’s gruesome murder of a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, Israel caught the Israeli culprits and launched legal action against them. This is rule of law. Following this week’s attack, Israel quickly began meting out collective punishment against the families and communities of the Palestinian culprits, including demolishing homes, threatening action against family members, and blocking off neighborhoods. This is not rule of law; this is occupation law, imposed by means that are patently immoral and illegal under international law and under U.S. law (and that should be illegal under Israeli law), and that have proven ineffective and even counter-productive in fighting terrorism.

Some are suggesting that since this week’s heinous attack targeted a synagogue, the crisis in Jerusalem is now transmuting into a religious war. That framing is simplistic. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, unlike their West Bank and Gaza brethren, have always had means and opportunity to attack Israelis; they have done so rarely, and to the extent that such attacks have been rationalized, it has not been in religious terms. Notably, this most recent attack was committed by Palestinians who appear to be associated, at least loosely, not with Hamas but with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an avowedly secular terrorist organization.

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VIDEO: What's More Offensive — ISIS Or Israel?

By Sigal Samuel

What do American students hate more: ISIS or Israel?

Media personality Ami Horowitz took to the University of California, Berkeley campus to find out — by way of a strange experiment.

Hint: It involves flags.


The students’ vitriolic reaction to the Israeli flag, as compared to the ISIS flag, is striking. A few caveats, though:

First, it seems likely that many of the students just don’t know an ISIS flag when they see one — it’s much newer and much less recognizable than the Israeli flag.

Second, the video is clearly edited — probably selectively.

Third, some students may have avoided confronting Horowitz when he was waving the ISIS flag simply because he seems totally loony — they think ISIS is beyond the pale of what any reasonable person might support, so it’s just not worth engaging. The fact that they don’t stop to argue or yell expletives at him doesn’t mean they view ISIS more kindly.

All that said, this video is still pretty eye-popping.

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Having ‘The Talk’ With My Jerusalem Kids

By Dasee Berkowitz

A six-year-old Israeli boy kisses his mother on his first day of school / Getty Images

My daughter’s pre-K is right opposite Jabel Mukaber, where the terrorists who attacked a Jerusalem synagogue yesterday lived. The children were in class watching a video when I picked up my little girl. The pre-K teacher, so poised and in control most days, was visibly shaken. “Don’t take the road by the traffic circle, take the other one, be careful of stone throwers.” I always take the road she is referring to. It’s the quickest way to get from my son’s school to my daughter’s.

“Please roll down the windows, Imma,” my children always ask from the backseat. I always do, and did yesterday, with reluctance. Routine is the only thing that saves us, Israelis often say. Routine, mixed with a bit of denial and a strong dose of naivete is what keeps a lot of us going at a time like this. My son is six and asked what the noise was outside my daughter’s pre-K. Firecrackers or gunshots, I wasn’t sure. Lots of chanting. And when I hurried them off the swings and slides to get into the car, a safe space where I could be in control, we saw tear gas sprayed up into the hills. While my daughter was complaining that we had to leave the park sooner than she wanted, my son persisted: “Imma, what is going on?”

Is this the moment when I have to have The Talk? It’s the Middle Eastern version of “where do babies come from?” that most parents put off, dodge or ignore. In these parts, the question is “where does this fighting come from?” I want my son to feel safe and secure, but I also want him to be informed.

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A Song for the Victims

By Yael Even Or

Within hours of today’s terrorist attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, Israeli singer Amir Benayoun had already written, produced and released a new song about the killing of four Jewish worshipers by Palestinians.

The popular musician, who sings in Hebrew and Arabic, has a history of responding to political events. In 2010, Benayoun released a song called “I’m Your Brother,” in which he accused human rights activists in Israel of being the enemy for criticizing the Israeli state and its army. In 2013, he initiated a first-of-its-kind concert at the Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron. And in February of this year, he wrote a song attacking Obama’s policies on Jerusalem titled “Jerusalem of Hussein,” a play on the famous song “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Today’s new song is titled “Jewish Blood.” You don’t have to speak Hebrew to understand the gist of it — the mournful melody says it all — but you can read the lyrics in English below:

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Was Synagogue Terrorist Attack Revenge for Abu Khdeir Killing?

By Sigal Samuel and Yael Even Or

Getty Images

In the wake of the terrorist attack that claimed four lives in Jerusalem’s formerly peaceful Har Nof neighborhood, some are speculating that the bloodbath may have been meant as revenge for the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in July.

The father of Yosef Haim Ben-David, the main suspect in the Abu Khdeir murder, prays in the same complex of synagogues where today’s attack happened, Maariv reports (Hebrew). The report suggests that the killers may have been aiming for Ben-David’s father, or the closest they could get to the inner circle of the Jewish extremist.

The location of the Ben-David home seems to have been well known. Footage of the area was broadcast on Channel 10’s “Hamakor,” in the context of a program focusing on the Abu Khdeir murder, just last week. On social media, some are now pointing fingers at that program’s Raviv Drucker, blaming him for divulging the location and leading the killers to Har Nof.

Drucker has responded, saying that the synagogue where the attack took place was hundreds of meters away. He also wrote a blog post last week about his decision to run the story about the murder at such a tense time, despite receiving many requests not to broadcast it.

The Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue is just 200 yards from the Ben-David home, according to the Telegraph.

Following the Abu Khdeir murder, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat also ran a profile on Ben-David, mentioning that his father serves as the head of the Kollel in Har Nof, as well as a rabbi in the Katamonim neighborhood.

The theory that today’s attack was meant as revenge for the Abu Khdeir murder is still just speculation. But, if true, it might go some ways toward explaining why the killers chose to perpetrate this attack specifically in a synagogue, and in this normally-calm neighborhood in particular.

Shortly after putting forward this theory, Maariv redacted its article, removing any mention of the Channel 10 broadcast and other details, and citing a gag order.

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Yachad Included in British Jewry's Tent — Barely

By Hannah Weisfeld

A Yachad tour overlooking the South Hebron Hills at the southern tip of the West Bank / Yachad

In a historic move on Sunday, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) voted overwhelmingly to admit Yachad into the umbrella organization.

Yachad was set up in 2011 to build support within the British Jewish community for a two-state solution. Its work involves both education and grassroots advocacy. Securing 135 votes in support, against 61 “no” votes, Yachad reached the two-thirds majority required for inclusion according to the constitution of the BoD.

The BoD is the British Jewish community’s official representative body. “Deputies” are voted in by their synagogue members, and from within the deputies a leadership structure is then elected, which includes amongst other positions a president and number of vice presidents. It is from this process that the BoD earns its title of being the democratically elected body of the British Jewish community. (Note that the community also has the Jewish Leadership Council, made up of the chairs and chief executives of communal organizations, more similar in nature to the American Jewish community’s Conference of Presidents.)

In more recent years, the BoD has created a provision for community organizations to be represented, recognizing that not everyone identifies with the community through a specific synagogue. Through this provision, Yachad applied to become a member organization.

It goes without saying that Yachad is delighted with the outcome. Having been established just over three years ago, Yachad has amassed a significant body of support within the community for its work. Our supporters want to have a seat at the community table — that’s why the application was submitted. It was in fact our supporters themselves who encouraged us to apply.

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Hillel, Don't Take Sides On Princeton Divestment

By Maya Rosen

Students walk past a statue of a former Princeton president on the school’s campus / Getty Images

A faculty petition recently appeared in The Daily Princetonian calling for the university to divest from companies operating in the West Bank. The Center for Jewish Life, Princeton’s Hillel, quickly responded with a letter stating that the CJL is “taking the best, positive strategic approach to defeat this action.”

As a Jewish undergraduate at Princeton, the CJL is a very important community to me. I go there every day, and most of my experiences are overwhelmingly positive. I am consistently impressed by the dedication of the CJL staff to their students.

I view the CJL as my home on campus, and so I was particularly surprised by the CJL’s letter. Because I am an observant Jew who cares deeply about Israel and opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, I was upset by the letter’s implication that such opposition is an unquestioned assumption in our community. Along with many other Jewish students, I signed an open letter to the CJL and Hillel International, explaining my discomfort with the CJL’s stance.

Our letter did not take a stand on the issue of divestment itself. Rather, we asked for the CJL to refrain from taking a unilateral position where there is no consensus in our community. I do not oppose people speaking out against the faculty petition. The counter-petition signed by many faculty members and a petition created by Tigers for Israel, an Israel advocacy student group, are both legitimate and worthwhile. What I do oppose is the CJL, an organization meant to represent all Jews on campus, making a statement about Israel as if it were unanimous. This complex issue calls for ideological diversity and discussion, not a top-down initiative to “defeat this action” that alienates students.

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‘Pallywood’ Killing Was Exactly What It Looked Like

By Jordan Kutzik

Still from CCTV footage of the West Bank killing / Youtube

I hate to say I told you so. But the fatal shooting of two Palestinian teens in the West Bank this summer? Not faked. Not “Pallywood.” Not even close. It was exactly what it appeared to be.

On May 15, four Palestinians, three of them children, were shot in the town of Bitunya during a demonstration near the Ofer Prison. Two of them, Nadim Siyam Nawarah and Muhammad Mahmoud Salameh, both 17, died of their wounds. CCTV footage of the shootings clearly showing both boys collapsing after being mortally wounded went viral around the world and was immediately met with conspiracy theories, first by bloggers and then by current and former high-ranking Israeli officials, that the shootings had been staged.

In some versions, as promoted by Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, director of the Vine and Fig Tree Project, a religious pro-peace organization, as well as many other prominent commentators, the boys were said to not have fallen “correctly” or in a manner “consistent” with their having been shot. Having seen many films of shootings while doing research on war crimes, I questioned the validity of such arguments in a previous blog post, noting that people fall in a variety of ways after being shot and that the footage was in no way “inconsistent” with the young men having been shot in the upper torso.

Soon after the initial conspiracy theory of staged shootings made its way around the internet, even more involved and unlikely conspiracy theories began to be promoted by prominent officials. On May 22, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, speaking on CNN, not only said that the boys had fallen in a manner inconsistent with their having been shot but stated that they may have never died in the first place. This, despite numerous interviews with the young men’s parents and the doctors who tried to save their lives and a plethora of footage of their funerals on Youtube.

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Israel’s Next Threat — A ‘Car Intifada’?

By Yael Even-Or

A #Drive4alAqsa meme, part of the “car intifada” campaign / Twitter

The past few weeks have seen widespread incitement to violence among both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. There have been stabbings, harassments, shootings, stone-throwings, hit-and-runs. And now, there’s the “car intifada.”

This campaign, which is drawing significant media attention, calls on Palestinians to run over Israelis with their cars. As the latest hit-and-run attacks by Palestinians make the rounds on social media, the buzz surrounding this phenomenon is adding a new aspect to the perennial speculation about the next wave of violence to hit the region: Will the third intifada be motorized?

In three incidents over the past few weeks, Palestinians rammed their cars into pedestrians. Four of them were killed and over 20 were injured. On Monday, in two separate incidents, Palestinians stabbed four Jewish Israelis. Two of them were killed.

Facebook pages and tweets popped up, using the term “car intifada” and the Arabic verb “daes,” which means to run over. Hashtags, cartoons and memes were created, some of them anti-Semitic in nature. Many directly and indirectly call on Palestinians to use their cars as weapons.

A music video by two Palestinian residents of Ramallah, called “Run Over, Run Over (the Settlers),” has also been making the rounds on social media. It urges Palestinians to run over settlers and soldiers.

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17 Ways Israel’s Anime Propaganda Video Creeped Me Out

By Sigal Samuel

Well, here’s something you don’t see every day. The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo has launched an anime web series to encourage Japanese tourists to visit the Holy Land — and it’s kind of amazing.

“Israel, Like!” is an unusual blend of hasbara and manga — I hereby dub it “hasbaranga” — featuring two Japanese sisters, Saki and Noriki. As they tour different parts of Israel, they get to know each area’s special attractions.

The goal of this unexpected media initiative is to “use anime to reach the Japanese audience, especially youth, and display the Israel beyond the conflict,” Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Ruth Kahanoff, told Ynet. Ronen Medzini, the embassy’s spokesperson, added: “The main goal is to showcase the lighter and original aspects of Israeli society.”

The lighter aspects — check. The weirder aspects? Again, check. I actually found the inaugural episode (there will be seven total) strangely riveting. Allow me to walk you through some of the oddest moments.

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A New Kristallnacht for Today's European Jews?

By Abraham Foxman

Protesters took to the streets of Paris this summer to demonstrate against Israel / Getty Images

(JTA) — Each year on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we recall the opening salvo of the violent assault on Jews that foreshadowed the Holocaust and ask ourselves what should have been done at that moment.

In thinking about Kristallnacht, we should also consider the outpouring of violence against Jewish communities in Europe this summer and draw the right lessons for today.

It is rightly said that the Holocaust began not with gas chambers but with words. The significance of Kristallnacht in the history of the Holocaust is the passage from anti-Jewish legislation and anti-Semitic rhetoric to violence against Jews. And therein lies the lesson for today.

To be clear, in today’s democratic Europe, there is no risk of a new Holocaust. Invoking such a possibility obscures rather than illuminates the serious situation of European Jewry. Comparisons to Kristallnacht, however, are apt.

This summer we saw in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, anti-Semitic rhetoric followed by assaults on Jews and attacks on synagogues, Jewish-owned shops and other Jewish institutions. The differences with Kristallnacht are stark and significant, but the similarities cannot be ignored. Not on this anniversary — not at a time of great insecurity among Jewish communities in Europe.

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Settler Yeshiva Battles IDF Over...Treadmills?

By Naomi Zeveloff

Thinkstock

Score one for the settlers.

In the ongoing battle between the most extreme West Bank settlement and the Israeli Defense Forces, the settlers of Yizhar have now announced a modest, if bizarre win.

Following the threat of legal action, the IDF has agreed to move treadmills it had set up in Yizhar’s religious study hall to the dining room.

The Israeli army seized Yizhar’s Ode Yosef Chai yeshiva in April after settlers from the West Bank hilltop community attacked the IDF.

The military turned the yeshiva into an army base and surrounded it with barbed wire. But apparently the people of Yizhar were keeping a close eye on the comings and goings at the site. In September, a group of settlers entered the compound and videotaped the study hall, where the IDF had set up exercise equipment.

The situation reached a fever pitch around the High Holidays when Adi Kedar, an attorney with Honenu, a Zionist legal organization that defends settlers, sent a letter to the IDF:

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That Time Yehuda Glick Was My Tour Guide

By Rachel Delia Benaim

Rabbi Yehuda Glick / Tumblr

The first time I met Rabbi Yehuda Glick, I thought he seemed completely normal. I never would have thought to call him a right-wing extremist, as many reports are doing nowadays. And I certainly never would have dreamed that a few years later he would be the target of an assassination attempt as a result of his efforts to win Jews access to the Temple Mount.

I was a teenager visiting the Temple Institute in Israel for the first time. Since I had just learned about the Institute in my Modern Orthodox day school in South Florida, I suggested to my family that we go visit it. On that chilly Jerusalem morning I remember feeling the tension between being interested in the subject matter and simultaneously having to act “cool” — for whom I’m still not sure. Though my appearance during the tour was perhaps aloof and disinterested, on the inside I was plotzing.

At that point, I didn’t know about the controversy surrounding the Temple Mount. I did not know, for example, that even calling it the Temple Mount and not Haram al-Sharif was politically charged. I did not know that there would one day be a member of the Israeli Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, advocating for Israel to “expel the Moslem wakf from the Temple Mount.” I just wanted to see the actual Temple vessels that I had learned about in my Bible class.

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Young Israelis Say No to Separate Buses

By Sigal Samuel

An Israeli soldier walks past a bus on which suspected Jewish vandals painted graffiti reading ‘Gentiles in the land are enemies’ / Getty Images

Young Israelis don’t want separate bus lines for Palestinians — and they’re asking American Jews to ensure segregation never becomes a reality.

That’s the nutshelled version of a letter sent today by Young Israeli Labor, the official youth branch of the Labor Party, to the leaders of major American Jewish organizations including Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League), Malcolm Hoenlein (Conference of Presidents), Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street), Eric Fingerhut (Hillel International) and Rabbi Rick Jacobs (Union for Reform Judaism).

The striking thing about this is not just the willingness of Israeli youth to speak out against segregated buses, but the fact that they’re turning to American Jewish leaders to appeal, on their behalf, to Israeli leaders — specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon. The subtext seems to be that they don’t feel they can make themselves heard (or heard successfully) in their own country without a powerful intermediary. We can chalk this up partly to their perception that “Ya’alon is caving in to a well-organized campaign of the extreme right, who hold powerful positions inside the Likud party.” Here’s the rest of their letter:

This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect. Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Side by side with you, we, the Young Israeli Labor, the official young branch of the Labor Party, lead an uncompromising struggle on Israel’s international standing. Exactly because of our love for Israel, we must at present do whatever it takes to stop this poor decision from realization.

I call upon you to turn to Israel’s Prime Minister, MK Netanyahu, and demand that he interferes in this matter and prevents Defense Minister Ya’alon from surrendering to the extremist right-wing in Israel, which is jeopardizing our continuing existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

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