Did Netanyahu Bury the Two-State Solution?

Did Netanyahu Bury the Two-State Solution?

Some Israeli politicians see in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stirring speech before the UN General Assembly the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his speech, Netanyahu made clear that the current “template” for peace has failed, and that Israel is not prepared to repeat the mistakes of the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”).

The Israeli leader strongly urged that Western peace brokers first facilitate stronger ties between the Jewish state and its more moderate Arab neighbors as a necessary first step toward eventual rapprochement with the Palestinians.

As far as Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely was concerned, Netanyahu had effectively stated there would never be a Palestinian state on Israel’s biblical heartland.

Netanyahu’s speech “informed the world that the two-state solution is dead,” Hotovely told Arutz Sheva Radio. “He spoke about the Middle East, about Cairo and Saudi Arabia and in essence hinted at other solutions rather than dividing the country. He alluded to the concepts of confederation.”

While Netanyahu did make reference to “territorial compromise,” he very conspicuously avoided the phrases “Palestinian state” or “two states for two peoples.”

In an interview with NPR, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel’s peace negotiations and supports the two-state solution, suggested that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ intransigent speech days earlier had facilitated Netanyahu’s new position and all but killed the peace process.

Last Friday when he mounted the same podium at the UN General Assembly, Abbas essentially labeled Israel as his enemy and gave virtually no hope that peace talks based on mutual goodwill would restart any time soon.

“Instead of following the path of negotiations which would have enabled the creation of a Palestinian state, Abbas is now going to spend years on his [unilateral] demand for the UN to set a date for statehood,” said Livni. “Abbas should have opted for the American framework document which would have led him to a Palestinian state.”

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said he was unsurprised by Abbas’ belligerence, insisting that the current Palestinian leader had transformed into “a more serious enemy” than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

“[Abbas’] ideology is stronger and [he] negates the existence of a Jewish state and the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own,” Steinitz told a conference at Bar-Ilan University. “For [Abbas], there is no Jewish people. He is only willing to recognize the Jewish religion.”

Still, there were some holdouts for “land-for-peace,” even if it meant Israel tread that path alone.

During a panel discussion on Channel 2 News, Opposition and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog was asked to explain exactly what he expects of Netanyahu in his (Herzog’s) repeated demands that the prime minister continue to advance the peace process.

Herzog acknowledged that all previous surrender of land had only resulted in more terrorism, but nevertheless insisted that Netanyahu announce additional withdrawals backed by “iron clad guarantees.”

He failed to elaborate, or to address the fact that the 2005 Gaza pullout was supposedly backed by “iron clad guarantees” that failed to prevent Hamas’ violent takeover or subsequent assaults on southern Israel.


Jewish Toddlers Attacked on Mount of Olives

Jewish Toddlers Attacked on Mount of Olives

Jewish children aged 2–5 were rushed into the bomb shelters of their nurseries and kindergartens after coming under attack by a gang of masked Arab assailants on the Mount of Olives on Tuesday.

The attack occurred in the small Jewish neighborhood of Ma’ale Hazeitiim, situated adjacent to the large Jewish cemetery that occupies the western slope of the Mount of Olives.

The Arabs, who all appeared to be youths, hurled stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at the fenced playground of a local nursery. Children at nearby nurseries and kindergartens were also rushed inside until the tumult died down with the eventual arrival of Israeli police forces.

Such attacks have become almost a daily occurrence in Jerusalem, where residents and officials say a “silent intifada” is being waged.

Due to the miraculous lack of serious injuries resulting from the attacks, municipal authorities and the police have been reluctant to take strong measure to curb the violence, which has earned them scorn in the Israeli media.


Israel Hails Netanyahu's Speech, But Was Anyone Else Listening?

Israel Hails Netanyahu's Speech, But Was Anyone Else Listening?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the UN General Assembly on Monday was at the forefront of the news cycle in Israel on Tuesday. From the left to the right of the political spectrum, everyone agreed Israel’s leader is a gifted orator. But the question is, was anyone else listening?

During his 34 minutes at the podium, Netanyahu waxed eloquent regarding Israel’s desire for peace, battle for security and concerns over mounting regional threats.

Addressing the recent Gaza war, Netanyahu made a strong case, supported by an incriminating photograph, that it was Hamas, and not Israel, that had spent the summer committing war crimes.

The Israeli premier stressed that, contrary to the claims spewed last week by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he is prepared to make peace with the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors, but that it must be done on equitable terms.

Netanyahu went on to suggest what is becoming increasingly clear to most Israelis - that in today’s Middle East, it would be easier to first forge genuine peace with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states, and then leverage those new alliances to conclude an agreement with the Palestinians.

The reason for that is linked to Netanyahu’s next point - that the sweeping scourge of radical Islam in the form of the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) is a threat to everyone who truly seeks to live in peace.

To illustrate that Israel knows all too well what moderate Arab states are now facing, Netanyahu drew a direct comparison between ISIS and Hamas. Both, he insisted, “are of the same poisonous tree.”

Sadly, it was Israel’s American allies that failed to accept that last, crucial point.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that while Washington had designated both ISIS and Hamas as terrorist organizations, it does not view them equally since Hamas poses no direct threat to American interests.

But the Obama Administration’s response to Netanyahu’s remarks was not the most disappointment aspect of the story. Rather, it was the half-empty hall that the prime minister wasted his measured words upon.

The fact is that the hall of the UN General Assembly was more than half empty when Netanyahu took the podium, and a great many of those nations represented already largely side with the Jewish state on critical issues.

In other words, Netanyahu was left singing to the choir.

“Netanyahu knows how to speak, and I agreed with more than a little of what he said, but the problem is that the world is no longer listening,” said Opposition and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.

Unfortunately, Herzog’s critique rang true, as Netanyahu’s speech garnered frighteningly little attention from an international media and community predisposed to accepting the Palestinian narrative.


Israel's Role in the Battle Against Ebola

Israel's Role in the Battle Against Ebola

Israel over the past month has been playing an increasingly central role in the global battle against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that the UN Security Council recently deemed a “threat to international peace and security.”

Over 6,000 cases of Ebola have been reported and over 3,000 people have died of the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since the start of the year. The actual numbers are estimated to be much higher, though most cases are concealed for fear of forced quarantine.

On at least two occasions in recent months Israel has quarantined people suspected of having contracted the virus during visits to Africa. Both cases turned out to be false alarms.

Israel has dispatched medical teams to Sierra Leone and Cameroon to train local doctors on how to better combat the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone has also requested medication for treating the symptoms of Ebola, and Israel has reportedly promised to provide.

There is no known cure for Ebola, though American drug company Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. has produced an experimental treatment known as ZMapp. The only problem is that the relatively limited supply of ZMapp has been exhausted, and the company says it will take months to produce more.

An Israeli biopharmaceutical company, Protalix, says it is ready to step in and fill the gap.

“Today our production capacity exceeds our needs, and we would certainly be happy to have the company producing the Ebola drug have us produce the drug for them. We would know how to do it effectively, in large quantities, and in a relatively short period of time,” a representative of Protalix told Channel 2 News.

Meanwhile, a smartphone app developed atop an Israeli-made platform is already having a major impact on the spread of Ebola.

Called “About Ebola” and available for both iOS and Android, the app’s makers successfully leveraged the Snapp platform to get the crucial software to market in a mere three days.

About Ebola has since been downloaded thousands of times by medical workers in the field and by residents of the affected areas. It has even been rapidly translated into local rural languages thanks to the flexibility of Snapp.

When the UN Security Council two weeks ago gathered in emergency sessions for the first time ever in response to a health crisis, Ambassador Ron Prosor said that “Israel is proud to be playing its part” in the urgent global effort to defeat Ebola.


The Economic Miracle of Israel's Natural Gas Fields

The Economic Miracle of Israel's Natural Gas Fields

Thirty years ago I visited an oil rig at Atlit, a town on the Mediterranean shore just south of Haifa. It had been erected by an American Christian company whose CEO, citing a peculiar interpretation of a biblical promise to the Tribe of Asher (Deut. 33:24), was certain he’d find huge quantities of oil beneath the western border of that tribes ancient territory.

The company ended up losing millions of dollars. But just 15 years later, Israel discovered vast natural gas fields a mere 50 miles west of Atlit in the depths of the Mediterranean, suggesting that these Christian dreamers weren’t terribly off the mark by believing God would bless Israel with significant amounts of fossil fuels.

[Editor’s Note: The Christian company referenced above is Zion Oil & Gas, which continues to search for oil in Israel, and was featured in the October issue of Israel Today Magazine, which is available for free to our newsletter subscribers. SIGN UP TODAY to read it >>]

Thirty-five trillion cubic feet of gas worth some USD $500 billion has been found in Israel’s “economic waters,” with the Leviathan field being by far the largest. To give some kind of reference point, Israel’s national expenditures for 2013 totaled USD $114 billion.

More importantly than covering the national budget is the fact that, for the first time in history, Israel has the opportunity to become energy-independent, as well as a major exporter of natural gas.

Theoretically, these natural gas reserves have the potential to transform Israel’s economy. Indeed, experts say that this gas alone can shave 25 percent off Israel’s annual national budget for the next 25 years.

A find of such epic proportions should elicit great excitement. Instead, it is buried beneath political apprehension and narrow financial interests.

Ever since the Leviathan discovery, Turkey and Lebanon have challenged Israel’s right to the reserves. Threats emanating from both countries have forced Israel to spend upwards of USD $1.3 billion to secure its claims. This diplomatic tension could be one reason the Israeli government has curbed its enthusiasm over the find.

Additionally, the narrow financial interests of private companies have stymied lively public discussions over this newfound national treasure in favor of hushed corporate dealings.

Reluctant as Jerusalem may be to publicly discuss the off-shore gas fields, and even as the companies involved shovel off as much of the profits as possible, the fact is that Israel is already benefiting from this recent discovery.

Since 2010, Israel’s major electric plants, which until recently operated almost exclusively on dirty imported coal, have been transitioning to natural gas. By 2040, it is estimated that 70 percent of Israel’s electricity will be gas-generated.

In addition to this clear economic and environmental advantage, Israeli gas will enable the Jewish state to switch from being energy-dependent to being an energy provider. Israel has already signed a USD $15 billion gas contract with neighboring Jordan, and other countries in the region and further abroad will certainly become customers in the near future.

Though the handling of this important national resource remains a matter of concern for many Israelis who feel that simple taxation on profits is inadequate, there is still hope that most of the gas and its revenues will be used for the direct benefit of Israel’s citizens, many of whom are struggling financially.

If handled properly, this gas can turn out to be a blessing from heaven.


Young Arab Muslim Zionist Flees Amid Death Threats

Young Arab Muslim Zionist Flees Amid Death Threats

After posting a series YouTube videos in which he openly identified himself as a loyal Arab Muslim citizen of Israel, young Mohammed Zoabi received a number of serious death threats, including from members of his own extended family, eventually forcing him to flee the Jewish state in fear for his life.

Zoabi, a native of the northern town of Nazareth, posted his last video in June, just after three Jewish youths around his own age were abducted by Hamas terrorists. In the video, Zoabi, holding an Israeli flag, boldly demanded that his fellow Muslims unconditionally release the Jewish boys, who were later found dead.

In that and earlier videos, Zoabi was not shy about his love for Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state where, in contrast to the surrounding nations, an ethnic and religious minority like himself enjoyed all freedoms of expression and basic human rights.

For his trouble, Zoabi, then just 17 years old, was repeatedly assailed by fellow Arabs on online social networks, and quite possibly in person in his own hometown. The threats became so serious that Zoabi went into hiding for a time, before eventually deciding to leave Israel.

Before departing, Zoabi posted to Facebook to reaffirm that he is “an Arab Muslim and at the same time a proud Zionist,” but insisted that he had no choice but to go live abroad lest someone make good on their threats against him.

Zoabi’s mother, who supported his expressions of loyalty to Israel and his decision to leave the country, told the daily newspaper Israel Hayom that her son is “a wonderful boy who has never hurt anyone. It is not fair the way he has been treated. They (Arab Muslim antagonists) act as though he killed someone. He does not deserve this kind of treatment.”


Israeli Fields Enter Biblical Shmita - Fallow Year

Israeli Fields Enter Biblical Shmita - Fallow Year

The new year that began last week on Rosh Hashanah (year 5775 by Jewish reckoning) is a biblically-mandated shmita year in which all farmland is to lie fallow.

While the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) is a day of rest for man, the shmita is to be a year of rest for the land every seventh year. It is commanded in Exodus 23:10–11, which reads:

You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove.

It is estimated that some 5,000 Israeli farmers obey the above commandment, and the state sets aside around USD $28.5 million to support them during a year without crops to sell.

The largest and oldest Israeli environmental organization, the Jewish National Fund, also strictly adheres to the shmita, and will not prepare any land for new forestation efforts during the fallow year.

At the same time, many Israeli Jewish farmers fearing a significant loss of income circumvent the rules of the shmita, which are encoded in Israeli religious law, by “selling” their land to a non-Jew for a token amount of money. Once the land is in non-Jewish hands, the farmer is free to work it as usual.

Many also believe there is increasing reason to violate the shmita due to a downturn in Israeli agriculture over the past 30 years. Whereas Israel could once boast some 40,000 farms in its tiny corner of the Middle East, today there are only around 13,000 farms in the Jewish state.


Israel on Abbas: Peace Partners Don't Say Such Things

Israel on Abbas: Peace Partners Don't Say Such Things

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ virulently anti-Israel speech before the UN General Assembly on Friday was for many Israelis further evidence that he and his Palestinian Authority are not genuine peace partners, and likely killed any hopes of reviving negotiations in the near future.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman believes that when Abbas asserted that the summer’s Gaza war was the start of a new Israeli genocide, he was trying to make the Palestinian cause more relevant amidst a sea of more pressing concerns.

“I can not recall a time when the Palestinian conflict has taken a back seat to such an extent as it has at this [UN] opening session,” Lieberman told Army Radio. “They are talking about everything - Ebola, Iraq, ISIS, the Ukraine. But the Palestinian issue is almost nonexistent.”

If Abbas was to make good on his threats to launch a “surprising” new initiative for the region, he needed to shock the audience in paying attention.

But his aggressive and overly-accusatory rhetoric likely set the peace process even further back in the eyes of Western power brokers that today see less common ground than ever between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.

That was the assessment of leading Israeli politicians.

“This is not how a peace partner talks,” insisted Communications Minister Gilad Erdan. “Now it is clear why he (Abbas) insists on partnering with the Hamas terrorist organization, with whom he shares the ‘struggle against Israel.’”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon added that “though his speech at the UN, Mahmoud Abbas proves for the umpteenth time he is not a leader who wants peace…and is not really interested in an agreement with Israel based on recognition of the Jewish national homeland.”

Even Abbas’ supporters in the Knesset were taken aback by his fiery UN speech.

“While Israel has acted harshly in Gaza and made ​​things difficult [for the Palestinians], you cannot call it ‘genocide,’” said far-left Meretz Party leader Zahava Gal-On.

Leading Labor Party MK Eitan Cabal said Abbas’ speech was full of “false and outrageous statements,” adding that “these words are worthy of condemnation from all who truly love peace.”

Opposition and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog agreed that Abbas’ address was riddled with lies and falsehoods, but nevertheless insisted that Israel “prefers Abbas to Hamas.” Speaking to Israel’s Ynet news portal, Herzog spent as much time lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he did criticizing Abbas’ inflammatory speech.

For his part, Netanyahu vowed to fully counter the Palestinian leader’s claims in his own appearance before the UN General Assembly on Monday.


Obama: Stop Using Israel-Palestinian Conflict as Excuse

Obama: Stop Using Israel-Palestinian Conflict as Excuse

US President Barack Obama in his speech before the UN General Assembly last week said the Arab and Muslim world had to stop using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse for all the Middle East’s woes.

For decades, Arab leaders, and not a few Western power brokers, have asserted the lack of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ultimately the source of all other troubles in the region, or at least made solving other problems impossible.

Obama said that he, for one, now sees the situation differently.

“The situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region,” said the American leader. “For far too long, that’s been used as an excuse to distract people from problems at home.”

Two days later, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried his hardest to counter Obama’s position by painting the summer’s Gaza war as one of the most destructive and devastatingly influential conflagrations in modern history.

Washington wasn’t impressed.

“President Abbas’ speech…included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”

Abbas’ tirade notwithstanding, the rest of Obama’s speech made it clear that he will continue to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian leadership regardless of how volatile and hostile it becomes.


Why the Military Campaign Against ISIS Will Fail

Why the Military Campaign Against ISIS Will Fail

No matter how much Washington and its allies may wish otherwise, the military campaign against ISIS will fail, possibly with disastrous consequences.

Surprisingly, this outcome is not dependent on the issue that is currently so hotly debated – whether or not there will be "boots on the ground" (and whose).

To understand why, one needs to consider the dynamics and legacies of history. In the ultimate analysis, the existence of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) can be ascribed in good part to the fact that, in contrast to Western European Christianity, there was no reformation in the world of Islam.

This explains a core paradox: While Islam, in its earlier stages, was not just associated with, but was also the driver of great intellectual advances (in fields ranging from mathematics to philosophy, poetry and astronomy) the West nevertheless ended up taking its place as the originators and masters of the industrial and scientific revolutions that defined the modern era.

The key point is this: the Arab world was left way behind as the consequence of a serious lack of internal reform within.

Many Arabs cite western imperialism as the major reason for its failure to join the modern world. Yet, looking through a wider lens at Western imperialism and the havoc that it created, it is the case that Western powers' conquests were not limited to the Middle East, but extended throughout most of Asia.

Arguably, nowhere else were the Western powers' conquests as destructive as in China.

China as role model

Despite the parallels in these regions' fates, in the 21st century we are witnessing the resurgence of East and South Asia. The Chinese bitterly lament their century of humiliation, but the cure they have found lies in enterprise building, economic growth, education, innovation and investment in human capital – that is, in embracing capitalism and scientific modernity.

As the Chinese scholar Zheng Bijian has written: "the most important strategic choice the Chinese made [in the late 1970s] was to embrace economic globalization — rather than detach themselves from it."

Meanwhile, West Asia remains a chaotic and backward mess. The Arab world is still in the mode of rejecting globalization rather than embracing it.

This does not just apply to the schismatic disputes, terrorism, inter-ethnic infighting, refugees, economic backwardness, political regimes, but also to society and science at large.

The seminal UNDP 2002 Arab Human Development Report identified three pivotal "shortages" – shortage of freedom, shortage of knowledge and shortage of womanpower. So long as these three shortages remain, prospects will be bleak.

If one bears in mind the immense contribution made by the Arab world to science and civilization in centuries past — and indeed the fact that not that long ago cities like Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria were booming global centers of commerce and creativity — notably in the arts — then one can arrive only at one conclusion.

The panorama of the Arab world today is indeed depressing and discouraging. Compared with most other parts of the world, it is in regress as opposed to progress.

It can only be remedied by the Arabs themselves, based on a profound reform and indeed renaissance of Arab society. In the words of Zheng Bijian, it will take no less than an Arab "embrace of globalization" and modernity, by virtue of insight — and not by external military force.

Until and unless these reforms — this reformation and renaissance — occur in the Arab world, all Western interventions will fail, and indeed in all probability make the situation worse. The proposed battle to "the gates of hell" against ISIS will suffer the same fate.

What are the alternatives to intervention?

It should be made clear that "staying out" is not synonymous with "doing nothing". Western countries must defend themselves, naturally, and try to prevent misguided youth from joining the ranks of the Islamist jihadists. We also need to provide what humanitarian assistance we can, especially to refugees.

Furthermore, while we cannot force the Arab world to embrace globalization — that would be highly counter-productive — we can be more engaging.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution — a fit of cult madness that killed and maimed millions — ended less than four decades ago. It would have been impossible to fathom in, say, 1974, two years before Mao died, that within 40 years a Chinese entrepreneur in IT would be making the biggest IPO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange.

If the Arab world could reform and embrace globalization, the glories of its civilization, respect and pride would surely return.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at IMD, Founder of the Evian Group and Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong and NIIT University in India.


Muslim States Say Israel Has No Right to Self-Defense

Muslim States Say Israel Has No Right to Self-Defense

Representatives of Muslim states participating in a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week called into question Israel’s right to militarily defend itself against Palestinian terrorism.

The representative from Pakistan insisted that it was “morally abhorrent” and “legally incorrect” to label Israel’s actions in Gaza this summer as self-defense. The United Arab Emirates agreed, and asserted that as an occupying power, Israel had no right to use military force in self-defense.

In total, 30 nations used the session to bash Israel over Operation Protective Edge. Among them were Venezuela, Ireland, China and the aforementioned Pakistan and United Arab Emirates.

Israel and a number of leading Western powers already consider the UN Human Rights Council to be untrustworthy and hypocritical, and pay its statements little heed.

In addition to being filled with nations boasting abysmal human rights records, the council is dominated by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which ensures that every session is disproportionately focused on Israel, while all but ignoring the human rights abuses of other nations, in particular the Palestinian Authority.


Temple Mount Riots Ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Temple Mount Riots Ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Sunset today (Wednesday) marks the start of the biblical holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Arab residents of Jerusalem and surrounding areas also marked the occasion by rioting atop the Temple Mount.

Shortly after the sacred compound opened on Wednesday and before non-Muslim visitors could ascend, Muslim mobs began hurling firebombs and stones at police forces stationed at the Temple Mount, sparking violent clashes.

As Israeli Border Police flooded into the Temple Mount, the rioters retreated into the Al Aqsa Mosque and from there continued their attacks. The Israelis finally broke through the barricades erected at the doors of the mosque, but not before several officers were wounded.

Police officials said forces atop the Temple Mount would remain bolstered throughout the High Holy Days, including the upcoming Yom Kippur and the week-long Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles.

A police spokesman said there were no specific threats regarding the Temple Mount, but that security forces were preparing for all eventualities, especially in the wake of this week’s elimination of the two Hamas terrorists behind the June 12 abduction and execution of three Jewish youths.

The Temple Mount and Jewish places of worship around the country will see increased security in order to thwart any Hamas efforts at retaliation.


Study: Many European Jews Hide Their Identity

Study: Many European Jews Hide Their Identity

A majority of Jews living in Europe today avoid outward demonstrations of their faith and nearly half actively hide their ethnic identity, even as assimilation rates on the continent are skyrocketing.

That according to figures released by Rabbinical Centre of Europe. The study revealed that only about 500,000 Jews will attend Rosh Hashanah services this week in Europe, and that a mere 30 percent will participate in Yom Kippur at local synagogues next week.

The survey further revealed an 80 assimilation rate by comparing the number of Jewish weddings to the number of Jews living in each city.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, said those numbers corresponded to an earlier study that showed about 40 percent of European Jews choose to actively hide their Jewishness, most notably by refusing to enroll their children in Jewish schools.

Rabbi Margolin said that the strengthening of extremist nationalist movements, the growing Islamization and Israel’s overly-reported war against Hamas have combined to put Europe’s Jews in a tighter situation than they have experienced in years.

There have been more attacks, more harassment of individual Jews and Jewish communities, more demonstrations, and more politicians issuing fiery speeches against Israel and the Jewish people.


Reflections on Anti-Semitism Following Gaza War

Reflections on Anti-Semitism Following Gaza War

When Pope Francis hosted a joint prayer meeting in June with then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, some saw it as a significant step toward peace in the Middle East. In reality, it signaled that the situation had spiraled dangerously out of control, and that all was now in God’s hands.

Indeed, it was not long after that Israel and Hamas engaged in conflict with an intensity not seen since 2012.

Before we go any further, it is important to note that it has become customary for the media to only begin seriously reporting on conflicts like the summer’s Gaza war after Israel has responded to provocative attacks with a great show of force. Because of this, Israel is often wrongly portrayed as the instigator.

We could write extensively on the secret love affair and complicity between the Western media and terrorist organizations like Hamas. But what I really want to draw attention to is the rise of anti-Semitism fueled by this distorted coverage.

A quick survey of social networks reveals an overwhelming outburst of anti-Semitism in recent months, including calls for boycotts of Israeli products, refusals by European sports clubs to play in Israel, general anti-Israel demonstrations and even open approval of Hitler’s policy of exterminating the Jews.

As everyone knows, anti-Semitism was outlawed in much of the West following the Holocaust, but it has managed to live on within the matrix of leftist ideology, which has become a politically-correct medium for expressing anti-Semitism.

This sounds strange, but only to those who perceive anti-Semitism as an isolated phenomenon belonging to the period of Nazi rule. Anti-Semitism is not confined to the Nazi genocide of the Jews of Europe. It is a constant defining element of liberal political thought in the West.

Anti-Semitism in the West is very much related to a mythical fear of trade and the capitalist entrepreneur, who becomes an archetypical representation of someone who disturbs communal harmony and bears the properties of being foreign and impure.

But it was only with the widespread rise of capitalism and the accompanying emergence of the socialist movement in the 19th century that these sentiments assumed the form of political anti-Semitism, which proved itself even more dangerous than the earlier religious anti-Semitism.

It is a known fact that political anti-Semitism was first articulated by socialist theoreticians, who transformed the Jew into the embodiment of capitalism, thereby firmly embedding anti-Semitism within anti-capitalist conspiracy theories about evil bankers and the like as a foreign bodies infecting the social organism.

In their seminal work Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, authors Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalist demonstrated that the political Islam of today is nothing but an adjusted copy of modern totalitarian movements (Communism and Nazism).

It is no coincidence that the first modern radical Islamist movements emerged in Egypt, which was under the strong influence of the French Revolution. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, was highly influenced by the Enlightenment, Jacobin ideas and totalitarian European movements. Thus, he tried to reform the Islam according to the “spirit of the time”, ascribing the ideas of equality, freedom and brotherhood to the teachings of Mohammed.

Al-Banna’s prized student and the second most important ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyd Qutb, thought very highly of Lenin and Marx, and insisted that socialism is superior to capitalism.

And this is where the secret ideological brotherhood between Islamists and Western liberals begins to reveal itself.

These two seemingly opposing movements are indeed ideological brothers in their respective struggles against the Jews and Israel as the embodiments of evil capitalism. Through their support for the Hamas, wrapped in maudlin human rights ideology, progressive Europeans can now finally fully express their own ideological heritage.

Western support for Hamas is really an expression of love for our own wicked past.

In reality, Hamas is today primarily supported not by a majority of Palestinians or Muslims in general, but by a liberal Western polity prone to totalitarianism and anti-Semitism. This Western movement supports Hamas’ fanaticism and terrorism by masking it as a struggle for human rights, and in so doing these European leftists actually return to their own dark totalitarian roots and their endemic anti-Semitism.

It is this ideological pact between Western leftists and Islamists that most hinders any hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel.


IDF Kills Terrorists Behind Murder of Jewish Teens

IDF Kills Terrorists Behind Murder of Jewish Teens

Israeli forces on Tuesday morning exchanged fire with and killed the two chief suspects in the June 12 abduction and execution of Jewish teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel (pictured).

The brief gun battle took place in the Judean town of Hebron, where Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha had holed up in a carpentry shop near a complex owned by the Kawasme family.

Israeli soldiers surrounded the building during the predawn hours and demanded the two wanted Hamas members surrender. They were instead met by machine gun fire.

Following the disappearance of Yifrach, Shaar and Frenkel as they attempted to hitchhike home from their yeshiva near Hebron, Israel launched “Operation Brother’s Keeper” in a frantic effort to find the youths.

When the boys’ bodies were found a week later, the operation shifted to one of retribution and deterrence. In the wake of Tuesday’s successful operation, IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz had this to say:

“On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Operation Brothers’ Keeper - which began Friday, June 13, 2014 and continued with determination since then - came to an end. We promised the Shaar, Yifrach, and Frenkel families that we would get to their children’s murderers, and we did that this morning.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added the following:

“When we found the bodies of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal I said that whoever carried out the kidnapping and murder of our teens — his blood will be on his head. This morning it was accomplished. We will continue to hit terror everywhere.”

Hamas, too, confirmed deaths of its operatives in a statement reading:

“Two members of the Izz A-Din al-Qasam brigades, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha were killed after a journey of sacrifice and giving. This is the path of resistance and we walk it side by side.”


Israel Downs Syrian Warplane as Golan Spillover Intensifies

Israel Downs Syrian Warplane as Golan Spillover Intensifies

Israel on Tuesday shot down a Syrian fighter jet that crossed into the Jewish state’s airspace in the Golan Heights. The incident marked one of the more severe cases of Syria’s ongoing civil war spilling across the border into Israel.

Israeli and Syrian military officials confirmed the downing of what conflicting reports identified as either a MiG–21 or a “Sukhoi,” both Russian-made aircraft.

The Israeli army added that the fighter jet was almost certainly operating against Syrian rebels in the area, and was not on a mission to attack Israeli targets. Nevertheless, Israel has been firm in its position that any breach of Israel’s sovereignty will be dealt with swiftly and severely so as to keep Syria’s civil war from crossing the border.

But keeping the war on the Syrian side of the border has become increasingly difficult after Al Qaeda-linked rebel group Al-Nusra Front seized control of the border region earlier this month.

Syrian government forces have been frantically fighting to regain the town of Quneitra and the rest of the border region, but, despite superior firepower, have failed to achieve that goal.

While both the Syrian government and the Islamists have no love for the Jewish state, the latter has far less to lose in provoking Israel militarily.

“It’s not our war, but we are preparing ourselves for the day the situation will change,” a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post, adding that Israel could respond in great force “within minutes” should any of the forces active in Syria deliberately attack the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that has acted as a peacekeeper along the Syria-Israel border for the past 40 years has abandoned its post.

When Al-Nusra conquered the border region earlier this month, it took captive dozens of UNDOF peacekeepers. They were later released, but the incident and the new presence of radical jihadists compelled UNDOF to withdraw to the safety of neighboring Israel.


Got What it Takes? Mossad Launches Recruitment Drive

Got What it Takes? Mossad Launches Recruitment Drive

Israel’s fabled Mossad spy agency on Monday launched a new website and accompanying YouTube video as part of a broader recruitment drive.

“The goal of the upgraded site is to make the [Mossad] more accessible to potential recruits who may not be exposed to the variety of positions in operations, intelligence, technology and cyber, and administration available,” read a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Mossad Director Tamir Pardo added:

“The State of Israel has been and remains under daily, tangible threats. We must continue to recruit the best people into our ranks so that the Mossad might continue to lead, defend and allow for the continued existence of the State of Israel. The Mossad’s qualitative human capital is the secret of our success. The Mossad will continue to operate wherever and whenever necessary in order to defend the security of the State of Israel.”

For those who make the grade, Pardo promised an extraordinary adventure:

"The Mossad has a long and glorious history of bold and daring operations. Information about the Mossad’s activity does not reach the public, and often what is publicized many years after the event is but the tip of the iceberg of almost imaginary activity and operations. It is for good reason that the Mossad is considered one of the best intelligence organizations in the world…"

The English-language version of the recruitment site can be found by clicking here, and the recruitment video, which is only in Hebrew, can be seen below.


Christians to be First to Use New Jerusalem Arena

Christians to be First to Use New Jerusalem Arena

The following is a press release by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem regarding their upcoming Feast of Tabernacles celebration to be held at Jerusalem's new Pais Arena.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is pleased to announce that our annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration will have a new home this coming October 10-15, as we will be moving the week-long event to the brand new Jerusalem Pais Arena, near Malha mall.

For the past 33 years, the ICEJ has hosted its Feast gathering in the Jerusalem Convention Center, drawing thousands of Christians each year for a dynamic celebration of this biblical festival when the nations are welcomed in Jerusalem. This year, however, the ICEJ’s Feast will be held in the ultra-modern Pais Arena, which was inaugurated last week by Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat.

With 11,600 seats on eight levels, along with special seating galleries and executive boxes plus a massive center LED screen, Barkat described the Arena as “the most advanced, state-of-the-art venue of its kind in the Middle East.”

Mayor Barkat has been particularly encouraging about moving the Feast of Tabernacles to the new Arena, offering the Christian Embassy the privilege of hosting the first major international gathering in the new facility.

Coming on the heels of the recent Gaza conflict, the ICEJ’s Feast 2014 will also be a huge statement of solidarity with Israel by the thousands of Christians expected to show up for the festival.

“Our move to this new facility in Jerusalem is a very exciting development which will allow us to further grow the Feast of Tabernacles,” said Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ Executive Director. “We believe that in the years to come, this new hall will be filled every Sukkot with even more pro-Israel Christians from around the globe. So this is a thrilling moment for the city of Jerusalem and for our ministry.”

This year’s Feast schedule includes the traditional Israeli Guest Night, when the event is opened up to thousands of Israelis to enjoy a musical program geared for a Jewish audience. On Tuesday evening, 14 October, Israelis can enjoy their first experience in the new Arena along with their Christian friends from around the world, featuring special performances by Israeli and foreign artists.


Israel Still 4th Most Educated Nation, But Losing Ranking

Israel Still 4th Most Educated Nation, But Losing Ranking

Data released by the Organization for Co-operation and Development (OECD) last week revealed that following the recently concluded school year, Israel remains among the most educated nations on earth, though its ranking is dropping.

At present, Israel is the fourth most educated nation, coming in behind Russia, Canada and Japan, and just ahead of the United States.

The ranking is determined based on the percentage of the population engaged in tertiary education, either at universities, colleges, technical institutions or the like. Over 46 percent of Israelis possess or are in the process of obtaining post-secondary degrees.

Three years ago, Israel ranked number two in the OECD survey, and last year the Jewish state tied with Japan for second place.

There are several reasons for Israel’s minor decline.

  • The OECD study noted that Israel’s population is growing far faster than other nations toward the top of the rankings. From 2000 to 2009, for example, Israel’s population increased by a whopping 19 percent.

  • Teacher salaries in Israel are abysmally low compared to other top-ranked nations. The OECD average income for secondary teachers is USD $32,000, while in Israel teachers at the same level earn only USD $19,000.

  • Another reason that is closely related to the teacher salary issue is government spending on education. Israel currently invests only USD $11,553 per student on tertiary education, while the OECD average is USD $13,957 per student. The United States spends the most, at USD $26,021 per student.

Considering the above, Israel is something of an anomaly when it comes to education. It’s population, especially among the poorer demographics, is skyrocketing, and it spends very little on educating those people. And yet, Israelis are among the most schooled people in the world.

Citing the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel prize winners, Professor Robert Aumann, himself a Nobel laureate in economics, attributed the high level of Jewish and Israeli education to a long history of studying the Bible.

“Torah study is an intellectual pursuit, and honoring this ultimate value transfers to other pursuits as well,” Aumann told Israel’s Army Radio late last year. “Throughout the generations we have given great honor to this intellectual pursuit…Torah study makes the nation and its people of the finest and highest quality.”


Low Turnout at Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

Low Turnout at Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

The annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem was a far more understated event this year following two postponements due to the Gaza war and related controversy surrounding the event’s organizers.

For more than a decade, the Jerusalem pride parade has been held in the middle of the day and has attracted many thousands of participants, much to the consternation of the city’s more religious population.

Originally scheduled for late June, the parade had to be put off as Hamas missiles rained down on Israel, including a number of volleys fired at Jerusalem.

When the parade was finally held at 5 PM last Thursday, only a few hundred members of the LGBT community bothered to show up.

The Jerusalem Open House, which organizes the parade, attributed the low turnout to the war and multiple postponements. But some said the reason was more likely an outburst on Facebook by Open House director Elinor Sidi during the course of the Gaza war.

On July 20, as Israeli soldiers were busy combatting Gaza’s Hamas terrorist infrastructure with the overwhelming backing of the Israeli public, Sidi called on dissenters to “burn down” the Knesset and the military headquarters in Tel Aviv. She further called on IDF soldiers to refuse their orders.

The post outraged many, including a many members of the homosexual community.

Whatever the reason, the more subdued nature of the gay pride parade this year was a welcome development for the majority of Jerusalem residents who see the event as a desecration of this holy city.


School Bus Attacked in Jerusalem

School Bus Attacked in Jerusalem

Arab stone throwers attacked a bus full of Jewish school children near Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday morning, causing damage but no physical injuries.

The attack occurred in the valley between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. The children were on a field trip at the time of the attack.

The assailants managed to shatter part of the bus’ windshield, and a number of terrified children were treated for shock.

The attack was the latest in what the Israeli media has dubbed “the silent intifada”.

In July and August, no fewer than 152 attacks on Jewish residents of Jerusalem were registered with police, and the violence appears to be escalating as September nears its end.

Police have arrested hundreds of local Arab residents believed involved in the attacks. Some of the suspected perpetrators are as young as nine-years-old.

Mayor Nir Barkat has vowed to continue the crackdown until peace is restored to all neighborhoods in the capital, but many fear the authorities will not truly do what is necessary until the rioters and terrorists manage to spill Jewish blood.

“Until there is blood, no one is going to take the hard measures needed to end this violence,” wrote Orly Goldklang, deputy editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Makor Rishon. “These relatively minor acts of terror (and Israel’s failure to react strongly) are setting the stage for much larger attacks.”

Indeed, this has been a common criticism of Israeli authorities for years. Typically, the police and army are not given a green light to respond in force until enough Israelis are killed or wounded.

“If we don’t come to our senses soon, a far greater outbreak of violence is only a matter of time,” warned columnist Nadav Shragai in the daily Israel Hayom.

PHOTO: Illustration.


Obama and the Rabbis

Obama and the Rabbis

Jews are naturally interested in Barack Obama's policy in the Middle East, and not a few rabbis are using telltale signs in American leader’s expressions of religion and moral values to draw somewhat far-fetched conclusions regarding the spiritual nature of his presidency. 

Since Obama's election, Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, the most popular Orthodox Jewish "evangelist" in Israel, has been among those teaching that he is the representation of "Tidal," the "king of nations" mentioned in Genesis 14:1. 

Being the forty-fourth president of the United States, Obama’s presidency will be characterized by bloodshed, because in gematria – where Hebrew letters can take numeric value and vice versa – 44 makes the word for blood. 

Rabbi Yitzhak also views Obama as a Christian Muslim, and as such a representation of both Edom (a euphemism for Christianity) and Ishmael (Islam), Israel's two arch enemies. Obama's presidency therefore will be characterized by dangerous anti-Israel policy that has the potential to bring about Israel's destruction. 

This danger, says Rabbi Yitzhak, can be averted by the repentance of individual Jews. In other words, Israel's wellbeing depends not on the IDF, but on proper Jewish response to God.

Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, another respected figure in certain religious circles, claims that the summer’s Gaza war has initiated the great war of Gog and Magog with nations gathering against Israel prior to the coming of Messiah. The reason for this war, he says, has everything to do with homosexuality, and particularly the annual gay and lesbian parade in Jerusalem, which was postponed this year because of the Gaza conflagration. 

President Obama enters this scheme by being the first American president to openly supported gay and lesbian marriage. 

According to Jewish understanding, incest was the cause of the Flood and incest will be the cause for the last apocalyptic war of Gog and Magog. 

Like Rabbi Yitzhak, Rabbi Schwartz uses esoteric interpretation methods to draw his conclusion that the world is coming to its end. An example is the appearance of the name "Obama" in Ezekiel 38:2, where, in Hebrew, counting seven letters from the last letter of the word "prince" makes the word "Obama." Be that as it may, Rabbi Schwartz still says that Israel bears heavy responsibility for the impending global doom, and therefore must undergo a deep and thorough searching of her soul.

There are other rabbis and small time "prophets" who likewise use a "biblical code" system to find names, places, events and even specific dates that supposedly reveal Obama's most secret intents. 

Intriguing and captivating as it may be, however, relying on such methods for the understanding of current affairs has proved erroneous too many times in the past. Having said that, however, this phenomenon demonstrates that many rabbis harbor a deep and unusual distrust of Obama.


Israeli Christians Officially Recognized as Arameans, Not Arabs

Israeli Christians Officially Recognized as Arameans, Not Arabs

Earlier this year, Israel took the first step in recognizing the nation’s Christians as an independent minority. Now, local Israeli Christians can register as a distinct ethnicity, as well.

Lumped together with the Arab population for centuries, Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) has been instructed to now recognize the bulk of the country’s Christians as Aramaeans, the actual ethnicity of most of the region’s Christians prior to the Arab Muslim conquest.

“The existence of the Aramean nationality is clear and obvious,” wrote Interior Minister Gideon Saar in his official directive to the PIBA.

Saar noted that local Aramean Christians have a distinct “historical heritage, religion, culture, descent and language” - all the conditions necessary to be recognized as a national or ethnic group.

The change in the national registry will be by request for those Christians born into Christian families or clans and who can speak Aramaic. A large group of Christians had already applied for such recognition four years ago, and will now be granted the desired ethnic status.

This decision “corrects a historic injustice that wrongly defined Israel’s citizens of eastern-Christian descent as ‘Christian Arabs,’ although other than their spoken language, they have absolutely no connection to the Arab nationality,” wrote Father Gabriel Naddaf on his Facebook page.

Naddaf is the spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, which encourages local Christians to volunteer for Israeli army service and fully integrate with Israeli Jewish society.

Naddaf and like-minded Christian leaders have been arguing for years that in modern Israel, Middle East Christians are finally free to once again express themselves and their faith independent of the Muslim Arab majority.

“This is a historic moment,” forum spokesman Shadi Khalloul told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “The Aramean people are finally seeing justice after being persecuted across the region.”

Asked why the Israeli government’s decision means so much, Khalloul provided a short history lesson: “We have existed in this region for thousands of years. We accepted Christianity, but then had Arabic forced upon us during the Arab conquest, just as local Jews did. But we preserved our language in churches and other cultural settings.”

Khalloul further explained that the lack of proper ethnic recognition was a gaping hole in the lives of many local Christians. “I refused to officially register my two-year-old son after his birth because the Interior Ministry wanted to register him as an Arab,” he said. “Now I can happily register him as an Aramean.”

Khalloul and his Jewish interviewer went on to speak of the shared history between Jews and Arameans, and even the deep connections between Hebrew and the Aramaic language. In fact, many Jewish prayers, most notably several Passover blessings, are in Aramaic, and common modern Hebrew words like “aba” and “ima” - father and mother - come from Aramaic.

“Yesterday in Israel we saw the correction of an historical injustice,” wrote columnist Dror Idar in the daily newspaper Israel Hayom. “Congratulations to the Aramean nation, and here’s to a life of fruitful coexistence in the Holy Land.”

PHOTO: Aramean Christians, including Father Gabriel Naddaf (center) demonstrate in Tel Aviv.


Dramatic Rise in Ultra-Orthodox Joining IDF

Dramatic Rise in Ultra-Orthodox Joining IDF

Despite ultra-Orthodox protests, there has been a dramatic increase of 39 percent in the number of new Israeli army recruits coming from the Haredi sector this year.

That impressive figure was presented by the Israeli army at a meeting of the ministerial committee established to monitor implementation of the new “equal burden” law passed amid growing frustration among secular Israelis that the Orthodox community was not pulling its weight.

The law initially set the ambitious goal of 2,000 ultra-Orthodox recruits in its first year. That goal was very nearly reached with 1,972 from the Haredi community joining the army over the past 12 months.

Of the 1,972 young Orthodox men who showed up for military recruitment, 863 chose to serve in combat units. Various infantry brigades, such as the Nahal and Givati brigades, have established special battalions for Orthodox recruits to help those soldiers maintain their religious lifestyle while serving their nation.

“This data represents the start of a social revolution in Israel,” declared Science Minister Yaakov Peri, who heads the equal burden committee. “We pushed through the legislative process despite dire predictions and repeated warnings about how the Haredi community would react in an extreme and negative way.”

The committee’s other members praised the work that went into further integrating the Orthodox community in a professional and sensitive manner.

According to the equal burden legislation, Orthodox recruitment is expected to increase each year, and by 2017 the government expects 5,200 annual recruits from the Haredi community. By that time, the government intends to issue only 1,800 full exemptions per year to Orthodox Jews who will study Torah in lieu of national service.

The increased military recruitment is also have another hoped-for positive effect in that a lot more Orthodox Jews are entering the work force.

Figures released by the Ministry of Economy showed that while only 734 ultra-Orthodox men had approached the ministry’s job placement services in the first half of 2013, that number had nearly tripled to 2,135 during the first half of 2014.

About half of the job applicants are young people aged 18–27, who the ministry will assist with counseling, workshops and other efforts to enable them to fully integrate into the mainstream economy.

“This is a dramatic change not only for the ultra-Orthodox sector, but for the State of Israel,” said Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. “It proves that dialogue can achieve great results, and that unity with the ultra-Orthodox, who are our brothers, is best for everyone.”

Bennett concluded by stating that “both Torah and the state [of Israel] are important to me. There is no contradiction” in serving both.


The Islamic State Thinks 'Big': Next Target - Jordan and Israel?

The Islamic State Thinks 'Big': Next Target - Jordan and Israel?

The Middle East has a serious problem, and it isn’t the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Though one wouldn’t know it by the skewed focus of international media and diplomatic attention, the crisis of the Islamic State dwarfs even the most serious bouts of Israeli-Arab violence.

Over the past several months, the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS), a Sunni Muslim group rejected by Al Qaeda as being too extreme, has not only managed to gain control over much of Iraq and Syria, but has fulfilled the long-held dream of many Sunnis by establishing a "caliphate" that demands the allegiance of all faithful Muslims.

But the Islamic State’s notorious leader, Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi, is not content with the territory he already rules. Al-Baghdadi is thinking big, and has vowed to forcibly spread Islam to the four corners of the world. Iraq was only the first target among many, and the swift defeat of the US-trained and equipped Iraqi military provided the Islamists a major morale boost.

Abdul Alhasan (name changed for security reasons), a member of the Iraqi parliament, explained the easy conquest of key Iraqi cities by pointing a blaming finger at his nation’s unpopular government. 

“We poured billions of dollars into military equipment and training, but these fanatics managed to deal us a severe blow. This would not have been possible if the government listened to the will of its people,” said the politician, insisting that Iraq needs to grant greater autonomy to its diverse group of minorities and abandon the American idea of an overbearing central government.

Instead, Baghdad has strongly suppressed calls for greater regional autonomy, sparking violent clashes and dangerous shifts in allegiances. This has only made the Islamic State’s job easier, with some factions preferring the caliphate to their own government. It would appear that a unified Iraq’s days are numbered.

And while Alhassan and others remain optimistic that Iraq still has a fighting chance, the Islamic State is already moving on to new targets in its assaults on Jordanian border towns. The goal is clear: topple Jordan’s monarch and annex the territory of the Hashemite Kingdom in a march that inevitably leads to Israel.

In a face-to-face showdown, Jordan’s well-trained military and substantial regional and international backing should be too much for the Islamic State to overcome. The real threat is the Islamic State gaining supporters within Jordan. “Mass demonstrations in support of the Islamic State have already taken place in the Jordanian city of Maan,” notes Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an expert on Islam at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

Kedar stresses that many Palestinian and Syrian refugees residing in the Kingdom are angry over the way Jordanian authorities handle their miserable living conditions, "forcing thousands to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, which they view as a solution to their problems."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been monitoring the developments closely, vowed to help Jordan in curbing the rising threat. "Israel realizes that one day we may all wake up to find the Islamic State on our borders," says Kedar. "The real danger is that Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and even inside Israel proper may support the Islamic State, shattering Israel's security."

According to the pundit, it might be in Israel’s interests to tackle this threat militarily before it has a chance to gain a foothold West of the Jordan River. While such a decision hasn’t been taken yet, rumors are that Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the US have established an operations center in Amman with the aim of developing plans to defeat the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has asserted that its present focus is dealing with apostate Muslim countries, but there is no doubt the jihadist horde is inching ever closer to the Jewish state.

UPDATE: In fact, the Islamic State has already reached Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper. In the upcoming issue of Israel Today Magazine, we interview an Islamic State member active in the Gaza Strip.

The October 2014 issue of Israel Today will be provided free of charge to all our daily newsletter subscribers. If you haven’t already, click here to sign up today.


'Silent Intifada' Rages in Jerusalem

'Silent Intifada' Rages in Jerusalem

By outside appearances it would seem life in Israel has returned to normal following the conclusion of the summer’s Gaza war. However, in Jerusalem, what the Israeli press has dubbed the “silent intifada” is raging, and growing more dangerous by the day.

On Tuesday night, a 44-year-old religious Jewish man was badly injured when a gang of Palestinian Arabs attacked his vehicle with stones in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

It was far from an isolated incident.

Over the past several weeks, stabbings, rock-throwing and firebomb attacks have become a daily occurrence for Jews that dare stray into Arab-dominated neighborhoods. And when no Jews can be found on their own streets, Arab gangs have been moving into Jewish neighborhoods like French Hill to cause havoc there.

In all, 152 such attacks were registered in July and August.

Police this week arrested 22 suspects, some as young as nine-years-old, who were involved in some of the latest attacks. But local residents say the authorities are doing far too little.

“Until there is blood, no one is going to take the hard measures needed to end this violence,” wrote Orly Goldklang, deputy editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Makor Rishon. “These relatively minor acts of terror (and Israel’s failure to react strongly) are setting the stage for much larger attacks.”

Indeed, this has been a common criticism of Israeli authorities for years. Typically, the police and army are not given a green light to respond in force until Palestinian terrorists actually manage to kill or wound enough Israelis.

“If we don’t come to our senses soon, a far greater outbreak of violence is only a matter of time,” warned columnist Nadav Shragai in the daily Israel Hayom.


Study: America No Longer 'Needs' Israel

Study: America No Longer 'Needs' Israel

A new Israeli study into the historical role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has concluded that America no longer has “need” of the Jewish state, and that the ongoing “special relationship” between the two allies is a relic of the past maintained today by political dynamics in Congress.

Conducted by Dan Rotem of the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington, the study was presented on Tuesday at Netanya Academic College. In it, Rotem suggested that American involvement in the Middle East in the 20th century was driven by energy-related interests and regional rivalries resulting from the global confrontation of the Cold War.

The study then examined the complex subject of American mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the internal dynamics of the “special relationship” between Israel and the US.

Rotem concluded that over time, as America became increasingly liberal and ethnically diverse, even as Israel grew more conservative and ethnocentric, Washington came to the determination that it no longer had need of Israel as a kind of military or political “forward position” in the Middle East.

In light of that, it was further concluded that America had not exhausted its ability to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rotem suggested that Washington do some genuine soul searching regarding its goals in the Israeli-Arab conflict and what it wants to achieve in the region.

Subsequently, the US should examine whether or not it is truly prepared to take the steps necessary to achieve those goals. For instance, the two parties to the conflict have taken on certain obligations in existing agreements, and non-compliance should result in real consequences.

America’s credibility in the Middle East is very much tied to the perception of whether or not it has mediated fairly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the end of the day, if there is a disconnect between what America wants to accomplish and what it is willing to do, then it would be better to return to the drawing table and find an alternative way forward.


New US-Israel Visa Option Opens Fresh Opportunities

New US-Israel Visa Option Opens Fresh Opportunities

There are many Jews and non-Jews around the world with a special interest in Israel, and particularly in the Israeli economy.

For non-Jewish Americans, a very special and unique opportunity is in the offing that would provide a way to financially bless the Israeli economy, be blessed in return by the Israeli economy, and be able to stay in Israel for an extended period of time on a special investment visa.

In 2012, the United States enacted an official arrangement allowing Israeli nationals to receive E-2 nonimmigrant visas if similarly situated American nationals were in turn made eligible for similar nonimmigrant status in Israel. 

The Israeli arrangement that is being formulated should be almost identical to the American arrangement, at least as it relates to the investment visa itself, and expert worker's visas for specialists who would work within the company that will be established by the investor, or within an existing Israeli company wherein the investor has invested.

A team comprised of representatives from various Israeli governmental ministries was formed in order to formulate such an arrangement. The team determined that in order to establish a similar arrangement, a visa will be given to an investor and employee/family members on its behalf which regulates their residence and work in Israel, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Eligibility for the visa will be determined in two stages.

In the first stage, the investment will be judged on its merits specifically, the investor him/herself, the financial and legal aspects of the investment, as well as the nature of the venture.

In the second stage, the people seeking the investment visas and the expert worker's visas will be examined as individuals, as well as in their role in the project and their essentialness to the venture. 

The investor may be an individual or a company. If the applicant is an individual, he/she must be a citizen of the United States with a valid passport. If the applicant is a company, more than 50% of the corporation must be held, controlled and actually operated by an American individual or entity.

Additionally, the investor must show that it has control over the capital that is to be invested in the venture and that it was received through legal means. The investor and others acting on its behalf must prove that they have not previously resided in Israel illegally. The applicants must also submit a federal certificate of good conduct (FBI background check).

The investment itself must be invested in a new commercial Israeli company or in a commercial company that is already in existence that provides services or products for profit and that has been incorporated in Israel and is operated and controlled in Israel.

The most important criteria of the investment is that it constitutes a substantial amount of capital - this will be measured in proportion to the total value of the business venture, and the applicant must show that the capital it intends to bring is expected to be sufficient to successfully operate the business venture.

The accompanying investment visa will be granted for a period of two years, with the possibility of extension.

The visa will be obtained by submitting a specific application form that has yet to be finalized, and that we suggest will be filled out with the assistance of an Israeli attorney. Subsequently, an interview with an Israeli consul will be arranged, and if the consul decides that the request is relevant, it will be forwarded to Israel’s Ministry of Economy.

It should be noted that although this arrangement was approved at a government meeting on March 30th, 2014, the above process has not yet been officially established in Israel. In order to legalize the above decision, the Israeli government may need to legislate specific relevant regulations, and amendments to existing laws.

Notwithstanding, US citizens who wish to come and work in Israel by virtue of a foreign investment may in some cases still be able to do so with an expert worker's visa. However, this type of visa is for a shorter period of time, and does not provide the same benefits as the investment visa, such as an exemption from tax that is imposed on foreign workers. Let's therefore hope that the framework for the investment visa will be officially established in Israel in the near future.

Click here to learn more about the process of acquiring an expert worker’s visa in Israel.

We are happy to share this information, and we hope that this unique and special opportunity will be seized by those who are able, who truly support Israel, and who truly would like to join in on the blessing promised to those who bless the seed of Abraham.

Michael Decker has a B.A. in law and is a licensed attorney in Israel, and a partner in the law offices of Yehuda Raveh & Co., which handles hundreds of immigration cases into Israel each year. Michael also serves as Senior Legal Advisor to the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.

For further inquiries regarding the issues mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to contact Michael at: mdecker@yrlegal.co.il.


Study: Rocket Stress Results in More Baby Girls

Study: Rocket Stress Results in More Baby Girls

In the rocket-battered southern Israel town of Sderot, an abnormally large percentage of all births are girls. That according to a new study aimed at measuring the effect of stress on pregnancies.

The study compared statistics from both Sderot and the southern town of Kiryat Gat between 2001 and 2008. During this period, only Sderot was subjected to nearly daily rocket attacks from Gaza, while both towns are an equal distance from Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Under the title “Prenatal Stress and Risk of Spontaneous Abortion,” the study found the boy-girl birth ration in Sderot between 2001–2008 to be 49.5 percent to 50.5 percent. Everywhere else in Israel, the numbers are opposite: 51 percent of all births are boys, while 49 percent are girls.

“Since 2001, Sderot has been constantly targeted by rockets from the Gaza Strip,” the researchers wrote, determining that the accompanying stress of these attacks resulted in increased miscarriages.

“Female fetuses are less susceptible to stress in general,” said Eyal Anteby, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Barzilai, suggesting that this could be the reason more natural births in Sderot are girls during such times.

But that doesn’t mean even the girls born in Sderot don’t enter the world under greater trauma.

The study found that 44 percent of the girls born in Sderot had a lower birth weight than those from Kiryat Gat. Additionally, the probability of premature birth in Sderot was twice as high as elsewhere in the country.


Rabbinic Court Detains Messianic Minor

Rabbinic Court Detains Messianic Minor

A Messianic Israeli mother is calling for help to rescue her 13-year-old daughter who is being held against her will in Israel by the religious Rabbinic Court. 

When young Amber Layman arrived from the USA at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel with her mother, Danielle Layman, and three younger siblings, her delighted grandfather innocently snapped some quick pictures and uploaded them on Facebook. 

Little did anyone know that among those following the family’s Facebook posts was Amber’s estranged biological father, Shahar Abecassis.

When Abecassis, who had been convicted of domestic violence by a civil Israeli court and divorced from Amber’s mother, saw the picture of his biological child in Israel, he filed a complaint with the Rabbinic Court in Ashdod, claiming that his daughter had been “kidnapped and taken to America.” 

Legally, however, Abecassis is no longer the Amber’s father. According to adoption papers issued by a US court and obtained by Israel Today, Jeremy Layman, who married Amber’s mother, is now her legal father and guardian.  

At least that’s what an American District Court determined, and it is a view shared by the Ministry of Interior in Israel, which removed Abecassis’ name from Amber’s Israeli ID and listed Jeremy Layman as her father. Even Amber’s American and Israeli passports register Jeremy as her father. 

In his complaint to the Rabbinic Court, Abecassis noted that the “Layman family are Christians,” and expressed “fears they will raise his daughter as a gentile.” The Rabbinic Court, which has jurisdiction over marital matters, responded by issuing a warrant restricting Amber from departing Israel with her family and returning to the USA. 

Amber’s mother Danielle Layman recalled some of this ongoing saga’s backstory:

"I became a believer in Jesus while living in Beersheva. We started a small home group for new believers with some of my friends. Amber’s biological father was abusive from the very beginning of our marriage. The court ordered a restraining order to keep him away. I eventually had no choice, so I divorced him."

Layman eventually moved to the USA, where she met and married Jeremy Layman, a National Guard Platoon Sergeant currently serving in Afghanistan. The family attends a local Baptist church in Kansas. 

In Israel, once a complaint is filed in a Rabbinical court regarding domestic matters such as visitation rights or child custody, the family could find itself facing rulings rooted in Halakha (Jewish religious law) rather than secular civil law. In such cases, it is highly possible that they may lose some of the protections provided by Israeli civil law.

The case of 13-year-old Amber presents yet another challenge amidst mounting tensions between Israel’s religious and secular societies. Will the Rabbinic Court recognize Amber’s legal American adoption?  Or will it determine that, according to Halakha, the biological father still has rights? 

Amber’s mother is writing to US senators and congressmen asking them to put pressure on the Israeli government to intervene on behalf of her daughter. But do the rabbis in Israel pay any heed to American political pressure? Will the secular Israeli government and courts get involved?

A Rabbinic Court hearing regarding Amber’s case is scheduled for October 2. Ignoring completely Amber’s legal adoption, the rabbinical authorities are forbidding Jeremy Layman from attending the proceedings.

Israel Today will continue covering the case and report on any further developments, especially after the October 2 hearing. Stay informed and pray informed with Israel Today.


'Israel Might Have to Strike Iran at Any Moment'

'Israel Might Have to Strike Iran at Any Moment'

In battling the political echelon for defense budget increases on Sunday, the commander of the Israel Air Force, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, reminded everyone that the same planes used to attack Gaza over the summer could be called upon at any moment to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“There’s no one in this room who’d be prepared to ride in a car as old as our planes,” Eshel said in remarks carried by Israel’s Channel 2 News. “Yesterday these planes were in Gaza, and tomorrow we may send them to Tehran.”

Israel’s national budget has been a source of great tension in the wake of the summer’s Gaza war.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid has vowed not to raise taxes to cover the expense of the offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu insists that in addition to covering the Gaza war, Israel needs to pour billions of additional shekels into the defense budget in order to effectively tackle a wide range of pressing security threats.

Netanyahu remains committed to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons at any cost, and maintaining Israel’s air superiority is key to following through on that promise.

With Iran remaining defiant in its quest for an atomic bomb, Eshel’s comment was seen in local media as a hint that Israel could be preparing to strike the Islamic Republic in the very near future.


Egyptian Academic Demands Jews Return Exodus Gold

Egyptian Academic Demands Jews Return Exodus Gold

“The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold… The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” Exodus 12:35–36

There are some in Egypt who still aren’t happy about the above, and are demanding, some 3,500 years later, that the Jews return their nation’s plundered treasure.

“We know for a fact that Moses was in this land,” stated prominent Egyptian academic Amar Ali Hassan in a July interview with Egypt’s Channel 1.

“When they (the Jews) left they stole Egypt’s gold and treasures,” he continued. “We demand that they return the treasures they stole from us.”

Of greater note than Hassan’s absurd demand is the fact that a leading Arab intellectual is acknowledging Jewish history in the region. Most of Israel’s antagonists typically try to do the opposite.

Dr. Amar Ali Hassan is a PHD in political science. He has worked for years at top research centers across the Middle East, and is the author of numerous books. His interview was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).


Can Qatar-Funded American Mediators be Trusted?

Can Qatar-Funded American Mediators be Trusted?

German Development Aid Minister Gerd Mueller earlier this month singled out Qatar as one of the Middle East’s leading financial sponsors of recognized terrorist organizations.

If Mueller’s assessment, which is shared by many, is accurate, then surely Qatar is an untrustworthy regime that certainly should not be relied upon by those purporting to seek peace in the region.

Yet, that’s precisely what some of America’s leading politicians and diplomats are doing.

It was already noted how at the outbreak of the summer’s Gaza war, senior US Representative Nancy Pelosi saw fit to seek Qatar’s counsel regarding whether or not Hamas could be trusted.

US Secretary of State John Kerry then enraged Israel when he sought the sheikdom’s counsel in formulating the Obama Administration’s first, failed ceasefire proposal at the height of that same Gaza war.

Israeli officials are now calling into question the credibility of America’s chief Middle East negotiator, Martin Indyk (pictured), after The New York Times revealed that his employer, the Brookings Institution, receives a sizable portion of its funding from Qatar.

“The fact that the same Qatari government [that bankrolls Hamas and other terror groups] is also a major provider of funds for a respectable Washington think tank raises a whole series of questions,” one government official told The Jerusalem Post.

The White House last week rejected the notion of including Iran in its growing coalition against the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) because, among other reasons, it deems Tehran to be a leading sponsor of terrorism.

Why then would the same American government not only cozy up to, but actively seek the assistance, both financially and in terms of information, of a nation that is openly aiding and abetting some of the region’s most vicious and uncompromising jihadists?


The Myth of Israel's Apartheid Wall

The Myth of Israel's Apartheid Wall

The concrete wall around certain parts of the West Bank was built to prevent terrorists and suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities and villages, but has long been misrepresented to accuse Israel of implementing an apartheid policy.

One can argue over the need for such a barrier, but the suggestion that it was constructed to segregate Jews from Palestinians is sheer nonsense that is nevertheless eagerly embraced by myriads who find Israel's existence extremely irritating.

A more sober look at the "apartheid wall" shows that it has been a means to protect Jewish towns from the waves of Arab violence that have been coming ever since Jews started returning to their land.

Some 57 kibbutzim (communal farms) were established during the Arab revolt of 1936-9 under the project known as "Tower and Stockade." These tiny settlements protected themselves with wooden walls and watch towers. After Israel's independence in 1948, its borders and the villages lying along the frontier were protected by barbed-wire fences. With the advance of technology, barbed-wire was eventually replaced by "smart fences" able to detect the slightest touch and alert nearby security forces of possible hostile penetration.

In 2000, Israel erected concrete walls along the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo as protection against constant gun fire from the Palestinian town of Beit Jalah across the valley. Concrete walls were similarly erected along parts of the Gaza border after Hamas seized power in the coastal enclave.

As the violence continued, smart fences, electric gates and even bunkers were installed to provide protection for more and more citizens.

In this way, far from trying to keep the Palestinians out, Israelis have been closing themselves in. Israelis have chosen to live behind bars, not because they are racists, but out of fear of Palestinian terror.

These protective walls have reached their ultimate absurdity in the wake of the last military operation against Gaza. Now they are erected around kindergartens located in the vicinity of Gaza. Private homes, schools and bus stops in the area are likewise fortified. Furthermore, Israel has created a virtual protective dome over its skies (the Iron Dome) and now is attempting to invent an anti-tunnel warning system.

These massive measures of fortifications stand in sharp contrast to the Arab villages that have never felt the need for such protections.

Far from being part of a nefarious apartheid policy, the fences and walls one sees throughout the Holy Land are an irritation for Israelis who feel they are once again being confined to ghettos. Nevertheless, nearly everyone agrees these are essential measures in Israel’s constant struggle for survival.

The vicious campaigns against the "apartheid wall" that was only built after hundreds of Israelis were killed in Palestinian suicide bombings are in actuality part of a larger campaign to deny the Jews the very right to defend themselves. Concealing such campaigns behind the thin veneer of protesting the alleged immorality of an allegedly racist state is, therefore, an attempt to make anti-Semitisim appear decent and acceptable.


ISIS Popularity Growing in Israel

ISIS Popularity Growing in Israel

As the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) inches closer to Israel in its sweeping conquest of Iraq and Syria, the real threat is that the extremist movement will gain a large number of followers in the Holy Land long before its current warriors reach the borders of the Jewish state.

A recent government report suggested that dozens of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have already traveled abroad to join the Islamic State. And now, there are signs that local Muslims are taking up the cause.

“ISIS is on the right path,” an imam at a mosque in northern Israel preached last week.

At another mosque in the area, a congregant publicly declared, “The Islamic State is the only one that can establish an Islamic state, and it is good they are punishing people. I hope they make it to Israel.”

Israel’s Ynet news portal reported that in both those cases, and many others like them, the statements of support for ISIS were quickly followed by verbal and even physical confrontations between local Muslims both for and against the Islamic State.

Many Israeli Muslims view ISIS as a threat, but the concern is that they will quickly and quietly fade to the background as the clamor from the terrorist movement’s backers grows ever louder.

“When the picture becomes clear, everyone will understand that the Islamic State is the only solution for everyone. Jews should also support the state and convert to Islam,” another imam told Ynet.

In Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, a large sign featuring the ISIS symbol and a threat against “infidels that do not accept Islam” was taken down by police, only to be put back up with little or no public outcry.

Atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, worshippers have been photographed freely strolling about the sacred compound while carrying ISIS flags.

“When a backdrop of sympathy exists, there are usually some who cross over to wider action,” warned former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy in an interview with Army Radio this week.

Halevy noted that a similar thing had “occurred in western Europe and could already be happening here.”

It would appear Halevy’s assessment was accurate. Just days after his interview, a Jerusalem-based jihadist movement that previously pledged allegiance to ISIS threatened to carry out attacks against Twitter if the social media network continued to close the account of Islamic State supporters and officials.

Al Musra Al Maqdisia (The Supporters Of Jerusalem) posted a message reading:

“The time has arrived to respond to Twitter’s management by directly attacking their employees and physically assassinating them!! Those who will carry this out are the sleeper cells of death.”

Ignoring the mounting evidence to the contrary, the Palestinian Authority this week insisted that local Arabs are “moderate” and do not support the Islamic State.

A report in Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi cited officials as saying the Islamic State had tried to make inroads into Palestinian society, but had failed.

In addition to the aforementioned signs that the PA assertions are untrue, many Israelis would argue that Hamas (which shares many views and goals with ISIS) is far from “moderate,” yet enjoys widespread support on the Palestinian street.


Palestinians Compare Gaza War to 9/11

Palestinians Compare Gaza War to 9/11

State-run Palestinian Authority TV last week ran a report that visually compared the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City’s World Trade Center to Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s terrorist infrastructure over the summer.

The report featured footage of the hijacked airliners slamming into the Twin Towers side-by-side with footage of the Israeli Air Force’s bombing of an apartment tower in Gaza City last month.

The implication was clear: the destruction wrought on Gaza by Israeli forces was no different than the largest attacks ever on US soil.

Palestinian Media Watch, which provided translation of portions of the PA TV report, responded by pointing out a few missing facts:

  1. “The Gaza building held a large Hamas command center, from which terrorists were dispatched. There were no terrorists at the World Trade Center, that attack was aimed at civilians”;
  2. “Israel warned those in the Gaza building that an attack was coming. Those in the WTC received no warning”; and
  3. “No one was killed in the Gaza attack, unlike in the World Trade Center, where nearly 3,000 innocent civilians were killed.”

It should also be pointed out that the Palestinian street erupted in celebration as Osama bin Laden’s “holy warriors” massacred thousands of Americans 13 years ago today.


Palestinian Authority Angered by Jewish, Arab Children Playing Together

Palestinian Authority Angered by Jewish, Arab Children Playing Together

Only former Israeli President Shimon Peres could pull off something like organizing a friendly football (soccer) match between Israeli and Palestinian children just a week after the latest Gaza war.

And only the Palestinian Authority could be so callous as to condemn such a demonstration of peaceful coexistence.

The game organized by Peres wasn’t between just any groups of Israeli and Palestinian kids. The Israelis came from the rocket-battered town of Sderot, and the Palestinians from Hebron, near to where earlier this summer Hamas terrorists abducted and executed three Jewish teens.

The game marked the start of the current year of the “School of Football and Peace,” a campaign by the Peres Center for Peace that brings together dozens of Israeli and Palestinian children for sports and other extracurricular learning activities.

Before blowing the opening whistle, Peres told the children that “football games are not played against one another, but with one another. You Israeli children from the Gaza periphery who have come to play with Palestinian children symbolize the hope for peace. You endured a difficult summer, and today you open a new year that I hope will instead be filled with sport and dialogue.”

Issa Abu Hamid, the coach of the Palestinian children, added, “I’m excited to see you all here after we were prevented from meeting over the previous months. I hope that on this field we can start something new and return to enjoying football together in an atmosphere of friendship.”

Some of the children from Sderot embraced their Palestinian counterparts and were quoted as saying, “We can make peace with the Palestinians.”

Israel’s “peace partners” in the Palestinian Authority, however, didn’t seem to feel the same.

“Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity,” insisted Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the ruling Fatah faction and head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sports and Youth Affairs.

In a post to his Facebook page (which was translated by Palestinian Media Watch), Rajoub said it was official policy to oppose and prevent joint sporting events between Israeli and Palestinian children.

Abd Al-Salam, a member of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, took his criticism to another level, demanding that the government in Ramallah prosecute the coach of the Palestinian children’s team as a “traitor.”

The local Fatah branch in the town from which the Palestinian children came also issued a statement denouncing the friendly game. Read the following while keeping in mind that Fatah is the party of “moderate” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a man whom the world insists is a genuine peace partner for Israel:

“[This game] was an individual act, conceived by sick souls that agreed to be humiliated for a handful of money. We urge the residents to supervise their children and distance them from these kinds of activities, which damage our cause.”

A local Fatah spokesman vowed that the party would “settle the account with these reckless people,” meaning the coach and other organizers who had dared to let Palestinian children commit the heinous crime of playing soccer with Israeli Jews.


Justice Minister Livni Attacks anti-Israel Sign

Justice Minister Livni Attacks anti-Israel Sign

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni spent her summer vacation with her husband, Naftali Spitzer, on the Greek island of Crete. Livni certainly didn’t expect during her time away to find herself tearing down an anti-Israel propaganda sign.

During one of the couple’s outings on the island, Livni happened upon a large sign hung at a local marina reading “Free Palestine” and featuring the names of Palestinian cities imprisoned within a Star of David. In the center was the image of a young Palestinian girl weeping over the injustices of the “Israeli occupation.”

Livni, who is typically overtly politically-correct, was infuriated and attacked the sign, which was quite large and firmly attached to a tree. As such, she did not succeed in pulling it down, but did damage to the sign.

Livni was undeterred as passersby stopped to see what she was doing and photograph her damaging the large sign. One picture, Livni even uploaded to her Facebook page with the following message:

“The battle that remains ahead of us is the battle for world public opinion. I went for a short vacation and was confronted with this threat… The use of the Star of David is an attempt to connect our most cherished symbols to hatred and anti-Israel sentiment. …We must work everywhere in the world to make clear who are the terrorists and which nation is trying to protect its people from terror.”

Livni represents the leftist side Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and is in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. But even she has had to admit in recent weeks that currently negotiations make little sense, so long as the dispute between Hamas and Fatah remains unsolved in the Gaza Strip.


Israeli Hotel Sued for Canceling 'Anti-Missionary' Conference

Israeli Hotel Sued for Canceling 'Anti-Missionary' Conference

The Eshel Hashomron Hotel (pictured) in the Jewish town of Ariel in Samaria recently cancelled an “anti-missionary” conference scheduled for this week, and was sued for doing so.

The conference was organized by leading rabbis in Samaria who have expressed concern over growing Christian and Messianic Jewish activity in the area. The rabbis characterize all such activity as “missionary” in nature.

The conference was to be held under the banner “Jews for Sale? Are Jewish Souls Being Eliminated?”

Last week, the hotel informed the conference organizers that due to “reasons beyond our control” the event could not be held at Eshel Hashomron.

The rabbis were quick to accuse the hotel of caving to pressure from Christian ministries and groups that frequent Eshel Hashomron and provide it with much of its annual business.

The organizers sued Eshel Hashomron for NIS 200,000 (USD $55,000) for failing to honor their contract, but the case was dismissed on Tuesday by Judge Shalhevet Kamir-Weiss of the Petah Tikvah district court.

The conference’s chief organizer, Yekutiel Ben Yaakov, told Israel National News that the entire episode was “evidence of how dangerous is the [Christian] mission and how much power the missionaries wield in Samaria.”

In promoting the conference, which has been moved to an alternative venue, the rabbis asserted that “the missionaries have found a way to circumvent Israeli law and to advance ‘the mission’ in Judea and Samaria.”

In fact, what they label as “missionary activity” is not illegal in Israel. What is illegal is offering monetary reward as an incentive for conversion and attempting to convert minors. All other forms of sharing one’s faith are protected under Israel’s laws regarding freedom of religion.


'Gay Parade in Jerusalem Brings Disaster on Israel'

'Gay Parade in Jerusalem Brings Disaster on Israel'

For the past decade, the gay pride community has been holding an annual parade through the streets of Jerusalem, much to the vexation of most of the city’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim residents.

Postponed by the summer’s Gaza war, this year’s “pride parade” will be held next Thursday.

In more recent years public outcry against the parade has died down somewhat as most Israelis are focused on other threats, like the Hamas military buildup in Gaza.

But at least one activist is raising an alarm, warning that such a public embrace of homosexuality is no less dangerous than any other threat to national security.

“[Former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud] Olmert started this trend 11 years ago, and unfortunately every time this parade took place disaster befell the people of Israel,” asserted Ephraim Holtzberg in an interview with Arutz Sheva radio.

Holtzberg has helped organize a large rally in Jerusalem’s Shabbat Square for next week to protest the gay pride event, noting that “more than 90 percent of residents oppose this parade. This is the holy city, and this kind of parade has no place here.”

He further insisted that the public’s more recent acceptance of the pride parade as inevitable is “being exploited by [the homosexual community] to defy God. …They are playing with fire.”


Wounded Syrian Boy Rides Donkey to Israel

Wounded Syrian Boy Rides Donkey to Israel

A badly wounded 12-year-old Syrian boy recently rode a donkey to the safety of neighboring Israel, one of hundreds of his embattled countrymen to make the desperate journey, only to find themselves lovingly embraced by the same Jews they were taught to hate.

The boy and his family suffered serious injuries during bombing of their neighborhood near Damascus as part of Syria’s ongoing civil war.

He was blinded and his arms were badly wounded in the shelling. Doctors at Ziv Medical Center in northern Israel told Israel Today the boy’s harrowing tale.

First, the family made their way from Damascus to Lebanon, where doctors amputated one of his arms, but were able to do little more. The boy was released from the local hospital, but the family was unable to return to Damascus with escalating fighting blocking the roads.

The boy’s brother, desperate and determined, decided to take his sibling to Israel.

As they reached the Syrian side of Mt. Hermon, the older boy loaded his little brother on a donkey and they started the difficult climb to the border, where, to their surprise, they were warmly greeted by Israeli soldiers who immediately transferred them to Ziv Hospital.

Doctors at the hospital told us that their newest Syrian patient has been overwhelmed by the treatment he receives in Israel. While the boy and his brother worry for their family, they constantly express thanks for the Israeli doctors and nurses who have selflessly provided love and care. Given what they were raised to believe about Israel, neither boy could have dreamed of such an outcome to their arduous journey.


Washington Post: There is No 'Occupied Palestine'

Washington Post: There is No 'Occupied Palestine'

One of the key tenets of the Palestinian narrative that underlies the land-for-peace process is that Israel currently occupies a country known as “Palestine” in the same way Germany once occupied Poland, or China still occupies Tibet.

Those trying to correct this fallacy in service to establishing a more genuine base upon which to build peace scored a major victory this week when The Washington Post acknowledged there is no “occupied Palestine.”

A Post news article from last Friday toed the typical party line by referencing “Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank.”

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) filed an objection with The Post, noting that officially the areas known as the “West Bank” are not occupied sovereign lands, but rather disputed territories whose status needs to be resolved in negotiations.

The Washington Post agreed, and the very next day ran a correction reading:

“A Sept. 5 A-section article about Jordan agreeing to buy natural gas from Israel incorrectly referred to Israel’s occupation of ‘Palestinian lands’ in the West Bank. The Israeli-occupied territories are disputed lands that Palestinians want for a future Palestinian state.”

The same correction was featured prominently on the newspaper's website.

The reality is that a majority of Israeli are prepared to negotiate away the bulk of their biblical heartland for the sake of regional peace, but insist that such negotiations be grounded in historical accuracy, rather than based on a fantasy contrived to paint the Jews as foreign invaders.


Israelis Speak Out on Jesus

Israelis Speak Out on Jesus

Canadian-Israeli journalist Corey Gil-Shuster has for the past couple years been conducting a very interesting campaign titled “Ask an Israeli / Ask a Palestinian” that recently focused on local Jewish views on Jesus.

As part of the effort, Gil-Shuster accepts questions from abroad regarding some of the more burning issues in the region, from the peace process to Islamic extremism to faith in Jesus.

Earlier this summer, Gil-Shuster took to the streets and pointedly asked a random sampling of average Israelis (both religious and secular) who Jesus is to them, and why Jews typically don’t accept him as their messiah.

A common theme appeared throughout many of the responses in that most Israelis acknowledge Jesus’ Jewish heritage, but believe (as a result of Christian history) that he broke away from Judaism to start a new religion.

A number of respondents expounded on this theme, noting that because, in their view, the religion of Jesus (Christianity) teaches that the Torah commandments are no longer valid, it is not an acceptable faith for Jews.

Watch the video (hat tip: Rosh Pina Project):

This wasn’t the first time Gil-Shuster took these questions to the Israeli street. Last year, he more broadly asked Israelis what they thought of Jesus, Mary and Christianity:


Hamas Already Digging New Terror Tunnels

Hamas Already Digging New Terror Tunnels

A senior government official in Jerusalem on Sunday told the Israeli press that Hamas is already digging new terror tunnels and smuggling a new stockpile of missiles into the Gaza Strip in preparation for its next war against the Jewish state.

“Hamas did not wait a single moment after the last round of fighting, and began its rearmament in anticipation of another round,” the official said.

Indeed, Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar vowed over the weekend that the ceasefire reached just two weeks ago would soon be violated in the most blatant way as the terror groups “built new tunnels” with which to threaten Israelis.

The discovery of dozens of terror tunnels running from Gaza into southern Israel shocked most Israelis, particularly those living within “tunnel distance” from the volatile coastal enclave.

Many Israeli residents of what is known as the “Gaza envelope” still have not returned home, and many who have say they no longer feel safe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken harsh criticism for agreeing to end the war before Hamas was fully defeated. Most Israelis do not believe that expected guarantees by America, Europe or Egypt can be relied upon to prevent future Hamas attacks.


Rioters Try to Blow Up Jerusalem Gas Station

Rioters Try to Blow Up Jerusalem Gas Station

Arab rioting in Jerusalem escalated on Sunday as mobs attacked cars, light rail trains and tried to set fire to a gas station in the French Hill neighborhood.

The increased violence was sparked by reports that an Arab teen wounded a week earlier by Israeli forces had died earlier in the day.

The teen was reportedly hit by a sponge bullet used by Israeli police on riot control duty. Israeli officials said the teen, like all other targeted rioters, was hit in the leg by the sponge bullet, and sustained his ultimately fatal injury after falling on his head while fleeing the scene. The boy’s father insisted that the sponge bullet had hit his son in the head, and was therefore the cause of his death.

Sunday’s explosion of violence caused even greater damage to Jerusalem’s light rail, and the aforementioned gas station was badly burned. Employees reported having to escape the premises under a hail of stones and firebombs.

At least two Israeli motorists were wounded when their vehicles were attacked on the eastern side of Jerusalem.


A Palestinian State in Egypt's Sinai?

A Palestinian State in Egypt's Sinai?

Israeli officials on Monday enthusiastically embraced reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently offered the Palestinians an independent state in the Sinai Peninsula in return for dropping claims to the pre–1967 borders.

According to the offer, which was reported by the Arab media and by Israel’s Army Radio, Egypt would give the Palestinians land in the Sinai that would effectively expand the territory of the Gaza Strip fivefold.

This “Greater Gaza” would be a fully independent state under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority, and would serve as a homeland for all Palestinians “refugees.”

Major Palestinian Arab cities in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”) would remain autonomous under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but claims to the rest of the area would be dropped.

Certain details of the plan remained vague - such as what Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank would entail - but it represented the first time an Arab leader had been willing to “think outside the box” in bringing a proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Predictably, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas outright rejected the proposal, preferring to stick to the same old land-for-peace formula that for over 20 years has succeeded in bringing nothing but increased conflict.

Israeli officials said that, Abbas’ rejection notwithstanding, the Egyptian proposal had to be taken seriously and explored in future peace negotiations.

“This could solve problems that weren’t given a response in talks between Israel and the Palestinians so far,” Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri told Army Radio.

Peri pointed out that the plan would also presumably help Egypt suppress the growing Islamization of the Sinai.

Right-wing lawmaker Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) said that even if the Egyptian proposal is never implemented, it highlights the fact that the “solution to the Palestinian problem must be regional and cannot fall on Israel’s shoulders alone.”

Like most Israelis, Shaked is quick to point out that the West Bank and Gaza only fell into Israel’s hands as as result of military aggression by her Arab neighbors.

Army Radio reported that el-Sisi continues to press Abbas regarding the plan, which has already won the support of the Obama Administration.


The Gospel According to Shlomo Kalo

The Gospel According to Shlomo Kalo

Shlomo Kalo’s book Behold, He is Coming (1996) concludes with the words: “‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’—until the day our sons shall return to their own borders, until the day when those who banished God will return to him joyfully and with loving heart. Behold, he is coming.”

A spiritual teacher who influenced many Israelis, Kalo passed away last Saturday. Born in 1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Kalo survived the Nazi forced labor camp of Somovit and came to Israel in 1949. His staunch refusal to appear in the public arena made him an enigmatic figure who is still misunderstood even by those who follow him.

Jew though he was, Kalo’s unique spiritual path was influenced by Buddhism and a touch of Sufism. The New Testament also appears to have strongly underlined his entire worldview, however. His teaching of self-denial—almost to the point of asceticism—was based first and foremost on the New Testament.

Thus, for example, he understood Jesus’ call “to give up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name” (Mt. 19:29) a demand that his followers break free from the chains attaching them to this world. Those unwilling to do so are not worthy of freedom, love, or everlasting life.

Time and again, Kalo refers to Jesus as the incarnation of God who is love. He was also not afraid of saying that the Jewish people have been left without a shepherd to protect them because they rejected Jesus—this act exposing them to persecution, suffering, and exile amongst the nations.

Asaf Inbari, author of New Age: The Fall of the Secular State (1999), counted Kalo amongst those responsible for transforming the spiritual face of Israel. In 1979, Kalo formed a group of followers named Daat (Hebrew acronym for “know yourself always”). The group’s symbol—“Y” (composed of “V” and “I”)—signified their motto of “Victory over the ego.” To liberate themselves from bondage to the ego and selfish desires, writes Inbari, they practiced sitting in silence, abstained from sex, and constantly intoned: “Absolute purity.”

Although not religious, Kalo sought to live in accordance with Jesus’ teaching as the way to achieve salvation. From Jesus’ short prayer at Gethsemane (Mt. 26:39), for example, he learnt that entry into the kingdom of God demands submitting oneself to God and abandoning all arrogance and pride. Only acceptance of these conditions grants one the privilege of being chosen.

While writing some 80 books and personifying his teaching in his life, Kalo’s explicit call for the Jewish people to embrace the divine Jesus failed to create a meaningful movement.


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