Prime Minister Netanyahu orders security increase in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Netanyahu orders security increase in Jerusalem

Following intelligence received by the Jerusalem District Police of plans by young Arabs to disturb the peace at the end of prayers on the Temple Mount, district commander Major General Moshe Edri decided to restrict entry to the Temple Mount for Friday prayers.

Large numbers of security forces are present Friday morning in the Old City and around Jerusalem pressure points such as Issawiya, French Hill and Silwan. The entrance to the Temple Mount is being restricted to male worshipers aged 40 or over, and women of all ages.

Thursday night an Israel police spokesperson said, "The police will operate decisively and show zero tolerance to anyone who tries to break the peace."

He also said that, "new intelligence gathering facilities including small surveillance balloons are being deployed. He called the buildup a "strategic decision" connected to the overall situation, not a response to Wednesday's killing of the 3 month-old baby in the Ammunition Hill light rail stop attack.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has been reported as saying that the violence has become intolerable, and he has vowed to restore order.

 

Terrorist attack called "traffic incident" by American Consulate

Terrorist attack called "traffic incident" by American Consulate

Three-month-old baby, Chaya Zissel Braun, who had American citizenship, was killed and seven other people wounded when Abdel Rahman a-Shaludi drove his car into commuters waiting at the Jerusalem light rail stop Wednesday night.

The memo was sent to employees of the American consulate, which is based in East Jerusalem. It asks staff to report "any emergency."

The family of the driver, who was killed by police gunfire when he tried to flee the scene after the attack, had been jailed in the past for various security related offenses, claim that the attack was an accident.

Consulate officials said the statement had not intended to downplay the severity of the incident, and that its authors wanted to focus employees' attention on the security situation following the attack and give warning concerning the ensuing protests.

The spokesman for the Consulate, Leslie Orderman, said in response: "Our position is the position of the State Department spokesperson, who condemned in the strongest language the act of terrorism in Jerusalem. We have expressed our deepest condolences to the family of the baby who was killed in this heinous terrorist attack."

 

Terror in Jerusalem: 3 month-old girl dead, seven people injured

Terror in Jerusalem: 3 month-old girl dead, seven people injured

A three month-old little girl was killed on Wednesday evening and another seven people were injured, some of them seriously, in a terrorist attack on innocent civilians waiting at a Jerusalem light-rail stop. The terrorist, a 20 year-old "Palestinian", drove his car into the crowd of people as they waited at the Ammunition Hill stop. The driver attempted to flee on foot after the attack but was shot by a police officer. He later died in hospital.

The incident occurred just before 6pm local time. Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday morning that, "the perpetrator had tried to kill as many Jews as possible."

The culprit was, according to officials, a resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan with a known background of violence and had already served a prison sentence for terrorist activities. A Hamas spokesperson was quick to claim that the terrorists actions were, "the natural response to Israel's actions in Jerusalem", while his family stated that this was not a terrorist attack but rather a simple traffic accident.

Surveillance camera footage showed how the vehicle deliberately turned and was targeted into the crowd at the light-rail stop.

There were dramatic scenes at the site of the attack as the mother of the little girl frantically tried to get the assistance of paramedics for her child, with severe head injuries, but to no avail. The little girl died a short time later in Hadassah hospital from her injuries.

Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, accused the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, of complicity in the killing. Netanyahu stated, "this is the way that its government partners work!" He was referring to the Palestinian unity government in which the Hamas terror group is represented. Abbas had earlier this week provoked attacks on Jews by calling for "the protection of the Al Aqsa Mosque from Jewish settlers by any means possible!"

Shortly after the news filtered back that the terrorist had died, masked Arab youths started rioting and clashing with police that tried to restore order. They caused several streets in the Silwan and Issawiya neighborhoods to be blocked off by settings tires on fire, stone-throwing, throwing of fire-bombs and setting off of fireworks.

The Jerusalem light-rail tram has been repeatedly attacked and damaged in recent weeks by Arab rioters. Wednesday night was no exception as the light-rail tram was again attacked by stone-throwers.

 

The 'Silent Intifada' and the collapse of decent Journalism

The 'Silent Intifada' and the collapse of decent Journalism

Nir Barkat mayor of Jerusalem on Tuesday night accused the minister of Internal Security, Yitzhak Aharonovich, for not doing his job in protecting the citizens of Jerusalem from Palestinian riots that have been raging in the city since last May. Despite the severity of these riots the Israeli media has only been sporadically reporting these daily riots and went even further by terming them a 'silent Intifada' – an oxymoronic term that communicates a tacit understanding for the motivation of the rioters. As a whole the mainstream media have chosen not to report countless cases of vandalism to Jerusalem's light-rail carriages and stops, countless cases of stone throwing, Molotov cocktail attacks and even sniper fire on cars, buildings and people. Riots have also become frequent on and around the Temple Mount.

The inadequate coverage fails to mention that this current wave of violence started a month before the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers. Since May more than 107 policemen have been injured and more than 700 Palestinians have been arrested. By ignoring these important details, the media continues to give the impression that this 'silent Intifada' resulted out of the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Khdeir was a victim of rage committed after the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers. When the riots continued, during and after operation Protective Edge, the Israeli media conveniently explained that the violence was being expressed due to the military operation.

The scandalous media coverage is not limited to silence over the ongoing violence in Jerusalem; it also adds insult to injury by referring to sporadic Jewish acts of retributory violence as racial or hate crimes while continuing to claim the Palestinian violence as nationally motivated. The murder of Abu Khdeir, as an example, was reported by the Walla website as a racial crime while ignoring the fact that the murderers clearly said that it was an act of revenge for the murder of the three Israeli teenagers. This kind of journalism implies that Jews are racists while Palestinians are fighting against the occupation. It further gives the impression that Jewish violence is as widespread as the Palestinian violence. The fact is that Jewish violence, as bad as it is, comes in response to the ongoing Palestinian riots.

To bring some kind of proportion, Ir Amim, a Left-wing organization that closely monitors violence in Jerusalem reported 19 cases of physical attacks against Palestinians during July. The same organization, that is so concerned with Jewish violence, fails to mention the hundreds of cases of Palestinian violence against Jews during the same month. It also fails to mention that the rising Jewish violence is directly connected to Palestinian violence in the city. Ir Amim, as does the Israeli media, also fails to mention that while Jewish violence is condemned by Jewish officials from across the board the Palestinian authority is doing whatever it can to inflame the situation.

The Israeli media is not unique in its fantastic failure to present accurate and unbiased reporting of reality. It is particularly alarming when the Israeli media succumb to journalism that actually brings harm to Israel. Though the Israeli media usually prides itself for being the "watch dog of democracy," this very type of poor journalism will place this very democracy in danger. More and more Israelis are thinking that if democracy is that which the media reflects, they are better off without it. Most Israelis cannot relate to a journalist who says on the evening news that the Temple Mount is no more than an expensive piece of real estate. Many resent the media's portrayal of the conflict as Israeli racism against Palestinian nationalism and the majority of Israelis still think that Jewish democracy takes precedent over multicultural democracy. In this light the collapse of decent journalism is not only a form of malpractice but an actual threat to Israeli democracy.

Editor's Note: This article was written before the terror attack on Jerusalem's light-rail tram that resulted in the death of the 3 month-old baby girl!

 

Arab Diplomat: Palestinian Cause About Destroying Israel, Not Humanitarian Concern

Arab Diplomat: Palestinian Cause About Destroying Israel, Not Humanitarian Concern

George Deek is a Christian Arab from the ancient Mediterranean city of Jaffa. He is also deputy to Israeli Druze poet and academic Naim Araidi, who currently serves as Israel’s ambassador to Norway.

Late last month, Deek addressed a gathering hosted by the Norwegian group “With Israel for Peace.” He delivered what some in that country are calling “the best speech an Israeli diplomat ever made.”

As an Arab with a long history in the land, Deek doesn’t sugar-coat Jewish involvement in the conflict. Atrocities were committed by all involved, and Deek is not prepared to give Israel a pass on documented wrong-doing just because the years following her victory have seen the rise of a strong democratic state where minorities like Deek and his boss, Araidi, enjoy full and equal rights.

But, Deek is left to wonder why disproportionate attention was and continues to be paid to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when far more severe crises have raged and still are raging over the same period of time.

Only one conclusion can be reached by this clear-headed Arab diplomat: “The Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive.”

Most of those involved, either directly or indirectly, care far less about the actual welfare of the Palestinian Arabs than they do about demonizing and destroying Israel, he reasoned.

And, in the process, Deek lamented that “the Palestinians have become slaves to the past, held captive by the chains of resentment, prisoners in the world of frustration and hate.”

The English translation of Deek’s full speech is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the Israeli-Arab conflict and its history. Click here to check it out.

 

2 IDF Soldiers Hurt in Egyptian Border Firefight

2 IDF Soldiers Hurt in Egyptian Border Firefight

A female IDF officer and one of her soldiers were wounded on Wednesday afternoon when terrorists operating out of the Sinai Peninsula opened fire across the Israel-Egypt border.

Both victims sustained moderate wounds, and were transported to Beersheva for treatment.

A large IDF force responded to the area, and another officer told Israel’s NRG news portal that the Israeli army would return heavy fire if and when it located those responsible for the cross-border attack.

The shooting was one of the more severe incidents along the Egyptian border in recent years. There are growing fears, both in Israel and Egypt, that radical Islamist groups, some affiliated with Al-Qaeda and ISIS, are setting up camp in Sinai and using it as a new regional hub for terrorist activities.

 

Should the IDF Go To War For God?

Should the IDF Go To War For God?

God is the source of much tension when it comes to questions of Israel’s democratic nature. Yesterday, the Israel Democracy Institute held a public debate on the topic of “the combat ethos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).”

To what extent should God be invoked during a time of war? That was the primary point of contention, and it was sparked by the overtly biblically-toned letter sent by Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter to his troops just days before the Gaza ground war this last summer.

Seeking to encourage the soldiers under him, Winter wrote:

“History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the ‘Gazan’ terrorist enemy which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel. …I turn my eyes to the sky and call with you, ‘Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One.’ The Lord God of Israel make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who blasphemes your name…”

The General Staff of the IDF was not thrilled by Winter’s letter, but remained largely quiet on the subject. With a growing number of religious soldiers, there is some concern that bringing God too much into the IDF could lead to insubordination when orders from on high seem to clash with biblical precepts. Such was the case when the army and police were ordered to uproot the Jewish inhabitants of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Yohanan Plesner, current president of the Israel Democracy Institute, said the group would continue to address the struggle between faith in God and military service, both of which are firm cornerstones of Israeli society.

“We need to discuss this issue much more in the coming years in light of the transformation the IDF is now undergoing,” said Plesner in regards to the aforementioned increasing number of religious soldiers.

While this is a difficult topic, it is also an important one if Israel is to maintain its democratic character. The growing discussion also further demonstrates how important God and faith in Him remains to the people of Israel.

 

History Made as Israeli Christian Child Registered as 'Aramean'

History Made as Israeli Christian Child Registered as 'Aramean'

Yaakov Khalloul, a two-year-old Christian child from the Galilee, made history on Monday when he became the first person in Israel’s modern history to be officially registered as an Aramean.

To date, all Christians in Israel have been registered with population authorities as Arabs, given that for most, their mother tongue is Arabic. But last month, outgoing Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar issued a directive permitting local Christians to now be voluntarily registered according to a more ancient ancestry.

“We are not Arabs. We are simply Christians who speak Arabic,” noted Father Gabriel Naddaf in an interview with Israeli media last year. The Nazareth-based priest who has been actively encouraging young Christians to join the Israeli army, noted that Aramean Christians were living in this region long before the Arab Muslim conquest.

That sentiment was echoed earlier this year by Knesset Member and coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) when he proposed the first bit of legislation recognizing a separate and distinct Christian minority in Israel.

“This is a historic and important step that can help to balance the State of Israel and to further connect us and the Christians, and I’m careful not to call them Arabs, because they are not Arabs,” said Levin.

Young Yaakov Khalloul’s father, Shadi Khalloul (pictured), whom Israel Today has featured in many stories, has long been at the forefront of the movement to revive the ancient Aramean identity, culture and language.

In remarks to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, Khalloul was overjoyed by finally being able to register his own children according to their true heritage.

“Finally, after 1,400 years of the Middle East being occupied and controlled by different forces, the Jews come along and recognize us, the Aramean people, who are even now being persecuted by Islamist forces (ISIS) in Iraq and elsewhere,” said Khalloul. “Here, at the hands of the Jews, we receive justice.”

 

Does Hamas' Renewed Tunnel Digging Concern No One?

Does Hamas' Renewed Tunnel Digging Concern No One?

An official Hamas newspaper, Al-Risalah, openly and proudly acknowledged this week that the terror group had renewed the digging of attack tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to targeted Jewish communities in southern Israel.

And this just days after the international community pledged billions of dollars to Hamas-ruled Gaza, and while Western leaders are again putting pressure on Israel to restart peace talks with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.

A reporter for Al-Risalah wrote that he personally visited one of the tunnels now under construction. Like many others, the tunnel had been destroyed by Israeli forces during the summer’s Gaza war. That these tunnels are being restored, at great financial cost, is seen as a victory in Gaza, even though they are likely to lead to another devastating war.

Israeli commentators have responded to the situation with great frustration. Western blindness and willingness to tacitly support Palestinian terror, so long as not too many Israelis die, has become the norm. But many Israelis are increasingly upset that their own government is playing along with this dangerous diplomatic game.

 

With Whom Can Israel Make Peace?

With Whom Can Israel Make Peace?

Liberal Israeli politicians and international leaders are fond of declaring that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a genuine peace partner for the Jewish state. The claim is repeated so often that it almost sounds defensive. It’s kind of like, “We know the Palestinians are still engaging in terrorism, but their leader really is our friend,” which in and of itself is more than a little suspicious.

The full article appears in the November 2014 issue of Israel Today Magazine.
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Can Israel Still Count on America at UN Security Council?

Can Israel Still Count on America at UN Security Council?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been loudly threatening to unilaterally petition the international community to recognize the State of Palestine and force an Israeli withdrawal, and upcoming changes on the UN Security Council might afford him the best opportunity in decades to do so.

Abbas wants the United Nations to officially recognize Palestinian sovereignty and independence outside the framework of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel, which looks to be increasingly out of reach.

He also wants the UN Security Council, the only UN body able to pass legally-binding decisions, to set a firm date for an Israeli withdrawal from all of Judea, Samaria and the eastern half of Jerusalem.

Until now, getting the Security Council to make such far-reaching moves has been virtually impossible. Of the five permanent council members, only Russia and China could be counted upon to support the Palestinian motion, and only to embarrass the Americans, who could traditionally be counted upon to veto any such proposal.

But now, Israeli analysts aren’t so sure Washington would have the Jewish state’s back.

In January, the Security Council will be joined by five new non-permanent members - New Zealand, Spain, Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela. Of those, Malaysia and Venezuela would almost certainly support the Palestinian motion, and news over the weekend was that Spain had been successfully lobbied to do the same if and when the time comes.

New Zealand and Angola remained undecided on the issue, but neither nation has a track record of diplomat support for Israel vis-a-vis its conflict with the Arabs.

Usually, none of that would matter, because either the US, Britain or France - the other three permanent council members along with Russia and China - would simply veto any motion that posed a threat to Israel or regional stability.

But Britain’s parliament last week held a non-binding vote in which is supported recognition of a State of Palestine, and if mid-term congressional elections go badly for the Democrats in America, there is growing speculation that the Obama White House might seek some retribution against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by withholding the US veto on the Security Council.

That would leave only Paris to thwart the Palestinian scheme, which Israel could by no means count on considering France’s burgeoning and increasingly violent Muslim minority.

Even if this somewhat extreme scenario weren’t to play out, it is widely believed in Israel that the Obama Administration wouldn’t hesitate to use the threat of such a narrative to diplomatically strong-arm Jerusalem back to the negotiating table on Arab terms.

 

Israeli Doctor Dies Fighting for ISIS

Israeli Doctor Dies Fighting for ISIS

Barzilai Medical Center in the southern Israel coastal city of Ashkelon confirmed on Sunday that one of its doctors had recently joined the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) and had been killed while fighting for the Islamist horde in Syria.

Athman Abed Al-Kayan, 23, had recently completed his studies in neighboring Jordan and had returned to Israel to intern at Barzilai. He was scheduled to begin a second internship at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva in May of this year, but never showed up.

Nearly six months ago, Al-Kayan suddenly decided to travel to Turkey with a friend, not an unusual journey for young Israeli Jews and Arabs to make. But when he failed to return home, Al-Kayan’s family went searching for him.

“We located the hotel they were staying in and found their belongings there. At the hotel we were told they hired a car and just left. We waited for them, but after two days when they didn’t come back we went back to Israel,” Al-Kayan’s brother told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “Police told us that they probably left Turkey for Syria.”

The brother said that his family later received a phone call from a blocked number informing them that Athman had been killed in battle fighting on behalf of ISIS.

Over the past 6–9 months, some 30 Israeli Arabs have joined up with Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS. Nearly all of them have traveled via Turkey, where unconfirmed reports suggest a specific hotel along the Turkey-Syria border is being used as a recruitment center, with little or no interference from the Turkish regime.

 

Embattled Christians: Jews Stand With Us, but Where is the Church!?

Embattled Christians: Jews Stand With Us, but Where is the Church!?

In an impassioned plea delivered at a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad,” noted that Israel and the Jews are openly standing up for embattled Middle East Christians, while much of the global Church remains conspicuously silent.

Speaking to reporters at the Feast of Tabernacles celebration hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), White pointed to fellow panelist Ron Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, and wondered, “Here we see Jews standing with us, but where is the Church?”

White, who has been eye witness to horrific atrocities during the ISIS advance in Iraq, went on to note that some Christians had expressed support for their persecuted brothers and sisters, but that far too often it had taken the form of letters of condolence and encouragement.

“With all due respect, letters are not going to feed my people,” said White, who explained that thousands upon thousands of Christians have been forced to flee in the face of the Islamist horde and are today living in refugee camp conditions with little-to-no sustenance.

Don’t miss the upcoming November issue of Israel Today Magazine, in which we will report further on efforts by Canon Andrew White, as well as other local Christian and Jewish leaders to highlight the plight of Middle East Christians and elicit real, tangible support.

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Obama's Kobani Crossroads

Obama's Kobani Crossroads

Obama has consistently disregarded the advice of his military experts on the ISIS threat. And he seems to have written off the Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobani, which may soon be overrun by ISIS.

Whatever the U.S. accomplished after about a decade of war in Iraq has, in a matter of months, deteriorated to a situation that may become unprecedented in its instability and threat to Western interests. Obama’s clumsy departure from Iraq, his military mismanagement of the mess that ensued, and his refusal to intervene in Syria – again, overruling his top security advisers – are what produced the current quagmire. 

The loss of Christianity in Mosul didn’t have to happen. Obama’s tardy airstrikes managed to prevent the Mosul Dam from falling, but the city may never be the same. Similarly, why did the Yazidis have to find themselves besieged on Mount Sinjar before the U.S. took action? 

Instead of preemptively stopping ISIS from spreading into Iraq, Obama effectively waited until some high-profile beheadings forced him to focus on the danger. While such gruesome murders can reliably rally public opinion in favor of military action, the duty of the Commander-in-Chief is to lead and take military action when and how national security requires it, and not just when terrorists provoke some tardy and token airstrikes into empty buildings.

As the next disaster is about to unfold on Obama’s watch, he should recognize that there is much more at stake with the fight for Kobani than just the loss to ISIS of a small town on the Syria-Turkey border.

Above all, letting Kobani fall means betraying our only ally fighting ISIS on the ground, and allowing them to be massacred while the world watches. What message does the U.S. send to Mideast partners and the world at large, if the Kurds are the only force providing the ground troops that Obama so desperately needs now, and yet Obama is unwilling to support them enough to avoid the horrific slaughter that will follow an ISIS victory in Kobani? 

Kobani also has geostrategic importance to the Iranian nuclear threat. The more ISIS succeeds at capturing territory and recruiting fighters, a trend bolstered by Kobani’s fall, the more desperate the U.S. becomes for help from Iran, which, as leader of the Shiite world, is the natural enemy of the Sunni ISIS fighters. Because Iran also has one of the most powerful militaries in the region, and has – even before the ISIS crises – outmaneuvered the West in talks to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, Iran could easily leverage the situation to secure tacit Western acceptance of its nukes. Indeed, Iran has already signaled its fight-ISIS-for-nukes strategy

Even more important, as Iran watches how feebly the U.S. responds to the loss of Iraq and how Obama cowers from a relatively minor fight in Kobani, the Ayatollahs can rest assured that there really is no U.S. military option to stop their nuclear program. This conclusion becomes all the more inevitable, when they look at Obama’s waning influence at home, as he enters the lame-duck period of his presidency.

There is also a moral dimension to Kobani. Obama – in his 2009 and 2012 speeches on Holocaust Remembrance Day – proudly recalled how his great uncle helped to liberate a Nazi death camp. Yet Obama’s inaction in Syria has left about 200,000 dead, including many who were simply massacred, and Kobani may be where the next atrocities happen. Does the U.S. not hold itself to a higher standard than that of Turkey, which has thus far chosen just to watch the fighting a mere mile from its border? Turkish history already includes genocides against the Armenian Christians and the Kurds (in the Dersim Massacre), so it’s no surprise that the Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would let his army stand idly by, watching and waiting for ISIS to slaughter thousands of Kobani Kurds. But does the U.S. really want to be in the same camp as the Turks on this one? How much more shame will fall upon the United States, and the Obama legacy, when the Internet overflows with images of mass graves containing Kobani’s brave and abandoned fighters, along with Kurdish civilians who were too weak, infirm, or elderly to flee the approaching ISIS barbarism?

As if the above concerns weren’t enough to goad Obama into action, there is also the strategic impact of letting Kobani fall. As good as ISIS recruiting on social media already is, the popularity of this terrorist army among Islamists worldwide will surge when ISIS can boast about one more example of how even the mighty US military can’t stop them. 

Having foolishly telegraphed that he won’t send ground troops to confront ISIS, Obama can still try to convert his error into a feint, by doing the opposite and sending troops to Kobani. At least that would restore some element of unpredictability to how ISIS regards U.S. military moves in the region.

Obama is effectively weeks away from the lame-duck portion of his presidency. If Republicans take Congress in next month's midterm elections, then Obama will become that much more ineffectual. But the president can still try to demonstrate some leadership by changing his strategic approach to Mideast threats -- if only to prevent his legacy from going into freefall. If the Middle East has only one lesson for Obama, it is that much can go terribly wrong in very little time. With Iranian nukes around the corner and ISIS on the march, two years of Mideast deterioration is a frighteningly long time to be on Obama’s watch. 

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

 

Jewish, Christian Leaders: US Airstrikes Against ISIS Insufficient

Jewish, Christian Leaders: US Airstrikes Against ISIS Insufficient

People in Iraq and Syria continue to die by the thousands, and US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) are simply insufficient to curb the carnage, said Jewish and Christian leaders in Jerusalem on Monday.

While Israelis and thousands of Christian visitors are celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, some 12,000 Kurds are under siege in the Syrian border town of Kobani.

Kurdish forces have managed to halt the ISIS advance, for now, but it is widely feared that if substantial military assistance is not provide soon, the town will fall, and the Kurds living there will be slaughtered en masse.

Philanthropist, diplomat and current president of the World Jewish Congress, Ron Lauder, said those fears are very much justified.

“The US airstrikes can only do so much. They can hold back the threat, but, frankly, air strikes are not enough,” Lauder told a press conference at Jerusalem’s new Pais Arena. “Unfortunately, if something isn’t done in the next 24–48 hours, this massacre will take place.”

Lauder concluded by lamenting that the current situation is “a testimony to the unwillingness of others to stand up” for those under threat.

Dr. Jürgen Bühler, director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), agreed that much more needed to be done to protect not only the Kurds, but millions of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from the spreading Islamic scourge.

“As a German, I want to say that when Germany was under the oppression of the Nazi regime, it was the very sacrificial military intervention of mainly the United States that saved Europe from becoming a very different place than it is today,” Bühler noted. “The world needs to similarly respond to the situation in the Middle East.”

Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad,” who has been an eye-witness to many of the ISIS atrocities, was even more blunt in his assessment.

The US-trained Iraqi army that was left to defend the country is “useless,” according to White, who was adamant that the situation has reached a point that only overwhelming international military force will suffice to return peace and stability to the region.

“It has to be the international community. And it has to be the US. And just dropping bombs from the sky is not enough. We need troops on the ground,” said White.

Lauder and White are in Jerusalem as speakers at ICEJ-hosted Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Israel Today will in our upcoming magazine be reporting further on the efforts by these Jewish and Christian leaders to draw greater attention to and stem the tide of Islamic persecution in the Middle East.

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Police Lock Muslim Rioters Inside Temple Mount Mosque

Police Lock Muslim Rioters Inside Temple Mount Mosque

Fed up with incessant Muslim violence atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, police forces on Monday surprised rioters preparing to attack visiting non-Muslims and locked them inside the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Arab Muslims have been using the holy site as a base for attacks on Jews and Christians all week as Israel marks the biblical festival of Sukkot, one of three holidays during which the Jewish people are commanded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Police intelligence indicated that rioters intended to escalate the violence on Monday, and in preparation had stockpiled a large number of rocks, firebombs, iron bars and other improvised weapons inside the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Muslims had also set barriers to prevent the doors of the mosque being closed on them.

Immediately after morning prayers on Monday, a sizable police force surprised the rioters, and following a brief skirmish managed to remove the obstacles and shut the doors of the Al Aqsa Mosque, trapping the rioters within and enabling non-Muslims to visit the Temple Mount in relative peace.

In addition to again highlighting the attempted belligerent suppression of religious freedom by the Temple Mount’s Muslim overseers, the incident demonstrated that while local Muslims will howl over any damage caused to their holy sites by Israel, they have no problem using said holy sites as bases for what amounts to terrorist violence.

 

WATCH: Priestly Blessings Brings Thousands to Temple Mount

WATCH: Priestly Blessings Brings Thousands to Temple Mount

Tens of thousands of Jewish people from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Sunday for the biblical priestly blessing that takes place during the festival of Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

Many of the Jewish visitors had wanted to ascend the Temple Mount during their visit, but were prevented from doing so by police, who feared an outbreak of Arab Muslim violence. Jews are typically attacked when entering their religion’s holiest site during their religious feast days.

The priestly blessing is performed at Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot - the three biblical festivals during which the people of Israel were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

While modern Judaism no longer requires the pilgrimage, many still adhere to the biblical commandment.

Watch a portion of the blessing:


 

Israel Feels a Chilling Breeze From the North

Israel Feels a Chilling Breeze From the North

Last week, the city council of Lille, the fourth largest city in France, decided on a "temporary freeze" of its twin city agreement with Safed (Tsfat) in Israel’s northern Galilee region.

Safed was once home of some of the most revered Jewish sages, among them the father of contemporary Kabbalah, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, better known as the Holy Ari.

Green Party council member Marie-Pierre Bresson explained that the decision was born out of the European Parliament's call to freeze privileged agreements with Israel in order to pressure Jerusalem and accelerate the peace process. Lille's move to freeze its relationship with Safed came just days after the new Swedish prime minister infuriated Israel with his announced intention to make Sweden the first major EU country to officially recognize a "Palestinian state."

Whether or not the council of Lille is aware of it, this decision is more of the same biased European policy that verges on being anti-Semitic.

Lille’s ties with Nablus and Shanghai, two of her other sister cities, should have been frozen over far greater grievances than Israel's reluctance to accept Europe's benevolent invitation to capitulate to Palestinian demands. China's occupation of Tibet doesn't seem to bother Lille, nor do the views and positions of Hamas member and Nablus Mayor Adly Yaish. According to the inflamed reasoning of the leaders of Lille, however, Israel is solely to blame for one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

If the summer’s Gaza war taught us anything, it is that whenever a Palestinian-controlled region is given full independence, it’s first order of business is to turn all energy and resources toward fighting Israel, rather than improving the lives of the local Palestinian population.

Nevertheless, the Mayor of Lille, the Prime Minister of Sweden and hosts of other European leaders and intellectuals choose to turn a blind eye to the expressed Palestinian desire to dissolve Jewish control over the Holy Land. If they would have simply looked at the map of Israel as Palestinians envision it, they would have seen that not only the West Bank, but the whole of Israel is painted green.

The chilling breeze now blowing from the north reminds one of Jeremiah, who saw that days will come when "out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land … against all the cities of Judah."

Israel is increasingly concerned by these seemingly pro-peace policies that are aimed at coercing Israel into the unacceptable compromise of withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders without any reciprocal demand that the Palestinians renounce their dream of "returning" to Ashkelon, Haifa and Safed.

Whether or not Europe will bring calamity upon Israel is yet to be seen. It is up to them to decide whether or not they will once again give in to ideologies that mark the (Israelis) Jews as the world's scapegoat.

PHOTO: Town square in Lille, France.

 

'Foreign Power' Behind Explosion at Iran Nuclear Facility

'Foreign Power' Behind Explosion at Iran Nuclear Facility

The explosion that apparently devastated a top secret nuclear facility in Iran earlier this week was reportedly caused by a foreign power.

Citing European diplomats, the Al-Rai newspaper in Kuwait identified Israel as being behind the blast at the Parchin military site 30 kilometers southwest of Tehran. According to the newspaper, Iran subsequently ordered Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon to plant bombs along the Israeli border as a response to the action. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a border explosion this week.

Western intelligence agencies believe the Parchin site was used for nuclear testing and as a facility to fit nuclear warheads to Iran’s long-range missiles. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors had long been denied access to the site.

The explosion that destroyed the Parchin site was massive. Various reports reveal that windows shattered up to 15 kilometers away. Satellite photographs backed up claims that the explosion was the result of an attack, and showed almost total devastation to the facility.

Israel’s government declined to issue an official statement on the incident, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks had renewed his firm warnings that Israel would not accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year warning the UN General Assembly of the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

 

Israel Surprised by Sukkot Eve Storms

Israel Surprised by Sukkot Eve Storms

Storms raged, in a positive way, across the country on Wednesday evening as Israelis welcomed the start of the biblical Sukkot holiday.

Meteorologists had predicted dry weather for most of Israel, but expected thunderstorms in the north quickly spread over the rest of the Holy Land from Haifa to Eilat.

In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a brief but strong downpour was enjoyed by not a few people who were pleased by the positive sign that the winter rains will arrive on time this year.

The weather was not the only unusual natural phenomenon marking this Feast of Tabernacles. A lunar eclipse visible in the Western Hemisphere and far eastern Asia manifested in the Middle East as a “blood moon.”

This was the second “blood moon” of the year, the first occurring on Passover, and two more are expected in the coming year, providing plenty of fuel for speculation among Jewish and Christian prophecy-watchers certain that these are apocalyptic signs.

 

Temple Mount Melee Leaves 4 Police Wounded

Temple Mount Melee Leaves 4 Police Wounded

Arab Muslims set an ambush for Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors as they attempted to ascend Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Wednesday to mark the start of the biblical holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

Sukkot is one of three biblical festivals during which the people of Israel were commanded to come to Jerusalem and ascend the Temple Mount. Many still adhere to that precept. Or, they try to, at least.

For the past decade or so, Muslim mobs occupying the holy hill have erupted in violence each and every time the Jews try to ascend in honor of one of their festivals.

Sukkot has annually seen the worst holiday confrontations. And Wednesday was no different. The moment that the single gate accessible to non-Muslims was opened, masked Muslims began hurling firebombs and stones at Jewish visitors and police officers.

At least four police were wounded in the ensuing clash.

Ultimately, the police were able to clear out the rioters and restore order to the Temple Mount, allowing the holy site to remain open to visitors throughout the morning.

 

Israeli Soldiers Wounded in Lebanon Border Blast

Israeli Soldiers Wounded in Lebanon Border Blast

A pair of explosions along the Israel-Lebanon border on Tuesday wounded two Israeli soldiers patrolling the area, and significantly raised tensions between the two neighbors.

Israel responded to the incident with heavy artillery fire at terrorist positions in southern Lebanon.

Credit for the border attack was claimed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist militia, which said it was responding to last month’s death of Hezbollah operative Ali Hassan Haidar, which the group blames on Israel.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that while Hezbollah might have planted and detonated the bombs used in the border attack, ultimate responsibility lies with the government of Lebanon.

The incident follows a brief skirmish between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers on Sunday. The Lebanese gunmen crossed briefly into Israel, possibly unintentionally, and were immediately engaged by Israeli forces.

With the sudden rise in violence along the border, tensions are running high, as are fears of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah.

 

Christian Priest to UN: Stop the Witch Hunt Against Israel

Christian Priest to UN: Stop the Witch Hunt Against Israel

While Middle East Muslim leaders were gathered at UN Headquarters in New York late last month to lambast Israel, a local Christian cleric was addressing a different UN forum - the Human Rights Committee in Geneva - to set the record straight on freedom for minorities in the Jewish state.

“Every five minutes, a Christian is killed in the Middle East because of his faith,” noted Father Gabriel Naddaf before a largely unsympathetic audience.

The UN Human Rights Committee has made a habit out of focusing disproportionate attention on any and all claims of misbehavior by Israel, all in service to its favorite pet project, the Palestinian nationalist cause.

But Father Naddaf, who had been invited to speak by “The Face of Israel” organization, was not deterred, declaring boldly that “Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe.”

The cleric from Nazareth continued by insisting that “leaders of people, seekers of peace, end your witch hunt of the only free country in the region.”

Father Naddaf pointed out the hypocrisy of those who claim to champion the weak and dispossessed, and then turn around and defame Israel.

“It is time the world woke up to the fact that those who want to destroy the Jewish state are signing the death warrant on the last free Christians in the Holy Land,” he said, reminding those gathered that Christians and other minorities across the Middle East are today living under Muslim persecution unprecedented in modern times.

Father Naddaf is the spiritual leader of a growing movement in Israel that encourages young Christians to voluntarily join the Israeli army as a first step toward fully integrating into Israeli society.

The Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum sees national service as a duty for all who would claim the rights of citizens, and increasingly recognizes the strong historical and spiritual ties between the region’s indigenous Christian population and the Jewish people.

 

Modern Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee

Modern Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee

Enjoy the following video, which takes you on a sublime tour of the Sea of Galilee with modern-day Israeli fishermen.

Just like Yeshua’s disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John (Matthew 4:18–22), Israelis inhabiting the small villages surrounding the Sea of Galilee today continue to cast their nets into this fabled lake.

Just another demonstration that in Israel, the Bible truly comes to life.

 

Hamas: Give Us the West Bank and We'll Destroy Israel

Hamas: Give Us the West Bank and We'll Destroy Israel

For any who are still curious why Israel doesn’t simply acquiesce to Palestinian demands for an independent state and end the conflict, Hamas once again happily provided the answer in a revealing interview with Arab media last week.

Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Ramallah-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam that if his group could “transfer what it has [in Gaza] or just a small part of it to the West Bank, we would be able to settle the battle of the final promise [to destroy Israel] with a speed that no one can imagine.”

Recently, Western power brokers, chief among them US President Barack Obama, have tried to differentiate between Hamas and the Islamic extremists of ISIS (now known simply as the Islamic State).

But al-Zahar was not shy in admitting that Hamas’ goals are largely synonymous with those of ISIS, if only on a smaller scale.

“[Some] have said Hamas wants to create an Islamic emirate in Gaza. We won’t do that, but we will build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine,” said al-Zahar.

Those pushing Israel to relinquish the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) might argue that Hamas can dream all it likes, but that it is the “moderate” Palestinian Authority that would rule an independent Palestinian state.

What they forget is that Hamas has already demonstrated that democracy is no obstacle to its ambitions.

Hamas handily won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. And when it was denied the power due it, Hamas turned its guns on the Palestinian Authority and swiftly seized control of Gaza.

Recent polls have suggested Hamas would repeat that feat in the West Bank were Israel to withdraw its forces and uproot the Jewish settlements there.

A survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research last week revealed that if elections were held today, Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would become the new president of the Palestinian Authority, beating out current President Mahmoud Abbas by a margin of 55 percent-to–38 percent.

The poll demonstrated that support for Hamas is high in the West Bank, giving credence to al-Zahar’s threat to transfer the groups military capabilities and more severely threaten the Jewish state’s major population centers.

[Translation of Arabic media provided by Palestinian Media Watch.]

 

Let's Talk About Sweden

Let's Talk About Sweden

On the eve of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, Sweden's new prime minister, Stefan Loefven, announced in his inauguration speech that Sweden will be the first major European country to recognize the 'State of Palestine.'

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded by saying that Loefven had failed to study the issue in-depth and to understand that the obstacle to peace over the last 20 years has been the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. Lieberman demonstrated his displeasure by summoning the Swedish ambassador, a severe diplomatic measure.

It is not surprising that Sweden, which has become the pinnacle of European ignobility, is at the forefront of European anti-Israel policy masquerading as a pursuit for peace.

Ignobility and anti-Israel policy, it would seem, are an inseparable pair. There are several examples of how grotesque Sweden has become in its attempt to implement a liberal worldview that has spiraled out of control.

Rape in Sweden has increased exponentially over the past two decades. Today, Sweden is second only to Lesotho in number of rapes per capita, with 63 reported rapes per 100,000 inhabitants. Efforts to confront the issue have been bizarre, so say the least. While 77 percent of all rapes in Sweden have been attributed to Muslim immigrants, Green Party MP Magda Rasmusson reached the conclusion that since "men account for the largest proportion of crimes and sexual violence...it would be more appropriate to discuss the expulsion of men, rather than immigrants."

Just to be clear, according to this Swedish feminist, the problem of rape in her country can be solved by banishing men.

Though most Swedes are aware of the problem of Islamization in their own country, they are still convinced that multiculturalism has produced a better society than the old, homogeneous Swedish one. Maybe it is for this reason that the archbishop of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, has chosen as her motto the phrase "God is Greater," which sounds suspiciously like "Allahu akbar," and is probably meant to placate both Muslims and Christians.

Jackelén and Loefven have apparently chosen to put their faith in multiculturalism, which in the current Swedish context means integration with Islam. It is this new Western idealism that is pushing Sweden to take legal measures typically reserved for undemocratic autocracies. In its grand effort to force multiculturalism, Swedish authorities make wide use of buzz words like "racism" as a means to coerce the populace into an Orwellian corral.

This was perhaps the first year in which a Swedish artist, Dan Parker, was jailed for attempting to exercise that most liberal of values: freedom of speech. Parker was sentenced to six months in jail for defamation and inciting hatred against an ethnic group, and eight of his paintings were confiscated by the authorities. His incarceration is seen by many as proof for the gradual loss of freedom in Sweden.

In contrast, in 2004 the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm had no problem hosting the "Snow White and The Madness of Truth" exhibit by Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feilers. The exhibit consisted of a pool of blood upon which floated a small white boat carrying a portrait of Hanadi Jaradat, a female Palestinian suicide bomber. Despite the protest of the Israeli ambassador, who was outraged by what he perceived as an attempt to portray a suicide bomber as Snow White, nobody thought to remove the exhibition of a known vehemently anti-Israeli artist.

What do these examples have to do with Sweden's willingness to become the first major European country to recognize the 'State of Palestine'?

These examples demonstrate that Sweden has capitulated to the spirit of political correctness that breeds unmitigated support for the Palestinian cause. Indeed, if the archbishop of Sweden has accepted Islam in one way or another, why should the prime minister leg behind?

Sweden as Europe's multicultural spearhead is running a well-chartered course that is bound to end with it becoming a Muslim state that will hate Israel with the same ferocity exhibited today by Muslims who openly vow to annihilate the Jewish state.

In this light, Prime Minister Stefan Loefven’s announcement, and on the eve of the Day of Atonement of all days, is yet another signal that Sweden has become commitmed to values that are ultimately opposed to Israel's determined efforts to remain a Jewish state.

 

Netanyahu Bible Study Highlights Israel's Right to the Land

Netanyahu Bible Study Highlights Israel's Right to the Land

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hosted his sixth open Bible study at the official Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem since reestablishing the practice two years ago.

The event was attended by dozens of leading rabbis and academics, many of them members of Knesset and the current government.

One of those participating in the round-table discussion was Education Minister Shai Peron, who spoke on the topic of why the Bible begins with the story of creation, rather than jumping straight into God’s relationship with and commandments to the Nation of Israel.

Peron cited the famous 11th century Jewish sage Rashi, who taught that the Bible begins with the story of creation to demonstrate that the whole world belongs to God, and He gives this land or that to whom He will.

Netanyahu noted that there are many in the world today who do not accept Israel’s divine appointment to this particular land, and who seek to defame the Jewish people and deny their birthright.

The prime minister said that while these open Bible studies have only been held a handful of times, the Word of God is studied in his home at least once a week. Netanyahu’s younger son, Avner, won the National Bible Quiz for Youth in 2010, and, according to the prime minister, often leads their home sessions.

PHOTO: Netanyahu and Peron joyfully discuss the finer points of scripture.

 

A Special Sukkot Blessing

A Special Sukkot Blessing

As a nation we here in Israel are constantly pulled between the extreme poles of ecstasy and tragedy. We are either celebrating the wonders and miracles of our existence, or else grieving over the loss of our loved ones.

We go and create an amazing country out of the ashes of the Holocaust, only to be immediately struck with anxieties and fears over existential threats from our hostile neighbors.

We win wars, thank God, against all the odds, but then we must agonize and weep over the aftermath and consequences of every conflict.

Every reason we have to celebrate must also come with a warning against over-confidence.

Even our calendar echoes this bi-polar existence in Israel. Our numerous and joyous holidays are interspersed with no less than six Fast days of mourning reminding us that we are never too far from some ominous event - or some reason to rejoice.

Our latest ongoing war with Gazan terror is a source of some measure of depression amongst our people, as we worry where all this is going. Many wonder out loud what possible solution there can be to a seemingly insoluble predicament.

But we also know that we have weathered every imaginable storm throughout our history, and with God's help we will successfully navigate this latest crisis as well. We will certainly come through to even greater glory.

And so as we invite our loved ones, family and friends to join us in our Sukkah to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles this year, and as we ponder together our inexplicable existence in this land of promise, it is surely time for all to find shelter and strength under the covering of the Almighty in knowledge and faith that in the midst of all this turmoil, our greatest moments are yet to come, and come they shall if only for His name’s sake.

 

'Sweden Just Made Israeli-Palestinian Peace More Difficult'

'Sweden Just Made Israeli-Palestinian Peace More Difficult'

Sweden on Friday announced its intention to become the first major European country, and one of over 100 nations worldwide that, despite their claims to support peace in the Middle East, have put an Israeli-Palestinian agreement further out of reach by unilaterally recognizing “the State of Palestine.”

In his inaugural speech before parliament, new Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven (pictured) stated, “The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.”

Loefven then inexplicably supported Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ campaign to bypass bilateral negotiations by unilaterally establishing an independent, sovereign State of Palestine.

“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the State of Palestine,” said the Swedish leader, completely ignoring that leading Palestinian groups still don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and regularly engage in terrorist violence against the Jews.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzahi Hanegbi speaking to Israel Radio on Saturday said that whatever his intentions, Loefven had only managed to put a genuine, lasting peace further out of reach.

“The more international support the Palestinians receive without being required to negotiate and without paying their due in mutual concessions, the less likely an accord becomes,” explained Hanegbi.

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Issac Bachman, said he believed Loefven made the remarks in an effort to appease the Scandinavian country’s vocal and growing Arab Muslim minority.

Bachman also pointed out that Loefven’s party, the Social Democrats, is “pro-Arab, pro-Islam and anti-Israel,” and so the new prime minister had very little problem playing to that particular constituency by throwing the Jewish state under the bus.

The Palestinian Authority was, unsurprisingly, thrilled by the turn-around in Sweden’s foreign policy.

“We hope that all countries of the European Union will take the same courageous and remarkable decision, as there is no reason not to recognize the Palestinian state,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi likewise thanked Sweden for its “commitment to justice and the requirements for peace,” and, in her ongoing effort to turn the peace process on its head, insisted that “conditioning recognition of the State of Palestine on the outcome of negotiations with Israel is equivalent to making our right to self-determination an Israeli prerogative.”

 

Israel Observes Yom Kippur

Israel Observes Yom Kippur

Israelis and Jews around the world are observing Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which began at sundown Friday.

Israel completely shuts down on Yom Kippur. Traffic comes to a halt, radio and TV broadcasts go off the air, the airport and businesses are closed.

Many Israelis spend the holiday in synagogues, while others simply rest or go for walks and bicycle rides on the empty roads.

As usual, security is tight. Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip have been sealed off amid fears that Palestinian terrorists will exploit the holiday to attack Jewish worshippers gathered at public venues in greater than usual numbers.

PHOTO: Israeli President Reuven Reuven Rivlin, praying for "Selichot" at the presidential residence synagogue in Jerusalem. "Selichot" is the prayer for forgiveness typically recited before dawn in the lead-up to the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur high holy days. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90

 

Netanyahu: Obama Needs to Learn the Facts on Jerusalem

Netanyahu: Obama Needs to Learn the Facts on Jerusalem

What began as a reportedly amicable meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ended in fresh strain on US-Israel ties over construction in Jerusalem.

The Obama Administration unleashed harsh criticism of the Jewish state after learning that approval had been granted for the construction of 2,610 apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, which lies adjacent to the neighborhoods of Talpiot, Gilo and Beit Safafa.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was threatening in her tone when addressing reporters on the matter:

“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies; poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians, but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations; and call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said these new Jewish homes atop a currently barren hilltop would “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

Earnest also described as “provocative” the purchase of homes in a predominantly Arab neighborhood by Jewish families. The neighborhood in question is today known as Silwan, but in ancient times was known as the City of David.

Netanyahu responded by noting that Obama and his staff could do themselves a favor by learning the facts before commenting.

“I think they (the Obama administration) should be acquainted with the facts first. You know? First of all, these are not settlements. These are neighborhoods of Jerusalem. We have Arab neighborhoods and we have Jewish neighborhoods,” the Israeli leader told NBC News.

Netanyahu later suggested to reporters accompanying him that the Obama Administration’s position was discriminatory against Jews, and that he could not adopt such policies.

“Arabs in Jerusalem freely buy apartments, and nobody says that is forbidden. I will also not say that Jews cannot buy property in Jerusalem. There cannot be discrimination between Jews and Arabs,” insisted the prime minister.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat voiced similar sentiments. In a statement released by his office, Barkat said adamantly:

“Discrimination based on religion, race or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country. The 2,600 apartments in Givat Hamatos, which we [first] approved two years ago, will enable more young people from all communities and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that.”

Housing Minister Uri Ariel followed up by noting that Arabs, too, will be free to purchase homes in Givat Hamatos. Given its proximity to the neighborhood of Beit Safafa, it is estimated that at least one-third of the new apartments will be purchased by Arab families.

Netanyahu and his ministers were also highly critical of the left-wing Israeli movement Peace Now, which purposely made a story out of the Givat Hamatos construction plans on the same day the prime minister was meeting with Obama.

Netanyahu said it was “no coincidence” that Peace Now’s statement regarding Givat Hamatos had coincided with his White House visit, and slammed the group for demonstrating a “lack of national responsibility” by pulling such a stunt.

 

Jews, Muslims Try to Head Off Possible Yom Kippur Violence

Jews, Muslims Try to Head Off Possible Yom Kippur Violence

The biblical holy day of Yom Kippur and the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha will overlap this weekend, sparking fears of violent, religious-fueled confrontations in mixed Jewish-Arab cities and towns.

In an effort to head off any violence, Member of Knesset Merav Michaeli (Labor) organized a gathering of leading Jewish and Muslim religious authorities in the mixed central city of Lod on Wednesday.

The Jewish side was represented by chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), MK David Azulai (Shas) and MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud).

Speaking for the Muslims were President of the Sharia Court in Israel Dawoud Zini, Qadi (Islamic Judge) of Jaffa Mohammed Zibdeh and MK Ibrahim Sarsur.

“Just coming together [like this] has already accomplished much,” Rabbi Lau told the assembly. “Let’s try to find common ground. The goal is not merely to sit together on Yom Kippur, but to dwell together afterwards as well. Together we can prevent the spilling of blood and forge a connection. We are brothers.”

Qadi Zini added that “God created all mankind, [including both] Muslims and Jews. We must remain optimistic and preserve the connection between us.”

Michaeli, an outspoken former television presenter, used her time at the podium to lambast the “many people in Israel that are trying to divide us and sow conflict between Jews and Arabs. …This is an opportunity for those who desire to dwell together as partners. There is no competition here over who is more holy.”

 

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.

 

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