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The Land of Milk and Honey and Crowdfunding

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 04:59

For nonprofits and even individuals, crowdfunding has become an essential tool in fundraising, especially in Israel. It is a term that has only recently entered the lexicon, but one that has quickly gained importance. In the Jewish State, there has been a significant spike in the number of crowdfunding campaigns and the amounts raised, one Israeli platform reporting a 210% increase from 2017 to 2018.

According to the crowdfunding platform Jgive, the total of small donations (up to 2,000 NIS per year) in Israel amounts to 1.85 billion NIS annually. In Israel, a large percentage of the population gives to charity at least once per year – and in fact, the figures suggest that 37% donate between 2 and 5 times annually.  

IsraelGives, another Israeli crowdfunding platform grew approximately 210% in 2018. It’s own internal data showed that it witnessed 60-percent growth in crowdfunding over its 2017 results.

A Jerusalem based crowdfunding platform called CauseMatch is used by hundreds of Jewish nonprofits, which allows them to harness the company’s expertise in driving smart digital fundraising campaigns. Their approach is one that relies on understanding proven strategies, rather than simply trusting intuition – which is oftentimes unsound.

Joseph Bornstein (Courtesy)

“For a crowdfunding campaign to be successful, it must be authentic,” said Joseph Bornstein, founder and CEO of CauseMatch. “It’s crucial ingredients include great community-organizing, top-tier technology, excellent storytelling, and a sense of urgency.”

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Their four commandments, so to speak, create the foundation of an effective fundraising strategy. Longer copy regularly outperforms shorter copy, i.e. the longer (although not too long) a piece of copy the more opportunities prospective donors have to engage with the material. The use of a larger font, underlining and italicizing are useful tools to draw readers in and keep them connected.

The second rule concerns creating emotive language more than black and white statistics. People give if they feel an emotional connection to a cause, whereas large numbers and percentages create more distance. Crowdfunding is about creating intimacy, in the sense of attempting to entice a significant number of people to respond to a hook. Using one example of how a person has been helped by donations is an effective tool to draw people in.

By giving donors or potential donors a window on how their personal contribution can help the organization, it provides them with an emotional connection to the cause. If the focus is too much on your organization, it gives the impression that things are already in hand and doesn’t create an easily identifiable opening for the donor to feel that their money is greatly needed.

Shlomo Schreibman, Vice President of Israel365Media and Rabbi Tuly Weisz, Publisher of Breaking Israel News, present at the “Israel Gives” Conference (Credit: Breaking Israel News)

Shlomo Schreibman, VP of Business Development at Israel365Media said that crowdfunding is actually a way for nonprofits to save money. “While organizations are usually focused on growth and donor acquisition, the opportunity to raise more from their own current donors is tremendous,” Schreibman said. “Following the trends and data has shown us that crowdfunding is becoming a better way to raise funds throughout the year with multiple campaigns and not just a once-a-year event as it has been in previous years.”

The challenge to non profit organizations is clear; to analyze the giving trends pertinent to them and then to synergize crowdfunding into its existing fundraising portfolio. It is a powerful tool that used effectively can help quickly boost online donations for fundraising campaigns.

Guaido Works to Restore Ties With Israel

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 04:15

These are tumultuous times in Venezuela’s history. Juan Guaido, who claimed the presidency from incumbent Nicolas Maduro as part of a popular uprising. Now, Guaido is looking to create diplomatic relations with countries who backed him. Guaido is apparently seeking to restore ties with Israel, including opening a Venezuelan Embassy in Jerusalem.

Who Will Take Care of Israel’s Lone Soldiers?

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 03:06

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is often referred to as, “The people’s army.” This is due to the fact that its soldiers are not only native Israelis but also people from all over the world. Additionally, with the rise of enlistment from Biblically observant men and women, this all-inclusive army faces many obstacles.

One challenge is helping the nearly 6,000 “lone” soldiers who have either volunteered to dedicate three years of their lives protecting the Holy Land or who are estranged from their homes in Israel. Where can they live? Who will care for them?

Who will guide them through Israel’s bureaucracy?

Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, the only government sanctioned organization tasked with IDF soldier welfare, provides many important programs and opportunities for Israel’s lone soldiers. This is the only organization where 100 percent of every donation goes where it was intended, to help Israel’s soldiers.

“While IDF soldiers with family in Israel have a place to go home to for Shabbat, holidays or when given a break from their service, lone soldiers have no place to call home,” explained General (res.) Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers to Breaking Israel News. “Yahad takes very seriously the challenges of lone soldiers and does all it can to ease their adjustment into both Israel’s army as well as Israeli society.”

Recognizing that IDF soldiers need a place to have some down time and to call, “home”, the organization just opened a new lone soldiers’ apartment. As donations come in for this important project, additional apartments will become available.

“We have set up beautiful apartments for lone soldiers that include appliances, a private room for each of the three soldiers living there, TV with games, stocked kitchen and, perhaps, most importantly, a caring counselor to guide them and help them with their struggles,” continued Gozal. “The positive feedback and gratitude has been heartwarming.”

Bruno Herbach Roussenq, a lone soldier who received a room in Yahad’s newest facility and serves in the IDF’s “Search and Rescue Unit” shared that it is hard to be alone in the army. “There are very good weeks and there are weeks that I miss my family,” he said. “Being in the army, to get quiet is to put music on maximum volume. That’s how I go to my quiet place by. To get here and to have my own room, it feels like my own home. Thank you very much.”

In addition to lone soldier apartments, Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers provides prepaid shopping vouchers before holidays and for soldiers from impoverished homes, classes to learn Hebrew, Israeli culture and trips that explore the holy city of Jerusalem. It also organizes a day where all government office representatives sit in one area in order to smooth out much of the bureaucracy immigrants face and subsidize post army university education, in recognition of the great sacrifices that soldiers make to protect Israel and more.

“Lone soldiers can face immense difficulties when joining the Israeli army and trying to make a life for themselves in a foreign land,” noted Gozal. “We feel it is our duty to ensure as smooth of an adjustment for these dedicated warriors to both the army as well as their civilian life. We take this responsibility very seriously and do what we can to help.”

To donate to the welfare of Israel’s soldiers, please click here.

Written in cooperation with Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers.

Stop Medieval Diseases With a Medieval Wall

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 02:00

The media recently reported that Los Angeles County’s ongoing typhus epidemic had infected Deputy City Attorney Liz Greenwood.

“Who gets typhus? It’s a medieval disease that’s caused by trash,” she wondered.

Greenwood is partially correct. The typhus outbreak, like the hepatitis outbreak, was directly caused by social justice policies that legalized public vagrancy, and leaving trash and human waste on sidewalks. The piles of trash, human waste and people combine to create horrifying diseased conditions. Before Greenwood, many Los Angeles patients who had been diagnosed with typhus were indeed homeless.

“There are rats in City Hall and City Hall East,” she complained. “There are enormous rats and their tails are as long as their bodies.”

The rats are a problem, but the fleas that carry the disease that Greenwood has can live on a variety of animals, including stray cats and possums. That’s why the typhus outbreak isn’t just happening in Skid Row, but has spread to Long Beach and Pasadena. And while the homeless encampments act as incubators for the disease, it’s not the only social justice policy spreading disease across America.

Or at least in California and Texas.

“It’s never been considered a very common disease,” Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, noted, “but we seem to see it more frequently. And it seems to be extending across from Southern California all along the Mexican border into southeastern Texas and then into the Gulf Coast in Florida.”

America never had much of a history of typhus, but Mexico did. And our brief episodes of typhus invariably involved immigrants and migrants carrying the disease from Europe or Mexico.

The first outbreak of the disease in this hemisphere occurred in Mexico back in the 17th century and there have been 22 major outbreaks since then, caused in part by refugees and crowded conditions. Typhus was so associated with Mexico that it was even known as Tabardillo or Mexican typhus fever. There was extensive debate as to whether Mexican typhus was different than European typhus.

The first case of typhus in southern California was linked to Mexican refugees.

Dr. L.M. Powers, a Los Angeles physician, was the first to spot it. “The first recognized and recorded cases of typhus fever in southern California occurred in the summer of 1916, when many Mexicans came to this section during a civil war in their own country,” he wrote in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The first victim of typhus had visited El Paso. Dr. Powers linked many other typhus cases in Los Angeles to Mexico. Historical records show that these cases involved migrants and Mexican railway workers.

In saner times, American authorities understood the problem and took common sense measures to fight the spread of the disease. The rise of typhus cases in California a century ago led to a campaign that included the delousing of anyone coming into the United States from certain parts of Mexico. Leftists have revisited this history in recent years to make obscene analogies to Holocaust gas chambers.

But despite the insistence that disinfection stations were motivated by racism, rather than real fear of the disease, the 67 typhus cases in El Paso make it very clear that there was a real problem.

El Paso’s efforts to keep out typhus were touched off by the death of Dr. W. C. Kluttz, who spotted the disease in the Mexican refugees that he was treating, before becoming infected and dying of it.

Dr. Kluttz was far from the only medical professional who lost his life to the disease. Dr. Howard Taylor Ricketts, the brilliant pathologist after whom Rickettsia, the genome that causes typhus is named, died while trying to isolate typhus in Mexico City at the request of the Mexican government.

At Dr. Kluttz’s funeral, El Paso’s Mayor Lea called for “a strong federally enforced quarantine here that would effectively stop the entrance into this country of disease-bearing persons from south of the Rio Grande.”

The ambitious 2,000 mile quarantine ultimately proved to be a success, preventing Mexico’s typhus outbreaks from spreading into the United States. But it also claimed a toll with at least one inspector, David M. White, conducting disinfection procedures, contracting typhus and dying of the disease.

Illegal migrants seeking to bypass the quarantine however spread the disease in unlikely places.

A 1921 outbreak of typhus on a Navajo reservation was attributed to it being on a “pathway for itinerant laborers.” That particular outbreak appears to have killed 27 Navajo Indians.

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The quarantine is history and typhus cases continue to rise in border states.

Texas saw a surge of typhus cases between 2008 and 2016. And the cases have been heavily concentrated in counties with high illegal populations. But officials insist on blaming ‘global warming’.

The number of typhus cases rose from 30 in 2003 to 519 in 2017. Hidalgo County had the highest incidence with 99 cases. Hidalgo County contains 6% of the state’s illegal alien population. Harris County has the second highest rate with 71 typhus cases and contains 24% of the state’s illegal alien population. Hidalgo has some of the youngest and newest illegal alien arrivals which may account for its high typhus infection rates.

Bexar County, with 59 typhus cases, the fourth highest rate of infections, hosts 4% of Texas illegals.

Typhus had fallen off the radar in the United States. It had been delisted by the CDC in 1994. And then it made a comeback in the middle nineties. Los Angeles saw a rise in the number of typhus cases in 1996 around the same time as futile efforts were being launched to fight the plague of illegal migration.

Now the situation has worsened. And it will only keep getting worse.

Like superstitious dark age types, leftists insist on blaming the typhus outbreaks on global warming, caused by an angry ‘Mother Earth’ rather than on the very real spread of disease by people. Instead of preventing the spread of disease, they insist that we must repent for our crimes against the environment, and recycle more, and then the earth will cool and the typhus outbreak will stop.

This denial of basic scientific facts is at the root of the typhus outbreak. Raising taxes in a bizarre scheme to change the weather is a bizarre folly that will do absolutely nothing to stop the spread of typhus.

The legalization of illegal migration and homelessness, is leading to a new wave of disease outbreaks.

Epidemiology shows us that typhus flares up in border counties and areas with large illegal alien populations. From there, it takes root in poor areas with bad hygiene. Fleas carried by rats, possums and cats can then pass on the disease to people who would have never expected to come down with it.

We know how to stop typhus. It begins with ending public vagrancy and illegal migration.

The Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney called typhus a “medieval disease”. Senator Kamala Harris of California ridiculed President Trump’s proposal for a border wall as “medieval”. California Rep. Harley Rouda urged Trump to “give up on the outdated notion of building a wall from medieval times.”

Rouda represents parts of Orange County. The O.C. had 15 typhus cases last year.

If you want to stop a medieval disease, you might want to start with a medieval wall.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

The Latest Palestinian Lie – “We are Al Mary”

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 01:00

The end of January brought with it the launching of a new Islamic propaganda campaign called “We are all Mary,” its name referring to the mother of Jesus, and its content purporting to show the world the suffering of Arab women in Jerusalem as a result of the “Zionist occupation’s” persecution aimed particularly at them.  The public relations campaign began in Istanbul, probably the initiative of Hamas operatives, but spread quickly all over the Islamic world thanks to the widespread use of social media.

The “Palestine On-line” website posted a news item regarding the campaign, sent by its Jerusalem correspondent, Mustafa Zabar, in which he wrote:

Jerusalem activist Zena Amar praised the “We are all Mary” initiative, telling the “Falestin” newspaper: “…the goal of the campaign ‘We are all Mary’ is to show everyone the suffering of the Jerusalem woman who experiences pain – and hope –  in Jerusalem, because she is uprooted from her family in order to be there when arrested or is denied entry to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem woman is either the mother of a prisoner or the mother of a son who is a shaheed or who has been wounded. The world remains silent despite the crimes of the occupation against Jerusalem’s women. That is why the campaign bears the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who lived under difficult conditions, similar to those of today’s Jerusalem woman.”

Jerusalem activist Hajja Khawid commented: “Jesus’ mother Mary gave birth to the best of all men and the Jerusalem woman gives birth to the men who are best at protecting Al Aksa, the city of Jerusalem and its holy places. Thanks to these women, men stand strong, while women are at the helm in all our battles – and that is why the occupation concentrates on punishing the Jerusalem woman. “

The significance of all this is clear: The Palestinians have joined forces with the Turks to appropriate the symbol of Mary, mother of Jesus, in order to cast themselves as victims of Israeli oppression in the same way Mary suffered from the Roman conquerors and those Jews who collaborated with them. The Muslims have taken possession of a Christian symbol, Mary, so as to use her role in history as part of their battle against the Jews.

This is nothing new  After all, in his speeches Arafat would often talk about liberating “Jerusalem’s mosques and churches” from Jewish “occupation”, turning the Palestinians, all other Arabs and all Muslims into protectors of Christianity.  The fact is, however, that quite the opposite it true, as a brief look at recent history shows. For example, while Bethlehem was under Israeli rule, it was a city with a large Christian majority – about 85% of its residents were Christian. Nearby Beit Jala was 100% Christian. Under PA rule over Bethlehem and Beit Jala, beginning in 1994, thousands of Christian residents were forced to flee their homes and move overseas after Muslims, mainly the Bedouin of Beit Sachur, threatened them, attacking them, their wives, daughters and churches. And after all this, the mostly Muslim Palestinian Arabs are now attempting to adopt Mary as if they are interested in protecting Christianity.

In addition, the persecution of Christians does not end with the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria. It flourishes in Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and in every other Islamic country with a Christian minority.  Most intriguing is the fact that in Istanbul, the city where the “We are all Mary” campaign was launched, one of the largest mosques – the Blue Mosque—is actually the Hagia Sofia Church which the Muslims turned into a mosque in 1453.  Has the world also forgotten the massacre of Armenian and Assyrian Christians perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during WWI?

Behind this stands the Islamic belief that Christianity, like Judaism, is “din elbatal”, a false religion, while only Islam is “din alkhak”, a true religion, and the Christians – according to the first chapter of the Koran – are those “who strayed from the right path.” That is why Allah punished them with having to live under Islamic subjugation as “dhimmi,” protected ones, who have only limited rights. The Christians, like the Jews, must pay a special head tax, the jizya, and are also humiliated as the Koran demands in chapter 9 (“Repentance”), verse 29.

The above explains why looting churches and turning them into mosques was accepted Muslim practice in Ramle, Damascus, the Balkans, Spain, Sicily and many other places, because if Christianity is an invalid religion, why do its followers need churches? Churches in Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, and other countries became mosques, and those functionaries holding positions in those churches were humiliated, attacked and sometimes killed over a period of many years.

And in today’s Europe? Muslim immigrants attack women of European extraction all the time, and that is just because they are Christians. Not a few Muslim migrants believe it is perfectly permissible for a Muslim to do as he will with the daughters of the heretics. In their opinion, He who is on high granted Muslims the lands of the unbelievers, their property, wives and even their lives.

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The battles taking place today in several Arab and Islamic states – Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan – are interpreted by some Muslims as a war of Christianity (Western or Russian Orthodox) against Islam, and therefore those Christians living in Arab lands must pay the price.

The friendly relationship between the Christian West and Israel, since the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and up to the Trump Declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, is understood by some Muslims as a Christian-Jewish scheme meant to humiliate the Muslim world, harm it and enforce the desires of Jews and Christians. It is for that reason  Muslims make a point of saying  that Balfour was an Evangelist, and that Trump is also close to Evangelist groups, to those who long to witness the return of the Jewish people to its land.

Many Muslims have not forgotten what the European Crusaders did to their forefathers in the 11th century: they conquered the nations on the eastern Mediterranean coast, established a Christian state, massacred Muslims and threatened to conquer Mecca. Salah ad-Din’s victory over the Crusaders two hundred years later is still used as an example of what the Muslim world is obligated to do to the Christians invading Muslim lands. Several important texts whose source is the ideology of ISIS discussed the need to conquer Rome  (the center of Western Christianity) after the Muslim conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) destroys the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The situation in the world today is diametrically opposed to what Islam is willing to accept: Christian states – the USA, Europe, Russia – control the world’s economy, reign over international politics, mechanisms and organizational  systems that run the world, such as the UN. This is the case despite the fact that according to Islam, the Christians are supposed to live under Islamic subjugation with limited rights. This drives some of the Muslims out of their minds, and they are ready to do anything in order to bring the world back to the “correct” order as Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, phrased it in a Hadith: “In  order that the word of Allah is supreme and the world of the heretic lowly.”

The Koran is filled with verses casting doubt on Christian dogma, as are the Hadiths. All the verses in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are anti-Christian in nature. It is possible that the reason for this is the rivalry between Christianity and Islam over hegemony In the city, because the churches located in the Old City are older and more impressive architecturally than the few nondescript mosques in that area.

In sum, it is possible to say that what characterized Islam’s attitude to Christianity was and still is a mixture of jealousy, hatred and a clear desire to take over the Christian world and force it to recognize Islam’s superiority. That is why the campaign that began several days ago with the title “We are all Mary” is based on a falsification of history, but replete with proofs of Islam’s negative opinion of Christianity.

The world, however, and especially Europe and the US, barely understand the motivations behind the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other “righteous Islamic” propaganda which tries its best to malign Israel by using Christian  motifs, as if there were any connection between Christianity, a religion founded on Judaism, and the Palestine Liberation Organization whose entire raison d’etre is to cancel the Jewish people’s right to a state in its historic land, which happens to be the birthplace of Christianity as well.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News

How Prophecy Unfolds

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 00:00

With the news that state governments are beginning to legalize infanticide, can the end be far away?

It got me thinking: the fulfillment of Bible prophecy often unfolds in ways we had not previously considered.

We’re always looking for Gog-Magog, or the destruction of Damascus. That kind of thing. Certainly those things are on the horizon.

But another story in the past couple weeks has me just as excited, for different reasons.

Two Israeli researchers have announced that they believe they have a cure for cancer. The story is legitimate; articles in The Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, and Forbes prove that.

“’We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,’ said Dan Aridor, of a new treatment being developed by his company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator. AEBi developed the SoAP platform, which provides functional leads to very difficult targets.

“’Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,’ Aridor said. ‘Our solution will be both generic and personal.’”

Remarkable. And…generic!

In any case, because it’s the Israelis, I believe this report. We’ll see, of course, but this would be a watershed moment.

And here’s how it indirectly is fulfilling prophecy.

The key thing indicating we are in the last of the last days, I think, is the intensifying pressure on Israel. This has steadily increased since the founding of the state, and in the past two decades has reached fever pitch. Even now, anti-Semitism is metastasizing around the world. Jews are in peril everywhere.

One would think that an announcement of a cancer cure would cause people to dance in the streets. Israel should be lauded.

Instead, a few days ago Dutch protestors chanted “Jews burn best!” on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Jews are being beaten up on the streets of cities considered to be cultured. Celebrity pastors continue to de-emphasize prophecy and Israel.

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This week, a story broke about American rabbis reaching out for interfaith dialogue with Gulf States. Evangelical pastors have been part of these junkets, including the anti-Israel Bob Roberts Jr., who claims to support Israel!

The world is upside down.

In all this, we are moving—I would say unwillingly—along a path that will lead to outright international war against the Jewish state. It is in this way that prophecy is being fulfilled in the most interesting ways.

While we scan the horizon for Gog, everyday things are happening that are at least as interesting. A cure for cancer? Hatred unleashed that points toward Zechariah’s prophecies.

Jews gathering in a synagogue in South America? Terrorist attack that calls to mind the viciousness of Jew-haters in Isaiah.

This is how we know where we are in history. It won’t be the “scariest” stuff that signals the time of the very end. It will be the daily evidences that the enemy is alive and well, and trudging to his gruesome destiny.

Taking with him millions who decided individually that they hate Jews.

Maranatha!

Reprinted with author’s permission from Rapture Ready

Patriot’s SuperBowl Victory: Was it Saintly or Sorcery?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:20

Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots won Superbowl LIII and though the battle on the gridiron was hotly contested, behind the scenes was a much more powerful battle to see who would have the upper hand: the cynical powers of darkness or the clean-cut powers of light.

Much ado was made when Patriots wide-receiver Julian Edelman was selected the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), making him the first player with Jewish roots to earn the title. Though not technically Jewish (his father was Jewish but his mother was not) Edelman strongly identifies as a Jew. After the deadly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Edelman proudly displayed his cleats that he had inscribed with the Hebrew name of the synagogue, a Jewish Star, and the words, “Stronger than Hate.” In 2015, Edelman visited Israel, making a stop at the Western Wall.

“Exploring my heritage is something I started in the past few years and seeing Israel for the first time, really getting a sense of its history and culture, I now truly understand why it’s so special,” he said in a news release.

His commitment to football and Judaism has been officially recognized by Jews. On the American Jewish Historical Society list of the 10 best Jewish football players, Edelman was ranked fourth.

Edelman is also widely praised as a dedicated father and all around good guy. In contrast to Edelman’s clean-cut approach to life stands his teammate, the quarterback who feeds him the passes, Tom Brady. At a shave-for-charity event four days after the game, Brady was interviewed while getting a staged shave from a barber at the Gillette’s World Shaving Headquarters in South Boston.

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Brady was asked if he had any rituals or superstitions that he used to help him win. He said that he relied on the rituals performed by his Brazilian supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen.

“I’ve learned a lot from my wife over the years,” Brady said while laying down in a barber’s chair. “She’s about the power of intention, believing that things are really going to happen.”

Brady said that his wife prepared a little “altar” before his games.

“She always makes a little altar for me at the game because she just wills it so much.”

“I have these little special stones, healing stones, protection stones and she has me wear a necklace, take these drops she makes, say all these mantras,” Brady told the interviewer. “At first I was, ‘This was kind of crazy,’ but about four years ago, we were playing the Seahawks, and she said, ‘You better listen to me, this is your year, but this is all the things you’re going to have to do to win and I did all those things and my God, it worked.”

He also turns to her for predictions about the upcoming seasons.

“I listen to her. Right after the game, she said, ‘See I did a lot of work. You do your work, I do mine!'”

Brady finished the story recounting one last thing his wife said to him. “She said, ‘You’re lucky you married a witch, I’m just a good witch!'”

 

Can Humanity Call Forward The Redemption?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:00

As a result of a social media misunderstanding, thousands of Jewish women worldwide will get together on the evening of Tuesday, February 26 for gatherings of song, prayer and dance, to help usher in geula (the final redemption).

Last month, a short video that was created in 2012 inexplicably came back to life and started circulating again on the texting app WhatsApp. Rivka Malka Perlman, the creator of that original video, explained to veteran Israel News Talk Radio host Tamar Yonah how it all happened.

“There was a WhatsApp video that went out that was me and it was saying ‘Sisters! Unite in unity. God wants this unity. So many terrible things are happening and we’ve got to get together. February 26! Everybody!’

“This video was not on YouTube and therefore there was no date on it. People thought that is was this February 26, so they started to say, ‘We want to come! We want to make a unity event in our community. We want to live stream your event!”

The only glitch was that the video was seven years old. There was no geula event being planned for February 2019.

“At the same time,” Perlman continued, “I had gotten a Divine message that right now we are so close to the End of Days. Each of us has a piece of Miriam in her, Miriam the prophetess who God guided the women in Egypt.

“She was the midwife there. She helped them. She encouraged them to beautify themselves. She taught them to make tambourines in anticipation of leaving Egypt. We don’t have a Miriam, but we have the women, and each of us has a spark of Miriam inside, and if we collaborate, that would be the ultimate unity.

“All of a sudden, the whole thing came together and it erupted. Yes! This is what I was talking about without realizing what I was saying. The women need to gather. When? Well, the Master Planner already planned it on a video – February 26.


“So right this minute, there are hundreds of women planning these Geula Gatherings all over the world. I’ve got women in Moscow, Sweden, the Five Towns, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem… I’m not sleeping! I’m sitting at my computer navigating all these people who are yearning for redemption.

“And now they are volunteering their gifts to create evenings of song, prayer and dance that we’re saying, ‘God,’ not just that we’re going to cry, “Oh, we want Moshiach (Messiah),’ No! We’re going to be dancing. Because we know You’re bringing the geula. We’re not cool with this anymore. The women are demanding. And standing up and dancing and saying, ‘Now! Please, now! It’s a pretty exciting time.”

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Since the interview last week, many more cities have joined in and are planning local Geula Gatherings. There are dozens of communities worldwide who will be participating in this global event, including Yad Binyamin, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tzfat, Raanana and Ramat Beit Shemesh in Israel and Philadelphia, Deerfield Beach FL, South Bend, IN, Brooklyn, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Passaic/Clifton NJ, Queens NY, Lakewood NJ, Woodmere NY, Cincinnati, Toronto, Cleveland, Baltimore, Silver Spring MD, Scottsdale AZ and Sherman Oaks, CA in North America.

The efforts have been blessed by Rabbi Reuvain Feinstein, son of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein who was one of this generation’s most renowned Jewish leaders. “It is with great pleasure that I give a bracha (blessing) to the women who are uniting in their efforts to bring nachas (pride) to Hashem (God) with Geula Gatherings. These tefillos (prayers) for Geula from the pure yearning hearts of the women are invaluable to Klal Yisroel (the Jewish people) and I give them a bracha for hatzlacha (success) in their endeavours.”

Perlman, whose work focuses on helping women heal, told Breaking Israel News,  “I really look forward to Moshiach because people are in a lot of pain. It’s just the galus (exile), oy, this veil that we’re under that is causing all this pain. And I think it’s enough.”

She expanded on how the Geula Gatherings can grow to include people from the Nations. “I’ve had a fair amount of non-Jewish people get very, very excited about this,” she said. “I feel like one of those on the front lines with all the prophecies coming true and all the Nations coming closer to Torah.”

Her message to non-Jewish women is clear. “If you want to make your own Geula Gathering because you are yearning for Hashem, please do! The website is very geared for Jewish people, because that is the comfort of the audience that is currently participating, but I want to encourage you that redemption is for everyone.”

The Geula Gatherings are a piece of an even larger, more ambitious undertaking called The Redemption Project. Coordinated by Ziva Glanz who lives just outside of Jerusalem, The Redemption Project is planning a massive event in Jerusalem for April 7, 2019, which is the first of the Hebrew month of Nisan, a month that carries the energy of redemption.

In the traditional Jewish understanding, unity is a crucial necessity for advancing redemption and for bringing Moshiach. Glanz’s work in this arena was strengthened three years ago when she gave birth to a baby son, born prematurely, who passed away. His name was Malachi.

In his memory, Glanz began studying the Book of Malachi, which is the very last of the Biblical Books of Prophets. She discovered that, “It talks about everything happening at End of Days. Malachi [says] ‘Here’s a formula for Moshiach.’”

Lo, I will send the Navi Eliyahu to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of Hashem. Malachi 3:23

“The goal is to declare on high that we are ready for Moshiach,” Glanz stated unambiguously. “The second goal is to create achdut (unity) which hastens the geula. People need hope as big as the fear they get reading through the daily news.”

Energies are coalescing. Perlman, Glanz and thousands of other women worldwide are pointing their intentions toward letting God know that we are ready for redemption. And even if, despite their efforts, Moshiach doesn’t come, they will have advanced the Messianic process by creating unity across the globe.

Proving the Bible by Finding the City of Ai

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 07:05

Dr. Scott Stripling is in the process of having his theory concerning the precise location of the Biblical city of Ai and if it is accepted, it may be a major step in proving the Bible is a valid source for archaeologists.

Dr. Stripling, provost at The Bible Seminary in Katy (Houston) Texas, is a man with a deep faith in the Bible as well as a passion for scientific truth. These seemingly conflicting forces have driven him to sift through the sands of Israel for over 20 years. Dr. Stripling serves as the archaeological director for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), a Christian organization that brings together Biblical research and archaeology to mutually advance both disciplines.

According to the Book of Joshua, the City of Ai was conquered by the Israelites on their second attempt. After an initial attempt failed due to a sin committed by an Israelite name Achan resulted in a demoralizing defeat, a God-directed ambush led to the Israelites conquering the city. The king is captured and hanged on a tree until the evening. His body is then placed at the city gates and stones are placed on top of his body. The Israelites then burn Ai completely.

Then Yehoshua burned down Ai, and turned it into a mound of ruins for all time, a desolation to this day. Joshua 8:28

As a site that plays a prominent role in the Exodus narrative, Biblical scholars and archeologists have always been intensely interested in locating Ai. Based on a surface survey he conducted in the region in 1924, W.F. Albright concluded that et-Tell, 10 miles north of Jerusalem,  was the location of the Biblical city of Ai. After excavating the site from 1933-1935, Judith Marquet-Krause, she concluded that the village was built on top of the Early Bronze Age remains.

Dr Scott Stripling oversees archaeological work. (Courtesy Dr Scott Stripling)

Marquet-Krause did not find evidence of occupation of the site during the Late Bronze Age (1400 BCE) which is when most archaeologists assume the Israelites entered the land of Israel. Joseph Callaway, professor of Old Testament and biblical archaeology, conducted digs at et-Tell from 1964-1972. Callaway concluded over the course of this research that the city of Ai described in the biblical account did not exist when Joshua encountered it. Albright proposed that the narrative in the Book of Joshua refers to the conquest of Bethel, a few miles from et-Tell.

As a result of the lack of archaeological evidence at et-Tell for the conquest of Ai in the days of Joshua, most archaeologists today reject the historical veracity of the account of the conquest of Ai as reported in the Bible.

In recent years, some archaeologists have begun to question the theory that et-Tell is the location of Ai. In 1994, Bryant G. Wood, a member of ABR, began digging at Khirbet el-Maqatir to investigate the possibility that it might be the elusive site of Ai. He was encouraged by the writings of Edward Robinson, an American Biblical scholar and Orientalist, who explored Palestine several times in the mid-19th century. According to Robinson’s accounts, when he visited Khirbet el-Maqatir in 1838, the local Arabs told him the site was the location of Ai.

In an article in 2008, Wood noted that neither the topography of et-Tell nor of Bethel conformed to the Biblical description. Wood suggested that  Khirbet el-Maqatir as the location of Biblical Ai. Wood’s theory, based on an Exodus in the 15th century BCE, was criticized by many archaeologists who set the Exodus in the 13th century BCE.

ABR is attempting to confirm this. The remains must indicate a fortified city with a gate in the north. Remains of a gate were discovered in ABR’s first year of digging. The ABR team also discovered pottery from the late bronze era.

Dr. Stripling has been directing the dig for the last three years. Dr. Stripling explained that to make their case, the evidence needed to fit certain criteria. The Biblical account describes an ambush carried out by Israelite troops hiding to the west of the city, hiding nearby but out of sight.

He instructed them as follows: “Mind, you are to lie in ambush behind the city; don’t stay too far from the city, and all of you be on the alert” Joshua 8:4

Dr. Stripling believes the Israelite troops hid in Wadi Sheban, a dry wash to the west of the site. To verify the plausibility of this theory,  three members of the ABR excavation team equipped with backpacks ran from the dry wash to the location, arriving in exactly five minutes. It should be noted that et-Tell does not have any such location to the west capable of concealing troops.

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Such remarkable results do not come easily and conditions in what Stripling refers to as “the Wild West” were basic in the best of times.

“There were 14 years of difficult digging with an 8-year hiatus due to the Intifada,” Dr. Stripling said, describing a site with no running water or bathrooms. “We suffered from constant vandalism. But we persevered and did an excellent job of excavating.”

And hopefully, the hard work paid off. Dr. Stripling is currently preparing to present his findings for publication later this year, presenting what he describes as “compelling evidence” for his case.

ABR is also excavating Shilo where the tabernacle stood for 369 years.

“This gives us a regional perspective, an overview of what was happening in the highlands of Israel in antiquity,” Stripling explained. “We can see the transitions of the culture.”

Dr. Stripling is aware of those who dispute his claim and notes that the cause may be a trend towards secularism in the field of archaeology. The source of this trend, he claims, are in the roots of archaeology.

“Allbright was a genius and a believer. He had a religious background but he was not finding archaeological evidence to support an Exodus in the 15th century BCE,” Dr. Stripling explained. “But you have to understand, at the time, they had explored a tiny amount, less than one percent of what we have explored since.”

“Allbright then went on to train the next generation of archaeologists, giants in the field like Yigal Yadin. That next generation had already jettisoned the original 15th-century date for the Exodus and set it in the 13th century. The third generation already began to view it as pejorative to be described as a Biblical archaeologist.”

(Courtesy Dr Scott Stripling)

Dr. Stripling related how he once lectured a group of Ph.D. students at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus whom he described as “the future leaders of archaeology.” Dr. Stripling taught about his methods including his referring to the Biblical text.

“After the lecture, they lined up to talk to me, to shake my hand,” Stripling said. “They thanked me, saying that I was the first person who had taught them while using the Bible. Like me, they used texts from Egypt and Mesopotamia, but I was the only one who referred to the Bible.”

Dr. Stripling expressed great respect for the archaeologists he has worked with in Israel but believes there is an unjustified “anti-Bible” bias in the field.

“Even if you dispute the historical reliability of the Bible, which I would take issue with, you can’t deny the hundreds of synchronisms between the archaeological data and the Biblical text.”

Dr. Stripling remains optimistic.

“There are a handful of believers and we are hoping to raise up a new generation of Biblical archaeologists,” Dr. Stripling said.  

“My work in archaeology in Israel has affected me profoundly as a believer,” I already believed in the Bible but as the years go by and I have seen hundreds of examples of synchronization between the material culture we are excavating and what I read in the text. This is a constant reminder that there is a God and that he left a record of his work in history. It is an incredible honor to lead this work.”

Dr. Stripling quoted as his inspiration a verse in Psalms.

Your servants take delight in its stones, and cherish its dust. Psalms 102:15

“Archaeology helps establish our Christian roots in Judaism, in the very soil of Israel,” Dr. Stripling concluded.

ABR encourages people who wish a hands-on experience searching for Biblical clues to volunteer at one of their digs in the summer. Additional information can be found on their website.

Iran Threatens Tel Aviv; Netanyahu Warns Revolution Celebrations Could be Last

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 05:22

As part of Iran’s celebrations commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the Deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) political bureau Yadollah Javani said the Jewish state would suffer if America struck Iran.

“The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets. But if they attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” said Javani, according to state news agency IRNA, and reported by Reuters.

“Islamic Iran has reached a level… to protect its borders by effective military capabilities, and firmly punish any aggressor,” said Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif, spokesman for the IRGC.

In response to the threat, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a strong statement against Iranian aggression.

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“I do not ignore the threats of the Iranian regime, but neither am I intimidated by them. If this regime makes the awful mistake of trying to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa, it will not succeed. However, this would be the last anniversary of the revolution that they celebrate. They should take this into account.”

Iran’s leaders spoke at a rally marking the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of the Shah – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – in 1979 and the imposition of an Islamic theocracy. The effects of the end of centuries of monarchic rule are still being felt in both Iran and the region.

The celebrations included several instance of muscle flexing, including the launch and test of new missiles, which would put Israel squarely within precise range of the Iranian armed forces.

Chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” can often be heard at these kinds of rallies.

Despite the show of national solidarity, Iran faces acute economic distress, following U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s imposition of sanctions.

Israel Responds to West Bank and Gaza Incidents

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 04:46

IDF, Shin Bet, and border police arrested 22 wanted Palestinian suspects overnight Monday. The arrests were made connection with terrorism-related incidents against civilians and soldiers.

Rep. Omar to Share Stage with Official who Praised Killing Jews

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 03:53

Despite battling accusations of antisemitism, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) is due to speak this month at a fundraising event alongside a senior charity official who has published social-media posts praising the killing of Jews.

Islamic Relief USA is hosting a fundraising dinner for aid to Yemen on Feb. 23. Omar is due to speak alongside senior Islamic Relief USA official Yousef Abdallah, who was widely criticized in 2017 after the Middle East Forum found that he had expressed violently anti-Semitic ideas on his social-media accounts.

Abdallah, who serves as Islamic Relief USA’s “operations manager,” shared a “very beautiful” modernized version of a Palestinian folk story about a resistance hero named Zharif al-Tawl, who took revenge against Jewish “gangs” that had purportedly attacked a Palestinian village by providing guns to “kill more than 20 Jews” and “fire rockets at Tel Aviv.

Other posts referred to Jews as “stinking,” and claimed that “the Jews put the outside wall of Al Aqsa [the mosque in Jerusalem] on fire.”

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Abdallah also “Liked” a comment on his Facebook post that calls on God to wreak “revenge on the damned rapists Zionists. O God they are no challenge for you. Shake the Earth beneath their feet and destroy them as you destroyed the peoples of ʿĀd, Thamud and Lot.”

And in 2014, after Republican politician Chris Christie apologized for referring to the West Bank and Gaza as “occupied,” Abdallah wrote: “Christie kneels down on his knees before the Jewish lords and says ‘I am sorry.’ Only money makes stuff like this happen. Mr. Christie. Muslims should remember this very well.”

Islamic Relief USA has previously defended its senior officials’ antisemitism, claiming that their comments had been mistranslated. However, Islamic Relief USA refused to provide alternative translations and refused to comment on the fact that some of the antisemitism was expressed plainly in English.

Founded in 1984, the Islamic Relief franchise is managed by Islamic Relief Worldwide, its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Today, Islamic Relief is one of the largest Islamic charities in the world, but the franchise is increasingly facing questions from governments across the globe about its connections to extremism and terror.

Iran Deceived US Intelligence Community

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 03:25

On Jan. 30, U.S. President Trump criticized the U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, released n Jan. 29, 2019, tweeting that it is “naive” about the danger posed by Iran. MEMRI research in recent years shows that the Iranian regime deceived the American intelligence community a number of times; the MEMRI reports are based on openly available information released by the Iranians. The following are four examples:

The plutonium reactor at Arak

The Iranian regime deceived the United States, the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about shutting down the plutonium reactor at Arak, as it was required to do under the JCPOA. 

Ali Akbar Salehi, director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) and a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, revealed in a Jan. 22, 2019 interview that Iran had deceived the Americans and Europeans about the shutdown of the reactor, saying that Iran had not filled the reactor core with cement, but had filled only external pipelines.

He said: “We have been saying for three years now that we did not pour cement into the pit of the Arak heavy water reactor. If we had, the Arak heavy water reactor would have been ruined.” He also revealed that the Iranians had secretly purchased other pipes to replace the cement-filled ones and boasted that only one other person in Iran had been party to the deception: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Had the other side known about the deception, he added, they would have demanded that the Iranians fill the replacement pipelines with cement as well.

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Salehi revealed the deception at Arak in other interviews as well: in a Jan. 15, 2019 interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency, and in an Aug. 22, 2017 television interview (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1341, Head Of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization: Only External Pipelines Of Arak Reactor Were Filled With Cement, Its Core Was Not; Within Five Days, We Can Begin Enriching Uranium To 20%, Sept. 1, 2017).

‘Fatwa’ by Supreme Leader Khamenei bans development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons

The Obama administration espoused this alleged fatwa, despite the fact that no such fatwa exists, and no U.S. intelligence element ever addressed the fact that this fatwa does not exist. There would have been no secrecy constraints on stating that it does not exist.

The military dimension of the Iranian nuclear program

The IAEA revealed in a quarterly report in 2011 that Iran’s nuclear activity had a military dimension until 2003 and that some nuclear-weapons development activity could still be ongoing in 2011. Iran consistently refused to respond to all IAEA questions on the matter about these suspicions and because of its refusal to fully cooperate with the IAEA, there were six U.N. Security Council resolutions against it, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. The Obama administration, with IAEA cooperation, set out a framework for cooperation with Iran to close this Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) file.

American intelligence elements never publicly mentioned these suspicions, and thus allowed the file to be closed, according to the wishes of the White House. 

The JCPOA’s flaw: Inspections of Iranian military and other sites not allowed

The JCPOA does not allow physical inspections at Iranian military camps or at other sites that the Iranian regime has not declared as nuclear sites. U.S. intelligence elements have never mentioned the fact that their assessments are lacking because of this.

A Blessing and a Curse

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 02:40

Israel has been blessed with unusually strong rains and even snow, helping to alleviate a five-year-long drought. Though a welcome reprieve, these blessings lead to unique challenges for Israel’s impoverished citizens.

“It’s hard for many of us to imagine that people are so poor that they cannot afford the ‘luxury’ of heat,” explained Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, administrator for Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charity, to Breaking Israel News. “While some people might take for granted a warm home or warm meal, in Israel, so many people, especially poor elderly and Holocaust survivors cannot afford heat along with food.”

Israel’s cold can penetrate more severely for several reasons. Firstly, apartments are built with cement walls and stone floors and are often poorly sealed. This leads to inside temperatures being even colder than outside ones.

Additionally, heat is supplied by either air-conditioning units which blow warm air, electric floor radiators or dangerous and foul-smelling kerosene heaters. Should these even be available to Israel’s struggling citizens, the price to run them is often prohibitive.

The frigid forecast has led Israel’s Ministry of Health to issue an advisory for the elderly and infirm stating: “The elderly are more susceptible to the effects of cold weather.”

As part of the Ministry’s recommendations for the elderly in the cold, they shared information about hypothermia, a condition in which body temperature drops to below 35 degrees or less, that can cause multi-system injury and increased mortality.

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“At an older age and among the elderly, the danger of exposure to cold and of hypothermia is particularly high. Even a mild drop in environmental temperature is already a risk of reduced body temperature,” the Ministry notes. “The danger presented by the cold to older adults is elevated due to a combination of bodily (physiological) and behavioral factors. Elderly persons with conditions of chronic illness and multiple medications are more vulnerable to the cold and elderly persons with poor nutrition are more vulnerable to the cold. Moreover,  there is sometimes a tendency to heat the homeless in order to save on heating costs.”

Magen David Adom rescue service notes that the elderly are the most affected by a cold snap, urging family members to remain in regular contact with elderly relatives. However, for many, especially survivors of the Holocaust, there are no family members. This places an added responsibility on social welfare and charity organizations.

For organizations like Colel Chabad, which has warmed the bodies and souls of Israel’s impoverished citizens since 1788 through its extensive network of social welfare programs and caring individuals, effective winter care requires a whole new level of planning.

“For winter, we run a Home Heating Program to help those suffering from bone-chilling cold and hunger,” explained Rabbi Lipsker. “Especially in Israel’s mountainous north and Jerusalem, poor households cannot afford heat, proper winter clothing, warm blankets or sometimes even food.”

Colel Chabad covers all the bases when it comes to their programs for helping people with dignity. Not only does its Home Heating Program provide space heaters, blankets, warm clothing, and fuel, it also subsidies electric bill payments, ensuring that Israel’s poorest citizens are cared for and warm.

“We pray that people will share their blessings with others by helping warm cold Israeli homes with their hearts and generosity,” smiled Rabbi Lipsker. “This is truly a way to turn the curse of winter weather on impoverished people into a blessing.”

To donate to Colel Chabad’s Home Heating Program, please click here.

Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.

A Cautious Alliance

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 02:00

The following overview was written in connection with a Middle East Forum conference, “Qatar: U.S. Ally or Global Menace,” taking place in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 6, 2019. To watch it live-streamed, click here.

Relations between Qatar and Iran have drawn closer in recent years, and there is reason to expect that the current closeness is set to deepen still further in the period ahead. Qatar appears set to continue to defy the demands of its fellow Gulf states Saudi Arabia and the UAE regarding Doha’s vocal support for Sunni Islamist terrorism. Continued consequent isolation makes the Iranian connection vital for Qatar.

However, the picture, as we shall see, is not straightforward. The relationship between Iran and Qatar is multi-faceted, and is also beset with contradictions. The latter derive in the main from the ambiguous regional stance of Qatar, which seeks to simultaneously maintain correct relations with the west, a deepening connection to Iran, and support for Sunni political Islam, in particular in its Muslim Brotherhood form.

The Emirate of Qatar and the Islamic Republic of Iran maintain full diplomatic relations. A key element underlying their relations is close economic cooperation. Both countries are members of OPEC. Teheran and Doha have a shared interest in the exploitation of the South Pars/North Dome Gas Condensate Field, which is located in the area adjoining both states – and which is the largest natural gas field in the world. Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and produces up to 77 million tonnes of gas each year.

In addition, the diplomatic stance favored by Qatar over the last two decades – namely support for Sunni political Islam, particularly in its Muslim Brotherhood form, and its consequent rivalry with western-aligned Gulf states such as United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – has in recent years pushed Doha towards closer relations with Iran. This latter dynamic is also influenced by Doha’s deteriorating relations with other Gulf states (deriving from its support for Islamist radicalism) and its deepening ties with Turkey over the last two years.

Relations between Iran and Qatar on the diplomatic and strategic level are not straightforward, for two reasons: Qatar is the host for the largest US air base in the Middle East, the al-Udeid base, home to 10000 US service personnel.

Also, Qatar’s support for the Sunni political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood does not make it an automatic fit for Iran, whose main support is among Shia and minority communities and which promotes its own brand of Shia political and revolutionary Islam.

This led, for example, to Iran and Qatar backing different sides in the Syrian civil war. Yet in the current period, with the Muslim Brotherhood significantly weakened on the regional level, the Syrian rebellion close to defeat, and Doha facing repercussions from its fellow GCC countries for its support for radicalism, Qatar has been moving over the last 18 months sharply in the direction of closer relations with Teheran.

Background

The nature and level of diplomatic relations between Iran and Qatar have varied since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Doha supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, sharing the consensus view maintained by Gulf states at that time. However, unlike Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which offered substantial financial support to Iraq, seeing it as a bulwark against the aggression of a non-Arab and non-Sunni power, Qatar sought to placate both parties, in order to avoid being drawn into the conflict.

Following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, Doha established full bilateral ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa subsequently became a powerful voice within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) arguing for closer Gulf relations with Iran. At this time, however, Qatar did not allow its relations with Teheran to harm its ties with fellow GCC countries. Indeed, when forced to choose – as in the ongoing dispute between UAE and Iran over ownership of the Abu Musa and Tunb islands, Qatar sided with the UAE’s position, evidently placing its ties with its fellow GCC countries at that time higher in its list of priorities than its relations with Iran.

Qatar’s strategy of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam essentially began in the mid-90s, when the launch of the al-Jazeera satellite channel made such a strategy relevant.

The Muslim Brotherhood were present in Qatar prior to this, and members of the movement formed a significant cohort among educators brought into Qatar in the 1950s and 1960s (alongside individuals of Arab nationalist persuasion). But only with the launching of al-Jazeera did the systematic strategy of using support for Brotherhood associated movements in order to build Qatar’s regional influence come into being. This strategy reached its apogee in the ‘Arab Spring‘ period of 2010-2015.

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Relations between Shia Iran and the Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be noted, are not straightforward. Common enmity towards Israel formed the basis of the strong relations built up since the early 1990s between Teheran and the Hamas movement which emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. But during the Arab Spring, the Brotherhood and Iran found themselves on separate sides, as the former, with Qatari financial aid and media support, sought to establish a rival, Sunni Islamist regional power bloc. Since this effort was a comprehensive failure, branches of the Brotherhood and Qatar have been once more seeking to draw closer to Iran, based on a common opposition to the US, Israel and the regional order. It is within this context that the currently warming relations between Qatar and Iran should be understood.

Qatar’s recent turn toward Iran

Efforts by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in mid-2017 to isolate Qatar for its support for Islamist radicalism have resulted in Qatar deepening its relations with Iran. Teheran sought to use the crisis to deepen the rift between the Gulf states. Iran kept food supplies continued to be sent to Qatar from the port of Bushehr, enabling Doha to avoid complete isolation. Iran sent 1,100 tons of fruit and vegetables and 66 tons of beef, to Qatar on a daily basis. On 25 June, 2017, Iranian president Rouhani denounced the “siege” on Qatar, and in a phone call with Emir Tamim, said that “Tehran will stand by Qatar’s government”.

The volume of trade between the countries has subsequently grown rapidly. Qatar has also been able to use Iranian airspace (at a price). The intervention of Iran has enabled Qatar to resist attempts by Saudi Arabia and UAE to cause it to desist from support for terrorist and radical Islamist organizations, or to cease its propaganda against other Gulf states via al-Jazeera.

In return, Qatar has made clear that it will take no part in sanctions or other efforts against Iran. Qatari Defense Minister Khalid al Attiyah in June 2018 expressed Qatar’s objections to any campaign against Iran in the following terms: “Is it wise to call the United States and to call Israel to go and fight Iran? … Whether any third party is trying to push the region or some country in the region to start a war in Iran, this will be very dangerous… Iran is next door. We should call Iran, put all the files on the table and start to discuss to bring peace rather than war.’ Attiyah in this speech also affirmed Qatar’s continued support for the JCPOA.

The economic dimension

As noted above, Qatar’s stance toward Iran is also informed by economic considerations. The South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate Field holds an estimated 1,800 trillion cubic feet (51 trillion cubic metres) of in-situ natural gas and some 50 billion barrels (7.9 billion cubic metres) of natural gas condensates. This makes it the largest natural gas field in the world. Indeed, it has almost as much recoverable gas reserves as all other natural gas fields in the world combined.

North Dome is the part of the field that Qatar is developing, and consists of two thirds of the entire field. South Pars is being developed by Iran and covers the remaining third of the field. In April 2017, Qatar ended a 12 year moratorium on the development of the North Dome field.

Qatar hopes to increase gas export capacity by a third in the period ahead. This gives Doha an added incentive not to take part in actions against Iran, which could provoke the revival of old disputes by Teheran regarding the division of the field, or even in more extreme circumstances Iranian disruption of Qatari production and exports and blocking of further development. In such a situation, Qatar would be essentially defenceless against Iran.

Conclusion

Qatar’s attempt to raise its regional profile through the backing of radical, particularly Sunni Islamist forces, has succeeded in enabling Doha to punch above its weight diplomatically, but it has produced little of lasting tangible impact. Doha’s confrontational and unorthodox approach has also triggered a determined response from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, at a time when it would be in the interest of the Gulf monarchies to stand together against both the looming threat of Iran and the ongoing challenge of Sunni political Islam, in both its Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi jihadi manifestations.

Qatar’s regional strategy is based on precarious and contradictory foundations. The emirate suppresses Islamist activity within its own territory, while partnering with Islamist forces elsewhere – not because of a deep or genuine affiliation, but in order to inflate Qatari regional influence.

This approach is now creating major contradictions and problems for Qatar: specifically, as the US seeks to build a regional response to Iranian aggression and hegemonic ambitions, Qatar finds itself in the untenable position of wishing neither to cooperate with the US, nor to truly ally with anti-US regional forces. The contradictions and implausibility of this stance are currently manifesting themselves.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Middle East Forum

Unto the Nations: Life Lessons from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 01:00

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein not only distributed more charity for the Jewish people than anyone else in history, he brought about a revolution in Jewish-Christian relations.

Yechiel – as he liked to be called – made a powerful impression on everyone he met through his larger-than-life personality. It’s hard to fathom how much he accomplished in his much-too-short lifetime.

I clearly remember the first time I met him, shortly after my aliyah, at his Jerusalem office. His office had a coat rack, and hanging next to his navy blazer was a tallit. I had never seen a tallit hanging in an office before, and it struck me that as he was the most recognized rabbi in the world, his tallit was a part of his uniform.

Before he started the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews 35 years ago, there was mistrust, if not outright hostility, between the Christian and Jewish communities. However, through his outreach, media appearances and his books What Christians should know about Jews and Judaism and A Gift of Jewish Wisdom for Christians, Eckstein taught a new generation of Christians to embrace the Jewish people in genuine friendship.

The tallit hanging from his coat rack symbolized to me that Eckstein was that Jew whom the Prophet Zechariah described long ago: “In those days it shall come to pass that 10 men from the nations shall take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:23).

But in Yechiel’s case, he did not stop at 10 men: millions of men and women from the nations had taken hold of the corner of his tallit, for he had shown them for the first time that God is with the Jewish people.

Yechiel not only took seriously his role in teaching Christians about Jews, he also knew how to deliver a strong message to Jews about Christians.

Having achieved extravagant success in galvanizing Christian support for Israel, Yechiel earned a seat at the table of the most important Jewish organizations. His resources were behind the critical issues of our day, including the aliyah of Jews from the former Soviet Union, an initiative near and dear to his heart. However, when he felt that the Jewish community was not willing to properly recognize or show appreciation toward his Christian donors, he walked away – from the organization but not the cause. In recent years, Yechiel became even more committed to assisting aliyah.

He was adamant about teaching hakarat hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish people. He made all of Israel aware – on the airwaves and in the airport – that Christians willing to make financial sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people deserve our immense gratitude.

The fact that so many non-Jews are passionate about supporting aliyah is not something the Jewish community should be embarrassed about or try to dismiss.

Here again, Yechiel was helping facilitate the words of the Tanach: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my sign to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’” (Isaiah 49:22).

Yechiel believed that bringing non-Jews into the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel was part of our divine mandate as a nation and his personal calling.

Those of us who are trying to follow in his footsteps by working to strengthen Christian support of Israel realize that none of us would be doing what we do but for him. As such, many of us at Israel365 were especially distraught this past week at the terrible news of his sudden death.

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I WAS sharing some of my personal memories about Yechiel with my colleague Eliyahu Berkowitz who told me that out of all the people he has interviewed, no one was more personable than Yechiel.

Berkowitz once interviewed Yechiel about one of his latest initiatives, either “On Eagle’s Wings,” “Isaiah 58” or “Guardians of Israel.” However, Yechiel was more interested in hearing the details about Berkowitz’s own family. He told me that he felt like the one being interviewed and was deeply moved that Yechiel was so genuinely interested in the personal life of a stranger.

Yechiel treated everyone with such respect, but especially so when it came to Israel’s neediest and most vulnerable.

While most Israelis love celebrating our latest technology breakthroughs, Yechiel constantly reminded us that we must not forget the more than 20% of our population that lives below the poverty line. Only someone who loved his fellow Jews as much as Yechiel could have dedicated his life to building such an enormous legacy of charity and kindness.

Yechiel ’s fingerprints are all over Israel, and every Israeli has benefited in some way from his largesse. For anyone involved in Jewish-Christian relations, or for anyone who has benefited from his contributions to Israeli society, we can carry on Yechiel’s legacy by recalling some of his life lessons.

Whether we are wearing a tallit or not, we must always remember that we always represent the Jewish people and Hashem.

We must be adamant that our fellow Jews show basic appreciation toward our Christian friends.

And finally, we must not rest until all of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens are provided for.

Let us internalize these lessons from the life of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and may his memory be an eternal blessing.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

Pope Francis and His Muslim Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 00:00

The two foremost representatives of Christianity and Islam, Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—the Grand Imam of Al Azhar who was once named the “most influential Muslim in the world”—recently signed “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”   This document “forcefully rejects,” to quote Vatican News, “any justification of violence undertaken in the name of God,” and affirms “respect for believers of different faiths, the condemnation of all discrimination, the need to protect all places of worship, and the right to religious liberty, as well as the recognition of the rights of women.”

Despite all the fanfare surrounding the signing of this document—which is being portrayed as a “historic pledge of fraternity” and a “historical breakthrough”—it is hard to take it serious, to see it as anything more than a superficial show.  Why this cynicism?  Because one of these men, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, has repeatedly contradicted—if only when speaking in Arabic and appearing on Arabic media—all the lofty sentiments highlighted in the document that he signed.

For instance, it asserts that,

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action… [T]he fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.

Yet al-Tayeb is on record saying that apostates—that is, anyone born to a Muslim father who wishes to leave Islam—should be punished.  As to the penalty they deserve, in July 2016, during one of his televised programs, he reaffirmed that “Those learned in Islamic law [al-fuqaha] and the imams of the four schools of jurisprudence consider apostasy a crime and agree that the apostate must either renounce his apostasy or else be killed.”  To underscore the point, he cited a hadith, or tradition, of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, saying, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him” (Sahih Al-Bukharivol. 9 no.57).”

So much for religious freedom.

What about al-Tayeb’s views concerning the “other,” the born non-Muslim?  The document he cosigned with Francis calls for “respect for believers of different faiths, the condemnation of all discrimination, the need to protect all places of worship, and the right to religious liberty.”

Yet many liberals and Muslim reformers in Egypt insist that the “unprecedented persecution” Egypt’s Christian minority, the Copts, experience, is directly traceable to the institution al-Tayeb heads: Al Azhar.

For example, after two churches were bombed on Palm Sunday, 2017, leaving 50 Christian worshippers dead, Dr. Islam al-Behery—a popular Muslim theologian whose incessant calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that it accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, leading to his imprisonment in 2015—was interviewed on the Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”).  After offering various details concerning the radicalized curriculum of Al Azhar, he estimated that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last five years [in Egypt] is a product of Al Azhar.”

To bolster his argument, he quoted from a standard Al Azhar text that said “whoever kills an infidel, his blood is safeguarded, for the blood of an infidel and believer [Muslim] are not equal.”

Whereas al-Tayeb’s predecessor, Egypt’s former grand imam, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), had “without even being asked removed all the old books and placed just one introductory book, when al-Tayeb came,” said al-Behery, “he got rid of that book and brought back all the old books, which are full of slaughter and bloodshed.”

Similarly, Egyptian political commentator Dr. Khalid Montaser once marveled that, “at this sensitive time—when murderous terrorists rest on [Islamic] texts and understandings of takfir [accusing Muslims of apostasy], murder, slaughter, and beheading—Al Azhar magazine is offering free of charge a book whose latter half and every page — indeed every few lines—ends with “whoever disbelieves [non-Muslims] strike off his head”?

So much for the much touted and “historic” document al-Tayeb cosigned with Pope Francis, which says that “we resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.”

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Other political commentators in Egypt have noted how, despite Al Azhar’s draconian attitude concerning “infidels” and “apostates,” when asked to denounce the Islamic State as “un-Islamic,” al-Tayeb refused: “It’s amazing,” opined Egyptian talk show host Ibrahim Eissa: “Al Azhar insists ISIS are Muslims and refuses to denounce them.  Yet Al Azhar never ceases to shoot out statements accusing novelists, writers, thinkers—anyone who says anything that contradicts their views—of lapsing into a state of infidelity.  But not when it comes to ISIS!”

During another televised interview, Dr. Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and Al Azhar graduate, went one step further in exposing his alma mater:

It [Al Azhar] can’t [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic].  The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?  Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it].  Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate.  Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc.  Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extortion, “protection money” demanded of non-Muslims subjects].  Al Azhar teaches stoning people.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?

Similarly, in 2015, when the world was shocked because the Islamic State videotaped a Jordanian pilot being burned alive, Egyptian journalist Yusuf al-Husayni remarked that “The Islamic State is only doing what Al Azhar teaches.”  He too went on to quote and cite from textbooks used in Al Azhar that permit burning people alive.

Al-Tayeb’s response to all these critics has been to accuse Israel:  During a March 2018 televised Egyptian interview he said:

I have noticed that they are always telling us that terrorism is Islamic. All those mouthpieces that croak—out of ignorance or because they were told to—that the Al-Azhar curricula are the cause of terrorism never talk about Israel, about Israel’s prisons, about the genocides perpetrated by the Zionist entity state….  If not for the abuse of the region by means of the Zionist entity, there would never have been any problem.

Such, apparently, is the true face of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—at least as he is known in his Egyptian homeland, where he speaks Arabic freely and plainly, as opposed to when “dialoguing” with naïve Western leaders who are all too eager to believe what they want to hear.  As the Cairo Institute for Human Rights explained in a statement:

In March 2016 before the German parliament, Sheikh al-Tayeb made unequivocally clear that religious freedom is guaranteed by the Koran, while in Cairo he makes the exact opposite claims….  Combating terrorism and radical religious ideologies will not be accomplished by directing at the West and its international institutions religious dialogues that are open, support international peace and respect freedoms and rights, while internally promoting ideas that contribute to the dissemination of violent extremism through the media and educational curricula of Al Azhar and the mosques.

It is for all these reasons that al-Tayeb’s signature on “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” is not worth the paper it is written on.

And if Sheikh al-Tayeb is a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing, Pope Francis is apparently a starry-eyed shepherd leading—or at least leaving—his flock to the slaughter.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim

MICAH 4:4

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 10:39

Figs are one of the seven agricultural species that are special products of the Land of Israel. They are first mentioned in the Bible in the beginning of Genesis(3:7), when Adam and Chava (Eve) cover their nakedness with fig leaves. The Talmud compares the Torah itself to a fig tree. Just as one always finds figs on the tree since the fruits do not all ripen at the same time, similarly, one will always find new flavor in the Torah he is studying. During King Solomon’s reign, all of Israel lived in safety, “everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree” (I Kings 5:5), a phrase that indicates national prosperity and also demonstrates that, in biblical tradition, the fig tree serves as a symbol of peace and tranquility. In this verse, the prophet Micha promises the same peace and tranquility in the time of the redemption.

Heal O’ Israel, Wax on Apples is Not Harmful to Health

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:00

I live in Belgium and like to eat around four apples a day. Recently, our agriculture ministry decided to prohibit the use of wax to make apple shiny. Other countries in Europe have not done this. Is there any danger to health from eating apples with wax? Should I clean them with soap, water and a brush to remove it?

Dr. Olga Raz, head of the clinical nutrition department in the Health Sciences Faculty of Ariel University in Samaria, Israel, replies:

Apples naturally develop a coat of wax when they are growing to help protect the fruit and to keep them moist and firm. Once they are picked, the apples are cleaned, removing this natural coat of wax. Often, a food-grade wax is applied to replace the naturally occurring wax to provide the same benefits, including a nice glossy shine.

There are two main types of food-grade wax products that are used to coat apples – one based on carnauba wax and the other on shellac. Because of their excellent properties in making food look shiny, carnauba and shellac are also used in other food products, including chocolate and confectionery.

Shellac comes from a secretion of the lac bug – a beetle that is found in Thailand and India. Shellac is not actually part of the beetle itself – so you’re not eating beetles when you eat shellac – it’s a secretion from the beetle that the females use to protect her eggs. Food-grade shellac produces a really shiny finish on apples. Around 85% of the apple waxes used in Australia are shellac-based.

Carnauba wax comes from the palm tree Copernicia prunifera that is grown only in Brazil. It comes from the dried leaves. While it is not as shiny as shellac, it is more stable under a wider variety of humidity and temperature conditions. 

The waxes with which apples are coated are almost invisible to the eye. Only one or two drops of wax are used to cover a whole apple.

Both products are also approved all over the world including in the US, Britain and Europe. In a 2012 review of the safety of carnauba wax, the European Food Safety Authority stated that: “the use of carnauba wax as a food additive with the currently authorized uses [including the waxing of apples] would not be of safety concern.”

The European Union is refusing to accept apples treated with a wax containing morpholine or other amines, which means U.S. packers exporting to Europe need to switch to other types of wax or no wax at all.

It  may be that the Belgian government prohibited the import of waxed apples about seven years ago when an independent laboratory test revealed morpholine residues of two parts per million on waxed apples exported from Chile. The European Food Safety Authority classifies morpholine as an unapproved food additive and the fruit was recalled from supermarkets.

Morpholine, an emulsifier, helps make wax glossy and is approved as a wax ingredient in other parts of the world, including the US, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. The total ban of waxing apples could a matter of cultural biases.

You can wash the wax off apples by very gently rubbing them under lukewarm water with a soft brush. Don’t use hot water or detergent because they will ruin your apples. In fact, there is no reason to remove the wax from your apples because all the waxes are food grade – so they are totally edible.

There is no need to peel waxed apples, as the skin contains valuable nutrients that are only present in this layer. If you peel your apples you miss out on all this goodness. If you don’t want wax, you can buy unwaxed apples.

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My sister-in-law prepared curried chicken in coconut cream, and it was delicious. I looked at the can and found that the cream contained 24% saturated fat! My husband is diabetic, and I am a bit overweight. I was wondering whether eating foods with coconut cream (or coconut milk) occasionally would harm our health. B.P., Ramat Gan, Israel

Dr. Olga Raz also answers this query:

Coconut cream is indeed a very fattening and not very healthful food. If you eat it once in a time, your body will “forgive” you, but I don’t recommend that you cook with it often.

I know that there are commercial sites on the Internet that claim coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut cream “treat” all kinds of diseases, including cancer, but no such thing has been proven, so I recommend that you treat this idea with a skepticism and a grain of salt.

 

My three children aged four to 12 frequently get colds. My mother believes in all kinds of folk remedies and insists that I give them to the children, but I don’t believe that anything can really prevent them except washing hands with soap and water, airing out rooms and keeping onc’s distance from others with colds. I also don’t believe that anything can stop a cold. Who is right? V.T., Helena, Montana, US

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments:

You are correct. At least half of parents try non-evidence-based cold prevention methods for their children, according to a new survey conducted at the University of Michigan. They still believe “folklore strategies” or use vitamins or supplements for cold prevention that are not scientifically supported.

Things like taking vitamin C to keep the germs away and never going outside with wet hair to avoid getting a cold have not been proven effective.

Over half of parents, according to the survey, give their child an over-the-counter vitamin or supplement to prevent colds, even without evidence that they work. Fully 71% of parents also say they try to protect their child from catching a cold by preventing them from going outdoors with wet hair or encouraging them to spend more time indoors.

Colds are caused by viruses spread most frequently from person to person. The most common mechanism is from mucous droplets from the nose or mouth that get passed on through direct contact or through the air by sneezing or coughing and landing on the hands and face, or on surfaces such as door handles, faucets, countertops and toys.

There is no evidence that giving a child Vitamin C, multivitamins or other products advertised to boost the immune system is effective in preventing the common cold, the researchers said. On average, school-age children experience three to six colds per year, with some lasting as long as two weeks.

If you want an Israeli expert to answer your medical questions, write to Breaking Israel News health and science senior reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at judy@israel365.com with your initials, age, gender and place of residence and details of the medical condition, if any.

Psalm 150, Kol HaNeshama

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 08:32

Psalm 150: Praise God in His Sanctuary Praise Him in the Heavens of His power Praise Him for his mighty acts Praise Him for His abundant greatness Praise Him with the blast of a shofar Praise Him with lyre and harp Praise Him with Drum and Dance Praise Him with organ and flute Praise Him with high sounding symbols, praise him with sounds of trumpets All souls praise will praise God. Halleluyah

How did the prophets of Israel start their mornings and begin their days? There’s an ancient Jewish spiritual practice that realigns us and launches us into every morning. This practice was passed down throughout the ages as an introduction to the morning prayers called “Psukei D’Zimra”- ‘Passages of Song.’