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Holocaust Survivor Tells Children of Being Taken in By Christian Ukrainians

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 06:08

Henry Friedman, born in 1928 to a Jewish family in Brody, Poland, went into hiding in the village of Suchowola where two different Christian Ukrainian families helped them.

Learn more about Henry Friedman and the Holocaust Center of Seattle! Website: https://www.holocaustcenterseattle.org Henry’s story: https://www.holocaustcenterseattle.or…

Israeli Archaeologist Reconstructs Thorax of Neanderthal “Moshe”

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 05:09

When you think of Neanderthals, images of barrel-chested, hunched-over cavemen tend to spring to mind. But that’s not the case, according to new research published recently in the journal Nature Communications and conducted in Israel, Spain and the United States.

The researchers, led by Ella Been of Israel’s Ono Academic College, did the first 3D virtual reconstruction of the ribcage of the most complete Neanderthal skeleton unearthed to date.

That skeleton was found in 1983 in the Kebara Cave in Israel’s Carmel mountain range and is estimated at between 59,000 and 64,000 years old. Neanderthals lived in Eurasia sometime between 450,000 years ago and 45,000 years ago.

Ventral view of the reconstructed thorax of “Moshe.” Photo credits: A. Gómez-Olivencia, A. Barash and E. Been

The researchers, who dubbed the skeleton “Moshe” after Israeli archeologist Moshe Stekelis, focused on the shape and dimensions of the Neanderthal thorax – the rib cage, sternum and upper spine – which forms a cavity to house the heart and lungs.

“The shape of the thorax is key to understanding how Neanderthals moved in their environment because it informs us about their breathing and balance,” says Asier Gómez-Olivencia, a paleontologist at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, who participated in the research.

The most surprising finding: Neanderthals not only didn’t walk hunched over, they stood up taller than modern humans with a straighter spine and an entirely different rib structure.

In Neanderthals, the ribs connect to the spine in an inward direction, which forces the chest cavity outward. The lumbar curve that is part of the modern human skeletal structure is mostly missing.

This rib arrangement, along with a lower thorax that is wider than in modern humans, allowed Neanderthals to rely more on the movement of the diaphragm for breathing. Modern humans breathe both by moving the diaphragm and expanding the rib cage.

As a result, it appears that Neanderthals could breathe in more deeply without requiring a larger chest or lungs than modern humans, as had previously been assumed.

The cast of the Kebara Cave skeleton as it was found in Israel. Photo by J. Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films

The thorax and rib arrangement found in the Neanderthal skeleton would also have placed “the spine more inside the thorax, which provides more stability,” says Prof. Patricia Kramer of the University of Washington’s department of anthropology.

“The differences between a Neanderthal and a modern human thorax are striking,” says Markus Bastir, senior research scientist at the Laboratory of Virtual Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History in Spain.

Who was Moshe?

The 3D virtualization was a painstaking process.

“We had to CT scan each vertebra and all of the rib fragments individually and then reassemble them in 3D,” explains Alon Barash of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

“Neanderthals are closely related to us with complex cultural adaptations much like those of modern humans, but their physical form is different from us in important ways,” Been added. “Understanding their adaptations allows us to understand our own evolutionary path better.”

What does all this mean for how “Moshe” lived? For what physical demands did he need such powerful lungs? What does it tell us about how Moshe moved and the environment in which he lived? Did any of Moshe’s physical traits make him more or less adaptive to the climate change happening in Eurasia during the Neanderthal period?

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The researchers will turn their investigation to these questions next.

The team previously looked at the shape of the Neanderthal spine in 2016, with research published in the book Human Paleontology and Prehistory. The new virtualization was the first time they had done a 3D work-up on the thorax.

The remains of Moshe are housed at Tel Aviv University.

UN Condemns Israel Through six Resolutions in one day

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 03:47

The United Nations on Friday continued its streak of frequently condemning the Jewish state, passing six anti-Israel resolutions.

The first, titled “The Syrian Golan,” passed with 100 votes in favor, 12 against and 62 abstentions. For a second consecutive year, the United Kingdom broke with the European Union to vote against it, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and a few others.

According to the nongovernmental organization U.N. Watch, which monitors anti-Israel bias at the world body, the measure is “oblivious to genocidal massacres taking place now in Syria, and its security implications for Israel and the civilians of the Golan Heights,” and it “ignores Syria’s history of shelling Israeli communities, its leader’s calls for a ‘war of annihilation’ against Israel and Syria’s 1967 aggression that led to its loss of the territory.”

The second, titled “Jerusalem,” was adopted with 148 votes in favor, 11 against and 14 abstentions. Israel and the United States were joined by Canada, Australia, Guatemala and six others to vote against.

According to U.N. Watch, this resolution “implies that Israeli administration of Jerusalem hinders freedom of religion when in fact the opposite is true—before 1967, Jordan destroyed Jewish holy sites and denied access to Jews, while under Israel all faiths have access to the city and enjoy full freedoms.”

The third, titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat,” which appropriates U.N. funds for anti-Israel purposes, passed with 96 votes in favor, 13 against and 64 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, Moldova, Hungary, Honduras, Guatemala and others voted against it.

“The DPR serves the biased special committee and is dedicated to spreading anti-Israel propaganda the world over,” said U.N. Watch. “Its 16-member staff is grossly disproportionate to the U.N.’s other four divisions which cover enormous geographical regions.”

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The fourth, “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat,” was adopted with 152 votes in favor, eight against and 14 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, Guatemala and a few others voted against the resolution.

“The program eschews a balanced approach by overtly choosing the Palestinian over Israeli narrative, ignoring terrorism against Israeli men, women and children, and other daily realities of Israeli life,” stated U.N. Watch. “Resources devoted to anti-Israel propaganda are taken away from other worthy causes.”

The fifth, “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine,” passed 156 votes in favor, eight against and 12 abstentions. The United States, Israel Canada and Australia and four others voted against the measure, which solely blames Israel for no peace in the area.

The final resolution, “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” was adopted 100 votes in favor, 12 against and 62 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Australia, Canada and Hungary joined several other countries to vote against the resolution.

This committee invited Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill to speak on Wednesday, where he advocated for “a Free Palestine From the River to the Sea,” in addition to making other anti-Israel comments. Hill was fired by CNN as a contributor the next day.

A Month Post-Synagogue Shooting, Can Washington Protect Religious Institutions?

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 03:22

In the wake of this shooting and many other religiously motivated attacks, a serious division has formed around a singular question: should federal dollars be used in the protection of religious institutions?

Prophecy Being Fulfilled As Christians Support Israel’s Biblical Heartland

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 02:44

Since the days before email existed, Sondra Oster Baras, Director of Christian Friends of Israel Communities (CFOIC Heartland)’s Israel Office, has been advocating for the Biblical heartland communities of Yehuda (Judea) and the Shomron (Samaria).

While Sondra and her Jewish colleagues were raising their voices against the Oslo accords in the early 1990s, a philanthropic Christian Zionist family convinced the now-defunct Jewish organization for which Baras worked to help them educate Christians about life in Judea and Samaria.

“We prepared materials. They used the materials to give talks in churches. I would take them around when they visited Israel,” Baras explained about the early days.

When the Jewish organization that hosted this Christian partnership closed in the late 1990s, the Christian family supporters helped Baras establish CFOIC Heartland as an independent organization. “They provided funding for the first two years. I built the foundation and created the organization and started networking in the Christian Zionist world.”

By 2000, initial financial support had concluded. That turned out to be a blessing because, as Baras explained to Breaking Israel News, “I was free to find a broad base of funding.”

Twenty years later, CFOIC Heartland has raised millions of dollars for projects in communities all over Judea and Samaria. At any given time, they are promoting as many as 70 different humanitarian projects, such as building playgrounds, providing food and dental care for needy families, helping the elderly pay their heating bills, helping communities buy surveillance cameras and other security equipment, funding special education programs for severely handicapped children and much more.

According to Baras, 99.9% of CFOIC’s donors are Christians. Baras is the Jewish partner, based in Israel. Kim Troup is her US-based Christian counterpart. Part of what makes CFOIC distinctive, claimed Baras, is that, “Everything in Israel is Jewish. Everything outside of Israel is Christian. Messages coming from Israel are spoken by Jews. Many other organizations don’t have the same direct relationship between Christians and Jews the way we do.”

Funding projects in Judea and Samaria is only one of the ways CFOIC Heartland nurtures those relationships.

The second pillar of their work involves bringing Christian groups to Jewish communities and to historical and Biblical sites in the area. They can tailor a visit to Judea and Samaria for anywhere between 90 minutes and five days, depending on the needs of the group.

Baras wants to, “enable [Christian visitors] to understand, in the most authentic way, what the communities look like. We want them to listen to people who explain their motivation, which is rooted in faith and in the Bible, for living here.”

Visitors learn how security operates in the community, what a preschool looks like and how the residents share “a real commitment to ideology. The Bible becomes your history book, even if you’re a secular Jew. This is eye-opening for Christians. It offers them a whole other dimension to the Bible.”

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The communities obviously benefit from Christian support for their local projects, but Baras explained, “It’s a mutual benefit. Their connection with Israel is very Biblical. They are seeking a better understanding of their Bible. Coming to Israel and coming to communities, meeting people whose daily life is motivated by Biblical considerations, is enormously inspirational.

“They better understand the relationship of Jews and the Land and they come to understand that we have a lot in common. As in any healthy relationship,” she emphasized, “both sides win.”

Visitors can tour communities in Judea and Samaria with CFOIC Heartland directly or on an upcoming Prophecy Tour with Israel365 and Yeshiva for the Nations, which includes CFOIC Heartland visits in their tours.

The third pillar of CFOIC’s work, beyond fundraising and tourism, is education. “These are three goals that are interrelated. We are really doing all three things at the same time,” Baras commented.

She frequently shares with Christian groups what she calls her Judea and Samaria 101 talk. “The whole Bible teaching started out as a natural basis for teaching about Judea and Samaria. My Judea and Samaria 101 talk is 80% Bible.

“The Jewish people didn’t wake up one day saying ‘Jews are connected to the Land of Israel’. The whole story, the history and the destiny of the Jewish people, is geared toward the idea that we were there and we are coming back.”

Her Bible teachings were so popular that her Christian students encouraged her to prepare a teaching on the weekly Torah portion.

As technology developed, Baras filmed a 30-minute Torah teaching in her home on Fridays, in-between cooking, doing laundry and getting ready for Shabbat. Eventually, she filmed an annual cycle of teachings on the Torah portion for Christian audiences in cooperation with a Texas-based television station.

Today Baras’ Torah portion talks are collected in a book called Shabbat Shalom. In the future, these teachings will also be available through Yeshiva for the Nations.

“Now when I go speak to a new group, I always end up with the Bible-based message about why we belong in Judea and Samaria. The core is always the Biblical teaching. When I return to an audience, I’ll do a quick update and then a hard core Biblical teaching.

“I always keep the message oriented around Israel, because that’s the most important thing we’re dealing with today. And it’s what binds Jews and Christians.”

Baras and her team are very clear about asking Christians to “restrain from evangelizing activity in regard to Jews. They want to be part of building Israel in fulfillment of prophecy. They understand that to be part of that, they cannot come with an agenda and offend the Jews. No Christian has to change their theology. Some are willing to set their evangelizing agenda on hold. That’s a huge step for a Christian.

“The Christians who love what we’re doing become spiritually enriched by encountering Jews who are living out our beliefs. We’re living in a time where Jews in Israel live out Biblical prophecy. We believe that developing the Land of Israel and fulfilling the destiny of the Jewish people is the beginning of the redemption.

“We are an inspiration for them, especially because we’re rooted in the same Bible as they are,” Baras concluded.

The Russians and the Kerch Bridge: What Would Reagan Do?

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 02:00

Every story has a starting point. Don’t start with the Russian capture this week of two (or three) Ukrainian ships and the injury to three (or six) Ukrainian sailors.  The Russian habit is to do as it likes with smaller countries and then announce that the other guy did it (or it never happened at all).  That is the story of the Russian war in Ukraine and the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, and that is the Russian story of the Ukrainian ships – two ships, not three, three injured not six; anyhow, Ukraine was sailing out of its lane.

Start instead with the bridge over the narrow Kerch Strait that opened earlier in 2018.  It is the only entrance to the Azov Sea from the Black Sea, spanning the Taman Peninsula in Russia and the Kerch Peninsula in Crimea.  Earlier plans for the bridge were completed between Russia and Ukraine, but that was before the Russians occupied Crimea.  There is an agreement for Ukrainian passage to its two ports along the Azov Sea, but Ukraine has complained that the bridge is the beginning of a blockade that would ultimately control or end Ukrainian shipping.  There have been delays for Ukrainian ships passing through, sometimes days, and oh, by the way, the bridge is very low – nearly flat – over the water, meaning that Ukrainian ships over 115 feet can’t pass at all.  And now there is a Russian ship parked under the bridge, blocking traffic.

It is estimated that Ukrainian shipping through the strait is down nearly 25% since the bridge opened – as the Ukrainians feared and as the Russians planned.

Now what?

Neither the U.S. nor NATO has an obligation here – Ukraine is not a member – but freedom of navigation is one of the defining principles of international law.  The U.S. faces countries chipping at the edges of it elsewhere – China in the South China Sea and Iran in the Persian Gulf, with plans for Yemen on the Red Sea.  Giving Russia a pass will make the other cases more difficult.

WWRRD?  What would Ronald Reagan do?

During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Iran attacked Kuwaiti, then other Gulf State, then other non-combatant tankers and merchant ships.  Shortly thereafter, Iraq took the same steps.  In 1986, Kuwait asked to have the U.S. Navy escort its tankers as protection, but U.S. law forbids escorting civilian vessels under a foreign flag.  So the ships were reregistered and reflagged, and both Iran and Iraq decided that the cost of attacking American-flagged ships outweighed the benefits.  The operation lasted until late in 1987.

President Donald Trump has proven, as Ronald Reagan did, that he is willing to take measures commensurate with the scope of an international problem.

In 2017, Russia’s ally Syria used poison gas on rebel territory.  Unlike the Obama administration before it, which had failed to uphold the international norm against chemical weapons use, the Trump administration struck at Shayrat air base from which the raids took place.  The Jewish Policy Center wrote at the time:

The first Russian response – after a furious announcement that they were tearing up the deconfliction agreement with the U.S. in Syria (they quickly thought better of it) – was to report that planes had flown from the base, so the U.S. attack had been a failure.  Not so.  Photos from the UK Daily Mail clearly show that hangars, fuel storage, airplanes, and service buildings were destroyed, confirming the Pentagon’s assessment.  An Israeli report indicated that 58 of 59 Tomahawks hit.  Flying some planes to al Shayrat and rolling them down abandoned runways is typical Russian obfuscation – the planes didn’t come from there, can’t stay there, can’t be maintained there, and can’t be refueled there.  As punishment, the strike was a success.

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The strike was designed not for “regime change” or to end the Syrian civil war, but to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, its protector Russia, and its banker Iran.  It set a precedent later, when Syria tried it again and received commensurate punishment.  That is how norms are upheld.

Freedom of navigation is the same.  During the Obama administration, the Iranian navy had been harassing U.S. ships with impunity, including boarding a cargo ship flying the flag of the U.S. Marshall Islands in 2015 and capturing two U.S. navy vessels and detaining the crews in 2016.  In 2017, the Iranians recalculated the relative costs and benefits of angering President Trump, and the incidents declined dramatically.  There has been none such reported in 2018.

These are not easy things for a president to decide to do.  American lives were at risk during the reflagging and the bombing raids in Syria; they are at risk today in U.S. Navy exercises in the South China Sea.  The job for the administration is to have Russia – and China and Iran – understand that freedom of navigation is a principle for which the United States is prepared to take those risks.

That’s what Ronald Reagan did.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish Policy Center

While Airbnb Boycotts, Israel Builds its Diplomatic Strength

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 01:00

Airbnb’s partial boycott of Israel last week came just as the Arab world, Africa, and Eastern Europe moved closer to the Jewish state. These two diametrically opposed developments – one negative and one positive — showed that a race is on between competing global movements to determine whether Israel will sink or swim in the international area.

On the negative side, on November 19, the Silicon Valley-based tourism behemoth Airbnb announced that it is delisting Jewish-owned properties located in “Israeli settlements in the West Bank” from its website. Airbnb chose not to delist properties in the so-called “West Bank” owned by non-Jews.

Airbnb’s decision to adopt a policy that is openly discriminatory towards Jews was the result of years of lobbying and pressure from the UN Human Rights Council, which the Trump administration left in June. The UN Human Rights Council was joined in its campaign by the European Union (EU), by EU member states, and by U.S.-based foundations ideologically aligned with the hard left.

These forces, which share an aversion to nationalism, and ascribe to post-nationalist globalism, have combined since at least 2001 to achieve the goal of delegitimizing the existence of the Jewish state while legitimizing terrorism and war against Israel.

Airbnb’s move is a testament to the effectiveness of this campaign — as are the growing disenfranchisement and intimidation of pro-Israel students on college campuses; the boycotts of Israeli exports; and the mainstreaming of extremist politicians who refuse to accept the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism or Jewish self-determination.

Airbnb seemingly decided that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is so acute and horrible that it makes sense to discriminate against Israel Jews, while giving a pass to Palestinians who enact capital punishment against Palestinians who sell land to Jews and kill Jews who enter areas under their control.

Airbnb also opted to harm the economic interests of Israeli Jews while ignoring regimes that illegally and brutally control disputed areas — from Tibet, to Northern Cyprus, to the Western Sahara.

As Airbnb was striking a blow against Israel on behalf of the informal alliance of globalist anti-Jewish interests, Israel was making extraordinary gains in multiple other theaters.

Three days after Airbnb’s decision, Middle Eastern leaders convened in Rome for the MED2018 conference, organized by the Italian Foreign Ministry.

The Arab leaders assembled in Rome for the MED2018 conference, in contrast to the Western Europeans and the left, are tired of the Palestinians. The clear preference of the leaders of these states is not to boycott Israel, but to expand contacts and relations with the Jewish state. Their behavior in Rome made clear that they are unwilling to subordinate their shared interests with Israel to the Palestinians’ unappeasable animosity towards the Jewish state.

For instance, although Qatar has been one the chief sponsors of Hamas’s terror state in Gaza in the past, its foreign minister chose not to mention the Palestinians in his enumeration of the chief challenges facing the Middle East.

Oman’s foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah resonated with the basic position of the conference’s Arab participants when he called on his fellow Arab governments to “come to terms with the reality that Israel is a fact of life in the region,” and said that Israel deserves its share of “rights as well as obligations.”

(On October 26, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid an official visit to Oman – the first by an Israeli leader to the sultanate since 1996.)

In a question-and-answer session at the MED conference with Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, almost all the questions related to the threat Iran poses to the nations of the region on the one hand, and Israel’s technological advances on the other.

The events in Rome bore out positions stated off-the-record by senior Arab officials to Breitbart News in recent months. They claim that whereas for seventy years, the Arab League organized itself in opposition to Israel, the time has come for the Arab League to organize itself in opposition to Iran and Turkey, the two states those officials identified as the gravest threats facing the Arab world today.

Notably, in closed discussions, Israeli officials also increasingly acknowledge that Turkey has joined Iran as a major strategic threat to Israel.

On the heels of the MED2018 conference, on Sunday, Chad’s President, Idriss Deby, landed in Israel for a previously unannounced four-day official visit. Majority-Muslim Chad cut off its diplomatic ties with Israel in 1972. But Deby said that he views his visit as a major step towards reestablishing full diplomatic relations between his country and Israel.

Over the past two years, Netanyahu has travelled to Africa three times. In each visit he met with multiple African leaders. In his third visit – a one-day trip to Kenya –Netanayhu met with 11 African leaders in a day. All were keen to develop their agricultural and military ties with Israel.

During Deby’s visit, the Prime Minister’s office revealed that Sudan is also considering reopening diplomatic ties with Israel, and that Netanyahu will soon follow up his trip to Oman with one to Bahrain.

In South America, Brazil’s newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced days after his election on October 28 that he intends to move quickly to keep his campaign promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem and to close the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia.

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“Palestine first needs to be a state to have the right to an embassy,” Bolsonaro said on the campaign trail.

Netanyahu intends to attend Bolsonaro’s January 1 inauguration.

The Palestinians have responded with alarm to Israel’s rapid expansion of its diplomatic relations in the Arab world and beyond. But whereas the Palestinians remain a top agenda item for European leaders and leftist politicians and activists in the West, Arab leaders are unlikely to revert to their historic willingness to keep their ties to Israel captive to the Palestinians and their campaign to destroy the Jewish state.

As for Europe, the governments of Western Europe remain committed to their anti-Israel agenda, and indeed, seem continuously to escalate their diplomatic and economic warfare against Israel, both directly and through the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) they utilize as agents But many governments in central, eastern, and southern Europe are moving in the opposite direction.

Shortly after Deby landed in Israel, Czech President Milos Zeman began an official visit to Israel. The purpose of his visit was to open “Czech House” in Jerusalem. While not officially attached to the Czech embassy in Tel Aviv, Czech diplomats will be able to work out of Czech House. Zeman views the move as a step towards the relocation of the Czech embassy to Israel’s capital.

In the spring, Zeman advocated for the Czech Republic to follow the United States’ lead and move its embassy to Jerusalem, but he was overruled by the Czech prime minister, who cited pressure from the EU to retain the embassy in Tel Aviv.

In a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Zeman expressed skepticism at the desirability of Palestinian statehood.

Other Eastern European states are moving in a similar election, against the wishes of EU leaders. Earlier this month, the Jerusalem Post reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel placed heavy pressure on Romania to prevent the Romanian government from relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has worked assiduously to build ties with EU bloc countries outside the power centers surrounding Brussels. At the beginning of November, for example, Netanyahu flewto Bulgaria for a summit with the leaders of Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Serbia. He explained that he wants to work with these countries to “change the hypocritical and hostile approach of the EU” towards Israel.

Netanyahu had a similar meeting with the leaders of the three Baltic states in August. Last year, he travelled to Hungary and met with the leaders of the Visegrad countries: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. He has held several meetings along the same lines with the leaders of Greece and Cyprus.

Since Israel embarked on the failed peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, aside from Netanyahu, Israel’s leaders have believed that Israel’s diplomatic status is directly linked to the achievement of peace. That position gave the PLO effective veto power over Israel’s diplomatic initiatives. And the PLO used its power to reduce Israel’s diplomatic standing to unprecedented lows throughout the Western world.

But Netanyahu sees the world differently. In a speech a day before his visit to Oman, Netanyahu explained his view of the Palestinians’ proper place in Israel’s foreign policy calculations:

We always thought that if we solved the Palestinian problem it would open up the doors of peace with the broader Arab world. And that’s certainly true if you could do it. But it may be equally true and perhaps even truer that if you open up to the Arab world and you normalize relations with them it will open the door for an eventual reconciliation and peace with the Palestinians.

As for the wider world, Netanyahu said Sunday that he believes that Israel’s diplomatic position internationally is a function of its strength.

In his words: “Every week we see the implementation of this concept, of cultivating economic-technological strength, alongside security-intelligence strength, to receive political-diplomatic strength. This is happening before our eyes, one might say, on a daily basis.”

Netanyahu’s visionary foreign policy has made him the most successful statesman in Israel’s history. The globalist left’s increased radicalism and its concomitant hostility towards Israel is like a lit fuse that has caused Netanyahu to rush to develop ties with as many governments as possible, as quickly as possible.

The contrary developments this week with Airbnb on the one hand, and Deby and Zemano on the other, show that Israel is in a race against time to secure its position before the left rises to power again in the U.S., in Britain, and in other key Western states.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Caroline Glick

Budding West Bank Hamas Cell Aimed for Major Bloodshed

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 00:00

Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency last week announced that it had foiled an extraordinarily dangerous secret terrorist network that Hamas was building in the West Bank. The network was unusually alarming due to the scope of damage it sought to cause.

Hamas wanted to launch bomb attacks on Israeli cities, targeting shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, trains, and buses. The scope of damage being planned by the cell exceeded the potential harm that previous Hamas cells had plotted in recent years, Shin Bet found.

The attacks were to have started in early October, but Shin Bet stepped in before then.

In addition, Hamas planned use the cell to strike crowded targets in Israel in conjunction with one of the recent escalations in violence between Gazan terrorist factions and Israel.

This would have created a two front challenge for Israel, dramatically escalating the situation, and could have contributed to Hamas’s goal of gaining a ‘victory picture’ during one of those escalations.

Another unusual feature of this cell was the fact that it was orchestrated directly by Hamas’s military wing command headquarters in the Gaza Strip. Previously, West Bank cells were remotely managed by Hamas operatives who originally hailed from the West Bank and were released in the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Hamas’s military wing in Gaza embarked on an intense West Bank recruitment drive, using video chats to train terrorist recruits on how to prepare explosives, and how to select crowded targets for the planned atrocities.

According to the Shin Bet, the explosives that the recruits were learning to use were highly advanced, and more powerful than any kind of bomb plots that had formed in the West Bank to date.

Gaza and Israel have been on the brink of conflict since Hamas began organizing mass riots and infiltration attempts on the Gaza-Israel border in March. During flare ups, it engaged in intense rocket fire on Israeli civilians, drawing Israeli Air Force retaliatory strikes during rounds of fighting throughout the summer and early fall.

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others fired approximately 460 projectiles into southern Israel Nov. 12-13, raining down the most intense volley of rockets on southern Israeli civilians seen in 24 hours. Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system intercepted about 100 rockets heading for populated areas. The latest Gazan rocket attacks killed a Palestinian construction worker in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, and critically injured an Israeli woman. An additional 50 Israelis were injured in the attacks, most sustaining light shrapnel wounds.

Most of the rocket fire was directed against Israeli villages situated nearby the Gaza Strip, reflecting Hamas’s desire to control the escalation, and reserve an ability to dial down the attacks, while also threatening longer-range rocket strikes on more distant Israeli cities.

It was during such an escalation that Hamas had hoped to activate ‘the West Bank front,’ and destabilize the region. Interrogations of the suspects “revealed that Hamas in Gaza pressed the West Bank operatives to carry out the attacks as soon as possible,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The Shin Bet stressed that the latest terrorist cell “is different to known Hamas efforts in recent years, in its scope and potential for danger.”

Had the cell been able to pounce, the scope of its attacks would have created a “a new reality,” the intelligence agency warned.

In order to communicate with the West Bank recruits, Hamas exploited Gazan civilianswho received permits for live-saving Israeli hospital care, as well as other civilians who received permits to enter Israel for meetings with business partners in the West Bank, the investigation found. The civilians “were asked” to deliver messages and instructions to the West Bank terror cell recruits, according to the Shin Bet.

“This is not the first time that Hamas is exploiting the humanitarian field in order to realize military activities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” the Shin Bet said.

The September arrest of a 25-year-old Hamas member Awis Rajoub, who is a resident of the town of Dura near Hebron, led to a breakthrough that uncovered the plot.

Rajoub was arrested for allegedly carrying out missions for Hamas after he informed “a number of his friends and relatives about his terrorist activities, and involved them in purchases of means designated for the preparation of explosive devices,” Shin Bet said.

The recruitment process began when a Gazan operative invited Rajoub to join the Hamas military wing and trained him in making remote controlled bombs.

Rajoub received instructions from his Gaza handler in August, telling him to go to a medicine storage facility in Ramallah to pick up a cell phone, in order to continue communications.

Rajoub allegedly recruited two Hamas members from the village of Beit Kahil, near Hebron, who were told to identify targets in Israel and prepare the bombs. Hamas in Gaza told Rajoub to complete the cell’s preparations by the end of September, and to conduct the attack at the start of October.

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Rajoub’s handler then informed him to expect a meeting with an elderly Gazan woman, who received an Israeli permit to cross into Israel for medical treatment. That meeting occurred in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The woman passed on a pair of pants to Rajoub, which had instructions for activating the cell phone sewn into a cloth strip.

He then communicated with his Gaza handlers with the phone, receiving video instructions and video chats with a Gazan bomb assembly expert, according to the investigation.

The depth of Hamas’s West Bank cell-building activities became clearer when the Shin Bet learned that Hamas dispatched two Gazan women, one who was receiving cancer treatment, and her sister, a mother of nine, to a café in West Bank city of Ramallah. In that café, Hamas member Fouad Dar Khalil, who had served 14 years in an Israeli prison for a previous gun attack on an Israeli vehicle, and for plotting other attacks, had been working.

The Gazan women passed on a suitcase with a hidden letter from the Hamas military wing. The Shin Bet said the sisters’ departure from Gaza and transfer of the secret message “was carried with the coordination, and under the guidance, of their cousin, Muhammad Abu Kwaik, 36, a Hamas military wing operative, who is known to be in contact with terrorists and to assist them in their operations.”

The Shin Bet arrested Khalil in mid-October.

The investigation “revealed the two women were aware of the contents of the suitcase,” the Shin Bet said. During questioning, the women said they were sent to the West Bank on behalf of a Gazan Hamas militant named Ashraf Sabah, 37, who had served 12 years in an Israeli prison for severe terrorist offenses. Sabah was behind the recruitment and handling of Dar Khalil, the Shin Bet found.

A ‘West Bank HQ’ operates within the Hamas military wing in Gaza, which orchestrates Hamas activities and ultimately tries to undermine regional security with mass casualty terrorism.

Hamas’s headquarters in Lebanon, under the command of Salah al-Arouri, as well as branches in Turkey, have all been involved in past attempts to create terrorist cells in the West Bank – all stopped by Israel.

Earlier this month, Shin Bet’s chief Nadav Argaman announced that Israel thwarted 480 significant attacks in 2018 so far, including 280 shootings, 76 bomb attacks, six suicide bombings, and seven kidnapping plots.

Israel broke up 220 West Bank Hamas terrorist cells this year. Despite these figures, the latest cell to be exposed and broken up posed an even bigger than normal threat, and serves as the latest cautionary tale of Hamas’s unending efforts to use the West Bank as a launching pad for murderous terrorism.

The numbers provide a staggering reminder of the extent of the security threat Israel faces, and how deceptive the routine quiet really is.

A Shin Bet official described the latest plot as part of a “long series of attempts” by Hamas to recruiting terrorists in the West Bank and direct attacks.

Hundreds of suspects in the West Bank, including students and young women, have been arrested as part of the Shin Bet’s counter-terrorism investigations, meaning that Hamas has harmed the “fabric of life of Palestinians” in the West Bank, the official said, by enticing them into terrorism, leading to their arrest and lengthy incarceration.

Despite the multiple failures in conducting such attacks, Hamas continues to try, the official said, reflecting a strategy chosen by Hamas’s leadership to destabilize the West Bank “at any price.”

This activity “constitutes a central and dangerous element for instability and is an immediate and substantial threat to the region,” the official added.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Investigative Project on Terrorism

II SAMUEL 9:13

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 21:50

For the sake of his beloved friend Yehonatan (Jonathan), King David gives Mefiboshet a place at his table in the royal palace in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). As Yerushalayim is the city of peace, it stands to reason that this is the place where King David made such a peaceful gesture. Hashem (God) intends for Yerushalayim to be a place where all of Israel will be content with one another. To that end, the holy capital city is not the property of any one tribe. Rather, it belongs to the entire nation, and is the eternal religious and political center of the entire Jewish people. Be inspired by Jerusalem and the Land of Israel through Israel365’s Daily Inspirations devotional.

Israel Agrees $7 Billion East-Med Gas Pipeline with Italy, Cyprus, Greece

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 05:18

Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy have reached an agreement on the world’s longest underwater gas pipeline, estimated to cost nearly $7 billion, the financial website Globes recently reported.

After signing a memorandum of understanding late last year, the four countries have negotiated the details of the deal. It is expected that the deal, which calls for the laying of the pipeline with the capacity of 10 to 20 billion cubic meters of gas and will traverse 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles), will be signed in February of next year.

The European Union, which backs the deal, has spent $100 million performing feasibility studies, which have produced positive results.

According to current estimates, it will take about a year to arrange the financing for the pipeline and five years to place it. If all goes according to plan, the pipeline could be operational as soon as 2025.

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Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz originally proposed the pipeline two years ago in Abu Dhabi. The project is expected to cost NIS 25 billion ($6.7 billion) and be financed by private enterprise. Investors are expected to recoup their outlays by charging for the conveyance of the gas through the pipeline.

Although priority will be given for the export of gas from Israel and Cyprus through the pipeline to Europe, other countries will be allowed to access the pipeline if they reach an agreement with the four partners.

While questions had been raised about the economics of the pipeline, the rising price of gas in Europe has quieted some of the criticism.

“The agreement that we have drawn up will enable Israel to become an energy supplier to Europe, and that has both economic and political importance. This will be the first time ever that Israel has joined with the E.U. on any major infrastructure project,” said Steinitz.

The discovery of natural gas fields in Israeli coastal waters and plans to sell the resource to Europe have drawn Israel, Greece and Cyprus closer together diplomatically.

In May, leaders of the three nations held their fourth trilateral summit over the past two-and-a-half years.

Black Holes and the Israelis Helping to Map Gas Clouds

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:28

Black holes sound very ominous, and they are – even though no human will ever see one. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can’t escape from it. The gravity, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space; this can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, they are invisible, but space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.

Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom; these are very tiny but have the mass (an amount of matter) of a large mountain.

Another kind of black hole, called “stellar,” has a mass of up to 20 times more than that of the sun. There may be many stellar mass black holes in Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way. Fortunately, our sun will never turn into a black hole because it is not a big enough star to make one. Black holes don’t have a habit of wandering around in space gobbling up stars, moons and planets; Earth will not fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that.

Even if a black hole the same mass as the sun were to replace the sun, Earth still would not fall in. The black hole would have the same gravity as the sun. Earth and the other planets would orbit the black hole as they currently revolve around the sun.

The largest black holes, called “supermassive,” have masses of more than a million suns combined. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center. The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A. It has a mass equal to about four million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.

Scientists believe that the smallest black holes formed when the universe was created. Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernova, an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space.

There is now something new about black holes. An international team of astronomers, which includes researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU), have developed a unique method for mapping gas clouds near a black hole.

Measuring the movement of matter around the giant quasar 3C273 – 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth – allowed the scientists to determine with an unprecedented accuracy the mass of the black hole. The new method, the team said, will allow astronomers to measure the mass of additional black holes across and deep into the universe.

This astonishing and “revolutionary” discovery has just been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

Quasars are active supermassive black holes – that is, huge black holes that absorb gas from their surroundings at a dizzying pace. Using a new device called GRAVITY to observe the heart of the quasar 3C273, the team were able to directly see directly the gas surrounding the black hole.

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“More than 50 years ago, astronomer Marten Schmidt identified a very bright but very distant object, the first quasar 3C273,” explained Prof. Hagai Netzer of TAU’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who was a partner in the new observation. “The energy emitted by this object is exponentially greater than the energy emitted from the entire Milky Way galaxy, for all the 100 billion stars in it. In fact, the energy is so great that the only way to produce it is by turning gravitational energy into heat, that is, by the flow of large amounts of gas into a huge black hole.”

Quasars in particular, and supermassive black holes in general, play a central role in the history of the universe. Their rate of growth is closely related to the development of most galaxies, and it affects their shape and size. Until now, it was not possible to directly map the position and velocity of the gas clouds surrounding black holes, except for the black hole in the center of our own galaxy.

To observe the gas disc surrounding the quasar 3C273, the international research group, headed by Eckhard Sturm and Jayson Dexter of Germany’s Max Planck Institute, used the GRAVITY device. Such measurements have not been possible until now because of the tiny size of the area where the material moves, about the size of the solar system, and its greater distance – 2.5 billion light-years away.

GRAVITY, however, makes it possible to connect four giant telescopes, each eight meters in diameter, at the South European Observatory in Chile, to an array called an interferometer that has the same separation capability as a single telescope with a diameter of 130 meters. This separation capability is equivalent to the ability to measure from Earth the diameter of a two-shekel coin lying on the moon,” added Netzer.

It should be noted that measurements of a completely different type of gas clouds, based on rapid changes in the light intensity of quasars, have been taking place for years. According to Netzer, the first measurements of 3C273 in the previous method were conducted at TAU’s Wise Observatory and were published in 2000 in the doctoral dissertation of Shai Caspi (currently a TAU researcher).

“The new method, and more accurate, allows us to determine many properties, such as the exact size of the area, the direction of the movement of the gas clouds around it and the precise mass of the black hole in the center,” said Netzer. “As we measure the mass of the sun by the speed of the Earth’s rotation around the sun and its distance from it, we measured the mass of the black hole by the movement of gas clouds around it and reached 300 million solar masses.”

Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute, who heads the research group that built the new device, noted the ability to apply GRAVITY methods developed to study the black hole in the center of the Milky Way can be applied to black holes in other galaxies. “The research group is working on five or six other bodies with similar characteristics,” concluded Netzer. “Later we will ask for more observation time, and I believe that after a number of years we will be able to generalize the result into smaller black holes, bigger and farther (that is, older).”

CNN Ditches Marc Lamont Hill in Response to Anti-Israel UN Rant

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:01

Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, no stranger to anti-Israel vitriol with his embrace of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, is under fire for calling for “a Free Palestine From the River to the Sea.”

On Thursday, Hill was relieved by CNN as a contributor.

“Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite, which first reported Hill’s firing.

In a speech on Wednesday at the United Nations, Lamont Hill blasted Israel for violating “citizenship rights to Palestinians just because they are not Jewish” and prohibiting “due process” to Palestinians.

Hill, 39, who later admitted on Twitter that he has never been to Israel, also endorsed BDS: “We must promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but cannot endorse narrow politics that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in ethnic cleansing.”

Hill’s remarks were condemned by Jewish and pro-Israel groups and individuals, with some calling for him to be fired from CNN and Temple University.

Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who has debated Hill on CNN over Israel, said: “It’s an anti-Semitic screed that should disqualify him from being taken seriously.”

“Mark Lamont Hill is a dangerous Farrakhan-loving, Israel-hating, racist propagandist who calls for Israel’s destruction to be supplanted by a Hamas-Iran terror state,” Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein told JNS. “Everyone should demand that he be fired by CNN and Temple University immediately. He is helping to mainstream and normalize anti-Semitism.”

“This is disgusting,” tweeted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. “Calling for the elimination of Israel is anti-Semitic and (being thankfully futile) does Palestinians no favors.”

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“Those calling for ‘from the river to the sea’ are calling for an end to the State of Israel,” Sharon Nazarian, senior vice president for international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, told The Jewish Journal. “It is a shame that once again, this annual event at the United Nations does not promote constructive pathways to ‘Palestinian solidarity’ and a future of peace, but instead divisive and destructive action against Israel.”

“The virulent anti-Semitism spewed by Marc Lamont Hill is abhorrent, and his senseless promotion of violence against Israel is repugnant,” said the National Council of Young Israel. “With his racist views and unabashed denigration of Israel, Dr. Hill does not deserve to be given any sort of platform that facilitates the dissemination of his bigotry, whether it be on Cable TV or in a classroom.”

“In light of Dr. Hill’s malevolent anti-Semitic remarks, we call upon CNN and Temple University to fire him immediately,” continued NCYI. “Neither CNN nor Temple should countenance anti-Semitism, and their failure to take swift action and terminate Dr. Hill would make them complicit in sanctioning bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

“With such hate-filled views that are antithetical to basic human decency, Marc Lamont Hill should not be rewarded by serving as a pundit or a professor, and both CNN and Temple have a duty to dismiss Dr. Hill and renounce his anti-Semitic beliefs,” added NCYI.

“It is intolerable that Hill, who describes himself as ‘one of the leading intellectual voices in the country,’ has enjoyed important platforms to spread his ignorant and bigoted views,” said B’nai B’rith. “His association with anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic groups and figures prevents him from speaking with any moral authority on peace and justice, particularly to a global television audience and to students. He must be swiftly repudiated and replaced by CNN and by Temple University.”

On Thursday, Temple University suggested that Hill will not be terminated.

“Marc Lamont Hill has been quoted extensively over the last 24 hours,” said spokesperson Brandon Lausch. “Marc Lamont Hill does not represent Temple University, and his views are his own.”

“However,” added Lausch, “we acknowledge that he has a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion as a private citizen.”

Best Ever Potato Latkes – Potato Pancakes Recipe

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 03:10

The Jewish Festival of Lights – Hanukkah – is right around the corner. There is a concept of eating fried foods to commemorate the use of oil in the Holy Temple. And food doesn’t get much more oily than potato latkes.

Chanukah and the Future of the State of Israel

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 02:00

History, the study of cause and effect in the annals of humankind, has been a serious challenge for honest historians. In many ways, interpreting history is conjecture. It is more what one would like to believe happened than what actually occurred which motivates many a historian (Benjamin Franklin).  After all, how can any historian ever know what really was the cause and effect in a specific instance? Sometimes, what we believe to be the cause is, rather, the effect.

Our sages draw our attention to this phenomenon when they deal with the sale of Joseph and his emancipation from prison. Referring to the words, “A definite period was set to the world to spend in darkness” (Iyov 28:3), the Midrash states: “A definite number of years was fixed for Joseph to spend in prison, in darkness. When the appointed time came: “And it came to pass at the end of two years and Pharaoh dreamed a dream…’” (Bereshit 41:1, Midrash Rabbah)

Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr, in his monumental work, Ohr Gedalyah, points out that this observation radically differs from the traditional, academic way of dealing with historical events.

Reading the story in the traditional way, we would no doubt conclude that because Pharaoh dreamed a dream which required an interpretation, Joseph, known to be a man with prophetic insights into dream interpretation, was asked to come and see Pharaoh. After having successfully solved the dreams, he was not only freed but elevated to the position of second-in-command of Egypt. This would mean that Pharaoh’s dream caused Joseph’s freedom.

A careful read of our Midrash, however, suggests the reverse. It was because Joseph had to be freed and become the viceroy of Egypt that Pharaoh had to have a dream. The cause was, in fact, the effect.

As mentioned before, this approach opens a completely new way of understanding history. Judaism suggests that at certain times God sends emanations to this world so as to awaken human beings to act, just as Pharaoh received his dreams in order that Joseph’s imprisonment would come to an end.

A later example of this is the story of Chanukah. The Jews knew that logically there was no chance of a successful uprising against the Greeks, but God created a notion of revolt within the minds of the Maccabees. The greatness of these few Jews was manifest in their correct reaction to this heavenly directive. They realized what needed to be done, however preposterous.

Midrashic literature often compares the Greek empire to “darkness which blinded the eyes of the Jews” (“Choshech ze Yavan“,  “Darkness that is Greece”). The traditional interpretation is that Jews in the Maccabean period were blinded by the Greeks’ worship of the body and followed their example.

It may, however, have a much deeper meaning. The Greeks were also the inventors of historical interpretation. Greek thinkers were among the first to try and understand history in its more scientific form as reflected in the need to search for cause and effect. From the point of view of the Midrash, this approach blinded the Jews from sometimes reading history as divine emanations and the human response to them. It misconstrued the deeper meaning of history, reversed cause and effect, and darkened the clear insight of the Jews.

One of the most mysterious aspects of the human psyche is the dimension of motivation and taste. Human beings suddenly hear an inner voice or feel a mysterious pull to do something the source of which they do not understand. This is true not only regarding human actions but even taste and preference. History is replete with examples of human beings radically changing their taste in art and music. Melodies are considered to be superb and irreplaceable; then, half a century later, they lose favor. So it is with art, fashion and even the color of our wallpaper.

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There are no rational explanations for these phenomena (notwithstanding various scientific suggestions). We would argue that all of them are the result of divine emanations communicated to our world. While it is difficult to explain why these divine messages come, perhaps their main purpose, particularly regarding music and art, is to offer man a feeling of renewal and an insight into the infinite possibilities of God’s creation. Some messages may be a divine response to human beings’ earlier deeds or moral condition. The sudden predilections for more aggressive forms of music or art may be a warning that man has abated his earlier dignity.

In the case of emanations, as with the Maccabees, the main challenge is in “hearing” the message, correctly interpreting it and subsequently knowing what it demands of us. This itself requires divine assistance and moral integrity and is not available to all. (In fact, it can be dangerous.)

Throughout history, Jews have experienced many divine emanations.  Several of them, cited in the latter part of Tanach, allude to the coming of the Mashiach at specific times. (See, for example, the book of Daniel.) Some of these dates are long behind us and Mashiach has not appeared.  This should not surprise us. Dates of Mashiach’s arrival, as cited in Jewish sources, were in no way final statements. They were divine signals that at these times the world would be more conducive to the coming of Mashiach, but they were not guarantees of his arrival. When humankind failed to respond in the appropriate religious and moral manner, the special moment passed with no outcome.

It is easy to recognize in this day and age that we, too, are confronted with new and powerful happenings  which may be emanations from above. One cannot deny the unique events which have transpired in Israel over the last seventy years. Many of them, the good ones as well as the dire ones are difficult to explain by the conventional standards of historical interpretations.  Perhaps it may behoove us to view much what is happening today in Israel as a divine message that there is need for a radical change of heart regarding our identity, our Jewish connection, the moral quality of our society and Judaism at large. It may be worthwhile to contemplate this possibility and act accordingly.

Chanukah sameach.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Times of Israel

A New Phase in Israel-Gulf Relations

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 01:00

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz pushed for cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states in a speech in Oman on November 7. “In my view, cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded,” he said. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”

The trip bookended several high profile visits to the Gulf by Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in late October. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara also traveled to the United Arab Emirates, one to attend a sporting event and another for a conference.

The visits represent a significant breakthrough in connections between Israel the Gulf states. Since the 1990s, when Israel signed the Oslo Accords and made peace with Jordan, there were increasing ties to several Gulf countries. This included the opening of trade offices. However, relations became frozen during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

In the last decade, a thaw has taken place. Katz said during his visit that his trip and others were “part of a wider trend of strengthening ties between Israel and the Gulf countries based on common interests and a mutual recognition of the potential benefits for both sides, both in terms of contending with common challenges and threats, as well as opportunities.”

The transportation minister’s visit to Oman coincided with his discussions about a rail link or “tracks of regional peace” that could one day foresee linking Israel with the rest of the Arab region. He discussed the plan at the IRU Congress that met in Muscat from November 6 to 8.

Currently, Israel has relations with Jordan and Egypt. Jordan has been seeking to expand its very limited rail network; the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are all laying plans for major infrastructure projects involving rail and transportation. In the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Rail is planning a 1,200-km. line that will eventually reach the Saudi Arabian border and Oman. A 2,400-km. line would link Riyadh to Al-Haditha on the Jordanian border. It would give Saudi Arabia around 3,900 km. of track.

OMAN, where Katz traveled, has been increasing its rail network in recent years. In 2015, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said signed off on two more phases of a multi-phase rail network. The first phase links Al Buraimi on the UAE border with the port of Sohar. A second phase would stretch down to Ibri and another phase would go down to the port of Al Duqm. Eventually, it could be 2,135 km. long. With Jordan as a regional transportation hub, Israel could be hooked up to a powerful network of regional states. This would also aid the Palestinian economy. “It will create an additional trade route in the region, which is shorter, faster and cheaper,” Katz said.

With Saudi Arabia pioneering major economic reforms, called Vision 2030, the region is on the verge of an economic revolution after years of stagnation. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest economies in the region, but it wants to diversify and is laying plans for nuclear energy, investments in desalination and other projects. Israel and the UAE are perfectly positioned, with roughly the same GDP, to benefit and contribute to this regional awakening.

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Eight years since the Arab Spring began at the end of 2010, the Middle East is still recovering from the instability and terrorism that became the dark side of the spring. Out of the chaos and instability came the extremism of Islamic State. The defeat of ISIS has now led to a new struggle by Iran and its adversaries for regional hegemony. All of this has overshadowed Israel’s important role in regional security and relationships. Katz’s visit shows that attitudes are changing.

“This is the first time an Israeli minister has been formally invited to participate in an international conference in Oman,” his office noted. He described Qaboos as an experienced and impressive leader.

“I was moved to receive such a warm welcome in Oman as an Israeli minister and take part in Oman’s traditional sword dance.”

It is a sign of Israel’s growing strength.

Katz’s vision of a network of rail links may take decades to come to fruition, but it is an important symbol of the way the region may trend towards stability. A stable Middle East, as has been illustrated by the last decades of conflict, is essential for global stability.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Middle East Forum

“Eternal Jihad: Islam Will Never, Ever Stop”

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 00:00

The “West and Islam have been mortal enemies since the latter’s birth some fourteen centuries ago,” warns Islam scholar Raymond Ibrahim in his recent book Sword and Scimitar:  Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.  His extensive analysis bears out the apt title of this volume, whose documented history is equally ill remembered and yet vital for modern Westerners.

Ibrahim begins by elucidating the disturbing conceptual core of Islam and its seventh-century Arab prophet, Muhammad.  “The appeal of Muhammad’s message lay in its compatibility with the tribal mores of his society,” Ibrahim notes.

For seventh-century Arabs – and later tribal peoples, chiefly Turks and Tatars, who also found natural appeal in Islam – the tribe was what humanity is to modern people:  to be part of it was to be treated humanely; to be outside of it was to be treated inhumanely.

Accordingly, Islam “deified tribalism, causing it to outlive its setting and spill into the modern era.”  Islamic doctrines like al-wala’ wa al-bara’ (“loyalty and enmity”) created an umma faith community or “‘Super Tribe’ that transcends racial, national, and linguistic barriers.”  Not surprisingly, the Arabic umma “is etymologically related to ‘mother’ (umm) – to one’s closest kin.”

Ibrahim “records a variety of Muslims across time and space behaving exactly like the Islamic State and for the same reasons” – namely, Islam’s promotion of warfare against non-Muslims.  Islam’s deity “incites his followers to war on the promise of booty, both animate and inanimate – so much so that an entire sura, or chapter of the Koran, ‘al-Anfal,’ is named after and dedicated to the spoils of war.”  Jihadists following Islamic canons thus “‘use’ or ‘loan’ their lives as part of a ‘bargain’ or ‘transaction’ – whereby Allah forgives all sins and showers them with celestial delights.”

Ibrahim examines how Islamic afterlife doctrines beckon the faith’s battlefield martyrs.  Islam’s celestial pleasures include houris or “supernatural, celestial women … created by Allah for the express purpose of gratifying his favorites in perpetuity.”  “That Islamic scriptures portray paradise in decidedly carnal terms” reflects the “primitivism of Muhammad’s society.”

As Ibrahim notes, being on jihad’s receiving end was hardly divine.  Khalid bin al-Walid, the “Sword of Allah” from Islam’s founding seventh-century epoch, “looms large in the Arab histories of the early Muslim conquests and is still seen today as the jihadi par excellence.”  Yet Islamic histories record that jihadists like him “were little more than mass-killing psychotics and rapists.”

Similarly, Ibrahim observes that Ottoman sultan Bayezid I (reigned 1389-1402), “like many other Muslim leaders before and after him, was at once pious and depraved, with no apparent conflict between the twain.”  This devout depravity includes the various forms of slavery that have existed throughout Islamic history like the Ottoman devshirme.  Ibrahim quotes one modern historian to the effect that “jihad looks uncomfortably like a giant slave trade.’”

Non-Muslims will find baffling Ibrahim’s observation that Islamic doctrines claimed to sanctify imperialistic horror as holy:

In Arabic and other Muslim languages, the historic Islamic conquests are never referred to as ‘conquests’ but rather as futuh – ‘openings’ for the light of Islam to enter[.] … [E]very land ever invaded and/or seized by Muslims was done ‘altruistically’ to bring Islam to wayward infidels.

Such “altruism” devastated historic Christendom, Ibrahim notes.  What people today call the “West” in Europe “is actually the westernmost remnant of what was a much more extensive civilizational block that Islam permanently severed.”  Due to Islamic conquests spreading out from the Arabian Peninsula following Muhammad’s death in 632, by 700:

… all ancient Christian lands between Greater Syria to the east and Mauretania (Morocco) to the west – approximately 3,700 miles – were forever conquered by Islam.  Put differently, two-thirds (or 65 percent) of Christendom’s original territory – including three of the five most important centers of Christianity – Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria – were permanently swallowed up by Islam and thoroughly Arabized.

Ibrahim highlights Islamic depredation of the Mediterranean, which “for centuries had been the world’s greatest economic highway uniting East and West, first in the classical civilization of Rome, and then in Christendom.”  Subsequently this “Muslim Lake” became the “hunting ground for pirates and slavers.”  Particularly “[a]fter the “conquest of Egypt, the importation of papyrus into Europe terminated almost overnight, causing literacy rates to drop back to their levels in pre-Roman times.”

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Contrary to “widespread and entrenched myths concerning the purported tolerance and enlightenment” in places like Islamic Spain, Ibrahim documents longstanding Christian resistance to Islamic aggression.  He dispenses with the “distorted and demonized version of” the Crusades, which responded to Islamic conquest of, and oppression in, the Holy Land.  “Despite popular depictions of crusaders as prototypical European imperialists cynically exploiting faith, recent scholarship has proven the opposite,” he notes.

“Great lords of vast estates,” Ibrahim observes, “parted with their wealth and possessions upon taking the cross” as Crusaders.  This sacrifice reflects an inconvenient truth for politically correct pieties:

Shocking as it may seem, love – not of the modern, sentimental variety, but a medieval, muscular one, characterized by Christian altruism, agape – was the primary driving force behind the crusades.

Ibrahim is not shy about sacrificing progressive sacred cows about Islam.  He particularly notes that violent and vice-filled Islamic biographies of Muhammad have “especially scandalized Christians” historically.  “Indeed, for people who find any criticism of Islam ‘Islamophobic,’ the sheer amount and vitriolic content of more than a millennium of Western writings on Muhammad may beggar belief.”

Ibrahim warns that his research presents no mere academic discussion or ancient history.  Modern Muslim men assaulting Western women in Europe and elsewhere often “are drawing on a long tradition of seeing pale infidels as the epitome of promiscuity.”  In sum:

Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion – which commands jihad against infidels – whereas the West has learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to become an unwitting ally of the jihad.

Against such induced historical amnesia Ibrahim performs a valuable service.  Contrary to postmodern trends in Western society, Muslim behavior shows that not all believe that God is dead, history has ended, and everything is relative.  Christians, with their long histories of fighting against, and suffering under, Islam should be at the forefront of offering critical, loving truths about this faith.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim

Sanhedrin Invites 70 Nations to Hanukkah Dedication of Altar for the Third Temple

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 09:07

The nascent Sanhedrin released a declaration to the 70 nations for Hanukkah to be read at a ceremony in Jerusalem on the last day of the holiday. The ceremony will include the consecration of a stone altar prepared for use in the Third Temple. The declaration is intended as an invitation to the nations to participate in the Temple and to receive its blessings.

The altar is currently in the form of loose stone blocks ready to be transported to the Temple Mount and stored in a manner that will enable them to be transported and assembled at a moment’s notice. When complete, the altar will be a square nine feet on each side and five feet tall, and includes a ramp for the priests to ascend. The decision to prepare the blocks and all the details of their composition is the result of a long study performed by the members of the Sanhedrin in conjunction with the Temple Institute. The stones are made of aerated concrete and are fit for use in the Temple. There are plans underway to prepare a new set made of actual stones which are considered the ideal material from which to build the altar.

A full-dress reenactment of the Korban Olah Tamid (the daily offering) will take place. Kohanim (Jewish men of the priestly caste descended from Aaron) wearing Biblically mandated garb will lead the ceremony. The location is still unclear as the Jerusalem municipality is weighing security concerns that a Jewish ceremony of this sort will precipitate Muslim violence if performed in view of the Temple Mount. Also at question is whether the Kohanim will ritually slaughter a lamb or whether prepared meat will be brought. Though the Sanhedrin has received all of the necessary permits from the government organizations in charge of slaughtering animals, they are still waiting for the municipality to approve that part of the ceremony. In either case, the meat will be roasted on the newly consecrated altar.

The priests will also perform the korban mincha in which the grain offerings that accompany the korban tamid are offered along with nesachim, a wine libation.

A large menorah will be lit as part of the ceremony. Rabbi Hillel Weiss explained the significance of the ceremony being held on the last day of Hanukkah.

“According to Jewish tradition, the tabernacle and Aaron the Priest were consecrated for service on the last day of Hanukkah,” Rabbi Weiss explained to Breaking Israel News. “It is fitting that we should invite the nations to the ceremony since Hanukkah is about bringing light to the darkness. The Jews were meant to do this for the entire world,” he said, quoting the Prophet Isaiah.

For He has said: “It is too little that you should be My servant In that I raise up the tribes of Yaakov And restore the survivors of Yisrael: I will also make you a light of nations, That My salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

“The Jews were brought back to Israel for the purpose of spreading the light to the nations,” Rabbi Weiss said. “As the sages instructed the Jews to pray every day, ‘A new light will shine upon Zion,and we should all merit to this light very soon.’ This light is Torah, the light of Torah which comes from Zion, which reveals the hidden aspects of God.”

The ceremony will also be part of the Sanhedrin’s ongoing effort to establish a Bible-based international organization to replace the United Nations. To this end, they charged Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, president of the Sanhedrin’s Court for the Noahides, with preparing a declaration that would describe the spiritual basis for the organization. Rabbi Schwartz is one of the most respected Torah scholars of this generation, a prolific writer, and winner of the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism.

The text of the declaration is printed below:

The Song of Israel and the World – Sanhedrin’s Declaration

“The name Yisrael, by which Jacob was called and all of his descendants after him, indicates the connection of the people of Israel to the Creator, and this connection is also strengthened through the singing of the Song of God, which is achieved through the Book of Psalms. The highest purpose of song is to praise the Creator.

It is for this purpose that on the 25th of Elul (Sept. 3), the Sanhedrin and the Mikdash Educational Center hosted the World Creation Concert as a musical gathering for all nations to give thanksgiving to the creator, to share with all mankind the gratitude for His mercies that fill creation. All of humanity needs to prepare for the day that the Lord will reign in Zion, when they too will make pilgrimage to Jerusalem to take their part in the Temple service.

The sages teach us that the world stands on three things: on Torah, on the Temple Service, and on acts of loving-kindness. Lacking the Temple service the world is like a throne that stands on two legs.

We are very close to the time about which the prophets of Israel prophesied that the God of the world who created everything will be called by the world in the name of the God of Israel, for only the people of Israel remained attached to Him.

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Humanity created religions such as Christianity and Islam that served as instruments throughout history to bring humanity closer to this great day, when everyone would recognize the God of the world that was revealed on Mount Sinai in a desert that belongs to no people. It should be emphasized that the Ten Commandments that were given at that time belong to all the nations. They were heard all over the world in 70 languages so that every nation would hear these things in their own language, the echo of things. This is as witnessed by the reality that it is the only book in the world printed in every language that has a printed book and was hinted at by the Prophet Zephaniah.

For then I will make the peoples pure of speech, So that they all invoke Hashem by name And serve Him with one accord. Zephaniah 3:9

At that time, we will all serve the one Creator and fulfill the moral obligations incumbent on all mankind. This was the case since the beginning of creation, when he charged Adam with these obligations, and once again he charged those who left the ark after the Flood and Noah with his sons, and again at Mount Sinai, giving to humanity seven ironclad rules.

These are the seven messages of the Creator of the world to humanity known as the Seven Noahide Laws:

Belief in God: He who created everything. There is none besides Him and no one should turn away from Him.

Blessing Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’): Respecting the Creator and the sages who are familiar with His Torah, and respecting the places of worship where the Torah is learned and prayers are recited to him. It is forbidden, God forbid, to speak harshly against them or to curse them.

Stealing: The preservation of the rights of others to property and honor and body and not to desire to take anything belonging to others that is not for sale.

Laws: To establish courts to judge justice and to direct society and obey the orders and decisions of the courts.

Killing: Do not shorten the lives of people, including the lives of the terminally ill. The opposite is also true; to invest efforts to heal diseases and maintain health.

Have mercy on creatures: Not to be cruel to animals. One of the most forbidden acts is eating the organ or limb from a live animal. The animal must first be killed in a way that is less distressing such as cutting the neck.

Prohibition of prostitution: The mitzvah (Bible commandment) to build a proper family life. It is a severe prohibition to commit adultery with a married woman. It is also forbidden to perform a same-sex marriage. Also forbidden is sexual intercourse with animals and homosexuality.

Therefore, anyone who receives upon himself all of these seven rules in front of a rabbinic court has a special status in Judaism. Even though they are not Jewish, they have entered into a full partnership in the service of God.

God’s call to return his people to his land will show that the belief of some nations that Israel was in exile as a punishment was a mistaken belief. The exile was only in order for Israel to serve as an example to the nations for serving God. Were it not for the exile, Muhammad would not have known God and would have been idolatrous like his other brothers. Were the Jews not in Rome, the  idolaters would have remained to this day. The Torah was translated into Greek, and the nations copied the word of God because there were Jews in the Egyptian exile.

Now, it is time for the Creator’s people to return to their land, and from here light will come forth to the world. And when we merit it, and the Temple will be restored and built on its place, then even more will all the nations realize that the time has come to worship God. The crisis of religion today is a preparation for the true worship of the Lord.

In conclusion: Anyone who wants to accompany us, to be a partner in serving God, and to connect with his people, must be a believer in the God who was revealed at Sinai, and to be as the people of Israel who were present there and preserved this status to this day.

We see God’s hand clearly in the miracle of the Jewish state that arose again two thousand years after its destruction. It is incumbent upon all those who accompany us to try as much as possible to spread the belief according to the prophets, just as the Jews guarded and observed their words and to prevent, God forbid, the spread of man-made religions. Those who do so must also aid the Jews in observing what God commanded them. God required of the Jews an additional amount, more than he required from the other nations, since the Jews will serve as the priests of the mankind. And the other nations should not, God forbid, try to influence his people to join their religions.”

Rabbi Dov Stein, Secretary of the Sanhedrin, described the dire need to replace the United Nations.

“We now live in an era when threats are global and not limited to one country,” Rabbi Stein told Breaking Israel News. “This is true of weapons, environmental issues, and even social issues. The solutions must come from a universal effort. The United Nations has failed in its mandate by rejecting God as the creator and the Noahide Laws common to all of mankind.”

As an example, Rabbi Stein described the resolution being drafted to make abortions and assisted suicides a “universal human right” which the rabbi said violated the Noahide law prohibiting murder.

“They have rejected the basics of humanity that were given at Sinai. We have to re-educate the world in order to address these issues. We need a universal organization that will return to the Bible, re-educate the world. This is not a religious initiative. This is a national initiative with each nation bringing its special aspect, all nations joining together in Jerusalem, where the world was created.”

Doughnuts, Candle Lighting and Giving Gifts Characterize Israeli Hanukkah

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 07:48

It takes less time to prepare than Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Succot); is happier than Rosh Hashana; and it certainly doesn’t leave you hungry like Yom Kippur.

It’s Hanukkah, and a new survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) shows that the winter holiday’s customers are especially popular among the Jews of Israel.

Although they’re fattening, sufganiyot (doughnuts) are eaten by 79% of Israeli Jews (and probably non-Jews as well) during the holiday; consider the calorie intake of the average Israeli, who sees sufganiyot in bake shops already six weeks before Hanukkah…

A total of 63% give Hanukkah “gelt” (money or gifts);

42% report going to a Hanukkah performance; and 73% light the menorah (eight-cupped candle or oil candelabrum) for the full eight days of the holiday.

The survey is part of an extensive research project on Israeli Judaism that has already resulted in the publication of a new book based on the research called #IsraeliJudaism, a portrait of a cultural revolution published by the Dvir Publishing House. The JPPI (established by the Jewish Agency for Israel) is a think tank located in Jerusalem. Through strategic thinking and long-term action-oriented policy planning, JPPI focuses its efforts on ensuring the thriving of the Jewish people and the Jewish civilization.
 
One in four Israeli Jews lights Hanukkah candles some nights, but, not all eight nights.  Almost three out of four Israeli Jews (73%) claim they light the menorah) for the full eight days of Hanukkah.

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In most of the Israeli groups, there is a clear majority that lights candles every night of Hanukkah, they include the self-described “religious” (97%), “traditional” (86%) and “seculars who are a bit traditional” (71%).
 
The only group for whom most of its members light Hanukkah candles “most nights” are those who identify as “completely secular.” Out of this group, which constitutes 28% of Israeli Jews, there is a slightly larger percentage of those who light Hanukkah candles “some nights” (44%) than those who light Hanukkah candles “every night” (40%).
 
Most Israeli Jews partake in several Hanukkah activities, such as eating sufganiyot and latkes (potato pancakes) (79%) and giving Hanukkah gelt (64%; this practice is especially common among the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have a large number of children, on average (89%).  A significant percentage of Israeli Jews (42%) report attending one of Hanukkah’s special shows, such as the Festigal (an Israeli Hanukkah musical), a festival or a play.
 
The new book by Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs draws an interesting comparison between American Jews – the largest Jewish community outside of Israel – and Israeli Jews. This comparison shows that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be a much more important holiday than Israeli Jews consider it to be. More than two-thirds of American Jews (68%) consider Hanukkah to be “one of the three most important holidays” – probably because of its proximity to Christmas – compared to about a third of Israeli Jews (38%).
 
However, the fact that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be an extremely important holiday does not translate to a high percentage of participation in Hanukkah traditions.
 
While three out of four Israeli Jews light Hanukkah candles “every night,” fewer than two out of three American Jews do so (60%). This gap in holiday observance exists for many holidays. For almost all Jewish practices checked, the data show that Israeli Jews partake in significantly more Jewish traditions than American Jews.

The Shalva Band on the ‘Next Star’

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 06:10

Shalva National Children’s Center is a Jerusalem-based organization that provides services to children with special needs and their families. A musical band made up of those the organization helps, recently appeared on an Israeli talent show.

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The Shalva Band on Kochav Haba – with English Subtitles

The magic of the moment was felt in all languages and touched hearts around the world. Therefore it was important for us to translate the video into English so you get to hear what the band had to say on this incredible occasion.Footage courtesy of makoThe Shalva Band להקת שלוההכוכב הבא

Posted by Shalva National Children's Center on Wednesday, November 28, 2018

American Jews Take Airbnb Battle Over Judea and Samaria to Court

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 05:52

A group of Israeli-Americans has filed a lawsuit in the United States federal court against the vacation rental property website Airbnb, accusing it of discriminating through its decision this month to delist properties in Israel’s Judea and Samaria.

The 18 plaintiffs filed the matter in the District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging the company of violating of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, a federal statute that safeguards against discrimination in housing sales and the rental market, in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit was backed by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center and the plaintiffs are represented by New York attorney Robert Tolchin, Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Delaware lawyer David Eagle.

“Airbnb’s new discriminatory policy has made it the poster child for the racist BDS movement,” said Darshan-Leitner. “These Jewish American property owners were shocked by Airbnb’s blacklisting of their homes and intend to legally fight this new hateful policy.”

“For centuries anti-Semites have sought to dictate where Jews can live, where they can travel, and what businesses they are permitted to engage in,” she continued. “Airbnb’s redlining policy is illegal and discriminates against these families based solely upon their religion.”

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“Imagine if Airbnb decided not to service Muslim homes in Oakland because they opposed growth of the Muslim community there. Nobody would tolerate that for a minute,” said Tolchin. “Yet that is exactly what Airbnb’s policy is for Jews in the Judea and Samaria region. As a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not permitted to refuse to provide services to selected religious group to engineer who it thinks should be allowed to live where.”

In a statement, Airbnb said: “Major U.S.-based multinational hotels do not offer accommodations in these settlements and under our policy, listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank will no longer be active.”

“We don’t believe this lawsuit will succeed in court, but we know that people will disagree with our decision and appreciate their perspective,” they added. “Israel is a special place with special people and we are honored to have more than 20,000 hosts in Israel who welcome visitors from all over the world and continue to do all we can to support people to people travel.”

Airbnb mentioned that “Our announcement applies only to the approximately 200 Airbnb listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and not to other areas, including East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.”

“ZOA hopes that this and other lawsuits being brought against Airbnb, and the phone calls and emails from ZOA and all our friends, will persuade Airbnb to end its outrageous, unlawful, anti-Semitic, discriminatory policy of blacklisting Jewish homes in Judea/Samaria,” said the organization’s president, Mort Klein.

In Jerusalem District Court last week, a group of Jewish residents from Judea and Samaria filed a class-action lawsuit against Airbnb.