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Co-winner of 2018 Nobel for Physiology or Science Received Prestigious Israeli Award Last Year

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 03:12

What do you do if you want a good chance to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences? Just pray that you first receive a Wolf Prize, which is considered “Israel’s Nobel.” This prize for academic excellence is an incredible predictor of future Nobel distinction.

Almost a third of Nobel laureates in the sciences were first awarded the Wolf Prize, an international award – granted in Jerusalem – that has been presented most years since 1978 to living scientists and artists for “achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people … irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political views.” The categories are agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics as well as the arts.

The latest Nobel laureate to prove the rule is to Prof. James P. Allison of the US, who will share his award in Physiology and Medicine with Prof. Tasuku Honjo of Japan. Last year, Allison came to Jerusalem to receive his Wolf Prize. Fourteen of the 26 winners of the Wolf Prize in physics between 1978 and 2010, for example, have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in that field, five of them in the following year. The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Prof. Dan Schectman, who won the Nobel for chemistry in 2011, followed that pattern by winning a Wolf Prize the year before.

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute – one of the world’s foremost medical universities and Sweden’s single-largest center of medical academic research – decided this year to reward the achievements of the two for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

Cancer kills millions of people every year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges, said the Assembly. “By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy. Allison studied a known protein that functions as a brake on the immune system. He realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors. He then developed this concept into a brand-new approach for treating patients.
In parallel, Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and, after careful exploration of its function, eventually revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action.
Therapies based on the discovery, the Swedes continued, proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer. “Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.”

Cancer is not one disease but many different disorders, each of them involving the uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells that have the capacity for spread to healthy organs and tissues. A number of therapeutic approaches are available for cancer treatment, including surgery, radiation, and other strategies, some of which have been awarded previous Nobel Prizes.

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Among the previous discoveries in the war against cancer were hormone treatment for prostate cancer (Huggins, 1966), chemotherapy (Elion and Hitchins, 1988), and bone-marrow transplantation for leukemia (Thomas 1990). But, continued the Assembly, advanced cancer remains immensely difficult to treat, and novel therapeutic strategies are desperately needed.

In the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th, some researchers though that activation of the immune system might be a strategy for attacking tumor cells. They tried to infect patients with bacteria to activate the defense, but these efforts only had modest results. A variant of this strategy is used today in the treatment of bladder cancer.
So much more had to be learned. Many scientists conducted intense basic research and uncovered fundamental mechanisms regulating immunity and how the immune system can recognize cancer cells. Despite remarkable scientific progress, attempts to develop generalizable new strategies against cancer proved difficult.

The immune system’s main characteristic is its ability to discriminate “self” from “nonself” so that invading bacteria, viruses and other dangers can be attacked and eliminated. T cells, a type of white blood cell, are key players in this defense and were shown to have receptors that bind to structures recognized as non-self and such interactions trigger the immune system to engage in defense. But additional proteins acting as T-cell accelerators are also required to trigger a full-blown immune response.

During the 1990s, in his laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, Allison studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4. He was one of several scientists who noticed that CTLA-4 functions as a brake on T cells and exploited the mechanism as a target in the treatment of autoimmune disease.

Allison, however, had an entirely different idea. He had already developed an antibody that could bind to CTLA-4 and block its function Now he aimed at investigating if CTLA-4 blockade could disengage the T-cell brake and unleash the immune system to attack cancer cells. He and his team performed a first experiment at the end of 1994, with spectacular results. Mice with cancer had been cured by treatment with the antibodies that inhibit the brake and unlock antitumor T-cell activity. His and other teams then worked on humans. Eight years ago, an important clinical study showed striking effects in patients with advanced melanoma, a potentially deadly type of skin cancer.
Checkpoint therapy has now revolutionized cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed, the Assembly concluded.

Allison, then chairman of the immunology department at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, received his Wolf Prize for Medicine in 2017.

The Wolf Foundation began its activities 42 years ago with an initial endowment fund of $10 million founded by Dr Ricardo Wolf, a German-born inventor and former Cuban ambassador to Israel. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than 300 prizes, and nearly two dozen Israelis have been among the winners. Most of the laureates are from the US, followed by the UK.

The Wolf Prize in Medicine is probably the third most prestigious, after the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Award, in this field.

Syria Threatens to take Golan from Israel

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:57

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem recently addressed the UN General Assembly, accusing Israel of supporting terrorism while warning that his country intends to “liberate” the Golan Heights from Israel.

“Israel supported terrorist organizations in southern Syria and intervened to protect them,” Muallem said. “Just as we liberated southern Syria from terrorists, we are determined to restore the Golan Heights to the borders set in 1967.”

Syrian state media often describe Israeli air strikes against Syrian or Iranian military sites as support for terrorist groups.

“We call on Israel to comply with UN resolutions and allow the Palestinians to establish their state,” Muallem concluded.

After Arab aggression led to the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel conquered almost 700 square miles of territory in the Golan Heights from Syria, ending years of the ongoing and indiscriminate shelling of Israeli towns in the valley below. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Syrian army overran much of the Golan but was finally repelled at great cost by the IDF. The Golan was annexed by Menachem Begin’s Israeli government in 1981.

“We welcome any assistance with reconstruction from those countries that were not part of the aggression on Syria,” he said. “The countries that offer only conditional assistance or continue to support terrorism, they are neither invited nor welcome to help.”

Muallem referred to the  U.S.-led multi-national coalition currently in his country fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) as “occupying forces” and demanded their immediate evacuation.

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“They must withdraw immediately and without any conditions,” he told the UN General Assembly.

The U.S. currently has approximately 2,000 troops in Syria. Russia also has a significant military presence in Syria, supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

There have been several attempts by the Israeli government over the years to arrive at a peace agreement with Syria, many of which included ceding the Israeli Golan to Syria. Iran’s involvement in Syria over the years has made this form of peace agreement unlikely. In May 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that returning the Golan Heights would turn it into “Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel.”

In his address to the UN, Muallem invited Syrian civilians who fled the country during their ongoing seven-year civil war to return.

“Conditions are now present for the voluntary return of refugees,” Muallem said. “We have called upon the international community and humanitarian organizations to facilitate these returns. They are politicizing what should be a purely humanitarian issue.”

It is estimated that more than 500,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war. In 2016, from a pre-war population of 22 million, the UN identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million were internally displaced within Syria, and an additional five million were refugees outside of Syria.

State Dept. Issues New Policy: No Visas for Same-Sex Spouses of UN Staffers

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:07

The Trump administration issued a new policy effective Monday, in which domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials posted in the United States must show the State Department proof of marriage by December 31, or leave the country within 30 days. This means that same-sex partners of foreign staffers who are not legally married will no longer be eligible for a spousal visa allowing them to remain in the U.S.

This reverses a State Department policy allowing for visas to be issued to same-sex partners put in place in 2009 under the Obama administration, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

The State Department’s website on G-4 visas currently states: “Effective immediately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”

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Same-sex couples who were legally married in their home countries will still be issued a G-4 Visa enabling them to work in the U.S., but couples from countries that do not recognize same-sex marriages will not. Partners in a heterosexual relationship who are not legally married will also not be issued a G-4 visa.

Same-sex couples currently in the U.S. could get married in a civil ceremony at the City Hall in New York City since same-sex marriages were made legal in New York State in 2011. If they do so, they could face legal consequences when they return to their countries if same-sex marriage is illegal there.

Same-sex marriages are recognized in fewer than 30 of the 193 countries represented in the United Nations. Homosexuality is illegal in several countries and in Iran and Saudi Arabia it is a capital offense. Some of the other organizations affected by the new policy are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Astronomers Search for Planet Nine But Find a ‘Goblin’

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 06:59

While denying the existence of the pre-Messiah astronomical Nibiru, astronomers have discovered yet another extremely distant, dwarf planet in a part of the solar system previously thought to be empty. The new planet is aptly named ‘the Goblin’ and its presence hints at another, much more massive, yet still unseen, Planet Nine.  

Scientists have long surmised the existence of a planet beyond Pluto (which officially lost its planet status in 2006) in a region of space known as the Oort Cloud. The newly discovered Goblin is helping astronomers in their search for the yet-to-be-discovered Planet Nine. Scientists have observed that the Goblin is being influenced by the gravitational effects of some giant unseen astronomical body, leading them to believe in the existence of Planet Nine.

Only about 185 miles across, the Goblin has an extremely elongated elliptical orbit. The Goblin, so named because scientists first observed it around Halloween 2015, is really far out. At its closest distance, the Goblin comes about 7.4 billion miles from the sun. This is two-and-a-half times as far from the sun as Pluto or about one hundred times the earth’s distance from our life-giving star. At its furthest distance, the Goblin is more than 200 billion miles from the sun. This enormous loop takes 40,000 years for the Goblin to complete.

Astronomers used to believe the outer solar system was empty but the Goblin is the third minor planet astronomers have discovered there so far. The three objects seem to be clustered together, leading researchers to assume there is another, much larger object drawing them in.

“We are only just now uncovering what the very outer solar system might look like and what might be out there,” said Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC and a member of the team that discovered the Goblin. “We believe there are thousands of dwarf planets in the distant solar system. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.”

The Goblin was discovered using the Japanese Subaru eight-meter telescope located on the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. The telescope is the only one in the world to be able to produce deep images capable of probing the outer reaches of the solar system, while also having a wide enough field of view to be able to image enough sky to discover rare objects.

“With other large telescopes, it is like looking through a straw and thus they are good for observing things you know are there, but not for finding new things as their field of views are too small for covering large areas of sky,” said Sheppard.

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Yuval Ovadia, whose videos on Nibiru has garnered hundreds of thousands of views,is not surprised by the new discovery.

“Every once in a while they announce a new planet but to this day, NASA and others deny the existence of Nibiru, but it seems like every other day we hear of a new discovery of a planet they had no idea existed,” Ovadia told Breaking Israel News. “And this is precisely how it should be, according to the esoteric literature that describes the pre-Messiah era.”

Ovadia cited the Jewish movement in the 17th Century that claimed Shabbetai Tzvi, a Sephardic-ordained rabbi of Romaniote (indigenous to Greece) origins, was the long-awaited Messiah. Under threat of death by the Ottoman sultan, Shabbetai Zvi converted to Islam, destroying the hopes of his followers.

“Many rabbis refused to believe his claims, noting the total absence of the heavenly signs the Zohar states will accompany the appearance of the Messiah,” Ovadia said. “It is entirely wrong for scientists to claim that since they cannot see Nibiru now, this is proof Nibiru does not exist. Nibiru and the other planets described in the Zohar will appear, but they will only appear when the time has arrived.”

The original source for Nibiru appears in the Bible. The non-Jewish prophet Balaam prophesied the Star of Jacob would appear in the Messianic era.

What I see for them is not yet, What I behold will not be soon: A star rises from Yaakov, A scepter comes forth from Yisrael; It smashes the brow of Moab, The foundation of all children of Shet. Numbers 24:17

The Zohar, the basis of Jewish esoteric learning, describes the Star of Jacob in great detail.

After forty days, when the pillar rises from earth to heaven in the eyes of the whole world and the Messiah has appeared, a star will rise up on the east, blazing in all colors, and seven other stars will surround that star. And they will wage war on it.

Nibiru will be a glowing planet similar to a star that will be surrounded by seven planets,” Ovadia said. “The astronomers are up to three and looking for another larger planet but eventually, they will get there; find seven planets. They have no idea what they are looking for but the Torah knows. When they finally see it, it will be too late.”

“The world leaders – political and economic – are planning on entering secure bunkers when Nibiru comes. They think it is going to be a normal natural phenomenon. But how Nibiru plays out won’t be natural. It will be accompanied by massive storms earthquakes, something we are beginning to see in the world right now.”

“How Nibiru plays out depends on whether we repent, whether we prepared for the Messiah that will follow,” Ovadia said. “Right now, only astronomers can see these stars but when the Messiah is about to be revealed, Nibiru and the seven planets will be visible to everyone. It will only take a little bit of time for Nibiru to appear, orbit the sun, and then leave. When these leaders come out of the bunkers, the world will be totally different. It will be a world of Messiah. These leaders who went into the bunkers will be irrelevant when they come out.”

Ezekiel’s End-of-Days Vision Revealed: Dead Sea Coming to Life

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 05:11

For those who have visited the lowest point on the face of the earth, Ezekiel’s end-of-days prophecy of the Dead Sea coming to life seems impossible, yet recently, scientists have been shocked to discover that the sinkholes appearing around the sea are quickly filling up with fish and other forms of life previously unseen in the inhospitable region.

Speeding atop the water, saltwater playfully splashing each smiling person on the boat, each individual’s eyes are wide open despite the stinging salt. Nobody wants to miss a second of the beautiful Israeli sunrise – the multisensory experience makes everyone feel so alive that they begin to question why the body of water upon which they are riding can possibly be called the ‘Dead Sea.’

Known as the Dead Sea in English because of its hypersaline environment (37% salinity – almost ten times saltier than the ocean) and scarcity of aquatic life, Israeli photojournalist Noam Bedein of the Dead Sea Revival Project says that the term Dead Sea – “a political term used mostly by the Romans” – is a misnomer.

The Dead Sea is “anything but dead,” he said, calling it the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Fish swim in sink holes at the Dead Sea. (Credit: Noam Bedein/Dead Sea Revival Project)

Bedein has witnessed fish in Dead Sea sinkholes, microorganisms, growing vegetation and millions of visitors each year who come seeking life through the body of water’s high oxygen levels and special minerals.

Indeed, the existence of fish in the Dead Sea, a reality that seems to contradict the laws of nature, has been explained by science and Biblical prophecy alike.

On the shores of the Dead Sea – more than 400 meters below sea level – are freshwater sinkholes, created as a result of dropping water levels. These large sinkholes were discovered in 2011, carpeted with microorganisms and on the sea’s shores – fish and algae.  

“One hundred and sixty researchers and almost every university has something to say about saving the Dead Sea,” said Jackie Ben Zaken, Dead Sea guide and expert on the Dead Sea ecosystem. Sinkholes, he said, are caused by “fresh water running under the ground, meeting the sediment layers and melting them.”

“As a result of these sinkholes, we see habitats with less than 1.5% salinity – water you could drink – surrounded by salt water as well as minerals like bromium, magnesium, and potassium,” he told Breaking Israel News.

But this is no scientific miracle, said Bedein – it’s Biblical prophecy coming to fruition.

“Coming to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, you see prophecy coming true,” he said.

According to the Bible, the landscape changed with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which turned the valley into a wasteland. The Bible also describes the area as fertile and well-watered in its narrative of Lot looking out onto the valley where the Dead Sea is now:

And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before Hashem destroyed Sdom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Hashem. (Genesis 13:10)

“A place that was once cursed in Biblical times, now you can come here to the Dead Sea, explore the sinkholes and see fish where the water has receded – fulfilling prophecies from Ezekiel who talked about the land flourishing and blooming when the Jews return,” said Bedein.

Indeed, Biblical prophecy also holds that water will flow east from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea, filling it up with fish and the surrounding desert with life:

Then said he unto me: ‘These waters issue forth toward the eastern region and shall go down into the Arabah; and when they shall enter into the sea into the sea of the putrid waters the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass that every living creature wherewith it swarmeth whithersoever the rivers shall come shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish; for these waters are come thither that all things be healed and may live whithersoever the river cometh.” (Ezekiel 47:8-9)

Evidence of life in the ‘Dead Sea.’ (Credit: Eliana Rudee/Breaking Israel News)

“The curse is over, and this place and its minerals are now bringing life to people around the world,” he added.

Others who have witnessed life in the Dead Sea have similarly pointed to prophecy. In 2016, a Breaking Israel News story about signs of the Dead Sea coming to life went viral, garnering more than a quarter million views. At the time, the presence of fish and other wildlife in the brackish waters of the sinkholes surrounding the Dead Sea went largely unnoticed by the scientific community. The phenomenon was brought to the public’s attention by a remarkable young Jewish immigrant to Israel named Samantha Siegel who visited the isolated location to meditate. Siegel is still connected to the site and continues to see prophecy unfolding in the brackish waters surrounding the Dead Sea.

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“I still go to the Dead Sea every week,” Siegel told Breaking Israel News. “It is the best thing to keep me sane and connected to Hashem. It is a glimpse into another world. I went there for Yom Kippur. If I was going to be praying all day, I wanted it to be there, where I could see Hashem in front of my eyes.”

Siegel’s spirituality is rooted in nature and for her, the Dead Sea is the most powerful example of God’s revelation.

“The Dead Sea is an opening into the earth,” she said. “It is like Momma Earth breaking water before giving birth. It looks so harsh right now but that is just heaven being coated with a little bit of hell. When Moshiach comes and the goodness of creation comes out, it will be pure heaven. If you have the eyes to see it, you can see it happening already,” she said.

And yet, there exists a dual complexity of the Dead Sea: while the current state of the sea with its salt chimneys (salt buildup formations around freshwater springs) and deposits (formed by pressurized crystallization of minerals – saturated acids – as temperature changes) make for stunning photos and prophetic occurrences, its illusory beauty is a result of the 600 Olympic pools worth of water that is emptied every day from the sea – 750 million cubic inches per year – a reality that Noam calls an “environmental catastrophe.”

“The next generation is not going to be able to enjoy the Dead Sea as we know it today – over 1 billion people around the world are using the Dead Sea’s 24 minerals for their therapeutic effects,” he told Breaking Israel News.

Noam Bedein of the Dead Sea Revival Project explains about the sea’s retreat. (Credit: Eliana Rudee/Breaking Israel News)

Over the past two years, Noam has been documenting Dead Sea’s changes and geological phenomena. His sunrise Dead Sea boat tours of the northern part of the lowest point on earth aim to educate guests about the changes the sea is undergoing as a result of water diversion from the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) for agricultural purposes and evaporation caused by the Dead Sea mineral works.

Also focused on the magnificent, prophetic and endangered Dead Sea – and the healing that is necessary – Ben Zaken poses that many questions remain, such as how much and which type of water can be added to the Dead Sea without ecological damage in order to keep it as a life source for generations to come.  

“The problem is not what evaporates, but what doesn’t enter,” said Ben Zaken. “To save the Dead Sea we need to fill in the Sea of Galilee, the source of water that is already in a state of ecological disaster. If we do nothing, we will have 80 years, until an ecological disaster – a point of no return – where the sea drops, minerals will crystalize but not sink and oxygen in the air will be blocked,” he maintained.

Efforts toward solutions include the ‘Red-Dead’ canal, a desalination pipeline from Aqaba, Jordan and desalination plant in the Gulf of Eilat that would give water to Jordan – an idea discussed as a part of peace agreements that was supposed to be actualized nine months ago, but has yet to start because of political complications.

“We need to fill in the Galilee to the upper level, open the dam, let water flow in the Jordan River, which will fill the Dead Sea – without Jordan cutting off the supply. Lack of circulation means fish will die in Galilee,” said Ben Zaken.

Additionally, posed Bedein, “Only 10% of what the Dead Sea actually needs is going to come through this $10 billion project. The ultimate and natural solution is restoring the historical flow: the Kinneret and the Jordan River. That will be our focus for the near future.”

Bedein is no novice in rising to the challenges facing the Jewish people in their Biblical homeland. As director of the Sderot Media Center, Bedein has spent years speaking about the experience of the southern Israeli community of Sderot that is under constant threat of Hamas terrorism.

Now, he’s using the Dead Sea’s story, water treasures and beautiful complexities to inspire the next generation about Israel, hoping that it may also be a solution toward restoring the historical flow of the Dead Sea.

Fish Living by Dead Sea, Prophecy of Ezekiel Unfolding

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 04:23

The so-called Dead Sea is the lowest navigable point on the globe – more than 400 meters below sea level. In recent years the sea has been shrinking and thousands of sink holes have opened up. Some contain sweet fresh water, in which fish can live. It is a sign of the times when the Dead Sea finally comes to life. It is Ezekiel’s prophecy unfolding.

SJP Promotes Terrorism on North American Campuses

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 03:50

The National Students for Justice for Palestine (NSJP) has chapters on dozens of North American campuses. It was founded by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). It claims to support justice and peace. But they encourage violence against innocent civilians.

Trump Signs Bill to Protect Religious Institutions

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 03:26

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill on Tuesday to strengthen protections for religious groups and their properties against government persecution.

This legislation modifies the federal criminal code to reflect prohibitions regarding intentionally damaging, defacing or destroying religious property. It establishes a criminal penalty—a fine, a prison term of up to five years, or both—for a violation that results in damage or destruction to religious property, in addition to expanding the definition of “religious real property” to include real property owned or leased by a nonprofit, religiously affiliated organization.

“Crimes targeting religious institutions pose a danger to the religious freedom and security of all Americans,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who introduced the measure, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Jewish groups like the American Jewish Committee, which advocated for the bill, applauded its enactment.

“This important law, which provides for new and strengthened measures to deter, as well as punish, perpetrators of attacks on religious institutions, will provide a much-needed sense of comfort and security,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC associate executive director for policy.

“The solid bipartisan support for the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018 is a reaffirmation of our freedom, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, to exercise religion, to practice one’s faith unhindered and without fear,” said Isaacson. “The increasing attacks and threats against churches, synagogues and mosques disgrace our nation’s most fundamental values, and demand the firm response offered by the new law.”

Jews are the leading target of hate crimes annually in the United States, according to the FBI.

America and North Korea Need To Work Toward a Stable Nuclear Deterrence

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 02:00

Deterrence is concerned with influencing the choices that another party will make, and doing it by influencing his expectations of how we will behave.” — Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (1960).

In the final analysis, North Korean President Kim Jong-un will never surrender his country’s nuclear weapons. To do otherwise would be to willingly renounce that country’s only real and residual claim to meaningful international power. It follows that “complete denuclearization” is plainly an ill-considered diplomatic goal for the United States, and that Washington should focus instead on creating the necessary conditions for stable nuclear deterrence.

For the United States and its pertinent allies, any upcoming negotiations with North Korea should be oriented to struggles of “ mind over mind ,” not merely mind over matter. During these struggles—which ought to be less about curtailing specific weapons than about diminishing overall enemy threats—each side, at least as long as it remains rational, will doubtlessly seek “escalation dominance.” Simultaneously, however, both Washington and Pyongyang will strive for this objective without critically endangering their own prospects for national survival.

Should the American side sometime calculate that its North Korean counterpart is not fully rational, incentives to undertake far-reaching military preemptions could then become compelling or even overwhelming. At the same time, allowing the United States to reach this “all or nothing” set of choices would reveal unimaginably shallow American diplomacy. While American lawyers might claim U.S.-led defensive first strikes or preemption are “anticipatory self-defense,” any such “victory” would be narrowly legalistic and strategically unsatisfying.

Key questions arise. What would it mean to be “victorious” if only at the intolerable cost of extraordinarily high fatalities? Of what conceivable benefit could it be for the United States to claim that its defensive first strike was lawful, but only to then suffer concurrently destructive enemy retaliations?

What is needed, going forward, is the creation of a stable nuclear deterrence regime between Washington and Pyongyang, one that takes into proper account the corollary expectations of Moscow and Beijing . Should this regime fail, and President Donald Trump still decides to undertake certain selective military actions against North Korea, the general outline of Kim Jong-un’s response are easy to project. Then, Pyongyang, then having no preferred option of armed reprisal, could strike (a) the American homeland; (b) American military forces in the region, and/or (c) other targets in Guam, Japan or South Korea.

Whatever North Korea’s preferred configuration of selected targets, Kim Jong-un’s retaliatory blow would likely be designed so as not to elicit any unacceptably massive (possibly even nuclear) American counter-retaliations. However, any such carefully reasoned conclusion by Kim would depend, among other things, upon the Korean dictator’s own rationality and on largely unpredictable synergies between Kim’s level of rationality and the rational calculations of President Donald Trump. Such synergies—or what the generals would prefer to call “force multipliers”—could produce instability outcomes that are even more insidious than the simple additive sum of their “parts.”

If President Trump should ever decide to launch a conventional defensive first strike, the North Korean response, whether rational or irrational, could conceivably be “disproportionate.” In that prospectively chaotic case—one rife with unprecedented potential for accelerated competition in risk-taking—the introduction of nuclear weapons might not be excluded. If, on the other hand, President Donald Trump’s defensive first strike against North Korea were dramatically less than massive, a fully rational adversary in Pyongyang might then determine that his chosen reprisal be correspondingly “limited.” But if Trump’s consciously rational and systematically calibrated attack upon North Korea were wittingly or unwittingly launched against an irrational Kim, the plausible response could still be an “all out” retaliation.

Any such presumably unanticipated response, whether nuclear or non-nuclear, would be directed at some yet undeterminable combination of America, South Korean, and/or Japanese targets.

It could inflict enormously substantial harms.

Even if only fully rational adversaries are playing it, any advancing strategic “game” between Washington and Pyongyang will demand each player to strive relentlessly for “escalation dominance.” It would be in the manifestly unpracticed internal dynamics of any such rivalry that the prospect of mutual catastrophe could suddenly arise. Looking ahead, this plainly unwanted outcome could be produced in unexpected increments of escalation by one or both national players, or—instead—by any sudden quantum leap in destructiveness undertaken by either side.

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It is all bewilderingly complex, and unprecedented. In facing off against each other for “escalation dominance,” even under the most ideal assumptions of mutual rationality, both President Trump and President Kim Jong-un would have to scrupulously concern themselves endless factors. These include possible miscalculations, errors in information, unauthorized uses of strategic weapons, mechanical or computer malfunctions, and presumptively measureless nuances of cyber war.

There is one final reminder for this president. Trump will need to bear in mind that it is always scientific nonsense to assign mathematical probabilities to unique events. Because an authentic nuclear exchange between North Korea and the United States would represent precisely such a singular event—one with utterly unforeseen intersections, interactions, and synergies—no one can predict with any reassuring degrees of accuracy whether such a conflict (even an asymmetrical conflict) would be more or less likely.

Should President Trump ever decide to strike North Korea preemptively on the erroneously optimistic assumption that his generals have “got everything covered,” he would need to be reminded of the classic warning offered by Carl von Clausewitz. Long before military planners could ever even imagine a nuclear war, the insightful Prussian general and strategist had cautioned leaders in his On War about “friction,” or “the difference between war on paper, and war as it actually is.” Accordingly, nuclear brinksmanship between Washington and Pyongyang would take place in uncharted waters, and require both participating leaders to steer a steady course between escalation dominance and national survival.

Whether this difficult requirement could actually be met is still anyone’s guess.

Nuclear diplomacy is a “game” that America’s president must sometime be prepared to play with North Korea, but it is always a complex contest of strategy, not merely one of chance. In any such game where there exist certain overriding common interests between the players—most notably national survival. Therefore, choosing the best course of action must ultimately depend upon what Trump expects from the other side. In this bewildering game of interdependent decision-making, a largely unpredictable clash of private wills obligates the continuous recalculation of intersecting risks. For instance, it would be foolhardy to expect North Korean denuclearization or to ever seriously consider an American preemption.

Instead, American interests should immediately be focused on more modest but still-realistic movements toward stable mutual nuclear deterrence. Such intelligence-based initiatives would necessarily take into close account the pertinent expectations of Russia and China. Expressed cumulatively, Washington’s core responsibility must be to influence only reasonable expectations of its North Korean adversary, and not to attempt any changes to Pyongyang’s most conspicuously immutable security objectives.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The National Interest


Thu, 10/04/2018 - 01:46

Mordechai encourages Esther to intercede on behalf of her people, taking a leading role in the redemption instead of sitting quietly on the sidelines. In every generation there are those who threaten Israel. Ultimately, Hashem (God) will defend His people and His land, but it is up to each of us to decide if we will rise up, as Queen Esther did, on behalf of Israel. Above, an Israeli army tank sits in the Golan Heights, reminding visitors of the challenges the people of Israel face to maintain control of their promised land. Get this beautiful photo in Israel365’s brand new 16-month calendar and Jewish Holiday guide.

Turkey-Russia Idlib Agreement: A Lesson for the US

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 01:00

Russia and Turkey agreed to a diplomatic solution for Syria’s northern Idlib province at a meeting in Sochi on Sept. 17. It followed weeks of concern that Syria’s regime, backed by its Russian and Iranian allies, would assault the last rebel stronghold in Syria, an area home to several million civilians as well as a coterie of Syrian rebel and extremist groups.

The Russia-Turkey deal may provide a lesson for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It shows that a country’s goals can be achieved, and conflict avoided, as long as military force is a clear option and a country stands by its allies. In this case, Russia and Turkey both were committed to their allies and refused to see them defeated or lose face in a potential battle.

Over the past decade, the Middle East has undergone unprecedented turmoil, characterized by the breakdown of states and the rise of extremist groups. This reached a peak in 2014 when the Islamic State took over wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, an area the size of Pennsylvania with a population of around 10 million. U.S. policy in the region has lacked clarity and U.S. allies see Washington as frequently changing course. For example, under the Obama administration the United States timidly backed the Syrian rebels, only to eventually withdraw most support under President Trump.

Israel was concerned that the Iran nuclear deal empowered Tehran and decided to go it alone in Syria with strategic bombing against increasing Iranian influence. Saudi Arabia opposed the Iran deal and has praised the Trump administration’s recent moves to isolate Tehran. The United States also has sought to placate Turkey, while Ankara has accused Washington of training a “terrorist army” in eastern Syria.

In Iraq, U.S. policy has tacked back and forth, leaving allies frustrated and enemies empowered. In 2010, the United States backed former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to govern Iraq as U.S. troops withdrew. In 2014, when Maliki’s policies alienated the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq and ISIS routed the Iraqi army, the United States embraced Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Both men were from the Shi’ite sectarian Dawa party and close to Iran. Yet some U.S. policymakers thought Abadi would bring stability after ISIS was defeated in 2017. When former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Abadi that Iranian-backed Shia militia should “go home,” Abadi objected and told the United States that the militias were the “hope of the country and the region.”

Kurdish allies in northern Iraq held an independence referendum last year, hoping the United States would support the Kurds, who fought alongside Americans against Saddam Hussein and then against Shia extremists and ISIS. Instead, the United States spurned the Kurdish region and backed Abadi. But in May 2018, Abadi came in third in the Iraqi elections — and now Washington is worried once again that it could “lose Iraq.” U.S. senators are trying to sanction Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Washington is finally confronting Iran’s meddling.

In Syria, the United States also has Kurdish allies, who are keen on a closer relationship and want guarantees that their hard-fought war against ISIS will lead to continued autonomy. But Washington is careful to use diplomatic-speak when discussing eastern Syria, talking about supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but never full-throated on specifics about long-term commitment. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the SDF had “carried the brunt of the fighting responsibilities overwhelmingly” against ISIS. So, the United States acknowledges that the mostly-Kurdish SDF was key to defeating ISIS in Syria, but Washington isn’t clear on what comes next.

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The lesson from the Idlib agreement is that the United States should follow the clarity that Turkey and Russia have given their allies. Turkey made it clear to its Syrian rebel allies that it won’t abandon them in Idlib. Russia has stood by the Syrian regime. The Idlib agreement envisions pulling back heavy weapons from the frontline and establishing a 15- to 20-kilometer demilitarized zone. Turkey has agreed to remove the most extremist groups from Idlib, and Russia will try to restrain Syrian regime attacks.

The United States has not given clear commitments to its allies in Syria. In Iraq, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has expressed hope for a new “nationalist” government in Baghdad, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley recently condemned Iran’s attempt to weaken the country, and Vice President Mike Pence condemned an Iranian ballistic missile attack in the Kurdish region. Condemning Iran’s meddling in Iraq is a good step — but the United States needs to clearly articulate that it is sticking by its allies this time, not just pay lip service to balancing interests.

If America’s enemies support their allies, then the United States must stand by its friends. The Idlib agreement shows that peace is more likely to come through strength.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Middle East Forum

Trump & Palestine vs. Genesis, Rashi & The Land of Israel

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 00:00

The G-d of Israel does have a sense of Humor. Juxtaposing Pres. Trump’s recent UN press conference where he spoke of his two-state plan, followed within ten days, by G-d’s opinion of that plan.

A few days ago, millions of Jews around Israel and the Jewish world, danced with Sefer Torahs for Simchat Torah. And, this Shabbat, all across the Jewish world, the yearly Sabbath Torah reading will begin anew with Bereshit, the beginning of the Book of Genesis.

The most basic commentary on the Torah, printed in almost all Hebrew editions, is that of Rashi – Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki – the famous 11th century French Biblical and Talmudic commentator.

In the beginning, literally, of Genesis, Rashi asks a question, “Why does the Torah start with the story of creation? Since the Torah is a book of laws for the Jewish People, why doesn’t it begin with the first law given by G-d to the Jews, the law for establishing a calendar?”

He answers, the Torah starts with the creation narrative to establish that G-d is the Master of the Universe. Then, Rashi says the most amazing thing that still resonates almost a thousand years later. Based on earlier sources and a thorough knowledge of the meaning of Judaism, Rashi says, “So that if the nations come to Israel and say, you are thieves – in Hebrew, she-kevash-tem, you conquered and occupied – the land from the nations living there, you can tell them that all the universe is G-d’s, He created it and gave it to the nations, and when He decided, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Three things have become starkly clear in our era:

First, that Rashi’s explanation of the Torah has in fact come true. Jews have returned to the Land of Israel, but the UN and many nations claim, as Rashi explained they would, that we stole the land from others, namely the so-called Palestinians.

Second, the Israeli Left uses the same Hebrew root/term – kibush, occupation – to denigrate the miraculous victory of the 1967 Six-Day War. It is the same term, “occupation”, used by most of the world in their criticism of Israeli policies in the “territories,” Judea and Samaria.

Even Ariel Sharon used it at one point to justify his withdrawal from Gaza. It is the language of self-hating Jews – those disconnected from Jewish history and tradition – and the Judeo-paths among the nations. Occupation is when you steal someone else’s land.

The Jewish People liberated parts of the Land of Israel, their Promised Homeland, in stages, first in 1948 and then in 1967 with G-d’s help. The Jewish People didn’t “steal” anything.

And finally, that the only basis for the Jewish People’s national life in their homeland is G-d’s promise as set down in the Bible; not history, not security, but G-d’s promise to their forefathers. Only, being rooted in Jewish tradition will guarantee long-term survival, as it did in nearly 2,000 years of exile.

Rashi told the Jewish People, “He took it from them and gave it to us.” And, that’s what every Jewish leader should continuously broadcast on the world stage.

In a recent UN press conference Trump said:

“Well I’d love to be able to make a deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. You know, my whole life I was told that’s the toughest deal…but we’re going to take care of that too. Every possible thing is tough about that. I think we’re going to make a deal…”

“So at one of our many meetings today, I was with Bibi Netanyahu, a man who I have a lot of respect for. A man who’s been extremely nice to me, very happy that I did the whole thing with Jerusalem and the embassy, which by the way we got open in four months…”

And, what is Trump expecting in return?

Trump continued, “…one of the reporters…asked about the one state two state, and I said I think the two state will happen, I think it’s [one] way more difficult because it’s a real estate deal, because you need meets and bounds and you need lots of carve outs and lots of everything. It’s actually a little tougher deal, but another way it works better because you have people governing themselves and – so they asked me about that. I said well I think the two state will happen, I think we’re going to go down the two state road…”

“And I’m glad I got it out and Jared, who’s so involved, he loves Israel. He loves Israel. But he’s also going to be very fair with the Palestinians. He understands it takes two people to be happy, two groups of people to be happy.”

Another Jewish traitor to the Land of Israel?

“Everybody’s got to be happy and that’s why it’s so tough, because there’s been so much hatred and anger for so many years, that’s what probably the number one ingredient of toughness is. But they asked me, I said I think it’s going to be a two state. And you know what I did today? By saying that, I put it out there. And if you ask most of the people in Israel, they agree with that…”

Not true, a recent study conducted by the Left-leaning Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, found only 43% of Israeli Jews support the two-state solution, a 20-year low. Even among the Israeli Jewish Left, support fell from 83% to 66%.

Trump continued, “But nobody wanted to say it. It’s a big thing to put it out, it’s a very big thing to put it out. Now bottom line, if the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state – that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy. I’m a facilitator, I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.”

“When we had – in Saudi Arabia, we had one of the great conferences in history…we had, I believe 58 Muslim countries – their leaders, the kings, the Emirs, the absolute leaders from every – there was nobody in second place, they were the leaders of the whole thing.”

“And unbeknownst to anybody else people would come up to me individual – it wasn’t a set up, they’d come up to me and say, “sir, you can’t have peace in the Middle East without peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” I said why, what difference – why does that matter so much?

They said, “it just is impossible to make peace in the Middle East unless you have between the Israelis..” so I heard that from…the King of Saudi Arabia whose a great guy…And then, somebody else came up and he wasn’t told, “oh go up and say it,” I know where they’re coming from.”

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So, Trump is sympathetic to the Arab position?

He continued, “And I must have had 12 leaders say it, and they just said it. And I started to realize that peace between Israel and the Palestinians for the Middle East is a very important thing and we’re trying very hard to get it. I think probably two state[s] is more likely, but you know, if they do a single, if they do a double, I’m OK with it if they’re both happy. If they’re both happy, I’m OK with either. I think the two state is more likely…”

Trump thinks its going to be two states…

A true Jewish leader needs to stand up, not frightened of Trump or anyone, and declare, “The Master of the Universe took it from them and gave it to us.” The Promised Land belongs to the Jews exclusively, and not to any other nation.

Any Israeli prime minister who can’t get on TV, go to the UN General Assembly, or any other meeting with world leaders and say these words, should quit, before rejecting the promises of G-d and participating in a process to help another group take over part of the Land of Israel.

As King David said, “If I forget you Jerusalem” – a term for the entire Land of Israel – “let my right hand wither” – rather than sign any false peace agreement – “let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth….” (Psalms 137: 5-6) rather than agree to foreigners taking over part of the Jewish People’s homeland.

Why lie to the Palestinians? Why make them believe they are right, that Israel “stole” their land? Why participate in a peace process? Why fool them into believing that Israel will give them land and a state?

Netanyahu, should tell the world, “He took it from them and gave it to us.”

What’s most important for Israeli leaders and the world to understand is, that no matter what the Israeli government decides to do, it has no Religious Legitimacy in Judaism. No Israeli leader or government has the moral, historical, or spiritual right to take away parts of the Promised Land from the Jewish People and give it to others. It’s not theirs to do with as they please; the Land of Israel is an inheritance from G-d and it is not for one generation to decide what to do with it. It is also for all future generations of Jews. It will never be accepted by Jews steeped in their heritage and tradition, or by G-d.

“Ani Ma’amin…” I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even if he takes a long time to come, I believe every day, he’s coming! It is one of the thirteen principles of faith as codified by Maimonides. The Jews will get back their homeland; the Palestinians will not have a state. So why start now, so close to his coming?

The Land of Israel was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, the Jews

The Master of the Universe told them that even though their children will suffer terrible exiles – an educational and cleansing process – in the end, He would bring them home. In the 1948 War of Independence, G-d gave political sovereignty to the Jews for the first time in almost 2,000 years. In the 1967 Six-Day War, G-d returned the Holy City of Jerusalem in its entirety – including eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – to the Jewish People. Hebron – Judaism’s second holiest city – with the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and King David’s first capital city, before Jerusalem – was returned as well. Truthfully, Judea and Samaria – the so-called West Bank – is drenched in Jewish history and Jewish holy sites. That’s why it’s commonly referred to as the “Biblical Heartland”.

The Jewish People have been brought home

Those who have built their world-view on security needs and have claimed that we cannot allow a Palestinian state to come into existence because of that, have missed the point. The Palestinians, and the world, are playing the “Peace Card”. Even if they promised up and down, that there would be a thousand years of “Peace”, how can Israel spurn G-d’s promise?

Members of the ruling Likud Party and the National Camp have for years based their claim to the “occupied territories” on historical claim, and, more importantly, have said that for security reasons, they couldn’t give them away. Rather than remind everyone of the Biblical Promise and that it’s non-negotiable.

The Israeli Left, in contrast, has argued for quite some time that control over Judea and Samaria is a security liability and not an asset. They have argued that the only true security is in “Peace” with the Arabs and not the status quo. American presidents, from Clinton to Obama, have basically said the same thing. Trump is following in their footsteps…

The Likud, the National Camp, the Yesha Council, and all those on the “Israeli Right,” who can’t bring themselves to base their claim on the Biblical Promise, have missed the point.

The Israeli Left never had it. The world, well what can we say? Except, “He took it from them and gave it to us.” There is no spiritual legitimacy to retreat from the Land of Israel. There is no spiritual legitimacy in refusing to graciously receive G-d’s Promised Land, and fight to keep it. There is no spiritual legitimacy to any of these so-called “Peace” agreements, Oslo, the Roadmap, or the “Trump Plan.”

Israeli/Singaporean Researchers Show Harmful Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:22

After the Children of Israel were delivered from the hands of the ancient Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds and complained that the water was too bitter to drink, the prophet Moshe threw a piece of wood into it, making it sweet.

Today, there is a cornucopia of sugar, honey, corn and date syrup and other natural sweeteners to make what we eat and drink more palatable – but these carbohydrates have made people around the world fat and even obese. They and diabetics who must limit their intake of glucose were overjoyed when in 1879, saccharin – the first artificial sweetener – was accidentally synthesized and found to be sweet (albeit with a bitter aftertaste); it was followed in the second half of the 20th century with numerous others, from aspartame to sucralose. These have a few or even zero calories. Now, they said, “we can eat sweet things without worrying.”

But alas, this proved too good to be true. Except for stevia – a green-leaved plant that has been widely used as a natural sweetener in South America for centuries and was adopted in the Western world in the last few decades – artificial sweeteners have in recent years been suspected of being harmful. Some of them have been accused of causing cancer, making people eat even more and causing diabetes, but research has not been absolutely conclusive.

Now, scientists in Israel (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba) and Singapore (Nanyang Technological University) have shown in a new published scientific paper that six artificial sweeteners and sports supplements are toxic to beneficial digestive microbes in the intestines.

Gut bacteria are an important component of the microbiota ecosystem in the human gut, which is colonized by many trillions of microbes – even 10 times more than the number of human cells in the body. According to researchers in a 2015 article in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, intestinal bacteria play an important role in human health, such as supplying essential nutrients, synthesizing vitamin K, aiding in the digestion of cellulose and promoting the formation of new blood vessels and the function of nerves in the gastric system.

However, they can also be potentially harmful due to the change of their composition when the gut ecosystem undergoes abnormal changes through the use of antibiotics, illness, stress, aging, bad dietary habits and lifestyle. When gut bacteria are destroyed, many chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and obesity can result.

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Just appearing in the journal Molecules, the Israel-Singapore collaborative study found fault with aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k), as well as with 10 sport supplements containing these artificial sweeteners. The bacteria found in the digestive system (such as E. coli) had a toxic response when exposed to concentrations of only one milligram per milliliter of the artificial sweeteners.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system,” said Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of the biotechnology engineering department of Ben-Gurion University, who is also a member of the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev. “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity, which can cause a wide range of health issues.”

Artificial sweeteners are used in countless food products and soft drinks with reduced sugar content. Many people consume this added ingredient in various foods and even toothpastes without even being aware of it. Moreover, artificial sweeteners have been identified as emerging environmental pollutants and can be found in drinking and surface water, as well as groundwater aquifers.

Currently, the authors wrote, there is still no consensus regarding the health consequences of artificial sweeteners intake, as they have not been fully investigated.

The bioluminescent bacteria, which light up when they detect toxicants, act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system. Toxic effects were found when the bacteria were exposed to certain concentrations of the artificial sweeteners.

For decades, the food, beverage and other industries have used artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes for those who are diabetic and/or obese. Industries, they continued, highlight the beneficial aspects of artificial sweeteners’ use, such as tooth “friendliness,” increased quality of life for diabetics and weight control.  But, in addition to the environmental pollution issues, there has been much evidence about the possible negative impact sugar substitutes contribute to human health.

Yet, the total consumption of artificial sweeteners in foods has only increased among people of all ages, with 28% of the total population consuming them. “For the consumers’ safety, it is necessary to control the content of sweeteners in foods,” they wrote.

The US Food and Drug Authority has approved the use of the six artificial sweeteners studied, and the European Union food authorities also okayed them. Artificial sweeteners provide a sweeter taste than sugar and also enhance food flavor, while contributing very little to energy intake.

Professional and amateur athletes, who devote much care to their diets, often take sport supplements to improve their physical performance in training and competitions. In several registered products’ patents, it is clearly stated that artificial sweeteners are added to electrolyte drinks and food supplements. As a result, the researchers continued, “the average consumption of artificial sweeteners is higher in athletes and any potential health risks involved would also be more significant.”

Worldwide Torah Awakening is Prophesied B’nei Efraim Returning

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:46

Sitting beneath the shade of a Jerusalem Sukkah, Pastor Pete Rambo spoke of the prophetic mission of Christians all around the world who are “awakening” from their traditional religious perspectives and embracing the roots of the Christian faith in the Hebrew Bible.  

Rambo’s group of 55 internationals, which calls itself B’nei Efraim (children of Efraim, or Efraimites), visited Israel during Sukkot, a Jewish festival in which Jews and non-Jews alike would, in Temple Times, bring offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Ranging from ages 13-79, the group hailed from the US, Australia, South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands – visiting Israel from September 16-October 2 to celebrate Sukkot, while participating in acts of civil service – picking up city trash as a service to their “Jewish brothers” and “to make the holidays even holier.”

Bnei Efraim volunteering in Jerusalem. (Credit: Gil Lewinsky)

Back in their respective countries, each share a love for Israel, are Shabbat and festival observant and “eat clean” similar to the strict Kashrut standards by which Orthodox Jews hold. But they did not grow up observing these traditions – many began as traditional Christians only to stumble on a Bible passage that sparked their interest in returning to the roots of the Christian tradition – the Hebrew Bible.

Now, “very few of us would describe ourselves as Christians, but rather I identify as a lover of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who displays this love through following God and his commandments and desiring restoration,” posed Rambo.

Dorothe Waidelich, an Efraimite from Germany, recalled stumbling on a scripture expressing that “one day for God is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day” and connecting this to other scriptures that said “after the 6000thyear, God will reign in his kingdom for the 7000thyear.”

“I connected this idea to the Jewish calendar and days of creation where God told the Israelites to work for six days and rest on the seventh,” she told Breaking Israel News.

After reading this, other scriptures began to make sense as Waidelich came to understand that Shabbat must be remembered and kept holy according to Exodus 20:8.

Likewise, she said, “I realized that the feasts are still God’s feasts and should be celebrated by all of humanity. I realized that Yehuda are Jews, and Christians are a part of the people of Israel who will come together as brothers,” declared Waidelich, who began to attend “Hebrew roots” conferences, eventually meeting Rambo.

Waidelich additionally stressed the importance of supporting Jews and Israel as a German and she has become an ambassador in conversation with colleagues “to show them a different picture of Israel than what is shown in the media.”

Similarly, Ingrid Marais of South Africa began to question why Christians changed Shabbat from Saturday to Sunday and why the festivals as described in the Bible are no longer adhered to.

“God said this is my house, my rules and the Torah is for all of Israel – we see a lot of what is happening as prophecy coming to fruition and are repenting for those who reject the ways of the Torah,” she said, adding that Efraimites reject replacement theology, the idea that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has been replaced with Christians.

“God’s promise for restoration does not mean replacing anyone – as the house of Israel, we come alongside the Jewish people,” Marais maintained.

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Efraimite identity is rooted in the prophecies of 1 Kings, concerning ten lost tribes who will forget their original language, culture, history and religion, as well as Ezekiel 37, concerning the ingathering of the exiles of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel:

And you, O mortal, take a stick and write on it, “Of Yehuda and the Israelites associated with him”; and take another stick and write on it, “Of Yosef—the stick of Efraim—and all the House of Yisrael associated with him.” Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand.” (Ezekiel 16-17)

Thus said Hashem: I am going to take the stick of Yosef—which is in the hand of Efraim—and of the tribes of Yisrael associated with him, and I will place the stick of Yehuda upon it and make them into one stick; they shall be joined in My hand.” (Ezekiel 19)

“We were dispersed and forgot Torah and Shabbat,” said Rambo, “so we believe that we are Israel, a lost tribe that, during the final redemption, will return to the Promised Land to reunite under one leader as prophesied in Ezekiel. We all feel the Geula (redemption) coming,” he said.

Together, Rambo’s groups come to Israel for the feasts “to bless Israel and be blessed in return,” according to Genesis 12:3:

“I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”

But not everyone agrees with this reciprocal blessing.

As Marais also took on Hebrew traditions, she found that “in South Africa, a very Christian country, it was hard for our families to accept our new practices. They believe we are rejecting our Christian faith,” she said.

Bnei Efraim prepare food ahead of eating in a Sukkah. (Credit: Pete Rambo)

“Taking on the traditions has come at a heavy cost.”

In the absence of support of some of their Christian family and friends back home, each maintained that they have found great support among Jews and Israelis. Throughout the visit, the group stayed in a Yemenite Jewish moshav (settlement) Givat Ye’arim for the third time since Rambo began bringing groups – aided by facilitator Tzemach, a Givat Ye’arim resident.

On the moshav, they celebrate Shabbat together, learn Israeli folk dancing, sit together in the Sukkah and dance with the Torah for the holiday of Simchat Torah, celebrating the finishing and new beginning of the cycle of Torah readings.

However according to Rambo, this trip’s importance is even greater than a way to celebrate together and build bridges – it’s prophecy. “Prophecy tells us that in the last days, there will be a time when nations will come up for Sukkot.”

All who survive of all those nations that came up against Yerushalayim shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King lord of Hosts and to observe the festival of Sukkot.” (Zechariah 14:16)

Rambo imagines a day when “millions will come, every moshav hosting them like we have been hosted.”

According to Rambo, we are not far off from that reality – he maintained that there are Efraimites everywhere, some of whom, because they are not Jewish and cannot become citizens of Israel, have even moved to Aqaba, Jordan to live inexpensively and be closer to the land for the festivals.

“Around the world there are thousands of us, maybe millions. It’s a growing movement,” he said, encouraging more Jewish people to “understand that we come with no dangerous hidden agenda and to build bridges with us as our hosts of Givat Ye’arim did.”

“Times are changing and we are all a part of it,” he exclaimed.


Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:28

With a trusted friend, even actions that seem hurtful ultimately turn out to be beneficial. A well-timed reprimand from someone who loves you can guide you to a better course of action. An enemy, however, should not be trusted. Even if he appears to offer love and support, he will ultimately lead you astray. This idea is reflected in the words of the prophets who rebuke the Israelites for putting their trust in other nations, such as Assyria and Egypt, instead of Hashem (God). Ultimately, they were let down by their enemies who determined they had nothing more to gain from the Jewish people.

Sukkot Ends With Clouds of Gog Magog War on Temple Mount [VIDEO]

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:06

On Sunday, a group of Jews praying on the Mount of Olives witnessed a large white cloud rise up out of the ground from the Temple Mount.

The phenomenon was recorded by Josh Wander, a Mount of Olives resident. A sunrise prayer session was organized on a plaza overlooking the Temple Mount for the holiday of Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of the week-long holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

“Just after sunrise, I was recording a Facebook live video of the prayers when I panned my camera to the Temple Mount,” Wander told Breaking Israel News. “All of a sudden, I noticed a cloud or fog that erupted from the northeastern corner of the mount. It seemed to be coming from the area which was designated for women in the time of the Temple and the eastern gateway, which confused me, since I know that today, it is an orchard of olive trees and there is normally no activity there.”

The balcony of Wander’s home overlooks the Temple Mount so he is intimately familiar with the scenery. He is also a regular visitor to the site and said he has never seen anything like this before.

“It was billowing up so I thought some Arabs might be burning branches,” Wander said. “But it was much too early for Arabs to be on the Temple Mount and I didn’t see any Arabs there before, during, or after and certainly no fire. It was not just a thin mist and the video doesn’t really convey the presence of the mist.”

When he lived in the United States, Wander served as a pilot in the Air Force Auxiliary where he was trained to identify clouds. Meteorology and identifying clouds is an essential part of pilot training.

“There was very little wind and the smoke just seemed to crawl across the mount toward the Dome of the Rock,” Wander said. “It seemed to come out of a specific spot but after several minutes, it seemed to be rising up from multiple sources in the same general area.”

Wander reluctantly described the mist with a word he rarely uses.

“It looked supernatural,” he said. Not trusting his own eyes, Wander asked the people around him if they could also see the mist. Most were immersed in their holiday prayers and had not noticed but when it was pointed out, they confirmed the mist’s presence. The phenomenon lingered on the ground around the golden dome for more than 20 minutes.  

“I am certainly not the kind of person who sees signs in nature,” Wander said. “But this was just too out of the ordinary to ignore. It looked eery and the location, the site of the Holy of Holies, is too significant.”

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When Rabbi Yosef Berger heard of the sighting, he responded with equanimity.

“If you had told me that it happened any other day of the year, I would not have assigned it any significance,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “But to have this cloud appear on Hoshana Rabbah is highly significant and makes me happy, knowing the geula (redemption) is at hand.”

The rabbi cited Midrash Talpiot, a collection of homiletic and oral teachings compiled by Elijah ben Solomon Abraham ha-Kohen of Smyrna in the 17th century.

“It is written in the Midrash Talpiot that the War of Gog and Magog will begin three hours before the dawn on Hoshana Rabbah, the battle will last three hours, and then the Moshiach will begin to appear,” Rabbi Berger said. “Of course this war is accompanied by flames and smoke as was hinted at in Psalms.”

Hashem is in its midst, it will not be toppled; by daybreak…He puts a stop to wars throughout the earth, breaking the bow, snapping the spear, consigning wagons to the flames. Psalms 46:6-10

“It very well could be that a major battle was being waged on the Temple Mount on the spiritual plane and the only part of it that we could see was the smoke,” Rabbi Berger said. “It has been clear all year that a war is being waged for the Temple Mount.”

The rabbi noted that a record 28,000 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount in the past year and an additional 5,000 visited the site during the recent holidays.

“Smoke is only one aspect of the war, an illusion that we can see with our eyes while the real battle is being waged on planes we cannot see,” Berger said. “The real battle goes much deeper. We may be seeing other aspects of the battle in the near future.”

“During Sukkot we read about Gog and Magog in the Haftarah (a section of the Bible – usually from the Prophets – read in the synagogue that is thematically linked to the Torah reading). On Pesach, we read as the Haftarah Ezekiel’s vision of the Dry Bones,” Rabbi Berger said. “The war begins on the last day of Sukkot and the resurrection begins on Pesach.”

Rabbi Berger noted that Hoshana Rabbah is the day of judgment for the nations.

“We are seeing a realignment among the nations concerning Israel,” Berger said. “The United Nations is going through changes and may cease to exist. In England, America, Germany, and so many countries, their politics is being determined by how they relate to Israel and the Bible. This is a precursor to what will happen soon, what is already taking place on levels we cannot see.”

International UNRWA Employees Flee Gaza in “Fear of Their Lives”

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 06:08

Palestinian refugee organization, was forced to evacuate most of its international senior officials from the Gaza Strip due to fears for their safety.

The situation in the Hamas-run enclave is deteriorating and come on the back of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Administration’s decision to defund the agency. There were claims that the

In an ironic twist of fate, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the dedicated overseas staffers received credible death threats and threats of violence. The officials were also said to have been harassed by employees of the agency.

An agency source claimed that approximately 10 staff members crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday. They were taken out of the Strip via the Erez Crossing, despite the fact that the checkpoint was officially closed for Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). The Israeli Defense Ministry unit that oversees the crossing said a number of foreign employees from the agency known as UNRWA “were evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.”

UNRWA’s leadership has been supportive of the Hamas-inspired (along with other militant Islamist groups) so-called March of Return. Since March, increasingly violent riots – not peaceful protests – as UNRWA officials and others would have us believe – have taken place alongside the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. It must be especially galling that when Hamas-led attackers on Israel’s border are armed with guns, grenades, molotov cocktails and wire cutters that Palestinians are “exercising their right to protest,” but when those same “demonstrators” turn on UNRWA officials it becomes a “threat to security.” Added to that combustible mix is the fact that those same staff had to flee to Israel.

UNRWA’s plea to Gaza’s Hamas authorities “to respond to its repeated demands to provide effective protection to its employees and facilities,” apparently fell on deaf ears.

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UNRWA’s budget deficit in the wake of Washington’s decision to cut off its $350 million funding means that 113 jobs have been eliminated and 584 staff positions changed to part time positions.

Donor countries have pledged to give $118 million in aid as well as $46 million from the European Union.

The Trump Administration’s decision to cut funding to UNRWA (and also to East Jerusalem hospitals) was based on the U.S. assessment that the investment of tens of billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians has neither improved their living conditions nor advanced the cause of peace with Israel.

In a recent speech at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee annual meeting, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt reiterated America’s current stance.

“We must all ask ourselves why we should keep struggling to raise money when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the Palestinian Authority are squandering the opportunities our money provides for a better future for Palestinians,” he said.

He further argued that to continue the same pattern of providing significant aid and getting neither political nor economic advancement “would be folly.”

UNRWA claims to support or supports the claims of 5 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants – a number hotly disputed by both the U.S. and Israeli administrations. It provides schooling for more than 500,000 children in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Despite Israel’s government publicly backing the U.S.-led initiative to call UNRWA to account, the Israeli defense establishment is concerned that the withdrawal of funding may work to strengthen support for Hamas.

US Starts Implementing 10-Year $38 Billion Israel Defense-Aid Plan

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 04:39

The U.S. State Department has announced that an MOU signed in 2016 between the United States and Israel to provide $38 billion in defense financing to Israel has become officially operational.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement announcing the implementation of the MOU, saying that “under the terms of the MOU, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next 10 years, a significant increase enabling Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States that will, over time, enhance Israel’s security and strengthen our bilateral relationship.”

The statement reiterates the United States’ longstanding bipartisan commitment to the safety and security of Israel.

“Our implementation of this historic MOU reflects the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel’s security,” Nauert stated, noting that “the MOU was negotiated under the previous Administration, reflecting the bipartisan nature of this commitment.”

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“The United States unconditionally affirms Israel’s right to self-defense, and this MOU is a concrete demonstration of our commitment to Israel’s capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries,” she added.

While Israel receives among the largest annual aid packages from the United States, Israel provides the United States with significant value — both in terms of intelligence it provides, as well as operational feedback on equipment that can be later deployed by the United States or sold to other countries.

“Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel, but also American interests,” stated Nauert. “Israel is also threatened by the reckless proliferation of destabilizing weapons systems into the region that increase the possibility of an escalated conflict in an already dangerous and volatile theater.”

In response to the MOU becoming operational, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the American administration and Congress for their commitment to Israel.

“Israel and the world face complex security challenges, especially Iranian aggression. The unreserved US support for Israel’s right to defend itself is among the pillars of the strong bond between the two countries,” he said.

Heal O’Israel, Is Fish Oil Beneficial for Diabetics?

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 03:41

I am a 54-year-old woman, with type-2 diabetes (my H2A1B is about 7). I wonder whether taking fish oil (omega 3) would be beneficial and protect me from cardiovascular disease, which I do not have, or be good for my health in general. F.T, Jamaica

Howard Rice, a veteran Israeli pharmaceutical consultant, answers:

To start with, the ideal level of HbA1c – glycated hemoglobin, which tells you your average level of blood sugar over the past two to three months – should be below 6.4. This is the accepted limit for “pre-diabetes. Above IS diabetes. Although your level is about 7, you should try to keep in below 7. Try to reach the level of 6.4. I say this since you are relatively young, and many problems could be avoided by reaching a lower level. It’s easily said, but try with regular exercise and an appropriate diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found as EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), both of which are found primarily in certain fish. Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) fatty acid, is found in some nuts and seeds.

Your body need these fatty acids –known as essential fatty acids— to function. One of the problems with diabetes is the risk of heart disease, and omega 3 can only benefit. Helps avoid this by lowering triglycerides. A British study found that omega 3 promotes healthier gut-bacteria-reducing obesity in women and therefore also diabetes type A recent Harvard University study also found that omega 3 raises levels of a hormone called adiponectin, which increases insulin sensitivity so this may control type 2 diabetes. However more research still has to be done.

It is certain, however, that all three types of omega 3 oils reduce inflammation (this can prevent stroke) and reduce insulin resistance (diabetes). One also needs to eat foods with omega 6 –the other type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in meat and other plant-eating animals in a ratio of one part of omega 3 to four parts omega 6, but this is another story!


My question has to do with secondary lymphedema from breast cancer treatment 22 years ago. It has gradually gotten worse, now extending down into the torso. Are there any treatments other than manual lymph drainage, sleeves, wrapping and pumps? I am currently using all those options, with no real improvements, though the pain has been lessened. V.S., via email.

Prof. Tamar Peretz, head of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Sharett Institute of Oncology and a leading breast cancer expert in Jerusalem, replies:

Unfortunately, there are no other therapies. I am sorry that I cannot help more. 


Our 10-year-old son is extremely sensitive to touch. Doctors, who diagnosed the problem as neuropathic pain, have not been able to suggest anything in his case. Is there any promising research dealing with this problem? C.R., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US.

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich replies

Yes, there is hope in recent research. A study led by Boston Children’s Hospital and the US National Institute of Mental Health) may open up new opportunities for treating neuropathic pain, a difficult-to-treat type of chronic pain due to damage to the nervous system that can make the lightest touch intensely painful. Writing in the prestigious journal Nature a few weeks ago, scientists led by Dr. Zhigang He and Dr. Clifford Woolf showed that neurons that originate in the brain’s cortex influence sensitivity to touch. The circuit could help explain why mind-body techniques to control pain seem to help many people.

“We know that mental activities of the higher brain – cognition, memory, fear and anxiety – can cause you to feel more or less pain, said Woolf. “Now we’ve confirmed a physiological pathway that may be responsible for the extent of the pain. We have identified a volume control in the brain for pain — now we need to learn how to switch it off.”

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Pain sensation was previously thought to originate with neurons in the spinal cord receiving sensory information from the body and relaying it on to the brain. The new study found that a small group of neurons in the cortex can amplify touch sensation, sending projections to the same parts of the spinal cord that receive tactile sensory information from the body (known as the dorsal horns). The anatomy of this circuit has been known for some time, but no one actually looked at its function before, He continued.

“In normal conditions, the touch and pain layers of the spinal cord are strongly separated by inhibitory neurons,” added Dr. Alban Latremoliere, one of four co-first authors on the paper. “After nerve injury, this inhibition is lost, leading to touch information activating pain neurons. When the spinal neurons that are supposed to be pain-only send this information to the brain, we feel pain.”

The researchers believe that the cortical neurons they identified could be a potential target for treating the tactile component of neuropathic pain, via drugs or possibly brain electrical stimulation, breaking a feedback loop that introduces and exaggerates the pain response to normally non-painful touch.

When the team severed these neurons or silenced them genetically in a mouse model of neuropathic pain, the mice stopped recoiling from light, innocuous touches, such as stroking with a soft paintbrush or placement of a bit of tape on the bottom of a foot. But the mice retained their sensitivity to truly painful stimuli, reflexively withdrawing their paws when exposed to heat, cold or pinpricks.

They used recently developed technologies to visualize and target specific groups of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. This made it possible for them to observe the results when different neurons were activated or silenced in a mouse model and observe which circuits were activated when mice were exposed to noxious or innocuous stimuli.


“Our findings might help us target the stimulation to particular areas or groups of neurons,” said He. “It might be interesting to look at clinical data and try to replicate the stimulation in animals, and see what kind of stimulation would silence these neurons.”

With functional imaging technologies, investigators could probe what kinds of interventions maximally inhibit this circuit, added Woolf.

“We now have the ability to silence or activate whole groups of neurons and image their patterns of electrical firing with single-neuron resolution. None of this was possible 10 years ago.”

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

California Super Volcano Found with 240 Cubic Miles of Magma

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 03:26

Following extensive surveys, geologists in the United States claim they have revealed the presence of a super volcano in California. Scientists estimate a volume of 240 cubic miles of magma still swirls underneath the earth’s surface.