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Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:03

The scroll of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon. In later years, this scroll was read aloud during public gatherings. Ecclesiastes is a book of observations on life, made by the wisest man to ever live. According to the Sages, it was written toward the end of Solomon’s life, after he had gathered much wisdom and life experience. Ecclesiastes is a collection of the various challenges in life that may mislead a person. Also, it was written in Jerusalem, a city known for its wisdom. King Solomon was aware that there is a time for love and a time for war. Although the ideal is to live in peace and tranquility, the leaders of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are trained to fight when Israel needs protection. As a Godly nation, Israel only goes to war to defend or protect itself; the State of Israel does not actively seek out conflict. The IDF is the strong and proud protector of the Jewish people in the Jewish land.

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Iran Sends More to the Gallows

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:00

Iran’s judicial authorities “continued to impose and carry out cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments that amounted to torture, including floggings, blindings, and amputations. These were sometimes carried out in public.” At least one woman, Fariba Khaleghi, remains under a sentence of death by stoning. — Amnesty International.

What is worse, the vast majority of those put to death in Iran have not committed crimes that would be punished with that severity (or at all) almost anywhere else in the world, least of all in Europe, Israel, or 23 states (and the District of Columbia) in the USA.

Even before their trials, individuals accused of anti-state convictions are mistreated, tortured, kept in solitary confinement for months on end, and denied access to their families and lawyers. “‘Confessions’ extracted under torture were used as evidence at trial. Judges often failed to deliver reasoned judgments and the judiciary did not make court judgments publicly available.” — Amnesty International.

As for the mullahs, they brook no criticism from any quarter and intend to keep Iran and its people under their iron grip forever, even if that means putting to death every dissident voice.

At the end of December 2017, something almost without precedent happened in cities across Iran. It started in the largest shrine city of Mashhad, then moved to Kermanshah, which had not long before suffered a major earthquake in which some 600 people died and where survivors had been neglected by the state. After that, large-scale protests moved to Sari and Rasht in the north, the clerical city of Qom, then Hamadan, and by the December 29, Tehran itself. In the following days, people were on the streets across the country. Starting on the third day, protesters were challenged by massive turnouts of pro-regime marchers. Anti-government protests, which these were, had not been seen in this quantity since the brutally-crushed risings after the 2009 presidential elections. By January 2, at least 20 protesters had been killed and more than 450 arrested. It was reported on the same day that Iran’s Chief Justice, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, claimed that protesters might be considered “enemies of God”, and executed.

On his website, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,

“accused unnamed foreign enemies of meddling in Iran’s affairs, using money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses ‘to create problems for the Islamic system’. The clerical elite is congenitally incapable of admitting that native Iranians, chafing under their harsh rule, might have genuine reasons for civil unrest.”

President Hassan Rouhani, a fake “reformist”, identified these foreign enemies as “the US, the regime occupying al-Quds [i.e. Israel] and their cronies”.

Nothing deterred, US President Trump tweeted on January 1 that:

“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Complaints are, indeed, many, including condemnation of the regime’s foreign policy, which led to the country spending billions of dollars on its aggressive foreign adventures; supporting the fighting in Yemen and Syria; bolstering Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; paying the Shi’i militias in Iraq; funding Hamas in Gaza, and, in general, financing and participating in terrorism worldwide. Why, these protesters asked, were these billions not being spent on Iran’s own people? Despite modest growth in its economy since 2016, following sanctions relief, the country still suffers from inflation. Should President Trump’s plan to re-impose some sanctions take effect in 2018, another economic downturn is likely. Inevitably, pro-regime demonstrators blame everything on the United States and Israel and carry placards calling for death for their supposed enemies.

Loud as these protests are, they are highly unlikely to lead to real reform. Iranian citizens may have limited freedom to go onto their streets, chanting slogans, but they have no concerted or strong political opposition behind which to rally. Even with only limited freedoms, there is evidence of a strong political purpose: to free Iranian citizens from the dictatorship of the one-party state apparatus. One Persian-language tweet cited by the BBC comes from Tehran University, where protests have taken place. The writer addresses Ayatollah Khamenei insultingly by name, writing: “Sayyid Ali, be ashamed of yourself. Leave the country alone (mamlakat-u raha kon)”.

Significantly, among the calls for change aired in tormented Kermanshah, was one that targeted the impossibility of forming a political counterbalance to the regime. According to The Guardian:

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what [the quasi-official news agency] Fars said was a “call by the anti-revolution”. They shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, and some public property was destroyed. Fars did not name any opposition groups.

There were no opposition groups present because there are no serious opposition groups. The reason for that is expressed in that call, “Political prisoners should be freed”. Iran is choc-a-bloc with political dissidents who languish in its prisons.

It is no secret that the Islamic regime, which has ruled Iran since 1979, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s greatest abusers of human rights. In its 2016-2017 report on Iran, Amnesty International records innumerable instances of gross legislative and functional domestic abuses of women, religious and ethnic minorities, foreign nationals and Iranians with dual nationality. Political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, and reformists have been imprisoned in large numbers, tortured, subjected to five-minute trials without visible evidence or even lawyers to plead their cases. Others have been held under house arrest for many years.

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The United for Iran group publishes a detailed online resource, the Iran Prison Atlas, in which data about a wide range of political prisoners is made available to researchers and the public. Prisoners are classified by religion, ethnicity, the charges made against them, how they have been mistreated, and the nature of their sentences. Currently, there are 645 political prisoners in detention, 1914 who have been released, and 82 who have been executed. Under different rubrics, the atlas lists 671 members of religious minorities, 529 supporting or belonging to dissident groups, 379 facing other religious charges, 262 ethnic activists, and sundry bloggers, pro-democracy activists, civic activists, labor rights activists, human rights defenders, journalists, artists, writers, people accused of collaboration with foreign governments, and women’s rights activists. These numbers stay more or less stable. [1]

The current Amnesty report details:

“Judicial authorities continued to impose and carry out cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments that amounted to torture, including floggings, blindings and amputations. These were sometimes carried out in public.”

Later, the report exposes an equally horrendous breach of human rights:

“The authorities continued to use the death penalty extensively, including against juvenile offenders. Hundreds of executions were carried out after unfair trials. Some executions were conducted in public”.

At least one woman, Fariba Khaleghi, remains under a sentence of death by stoning.

In 2016, Gatestone writer and Iran specialist Majid Rafizadeh identified Iran as the world’s leading country for executions:

Since January 2016, Iran has executed at least 230 people, that is at least one person a day on average. The number of executions has recently increased and Iran ranks first in the world, followed by China, when it comes to executions per capita. Iran executed approximately 1000 people in 2015.

Given the size of Iran’s population (81,588,534 as of January 1, 2018) compared to that of China (1,412,298,946), this is an astonishing statistic. What is worse, the vast majority of those put to death have not committed crimes that would be punished with that severity (or at all) almost anywhere else in the world, least of all in Europe, Israel, or 23 states (and the District of Columbia) in the USA.

This overuse of execution, coupled with its often public exhibition, serves the regime well as a means of frightening the public and deterring any signs of opposition to the regime. In 1988, for example, a fatwa issued by the late Imam Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, led to the killing of an unprecedented 30,000 prisoners, many as young as 13, during a purge of the country’s prisons. Six at a time were hanged from gallows in an effort to scare the public witless. One former official from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison later testified:

Every half an hour from 7.30am to 5pm, 33 people were lifted on three forklift trucks to six cranes, each of which had five or six ropes. He said: “The process went on and on without interruption.” In two weeks, 8,000 people were hanged. Similar carnage took place across the country.

The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (Image source: Ehsan Iran/Wikimedia Commons)

That countrywide massacre was intended to frighten off anyone who might lean towards opposition to the regime. Prisoners were asked to identify their political stance. Those who answered by supporting the Mujahidin-e Khalq or other anti-government movements such as the communist Tudeh Party were sent to die, while those expressing loyalty to the state were spared.

There are no show trials in Iran as there were in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Instead, “trials” are held behind closed doors, are adjudicated by special courts, and are politically and religiously biased. According to Amnesty International:

“Trials, including those resulting in death sentences, were generally unfair. The judiciary was not independent. The Special Court for the Clergy and the Revolutionary Courts remained particularly susceptible to pressure from security and intelligence forces to convict defendants and impose harsh sentences.”

Even before their trials, individuals accused of anti-state convictions are mistreated, tortured, kept in solitary confinement for months on end, and denied access to their families and lawyers.

“‘Confessions’ extracted under torture were used as evidence at trial. Judges often failed to deliver reasoned judgments and the judiciary did not make court judgments publicly available.”

As in Stalinist Russia, fake “confessions” have been used to impose lengthy prison terms or capital punishment. A recent example of this is the case of Iranian-Swedish doctor Ahmadreza Djalali, whose death sentence was confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court on December 17, 2017. Dr. Djalali was a researcher at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, where he worked on improving emergency medical responses to armed terrorism and radiological, chemical and biological threats. When in Iran, he had been on the faculty of the Natural Disaster Research Institute, working on HAZMAT emergencies for the country’s Ministry of Health and later heading the Disaster Management Section of the ministry of Welfare and Social Justice. A useful, even essential, man, one might have thought.

Moving to Sweden, where he obtained his PhD, he settled down with his wife and two children, while holding positions at research centers in Belgium and Italy, and was a well-known name in the disaster medicine field in Europe. He was arrested by agents of the notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security in April 2016, while participating in scientific workshops in Iran, and sentenced to death on October 21 that same year by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

According to an “Urgent Action” report by Amnesty:

Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali, a scientist, medical doctor and academic, has been sentenced to death and fined 200,000 euros after being convicted of “corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel-arz) [sic] following a grossly unfair trial before Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The court verdict alleged that Ahmadreza Djalali had worked as a spy for Israel in the 2000s. According to one of his lawyers, the court produced no evidence to substantiate the claims against him. The court also failed to provide a copy of the verdict and instead summoned one of the lawyers on 21 October 2017 to read the verdict in court.

Why was the Ministry of Intelligence — effectively, the secret police — interested in someone like Djalali at all? Was he really a spy for Israel — a typical false accusation by the Iranian authorities — or were there other reasons? In an article about Djalali for the Washington Examiner last November, Eugene M. Chudnovsky writes:

A source close to Djalali revealed that in 2014 he was approached by agents of the Iranian military intelligence that asked him to collect information on Western chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear sites, as well as on critical infrastructures and counter-terrorism operational plans. Djalali refused.

Chudnovsky adds details to the illegal procedures used to extract a false confession from Djalali:

For three months Djalali was kept in a solitary confinement, interrogated daily with no lawyer present, and tortured to extract false confessions. Later he was placed in an 80 sq. ft. cell with three other prisoners. He was not allowed to speak with a lawyer. In December 2016 he began a hunger strike. It lasted 42 days. In February 2017 he started another hunger strike that lasted 43 days. His health has deteriorated. In July 2017 he was taken to a solitary confinement to prevent his contact with ambassadors from European countries that came to visit him in Evin prison.

Djalali himself has provided testimony to the pressures placed on him while in prison. According to another Amnesty report:

In a voice recording that was published on YouTube on 22 October, Ahmadreza Djalali is heard saying that, while in solitary confinement, he was twice forced to make “confessions” in front of a video camera by reading out statements pre-written by his interrogators. He says that he was put under intense pressure through psychological torture and threats to execute him and arrest his children to “confess” to being a spy for a “hostile government”. In the recording, he says that his academic beliefs have been used to convict him and sentence him to death. He also denies the accusations against him and says they have been fabricated by Ministry of Intelligence interrogators.

Given that Djalali’s is far from the only such case, Chudnovsky ends his article thus:

The case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali is the most horrific among recent cases of scientists accused by Iran of “collaboration with a hostile government”. In 2011 Omid Kokabee, a doctoral student at the University of Texas – Austin, was arrested during a family visit to Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge Salavati after he refused to work for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. He was released in 2016 after developing kidney cancer in Evin prison. Princeton doctoral student Xiyue Wang, who went to Iran to study ancient manuscripts, was arrested in August 2016, accused of spying for the United States, and sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2017.

This is a large part of the context in which we must understand the appalling limits placed on any meaningful participation in domestic politics in Iran. One of the greatest threats to political engagement is the regime’s deliberate silencing of anyone with potential for leadership, whether for outright opposition to the clerical elite or for reform within it. The best-known opponent of the system is Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister and presidential contender who led the brutally suppressed Green Movement in 2009, for which he was named in 2010 by Time magazine as the world’s most influential leader.[2] Since 2011, Mousavi, now 75 and ailing, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard, herself a leading opposition figure, has been detained under house arrest in Tehran.

Similarly, the eminent reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, a former parliamentary speaker, now aged 80, has also remained under house arrest for the past six years. Significantly, although a former student of the Ayatollah Khomeini and a leading figure in the 1979 revolution, Karroubi has supported civil rights for women and ethnic or religious minorities. He could very well have served as an intermediary between the clerical elite and the secular younger generation but has instead been kept out of public life.

Although there are younger potential leaders of the opposition to Iran’s regime, they remain in exile. There is, in effect, no space in Iran itself for opposition leaders to emerge without being arrested, imprisoned, and, in all likelihood (given current threats) hanged. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Dubowitz, and Ray Takyeh sum this up well: “The regime is at an impasse. It has no more political actors — no establishment saviors — to offer its restless constituents”. As for the mullahs, ayatollahs, mujtahids, hujjat al-Islams, marja’-e taqlids of Iran’s bloated and selfish rulers, they brook no criticism from any quarter and intend to keep Iran and its people under their iron grip forever, even if that means putting to death every dissident voice.

The clerics’ days, however, may be numbered a lot sooner than that. Writing in Tablet Magazine on January 4, Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at America’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, describes Iran as an impoverished country run by a corrupt clerical elite and dominated by over-expenditure from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and innumerable bonyads (“charitable” foundations), while leaving the population in dire straits.

What can be done to accelerate the collapse? Broad economic sanctions are out of the question because they would allow the rulers to blame the Americans for the hardships inflicted by their own imperial adventures. But there is plenty of room for targeted measures against regime figures and their associates. The State Department list of sanctioned individuals is far from long enough; many more names deserve the honor.

Let us hope the US administration imposes those very sanctions, and quickly provides further help, in time to save the people of Iran.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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Hebrew-Speaking Catholics Navigate Challenges to Foster Interfaith Dialogue

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:00

It is rare for a Jewish celebration to be disrupted in Israel, but then again, a candle-lighting ceremony last month at Jerusalem’s First Station compound was far from typical: The event was sponsored by Yaakov Hatzadik, a small Catholic community of Hebrew speakers based in the downtown area of the capital, and marked both the Chanukah and Christmas holidays.

While many people viewed the lighting as a significant victory for interfaith relations in the Holy City, others took a contrary view: The ceremony was disrupted members of Lahava, a far-right wing group that began by discouraging romantic relations between Jews and Christians and now seeks to marginalize  non-Jews in many aspects of Israeli society under the guise of opposing “assimilation.”

“Our dialogue is not always seen positively by the Jewish society,” said one member of Kehilat Zion who would only agree to have her first name, Ilana, published. “But I haven’t missed a meeting for the last two years. We host the [Christian] community for the Jewish holidays; they came to our houses for Passover and the Jewish New Year. We go to their church for Christmas and the New Years Eve.”

The candle-lighting ceremony highlights the challenges faced by the Hebrew-speaking Christian community. The community of about 1000 people was born at the tail end of the 1950s, when interfaith couples arrived in Israel, as did Christians who moved to Israel, integrated into the secular life of Israel and spoke Hebrew, all the while retaining their Catholicism.

Father Rafic Nahra, the newly-appointed Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, told Tazpit Press Service that he wasn’t surprised by the Lahava disruption.

“As a Christian who was born in the Middle East, when I first arrived in Israel I didn’t know what anti-Judaism was,” says “I didn’t know about the negative relations between Jews and Christians rooted in Europe, but I was impressed by the political tension between Jews and Christians in Israel, and I wanted to do something about it.”

Speaking to Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on Thursday , a day before terrorists killed 11 people in a church in Cairo, Father Nahra says he is not surprised about the ongoing difficulties of the Christian communities in the Middle East. After nearly 15 years in Jerusalem, he has long witnessed the tensions of the region and the politics that make creating real interfaith dialogue between the three monotheistic religions difficult.

“I know the Middle East  and the Arab world very well. I am part of it, there are no  surprises,” he says.

Still, the meeting point between Christianity, Judaism and the Hebrew language forms a central theme of Nahra’s ministry. After being born in Ismailia, Egypt in 1959 , Nahra grew up in Lebanon, studied in seminaries in France and Italy before relocating to Jerusalem in 2003. His community counts not more than 1000 faithful spread over six cities, many of whom face unique challenges as Christians trying to fit into a Jewish majority culture. Although most members of the community are fully integrated into Israeli society, there is a lot of ignorance about Christians in Israel.

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“There is not enough written material in Hebrew about our community,” Nahra said. “I want to translate texts and to let Israelis Jews know who we are. We have a lot in common, but we are also different.

We pray in Hebrew, our Mass is in Hebrew, and we sing in Hebrew. Many followers of our community are caught between cultures: Some are migrants, some children of mixed marriages or spouses of Jews. I try to help them to develop a Christian identity in an Israeli world without living in opposition, but just knowing who they are and what we believe,” the Vicar added.

Despite the challenge, however, some members of the community feel that far from diluting their religion, the experience of living as a minority in Israel serves to bolster their Christian faith and practice.

Beni, a native of Naples, Italy who came to Israel to pursue a Ph.D in Hebrew Literature at Hebrew University, decided to stay in Israel after “falling in love with the country and the Hebrew language.

According to Beni, Christianity is at its best when it is a minority, and the fact of being part of such a small community creates a more authentic religious experience.

“Unlike the European churches, here the Israeli community prays in sober, minimalist rooms, a style that we have absorbed by the Israelis, who do not like lavishness,” he told TPS. Our awareness of being a minority allows us to get  much closer to the Jews than we could do in Europe, in particular in southern Italy, where I come from,” Beni said.

Beni feels his community serves as a real bridge between religions, and said that the church’s dialogue with Kehilat Zion has progressed beyond being a “simple” interfaith project into authentic friendships. “If Muslim religious leaders will become part of our  meetings, our team would become even stronger,” Beni told TPS.

All of which connects directly to Father Nahra, who says interfaith dialogue remains one of his highest priorities – despite the challenges. One project that allows the vicariate to open its doors to the wider Israeli community is its support for the children of migrants, many of whom were born in Israel, attend local schools and get their education in Hebrew. Nahra said the vicariate offers language programs classes and other practical support to young people caught between two cultures. Jewish Israelis help the vicariate with some of those support programs. “It is an active collaboration, not an idea.

“But it is what is needed. The world of building bridges is not about organizing conferences. That may be important, too. But it isn’t going to change the world. To do that, you’ve got to build relationships at the grassroots level by giving average people a concrete reason to connect,” he said.

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Trailblazing a New Breed: Biblically Inspired, Bourbon-Style Israeli whiskey

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 00:30

Noam Cohen and Alan Cohl are confident that their new breed of whiskey will echo Israel’s success in making the desert bloom. They are creating Israel’s first distillery for American bourbon-style whiskey, hoping to trailblaze the Israeli market for the spirit and bring an added level of sophistication to an Israeli cocktail culture that is just starting to take off.

Without local competition in their niche and little consumer experience in Israel with the whiskey they’re striving to produce, Cohen and Cohl—immigrants from New Jersey and New York, respectively—are confident that their brand, Legends Distillery, will win the hearts and palates of the Jewish state.

The distillers believe they have the perfect recipe for success: pairing their established bourbon-style whiskey recipe with Israel’s biblical tourism industry. (They’ll need to call their creation something other than “bourbon,” as international trade agreements restrict that name’s usage to products made in the U.S.)

According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the number of licensed distilleries in that state, which is the birthplace of bourbon, has more than tripled since 2012. Israel is capitalizing on bourbon’s unprecedented popularity, a trend characterized by increased demand for cocktails made with whiskey and other liquors.

In Tel Aviv, the cocktail scene is gaining steam with the annual Whiskey Festival, the Whiskey Bar & Museum and the summertime Cocktail Festival, in which many of the drinks use bourbon as a main ingredient. Jerusalem, too, boasts several world-famous, award-winning cocktail bars. To Cohen and Cohl, this is a testament to the growing sophistication of Israelis’ taste buds, which yearn for a quality bourbon-style product.

Legends Distillery founders Alan Cohl (left) and Noam Cohen survey the land and architectural plans for their new distillery. Credit: Legends Distillery.

Israel’s first whiskey distillery was Milk & Honey, and two others have followed suit: the Golan Heights Distillery, focusing on two-grain whiskey; and Pelter Distillery, specializing in brandy, with its whiskey not yet on the market. But Cohen and Cohl are certain that scotch, single malt whiskey and brandy are not in competition with their bourbon-style whiskey or with their unique marketing concept and image, which is why Legends hopes to share resources and work with the other distilleries in the future.

“We are working to develop this burgeoning market and Israeli palate together,” Cohen tells JNS.

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The Israeli market is “ripe” for the rise of whiskey, and there are also many different aspects of whiskey production that find much more meaningful expression in Israel as compared to anywhere in the U.S., he says. For instance, Cohen explains that the area of Israel in which Legends will be located has rich limestone—which naturally deionizes water and has low iron content, and is therefore chemically suitable for bourbon production.

While corn is not traditionally an Israeli grain, says Cohen, “we have farmland in an area where we will grow our own; the land in that area is very mat’im (fitting) for corn.” The locally obtained water, he says, will make for high-quality, locally produced whiskey.

Legends has partnered with a well-known American distilling expert on a distilling technique whose proprietary aging process enables the production of a top-level spirit in a small fraction of the time it would normally require. According to Cohen and Cohl, this process will get a quality product on the shelves within only 15 months, instead of the usual five to seven years of aging that bourbon usually requires.

Israel’s Elah Valley, the home of Legends Distillery. Credit: Mark A. Wilson via Wikimedia Commons.

Further, unlike the pre-existing distilleries in the Jewish state, Legends hope to augment Israel’s tourism industry by offering a product drawn from domestically harvested grains and inspired by the Bible. The distillery is planned to be located in the Elah Valley, the site of the biblical story of David and Goliath. Fittingly, Legends’s flagship spirit—Slingshot—is a clear reference to the legendary battle between David and Goliath, which took place a stone’s throw away from the distillery’s location.

At the same time, Slingshot’s flavor and texture is punctuated with complex notes of oak and leather, and its long, warm finish evoke imagery of the American frontier and its colonial bourbon industry, the very inspiration for their product.

Indeed, even the distillers’ branding fuses these images—featuring a wagon wheel, an unmistakable symbol of early Americans’ drive to cultivate their new country, that rests upon the trunk of an olive tree, an ancient symbol of perseverance and gritty determination. By combining these themes, Legends strives to bring the same ingenuity employed by Israel’s early pioneers in making the desert bloom to the nascent Israeli whiskey industry.

Cohen and Cohl hope that tour groups of all denominations and affiliations will “top off” their visits to the Elah Valley with a distillery tour and a glass of biblically inspired Israeli whiskey.

This article was first published by

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Iranians are Ultimately Protesting Sharia

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 00:00

What began on December 28 as local protests against high food prices in the northern city of Mashhad, Iran, has spiraled into mass protests consisting of some hundreds of thousands of Iranians in some two dozen cities, including if not especially Tehran, the seat of government.  So far over 20 protesters have been killed and many hundreds arrested in what has been widely described as “the most serious internal crisis the country has faced this decade.”

The protests have morphed from mundane topics concerning the economy to more existential topics concerning Islamic leadership. Reportedly hundreds of thousands of protesters have been heard shouting “We don’t want an Islamic Republic,” and calling blessings on Reza Shah, the staunch secularist and political reformer who did much to Westernize Iran, until his son and successor, Muhammad Reza Shah was deposed during the Islamic Revolution of 1979.   According to Mideast media, women—such as Maryam Rajavi—are spearheading the current protests (and symbolically rejecting Islamic impositions by publicly removing their hijabs).

Even the Iranian regime sees the current unrest as a revolt against Islam.  In his initial remarks after demontrations first erupted, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, “All those who are against the Islamic Republic … have all joined forces in order to create problems for the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution” (note the recurrent and telling adjective “Islamic”).

Even so, “mainstream media” see growing poverty and frustration at the lack of social freedoms as the only reasons behind the current unrest.  Overlooked in their analysis is that, because Islam is not meant to be a “spiritual thing” one does privately, but is rather a complete system of governance, permeating the whole of private and social life, the ongoing protests in Iran, while ostensibly revolving around economic, social, and political issues, are ultimately protests against Islamic teachings concerning economic, social, and political issues, which the Islamic Republic of Iran has been imposing on the populace since coming to power in 1979.

This is evident even in the new rallying cry of the protestors—“Death to the Dictator”—in reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself.  By its very nature, Islamic law—both Sunni and Shia—calls for dictatorial rule.  So long as the caliph, sultan, or emir governs society according to Sharia, Muslims must obey him—even if he is a despicable and cruel personage.  After examining a number of Islamic rulings from authoritative exegetes, as well as a number of statements attributed to Muslim prophet Muhammad and in the Koran concerning the importance for Muslims to follow Islamic law—which is the only relevant question of when Muslims should and should not seek to overthrow their ruler—Ayman al-Zawahiri writes,

To summarize: It is forbidden to overthrow a tyrant, but it is a duty to overthrow an infidel. If the ruler is despotic, it is unlawful for a Muslim to rally other Muslims in order to condemn him, for if they do so then they become the aggressors and it becomes incumbent for the sultan to fight them (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 122).

As it happens, the social oppression currently being protested against in Iran—from second-class status for women to bans on all forms of expression critical of Islam, its prophet, and his representative on earth—is mandated by Islamic law, thereby making the protesters “the aggressors.”

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But even the economic aspects of the protests are largely by-products of Islamist aspirations.  As Donald Trump tweeted last Friday, the Iranian “people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.” Indeed, the economic suffering of the people has come at a time when the regime has grown rich—not least by Barack Obama giving them over $100 billion as part of a nuclear deal.  The reason for the disparity is that the regime has been and continues to spend much of its wealth in trying to realize its stated Islamic ideals; that is, it prefers supporting Hezbollah (currently Forbes wealthiest terrorist organization) and Hamas (third wealthiest) against Islam’s arch “infidel” enemy, Israel, in the name of and for the greater glory of Allah, rather than feed its people.

Incidentally, because the right to protest is a given in the West, and thus occurs often, including over trivial and/or absurd matters—as when university students planned a “sh*t-in,” occupying restrooms as a way of demanding more “gender-neutral facilities”—the grave consequences of the current protests in Iran (which are unsurprisingly also connected to Islam) are as underestimated in the West as they are indicative of just how frustrated many Iranians are:

Protesters could also potentially face the death penalty when their cases come to trial, according to the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, the AP reported. Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying: “Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh,” or waging war against God [Allah], which is a death penalty offense in Iran.

Moharebeh is precisely what al-Zawahiri was referring to in the above excerpt: the only legitimate reason to overthrow an Islamic ruler is his failure to govern according to Islam—which Khamenei and his regime can hardly be accused of (from a Shia prism, that is).  Seeking to depose him because he is personally corrupt, despotic, cruel, or spending more money on jihad than food is forbidden, and transforms the protesters into aggressors against Allah, a crime worthy of punishment, including death.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim

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Global Jewish Students Report Shared Challenges on BDS, Anti-Semitism, Apathy

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 00:00

They may live thousands of miles apart, but student activists from around the world identify various shared challenges living as Jews in their respective countries and campuses.

At the 44th World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) congress in Jerusalem from Dec. 28-Jan. 1, 157 delegates from 36 countries gathered to connect with other passionate student leaders and explore various facets of what it means to be a Jewish student leader today.

According to Yos Tarshish, the outgoing chairperson of WUJS, the newest major issues facing Jewish college students are anti-normalization efforts against students who “have any sort of connection to Israel” as well as the rise of far-right, neo-Nazi political parties.

Yanir Grindler, the WUJS chair at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, said racial identity plays a “big part in the discussion on campus.” Due to South Africa’s previous history of apartheid, he said, students “often speak of white privilege because of white guilt”—the guilt that South Africans feel for the institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination committed against black South Africans from 1948-1991.

“Israeli Apartheid Week” in Hartebeestpoort, South Africa. Credit: Facebook.

“South African Jews are seen as white before they are seen as Jewish…[they] assume that we represent Israel,” and as a result, “student societies, movements, and NGOs that represent South African civil society won’t engage with us because of our whiteness,” Grindler told JNS.

Grindler said that during “Israeli Apartheid Week” on the Wits campus, BDS activists have aimed to persuade students by framing their agenda as a class-based and race-based struggle, erecting a mock demonstration “where one side is soldiers, representing white, middle class South African Jews and Israel. Jews are thought of as white, affluent students, and the other side is thought of as underprivileged students.”

Student leaders from around the world participate in the recent 44th World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) congress in Jerusalem. Credit: WUJS.

“There’s the belief that if you’re not engaging in race conversation, you need to wake up,” he said. “In liberal arts universities, you have to be engaged in race politics, and it changes how people approach conflict.”

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In Austria, WUJS student activists claim that the biggest challenge comes not from the left, but from the far right.

Benjamin Guttmann and Benjamin Hess, who study in Vienna and are co-presidents of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, came to the WUJS congress on a mission to “make it clear that our anti-Semitic government isn’t a partisan or political issue,” said Guttmann.

He said the Austrian Freedom Party, which is part of recently elected Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s governing coalition, is a “far-right party founded by the members of the former Nazi party” and a “serious threat not only to Jews, but also to democracy.”

Hess voiced his concern about various new members of the Austrian government and parliamentarians whom he described as “right-wing, anti-Semitic and…active in militant neo-Nazi organizations.”

The 44th World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) congress in Jerusalem. Credit: WUJS.

To address this issue, the Austrian student leaders have built coalitions between campuses and countries, working with WUJS to issue a statement against their government. Further, they plan to put together an open letter signed by WUJS representatives “to show that Jewish students stand united against this ideology,” said Guttmann.

Nurit Becker, a student in Mexico City, told JNS that her biggest takeaway from the congress was learning that apathy within the Jewish student community is both the main challenge she finds in Mexico and a common obstacle for students worldwide.

As the head of international relations for the Mexican WUJS delegation, Becker has made it her mission to address apathy in her country’s universities through projects that activate students to get involved with issues that face the Jewish community. She said she also collaborates with other student leaders to “help each other and share campaigns.”

Becker said that Mexico experiences very little anti-Semitism, and was surprised to hear about her peers’ encounters with Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism.

“At the congress,” she said, “I learned that the life in Mexico for Jewish people is a completely different reality [from the situation in other countries].”

This article was first published by

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Chelsea Clinton Exchanges New Year’s Greetings With Church of Satan

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 18:42

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary, tweeted holiday greetings to the Church of Satan,  a religious organization dedicated to Satanism.

It’s been so long! Happy New Year!

— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) January 2, 2018

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When challenged about her association with the organization, she noted that she accepted religious differences, like those between her Methodist religion and her husband’s Judaism.

Oh goodness gracious. We can be civil, cheerful, respectful to & friends with people who don’t share our religious beliefs. Sometimes, we even marry them. I’m a Methodist & my husband is Jewish, thank you for asking. A very happy New Year to you Rhonda!

— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) January 3, 2018

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Israel to Ban Members of BDS Groups From Entering the Country

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 18:02

As part of a renewed effort, the Strategic Affairs Ministry has listed approximately 20 groups that are part of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and will work with the Ministry of the Interior to block members of these groups from entering Israel.

Hadashot aired a televised report on Saturday which said this will include groups from Italy, France, South Africa, and Scandinavia. Also banned will be the extreme-left Jewish American group, Jewish Voices for Peace. According to the Hadashot report, the ministry will begin enforcing the ban in March.

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In addition to the list, the Israeli government announced on Friday that a new anti-BDS effort will be led by a non-profit organization composed of government officials and private donors. The ministry has already set aside $36 million for the project. The private sector is expected to provide the rest of the cost of the project which is estimated to cost a total of $75 million. According to the report, at least 10 Jewish philanthropists have pledged to at least match that sum, with some promising to give $2 and $3 to any dollar put in by the Israeli government beyond the initial funding.

The project will work to counter BDS pressure applied to artists, performers, and commercial enterprises not to engage with Israel. It will focus on lobbying, public campaigns, solidarity visits to Israel for high-profile opinion-makers, social media campaigns and coordinated activities with pro-Israel organizations in North America and Europe.

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Iran’s Attorney General Blames Israel-CIA for Nationwide Protests

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 07:19

Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri claimed that the CIA, aided by intelligence support from Israel and financing from Saudi Arabia, is behind the nationwide protests against the regime.

In an interview with the state-run news agency IRNA, Montazeri said the CIA received help from exiled Iranian groups and planned to turn the protest into an “armed” insurrection by mid-February, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Hundreds were arrested and 21 were killed in a week of protests that tapered off on Thursday.

A senior Trump administration official disputed any US role in the protests, saying it had not expected them to occur.

“The protests were entirely spontaneously generated,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video earlier in the week denying the accusation of Israeli interference, while at the same time encouraging the protests.

In response to the Iranian accusations, the Russian government warned the US not to meddle in Iranian affairs.

“We warn the U.S. against attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state news agency Tass on Thursday.

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Delta Sued for Anti-Semitic Policies

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 06:51

Four Delta Air Lines flight attendants, former and current, initiated a lawsuit against the company in a Brooklyn court for what they claim is an “anti-Jewish, Hebrew, and ethnic Israeli attitude” towards employees and passengers.

First reported by TMZ, the long-time employees accused the company of maintaining “a pattern of intentionally discriminating and retaliating against ethnically Jewish, Hebrew and/or Israeli employees and passengers” specifically on the flight route from New York City to Tel Aviv.

“Delta has encouraged and maintained an anti-Jewish, Hebrew and ethnic Israeli attitude among management, who, through words and deeds, operate under an express assumption that ethnic Jews and Israelis, as employees and passengers, cannot be trusted, are aggressive and inappropriate, and engage in what are deemed to be ‘strange’ behaviors by conducting prayers on the flight and requiring special dietary accommodations (kosher meals),” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Brian R. Mildenberg, said in the statement.

Cynthia Fukelman, who had worked for Delta for 21 years, claimed she was fired in March because she is Jewish. Delta claimed she was terminated because she missed a flight but the attendant claims she was on maternity leave at the time.

Tsipora Kuba was denied membership to Delta’s purser program after applying three times despite her “qualifications, seniority and experience”. Kuba served in the IDF, had prior managerial experience, and spoke four languages. She claims she was discriminated against for being Israeli. Kuba reported that seven flight attendants whe were Jewish or Israeli were fired last year.

A non-Jewish attendant claimed she was suspended without pay and had her travel privileges revoked after she shared her “Travel Companion” pass with a Jewish friend.

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Other allegations include being passed up for deserved promotions and a “hostile” and “intimidating environment” on the Israel flight.

Morgan Durrant, a spokesman for Delta, denied the allegations in a statement to Newsweek.

“Delta strongly condemns the allegations of discrimination described in this suit and will defend itself vigorously against them,” Durrant said in an email. “As a global airline that brings people across the world together every day, Delta values diversity in all aspects of its business and has zero tolerance for discrimination.”

This is not the first time Delta has been accused of anti-Semitic policies. In 2011, Saudi Arabian Airlines joined Delta’s “SkyTeam” network. Critics said the Saudi airline had “anti-Semitic” and “racist” policies.


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Dramatic Footage of Storm Pounding Israel’s Coast

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 06:12

A video shows dramatic footage of the storm that is hovering over Israel, bringing a mixed blessing. Israel sorely needs the rain but the normally tranquil coastline is being pounded.

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5 Biblical Prophecies Fulfilled in 2017 and 5 More Expected in 2018

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 05:48

A retrospective of Breaking Israel News reveals that so many remarkable and unprecedented events occurred in 2017, conforming to prophecy and bringing the world closer to the Messianic era. Other articles presented hints of prophecies that are still waiting to be revealed in their entirety.   

5 Biblical Prophecies Fulfilled in 2017


The ICEJ Parade of Nations during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, October 10, 2017. (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)

  1. Jerusalem As A Place Of Assembly For Non-Jews

All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow to the King Lord of Hosts and to observe Sukkot Zechariah 14:16

In 2017, Jerusalem became a place of assembly, a House of Prayer for all Nations, Jews and non-Jews alike, precisely as prophesied in Zechariah. Tourism to Jerusalem skyrocketed, with arrivals climbing by 25 percent compared to the 2016, and bringing in $5.8 billion of revenue. Such assembly was particularly evident during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, when tens of thousands of Christian tourists arrived to Jerusalem. According to Rabbi Tuly Weisz, fulfilling the prophetic vision for how Sukkot will be observed in the end of days, non-Jewish participation in the “Feast of the Tabernacles” played a significant role in bringing Jews closer to celebrating Sukkot the way it is described in the books of the prophet, and as it will be celebrated in the end of times.


Illustrative: a total solar eclipse. (Shutterstock)

2. Eclipse Signifies Storms and Trouble For “King of the East”

Yea, you shall leave in joy and be led home secure. Before you, mount and hill shall shout aloud, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12 

August’s solar eclipse came precisely at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, connected this to a prophecy written in a century-old mystic text of an eclipse occurring precisely at this time that will be followed by storms and trouble for the King of the East, who the rabbi identified as North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. Rabbi Berger maintained that North Korea will suffer a loss if its leader continues to taunt the US President.

Rabbi Berger went on to explain that in Jewish mysticism, the moon represents the Jewish people and the sun represents the non-Jews. Thus, Rabbi Berger viewed the solar eclipse as a prophecy that Israel will be renewed and will come back from galut (exile) to rise again.

US President Donald Trump prays at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)

3. Trump Visits Western Wall

Thus said Hashem to Cyrus, His anointed one— Whose right hand He has grasped, treading down nations before him, ungirding the loins of kings, opening doors before him and letting no gate stay shut. Isaiah 45:1 

The world went into a turmoil when, US President Donald Trump became the first sitting American President to visit the Kotel (Western Wall), raising the hopes of the Jewish people that a Second Temple reenactment may yet be seen in this generation. President Trump’s unwavering support for Jewish national aspirations linked him to Persian King Cyrus, whose connection to the Messiah is found in the Book of Isaiah. Much like Cyrus, Trump rules the greatest nation of the era and Cyrus, like Trump, was powerful and rich but secular.Esoteric Gematria (numerology) hints identified the new president as having a role in the Messiah and his actions were clearly a step in that direction. Using the method to break down the value of Hebrew letters, Donald Trump’s name in Hebrew is also the numerical equivalent of ‘Moshiach for the House of David.’ Although no one has made the claim that Trump is Moshiach, many believe that he is indeed helping the Jews to settle Israel and start building the Third Temple.


Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 2011. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

4. UN Jerusalem Vote

They shall know that I Hashem am their God when, having exiled them among the nations, I gather them back into their land and leave none of them behind. Ezekiel 39:28 

In the final weeks of the 2017, countless countries in the United Nations voted against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the home of the future Israeli embassy. Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, an award-winning author and teacher for Yeshiva of the Nations, saw the UN vote, which sought to isolate Jerusalem from the world, as proof that the Third Temple will rise again. While the vote was an attempt by Israel’s enemies to “put Jerusalem under siege” and “isolate the city,” similar to what occurred with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Babylonian Exile, Rabbi Apisdorf told Breaking Israel News, “The seeds of Messiah were hidden, planted in the destruction of the Temple.”  Likewise, he said, “This seems like a blow to Israel, but what is really happening is that the world is focused on the relationship of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, and only good things can come out of that.”

An orthodox Jewish family from Yemen arrive in Israel to make Aliyah, at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Photo: Moshik Brin /The Jewish Agency /Flash90)

Ingathering of Exiles

They shall know that I Hashem am their God when, having exiled them among the nations, I gather them back into their land and leave none of them behind.” Ezekiel 39:28

2017 was a powerful year for immigration to Israel. As prophesied in the Bible, exile were returning to the land God promised to Abraham. Population statistics showed an increase of immigration with 28,400 immigrants making aliyah to Israel in 2017. New olim included Jews from four corners of the earth: 1,200 Ethiopian Jews, Bnei Menashe, Ukrainian Jews, Indian Jews, French Jews, American Jews, and many more.

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1. Moving the US Embassy

I am the Lord, who called you with righteousness, I will strengthen your hand; I will protect you; I will set you for a covenant to the people, to be a light unto the nations; to open blind eyes; to remove a prisoner from confinement, dwellers in darkness from a dungeon” Isaiah 42:6

 In the new age of Jewish-Christian relations Israel is finally taking its prophesied role as a light unto the nations. This will materialize fully when US President Trump will fulfill his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A major platform in his presidential campaign, this promise came about as a result of strong Evangelical Christian pressure on Trump to fulfill his campaign promises. This growing link between the Jewish People and the Christians is an unexpected development, flying in the face of a millennium of difficult relations, and unmistakably moving towards the post-Messiah age of peace and brotherhood. Given this new age of relations, unprecedented developments are surely in store.



2. Sunni-Shia Divides

He shall be a wild ass of a man; His hand against everyone, And everyone’s hand against him; He shall dwell alongside of all his kinsmen. Genesis 16:12

An 800-year old prophecy in the ancient holy book of Yalkut Shimoni declares that when the King of Persia (Iran) will provoke the King of Arabia (Saudi Arabia), redemption is around the corner. As the descendants of Ishmael, war dominates the relations between brethren in the Arab world. Iran and Saudi Arabia have not seen peace for decades and this past year demonstrated an even greater struggle for regional dominance rooted in the Sunni-Shia divide. A prophecy in the Yalkut Shimoni, a collection of Biblical teachings believed to have been arranged in the 13th century, connects the political tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia with the full redemption of the Jewish people. As the redemption nears, this political tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia will only grow.

“Rabbi Yizchok said: ‘The year that Melech HaMoshiach [Messiah the King] will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other. The King of Persia (Iran) will provoke the King of Arabia, and the King of Arabia will go to Edom (the West) to take counsel, but the King of Persia will in turn, destroy the entire world. The nations of the world will be outraged and panicked. They will fall on their faces, and they will experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too will be outraged and in a state of panic and ask, where do we go? But say unto them, “My children, do not fear, ‘Higiyah zman geulatchem’  [the time of your redemption has come]. And in the last redemption will be different from the first which was followed by further bondage and pain. After this last redemption, you will not again experience any further pain or subjugation.”



3.The North Korean Threat

They have roused Me to jealousy with a no-god; they have provoked Me with their vanities; and I will rouse them to jealousy with a no-people; I will provoke them with a vile nation. For a fire is kindled in My nostril, and burneth unto the depths of the nether-world (She’ol), and devoureth the earth with her produce, and setteth ablaze the foundations of the mountains.” (Deuteronomy 32:22) The Israel Bible

Years before North Korea was known to have nuclear weapons, a noted Israeli kabbalist (mystic) predicted that North Korea would become the nuclear key to the final war in the redemptive process. Rabbi Levi Sa’adia Nachmani, who correctly predicted the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, discounted all of Israel’s greatest enemies when he said, “Not Syria, not Persia (Iran), and not Babylon (Iraq), and not Gaddafi (Libya)”. Instead, Rabbi Nachmani named an unknown entity as the greatest threat. “Korea will arrive here,” he said.

He based this prediction on the word ‘She’ol’, which is the Hebrew word for Hell, which, coincidentally, is spelled the same as the Hebrew word for Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Indeed, as North Korea has increased its weapons testing and missile program, its intentions and capabilities are clear. A nuclear war could very well begin with North Korea attacking Seoul, expanding until it becomes the final war in the end of days.


Written here in Hebrew is “King David”. The walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were lit up in honor of the occasion, welcoming the special Torah for the Messiah commissioned by Rabbi Yosef Berger. (Photo: David’s Tomb/Rabbi Yosef Berger)

4. Reestablishing the Davidic Dynasty

For thus saith Hashem: There shall not be cut off unto David a man to sit upon the throne of the house of YisraelJeremiah 33:17

According to genealogical records, there are indeed descendants of King David walking alive today. According to the prophecy, only direct descendants of King David are suitable to re-establish the Davidic Dynasty required for Moshiach.

Mitchell Dayan, who traces his lineage back 87 generations to King David, told Breaking Israel News, “The actual descendants may not know it, but there are descendants of King David alive today. This was prophesied in the Bible but it is also fact. Politics are irrelevant. It is going to happen, one day or another.”

He continued, “The Moshiach is already here. Moshiach in Hebrew means ‘anointed’. It is not a miracle. The family of David exists and is waiting for Israel to choose one and anoint him.”


A model of the second Holy Temple (Photo:

5.Building of the Third Temple

Thus saith Koresh king of Paras: All the kingdoms of the earth hath Hashem, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Yerushalayim, which is in Yehuda. Ezra 1:2

In a late-night surprise visit to the Western Wall several years ago, Russian President Vladmir Putin expressed his desire for the third Temple to be rebuilt. According to Chadrei Charedim, an Orthodox Hebrew news site, Putin said that the reason he came to the Temple Mount during his visit was “to pray for the Temple to be built again.” This desire, coupled with an Israel-supporting US President, could create the political conditions for large-scale support for the Jewish right to Jerusalem as their spiritual inheritance.

The Sanhedrin sent a letter to Putin and Trump, reminding them of the Biblically mandated role for non-Jewish kings to build the Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The conflict in the halls of the UN will hopefully lead more world leaders to take an active role in rebuilding the Temple.

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PSALMS 106:47

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 03:58

Modern day Israel is the realization of the Biblical prophecy of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Thousands of members of the Ethiopian Jewish community gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of Sigd marking the community’s centuries old desire to return to the Land of Israel. Nowadays, one of the central themes of Sigd is thanksgiving for the coming to fruition of the dream of returning to Jerusalem. Over the past decades, many of Israel’s 135,000 Ethiopians arrived to Israel with little more than they could carry. While their immigration to Israel was miraculous, their arrival in the land was met with various physical and financial challenges. Meir Panim, one of Israel’s oldest non-profit organizations, works hand-in-hand with the Ethiopian community to to ensure their successful acculturation into Israel society.

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Booming Economy: Israeli Exports Expected to Pass $100 Billion for First Time

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 20:30

Israel’s annual exports of goods and services are expected to exceed $100 billion for the first time when the final figures for 2017 come in, according to a preliminary report by the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute as well as the country’s Economy and Industry Ministry.

The preliminary report stated that the exports of goods and services, excluding start-up technology and diamonds, increased to $92 billion in 2017, up 6 percent from 2016. Industrial exports, which comprise 85 percent of goods exported by Israel, rose 3 percent in 2017 to a total of $45 billion. Diamond exports for 2017 are expected to total $7 billion, a decrease of 7 percent from 2016, while agricultural exports are expected to reach $1.2 billion, a 2-percent increase.

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According to the report, Israeli exports to the European Union increased by 20 percent in 2017. There was also a 7-percent increase in exports of high-tech services.

A total of 243 companies received assistance from Israel’s Economy and Industry Ministry in 2017, compared to 129 in 2016.

“Israeli exports have great importance to the economy. They are the engine that drives economic growth and the main source of steady employment,” Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen said on Tuesday.

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New Elite Military Unit Ready to Defend Israel From Gaza Terror Threat

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 19:30

A new elite IDF infantry unit is about to take up its position along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

The Haruv (Carob) unit, named after a renowned force that operated in Israel’s southern desert borders in the 1960s and 1970s, was once a regular infantry battalion in the Kfir brigade, focusing on security operations in Judea and Samaria (the territories).

Several months ago, the IDF decided to convert this battalion into an elite unit, and to give it the training, weapons, vehicles and high-tech equipment it would need to fight in Gaza.

Since then, the unit has been selectively recruiting cadets into its ranks and placing them under intense special force training. This process culminated at the end of December in a large-scale war drill that simulated Gaza’s urban warfare settings.

“The elite unit has abilities and components that an ordinary infantry battalion does not,” Maj. Nir Mor, deputy commander of the new unit, told JNS.

“The training, structure and organization are all different,” he said. Cadets had to undergo weeks of high-intensity field navigation training before practicing combat drills against heavily armed, well-trained guerrilla terrorist forces embedded into built-up areas—otherwise known as Hamas, Gaza’s ruling faction.

Haruv unit in training. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“The Gaza Strip requires complex preparations, which begin three to four months in advance. Preparing to operate in Judea and Samaria is simpler than Gaza,” Mor said.

The Haruv unit had to learn how to use armored vehicles to maneuver on the Gaza border, and to practice moving into Gaza itself, in the event of an outbreak of a new round of fighting. The soldiers also learned how to use new kinds of weapons, including those mounted on the armored vehicles.

“The soldiers became familiar with the enemy, and learned about the [Gaza] sector’s history,” said Mor. “The doctrine for using force in Gaza is different than Judea and Samaria. Commanders had to learn to make the adjustment.”

In the event of a new armed conflict with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, the entire Kfir infantry brigade would be mobilized from the territories to Gaza, but the Haruv unit would have special missions. These would include engaging Hamas’s underground tunnels and destroying them. Most of Hamas’s tunnels are inside Gaza, forming an underground maze designed to allow operatives to move weapons and fighters around, and launch hit-and-run attacks.

In mid-December, the Haruv special unit arrived at the IDF’s training center for ground forces at the Tze’elim base in southern Israel, which has a mock Palestinian village that replicates conditions in Gaza.

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A week later, it travelled to the Jordan Valley, where it held a live-fire combat drill in cooperation with the military’s Armored Corps, Artillery Corps and the Engineering Corps—all units that would need to work together in any new ground war.

“We train as we will fight,” Mor said. “This exercise summed up eight weeks of training. There was live fire, tank fire and artillery fire. We used digital command systems and operated as if we were going into Gaza tomorrow.”

Capt. Yinon Gadasi, a company commander in the Haruv unit, said the latest drill was the most realistic and intensive he had encountered in his three years of military service.

“It simulated as much as possible the enemy that we are supposed to encounter. It dealt with the underground tunnel threat and there was also a big emphasis on the civilian population, which is a large challenge in Judea and Samaria, and certainly even more so in Gaza,” Gadasi told JNS.

“We understand that in any situation we will encounter in Gaza, we will run into the threat of tunnels,” the company commander added. “We are preparing the soldiers for this, mentally and physically, through briefings, lectures, videos, and physical and technological training.”

Haruv unit in training. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The unit is now scheduled to rotate to the Gaza border for the first time in its current form. It will conduct daily patrols and surveillance operations along the volatile border, on guard to protect the southern Israeli villages, farms and towns, which came under mortar fire as recently as Dec. 29.

“There are all sorts of scenarios we must be ready for—a terrorist infiltration, via tunnels or overland, into communities; attacks on patrols,” Gadasi said.

“This is the first time that this elite unit, with this quality of personnel and ability to deal with the underground threat, is arriving at the Gaza border,” he said. “There have been many incidents there recently. As a company commander…I can say that my company is ready to deal with any mission or challenge.”

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Beatles Legend Ringo Starr to Perform in Israel on European Tour

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 18:30

Former Beatles legend Ringo Starr has announced that he will perform in Israel next June as part of his 2018 European tour.

The former Beatles drummer’s band, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, includes fellow rock legends Steve Lukather of Toto, Greg Rollie of Journey and Graham Gouldman of 10cc as the “All-Starrs.” The group will perform two shows in Israel at Tel Aviv’s Menorath Mivtahim Arena from June 23-24, according to Ringo Starr’s website.

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Starr’s concerts come more than 50 years after the Israeli government barred The Beatles from performing in Israel in 1966 over concerns that the band would negatively influence the Jewish state’s youths. The government later apologized for the decision. Former Beatle Paul McCartney performed in Israel in 2008.

The announcement of Starr’s Israel shows comes after the recent decision by New Zealand-born pop star Lorde to cancel her concert in Tel Aviv amid pressure from the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has been at the forefront of encouraging musicians and artists to boycott Israel.

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48 Hours, 4 Continents: All In a Day’s Work For ZAKA Rescue Unit

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 07:36

While most of the world was enjoying a break from routine over the seasonal holidays and year-end festivities, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit was active across four continents, coordinating dozens of different people and organizations to help others in their time of need.

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav described the mission.

“On days such as these, with so many incidents around the world, our goal is to overcome the dozens of obstacles and bureaucratic hurdles that make life so difficult for people in their hour of need,” Zahav said in a statement. “In this way, we can fulfill our mission of assisting any Jew who needs help, wherever he is  in the world, and to honor the deceased and ensure that they receive a full Jewish burial in keeping with the halacha (Torah law).”

Uman, Ukraine

Last Friday morning, the Bornstein family from Jerusalem, on a visit to Uman, Ukraine to pay their respects at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, called the emergency services when they realized that their two-month-old daughter Feige was not responding. Tragically, after resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, the baby was pronounced dead. Local police demanded an autopsy, to rule out criminal activity, even though initial signs suggested it was a crib death.

ZAKA Uman volunteers, with the assistance of local people from the Breslov community in Uman, worked tirelessly together with the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, Mr. Eli Belotsercovsky, and the local governor, to avoid an autopsy. After much negotiation, they succeeded and the body was flown home two days later, together with her grieving family, and transferred from Ben-Gurion Airport in the ZAKA ambulance for burial in Jerusalem.

Transferring the baby’s body at Ben Gurion (Photo courtesy ZAKA)

Sochi, Russia

A few hours after the tragedy in Uman, two Chabad yeshiva graduates were injured in a road accident. Shalom Shapira was killed and his friend Shimon Ben Irina (Nisanov) was seriously injured and hospitalized in Sochi.

They had been traveling with about 20 Jewish University from Moscow on their way from Rostov to Sochi, Russia. Medics at the scene pronounced Shapira dead and took his injured friend to the hospital. Thanks to the continuous and combined efforts of the ZAKA commander in Russia, Rabbi Yehoshua Deitsch, together with Rabbi Chaim Dantzinger of Rostov, working with the local authorities, an autopsy was averted and Shapira was buried on Sunday.

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During the weekend, an Israeli who had been living in France for many years contacted ZAKA with an urgent request for help. He needed to travel back to Israel for cancer treatment and had booked tickets for his wife and children to accompany him, only to realize that three of his children had no passports.

The ZAKA International Rescue Unit entered the frame and, using their contacts in the Israeli Ministry of Interior, managed to secure one-time entry permits for the children. This allowed the family to fly to Israel, despite the lack of passports for their children. Once in Israel, the children were issued with passports and the father received the required medical treatment.

Johannesburg, South Africa

At the end of Shabbat, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit headquarters in Jerusalem received another request for help – this time from South Africa, where heavy rains and stormy weather had left thousands homeless in Johannesburg. The local emergency services, who were familiar with ZAKA from joint exercises and other natural disasters in the region, knew that there are dozens of trained local ZAKA volunteers to call upon in times of emergency. Forty ZAKA volunteers under the command of ZAKA South Africa commander Daniel Foreman, working together with the local Home Front Command, erected tents and other facilities for the homeless.

Crash in Costa Rica (Photo courtesy ZAKA)

Costa Rica

Earlier this week, a private jet carrying nine Jewish passengers, another passenger and two crew members crashed shortly after take-off from Punta Islet to the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica.  All the passengers were killed. The plane crashed in a wooded area, making the task of collecting the remains complex and prolonged.

Crash in Costa Rica (Photo courtesy ZAKA)

When the news arrived at ZAKA headquarters, ZAKA International Rescue Unit Chief Officer Mati Goldstein opened a special WhatsApp group with all the relevant bodies, including the Costa Rica burial society, local Chabad emissary Rabbi Levi Wilhelm and a ZAKA volunteer from Mexico who was in close contact with the local authorities. ZAKA volunteers from New York and Miami, home to the families of the dead, were also added to the group.

Due to changes in the passenger list shortly before take-off, it took many hours to identify

ZAKA in Miami (Photo courtesy ZAKA)

exactly who was in the crashed plane – including five members of the Steinberg family from New York, Father Bruce and mother Erin, and their three children Matthew, William and Zachary, as well as Lesley and Mitchell Weiss and their daughter Chana from Miami.

The Jerusalem-based ZAKA International Rescue Unit, which has been in operation for over a decade, operates a specially trained team of volunteer paramedics and search and rescue professionals who are on call 24/7, ready to respond in the fastest possible time to major international mass casualty incidents, wherever they may occur. Under the direction of Chief Operations Officer Mati Goldstein, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit works in close cooperation with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the IDF and other government bodies.


ZAKA’s assistance at major international terror attacks (eg Mombasa, Istanbul and Taba) and natural disasters (eg the tsunami and the New Orleans Katrina hurricane) led the United Nations in 2005 to recognize ZAKA as an international volunteer humanitarian organization (one of only three Israeli organizations to hold this status). This UN recognition enables ZAKA to offer emergency assistance even before the official delegation has left Israel, or the host country has formally asked for help or even when the country has no diplomatic ties with Israel. In January 2016, ZAKA was granted advisory status at the UN as an official body, one of only three Israeli NGOs to receive this coveted status, and in September 2016, the ZAKA light rescue training course received INSARAG recognition.

In order to shorten the response time to international mass casualty incidents, ZAKA trains emergency response teams in local communities worldwide. There are over 600 volunteers in more than 20 countries around the world. The volunteers participate in a five-day basic training program that includes certification as emergency medical first responders; security preparedness and response; dealing with mass casualty incidents; honoring the dead; working with forensics and simulation emergency drills.

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Burning Man Announces Newest Centerpiece: Temple to Greek Goddess

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 06:39

The Burning Man Festival, held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada in August, has chosen its centerpiece structure, a massive wood temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Gaia, that is just one of the many pagan symbols featured at the popular desert gathering.

The festival has certainly evolved from its humble beginnings over 30- years ago when 20 artists gathered on a Beach in San Francisco. The annual event is now a high-profile gathering that attracts over 70,000 to its isolated desert location.

The Burning Man organizers announced two weeks ago that they chose the design for the centerpiece temple of the festival. This year they will build a massive structure composed of 20 wood trusses converging as a spiral. In the center will be a large mandala, a symbol used by Buddhists as an aid in meditation. Designed by Mamou-Mani, a London-based French architect, the structure will be titled Galaxia.

The Burning Man effigy. (Shutterstock)

Galaxia is a name taken from a science-fiction novel by Isaac Asimov. In new age mythology, Galaxia is the mother goddess corresponding to the Greek goddess Gaia, but on a higher, galactic, level. In mythology, Gaia is the personification of the Earth and the source of immortality. The worship of Gaia figures prominently in Neopaganism.

The architect was aware of the religious connotations of the structure but denied it was anything other than an aesthetic public gathering space.

“There is no religion, it’s a secular temple. It connects everyone from everywhere,” Mamou-Mani said in an interview with Reno Gazette Journal.

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Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, disagreed, saying that the focus on religious symbols clearly revealed an intent.

“They are going out to the desert to hide what they are doing because they think God can’t see them there,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “They try to hide their intentions, claiming it is not religious, not idolatry, but their actions reveal their intentions at every turn.”

In fact, the organizers of Burning Man declare a central theme every year. These have included Dante’s Inferno and Fertility. Every festival culminates in the burning of a massive wood effigy based on the neo-pagan/Druid Wicker Man Ritual which replaced human sacrifice. At last year’s Radical Ritual themed festival, a man died after running into the huge Burning Man effigy.

The campground is one large symbol, its boundaries marked off by a huge plastic fence forming a pentagon, an occult symbol used by pagans to outline the five-pointed pentagram star.

The pentagonal Burning Man camp (Photo via Wikimedia)

Religious symbolism is also prevalent at Catharsis in the Mall, an annual event associated with Burning Man. In addition to a wood temple, the event held in November featured a large sculpture of the Indian goddess Shiva the Destroyer. The two festivals share a 70-foot long seven-headed red metal dragon on wheels. The dragon, named after the ancient Egyptian god Abraxas, was clearly intended to reference Satan as described in the Christian Book of Revelations.

The “Abraxas” dragon. (Screenshot)

Rabbi Berger accepted this idolatrous trend as a good sign, a necessary precursor to moshiach (Messiah). The rabbi quoted Ecclesiastes to illustrate his point.

The one no less than the other was Hashem’s doing; consequently, man may find no fault with Him. Ecclesiastes 7:14

“We are seeing wondrous progress: the return of the Jews to Israel and Jerusalem, Jews going up to the Temple Mount, the ingathering of the exiles, and the blossoming of the land,” Rabbi Berger said. “Coincidentally, the amount of evil in the world is also rising. We are seeing horrors today never encountered before, both manmade and natural. This is all a prelude and will surely produce something unprecedented.”

Avodah zara (idolatry) is one of the prohibitions included in the Noahide laws, a universal mitzvah (Torah commandment) incumbent upon Jews and non-Jews. Though idolatry seems to contradict modern values, David Nekrutman, the executive director for the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), believes that idolatry, as described in the Bible, is currently making a comeback in a different incarnation.

“When you use God for your own ends, that is paganism as practiced by the Egyptians and Mesopotamians,” Nekrutman told Breaking Israel News. “The pagan gods viewed man as lowly, used for their own enjoyment, and man placated the gods in order to get something out of them. The revolution from Abraham was that relating to God had nothing to do with man and everything to do with serving God. Serving God does not mean that he promises you an earthly reward.”

“Post modernism and secularism have a strong aspect of avodah zara. Secularism and materialism are a returning of the focus to ‘me’,” Nekrutman concluded.

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As Israel Braces for Massive Storm, Chief Rabbi Visits Kinneret Drought Island to Pray

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 03:30

In the midst of a drought, Israel is bracing for a heavy winter storm and even though the expected rain will somewhat alleviate the dire situation, Chief Rabbi David Lau led an unusual prayer expedition on a small circle of land that was exposed when the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) dropped.

Israel has suffered five years in a row of below-average rainfall, leading to dangerously low water levels in the Kinneret. The rainy season began poorly in Israel with just 45 percent of its multi-year average rainfall for September through November and only two light rainfalls in December.

Thousands of Jews gathered at the Western Wall last Thursday in answer to a call by the Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, to pray for rain. The prayers were quickly answered by heavy rain overnight on Sunday. But that rainfall only added half an inch to the Kinneret, leaving another four and a half feet needed to fill the lake up to its lower red line.

Chief Rabbi David Lau took matters in hand, taking a group by boat to a small island in the middle of the Kinneret, actually just a mere circle of stones which is exposed when the water recedes as a result of the drought. The group included the rabbi of the regional council Rabbi Shlomo Didi, other regional rabbis, and the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, Idan Greenbaum. Also in attendance were several farmers whose heartfelt supplications added a real urgency to the prayer session.

At the conclusion of the prayer, Chief Rabbi Lau said, “We must remember that we are one people, and there is one Kinneret for all of us, and as one nation we all hope that our prayers will be answered though brotherhood and friendship, and we will merit a winter that will come to be rainy, and that the blessing of Heaven will rest upon all of us.”

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The rabbi’s session has a powerful precedent. In the Talmud is a story of a drought in ancient Israel. The Jews approached a righteous man, Honi, asking him to pray for rain. Honi drew a circle on the ground and stood inside the circle, praying. Honi prayed that God should not answer because of his righteousness, since he didn’t consider himself righteous, but because if no rain fell, people would lose faith in righteousness.

He vowed not to leave the circle until it rained. Rain began to fall, but Honi told God that he was praying for substantial rain, not for a light sprinkling. It began to pour and enough rain fell to fill all the cisterns of the city. Honi was then known as Ha’magel, the circle maker.

It seems likely that Rabbi Lau’s circle-enclosed prayers will be answered in a similar manner. Israel is bracing for a heavy storm that began as gentle rains on Thursday afternoon but is expected to hit with heavy winds and downpours on Thursday night lasting through Friday.

The Defense Ministry issued a statement to all security heads of local and regional councils to prepare for extreme winter weather. The storm is expected to generate unusually heavy waves along the coast, accompanied by cold weather.

Tel Aviv cleaned out their sewer drains and piping system in preparation and built a sand-wall along the entire beach to prevent waves from crashing into the city. Haifa Port is closed to incoming ships, shutting down all its piers and not allowing ships to dock.

Ashkelon, which suffered severe flooding during this week’s previous bout of rain, will be opening an emergency command center in order to deal with any issue that arises during the storm.

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IDF Refusal Letter Organized by Radical Left-Wing NGO

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 03:00

These tones are familiar: “A racist government… A militaristic ideology… A capitalist system.” This is the chorus of the radical left. The most radical left. The result is the “2017 12th graders’ letter,” which received extensive coverage last Thursday.

Israel is a democracy. It has an array of different opinions that characterizes every democratic society, and it includes a radical and anti-Zionist left.

“The letter was organized as part of the Mesarvot network,” the Mesarvot NGO’s website says. It’s such a radical NGO, that even the New Israel Fund won’t donate to such a body. “We do have red lines,” NIF Executive Director Mickey Gitzin told me.

According to the letter, the separation barrier has been splitting the West Bank for 50 years now. Fifty years? After all, the fence was built to stop the greatest wave of terror attacks Israel has experienced in the past decade. There are separation barriers in Europe and America too. And of all barriers, the one between Israel and the Palestinians is the most legitimate of all. But when it comes to those who consider the refusal to serve in the IDF to be legitimate, even a life-saving wall is turned into a crime.

There is a lot more nonsense in the letter, which accuses Israel of perpetuating the conflict. Israel, after all, has offered the Palestinians a state in the 1967 borders, with land swaps. They refused in 2000 and launched a murderous intifada. In 2008, they turned down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer, and in March 2014, they turned down another offer from US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

But it’s Israel’s fault. Israel left the Gaza Strip, and instead of welfare and prosperity, Hamas preferred to build death tunnels and a rocket industry. But as far as those who signed the letter are concerned, Israel is the problem.

This kind of brainwashing requires funding. It comes from an American body called Refuser Solidarity Network (RSN), which states that it “provides a US base of support for those who refuse service in the Israeli military for reasons of political conscience.” Its board members are affiliated, naturally, with the left-wing end of the ideological spectrum in the United States. Board member Judith Kolokoff, for example, is also a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the bodies supporting the anti-Israel boycott and is also active in different boycott initiatives.

RSN is active among Jewish communities and takes pride in having transferred $300,000 to bodies supporting the refusal to serve in the IDF, including Mesarvot. More importantly, RSN states on its website that it is an IRS-recognized organization and that all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the IRS.

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According to Article 109 in the Penal Law, “A person who incites or lobbies a person liable to service in an armed force not to serve therein or not to report for a military operation is liable to imprisonment for five years.” Whoever recognized the RSN in the IRS was likely unaware of this, which is why Reservists on Duty Executive Director Amit Deri sent urgent letters on Saturday both to the US ambassador to Israel and to the Israeli ambassador to the US, as well as to the US State Department, urging them to make an effort to stop the tax exemption and the money transfers.

“It’s unthinkable for an Israeli body would financially support the refusal to serve in the American army,” Deri says, so it’s unclear why an American body is financially supporting a refusal to serve in the Israeli army, and with the American administration’s support no less.

It’s not that all the arguments raised in the letter are wrong and false. The political debate is the lifeblood of democracy. The arguments about the settlements and about land expropriation are legitimate, but such arguments should be presented as part of political activities and protests. The students’ refusal to serve in the IDF, on the other hand, is the result of an anti-Israel propaganda of lies, which usually also denies the State of Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish people’s national home. That possibly wasn’t the intention of some of those who signed the letter, but they have turned into a tool in the hands of that anti-Israel propaganda.

The ball is now in the court of the State Attorney’s Office as well. So far, the excuse for not taking any measures against an organization like Mesarvot was that it supports draft dodgers but doesn’t encourage refusal to serve. That was a dubious and pretentious excuse. The explicit admission that the refusal letter was organized as part of that NGO, and a public call like “Stop the murder—refuse,” are clear proof that the organization encourages refusal.

The Communications Ministry itself, by the way, keeps funding the Israel Social TV, which is the mouthpiece of radical-left wing organizations and groups supporting the refusal to serve in the IDF. So the American administration should definitely be approached, but even before that—action must be taken by the Israeli government.

Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News

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