Israel Briefs 9-20-11

The latest news out of Israel. 

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(Click photo to download. Caption: Rabbi Yehuda Mutzafi examines a unique collection of shofarot (ram's horns) collection in his house in Jerusalem. Credit: EPA/ABIR SULTAN.)

IDF Shofars Might Not be Kosher

A debate has emerged over the kosher status of a number of shofars acquired by the Israel Defense Forces from Morocco and China, Israel Hayom learned recently.

The shofars were purchased from a company that obtained a tender issued by the Defense Ministry. They are already slated for use during Rosh Hashanah at the end of September.

Israel Hayom received a copy of a letter that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Rabbinate Ritual Objects Department, under the supervision of the city’s chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, sent to the Defense Ministry. The letter cautions that the shofars lack kosher certification and cannot formally be approved by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

“For your information,” writes Rabbi Aryeh Levin, head of the Ritual Objects Department, “we have found that imported shofars are often glued together. This, of course, disqualifies these shofars for use of fulfilling the mitzvah of hearing the shofar call [on the high holidays].”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Bank of Israel Governor Counters Calls to Lower Taxes

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer spoke out on Sunday against calls from social justice protesters to lower taxes and penalize Israel’s tycoons.

At a press conference held just before he flew out to the annual conference of the International Monetary Fund, Fischer spoke on issues brought up by the Economic Concentration Committee, whose work was influenced by the social protests. “We can’t treat the tycoons as if they were criminals,” he said, adding sarcastically, “Let’s hope they’re still rich after this economic crisis.”

Responding to widespread accusations against Israel’s tycoons, Fischer said that, “The tycoons have not done anything illegal. They did what they were allowed to do,” adding, “in the future the [Bank of Israel] will make many demands of the tycoons.”

Fischer warned against taking populist steps that could damage the economy. “Populism is good for up to six months, but after that it can exact a price.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on a YouTube video entitled “The Truth About the Peace Process.” Credit: YouTube.)

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon last week uploaded an animated video onto YouTube entitled “The Truth About the Peace Process.” The video chronicles the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel and the continued Palestinian refusal of Israeli moves for peace.

The video (which can be viewed at was released to the public on Sept. 13, the date the Oslo Accords were signed 18 years ago during a public ceremony on the White House lawn.

In the six-minute video, Ayalon explains, alongside a cartoon rendering of historical events, that the reason for the current halt to the peace process is continued Palestinian refusal to compromise. “Israel, for its part, will continue saying ‘yes’ to real and enduring peace,” Ayalon says. “But for the peace process to succeed, the Palestinians will have to give up their uncompromising choice of force over negotiations.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service



Prime Minister’s Office Floats Shortening Army Service to Pay for Defense Cuts

Amid wrangling between the Finance and Defense Ministries over the size of the probable cut to Israel’s defense budget as part of the government’s response to the nationwide social protest movement, the Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eyal Gabbai has stepped in to offer a compromise solution.

Gabbai has drafted a plan to cut the defense budget by NIS 1.5 billion ($410 million), as opposed to the NIS 3 billion that the Finance Ministry has been demanding. He proposed paying for the cut by shortening compulsory military service for men from three years to two years and four months.

These measures would trim the Defense Ministry’s budget by NIS 3 billion, as recommended by the Trajtenberg Committee. Gabbai, however, also called for a benefits package valued at NIS 1.5 billion ($410 million), leaving the total budget cut at only NIS 1.5 billion.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Israelis asked to name newly discovered asteroid

Boaz Ron-Zohar, a high-school physics teacher from the Western Galilee, recently received official word that he identified an asteroid previously unknown to the scientific community. Ron-Zohar discovered the asteroid while conducting a research project with Israeli high-school students as part of the international Faulkes Telescope Project.

Ron-Zohar and his students are now requesting the Israeli public’s help in naming the asteroid. A teacher at the Ulpanat Zvia Maalot high school for girls, Ron-Zohar also teaches at the Aheret Projects Centre, which brings together Jewish and Arab students from local high schools and engages them in various physics research projects. The asteroid discovery was made over the summer during one of the center's student space-observation exercises.

Ron-Zohar contacted the British Faulkes Telescope Project while working on his master’s degree thesis in 2009. The project, supported by the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust, is dedicated to education and public outreach in the U.K. and internationally.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Fogel Killer Gets Five Life Sentences

The Samaria District Military Court last week sentenced Hakim Awad, one of the Fogel family killers, to five consecutive life terms in prison.

“The stark contrast between the childish face of the accused minor and the acts he admitted to are nearly unfathomable,” the court said.

In March, Hakim Awad and his accomplice Amjad Awad infiltrated the Itamar settlement near Nablus from their nearby village of Awarta. They proceeded to brutally murder five members of the Fogel family, including a 3-month-old baby, using knives and stolen guns, and they strangled to death the family’s four-year-old child.

Prior to his admission of guilt, Hakim refused to express regret for his acts. The court deliberated on giving him the death penalty, but in the end opted not to do so. “A case such as this tempts the use of such a punishment,” the judges wrote in their sentencing.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Cultural Center Opens as Artists Call for Boycott

Kiryat Arba’s new cultural center opened to audiences on Monday amid left-wing actors and public figures calling for a boycott. Several prominent members of Israel’s theater industry have said that Kiryat Arba’s status as a “settlement,” located near Hebron and beyond the Green Line, renders it beyond the pale. More than 500 artists have signed a petition calling to boycott the new venue.

Construction of the 400-seat Kiryat Arba Cultural Center took several years. It will host cultural events, plays and travelling performances from Israel’s leading theaters, including Cameri and Beit Lessin, which are both based out of Tel Aviv. Beit Lessin’s original production, Mikveh, won the Israeli Theater Prize in 2005.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Engineers Check Stability of Western Wall

The Western Wall, a source of spiritual strength for millions of Jews around the world, is having its physical stability checked in preparation for the coming High Holy Days.

A small group of engineers visited the grounds of the Western Wall in Jerusalem last week to ensure its sturdiness in the run-up to the Days of Awe, the 10 days between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers usually flock to the site at this time to say Slichot (Jewish penitential poems and prayers) and other prayers. A week after Yom Kippur, crowds gather again to recite the priestly blessing (Birkat Hakohanim) for the holiday of Sukkot.

The engineers surveyed the stones of the Western Wall, removing foreign pieces of rock and debris that had been carried to the wall by various birds.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Immigrants From Four Corners of the World United in IDF Tank Crew

The Israel Defense Forces now has an all-immigrant tank crew.

Four new immigrants, all of whom came to Israel as lone soldiers from different countries, are currently sharing the same tank in their advanced training phase at the Shizafon army base near Eilat.

Tank commander Matan Kayne, 20, arrived in Israel from France three years ago. Alexei Lisitsky, 19, moved from Ukraine in 2007 through the Jewish Agency’s Na’aleh project. Tank ordnance loader David de Rieder, 20, made aliyah a year ago from Belgium. Tank driver Liran Gad, 19, was born in Thailand but fell in love with Israel from all my visits here.”

“This is my ‘national self.’ I do not feel like I am doing any special favor to the state,” Liran says. “The state has done good things for me, and now it is my turn to defend it. I say this without a drop of cynicism, only true Zionism.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Jewish Group Incurs Muslim Anger on Temple Mount Visit

A group of about 25 Jews visiting the Temple Mount on Sunday drew angry chants from Muslims but no physical violence,Agency France-Presse reported.

The Jewish men, confronted by cries of “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”), were part of a one-day conference held by Temple Mount Heritage, which studies ancient Temple rituals, AFP said.

With Muslim holy sites such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the Temple Mount site—where the Second Temple of the Jews was destroyed by Romans—has been a consistent source of religious tension, including a visit in 2000 by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s that Palestinians used to spark the second intifada.

Israel abolished all the discriminatory laws promulgated by Jordan and “adopted its own tough standard for safeguarding access to religious shrines” after the 1967 war, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

“Whoever does anything that is likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the various religions to the places sacred to them,” Israeli law stipulates, is “liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.” Israel also entrusted administration of holy places to their respective religious authorities.


Cancer Activist and Diplomat’s Wife Dies at 90

Suzy Eban (Shoshana Ambache), the widow of former Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, passed away on Thursday at the age of 90. Eban bore witness to many watershed moments in Israeli history and was active in a variety of social causes. She leaves behind two children, two grandchildren and two sisters.

Born in Ismaïlia in northeastern Egypt, Eban spent her youth and teenage years in Cairo and later studied at the city’s legendary American University. She met her husband, Abba (Aubrey) Eban during World War II, when he was a British Army intelligence officer stationed in Cairo. The couple married in 1943.

Eban’s most notable contribution to Israeli society was her work on behalf of the Israel Cancer Association. From 1950 to 1998 Eban functioned as the association’s founding president. Her husband served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. and U.N., in addition to positions within the Israeli Knesset and as Foreign Minister.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Israeli Bomb Squad Gets First Female Sapper

The Israel Police marked a historic achievement on Monday, when its first female sapper joined the bomb disposal unit. Police sappers are trained to deal with a wide array of scenarios, involving both terrorism and criminal activity.

Sgt. Inbal Gawi, who completed her training for the bomb disposal unit along with 14 men, was awarded her new insignia at the graduation ceremony by Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Yohanan Danino and Operations Branch head Maj. Gen. Nissim Mor.

Gawi, 26, who served in the Israel Defense Forces’ Karakal infantry unit, decided to join the police after she was discharged from the military in 2006.

Police sapper duty ranges from neutralizing suspected car bombs or unattended objects suspected of containing bombs, to removing threats from unused weaponry. Police deal with an average of 80,000 such incidents each year, which can involve witnessing disturbing sights or carry great risk.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on September 20, 2011 and filed under Israel.