News From Israel

No. 79, July 25, 2018

Inside Israel

Large number of Israelis fast on Tisha B’av, poll finds. More than one third of Jewish Israelis, some 36%, say they fast for the entire day on Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies of Jewish history. Along with the 36% of Israeli Jews who fast the entire day, 6% fast for part of the day, and 2% avoid food but do drink.

Israel passes Jewish state law, enshrining ‘national home of the Jewish people’. After hours of furious debate, the Knesset passed into law the contentious nation-state bill that for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” in its quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. The nation-state bill, proponents say, puts Jewish values and democratic values on equal footing. Critics, however, say the law effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arabs and other minority communities.

Israeli military appoints first openly gay major general. Judge Advocate General Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek officially came out as gay last year. At the meeting announcing the appointment, Afek thanked his fellow General Staff officers and said, “It is a great privilege for me to serve in the IDF.”

Pregnant women no longer need to wait in line. Pregnant women will no longer need to wait in line in places where public service is provided, according to a law passed by the Knesset. Public service as defined in the legislation includes supermarkets, shops, pharmacies, the post office and other places which provide public service.

Police detain Conservative rabbi over ‘illegal’ weddings. Acting on a complaint by the Chief Rabbinate, the Israel Police detained Conservative Rabbi Dubi Haiyun for questioning, saying he performed “illegal” weddings without authorization of the Chief Rabbinate. But Attorney General ordered law enforcement not to call him in for further questioning until it becomes clear whether his actions are suspected as criminal. Umbrella group of Conservative rabbis called the move to question Dov Haiyun over weddings ‘outrageous’.


Gaza border. Terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip launched close to 200 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel on July 14, the majority of them exploding in open fields, but with some landing inside Israeli communities, injuring three people and damaging buildings. Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border, Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi, a 21-year-old from Petah Tikva, the first fatality Israel has sustained in the Strip in four years. In response, the Israel Defense Forces launched its largest bombing campaign against Hamas targets in the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. Palestinian kite terrorism has so far sparked 860 fires since April, decimating over 8,000 acres of forest and agricultural land in Israel. Hamas operatives have been trying to upgrade the kites to fly deeper into Israeli territory.

Netanyahu meets Putin in Moscow. Netanyahu, following the meeting in the Kremlin, said that it focused on both continuing to ensure that Israel retain the freedom of action over Syrian skies to continue to hit Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and on discussing future overall arrangements in Syria. Netanyahu told reporters he “very much appreciates the excellent direct contact I have with President Putin. It is very important to Israel’s national security.”

Israel transfers aid to Syrians displaced by fighting. The IDF transferred aid donated by Israeli residents of the Golan Heights to Syrians displaced by fighting on the other side of border and living in camps. The aid included toys, crayons, games, candies, and notes from Israeli children.

Israel’s Labor party quits Socialist International after it adopts BDS. Israel’s Labor Party sent a sternly worded letter to the Socialist International organization after it adopted a resolution joining the Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel campaign, saying that the party would immediately leave the organization. The Socialist International is the worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties. It currently brings together 140 political parties and organizations from all continents.

Culture and Lifestyle

Did David Ben-Gurion believe in God? Not so simple. A new exhibition called “The Book of Books in the House of Books” opened in the National Library of Israel, featuring Bible-related treasures spanning cultures and centuries. One item on display sheds light on the beliefs of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, a note Israel’s first prime minister wrote to Prof. Samuel Hugo Bergmann, a renowned philosopher.

Hipster Israel. With a youthful population, a diverse mix of immigrants from all over the world, and a heady culture of innovation and creativity, it’s really no surprise that Israel has emerged as a hipster haven.

Science and Technology

Israeli spacecraft to launch in December, land on the moon next year. The spacecraft is being developed by the company SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit organization. The spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December and is expected to land on February 13, 2019. SpaceIL said that the event will bring Israel closer to “joining the prestigious circle of the three superpowers that have managed to reach the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.”

Israeli firm develops system for faster blood tests. Israeli firm Sight Diagnostics has developed an accelerated blood diagnostics system based on computer imaging coupled with machine learning technology. The system enables medical practitioners to measure blood count directly in their office, obviating the need for a sample to be sent away for laboratory testing. Results are obtained in ten minutes, allowing physicians to place patients on the most appropriate treatment right away – during the initial visit

Israeli study finds positive emotions may shrink cancer tumors. The study was conducted on mice by a research team at Haifa’s Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, and focused on the role of the brain’s reward system in fighting tumors. After 14 days of continuous treatment by artificially stimulating the reward system in the brains of tumor-bearing mice, the researchers identified a 50 percent reduction in the size of the tumors.

Gene discovery startup announces breakthrough in drought-tolerant crops. Israel’s PlantArcBio has isolated the genes that help desert organisms survive. The University of Wisconsin-Madison will begin testing the commercial potential of the desert genes by introducing them into soybean varieties planted in U.S. greenhouses and fields.

In Depth

How Russian nationalism explains Putin’s outreach to Jews and IsraelPutin’s nationalism, unlike its Soviet predecessor, incorporates and claims ethnic minority groups, including Jews, weaving “ours” into the narrative governing Russia’s history and future in an effort to unite the Russian people and restore the former empire.

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