A different take on the Western Wall controversy

The headlines of the Jewish press this week were filled with stories about angry American Jews arriving in Israel and denouncing the Israeli government’s decision regarding egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. This week’s other headlines, however, reported some threats to Israel that are genuinely existential, not merely a rhetorical flourish. While American Jews speak about “fighting” over the Western Wall issue, Israeli Jews who could be hit by Syrian mortars or Hamas rockets are the ones doing the real fighting, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Posted on June 28, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Despite flare-up, Israel’s response to Syrian mortar fire deemed ‘old policy’

Mortar shells fired from Syria into the Israeli Golan Heights Saturday prompted the IDF to respond with a retaliatory strike in Syria, purportedly killing Syrian soldiers. Despite the incidents, a military escalation between Israel and Syria is unlikely and is in neither side’s interest, said Prof. Efraim Inbar, former director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “This is nothing new for the IDF to retaliate to spillover from Syria,” Inbar said. “This is an implementation of old policy.”

Posted on June 25, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Unpacking the message of Iran’s missile strike against Islamic State

While Iran routinely threatens Israel, experts say the Islamic Republic was sending messages elsewhere through its first missile strike on another country in three decades. Iran struck Islamic State targets in Syria June 18, in retaliation for Islamic State’s twin terror attacks against prominent Iranian institutions June 7. “The bottom line is that Iran always tries to turn a challenge or weakness, such as the terror attack, into an opportunity to show its strength,” said Dr. Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Posted on June 23, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Want a Jewish future? Forget emotion and look at the numbers

Scholars Steven M. Cohen and Sylvia Barack Fishman have authored a new study that calls attention to the implications of the decline of the non-Orthodox Jewish family—and calls for action. To their critics, who claim they are insensitive to the needs of the intermarried or those who have no interest in traditional Jewish institutions, the scholars simply point to the numbers. Those who want to enable the continuance of a community that enriches its participants’ lives should heed the call of Cohen and Fishman, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.

Posted on June 23, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S..

Welcome to the Shi’a corridor

If you haven’t encountered the term “Shi’a corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran in Syria intensifies. It has been an established fact that the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10—despite the existence of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A Shi’a land corridor would make enforcing this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

Posted on June 22, 2017 and filed under Opinion, Israel, U.S..

How will Jews be remembered in Morocco when they are all gone?

Yael Eckstein had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. There she was, an Orthodox Israeli Jew, at a 500-year-old synagogue in Marrakesh, distributing food parcels to Muslims for Ramadan. It seemed too good to be true. But as she quickly learned, it was just another day in Morocco, a country that defies norms, defines tolerance and is home to a dwindling population of 2,500 Jews. What legacy do Jews want to leave in Morocco? Eckstein, the senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gives her take in an essay for JNS.org.

Posted on June 22, 2017 and filed under Opinion, Christian.

Will Palestinian energy feud spark surge in violence against Israel?

The feud between Hamas and Fatah has led to a deepening crisis in Gaza, as a cut in the electricity supplied to the coastal territory is stoking fears of a surge in violence, both between the Palestinian factions and against Israel. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, the terror group has persistently carried out rocket attacks against Israel, including during several major rounds of conflict. “Gazans get by on substandard water and just hours a day of electricity. These awful conditions can fuel unrest and cause violent actors to become militant,” said Grant Rumley, a research fellow on Palestinian affairs at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Posted on June 22, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Reform Jewish leaders are ruining their movement by wading deeper into politics

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recently wrote, “We cherish the variety of views present in the Reform Jewish community. However, we do not allow disagreement to inhibit our pursuit of justice.” The Reform movement is confronting real problems, such as the diminution of Jewish identity and catastrophic levels of basic Jewish illiteracy. It’s a terrible mistake that the movement’s answer to these crises is to wade deeper into politics, writes columnist Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg.

Posted on June 22, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S..

‘Love of Christians’ touted as strategic asset for Israel at major policy conference

The strategic importance of Christian Zionism was featured this week at the 2017 Herzliya Conference, one of Israel’s most prominent annual policy summits. “We’re excited to be here…taking part in the Herzliya Conference, and being able to communicate the love of Christians to Israeli decision makers, policy makers, academics and all. It’s a great privilege for us and we hope it has real practical impact for the state of Israel,” David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told JNS.org.

Posted on June 21, 2017 and filed under Christian, Israel, News.

Memory of Greek Jewish metropolis endures at new Holocaust Museum 

Last week’s visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to Thessaloniki, Greece, marking the construction of a new Holocaust museum, turns the page in the city’s once thriving Jewish community, writes JNS.org's Adam Abrams.

Posted on June 20, 2017 and filed under Holocaust, News.

Palestinian pollution: a dirty little secret

The Israeli authorities last week confiscated two tractors, a hydraulic excavator and other equipment used by Palestinians to carry out illegal quarrying that has been damaging a rare nature reserve in the Judean Desert, writes JNS.org's Stephen M. Flatow.

Posted on June 20, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion.

Discovery of hidden text prompts new approach to biblical digs in Israel 

The recent discovery of a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard, that was on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, has prompted Tel Aviv University researchers to consider what other hidden inscriptions may have been discarded during archaeological digs, before the availability of high-tech imaging, writes JNS.org's Adam Abrams.

Posted on June 19, 2017 and filed under News, Israel, Features.

New book goes behind the scenes of Hasidic musical heritage

You don’t need to be a scholar of Jewish music to enjoy Velvel Pasternak’s new book, “Behind the Music: Stories, Anecdotes, Articles & Reflections.” You just need to be someone who wants to learn about the adventures of the author, a man who has done more than anyone else in our time to discover, record and transmit the treasures of Hasidic music, writes book reviewer Rabbi Jack Riemer.

Posted on June 19, 2017 and filed under Book Review.

The illiberal left attacks Christian Zionists again

Every few years, a young far-left activist discovers Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and they are appalled. The idea of conservative Evangelicals advocating for the Jewish state runs counter to every prejudice about Christians the young advocate was raised to harbor. So the individual scours the internet, desperately hunting for that one item that will confirm their bigotry. And when they come up dry, they ignore, tinker with or amend the facts because they cannot confront a simple reality: they are intolerant of Evangelical Christians, writes Ari Morgenstern, CUFI communications director, in JNS.org.

Posted on June 16, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S., Christian.

Don’t Ask Ivanka to Oppose Religious Freedom

Ivanka Trump is more than just the First Daughter. As a key adviser as well as the wife of Jared Kushner, the president’s Jewish son-in-law and point man on a host of issues, she has become a major political figure. More than that, as the country’s most famous convert to Orthodox Judaism she is a flash point for the hostility most of her co-religionists harbor for her father, writes JNS.org's Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.

Posted on June 16, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S..