June 26, 2019

IDF Destroys Hezbollah’s ‘Flagship’ Tunnel

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a Hezbollah flag at Meis al-Jabal village in south Lebanon, December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed Hezbollah’s “flagship” tunnel May 30 that was almost a mile in length.

According to the Times of Israel, the tunnel spanned 3,280 feet, 250 of which went into Israeli territory; the IDF believes that Hezbollah was going to use the tunnel to attack Israelis.

This tunnel was the Hezbollah terror group’s flagship tunnel, in which Hezbollah invested a lot of resources and efforts, in which infrastructure was installed to allow terrorists to remain inside it for an extended period and an efficient excavation capability, as well as mobility for the terrorist operatives,” the IDF said in a statement.

The IDF filled the tunnel with concrete to neutralize the threat.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the “flagship” tunnel was the last of the six tunnels that the IDF found in Operation Northern Shield, which was launched in December to weed out Hezbollah’s attack tunnels. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said on April 25 that at least three of Hezbollah’s tunnels that the IDF discovered are in violation of Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Thousands of Jews Around the World Participate in Masa Israel Journey’s Yom Hazikaron Ceremony

Bougie Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and his wife Michal; Ilan Cohen, chairman of Masa Israel; Liran Avisar Ben Horin, CEO of Masa Israel Journey; Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, and Minister of Information; and M.K Zvi Hauzer. Photo by Yossi Zamir

Masa Israel Journey hosted a ceremony May 7 ahead of Yom Hazikaron, a day where Jews remember Israeli fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

The event in Latrun was the only predominantly English-speaking ceremony in Israel and was broadcast to thousands of Jews in communities and schools throughout the United States, Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Ukraine, France, Germany, Australia and England, as well as on Masa’s Facebook page. It was also translated in three different languages including French, Spanish and Russian.

Four thousand Masa participants,1,000 global Jewish community leaders from Federations, synagogues, schools, government officials and families of fallen soldiers were in attendance.

This year, the stories of Alejandro Hoffman, Sean Carmeli, Jordan Ben Simon among others who were killed while serving in the IDF or in terror attacks, were highlighted through videos and anecdotes from their families and friends. IDF Captain Yair Alkalai also spoke.

“In an age where terror targets our homes and synagogues, and when we face new and old forms of anti-Semitism on the streets and on campuses, the home front has become the front line, and we stand on that line together,” Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said in a statement to the Journal. “We are always and forever committed to the core Jewish principle, ‘kol Yisrael aravim ze la ze’ (we are all responsible for one another). And we have a special responsibility to our missing and captive soldiers.”

He continued: “We will never rest until we bring Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, and all of our missing and captive soldiers and civilians home. I believe this is our highest moral duty and a sacred oath we take to our soldiers and their families. To our enemies I say, the long arm of the IDF and security forces will reach you anywhere and everywhere, on our borders and far beyond them. We are watching you and we will act forcefully to defend ourselves against any threat.”

Isaac (Bougie) Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and Masa’s honorable guest talked about the anti-Semitic events taking place all around the world including recent attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and Israel and Paris.

“We can never put the fragments back together,” Herzog said “but we can renew our resolve to cherish their memory and honor their legacy.”

Posters Accusing Israel of ‘Killing Children’ Found in London

Photo from Pixabay.

A handful of anti-Israel posters were found in London May 5, including one on a bus stop stating, “Israel’s killing children again. Enjoy your weekend.”

The posters are seemingly referencing the death of a pregnant Palestinian woman in the Gaza Strip over the weekend; Hamas has blamed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for her death, but the IDF tweeted that a failed Hamas rocket killed the pregnant woman.

Pete Newbon, a romantic and Victorian-era literature lecturer at Northrumbia University, tweeted, “The Assad regime has murdered hundreds of thousands of its citizens with illegal weapons in eight years of war. In Venezuela people are literally starving under a kleptocracy. Russia is occupying Chechnya, and parts of Georgia and Ukraine. But only one state gets these posters.”

In September, various London bus stops were plastered with posters that read, “Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Two Nice Jewish Boys: Episode 136 – Should There Be Jews?

As Jews, both in Israel and in other parts of the world, we tend to go about our day-to-day lives worrying about the regular issues of our existence, like how to pay the bills at the end of the month, which Game of Thrones watch party to attend and of course the eternal Papa John’s or Dominos dilemma. But not many of us stop this daily struggle with first-world problems to contemplate on the deeper questions that may lurk in our subconscious, like what is our place as Jews in Israel, or in America? What does it even mean to be Jewish in the 21st century? And what does the future hold for us as a religion and as a people?

Luckily for us, some people do try to tackle these mind-boggling question, thus clearing a path for an important discussion. One of the people who do that is Tal Keinan, an extremely successful businessman, investor and social entrepreneur, author of the recently published book God is in the Crowd.

Tal Keinan was born in America, and when he was 21 he decided to move to Israel and join the IDF. He became the first Oleh combat pilot, and he still serves as a reservist in the IAF. Tal is one of the founders of Clarity Capital, Israel’s first full-spectrum asset management firm. Tal also does social activism. He is the Chairman of Koret Israel Economic Development Funds, an NGO that gives credit to small businesses.

2NJB is thrilled to have Tal Keinan on the show today.

Tal’s book on Amazon, and the website of Koret Israel

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Labour MP Apologizes for Tweeting Fake Video of IDF ‘Beating Up Palestinian Children’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Grahame Morris, a Labour Party member of parliament, apologized on April 23 for tweeting a fake video of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “beating up Palestinian children.”

Morris wrote in a since-deleted tweet on April 22, “Marvellous, absolutely marvellous the Israeli Army, the best financed, best trained, best equipped army in the world caught on camera beating up Palestinian children for the fun of it. May God forgive them.”

The IDF fired back, “The only marvelous thing here are your lies. These are not IDF soldiers. Apologies would be in order.”

The link in the IDF’s tweet goes to an August 2015 article from Vice News about how five Guatemalan soldiers were caught on video “slapping, punching, kneeing, and even drop-kicking” two teenage boys after disobeying a stop order from the soldiers.

Morris tweeted out an apology on April 23, writing: “I am sorry for sharing a post which purports to show the IDF hurting children but it was in fact the Guatemalan Army. My error demonstrates the dangers of fake news online and I will be more diligent in future in checking my sources.”

At least nine Labour MPs have resigned from the party as a result of anti-Semitism plaguing the party under Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Hen Mazzig: Gay, Progressive, Israeli Activist

Hen Mazzig; Photo from YouTube

Hen Mazzig, a progressive, gay Israeli activist came to California to talk to locals about his family history and his identity. 

About 20 people came to hear Mazzig speak at a private residence in Long Beach earlier this month, at an event hosted by the Jewish National Fund of Orange County.

Mazzig told attendees his father’s family and his mother’s family fled Tunisia and Iraq, respectively, in 1951 to seek refuge in Israel. He said his father’s family was forced to work in Nazi labor camps during Germany’s occupation of Tunisia from 1942-43. “The long arm of the Nazis didn’t just stop in Europe,” he said.

Mazzig said his maternal grandmother told him how, in 1941, the Iraqi government initiated the Farhud, or pogrom against Jews from June 1-2 during Shavuot. On the second day, Mazzig’s grandmother, then a teenager, witnessed her disabled friend Dalia being raped by an Iraqi policeman.

“When she told me this story, she was in tears,” Mazzig said, adding that it was at that point his grandmother knew her family had to leave Iraq. But before they fled, Mazzig’s great grandfather was executed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad for being a Zionist.

“The reason I start with those stories is because it’s so important that we continue speaking about it,” Mazzig said. 

Mazzig, 27, then spoke about his own war experiences as a 12-year-old. In 2002, during the Second Intifada, he was about to enter an ice cream shop in Petach Tikvah when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up. 

As a result of that incident, when Mazzig undertook his compulsory Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training at 18, he chose to join the IDF’s humanitarian Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit. Mazzig was stationed in the West Bank Palestinian town
of Ramallah from 2008-13. 

Adressing anti-Zionist slurs of “pink washing” (that Israel offers its LGBTQ community rights to cover up its policies against the Palestinians), Mazzig called the accusations “ridiculous” and “shameful.”

Mazzig recounted how in 2009, his best friend, Ilan, came out to him as gay. Concerned Ilan might just be going through a phase, Mazzig spoke with an officer, Adam, to which Adam replied that he believed Mazzig was also gay and had a crush on Ilan.

“Go back home, confess your love to Ilan, come back and tell me you have a boyfriend,” Adam told him. Mazzig eventually confessed his love for Ilan but Ilan turned down Mazzig, saying Mazzig was too fat.

When Mazzig relayed to Adam what had happened, Mazzig called Ilan the love of his life. Adam responded, “Ilan is not the love of your life because the love of your life wouldn’t treat you this way,” a line that Mazzig said stuck with him. 

Mazzig eventually went on to become an openly gay commander in his unit in 2010. “I knew I had the backing of my commanders,” Mazzig said, citing an instance in 2011, when “one of my commanders imprisoned a soldier for a week for using homophobic words toward me. As a gay person, I feel the most safe in Israel than I do anywhere else,” he said.

Adressing anti-Zionist slurs of “pink washing” (that Israel offers its LGBTQ community rights to cover up its policies against the Palestinians), Mazzig called the accusations “ridiculous” and “shameful,” noting that LGBTQ activists fought for the Israeli government to grant them rights.

Nonetheless, Mazzig acknowledged that Israel still has “a long way to go” when it comes to LGBTQ rights, especially in legalizing same-sex marriage. “It’s a struggle and it’s a process,” he said.

Mazzig went on to state that as a progressive, he has noticed that a lot of progressive circles that claim to support social justice “are the ones that are attacking Israel. Criticism of Israel is OK but there’s a fine line between criticism … and denying the country its right to exist,” he said.

Mazzig concluded his speech by stating he hopes that one day when he has children, he can promise them that they won’t have to serve in the IDF because there will be peace in the region, and that the promise will be fulfilled.

Hebrew U’s New Army Intelligence Program Not Welcomed by All

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be home to an army base for intelligence officers after being selected to run a prestigious military academic program. But not everyone is happy about it.

As part of the Havatzalot project, the officers in training will wear their uniforms on campus and have separate living quarters monitored by security cameras and that can only be entered with a biometric pass. Participants agree to allow their professors to update the Israel Defense Forces about their grades and attendance.

The strict lifestyle will prevent the students from integrating into campus life, argue some at the university, and could intimidate Arab students and staff, say others.

The program includes a double major bachelor’s degree in Islamic or Middle Eastern Studies, and in mathematics, economics, computer science or philosophy for cadets training to be military intelligence officers. It is included as part of their army service. They also receive combat training, officer training and military intelligence training.

The cadets must commit to serving in the military intelligence corps for six years following completion of their studies.

A source identified as a “university representative” by Haaretz said that studying in uniform “causes a marked pedagogical difficulty and makes it difficult for the students to integrate socially into university life. We are asking that the decision to have students come to class in uniform be reconsidered.”

The IDF spokesman noted that the program has been hosted by the University of Haifa since its founding 12 years ago. “The conditions of the current tender are substantively identical to the tender on which the program has been based since its establishment,” the spokesman said. “The amazement over [the conditions] at this stage is surprising and beside the point.

It is scheduled to open at Hebrew University in October 2019.

Vote Is a Fresh Start

People pray at the Western Wall on Jan. 12. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

And the results are … confusing! Israel’s election day ended with no clear indication of who would be the country’s next prime minister and what the balance of power in the Knesset might look like.

Even if Benny Gantz’s victory declaration was premature — as of the Journal’s press time, we didn’t know the outcome — the impressive showing of his Blue and White Party signaled the arrival of a major centrist force in Israeli politics.

However the results play out, Netanyahu — who also declared victory — continued to enjoy support from about 30 percent of the electorate. So, “Mr. Security” survived again. He was threatened with indictment; he had three IDF chiefs of staff speak out against him; he had a submarine scandal that could have torpedoed him, but Bibi maintained his base — as did the right-wing bloc.

For an overwhelmingly liberal American Jewish community, the confusing outcome is confounding. Most American Jews cannot fathom how any Israeli can tolerate a leader who bonds with President Donald Trump, flirts with Kahanists, demonizes Arabs and blusters about annexing the West Bank.

I have problems with Netanyahu, too. But abandoning the people of Israel because the nation of Israel has trouble disentangling from this admittedly charismatic and surprisingly successful leader is not just unfair but spoiled. The Blue and White Party’s results show that Bibi’s Israel is only one of many Israels that exist. If you’re disappointed, acknowledge the disappointment, fight to improve matters, but also view this one leader in a broader context.

“Regardless of who governs Israel, American Jews should seek other sources of leverage to strengthen Israel-Diaspora relations and advance their agenda.”

Considering Israel as a Jewish Democratic State — the Jewish national homeland — offers four lenses for viewing the campaign and its outcome:

Israel as a Jewish state: The election raised a red flag — the state’s Jewishness must not become right-wing property. Judaism is not the opposite of democracy — nor, as American Jews would testify, is Judaism hostile to liberalism. Shame on right-wingers for trying to monopolize the Jewishness issue, and shame on left-wingers for abdicating on it. Fortunately, as true centrists, Blue and White leaders integrated the word “Jewishness” into their vocabulary as a spur to morality, outreach and democracy.

Israel as a democracy: Critics will deem every vote for Bibi as a vote against democracy. I disagree. Instead, we should salute the Middle East’s only free and functional democracy — and the world’s 10th oldest continuous democracy — for another peaceful election. Add props to Blue and White for making democracy and the fight against corruption a centerpiece of its campaign.

Israel as a state: Bibi’s sweet spot. Even Blue and White admitted that Netanyahu has been effective diplomatically, economically and existentially. Those disappointed with Bibi’s survival should recognize that Bibi’s supporters are not dupes — they figured that prime ministers are not popes. They respect his accomplishments.

Israel’s Diaspora: Many American Jews are left wondering how their feelings were so irrelevant despite polls showing that 95 percent of Israelis value Diaspora relations. Israelis’ concern for the Diaspora doesn’t affect electoral outcomes for the same reason that many American Jews will vote against Trump despite his support for Israel. Most American Jews don’t vote pro-Israel; they vote anti-Trump or pro-choice and social justice. It doesn’t make them anti-Israel, just more concerned with domestic issues when voting — which requires you to choose one person or party. Similarly, Israelis don’t vote peoplehood but statehood — especially security.

Israel will survive and thrive. The Israel-Diaspora relationship should survive and thrive. But regardless of who governs Israel, American Jews should seek other sources of leverage to strengthen Israel-Diaspora relations and advance their agenda. And they should reach out to Israelis who care about their brothers and sisters abroad, but who feel they have to vote to keep the state alive first.

Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University in Toronto and author of the recently released “The Zionist Ideas.”

IDF Releases #StopHamas Video Ahead of Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a #StopHamas video as the terror group prepares for the one-year anniversary of its weekly riots at the border of the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The video begins by pointing out that Hamas started the riots at the border on March 30, 2018, where they “consistently used the Palestinian civilians as cover against IDF troops and violently breach the border.”

“Obscured by smokescreens, they used knives, Molotov cocktails, and launched explosive devices over the fence in order to harm and kill Israelis,” the video states. “These riots have continued every single week since March 2018.”

There have typically been around “tens of thousands” people participating during these riots, with the peak being 45,000 on May 14, around the time when the United States embassy in Jerusalem opened.

“The aim of Hamas is clear: to facilitate mass infiltrations of violent mobs from Gaza into Israeli communities and to carry out terror attacks deep into Israeli territory,” the video states, adding that a Hamas map could be seen on social media detailing how to attack these communities.

The Israeli communities that Hamas is targeting consist of 70,000 Israeli civilians that can hear and feel the riots when they occur.

“These riots, they hurt Israelis, Palestinians, and anyone else hoping for a better future,” the video states.

The IDF also tweeted the following graphic:

According to the Times of Israel, the IDF is concerned about the size of the upcoming March 30 riots.

Hundreds Attend Funeral of IDF Soldier From Calif. After Social Media Plea

Hundreds attend the funeral of American lone soldier Alex Sasaki at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, March 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 1,000 people, many of them strangers, attended the funeral of an Israeli lone soldier from California after a call went out on social media.

Alex Sasaki, 27, of Laguna Beach, was found dead earlier this week, reportedly from a drug overdose that may have been intentional, according to reports.

His funeral was on Thursday at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

Sasaki studied at the University of Oregon before moving to Israel and enlisting in the army as a combat soldier. He joined the military at the end of 2017 and joined the elite Golani unit a year ago.

His friends launched a social media campaign to ask people to attend Sasaki’s funeral since his unit was called up and stationed at the Gaza border due to the recent rocket attacks and rioting. Many other Israeli soldiers in the Jerusalem area attended the funeral, as well as total strangers.

The posts also urged people to visit the dead soldier’s parents at a hotel in Jerusalem where they were sitting shiva after flying to Israel for his funeral.

“Alex didn’t die in war but from a lack of mental support in the army,” Tzvika Graiver, co-founder and chairman of KeepOlim.org, posted on Facebook. “Alex z”l was a Lone Soldier who made Aliya to Israel especially to volunteer for the IDF and become a warrior. Sadly, Alex’s death is not the only one recently and he’s the 3rd Lone Soldier that ended his life in sad circumstances in the last 3 months alone.”

IDF Strikes Hamas Targets in Retaliation for Rockets Hitting Tel Aviv

Flame and smoke are seen during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Ajour NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck several Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after two rockets from Gaza struck Tel Aviv on the morning of March 25 Israeli time.

The Times of Israel reports that the IDF announced its actions in the early evening on March 25; their targets included the “secret headquarters of the Hamas terror group, which is used by the internal security, central intelligence and military intelligence branches of the group.”

“This is a central asset of the Hamas terror group,” the IDF said in a statement.

Other areas the IDF targeted in Gaza included Deir el-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah, per the Times of Israel.

Twelve rockets have since been launched from Gaza toward southern Israel communities.

One of the Gaza rockets that hit Tel Aviv struck a home in Mishmeret and injured seven people, including an 18-month-old baby and a 3-year-old. The home belonged to Robert and Susan Wolf, who are originally from London.

“If we hadn’t got to the bomb shelter in time I would be burying all my family,” Robert Wolf told the UK Telegraph.

Four Members of Israel’s Special in Uniform Become IDF Soldiers

The four newly appointed IDF soldiers. Photo courtesy of Special in Uniform.

Four teens living with special needs received their teudat hoger (soldier identification cards) March 22. Shachak Shriki, Liron Nathan, Liel Katzav and Roi Kaufman were part of Special in Uniform, an initiative of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in conjunction with Lend-A-Hand to A Special Child and Jewish National Fund-USA that incorporates young people with disabilities into the military and helps them integrate long-term into society and the workforce.

Lt. Col. (Res.) Gabi Ophir, chairman of Lend a Hand to a Special Child distributed the caps and dog tags, along with the President of Special in Uniform and Afcon Chairman Israel Reif.

In the framework of the Special in Uniform program, members volunteer for one year in the army, train and learn important skills before they graduate to become full-fledged soldiers.

Special in Uniform is so far the only program of its kind. One of the major goals of the project is to inspire young people who are living with special needs to meet their full potential so they can to function independently and succeed in society.

Earlier in March, U.S. representatives came to Israel to study the program so they may incorporate it in the United States.

Roi’s mother Deb Kaufman, said that Roi, 22, suffers from VCF syndrome, which is often expressed in heart defects, a cleft palate, anomalies in the skull and most visible, attention deficit disorder. Though he is capable of functioning normally, he needs to be coached and trained as if he were a child of 11.

“Roi is very verbal,” his mother said in a statement. “He’s spent the last year on Palmachim Airbase working for information systems, cleaning knives, kitchen duty, and deliveries. His lifelong dream was to be a soldier, to know that he could contribute to society like everyone else…He was determined to volunteer for the army, and after a year, [his superiors], who recognized and appreciated his skills and capabilities recruited him to their ranks.”

Kaufman added that this “is an awesome victory. It’s so meaningful to me that people appreciate Roi for who he is and that he is able to contribute to society like all others. Personally, I see tremendous improvement in his self-esteem and confidence; he’s changed completely. He’s become more diligent; he can solve much more complex problems than before he started volunteering. Yet the cherry on top is seeing his relationship with his girlfriend. The two were placed in the same army track, and now he’s a regular guy!”

Another new soldier, Shachak Shriki, 18, of Kiryat Ono, is also on the autistic spectrum, and has earned the title of Special in Uniform Progenitor.

In a statement he recounts that he did not tell a single friend about his disability, as he was eager to start a fresh life, without the stigma.

“That I already done!” Shriki said. “Now I’m on my way to realizing new and more ambitious dreams,”

Jewish National Fund U.S., which co-sponsors Special in Uniform Yossi Kahana, said: “Purim is a time of joy, of celebration and miracles… For all us here today, this is a very special and joyous occasion. The fact that these kids are standing here today, full-fledged soldiers in the IDF, is nothing short of a Purim miracle!”

U.S. Officials Meet Disabled Israeli Soldiers

A group photo from the visit to the IDF airbase. Photo courtesy of Special in Uniform.

United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and former Chairman of the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities Chris Neeley, visited the Palmachim Air Force Base this week together with a delegation from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Task Force on Disabilities.

They went to observe and learn how the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) incorporates 50 young men and women with assorted disabilities into military life through the program Special in Uniform. The long-term goal is to adapt the program for soldiers in the United States Armed Forces.

“A year ago, I read an article on the internet about Special in Uniform, and I’m overjoyed that I now have the opportunity to see it up close,” Neeley said in a statement. “It’s an incredible program by any estimation and we look forward to introducing a sister program back home in America.”

Special in Uniform focuses on ability, not disability, helping participants to find a role within the IDF that encourages them to contribute to Israel’s military and help keep their citizens safe. The program is funded through JNF through the organization Lend A Hand to a Special Child.

“It’s our moral obligation to ensure that each and every Israeli enjoys a life of dignity, belonging, and purpose,” JNF President Dr. Sol Lizerbram said in a statement.”

Currently 400 youth with special needs in 30 bases participate in Special in Uniform across Israel. According to the statement it was rare, if not impossible, to meet a soldier with autism or Down’s syndrome only a few years ago, but now they are incorporated in many bases in Israel and valued as integral members of the IDF with each soldier contributing his utmost to defend the country.

One of the soldiers Friedman and Neeley met was Roi Schiffman, who has cerebral palsy. Schiffman works in the Palmachim infirmary where he prints and issues documents.

“I’ve visiting many army bases and observed the arms and brain of the IDF. Today, I see the heart of the army,” Friedman said in a statement.

Chairman of Lend A Hand to a Special Child and one of the founders of Special in Uniform Lt. Col. (res.) Gabi Ophir shared through a statement that she joined the project 27 years ago when her daughter Ronit, who has William’s syndrome, was integrated into the Anatot Base.

“I was fortunate and blessed to observe the incredible changes that it made in her life, yet I never dreamed how far it would go or how it would transform the fabric of the IDF and nation itself,” Ophir said. “I’m proud of our military and Israel which is the world’s pioneer of inclusion.”

Israel is currently the only country that integrates citizens with special needs and disabilities into its military.

Annexation Is a Pernicious Issue for Israel

Houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Modern Israel has been a remarkable unifying force for American Jewry. Sadly, the subject of Israel and most discussions about Israeli policies today have become deeply divisive. In some instances, these debates have cost friendships and silenced organizations and Jewish leaders from engaging in conversations around Israel.

There is an issue, however, around which most Jews can coalesce — the potential annexation of portions or all of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. This poses a threat to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, which should concern all Jews.

Various proposals for annexation of portions or all of the territory are currently on the Israeli political agenda. Advocates of these proposals are not bashful about their intent to pass such legislation during the next government. This is a result of Israeli coalition politics whereby a minority political party can demand support of a policy as a condition for its participation in the governing coalition. 

Yet, contrary to common understanding, a just-released poll by The Institute for National Security Studies shows that only 25 percent of Israelis support some form of annexation. However, the majority opposing annexation do not view this issue as a priority, while its passionate advocates do.

The ideological controversy over borders mirrors historic debates about “Greater Israel.” For over 100 years, there have been passionate debates within the Zionist movement about the required borders of the Jewish state — the entirety of biblical Israel or only those areas with majority Jewish population. In debates over whether to support the United Nations partition resolution in 1947, the consensus position favoring a Jewish state separate from an Arab state prevailed over advocates who embraced the Greater Israel position, enabling the Zionist enterprise to succeed dramatically with the formation of modern Israel. Similarly, the agreement to cede territory to Egypt at Camp David prevailed over fierce opposition, leading to four decades of peace, which continues to be maintained.

Defeat of current annexation proposals is essential to preventing a cascade of extremely serious political, security and economic consequences. Many of the proposals seem deceptively innocuous, promising to annex unpopulated territory,  not Palestinians. The consequences of these proposals would likely produce dire long-term and short-term consequences. Advocates of this “luxurious” (no cost) annexation proposal pretend this action will not trigger reactions. They are wrong.

There is a strong consensus among security experts that annexation, even on a small scale, would upset the fragile balance with the Palestinians. For example, territory annexed in all the proposals would eliminate contiguity for areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is essential for transit from one area to another. This arrangement would likely lead to the termination of security cooperation and/or the collapse of the PA. As a result, the Israel Defense Forces would be required to re-enter and take over all of Judea/Samaria and assume responsibility for its millions of Palestinians.

This would have a severe impact on Israel’s security and economy, while also burying any possibility of an ultimate resolution separating the parties to the conflict. The multiple billions of dollars in security and public services expenditures for control of the territories alone would cripple the Israeli economy, and international sanctions or loss of investment would add to the blow.

Israel has made tremendous strides in its relations with many of its Arab neighbors, creating the opportunity for a different Middle East, which might eventually include a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Proposed annexation moves would give potentially friendly powers in the region little choice but to abandon this hopeful path. Public outrage in the Arab countries would very likely result in termination of existing limited cooperation. Iran would have a potent public weapon against its Sunni enemies. American groups opposing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) would be severely disadvantaged. While annexation consequences would far exceed BDS as a threat, they also would make its success substantially more likely.

Internationally, severe diplomatic, financial and legal problems would likely result. Although the current U.S. government might not initially object, reaction from the European Union might well include concrete measures, including political, economic and arms supply sanctions. Russia and China might well join in opposing Israel’s actions. The international community, assuming abandonment of any possibility of an eventual two-state solution, would increase pressure on Israel to grant equal rights to all Palestinians. Thus, Israel would be faced with a tragic dilemma — either the loss of its dominant Jewish character and becoming a secular, democratic state; or denying Palestinians equal rights and losing its standing and character as a democratic nation.

Annexation initiatives have galvanized a strong nonpartisan effort to defeat these measures. Notable among them is the Commanders for Israel’s Security, a network of almost 300 former senior leaders of the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and police that has conducted extensive research on the subject, illustrating the immediate and existential threat. Each political party campaigning for election should be encouraged to publicly commit not to enter a government unless the coalition agreement opposes annexation or permits it a veto. In this way, the consensus opposing annexation can prevail in a nonpartisan way.

Only by preventing annexation can Israel retain its strategic security, flexibility and future options while insuring against a required choice between being a Jewish or democratic state.

Ed Robin is a board member of the Israel Policy Forum. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

Two Nice Jewish Boys: Episode 124 – IDF Humanitarian Attache Fighting BDS

Photo by IDF spokesman

A few weeks ago we received this email:

“Would you be interested to hear about how to survive aliyah, make it through the IDF as a Lt. Col., have the door slammed in your face, have people stand on your shoulders when you remove money from the cash machine, and peak over your shoulder at the pharmacists to see what types of medication you use, and much more… then we should talk. I do have a crazy life story and look forward to sharing it with you and your podcast audience.”

We took the bait.

Daniel Beaudoin (PhD, Lt. Col. Ret) is a speaker, educator and writer from Israel. He offers incisive and behind the scenes analysis on the assault on Israel by the UN and the international aid organizations who operate in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. He teaches on human rights, humanitarian operations and conflict resolution at Tel Aviv University. He is also a successful survivor of Aliyah and lives to tell the story.

Daniel’s website.

Report: 80% of Palestinians Killed in Gaza Riots Belong to Terror Groups

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the central Gaza Strip January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A new report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) concluded that 80 percent of the Palestinians killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the weekly riots at the Gaza border belong to Palestinian terror groups.

The report states that of the 187 Palestinians killed at the ongoing riots that have occurred every Friday since March 30, “150 of them were identified by the ITIC as being affiliated with some organization, most of them operatives of Hamas or affiliated with it.”

The ITIC found that 96 were part of Hamas, 36 were part of Fatah and six were part of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

“According to these findings, it is evident that during the ‘return march’ demonstrations, operatives of the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, especially Hamas operatives or Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, occupy the front line of confrontation vis-à-vis the IDF forces,” the report states. “In most cases, it is these operatives who throw hand grenades and IEDs at the IDF forces, and it is these operatives who approach the security fence and attempt to sabotage it or penetrate into Israeli territory. In addition, some of the operatives were also involved in attempts to carry out terrorist attacks during the demonstrations and hit the IDF troops deployed on the ground.”

Some examples of the terrorist deaths listed in the report includes Hamas operative Ahmed Hassan Abu Odeh, who went under the name Ahmed Oweidat as a journalist, and Fatah operative Abdallah Barham Suleiman al-Daghma, who was killed attempting to breach the Israeli border.

The report added that most of the civilians who take part in riots are typically positioned more toward the “rear sites,” which is why they consist of the minority of the deaths in the riots.

“The large number of fatalities from the terrorist organizations on the front line demonstrates that the violence against the IDF near the border is not ‘popular,’ as the false Palestinian propaganda wishes to convey. It is orchestrated by Hamas and significantly involves operatives of Hamas’s military wing or operatives affiliated with Hamas,” the report states. “It also shows that the IDF soldiers do not shoot indiscriminately at ‘innocent’ demonstrators but instead, in most cases, target and hit specific terrorist operatives.”

H/T: Legal Insurrection

IDF Kills 12 Iranian Soldiers in Syria Airstrikes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during an inauguration ceremony of the Ramon International Airport just outside the southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat, Israel January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel launched several airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria on January 21, resulting in 21 dead, 12 of whom were Iranian soldiers.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 12 of the 21 dead were members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), six were members of the Syrian military and the rest were foreign nationals.

Iran is disputing that they suffered any casualties, instead saying that Syria’s air defenses intercepted seven Israeli missiles.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that the strikes were in response to Iran launching a missile toward the Golan Heights near the Mount Hermon Ski Resort on Jan. 20, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, “We will not ignore such acts of aggression as Iran attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and given explicit statements by Iran that it intends to destroy Israel.”

“We are acting against Iran and against the Syrian forces that abet the Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu said. “Whoever tries to hurt us, we hurt them. Whoever threatens to destroy us will bear the full responsibility.”

Election Collection: Fresh and Familiar

Once again, it’s time to talk about Israel’s next elections.

Earlier this week, two events made early elections — possibly in May — much more likely. Event one: The police recommended to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery charges. Event two: Israel’s Supreme Court gave the government until mid-January to pass a military draft law, for which there is not majority support among current coalition members. To prepare for this event, read the next eight comments (it’s Hanukkah, so eight is the only number we considered appropriate). And note that events on Israel’s northern border can thwart all previous calculations. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched an operation in the north on the morning of Dec. 3 to expose and destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels. The operation was limited in scope, but one never knows where it might lead (I’ll update developments concerning this operation on the website).

1. Regarding Israel’s elections: It’s early. It’s not known who is running or how. Former IDF Chief of Staff Benni Gantz faces possibly the most important decision. Polls show that he can get more than 15 in the Knesset as a head of a stand-alone party, or close to 25 as the head of the Zionist Camp. With more seats, he might conceive of becoming the next prime minister. With an independent party, he has more flexibility in joining various possible coalitions and securing a significant portfolio. So going it alone makes more sense, as long as Netanyahu seems likely to have the majority to remain as prime minister. 

2. If you believe the polls (I do, based on experience), if Gantz runs alone, the Zionist Camp is in huge trouble. It is likely to become insignificant even as an opposition party. 

3. The polls also show that Netanyahu can have a small yet coherent coalition without Gantz or Yair Lapid. Or he can invite one of these two into his coalition and have a very large coalition. Or he can invite both and have a gigantic coalition (possibly more than 80 seats). The question, of course, is whether it can also be functional. 

Netanyahu did well this term with a small and coherent coalition.

4. It’s important to remember that parties with four to five projected seats might not pass the electoral threshold. If, for example, Shas (an ultra-Orthodox party) fails to get four seats (as some polls predict), coalition calculations become more complicated. 

5. Polls predict that about 20 seats will go to new, unknown, barely established and untested parties (the “social” party of Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis, and the new Gantz Party). Clearly, Israelis are looking for something that doesn’t currently exist in their political universe. Or possibly they’re looking for a way to beat Netanyahu.

“It’s important to remember that parties with four to five projected seats might not pass the electoral threshold.”

6. Most polls we look at were taken before the police made its recommendation to indict Netanyahu. On Dec. 2, after this development, the prime minister gave a powerful speech to his supporters, defending himself and denouncing what he interprets as a double standard in the way he is investigated. Don’t be surprised if the police make Netanyahu less popular among his rivals and more so among his supporters. Especially so, if right-wing voters feel that their camp might lose its grip on the reins of government as a result of Netanyahu’s troubles. 

7. Opting for new elections over the draft bill can be tricky for the government. Because the Charedi deferment of military service is highly unpopular among Israelis (for good reason), the opposition will surely try to convince the voters that the draft bill is the most important item on the agenda. This will not be easy, as Netanyahu’s investigation is likely to dominate the news.

8. The next election won’t necessarily be a race for prime minister. Unless something dramatic changes (early indictment, health issues, voters’ sudden change of heart), Netanyahu will be remain prime minister. 

So you might want to think about the next election as a race on who is going to be defense minister. Avigdor Lieberman wants the position back — and will get it back only if he has enough seats and bargaining power. Naftali Bennett wants it badly. He will need even more bargaining power because Netanyahu dislikes him. There is also Gantz. If he gets many votes, Netanyahu can use him either to tame Lieberman’s/Bennett’s ambitions — or as defense minister in a coalition that begins with 45 to 50 seats (the combined projected number for Likud and Gantz).

In other words: There’s a good chance that the race for defense minister will be much fiercer, crueler, bloodier and more interesting than the race for prime minister.

Northern Shield Explainer: Israel’s Operation on the Lebanese Border

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a screen during a protest in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

On Tuesday morning, Israel woke up to a new reality. The IDF announced that it started an operation on the northern border. The following 5 comments will tell you briefly everything you need to understand about it.

  1. What

Explaining the operation and its goals is simple. Israel identified underground tunnels dug by Hezbollah that penetrate into Israeli territory. Such tunnels could allow Hezbollah to move men and ammunition to launch an attack within Israel. The IDF aims to destroy these tunnels. For years, it gathered intelligence about them, for months, it prepared an operation to damage them. The time has come. Note that (“for now”, IDF spokesman words) the operation is taking place within Israel’s territory.

  1. When

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed Secretary of State Pompeo about the coming operation when they met in Brussels. But the timing is more about meeting certain essential technical objectives before an operation could be launched. Remember that the IDF proved in Gaza, not long ago, that its ability to identify, locate and destroy tunnels is much improved. The developing technology and knowhow enabled the northern operation.

  1. Why

There’s no great mystery with the why. Israel cannot allow attack tunnels to penetrate its territory.

  1. World

There is regional context to the operation. There are changes in Syria, including a Russian attempt to stabilize the state by limiting the action of both Iran and Israel. For Iran, this means less focus on Syria and more on Lebanon. In recent weeks there was a growing wave of Israeli warnings to Lebanon – reminding the government in Beirut of its responsibility to prevent hostile action against Israel from Lebanese territory. Even before these warnings, Prime Minister Netanyahu exposed new sites for building rockets in Lebanon in his speech to the UN Assembly.

Exposing the tunnels will make Israel’s claims (that the Lebanese government does not control its own territory) even more credible. In other words: Israel is losing patience and is signaling to the world (the US, France, Arab countries) that the quiet in Lebanon is misleading.

  1. War

Is this a prelude to war?

The operation is on the Israeli side. This means that Israel does not aim to initiate a war.

Will Hezbollah initiate a war? Will Iran?

For Hezbollah it makes little sense, as war could present Israel with an opportunity to deal with some of the other concerns it has about Lebanon – namely, to deal with Hezbollah projects and assets. For Iran, the calculation is more complicated. The Iranian regime is under pressure and might look for ways to stir the waters, and possibly turn itself from being seen as a problem (Iran destabilizes the region) to being seen as a possible solution (talking to Iran is the only way to stop a war).

Then again, Iran is under pressure and might not want to give its rivals a pretext to strike.

Missile Strikes Expose Limited Options in Gaza

Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

It’s Nov. 13 and all of Israel is focused on the Gaza Strip.

This morning, after a barrage of Hamas missile attacks, it appeared Israel had no choice but to up the ante. Its deterrence of Hamas wasn’t working. Its reluctance to go to war was being perceived as weakness. Its measured counterattacks following the massive bombings of Israeli cities looked like acts of hesitation.

The morning air felt heavy with the looming specter of death — mostly, but not only, from the impending deaths of Gazans. Would the “dead men walking” in Gaza’s streets be counted by the dozens, the hundreds or maybe the thousands? We braced ourselves for the next round of violence to erupt.

Now, this evening, a cease fire is suddenly on the horizon. Will it hold? (By the time you read this in the Journal, you’ll know. At this moment I write, I don’t.)

Israeli leaders, goes the cliché, have only two options in Gaza. They can conduct small wars and arrange for short-term ceasefires; or they can send the Israel Defense Forces to reoccupy Gaza and uproot the government of Hamas. But reoccupation of Gaza is not an option — it is madness. Luckily, Israel’s leaders, while not perfect, are not mad. 

What are the real options in Gaza? One is to fight Hamas until it accepts certain terms that result in peace and quiet for a while. The other one — an option heralded by some opposition leaders — is to help the Palestinian Authority take over Gaza. That is, to cooperate with Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas. 

Leaders who support the latter option suspect that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not pursue it because he is averse to strengthening the Palestinian Authority’s leadership. Netanyahu, they argue, prefers to deal with two weakened Palestinian factions so he can claim to have no partner for a comprehensive peace deal that includes all Palestinians. Maybe. But there is an alternative explanation to such a strategy — which is no less sensible. Netanyahu does not believe that Abbas and his allies can control Gaza effectively. He does not want to waste Israeli resources — or lives — on a lost cause. 

Netanyahu has been very clear, possibly too clear, in expressing his reluctance to go to war in Gaza.

“Whatever one thinks about Israel’s long-term strategy toward Gaza, its short-term goal has been to avoid war, to even accept some humiliation in an effort to restore the peace.”

“I am doing everything I can to avoid an unnecessary war,” he declared in Paris before rushing back to Israel as a rain of rockets threatened to escalate into war. In the past couple of months, Netanyahu has negotiated (indirectly) with Hamas, has allowed Qatar to transfer money to Hamas, and has accepted the embarrassment of being criticized from right and left. Hamas has tested him time and again, sending hordes of demonstrators to harass the IDF near the Gaza fence, firing the occasional rocket, and burning fields on the Israeli side of the border. 

If or when war begins, Netanyahu will be portrayed by some international media as a bloodthirsty warmonger. But a sober assessment of his actions — including in this past week when many others were ready for heightened violence — would conclude that he might have been too hesitant, too accommodating, too eager for compromise. He was the one restraining the cabinet, reining in his gung-ho colleagues. Whatever one thinks about Israel’s long-term strategy toward Gaza, its short-term goal has been to avoid war, to even accept some humiliation in an effort to restore the peace.

The eruption of violence began when an Israeli elite unit was discovered and attacked in the Gaza Strip. The unit’s mission in Gaza has remained secret, but military professionals insist it was essential. When Hamas retaliated, Israel responded calmly, understanding the need of Hamas to blow off steam. Then Israel learned that Hamas’ definition of blowing steam was greater than expected. A bus was attacked by an antitank missile, and a soldier was badly wounded. Rockets were fired on Israeli cities and citizens. In Ashkelon, a man was killed. Ironically, he was a Palestinian worker — the only man Hamas was able to kill as of this morning. (The Middle East is filled with such unfortunate ironies.) 

Netanyahu still wanted to limit the scope of Israel’s response, to explore the possibility of a ceasefire. His logic was solid: A war will not change the basic realities that make Gaza a thorny problem for Israel.

Lewis Carroll wrote in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” that sometimes “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Today, Netanyahu insisted that sitting is better than running, if all one wants is to keep in the same place.  

True, seeing a country sitting on its hands does not instill much awe or inspiration. But in Gaza, Israel doesn’t wish to inspire. It wishes to avoid disruption and violence. No more, no less.

Movers & Shakers: FIDF Sets Record, Politics Disrupt Film Fest

From left: Jason Blum, Israel Film Festival Founder Meir Fenigstein, Lin Shaye, Avi Nesher and David Gersh attend the opening night of the Israel Film Festival. Photo by Todd Williamson for January Images

Political polarization entered into the awards ceremony of the 32nd  annual Israel Film Festival (IFF) on Nov. 6, midterm election day, when some members of the audience booed filmmaker Jason Blum’s remarks critical of President Donald Trump and one person from the crowd attempted to rush the speaker’s podium.

Blum, producer of “Halloween” and “Get Out,” was at the microphone at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills to accept the IFF Achievement in Film and Television Award. 

Video posted online shows audience members whistling, shouting and walking out of the venue as Blum attempted to deliver remarks that blamed the president for his antagonistic relationship with the media and for the spike in anti-Semitism. 

According to IFF founder and Director Meir Fenigstein, an audience member among the crowd of about 1,200 people “charged the podium” as Blum was speaking. To protect him, “festival security ushered Blum off the stage,” Fenigstein said.

After the incident, Blum tweeted about what had happened and news websites posted the text of his speech in its entirety. His speech included the following: “We have a President who calls the Press the enemy of the people. Nationalism is surging. Dog whistle politics are rampant and anti-Semitism is on the rise in ways my generation never thought imaginable.”

In a Nov. 7 statement, Fenigstein said the incident was regrettable.

“Over the past three decades, we have never shied away from allowing a filmmaker or actor to express themselves either personally or through their work,” Fenigstein said. “We have often highlighted films that some may deem not to their liking or are controversial. We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way. Sadly, some audience members at last night’s opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.

“This is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this,” he continued. “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday was a very tense day in America with the elections.”

Blum was one of several filmmakers honored during the festival’s opening night. The evening also honored Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher. 

After the incident, the festival has continued as planned, with more than 40 films showcasing Israel’s thriving film and television industry screening at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center 5 Theatre in Encino through Nov. 20. 

The festival, a program of the IsraFest Foundation, aims to “enrich the American experience of Israel’s social and cultural diversity,” according to its website. 

Matt Weintraub, executive director of Valley Beth Shalom. Courtesy of Valley Beth Shalom

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino has named Matt Weintraub its new executive director, effective Nov. 12.

Weintraub succeeds Bart Pachino, who will remain involved at VBS as the part-time director of new building projects and major gifts.

VBS conducted a nationwide search before hiring Weintraub for the position. 

Weintraub previously served as the associate executive director at the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles and as communications director at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing and communications management from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and is scheduled to receive his master’s degree in nonprofit management from American Jewish University in December. 

Pachino will continue full-time through the end of the year to transition Weintraub into the new role. 

“We are grateful to Bart for his seven years of outstanding leadership, guidance and vision as Valley Beth Shalom’s executive director,” VBS President David Spiegel and Norman Levine, chair of the Conservative congregation’s search committee, said in a joint statement.  “Under his leadership, construction of the new Levine Community Center has become a reality, and VBS continues to grow as a model congregation in the American Jewish community.”

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Rabbi Ilana Grinblat, Lia Mandelbaum, Arya Marvazy and Yoni Kollin participate in a panel about the lives of Jewish LGBTQ+ people and their community. Courtesy of JQ International

Members of the LGBTQ Jewish community discussed how they have navigated today’s difficult times and maintained a balance between joy and fear, celebration and grieving during an Oct. 27 panel discussion, “Life Lessons from the LGBTQ and Jewish Community,” at Temple Beth Am.

Speaking on the panel were Beth Chayim Chadashim Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Temple Beth Am Program Director Lia Mandelbaum, JQ Managing Director Arya Marvazy, Yoni Kollin, a member of the Teen Jewish Queer Straight Alliance (JQSA), and Nate Looney, a transgender farmer in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat of the Southern California Board of Rabbis moderated. 

The speakers discussed role models for people who identify as LGBTQ, and how, when Edwards founded the first gay and lesbian congregation in Los Angeles, there were far fewer resources for the community. Today, despite the many organizations serving people in the LGBTQ community, gay, lesbian and transgender people continue to face hateful rhetoric, the speakers said.

Taking place on the day of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the event began with a brief prayer for the 11 people killed in the attack. 

About 50 people attended, including parents of children who identify as LGBTQ.

From left: Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher, Miriam Adelson, Gerard Butler, Sheldon Adelson, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Katharine McPhee, David Foster with IDF soldiers at the FIDF western region gala. Photo by Shahar Azran

Business, philanthropic, political and entertainment leaders showed their love for the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces during the Nov. 1 Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) gala.

The evening at the Beverly Hilton, chaired by Haim and Cheryl Saban, raised a record-breaking $60 million for the FIDF and drew 1,200 attendees, including stars Ashton Kutcher; Gerard Butler; Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher, Ziggy Marley and David Foster and his fiancée Katharine McPhee, among others.

“We are thrilled that so many members of our community, including major Hollywood figures, are coming together to help us support the brave men and women of the IDF,” Haim Saban said. “Cheryl and I are extremely proud to chair this event for the 12th year, and to be part of this incredible organization that inspires more and more supporters and contributors every year.” 

Also attending were philanthropists Miriam and Sheldon Adelson; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg; Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, with his wife Joelle; GUESS founders Maurice and Paul Marciano; FIDF National Chairman Rabbi Peter Weintraub; FIDF National President Robert Cohen; FIDF Regional President Tony Rubin and his wife, Linda; National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and Regional Executive Director Jenna Griffin.

Providing the top donations at the event were the Adelsons, with $10 million; the Sabans, with $10 million; and Eckstein, who donated $5 million and expressed being “deeply grateful to FIDF for the commendable support they provide the real heroes of Israel.” 

Singer Pharrell Williams, known for the hit song “Happy,” provided the musical entertainment.

The event was emceed by IDF Staff Sgt. (Res.) Izzy Ezagui, an American who moved to Israel, became a decorated squad commander in the IDF and returned to the battlefield after losing an arm in combat.

The FIDF supports the families of fallen IDF soldiers as well as Lone Soldiers who are serving in the IDF without having family in Israel. The organization also provides academic scholarships to combat veterans of Israel’s military, financial assistance for soldiers in need and aid to wounded veterans.

“The evening presented a rare and exclusive opportunity to pay tribute to the state of Israel and its brave men and women in uniform,” the FIDF said in a statement.

Meet the Israelis Who Expose Our Country’s True Face

Courtesy of StandWithUs

This is the 11th year of one of my personal favorite projects to battle bigotry and modern-day anti-Semitism – the “Israeli Soldiers Tour. ”This project is one of the most significant counter-attacks of the notorious “Israeli Apartheid Week,” where false information about Israel is being spread by haters across North America college campuses.

In this tour, organized by the pro-Israeli nonprofit organization, StandWithUs, 14 reserve duty Israeli soldier-students travel the United States and speak on campuses, high schools, synagogues, churches, etc. They recount their personal experiences of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upholding its strict moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians.

They also present their backgrounds, life in Israel and answer questions. “Israeli Soldiers Tour,” puts a human face to the IDF uniform, and by doing so, trying to combat the demonization of Israel and Israelis led by anti-Israeli movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.)  Their in-front-of-the-lines-and-behind-the-headlines stories, which have never been heard before, try to depict the more accurate, more balanced, reality in Israel.

Two of the participants of this year’s tour, Chen and Omri, agreed to let us in this emotional, exciting, life-changing experience, and answer some questions:

Chen, 24, was born and raised in Jerusalem to a family of longtime Jerusalemites.  Her family fled anti-Semitism, one side in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition, and the other from Yemen.

After high school, Chen participated in a pre-military program where she volunteered with at-risk youth in Sderot, a city along the Gaza border. During Operation Pillar of Defense, Chen decided to stay under the threat of rocket fire to help the youth both mentally and physically.  She served as a Navigation Instructor in the IDF, responsible for teaching soldiers to read maps and navigate in the field. Today, Chen studies Political Science and Israel Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Omri is 28 years old. His mother is of Eastern European descent and his father’s family is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Omri grew up in central Israel in the town of Rishon LeZion. He now lives in Beer Sheva and studies Computer Engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

At 18, Omri began a 6-year stint in the Israeli Air Force as a pilot cadet, and he later transferred to “Yahalom” a special combat engineering unit, as a bomb technician. While in the IDF he participated and commanded missions in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and on the northern border, defusing missiles, explosive belts, and booby traps.

Following his military service he enrolled at the Ein-Prat Beit Midrash, an intensive Jewish learning programs for secular and religious Israelis in their twenties. After completing his studies Omri traveled around Central and South America.

Q:  What is Israel to you, and how do you pass this message to students abroad?

Chen: Despite of all its inner conflicts, at the end of the day, it’s the most united place for me.  Israel is the only place in the world that I can truly call home.

I grew up in a house with Israel deeply embedded in our roots because my family lived here for many generations before the country was even established.

It was important to me that audiences understand that deep connection, and the relations among the people and what brings us all together as a nation.

Omri: Israel is the most normal-crazy place on earth.

On the one hand, we live our daily lives just like the American people: studying, working and focusing on having fun.   On the other, we put our life on hold for 3 years after high school in order to protect our borders by enlisting in the army.

I think I’m passing this message by just being me. I’m trying to show that Israel is not just a headline you see in the media.  It’s a real place with real people and real stories. When students see that I dress like them, watch Netflix like them, but I served in the army and dealt with bombs and some dangerous stuff. they get the message.

Q:  Walk us through the Israeli Soldiers Tour – how do you prepare? What does the tour look like?

Omri: The SWU (StandWithUs) Israel crew helped us develop our speeches, explained how to respond to friendly and hostile questions and how to properly approach Americans – they’re a bit different from Israelis, you know.

Our daily routine was 2-3 events a day in different locations. We told our stories about Israel and IDF to whoever wants to listen – Jews, Christians, Muslims, high schools, colleges, universities, local communities, synagogues and churches.  In our spare time we get acquainted with American culture. We travel the cities, eat American junk food and watch football.

I was very excited about the tour. The opportunity to meet a lot of new people and influence them seemed magical to me.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

I was happy to visit USA for the first time and explore a lot of new cities and culture that till now I’ve only saw at the movies.

My expectations from the tour partly matched the tour itself. In the good scenario, I thought we are going to talk to people who never heard about Israel and in the bad case, heard  lies about it.

I was surprised to see that we have a lot of events with only a Jewish crowd. After several conversations, I understood the relevance of those events. Jews who aren’t living in Israel experience life way differently than we do – it’s much harder to keep your Jewish identity abroad.

When we tell them about Israel, they sometime envy us and really start thinking about “Aliya” – it always comes up.

Israelis tend to take things for granted. The support of the Jewish people around the world, and the USA in particular, must not take for granted. The support we get from American Jews is vital for Israel thriving, from all aspects. There are also a lot of amazing programs in Israel that are being funded by our friends abroad.

To sum up, I understood the importance of that connection and I was glad that I could make it stronger.

Q: Share one of the most memorable moments from your recent tour.

Chen: We were protested at Oregon State University (OSU) by members of the BDS campaign. They entered the classroom with signs saying things such as, ‘End the Occupation’ and ‘Israel is committing genocide.’  They stood in front of the screen, blocking our PowerPoint presentations.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

At first, we tried to talk to them, but they refused to move; eventually we decided to continue anyway.  They heard our stories, and at the end, asked us all their questions. We really created a dialogue. The amazing thing was that it felt like they were actually listening, and although they objected to some of our answers, there were some things they were truly surprised to hear.

We could tell that they began to realize that there may be more to this than they believe and some things they didn’t know.  It was really a memorable moment because it felt like we really made a difference, that we tried and succeeded in creating a dialogue and breaking many of the misconceptions they held.

Also, the rest of the audience thanked us for that dialogue and said they learned a lot.  Jewish students relayed that after hearing us, they feel better equipped on how to deal with these campus groups.

Stanford University’s Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) protesters weren’t there to listen.  They completely disrespected us and were only there to call us liars and murderers. They laughed at us and kept interfering when we tried to answer their questions.

I think that everyone has the right to have their own opinion, but these people don’t know the first thing about the Israeli reality. As someone who grew up around Jerusalem and the West Bank, and lived next to the Gaza border for a year under threat of rockets, it’s absurd when JVP members try to tell me what my reality is.

They have no idea what Israel sometimes has to deal with, and the terrible terror that sometimes affects our life…and, they don’t even care.  They see only one side and completely disregard the other, and that’s wrong.


Omri: Shabbat dinner. Friday night. Beit Chabad. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Maya and I just told our experience in the army in a very intimate event – about 10 Jewish students from the local university.

We share about the Israeli-Palestine conflict from a personal point of view. We end by wishing for peace between the two people.

Right after we conclude, the Rabbi started singing…quietly…alone..

עוד יבוא שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא  שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא שלום עלינו ועל כולם…

(One day, peace will come to us and to everyone)

Then, he raised his voice a bit, and the whole group joined in while banging on the table.

סאלאם, עלינו ועל כל העולם, סאלאם, סאלאם..

(Salam (peace in Arabic) upon us and for all of the world.)

The rhythm of that classic song shook my soul, it felt more relevant now than ever. Our message for peace was successfully delivered.

Q: Who are you aiming for? Who is the target audience you want to reach?

Omri: As I mentioned, I am aiming for anyone who wants to listen.  I am aiming for people who want to challenge their thoughts – those who aren’t rigid in their ideas and want to hear a different opinions and different point of views.

Chen: It’s about reaching anyone who will listen.  It doesn’t matter if they are Jews or not, if they are pro-or-anti-Israel, in between or just didn’t care that much.

It is important that they know that the media doesn’t necessarily provide all the information, or sometimes not even the truth, and that there is so much more to Israel than they may know.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

Q:  What are people still missing when looking at Israel from the outside?

Chen: One of the most important things is that Israel is more than just what they see or read regarding the conflict.  It has such great culture, people, views, economy and so much more.  Sometimes, people forget to look at it as any other modern country such as their own.  Sadly, sometimes Israel must deal with a difficult reality – but that’s only part of what it is.

At the end of the day, I think that most people don’t necessarily know Israel’s reality in the conflict – they look at it from only one angle without realizing that there are always two sides to a story.  Also, people tend to regard things as “black or white,” and the Israeli story has so many different layers.  It’s much more complex than people sometimes think – one story or one fact can never really encapsulate everything.

Omri: They’re probably missing the whole picture.

It’s easy to choose a side and stick to it, especially when the press reporting from the borders twists the reality and fake news fill the social media like a swirling, out-of-control hurricane.

An outsider viewing Israel likely thinks that it is a war zone.  But, they’re missing the fun parts – our beautiful beaches, amazing ancient cities and history, delicious food and incredible people!

Q: How can we contribute to the battle against modern antisemitism and Israel’s delegitimization?

Chen: We can battle against delegitimization through education.  Once individuals have more knowledge, society will be better.  Knowledge is power.  Once people explore different sources of information than just what they see in the news, they will begin to see the other side and the complexity of the issues.

Omri: The first thing that you already did is to read this blog! Half way to go!

The most important thing is to be actively involved. Stand up and defend Israel, don’t let issues pass right you by.

Personally, I believe in education. Spread the truth about Israel, show the good and bad – we’re not perfect, but nor is anyone else. Deliver our realty as it is without any propaganda.  When people know more and are less misinformed, they will fight antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel on their own.

And, you can always ask the StandWithUs team for programs and activities in the USA, Israel, Canada, the UK and Latin America. There’s a lot of good people there that deal with these issues on a daily base.

Q: How can you tell a tour was successful? What are your indicators?

Chen: Having so many people from different places and different ages – teens, collage students or community members – asking questions and being involved and interested in Israel. At the conclusions part of our talks, hearing their reactions and their thoughts about Israel, made me feel as if we really managed to reach them and that our stories touched them.

Omri: My main indicator is the people. After each event, we’re being approached by many people who want to thank us and ask us many personal questions. You can really feel the you’ve affected someone and that’s a wonderful feeling.

Q: This is now the 11th tour. Looking at the past 10 years, do you think the attempts to delegitimize Israel and the wave of modern-day antisemitism is decreasing? 

Omri: This is my first tour, and my first encounter with the American people in America. So it’s hard for me to feel the difference.

That being said, I can feel the wind of change after each and every talk. I can feel the young students, that might never have spoken to an Israeli or even a Jewish person, enlightened  by our meeting.

In my opinion, the roots of modern-day antisemitism is ignorance. There is no place for that in the 21th century.  It’s a process, it might take time, but in the end, knowledge will overcome it.

Michael Dickson, Executive Director StandWithUs- Israel:

“There is no silver bullet for Antisemitism – we expect it to continue. What is important is that we are constantly aware of how the threat metamorphoses. The attempts to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish country remain and they morph into anti-Semitism. 

The ‘Israeli Soldiers Tour’ was created years ago by students in our Fellowship program incensed by the lies being told about the IDF and asked us to confront it.  It continues to grow and the impact the multitude of speaking engagements and interactions these Israeli young adults have – in addition to their online following – is at its peak.  One of the best antidotes to BDS is for people to interact with Israelis – in many cases it is the first time they ever met one – and realize they are just like them.”

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: New-State or Pre-State Solution?

When it comes to the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s one simple fact that pretty much everyone agrees with: The attempts at a “two-state solution” have been a stunning failure.

It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Since the famous handshake in 1993 that launched the Oslo Accords, it’s safe to say that no global conflict has taken up more political and diplomatic energy.

It’s astonishing that after the investment of so much energy, the parties are even further apart today than they were 25 years ago.

For many Israelis, this status quo is unacceptable. Last week, I met two activist groups with distinct initiatives for breaking the logjam.

My friend Dan Adler introduced me to the first initiative, called The New State Solution (NSS). I had heard and read about them, and knew that their idea was starting to gain some traction.

The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?

“The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?”

Their idea is to take advantage of the renewed cooperation between Israel and Egypt to create an expanded Palestinian state in Gaza, using parts of the Sinai that now are controlled by Egypt. Their plan calls for implementing a massive humanitarian and economic build-up in Gaza that would shift the center of gravity of the conflict and create a “win” for all parties.

The co-founders of the initiative, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans Benjamin Anthony and Brigadier General (Ret) Amir Avivi, believe that what the conflict needs, more than anything, is a “paradigm shift.” They know their idea is not perfect and faces challenges (among them: Will Egypt agree to give up land?), but they believe it is the most realistic of many bad options. You can see all the details on their website (newstatesolution.org).

The second group I met is the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), which was founded in 1993 and “works to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution consistent with Israel’s security.”

Like most American and Israeli Jews, the IPF has not given up on the two-state solution, for the oft-stated reason that staying in the West Bank threatens the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In recent years, the IPF has teamed up with Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a nonpartisan movement of retired IDF generals and security experts that works to “extricate Israel from the current impasse” as a first step toward an eventual agreement. 

The IPF approach is the reverse of the NSS approach. Instead of avoiding the incredibly difficult problem of extricating Israel from the West Bank, it is doubling down. It believes its comprehensive “security first” approach will manage the security risk and offer an acceptable trade-off.

What has added urgency is talk of “annexation” among current government coalition members. In a recent study, CIS concluded that “as a determined political annexationist minority accelerates moves toward annexation — both creeping and legislated — the ensuing shockwaves threaten to undermine Israel’s security, its Jewish-democratic character, its relations with its neighbors, its relationship with the Diaspora, and the attitude of the international community toward the country.”

All of this reminds me of the most honest and concise description I’ve ever heard of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from my friend Yossi Klein Halevi: “Staying in the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel; leaving the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel.”

Notwithstanding the complexities, these two groups are charging ahead to try to break the status quo. Whether by focusing on Gaza or doubling down on the West Bank, they realize that a dark clock is ticking louder and louder. 

“In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?”

The fundamental problem in recent years has been an inability to get the parties to the negotiating table and a general sense that any potential deal would be dead on arrival.

Maybe this is why the IPF has been promoting “interim steps” that Israel can take to safeguard the viability of a two-state solution, such as limiting settlement construction in the main settlement blocks and improving the economic and humanitarian situation on the ground.

When I met the representatives from IPF, I glibly suggested that their interim plan would be like a “pre-state solution.” I have no idea whether they will use that term, but the point I was making was this: Many of us are simply exhausted with waiting for the parties to get together and negotiate. As the years go by, the price of waiting keeps getting higher. We can’t wait forever.

So, the question becomes: In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?

I heard two distinct answers last week. Whether it’s the New-State Solution or the Pre-State Solution, they both said the same thing: We’re tired of waiting.

At Least Three Palestinians Dead in Latest Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday resulted in at least three Palestinians dead and 124 injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced in a tweet that “10 armed terrorists” breached the border fence, but the IDF stopped them and then launched retaliatory strikes against Hamas:

According to the Times of Israel, one of the Palestinians that breached the fence threw a grenade, but no Israeli soldiers were injured in the riots.

Additionally, Ynet News reported that there were at least seven fires that were ignited from the incendiary balloons that were launched, but they all appear to have been doused out.

Twenty-thousand Palestinians participated in the riot.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted a warning to Hamas, who are believed to have been escalating the riots as talks of a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas have deteriorated.

“We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border,” Lieberman wrote. “But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: ‘Take that into account.'”

Hamas responded by saying, “These are empty words against the Palestinian will to break the blockade on Gaza. The March of Return will intensify. Our people pay no attention to this broken record of the Zionist leadership”

Putting Krav Maga on the Map in L.A.

There are many martial arts, but somehow Krav Maga, the self-defense and fighting discipline created by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has emerged as a huge hit worldwide. 

Amir Perets, a 44-year-old self-defense and defensive-tactics expert who holds a fourth-degree black belt in Krav Maga, is the man who has been instrumental in popularizing the discipline in Los Angeles. 

Perets, who has lived here for the last 22 years, told the Journal that despite Krav Maga literally meaning “contact combat,” the description is misleading.

“[It’s] a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a civilian, a law enforcement officer or a soldier. [Krav Maga] doesn’t promote violence; it’s just the opposite. It’s so one can walk in peace.”

According to Perets, 80 percent of Krav Maga is preventative measures, while 20 percent comes down to tactics should you come under attack. In order to protect yourself without ever going into combat mode, Perets said it’s important to be situationally aware. “A little bit of awareness can be the difference between life and death,” he said.

“Krav Maga is a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt.” 

— Amir Perets

That awareness can include simple things like not looking at your phone when you’re walking to your car. When you do, “you’re distracted and oblivious, and that makes you an easy target for an attacker,” Perets said. “If instead you come out, eyes up, you are better able to recognize potential threats.” Also, he said, the attacker is more likely to realize you’re not an easy target and move on.  

Perets said he became interested in how people protect themselves at an early age.  “I didn’t like the whole concept of being in a position of disadvantage,” he said. “It spiked my curiosity about the concept of well-being. It started with interest in [general] life-enhancing methods and then it went through life-saving methods.”

In 1992, at the age of 18, Perets became Israel’s full-contact heavyweight martial arts champion and received awards of distinction for physical education. That same year, he began his compulsory IDF training, where he excelled in Krav Maga and combat fitness. He then went on to instruct infantry and special forces, honing and reshaping the Krav Maga training that we see today in local studios.  

After completing his military service, Perets spent a few months in Thailand, where he learned Thai boxing. When he moved to the United States in 1996, Perets began teaching Krav Maga and gradually started to build a name for himself. 

“Always in my mind was, ‘What are the best answers to the threats of today? How can someone keep himself safer?’” he said. That, he added, was coupled with the bigger picture of well-being: “How do you overcome emotional and physical hurdles? How can you grow and form a better version of you?”

Today, Perets is called on to train those in the military, federal agencies and law enforcement. 

“[Krav Maga] boils down to balancing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual concepts that constitute the person,” he said. “I call this the philosophy of four horses. Imagine you are tied to four horses and each horse is running in its own direction, so it pretty much tears you apart. But if you are disciplined and they are all running in the same direction, then you can run full force and do your tasks in a more efficient way.”  

Israel Defense Minister Calls on Gazans to Overthrow Hamas

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is using the recent calm between Israel and Hamas to urge Gazans to overthrow the terror group, arguing that the “peace and quiet” is preferable to Hamas’ constant state of warfare.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Lieberman announced that the Kerem Shalom crossing and a fishing area near the Gaza coast were going to be re-opened, saying that it shows Gazans that “peace and quiet are worth it.”

“The residents of Gaza have much to gain when the citizens of Israel enjoy peace and security, and much to lose when quiet is disturbed,” Lieberman wrote.

Lieberman added that he hopes Gazans realize “that Israel is not the problem, but rather the solution.”

“The problem is the Hamas leadership, which uses civilians as live ammunition and as human shields,” Lieberman wrote.  “We hope for you, the residents of Gaza, that all of the budgets of Hamas and the international community will be channeled towards your welfare and to the development of the Gaza Strip, instead of to terrorism.”

After a recent escalation between Israel and Hamas, there has been relative calm on the border of Israel and Gaza Strip, although a long-term ceasefire agreement has yet to be reached.

The Times of Israel reports that the re-opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing and the fishing was part of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas negotiated by Egypt and the United Nations.

However, Israel maintains that no long-term ceasefire agreement can be reached until Hamas agrees to releasing the four Israeli soldiers they have held captive since 2014, two of whom are dead.

Two Palestinians Dead in Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

August 10 marks the 20th week of the weekly Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border, prompting a riot that has so far resulted in two Palestinians dead and more than 300 are injured, according to Palestinian media.

According to the Israel Defense Force (IDF), there were 9,000 Palestinians rioting and hurling projectiles at IDF soldiers, as well as attempting to breach the Israel-Gaza fence:

Per usual, the riots featured Palestinians launching fiery kites into Israel, according to the Times of Israel (TOI).

The Jerusalem Post reports that the rioter who attempted to breach the fence “immediately backtracked into the Gaza Strip. According to TOI, Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry is claiming that one of the dead Palestinians was a 25-year-old journalist.

The riots began in March and was dubbed by Hamas as a “March of Return” to protest Israel and to bring attention to the Palestinian cause. But Hamas’ intentions seem to be more sinister than that.

“The march has two distinct strategies,” the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) website states. “The first, through the outwardly peaceful, civilian elements of the demonstration, is to raise international awareness of the plight of Gazans and Palestinians. The second, through the militants who are attempting to approach and attack the border line, is to use the demonstrators as human shields for the group’s terrorist ambitions, as well as to provoke a strong Israeli response that will garner headlines and support for their efforts.”

Iran, a Hamas ally, is also reportedly funding the riots.

Hamas has vowed to continue to incite such riots, even as they are claiming there is a ceasefire between them and Israel.

Israel Shoots Down Syrian Plane

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israel shot down a Syrian jet fighter on July 24 after the plane entered Israel’s airspace.

According to the Times of Israel, the jet fighter was speeding toward the Golan Heights, prompting Israel to launch two Patriot missiles at the plane, causing it to crash in southern Syrian Golan Heights. One of the plane’s pilots, Col. Amran Mara’e, was killed by the strike. The condition of the other man in the plane is unknown.

“Our air defense systems identified a Syrian air force plane taking off from the Syrian T-4 airbase and penetrating into Israeli airspace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “This was a blatant violation of the 1974 separation agreement between us and the Syrians. We will not accept any such penetration of, or spillover into, our territory, neither on the ground nor in the air.”

Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Concricus told reporters, “We issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty.”

According to Hadashot television news, the Syrian jet fighter flew into Israeli airspace by mistake. The Syrian government is claiming that they were weeding out ISIS terrorists from the area.

Hamas Shoots At IDF Soldiers, Israel Responds With Airstrikes

REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot

The Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate. On July 20, Hamas shot at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes against the terror group.

The shooting took place at the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinians began shooting at IDF soldiers during a Hamas-led riot at the border. Israel retaliated by striking eight Hamas posts throughout the Gaza strip, killing at least three Hamas terrorists.

The IDF tweeted the following about the situation:

The day prior, Israel launched airstrikes against Hamas in response to the terror group’s repeated use of incendiary kites and balloons against Israelis, which killed one Hamas terrorist. Hamas then launched rockets and mortars toward Israel; no injuries or damage were reported.

Israel has warned that it will invade Gaza if Hamas doesn’t cease its use of incendiary balloons and kites against Israelis.

“Hamas leaders are forcibly leading us into a situation where we will have no choice, a situation in which we will have to embark on a painful, wide-scale military operation,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in Sderot on July 20. He added that such an operation could result in a longer, more painful war than the 2014 conflict.

Palestinians’ Latest Method of Terror: Burning Condoms!

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border that have occurred at least once a week since March have featured Palestinians launching fiery kites and balloons laced with explosives as a means to terrorize southern Israel. Now they have found a new weapon: condoms.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, it is not a joke.

On June 21, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shared part a Palestinian video on Twitter that a provided a how-to guide on how to create an explosive condom balloon:

Even though it’s incredibly juvenile, it’s no laughing matter.

According to a June 20 Times of Israel (TOI) report, the use of kites, balloons and condoms as weapons are “dead simple and dirt cheap methods” to cause terror, citing one instance where an explosive balloon emblazoned “I <3 YOU” landed on Israeli highway, forcing that section of the highway to be shut down until the police were able to conduct a controlled detonation of the balloon.

Another instance involved a group of balloons that had an explosive on them landing onto a trampoline in an Eshkol backyard.

Meirav Vidal, who lives in the home where this occurred, told TOI, “Balloons on a trampoline in the backyard — that’s a decorative play area and beckons the most innocent ones, and yet our children have lost their innocence because of this phenomenon.”

In the case of the kites, Israeli farmers have been particularly burdened by them since their fields have been wiped out by the fiery kites.

Israel has responded to these actions of terrors by firing warning shots at the encampments launching them as well as launching strikes against Hamas.