“For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.” Ps.132:13-16
ISRAEL’S RELIGIOUS PARTIES HURT JUDAISM: On the surface, the fact that Israel is headed back to an election only weeks after the last one looks like a system failure. It’s never happened before in Israel. The Israeli government will now have spent the bulk of a year in election mode rather than in a governing mode. There’s something wrong with this picture. And yet, if we look at the reason for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to cobble together a coalition — a result of one party’s refusal to kowtow to religious parties — this “do-over” election presents a unique opportunity for a political upgrade. Israel’s religious parties crave political power because it enables them to fulfill their religious agenda, from refusing to enlist in the IDF to forcing Torah laws on the public. Over the years, because Netanyahu has desperately needed their seats to form a majority coalition, he has tolerated their demands. He probably figured the same thing would happen this time around — but one man stopped him. Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beiteinu party, decided he had had enough and refused to compromise on a bill to draft Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews into the IDF. Normally, Netanyahu is able to pull things together at the last minute because Knesset members are loath to jeopardize their positions by going to new elections. In this case, it didn’t work. The religious parties threw a few bones of compromise, but Lieberman held firm, sticking to the original draft bill. This dispute is rooted in the founding of the Jewish state when PM David Ben-Gurion made the decision to exempt a few ultra-Orthodox men from enlisting in the IDF. A well-known modern Orthodox rabbi in Israel has said that this decision did more to turn off secular Jews to religion than anything else. This makes sense. If you’re an Israeli parent whose children are risking their lives to defend the state, why should ultra-Orthodox citizens be exempt?
There are countless other ways that political power in the hands of ultra-Orthodox parties has become corrosive. “For too long, this country has been ruled by a Haredi minority,” writes Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz. “This one group has controlled all matters of religion and state while holding the government hostage, either by preventing public transportation for millions of people who depend on it, or preventing the creation of a civil marriage option for the nearly 450,000 Israelis who might have served in the IDF and risked their lives for Israel, but cannot get married since their father is Jewish but not their mother.” Religious intolerance is also a key contributor to the growing schism between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. The equitable compromise to allow egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, painstakingly negotiated by Natan Sharansky a few years ago was sabotaged by religious parties. The list goes on, from overly stringent conversion rules to the rejection and humiliation of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. They’ve likely convinced themselves they’re doing God’s work when they impose their religious ideals on the public. But the majority of Israeli voters don’t like it. They’re as turned off as anyone by religious coercion. Now, with this unexpected new election, they have a chance to put the religious parties where they belong — on the sidelines of political power. There are some problems in Israel that are intractable, like making peace with the Palestinians. Reducing the enormous influence of religious parties should not be an intractable problem. It should be a top priority for voters and for any future leader trying to put together a governing coalition — if not Netanyahu, then for whoever succeeds him. Religious leaders have every right to inspire people to become more religious and God-fearing. But when they impose rather than inspire, they end up hurting what matters most to them — their own religion. (Algemeiner) Continue to intercede that both the political and the oppressive spiritual clout wielded by the religious parties in Israel will come to an end.
POLL: MOST AMERICANS SUPPORT ISRAEL, SAY BDS MOVEMENT IS ANTI-SEMITIC: According to a new poll of 1,000 likely US voters released last week by the Hudson Institute, 51% held a favorable opinion of Israel, while only 21% held an unfavorable opinion. 75% agreed it is in America’s interest to have Israel as its closest ally in the Middle East. Almost 60% said anti-Semitism is happening more frequently today than 15 years ago. 37% attributed anti-Semitism in the US to Muslim extremists, 28% to right-wing extremists, and 22% to left-wing extremists. A majority considered support for the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic, while a plurality said the US should support Israel in opposing the BDS movement. Over 60% said it is not Islamophobic to criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for her anti-Semitic views on Israel. (Washington Free Beacon)
THREATS TO ISRAEL, HATRED OF US SPEWED AT MICHIGAN ‘QUDS DAY’ RALLY: The “Quds Day” rally in Michigan days ago was tailor-made for anti-Israel hate-mongers and those who despise America. Speakers at a recent anti-Israel rally in Dearborn, Michigan referred to US presidents past and present as “criminals” and “terrorists,” and called the Jewish state a “cancer.” “Not only will we witness the liberation of Palestine, but we are going to play an active role in it with our own hands,” claimed one of the speakers. Another one praised the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which seek Israel’s destruction. The pure vitriol expressed was nothing short of shocking. (United With Israel)
HUNDREDS OF FIRES IN ISRAEL LINKED TO ARSON: An investigation into the recent wave of fires in Israel suggests that hundreds of blazes were sparked intentionally, the work of Arab arsonists operating in the greater Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh areas. According to a report by Israel’s Channel 11 hundreds of fires in the vicinity of the capital and in the Jerusalem corridor area – including around Beit Shemesh – were the result of arson, though most were quickly extinguished and did little to no damage. A handful of the fires which were intentionally sparked, however, managed to cause heavy damage, aided by the unusually hot weather and heavy winds. Last week, Jerusalem police arrested three arsonists suspected of setting fires around the capital. The three were identified as Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, ages 30, 19, and 15. Each of the two teenage suspects is believed to have sparked at least one fire in the Mount Scopus area of the capital, where the Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University are located. The 30-year-old suspect is believed to have sparked a fire in the Kidron Valley area of the capital. Fires blazed in the Jerusalem district Tues. 4 June 2019, including one near Lifta, on the western edge of the city, and another near the town of Even Sapir, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. Wildfires raged in the hills of Samaria for days last week burning over 1,700 acres of land and causing an estimated $200,000 of damage to local farmers. (INN) Continue to intercede against destructive arson attacks across Israel.
ISRAELI FERTILITY RATE HIGHEST IN OECD: The total fertility rate in Israel in 2015 was 3.1 births per woman, the highest in the OECD. Israel’s fertility rate was higher than that of Mexico and Turkey, the OECD countries with the next highest fertility rates, according to a report published last week by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. The higher fertility rate among religiously observant women is not the sole reason for the difference: the fertility among secular and traditional women is 2.2 and has been rising for the past 20 years. An analysis of fertility trends from a historical and international perspective shows that the last time that fertility rates in Western European countries were as high as 3.1 was 1931 in Italy, 1914 in Germany, and 1889 in the UK and France. (Globes)
ARCHAEOLOGISTS IDENTIFY CITY GATE FROM TIME OF KING DAVID: A city gate from the time of King David was discovered after 32 years of excavation in the ancient city of Bethsaida in the Golan Heights’, opening up a world of new possibilities, opinions, and theories about the ancient landscape of the Land of Israel. “There are not many gates from capital cities in this country from this period,” said Professor Rami Arav, the chief archaeologist overseeing the excavations. “Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer.” Arav cited Joshua 19:35, which says: “The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinneret.” The excavation and research, sponsored by the Hebrew Union College of Jerusalem, has brought together archaeologists from all over the world to help. (J. Post) No matter what part of the land in which you might find yourself, Israel will unfold evidence of her ancient past and innovative future. “For Your servants take pleasure in her stones, and show favor to her dust.” Ps. 102:14
TOURISTS FLOCK TO ISRAEL IN RECORD NUMBERS: Around 440,000 tourist entries were recorded in Israel in May 2019, or 11.1% more than in May of last year, and 26.8% more than that period two years ago, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics. From January to May this year, almost 1.9 million tourists visited the Jewish state, as compared to 1.75 million in the same period last year—a jump of 8.3%. Hainan Airlines, which just launched a new route from Shenzhen, China, to Tel Aviv, also has direct flights to Tel Aviv from Shanghai and Beijing. This introduction of more flight routes from China to Israel has had a marked impact on tourism to Israel and will continue to do so if the trend continues. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism reported a general 14% increase in incoming tourism over 2017 and a whopping 42% increase over 2016. (United With Israel)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by JNN writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff