German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet visited Israel for 24 hours on Monday, February 24th. Chancellor Merkel told reporters, “We have come here with almost the whole of our new government, and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship.” The visit also kicked off preparations for the celebration of fifty years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, which began on May 12, 1965. On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres presented Chancellor Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award. Read more…
There’s a lot happening in Israel – check out this list of news and updates ranging from zoo news to Israeli politics.
- Reform Jewish Leader Responds to MK David Rotem: Rabbi Rick Jacobs issued a response to Member of Knesset David Rotem, a member of the Likud-Beiteinu party and head of the Knesset Committee on Constitution, Law, and Justice, who sparked an uproar when he said the Reform Movement “is not Jewish…they are another religion.” Read the full statement from Rabbi Jacobs at the URJ’s Press Page. Rotem subsequently “walked back” his remarks.
- Middle East Peace Process: Israeli President Shimon Peres recently thanked Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts toward the peace process. A framework for an agreement is expected in the coming weeks or months.
- New anteaters arrive in Ramat Gan: Two female anteaters have moved to the Ramat Gan safari park from Denmark. This makes three anteaters in Israel – this mother-daughter pair join a 9-year-old male named Termite.
- Curbing laws restricting settlement construction: Member of Parliament Miri Regev (Likud) sponsored a bill that would bar the government from restricting settlement construction “due to diplomatic considerations” without the permission of the Knesset. The bill also called for an application of Israeli law to all West Bank settlements. Regev submitted a similar bill to the previous Knesset; it failed to pass.
- The SodaStream controversy: Carbonated beverage machine maker SodaStream’s manufacturing plant in the Mishor Adumim industrial park (located within the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank) has sparked recent debates over Israeli settlements. Actress Scarlett Johansson’s corporate sponsorship of SodaStream came into conflict with her other role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador after Oxfam criticized SodaStream for contributing to “denial of rights of the Palestinian communities [we] work to support.” Johansson’s resigned from her Oxfam position, which you can read about here, and check out this op-ed on her response to criticism.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Israel for the first time and had the opportunity to address the Israeli Knesset. In his speech to the Knesset, Prime Minister Harper expressed Canada’s ardent support for Israel and eloquently described the friendship between the two countries. Read more…
Last week, thousands of African migrants living in Israel protested Israel’s detention policies outside several embassies, including the United States, France, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and Germany. Some 60,000 migrants, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel since 2005. These protests come after several developments in both the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israeli Knesset regarding the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. Read more…
In response to the passing last weekend of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
Today, we mourn the death of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an iconic leader whose love for Israel and the Jewish people infused his entire illustrious career. He was a visionary, larger than life, with the courage to constantly assess his stated positions, always with an eye toward pragmatism and concern for his beloved Israel.
“When a person refrains from speech, the ideas die, the soul stops, and the senses deteriorate” – Moses ibn Ezra (Shirat Yisrael 12c).
Freedom of thought is an essential human right. It is at the foundation not only of our Jewish tradition, but also our North American societies and international community. It is not a far extrapolation to connect freedom of thought to academic boycott.
Why do I make that connection? Because academia and the intellectual world ought to be a sacred place where ideas are shared and lifted above political conflict. It is surely within the rights of individual professors to share their opinions of their government or that of another nation. But, for one of the largest associations of professors in the United States to indiscriminately boycott Israeli professors and intellectual institutions is a gross misunderstanding of the role of academia. Perhaps the members of the American Studies Association do not realize that they are limiting their own freedom of thought and that of their Israeli colleagues by undertaking this boycott.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Union for Reform Judaism’s 72nd Biennial. I met new people, reconnected with old friends, attended interesting learning sessions and sang my heart out at Shabbat services with 4,500 other people–and I got to do it all in sunny San Diego, California. It was amazing! The only thing missing was snow. My friends tell me I’ve got it all wrong, but I am Midwest girl at heart; having grown up in Chicago, spent my summers in Wisconsin and gone to university in St. Louis, I firmly believe that all December’s, January’s and February’s need snow. Read more…
Doron Almog, Director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin, talks at the Religious Action Center
This morning, the RAC had the privilege of hosting Maj. Gen. (Res) Doron Almog, the Director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin. Maj. Gen. Almog is in charge of implementing the national policy of development and societal integration of the Negev Bedouin. Read more…