Negotiations are currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland on the future of Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) interim agreement arbitrated between Iran and the P5+1 (the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council – United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France plus Germany). The current terms of the 6-month interim accord allow for daily inspections of all Iranian nuclear sites and a discontinuation of work on or with centrifuges. In return, the international community has granted a reduction in a number of economic sanctions, allowing Iran access to $4.2 billion previously frozen assets. The P5+1 and Iran hope to agree upon the terms of the JPOA by July 20th, if not, negotiations will be extended by an additional 6 months. Read more…
On Sunday, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism shared the Union for Reform Judaism’s status update regarding three Israeli teenagers who have been kidnapped:
Please join the Reform Jewish Movement in praying for the safe return of the three Yeshiva students who were kidnapped in the West Bank on their way home for Shabbat: Naftali Frenkel (Yaacov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah), Gilad Shaar (Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim), and Eyal Yifrach (Eyal ben Iris Tshoora). Our thoughts are with their families during this trying and uncertain time.
If you or your congregation are looking for prayers to mark this trying time, please look at Alden Solovy’s prayer for the safe return of the three teenagers. Also be sure to read the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s statement and prayer, as well as the Association of Reform Zionists of America’s statement and prayer, regarding the kidnapped teenagers.
We continue to hope and pray for the safe return of three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Elad Yifrach.
Peace, Love and Understanding: David Broza Talks about Peace and Music at the Commission on Social Action Meeting
At the recent Commission on Social Action (CSA) meeting, CSA members and those participating in the Social Action Skills Training Seminar had the opportunity to hear David Broza perform songs from his latest album, a collaborative project in which music is used as a conduit to discuss peace. Broza’s newest album, called “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem,” is an effort to bridge the Jewish-Arab divide in Israel. Read more…
By Sam Sussman
The West Bank is a paradoxical locale in the contemporary American Jewish experience. In the American Jewish community, we often speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but few of us have ever met a Palestinian. Few opportunities to engage with Palestinian perspectives exist in our political, religious, social and professional circles. Our simple under-exposure to Palestinian perspectives and experiences is a detriment, not a strength, in navigating the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But what if young American Jewish leaders were offered the opportunity to compliment time in Israel with an informative, constructive two-way dialogue with Palestinian partners for peace in the West Bank? Read more…
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, published a piece yesterday in response to “Zionism Unsettled,” a recent publication produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “Zionism Unsettled” is a congregational study guide which asserts that the cause of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is the “pathology” of Zionism. Publication of the piece, which uses language befitting Israel’s harshest critics, has created a rift between Presbyterians and Jews in advance of the June conference of the Presbyterian Church at which the denominational body will vote on whether to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Rabbi Jacobs’ piece addresses two issues discussed in “Zionism Unsettled”: the relationships of religious denominations and Israel and the relationship between different religious groups.
In response to the publication’s harsh narrative of the history of Israel and its inhabitants, Rabbi Jacobs wrote: Read more…
President Obama has met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the White House this month. The April 2014 deadline to develop a framework agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is fast approaching. The White House sees March as a critical month to advance the peace talks that have been ongoing since July 2013. Read more…
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.