Trump cancels Israel visit in wake of furor over call to ban Muslims

Netanyahu blasts him over remarks, then asserts: “Israel respects all religions” while ” fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike”

WASHINGTON (JTA)— Donald Trump canceled plans to visit Israel this month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Republican presidential candidate’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

“I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with ‪@Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the U.S.,” Trump, the front-runner in polls considering the Republican presidential hopefuls, said early Thursday morning on Twitter. [Read more…]


Soldiers with autism take on key roles in the Israeli Defense Force


From studying satellite photographs to analyzing the details on maps, unique program allows young people with autism to make significant contributions to their country, writes Ben Sales.

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Sitting in front of a computer at the centre of Israel’s largest army base, a soldier stares at the screen, moving pixel by pixel over a satellite photograph, picking out details and finding patterns.

A few years ago N.S., who has autism, thought the Israel Defense Forces wouldn’t take him. N.S., who like other soldiers could not give his name due to IDF protocol, spent his childhood in mainstream classroom settings, where he had focused on studying film and Arabic, but expected to miss out on being drafted — a mandatory rite of passage for most Israeli 18-year-olds. [Read more…]


Why are Israelis protesting government plan for natural gas fields?


The discovery of the “Leviathan” gas field could transform the country into an energy exporter, but controversy rages as protesters decry what they see as an undemocratic power grab, writes Ben Sales.


TEL AVIV (JTA) — When Israel discovered two massive natural gas fields off its coast five years ago, it was billed as a goldmine that would shift the balance of energy exports in the Middle East and fill Israel’s coffers.

Five years later, drilling in the biggest field, known as Leviathan, is being delayed by street protests and government critics who allege the plan for its development amounts to an undemocratic power grab that hands over a vital natural resource to private corporations. Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in protest.

Still, the plan will almost definitely advance. Israel’s Cabinet and Knesset approved it over the summer, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cleared the final hurdle before its approval.

Here’s what Israel’s natural gas controversy is all about. [Read more…]


Israeli Russia envoy praises Kremlin for religious tolerance


Ambassador points to opening of $20 million Jewish community centre and synagogue in Zhukovka

MOSCOW (JTA) – Israel’s new ambassador to Russia praised Russian authorities’ religious tolerance during his first speech at a Jewish community event.

Ambassador Zvi Heifetz, who was born in the former Soviet Union, thanked Russia on Tuesday, during an annual event organized beginning in 2003 at the Kremlin by the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. About 6,000 people attended the event. [Read more…]


Haredi minister in Israel blocks female sharia judges


TEL AVIV (JTA) — Haredi Orthodox government ministers are blocking a bill that would allow female appointees to state Islamic law courts in Israel.

The bill — proposed by Arab Knesset members from the Zionist Union, Meretz and the Joint List — would allow at least one woman to serve among the 11 judges on the state sharia courts, according to Haaretz. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who heads the Ashkenazi Haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, fears the law will create a precedent to allow female judges on state Jewish law courts, which United Torah Judaism opposes. [Read more…]


Bahrain’s king holds Chanukah candlelighting

Ceremony first of its kind inPersian Gulf nation’s palace since establishment of Israel in 1948

(JTA) – The director of an Orthodox European rabbinical association lit Chanukah candles in the palace of the king of Bahrain.

According to a press release from the Conference of European Rabbis, the ceremony Monday in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, was the first of its kind in the Persian Gulf nation’s palace since the establishment of Israel in 1948. [Read more…]


Montreal Hasidim eye lawsuit over rezoning that bars new houses of worship


MONTREAL (JTA) — Hasidic Jews in a Montreal neighbourhood vow they will sue over a rezoning bylaw they say aims at keeping them specifically from building new synagogues.

Although the bylaw passed Dec. 7 bars all religious groups from building new houses of worship on three prominent commercial streets in the Outremont borough, the Hasidic Jews say the bylaw targets them. [Read more…]


Israel arrests 5 suspected ISIS recruits

In separate incident, IDF kills Palestinian, 19, accused of throwing firebombs, explosives in West Bank clashes

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Five Arab-Israeli men suspected of pledging support to the Islamic State terror group have been arrested.

The arrests by the Israel Police and Shin Bet intelligence agency took place in October and November and were announced Tuesday. They followed an investigation that found the men obtained weapons and practiced with them. In parallel, according to the police, the suspects met in secret for religious classes and to discuss potential terror attacks. [Read more…]


Most Israelis say terror wave isn’t intifada, poll finds

Yet majority of both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs fear for their loved ones’ safety

TEL AVIV (JTA) — A majority of Israelis say the ongoing string of attacks does not qualify as an intidada.

According to a poll released Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, a majority of both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs say the current wave of stabbing and shooting attacks, which began in October, is a “limited uprising” and not an intifada. The second intifada a decade ago killed about 1,000 Israelis in a series of suicide bombings. Yet, 75 per cent of Israeli Jews and 64 per cent of Israeli Arabs fear for their loved ones’ safety due to the terror wave. [Read more…]


Swedish PM backtracks from statement that stabbings in Israel aren’t terror


(JTA)— Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven withdrew his statement that the recent string of stabbing attacks in Israel do not qualify as terror.

Lofven clarified to say he views the stabbings as terror attacks, but meant they are not organized by terrorist organizations, according to Haaretz.

Asked on Sunday by TT, a Swedish wire service, whether the stabbings counted as terror, Lofven said, “No, it is not classified as such.” Hours later, he called TT to say, “I meant that it was unclear if the knife attacks are organized by a group classified as a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, the attacks themselves do constitute terror.” [Read more…]