Israel News

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice strives to cover events of interest to our readers. Send your Israel related press releases, comments and suggestions to Israel Editor Eli Levine [email protected]

High School Rugby Boys Needed for Israel Tournament

Rugby sevens at the open 2017 Maccabi Games.

Maccabi USA is seeking male Jewish rugby players born between 2002 and 2004 to represent the U.S. in rugby sevens at the inaugural Maccabi Youth Games in Israel, taking place between July 22 and August 1, 2018.

This ten-day event will combine tournament-style competition with touring and experiential education, alongside Jewish teens from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, South Africa and more. The six days of competition will be based in and around the city of Haifa, followed by three days of touring based in Jerusalem. The Games are in cooperation with the JCC Association, the JCC Maccabi Games, BBYO, and Maccabi organizations around the world.

For more information, contact Maccabi USA’s program director, Shane Carr at 215.561.6900 or by email: [email protected].

Why Israel Should Not Be Extolling President Trump

Photo by Wayne McLean (Jgritz)

Jerusalem. Photo: Wayne McLean

Israel is going gaga over President Trump, largely for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There are over 110 “God bless Trump” signs in Jerusalem. There are plans to name a future rail station near the Kotel (Western Wall) after Trump. The Jerusalem Friends of Zion Heritage Center put up a four-story display thanking him. But, there are many reasons to reconsider the abundant praise.

A major reason is that Trump, along with a majority of Republicans, is in denial about climate change, an existential threat to Israel, the US, and the world. Despite the overwhelming consensus of climate experts and the many recent severe climate events, Trump is the only major world leader denying climate change. He has pulled the US out of the 2015 Paris climate pact agreed to by all of the 195 nations attending, including Israel. He appointed a climate denier as director of the US Environmental Protection Agency. He also has filled many other important positions with those who deny anthropomorphic global change. He is doing everything possible to eliminate or weaken recent efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, claiming that he is freeing businesses from regulations.

Israelis should be especially concerned about climate threats. Due to climate change, the Middle East is becoming hotter and drier and, according to military experts, this makes violence, terrorism, and war more likely. If the rapid melting of polar icecaps and glaciers continue, the coastal plain that contains most of Israel’s population and infrastructure will be inundated by a rising Mediterranean Sea.

Israel is already facing the effects of climate change, now in the fifth year of a severe drought. The water level of the Sea of Galilee is at a 100 year low, much of the Jordan River is reduced to a trickle, and the Dead Sea is shrinking rapidly.  Water experts warn that if the Sea of Galilee continues to shrink, it could become a salt sea like the Dead Sea, as underground springs release saline water into it.

Another important reason is that Trump’s policies are contrary to basic Jewish values in terms of concern for the disadvantaged, the stranger, the hungry, and the poor. Rather than improving Obamacare, which provided health insurance to tens of millions of Americans, Trump supported health legislation that would have caused up to 32 million Americans to lose their insurance and others to pay higher premiums. Rather than supporting efforts to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure (given a grade of  D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers), Trump and Republican legislators pushed through a tax bill that greatly benefits the wealthiest Americans and large, profitable corporations. This will increase the U.S. national debt by up to $1.5 trillion, giving the Republicans an excuse to carry out their long-time desires to cut social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and environmental and health protections.

Then there is the issue of Trump’s character. As NY Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens, a former chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, put it in a recent article, Trump’s character involves, “lying, narcissism, and bullying.” He continues: “In place of the usual jousting between the administration and the press, we have a president who fantasizes on Twitter about physically assaulting CNN. In place of a president who defends the honor and integrity of his own officers and agencies, we have one who humiliates his attorney general, denigrates the F.B.I. and compares our intelligence agencies to the Gestapo.” Do we really want to honor such a person and make him a role model for our children and grandchildren?

In addition, lavishing praise on Trump is adding to the current split between many American Jews and Israel. Almost 80% of American Jews disapprove of the job Trump is doing, according to a September poll by the American Jewish Committee. So when they see how Israel is going overboard in praising Trump it adds to the alienation many Americans feel due to recent Israeli decisions on prayer at the Kotel, conversion, and other issues. This could reduce the moral, political, and financial support Israel receives from American Jews.

Yes, but doesn’t Trump still deserve praise for his strong support of Israel? Somehow negative things about Trump’s positions and statements about Israel are being ignored. For example: Trump has not kept his pledge of seeing that there would be no space between the US and Israel, as he has demanded several times that Israel limit settlement construction. Trump’s $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia reduces Israel’s qualitative military edge. In his Holocaust remembrance statement Trump omitted any mention of Jews. Trump appointed white supremacists to senior positions and retweeted neo-Nazi propaganda on several occasions. He failed to quickly condemn anti-Semitism several times. He has left the post of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism vacant since taking office. He ended President Obama’s tradition of hosting a White House Seder. He compromised Israeli intelligence by sharing top secret information with Russia. Since Trump became president there has been a sharp increase in incidents of anti-Semitic and other bigoted statements and acts. There are many other examples.

Trump deserves praise for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but not to be lionized, for the reasons above and more. Of course, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, always has been and always will be. But the nations of the world will only acknowledge that if it is part of a comprehensive, sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Trump’s pronouncement about Jerusalem is good for Israel’s morale, it did not change the overall situation. It did cause much resentment among the Palestinians, other Arabs, and many nations, led to some violence, showed further evidence of widespread opposition to Israel’s position on Jerusalem through the votes in the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and resulted in a further decrease in the potential of a peace agreement. Also, Trump again signed a waiver so that the US embassy will not soon be moved to Jerusalem and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that it will likely not be moved during Trump’s current term.

Yes, the peace process has been basically dead for some time, and the Palestinians certainly deserve much blame. But Israel needs to do everything possible to obtain a resolution of the conflict in order to avert continued and possibly increased violence and diplomatic criticism, effectively respond to her economic, environmental, and other domestic problems, and remain a Jewish and a democratic state. Many Israel strategic and military experts agree with this assessment, including all the living ex-heads of the Shin Bet. Of course, Israel’s security has to be paramount in any agreement.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island


Requiem for a Swimming Oasis

JERUSALEM (PJV) – By Ilan Chaim 

The  State of Israel’s capital has just won the distinction of being the only world capital without an Olympic-size, 50-meter length swimming pool. After extended court battles, Jerusalem’s swimmers have lost their oasis of the past 59-years to real estate developers.

Contrary to the outline plan for Jerusalem, established by Keren Kayemet, the public will be deprived of its statutorily guaranteed public pool for at least four more years of construction on a high-profit housing complex.

[Read more…]

It’s a Triple Wedding — and You’re Invited

In many ways, Israel is a culturally diverse, largely secular, modern society — but not in the context of Jewish marriage. To be legally valid, an Israeli Jewish marriage requires the authorization of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which means Orthodox law determines who can marry, and Orthodox tradition governs the wedding ceremony. [Read more…]

Declaration of Sympathy With Jewish Zionist Aspirations

Arthur Balfour. Photo: George Grantham Bain.

Arthur Balfour. Photo: George Grantham Bain.

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:—

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.


Arthur James Balfour

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tours Visited Philadelphia

– Ferne Hassan

The innovative Israeli Soldiers Tours (IST) program features two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists, who relate their personal experiences upholding the strict IDF moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians. Their stories have never been heard before.

Six teams of two IST participants spent two weeks this fall speaking throughout the United States, primarily on campuses, in high schools, synagogues and churches. They put a human face on the IDF uniform. [Read more…]

Online Middle School Israel Educational Program

By Ferne Hassan

A new middle school curriculum, “LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is now available nationwide. The 6-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection.

Through a sophisticated, interactive, on-line application, LINK was developed by teachers, curriculum writers and internet experts who understand the need for a dynamic, educational experience of this kind. The outcome is a platform designed to enable students to determine for themselves, through experiential and project based learning, their own, unique Israel connection.

Students discover an Israel not usually found in traditional Jewish curricula; an Israel whose actions are informed by Jewish values and reflect the best of what matters to today’s youth. They learn about an Israel that is diverse, where humanitarian aid is a priority, and where there are opportunities for refugees and economic migrants. They are inspired by an Israel whose innovations and technologies are improving and saving lives throughout the world.

“LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is headed by Mina Rush, Director of Middle School Education and programming for StandWithUs, a sixteen year-old, international Israel education organization. Mina’s background includes being the Director of Outreach for Jewish World Watch where she also did programming in Jewish education.

“The motivation behind this endeavor was to create a program that could reverse Jewish students’ diminishing relationship to Israel as evidenced by recent polls. My experience showed that traditional methods of teaching did not always achieve the desired results. I realized that students are best able to connect when the material represents their core values. This realization led to the direction that LINK has taken,” explains Rush.

A year-long pilot program of 20 schools across the US was completed in July, 2017. Jewish day schools and Jewish supplementary schools participated in the study, representing all Jewish denominations. Data was collected from teachers and students to measure progress and to determine if educational goals were being met.

Data analytics revealed that after participating in the LINK program:
– Students showed a 45% increase in knowledge and understanding about Jewish continuity in Israel.
-Students showed a 55% increase in knowledge, understanding and challenges of Israel’s size, demographics and location.
– Students showed a 75% increase in knowledge and understanding of Israel’s diversity.
– Students showed a 78 % increase in knowledge and understanding about Israel’s role in global humanitarian and disaster aid as well as efforts Israel makes at home with refugee and economic migrant populations.

– Students showed a 60% increase in knowledge and understanding about the global impact of Israeli advances in technology.

Teachers reported that students readily engage in the lessons and look forward to their experience with the curriculum. They articulate not just an increase in knowledge, but pride in and a connection to Israel.

“The use of technology and the presentation of the information truly honors today’s teen. When our students in the school were surveyed, many stated that the LINK program was the favorite part of their school day,” states Sandy Borowsky, CJE, MS.ED, Educational Director Orangetown Jewish Center in New York.

Rising Anti-Semitism at Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College. Photo courtesy:

– Naomi Friedman

During the 2016-2017 school year, swastikas were found plastered in McCabe Library, the Crum Woods, Sparrow House and elsewhere on and about Swarthmore college campus. Most of us associate Nazi graffiti with—well, Nazis or neo-Nazis. But in recent years, swastikas have popped up on many campuses just prior to, during, or following  student votes to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel and other anti-Israel activity.

I first noticed this in my hometown of Evanston at Northwestern University. In the 2015 spring semester, the student group Wildcats for Israel found their banner torn apart just as a BDS group formed to push for divestment from Israel.  Soon after, BDS student and faculty resolutions were followed by two swastika incidents and anti-Israel mock border checkpoint demonstrations.

[Read more…]

Knesset OK of Pluralistic Prayer Ban Has Far Reaching Consequences

The Western Wall, with crowd in front and Jerusalem Skyline beyond.

The Western Wall

Imagine being invited to a party. Of course, you knew that you would be invited since you are related to the celebrants. In fact, you helped pay for the party. Even though you are an out of town guest, you have been in touch with the hometown family, following their lives, investing in their businesses, and supporting their decisions. Whether or not you agree with them, you have been there for them and with them – always with unwavering devotion. That is what you expect of yourself as a member of this large extended family.

After entering the dance hall, you approach a table with place-cards arranged alphabetically. It is strange that your place at a table is not listed. As the band plays, the celebrants dance the hora. You, however, are told to stand to the side. [Read more…]

The Denial of Genocidal Intent: The Dangerous New Rhetoric of Jewish Voice for Peace


While Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing organization focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was spiraling through one of the worst weeks in its history earlier this month with a bitter public feud over its use of LGBT Jews for politics, many neglected to write about a far more disturbing talking point the organization tried to push with modest success: Israel provoked the Six Day War and was never under threat of annihilation.

The assertion was born out of two articles published in the first week of June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war. The first was published by “The Intercept,” an online left-wing news source. The second was in “Mondoweiss,” an extreme far-left website, whose sole purpose is to reframe any Israel-related news as tied to oppressing Palestinians.

The two articles’ respective headlines?

A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie

Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival

Both of these articles were shared by Jewish Voice for Peace via its national Facebook page, local Facebook pages, and its members’ Twitter handles. The sole purpose of sharing these articles, which rely on scant evidence and are quite obviously trying to revise history, is to eliminate Arab leaders’ statements of intent and the original intent behind Israel’s June offensive: Self-Defense.

Armies Surrounding Israel, May, 1967, Graphic: Jewish Virtual Library.

Three weeks before the war, Egypt closed shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Suez Canal to Israeli commerce, itself an act of war. Egypt’s president at the time, Gamil Abdul Nassir, ordered UN peacekeeping forces to leave the Sinai Peninsula, where they had been stationed as a buffer between the Israeli and Egyptian armies after the 1956 Suez War.

What followed was three weeks of threats to destroy the world’s only Jewish country – not just from Nassir, but other leaders in the Arab world who pledged to supply troops to a war of annihilation against Israel.

On May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, who would launch a bloody coup for power in 1970 responsible for nearly 50 years of Assad dynastic rule in Syria, said very clearly, “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse any aggression, but to initiate the act ourselves, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland of Palestine. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.”

On May 26, 1967, Nassir said an invasion of Israel using those Sinai-based troops would be for one central purpose: “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.”

On May 31, 1967, President Aref of Iraq minced no words about his army’s intent in a war by saying, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is erasing history. None of these facts are addressed in the two articles cited above.

The “Intercept” piece was written by journalist Mehdi Hasan. His entire thesis is based on a single out-of-context quote attributed to General Matityahu Peled who said Israel was not in danger of genocide and that the notion was “born and bred after the war.”

The quote completely ignores the statements of intent from Arab leaders, which started decades before the crisis of 1967. The question here is not one of capability, but one of intent. While scholars debate the skills and preparedness of the two sides of the war, they are not debating what Nassir’s side claimed it would do if it got the upper-hand.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s tweet of article “A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie.”

Tweets like this one, from JVP Media Program Manager Naomi Dann, have one clear goal in mind: Delete the legitimacy of Israel’s self-defense and eliminate the major reason why the Six Day War occurred from the conversation. This further desensitizes people to revising Israel’s history and casting it as an imperial power.

The second article on “Mondoweiss” focuses on the theories of Norman Finkelstein, a known anti-Israel advocate who is not regarded as an objective source on the conflict.

Finkelstein applies the final result of the war as if it were Israel’s intent all along: Conquer territory and never relinquish it. That assumption relies on an impossible-to-plan chain of events to manifest Israel’s supposed and risky goal.

First, Egypt would have to block Israeli shipping and order UN peacekeepers out of the peninsula. Then Arab leaders from all countries, including a reluctant Jordan, would have to agree to a multinational alliance to invade Israel. Then those forces would have to NOT attack.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Facebook post of article “Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival.”

Finkelstein, precariously, claims Nassir had no intention of going to war with Israel. But the blockade of Israeli shipping was itself an act of war.

He then claims Israel’s masterful generals pulled the wool over the eyes of their own citizens. He then ignores Egypt’s deployment in the Sinai to say, “The leaders were culpable twice over; they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.”

This rehash of history intends to recast all the characters in the events leading up to Israel’s preemptive strike: Israel was the aggressor, not the threatened. Israel provoked the war, not Arab armies threatening destruction. Nassir was never serious about war, and pointing to Nassir’s literal acts of war is not relevant.

This is a clear denial of genocidal intent.

It is a rare thing in 20th century history to look at the crime of attempted genocide. The case more often, humanity had to look back and wonder why no one acted to save the Jews in World War II, the Armenians in World War I or the Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. With 20/20 hindsight, we realize the murderous rhetoric of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the Young Turks in the 1910s, and the Hutu government in 1994.

But we have a case, in 1967, when Israel heard these threats, built on decades of rhetoric, to destroy its existence. Israel, through a combination of preparedness and fear, struck first and averted what many thought would be a second Holocaust.

Denying the intent of Arab leaders to wage genocide against Israelis is akin to denying genocides after they have happened. Trafficking in this level of historical revisionism is no different than white supremacist denials of the Holocaust and Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide.

Jewish Voice of Peace should be ashamed of itself.