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Latest Israel News – 31st August

Soldier with cerebral palsy gets her “wings”

For most of her life, Lotan Aroch has heard well-meaning friends, teachers and officials shoot down her dreams. Born four months premature, the 19-year-old has a range of disabilities resulting from her cerebral palsy.

But Lotan is not one to back down from a challlenge. She made national news when she became one of the first teens with Cerebral Palsy to enlist as a full-fledged soldier in the IDF.

Now, she is celebrating another classic Lotan victory: her acceptance into the specialized “Wings” program that once turned her down for not being able enough. Wings is a training program of independent living for adults with physical and sensory disabilities.

“All life long, they’ve warned us that she wouldn’t walk, wouldn’t dance,” relates her mother. “But all along I insisted, ‘Yes, you will!’”

During her senior year in high school, Lotan encountered one of her fiercest challenges when IDF officials visited and lectured about the army. She was enchanted, and enlisting became her unstoppable dream. But the army doctor had a different idea: “You’re exempt, don’t do it!”

Her determination to serve led her to Special in Uniform, the groundbreaking program developed by Reserve Major Colonel Ariel Almog, to integrate teens with disabilities into the IDF. The program operates in partnership with the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

“‘We’re with you, Lotan. We’ll escort you through this,” her mother remembers hearing. “It was then that I really began to believe that one day she would serve in the army.”

And serve she has.

As one of over 350 Special in Uniform soldiers, Lotan was posted to an Air Force Base where she completed a three-month course in life skills and occupational skills and 10 days of basic training. After training, soldiers are integrated into a variety of functional positions, manning emergency depots and military stores, preparing protective kits, working in print shops, kitchens, shredding mills and more.

“Growing up, many of these children went to special education schools,” explains the program’s director Lt. Col (Res.) Tiran Attia. “When they finally look forward to joining their peers, suddenly the gates are closed. Special in Uniform allows them to contribute, to give from themselves. Just like everyone else.”

For Lotan, serving in the army gave her more than skills. It confirmed her belief that she can ably contribute to community and society. It gave her the confidence to reach out to Wings once more.

This time, having seen what she achieved in the IDF, directors of the program rolled out the red carpet for her acceptance into the program.

“Special in Uniform starts in the army, but it doesn’t end there,” says Rabbi Mendy Belinitzki, Executive Director of Lend a Hand. “We see clearly how it is building a better society, community and workforce.”  (Arutz Sheva)

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US envoy Greenblatt: World must see Israel’s treatment of Syrian wounded

According to a US Embassy statement, some 3,500 Syrian wounded have been treated in Israeli hospitals, including more than 1,000 at Ziv Hospital.

The world should hear about Israel’s quality treatment of Syrian patients in its hospitals, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt said on Tuesday after visiting Ziv Medical Center in Safed.

“These are the stories of Israel the world needs to hear, and stories like this show how peace in the region can be possible,” Greenblatt said after visiting the hospital, which has taken care of hundreds of Syrians wounded in their country’s civil war.

According to a US Embassy statement, some 3,500 Syrian wounded have been treated in Israeli hospitals, including more than 1,000 at Ziv. Greenblatt toured the facility, and spoke with some of the Syrians being treated there.

Greenblatt also went to the Gilboa crossing (Jalame) near Jenin on Tuesday, to look at and hear about various Israeli-Palestinian economic projects there. His visit took place a little more than a month after the US brokered significant Israeli-Palestinian economic agreements dealing with electricity and water.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz and the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, accompanied Greenblatt. Katz issued a statement saying that the visit was held in the framework of ongoing meetings with Greenblatt “to enhance economic and infrastructure initiatives which will benefit all parties in the region.”

In July, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on a new power substation in Jenin and the sale by Israel to the PA of 33 million cubic meters of water each year, agreements Greenblatt said were examples of how the two sides can cooperate to improve Palestinian living conditions.

According to Katz’s office, Tuesday’s visit focused on Katz’s initiative to connect the Haifa Port via the Beit She’an railway link to the Jordan River Crossing/Sheikh Hussein Bridge border point with Jordan, and southward to Jenin where the Palestinians could connect to it. Katz’s ambitious plan, called “Tracks for Peace,” would also give Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states access via rail links to the Mediterranean through Israel’s ports in Haifa and Ashdod.

Mordechai briefed Greenblatt on the security and economic situation in the northern West Bank, as well as initiatives Israel is advancing to develop the economy and “improve the fabric of life in the region.”

These include the Jalame Industrial Zone, the recently opened electricity substation in Jenin, and a future power station in the area.

“The security situation and the civil and security coordination are the basis for all cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” Mordechai said.  (Jerusalem Post)

UN chief meets with families of Palestinian terrorists

Day after UN secretary-general promises President Rivlin to treat Israel equally, Antonio Guterres tells families of Palestinian prisoners locked up in Israel receiving medical treatment, ‘we understand their suffering’; Palestinians urge him to convene meeting in GA on matter.

According to a report in the Palestinian Wafa news agency, the family members asked Guterres “to act seriously to save the lives of more than 6,500 male and female Palestinian prisoners who are being subjected to serious harm.”

Chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Authority, Issa Qaraqe, asked the secretary-general, who also visited Yasser Arafat’s grave, to convene a special meeting in the UN General Assembly on the matter, to which Guterres reportedly responded:

“We understand the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners, and are working with the relevant officials in order to stop their suffering.”

Also present at the meeting with Qaraque were Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee Saeb Erekat and the Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour.

At the conclusion of his meeting on Monday with President Reuven Rivlin, Guterres said that while he did not always agree with Israeli policy, “You can be sure that I will be careful to implement the UN Charter to treat the State of Israel with equality.”

Guterres is currently in the midst of a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of a wider tour of the Middle East—his first since taking up his new position at the end of last year. (Ynet News)

Update:

The UN has denied that Guterres made such statements and that the PA fabricated the story and duped Guterres into meeting terrorist families.    RW

Israel declares Hebron an official Jewish settlement

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman upgraded the municipal status of Hebron’s Jewish community, separating it from the Palestinian municipality, which governs the West Bank city.

Liberman announced the change in the status of the 1,000 Jews in Hebron during a briefing with reporters in Tel Aviv.

A 1997 agreement split the city, of what is now more than 220,000 Palestinians, leaving 80% under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and 20% under Israel. But the Hebron Municipality is expected to provide basic services to the Jewish community, which has limited ability to government its own life.

The upgrade severs them from the Hebron municipality and allows them to independently seek services from the Civil Administration, which oversees civilian life in Area C of the West Bank.

The move was necessitated this year after the Palestinians in Hebron elected as their Mayor Sheikh Tayseer Abu Sneineh, who had been convicted and served time for his role in killing six Israelis in a terrorist attack.

“For years, Hebron’s Jewish residents lived without a municipal authority to take care of all the services required for normative civilian life,” said Deputy Defense Minister Eli Dahan (Bayit Yehudi). “After the election of a murderer for mayor of Hebron, the idea that they will receive these services from the municipality has become even more absurd.”

He added: “This is another important step in normalizing the lives of the Jews in Hebron, in particular, and in all of Judea and Samaria, in general.”

The upgrade comes during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In July, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization registered Hebron’s old town and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the State of Palestine on its World Heritage List.

The inscription focuses on preserving the Muslim character of the 3,000-year-old-city with ties to three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Most of Hebron’s Jewish community of close to 1,000 people, live in the city’s old town.

It also comes as the Defense Ministry is in the midst of fierce negotiations to sway 15 Jewish families in Hebron to peacefully evacuate Beit Hamachpela, a three-story apartment building they illegally moved into in July.

The families have worked for the last five years to register their property claim and have provided documentation to show that they purchased it from the Abu Rajab family, which disputes the claim and has filed a petition before the High Court of Justice, seeking the removal of the Jewish families. (Jerusalem Post)

Steinitz could end up chairing Jewish Agency in Likud deal

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz could succeed Natan Sharansky as chairman of the Jewish Agency and coalition chairman David Bitan could replace him in the cabinet, according to a deal Likud officials confirmed is in the works on Tuesday.

Sharansky extended his tenure at the agency for an additional year to June 2018, due to controversies over the Western Wall and conversion that caused tensions between the government and international Jewish leaders. But he has ruled out keeping the post any more after that after nine years on the job.

The next agency chairman will be appointed by Netanyahu, but must receive approval from Diaspora leaders. Steinitz would be welcomed by both, because he has been close to Netanyahu for 20 years and is viewed by Diaspora Jewish leaders as moderate and pragmatic.

Steinitz was the only Likud minister to vote against reneging on the Western Wall deal. Since then, pressure has increased on him to accept the Agency post, and Likud sources confirmed a report in Yediot Aharonot that while Steinitz ruled it out receiving the position in the past, he is now more inclined to accept it.

But sources close to Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post he was surprised by the report during a family vacation, and that it was “a rumor that has been talked about for a month.”

The head of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, said that Steinitz was a fitting candidate for the post.

“We are happy he voted against canceling the Kotel deal,” Kariv said. “Only when he would be an official candidate would we speak to him about the importance of strengthening all religious streams in Israel and around the world.”

Others thought in the past to be candidates for the post have included Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs head Dore Gold, former ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, Keren Hayesod chairman Eliezer Sandberg and Ma’aleh Adumim mayor Benny Kashriel, who was officially chosen as the World Likud’s candidate for the job.

One factor that could complicate the issue is if criminal investigations force Netanyahu to leave office before the vote for the Agency chairmanship is set to take place in February. If Netanyahu had to choose anyone to serve as interim prime minister until an election, Steinitz could be a likely choice, because of his loyalty to the prime minister.

Bitan has become increasingly close to the prime minister since becoming chairman of the coalition. He organized his successful August 9 rally and is one of the main organizers of Wednesday night’s pre-Rosh Hashana toast by Netanyahu at Airport City. (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli PM Netanyahu Wants Meeting With Caribbean Leaders on Sidelines of UN General Assembly

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to arrange a meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on the sidelines of next month’s UN General Assembly gathering in New York City, Caribbean News Now! reported on Monday.

According to the report, Jamaica — led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who visited Israel earlier this year — is pushing to make such a summit happen.

However, other Caribbean nations – including Belize, Suriname, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St Lucia and Antigua — were said to be resistant to the idea, due to pro-Palestinian proclivities.

In recent years, Netanyahu has sought to expand the breadth and depth of Israel’s network of diplomatic ties around the globe. Before arriving in the US next month, Netanyahu is planning to become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America, with stops in Argentina and Mexico.

In October, Netanyahu will attend the Africa-Israel Summit in Lome, Togo. (the Algemeiner)

Israeli Team Sent to Texas to Provide Emergency Hurricane Relief

Israeli rescue experts are heading to hurricane-ravaged Texas to do what they do best: rush to the scene of a natural disaster and dig in to help those hit hardest by the storm.

IsraAID, an Israeli international humanitarian organization, said on Tuesday it was sending a team of experts from Israel and the U.S. to assist Texas residents dealing with the after effects of Tropical Storm Harvey.

IsraAID, which is coordinating with local Jewish communities, local government in Texas and the Israeli Consul General, plans to deploy 5-7 experts to provide two-stage response to the disaster, with the first stage focusing on removing debris and cleaning homes, then offering psychosocial trauma support to residents.

“In crises with large-scale destruction, national and international aid efforts typically focus on practical, physical support, with limited resources allocated to the mental and emotional rehabilitation of affected populations,” said Yotam Polizer, co-CEO of IsraAID.

“For the most vulnerable groups, notably children and the elderly, time is of critical importance; the longer these groups are forced to remain in shelters, the higher the chance of long-term mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder that can have a debilitating and long-term impact.”

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee announced a $34,000 grant of aid to the victims of flooding in Texas. This grant will be provided to the American Red Cross, IsraAID and the Jewish Family Service of Houston. (JNS)

Diaspora Jews now have their own religious pre-military academy

Cadets pose on the first day of studies at Mechina Olamit in Migdal Oz

A religious pre-military academy in the religious kibbutz of Migdal Oz opened its door to 50 cadets, half of them from Australia and South Africa.

Mechina Olamit, which opened on Sunday, is also the first religious pre-military academy to have male and female cadets from both Israel and abroad.

Cadets from the Bnei Akiva religious-Zionist youth movement will study Torah and subjects related to the Jewish people for six months in the academy, which is the result of cooperation between the World Bnei Akiva movement and the Jewish Agency.

Rabbi Arik Speaker, director of the institution said the academy will connect its disciples for advanced Torah studies, a knowledge of the land and the people, and it will prepare them for substantive service in the IDF or in communities around the world.

According to Bnei Akiva, while many cadets are unsure if they will join the IDF, at least seven of the 25 foreign cadets plan to immigrate and join the army. Others plan to return to their communities in the Diaspora.

Israel has 55 pre-army programs. The academies target citizens who finished high school, as well as new immigrants and Jews from abroad who have not yet become citizens.

Students defer the draft until after the one-year program ends.

While non-Israelis are not obligated to enlist, the pre-army programs generally encourage participants to join combat or elite combat units. In mid-August a graduate of the Eli academy, Col. Avi Blot, took command of the Oz Brigade.

Earlier this year controversy surrounded the Eli academy when its dean, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, told several hundred graduates that female soldiers lose their Jewish “values and priorities,” and that to have female commanders was “madness.”

Levinstein subsequently acknowledged that his remarks were “inappropriate” but never retracted his statement.

The IDF has several mixed-gender border defense battalions, and in recent years has increased the recruitment of women to combat units. According to a senior officer in the personnel directorate, a record 2,500 women are expected to serve in combat roles this year.

In December, dozens of female members of Bnei Akiva wrote to the organization’s director, Elchanan Glatt, in protest of comments he made to the Arutz Sheva news site against religious girls enlisting in the IDF.

Glatt stated that the organization’s stance is that the enlistment of religious women “should not be encouraged,” stressing Bnei Akiva’s opposition of religious women serving in combat units.

“This is exactly what should not be done, and we are making great efforts to explain to the girls that this is not the proper or successful way to contribute to the State of Israel,” he said. (Jerusalem Post)

Is this ‘ancient’ coin from 2015 or 2016?

A coin that was believed to be a rare artifact from the Second Temple period found by an 8-year-old girl near a Jewish town in Samaria is in actuality a souvenir from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Last week, 8-year-old Hallel Halevy found a half-shekel coin near an archaeological site in the Samarian town of Neve Tzuf (Halamish).

The half-shekel coin dates from a time when it was used to pay a yearly Temple tax, in a custom described in the Torah in Exodus 30:11-16.

The Times of Israel reported that it was alerted Sunday morning that the coin found by the girl is actually a coin created on a small mint in the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum, an annual project for children during yearly Hanukkah activities at the museum. One side of the coin is left blank so that it will not be mistaken for a real coin, according to the report.

Dr. Haim Gitler, chief curator of Archaeology and the curator of Numismatics at the Israel Museum called the Times of Israel to inform it of the mistake, the news website reported.

“There is no chance that it is authentic, it is not an ancient coin. Even to call it a coin is to exaggerate what it is,” Gitler told the Times of Israel, adding that the markings on the “artifact” discovered by the girl are 100% identical to the mold at the museum. “Whether it was 2016 or 2015, that’s more the question,” he also said.

The archaeological unit of the army’s Civil Administration unit, or COGAT, currently is possession of the coin. Its authenticity or lack of authenticity still will have to be officially verified, according to the report.  (Arutz Sheva)

Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Push Is Going Nowhere. That’s Why Israelis Love It.

‘Past administrations jumped into the peace process pool,’ says an Israeli official, praising Team Trump’s go-slow approach. ‘There’s no water in this pool, no reason to jump in.’

by Benny Avni               The Daily Beast

http://www.thedailybeast.com/jared-kushners-mideast-peace-push-is-going-nowhere-thats-why-israelis-love-it

Jared Kushner’s second visit to the Mideast is widely perceived as a Seinfeld-like show about nothing—and the Israelis love it.

Seeking President Trump’s “ultimate deal”—peace between Israelis and Palestinians—Kushner arrived in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, where few could point to any progress made in promoting a deal between the parties. White House officials say they’re keeping mum on progress by design, but commentators in the Israeli and Palestinian press claim there is little substance behind the first son-in-law’s diplomacy.

And that’s just fine by Israeli government officials, who quietly express hope that Kushner’s latest trip, and perhaps future ones as well, will yield no earth-shaking results.

“Past American administrations jumped into the peace process pool before checking if there’s any water in it; we jumped after them and cracked our heads,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, told The Daily Beast. He commended Kushner’s go-slow approach, saying, “Perhaps he’ll realize there’s no water in this pool, and so there’s no reason to jump in.”

Publicly, after meeting with Kushner, Jerusalem and Ramallah officials made statements that were remarkably similar, using words diplomats have long employed to obscure content. Privately, however, several Israeli officials say they expect no progress. Further, they’re grateful the Trump administration, unlike previous ones, exerts no pressure on them to make major concessions.

Political conditions are far from optimal for a meaningful peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under unprecedented pressure, as investigations of various alleged wrongdoings mount against him. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, is unpopular and weak.

While Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt do their best not to discuss the substance of their talks—saying they would rather conduct quiet diplomacy—critics note that not too long ago Kushner told White House interns, in a conversation that was leaked to the press, that there may be “no solution” to the Israeli Palestinian problem.

Dayan—a former leader of Yesha, the West Bank settler movement—said that rather than seeking a final deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute once and for all, Kushner should seek smaller victories. Dayan cited a deal reached recently about water-sharing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “You won’t get a Peace Nobel for things like that, but they may be more achievable” and helpful, he told The Daily Beast.

The Palestinians fear that kind of approach would muddy their goal: to be recognized as an independent state.

In a recent State Department briefing, spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to endorse the two state solution, a formula expressed by three prior administrations that calls for the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state next to the Jewish state of Israel. “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” Nauert said, adding, “It has to be workable to both sides.”

Palestinians were outraged. Even as Kushner met for several hours with Abbas in Ramallah Thursday, demonstrators, said to be organized by Abbas’ own lieutenants, gathered outside the presidential headquarters, known as the Muqata, with some reportedly carrying anti-Trump signs, including one depicting the president as being led on a leash by daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.

A White House official close to the negotiations noted however that Abbas has threatened—as he’s often done in the past—to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority if Kushner declined to push hard on the peace process. But then, the official said, “Abbas didn’t pull out,” which indicates that the talks are substantial after all. “This shows it’s not about nothing,” the official added.

Bibi & Kurshner

The official asked to speak on background as part of Kushner’s and Greenblatt’s expressed desire to keep the content of the negotiations under wraps. This, the official said, may be the reason many feel no progress is being made, but it is a deliberate strategy.

Past administrations “put process ahead of results. It was about a road map, time lines, impositions of deadlines,” the official said, adding that past diplomacy “suffered from a constant effort to show some achievement,” which doomed it to failure as the parties pushed back against public statements in Washington.

Critics however say that the current diplomatic ambiguity may lead to failure. “You have to say publicly where you want to go,” said Gilead Sher, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. Kushner, he says, is undermining progress by not stating what the American goal is. “When no one knows which way America is sailing, it’s impossible for all to steer their boats,” he added.

Sher, who headed Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s team of negotiators with the Palestinians in President Clinton’s days, continued, “if there’s a clear goal, progress can be made after each round of talks. If you tread in place, you get nowhere.”

Despite public pronouncements, he said, the Netanyahu government never really believed in the two state solution.

Government officials say privately however they don’t believe Abbas can cut a deal. They argue that the region is changing fast, and are more concerned with new threats, like Iran’s attempt to set camp on their border with Syria, than with the Palestinians. For them, a show about nothing is, like Seinfeld, a smash hit.