News From Israel – February 21, 2018

“News from Israel” presents a compilation of news stories from major Israeli and other publications. To see the source and to read the full story behind a headline, click the hyperlink in the corresponding news item.

No. 71, February 21, 2018 

Important Events
POSITIVELY ISRAEL: Celebrating the Wonders of Israel. The Bay Area Jewish Community invites you to “POSITIVELY ISRAEL”, a showcase of remarkable organizations and people leading groundbreaking humanitarian, environmental, educational, and tikkun olam initiatives throughout Israel. Find out more here.

Inside Israel
Israeli Police recommend bribery charges against Netanyahu. Israeli policerecommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery in two criminal investigations. Netanyahu, calling the allegations baseless, vowed to remain in office. The recommendations were presented to the State Prosecution for consideration by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who alone has the power to bring charges against a sitting prime minister. Some legal sources reportedly said that police have not gathered sufficient evidence to justify some of the charges being filed against Netanyahu.

Israeli stabbed to death in West Bank attack. An Israeli man was stabbed to death in a terror attack at a bus station outside the West Bank city of Ariel. The victim has been identified as 29-year-old Itamar Ben-Gal, a father of four. The assailant, who is an Arab-Israeli citizen from Jaffa, fled the scene immediately after the stabbing.

Four IDF soldiers wounded on Gaza border, Israel retaliates. Four IDF soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a bomb exploded next to their patrol on the Gaza border fence. In response, Israeli fighter jets and tanks hit multiple terror targets in the Gaza Strip.

Construction starts on egalitarian prayer section at Western Wall. Construction has finally begun on physical upgrades to the egalitarian section at the southern end of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, after a more comprehensive plan approved in 2016 was indefinitely frozen in June. The upgrade will reportedly be the same as that proposed in the original plan.

Two-thirds of Israelis favor deporting African migrants, poll finds. Two-thirds of the public (65.9%) support the plan, but there is a gap between Israeli Jews, 69% of whom back it, and Israeli Arabs, among whom only 50% are for deportation. The poll also included questions about the US-Israel relationship.

New cars keep pouring onto Israel’s crowded roads. The sources say that the continuing strong sales of private vehicles mean that the public is voting with its feet and its wallet against public transport in Israel, and that public transport reforms carried out so far have not achieved their goals. “Road congestion … in certain areas and at certain times is approaching total transport breakdown,” the sources say.

Israel caused serious harm to Syria’s air defenses. Israel inflicted serious harm to Syria’s air defenses, after the IDF launched a number of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, following the interception of an unmanned Iranian drone in Israeli airspace. Syria’s responding anti-aircraft fire led to the downing of an Israeli fighter plane, which landed in Israeli territory. Two pilots were injured, one seriously and another lightly.  An initial probe into the downing of an Israeli F-16i jet found that the altitude at which the plane was flying made it more vulnerable than the other eight planes flying in the formation.

41% of Palestinian terrorists freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit have returned to terrorism. More than a third of the terrorists freed in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Schalit have gone back to terrorism. Some of them now control Hamas in Gaza, out of Israel’s reach, and are working with Iran to execute terrorist attacks and kidnappings.

U.S. House passes bill sanctioning Hamas for using human shields. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill which sanctions the terrorist group Hamas and its collaborators for deliberately putting innocent people in harm’s way as a military tactic. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) said, “The world must face the threat of Hamas terrorists, as they continue to perpetrate atrocities against civilians and use them as human shields…”

Culture and Lifestyle
Breathtaking story of the Israel Philharmonic OrchestraWatch here.

Watch: “Lost tribe” returns to pray in Jerusalem. The Jewish tribe of Menashe was exiled from Israel 2,700 years ago. Now, members of a tribe from Asia that believes they are Menashe’s descendants have returned to Israel. The group known as “Bnei Menashe” toured heritage sites and prayed in some of Judaism’s holiest places. Read and watch here.

David Grossman named the winner of the 2018 Israel Prize for Hebrew literature and poetry. In its announcement, the prize committee wrote: “Since the early 1980s, David Grossman has taken his place at the center of Israeli culture, and he is one of the most profound, moving and influential voices in our literature.” It added that Grossman is one of the most “famous, admired and beloved” Israeli writers in the world, and that his books have been translated into dozens of languages.” The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor

What are the most popular baby names in Israel? The most popular baby name in Israel in 2016 was Muhammad, given to some 2,880 newborns. The most popular Jewish name for a boy in 2016, for the third year in a row, was Noam, with some 1,505 boys given this name. The most popular Jewish name for a girl was Tamar, which has remained one of the most popular names for a girl throughout the past 17 years.

Science and Technology
Israel innovation makes up half of Merck healthcare revenue. Israeli innovation is behind almost half of the healthcare revenues of the 350-year-old German pharmaceutical and chemicals firm Merck, a senior Merck official said in an interview. “This tells us a lot of the story of how important” Israel is to Merck.

One drug could treat Alzheimer’s, MS, Crohn’s and more. A special peptide under development in Israel declares war against chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. All these diseases, Prof. David Naor of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School explains, are associated with pathological amyloid proteins that could be neutralized by the 5-mer peptide.

A new sanitation system.  Israeli startup Soapy has set-up simple hygiene stations in Bagepalli, India to provide children with hand-washing facilities in rural areas and slums where there is no running water. The station takes water from the air, adds soap and dispenses the cleaning solution 24/7.

In Depth
Israel’s African-migrant crisis. How did Israel become a place of no refuge? That was the question posed by Rabbi Susan Silverman in a recent op-ed in The New York Times as she addressed the Israeli government’s decision to deport thousands of African migrants. This is a serious charge. Before we embrace it, we would all do well to take a deep breath and turn to facts before rhetoric. The problem at hand is real, and it deserves a real discussion.