News From Israel – June 14, 2017

No. 55, June 14, 2017

Inside Israel
Israel celebrates the holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot marks the harvest of the first fruits of the land and the receiving of the Torah. The holiday began with kibbutzim and moshavim around Israel displaying the first harvest. Towns and cities were also celebrating the holiday including ceremonies for presenting first fruits by schoolchildren, introducing babies who were born this year, a farmers’ market, a drummers’ circles and more. And here are some charming pictures of the Shavuot holiday from as early as 1925.

Best country for women again. The World Economic Forum once again ranked Israel as the best country in the Middle East for women’s rights and freedoms.

Israeli support for gay marriage is at an all-time high. Ahead of Tel Aviv Pride, 79 percent of Israelis Jews told pollsters they support allowing same-sex marriage or civil unions for gay couples. According to Hiddush, the religious pluralism group that commissioned the new poll, public support for allowing gay couples to marry in Israel has reached an all-time high. The group found 76 percent support last year, and just 53 percent in 2009. Over 200,000 attended the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, including some 30,000 from abroad. The parade is the region’s biggest as Israel stands in sharp contrast to much of its neighbors.

Treating wounded Syrians in Israel. As the brutal war across Israel’s northern border rages on, Syrians desperate for medical care continue to make the treacherous journey to the border of a country they were raised to see as their enemy. While Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting on its northern border, more than 3,000 Syrians have been treated here in the four years since the IDF began allowing in the wounded who make their way to the border
62% of Israeli Jews believe there’s ‘no occupation’ in Judea, Samaria. On the half-century anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, the monthly Peace Index survey found that a majority of the Jewish public in Israel – 62 percent – believes Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is not “an occupation.” By contrast, fully 91 percent of the Arab public is indeed certain that it is an “occupation.”

Haredi extremist indicted for attacking, threatening senior IDF general. An extremist Haredi man was indicted for attempting to attack the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Moti Almoz, and issuing threats against him. Other Haredi protesters distributed fliers comparing Almoz to Hitler and military service to Auschwitz.

Drought brings Lake Kinneret to a record low for May. As drought continues in the Galilee since 2014, the Water Authority ceases pumping water from the Kinneret. Semi-arid Israel has been experiencing a drought for the last four years, and the country’s only fresh water lake is dropping precipitously.

Seeking to boost ties, Netanyahu meets with African leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli leader to take part in a summit of leaders from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States in Monrovia, Liberia. Netanyahu told reporters that the purpose of the visit was to strengthen Israel’s rapidly growing ties with Africa, and to chip away at the once reflexive anti-Israel voting patterns of African countries in international forums.

Trump signs order delaying U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem. U.S. President Donald Trumpsigned a waiver delaying the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking his election promise. Netanyahu said in response the decision delays peace, while the Palestinians voiced support, saying Trump’s decision “gives peace a chance.”

Israel’s right to Jerusalem established firmly in international law, expert says. The Jewish people’s right to Jerusalem was granted under international law at the end of the First World War, a leading international legal scholar said. “[The] title over Jerusalem and its Old City was granted to the Jewish people during the San Remo conference of the Principal Allied Powers in April 1920,” Dr. Jacques Gauthier said at an event by the Christian group European Coalition for Israel (ECI), which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority paid over $1 Billion to terrorists in 4 years. The Palestinian Authority (PA) issued payments to terrorists and their families totaling more than $1 billion over a four-year period, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The sum is equivalent to 20 percent of the foreign aid the PA receives annually.

The surprising opinions of Palestinians. The poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion among the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, reveals some interesting data. For example, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continue to prioritize their personal lives over politics. Among West Bankers, 49% pick “having a good family life” as their top priority, followed by “making enough income to live comfortably” with 30%; just 12% pick “working to establish a Palestinian state.” In Gaza, too, family comes first, with 40%; income and state-building tie for second place there, at approximately 25% each.

 ‘Resisting’ Israeli star, Lebanon bans Wonder Woman movie. Lebanese authorities banned the new “Wonder Woman” movie hours before it was due to premiere in the capital and following a campaign against its star, Israeli actress Gal Gadot. The ban is in accordance with a decades-old law that boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis. The movie was also pulled from a festival in Algeria and is facing a similar fate in Tunisia.

Culture and Lifestyle
8 fun facts about Shavuot in Israel. Shavuot is a one-day holiday in Israel. But all the events surrounding the holiday — agricultural festivals at kibbutz and moshav communities, special lectures at synagogues and community centers, sales on everything white at shopping malls, cheaper dairy products at the supermarket, school plays and child-oriented festivals — make it seem as though Shavuot is a much longer event.

How much do Anglos in Israel make? Here are the results of the on-going informal poll showing the annual salaries of English-speaking immigrants in Israel. Note that the current conversion rate is 1 shekel = 0.28 dollar.

The Israel Festival. Israel’s most important interdisciplinary art festival is coming back to Jerusalem for the 56th year from June 1 to 18. The festival will offer the most innovative and daring artistic program yet. Jerusalem, the Golden and Holy City, will host some of the world’s greatest contemporary artists, active in the fields of dance, music, theater, and performing art, alongside original productions from Israel, outdoor public performances, conferences and other professional encounters.

Breaking with Western world, Israelis smoke more in 2016 than ever before. The smoking rate among Israelis over the age of 21 has risen for the first time in 29 years to 22.5%, an increase of 12.5%. The smoking rate among men is higher than the OECD average. But that of Israeli women is lower than the OECD average, largely due to the low smoking rate among Arab and ultra-Orthodox females.

Science and Technology
Promising new approach for treating age-related diseases. An Israeli researcher reportedly has found the first feasible therapeutic approach to eradicating senescent cells, whose accumulation can lead to age-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, cataracts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteoporosis.

Preventing blindness in the elderly. 30% of adults over 75 suffer retinal degeneration with 6-8% going blind. Researchers at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital transplanted retinal pigment cells from embryonic stem cells into five such sufferers and the new cells were absorbed into the retina, preventing loss of vision.

Novel therapy could prevent heart failure. Israeli researchers have developed a new therapy to treat atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and prevent heart failure, using a new biomedical polymer that reduces arterial plaque and inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Patented and in preclinical stage, the new polymer has been tested on mice with positive results.

In Depth
More than the two-state solution: The many possible paths to peace – what are we talking about when we talk about solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?