Israel news

Row over kosher-only policy at Israeli ministry

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

An internal regulation saying that Israeli diplomats hosting foreign visitors must eat with them only in kosher restaurants has provoked a protest by Tel Aviv restaurateurs.

Israeli government agencies are mandated by law to operate only kosher catering facilities.

As a matter of tradition, Israeli ministers will eat only kosher at official meals, in Israel and abroad, even if they do not keep kosher at home.

At the Foreign Ministry, this extends to a regulation forbidding its employees to entertain visiting dignitaries at restaurants that serve non-kosher food.

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Quiet on the Gaza border is deceptive

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Almost a year after Operation Cast Lead, Israel may still be fighting a legal and diplomatic battle over the war in the international arena, but around Gaza itself there is uncustomary calm.

On the Israeli side, all the damage caused by missiles and mortar rounds has been repaired, and life is back almost to normal in the villages around the Gaza Strip. While the occasional Kassam is still fired towards Israel, these are always badly aimed. They quite often fall in Palestinian territory and have not caused any Israeli casualties in the last 11 months.

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Call for Hebrew signs in Arab areas

By Ben Lynfield, December 17, 2009

The Jerusalem municipality will require shopkeepers in east Jerusalem to put up Hebrew signs on their stores in a bid to affirm that the area is part of Israel’s capital, according to Deputy Mayor David Hadari.

Arab storekeepers oppose the plan, which has also come under attack from liberal city councillors.

“This is part of having sovereignty in Jerusalem and of our identity as the state of the Jews,” Mr Hadari said. “There must be Hebrew letters.”

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Israel severs link between religious school and IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to end the Har Bracha yeshivah’s hesder arrangement — which allows 18-year-olds to combine Torah studies with army service — has sent reverberations through the IDF and the network of yeshivahs which have, for decades, enjoyed close relations with the military.

“This isn’t about just one yeshivah,” said a senior rabbi this week. “This is a battle for the soul of the next generation of the national-religious community.”

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Syria and Israel may restart talks

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel and Syria are inching back to the negotiation table, although both sides are still not quite ready to sit down. In a number of statements in recent weeks, leaders and senior officials of both countries have indicated that they are open to resume talks that took place while Olmert was prime minister.

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Food label rule breakers may go unpunished

By Marcus Dysch, December 17, 2009

New guidelines on the labelling of West Bank products will be hard to enforce and traders are unlikely to be punished for ignoring them.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued voluntary guidance to stores stating that labels on items imported to Britain from the West Bank should differentiate between “Israeli settlement produce” and “Palestinian produce”.

The government would consider traders to be “almost be certainly committing an offence”, if Palestinian produce from the West Bank was labelled as “produce of Israel”.

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Israeli MK: Boycott UK products

By Jessica Elgot, December 17, 2009

British-Israeli relations have plummeted further after an Israeli MP called for a boycott of British products.

Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh has led an initiative in the Knesset against Britain’s decision to label products from the West Bank as being made by Jewish settlers or Palestinians.

A petition signed by 40 of the 120 MKs is to be sent to the British government, urging them to reconsider the decision.

Ms Tirosh said: “I call on Israelis to think twice before buying British products if the decision is not rescinded by the British government."

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El Al's fundraising for IDF wellbeing day

By Jessica Elgot, December 15, 2009

Israeli airline EL AL will be collecting donations for IDF soldiers in envelopes placed in airline seat pockets.

The airline is contributing to the yearly IDF Soldiers Appreciation Day of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (AWIS), by proclaiming Sherutrom Week on its flights during the week between December 13 and 18.

Donation envelopes will be placed in the seat pockets, which will be collected by the stewardesses before the landing.

In addition, the AWIS movie "The Sherutrom" will be screened during flights.

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Jerusalem mayor attacks ‘ghost flats’

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, has launched a campaign against the “ghost flats” in the city, owned by Jewish tourists who use them for a few weeks a year and leave them empty for the rest of the time. City Hall is trying to persuade the owners to rent the flats out to young couples.

Last week, Mr Barkat sent a personal letter to 9,000 flat owners in which he described the consequences of having so many empty homes in the central neighbourhoods of Israel’s capital.

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Analysis: Call for Torah law upsets secular public

By David Hazony, December 10, 2009

The Minister of Justice, Yaakov Neeman, has provoked a storm by calling for the law of the Torah to be applied in Israeli courts.

Mr Neeman, an Orthodox Jew of the religious-Zionist variety, told a conference of rabbis in Jerusalem that “We must restore the former glory [to the judicial system], so that the justice of the Torah will be the justice commanded in the state of Israel… Israel should regain the heritage of our fathers… which contains a complete solution to all the questions we deal with.”

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