Israel news

European Parliament calls for Gilad Shalit release

By Jessica Elgot, March 11, 2010

The European Parliament have passed a motion calling for the immediate release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

MEPs from across the political spectrum signed a letter to EU Foreign Policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton, who will visit Israel and Palestinian areas next week. Israel will open the Erez crossing into Gaza for Lady Ashton’s visit.

Gilad Shalit, 23, was abducted almost four years ago by Hamas terrorists. No Red Cross members or negotiators have seen him, but videos and photographs have been released.

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Peace talks cancelled over East Jerusalem homes

By Jessica Elgot, March 11, 2010

The Palestinians have called off peace talks with the Israeli government after a decision to approve 1,600 new homes to be built in East Jerusalem, despite an apology from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s approval of the houses, which came 24 hours after indirect talks between Israeli and the Palestinians were announced, brokered by US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell.

The homes are to be built for a strictly-Orthodox community in Ramat Shlomo near the Palestinian village of Shuafat.

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Peace talks derailed by building plan

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

A row over Israeli building in east Jerusalem has caused major embarrassment during the American Vice President's visit to the region.

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Analysis: Conversion does need to be changed. But not like this.

By Rabbi Seth Farber, March 11, 2010

Despite its problems, this new conversion bill is a first step in transforming the conversion process in Israel. More than 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants from the Former Soviet Union live in Israel. In the past year, less than 2,000 conversions were completed for them.

Unfortunately, because conversion in Israel is overly politicised, even the smallest nuances take on disproportionate significance. And while the strictly Orthodox protest and the Reform contest, potential converts wait for deliverance.

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Charedim attempt to block conversion law

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

A new law on conversion to Judaism could lead to a full-blown coalition crisis in Israel.

The law, presented by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, would allow each city's chief rabbi to perform conversions. The Charedi parties are threatening to leave Binyamin Netanyahu's government if the law is passed.

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Analysis: Israel has been hurt by the failure of its Left

By Uri Dromi, March 11, 2010

In case you had not noticed, the Left in Israel hardly exists. Meretz, the socialist party which had mustered 12 Knesset seats in 1992, won only three miserable seats in the last elections. Labour, which had led the Zionist movement, built the land and established the State of Israel, was decimated as well, moving from 44 MKs in the mid-1980s to a mere dozen today, with some leaving the party in disgust, never to look back again.

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Teens 'addicted to air conditioner gas'

By Nathan Jeffay, March 11, 2010

A 16-year-old boy plunged to his death from the roof of a Netanya school on Saturday, drawing attention to a normally ignored problem among Israeli teenagers.

Police say that the boy, Sisai Astan, had been on the roof of Rashi School inhaling gas from air conditioning units along with three other boys.

"They were up there to inhale air conditioner gas and there was an argument that took place. One of the youngsters pushed another off the roof," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

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EU chief allowed into Gaza

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

Israel will allow the European Union Foreign Affairs Representative, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to enter the Gaza Strip, in an apparent reversal of policy.

Baroness Ashton will visit next week and Mr Ban in April. Both asked Israel to open the Erez crossing into Gaza for their delegations.

Since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007, Israel has enforced a ban on visitors. The closure was designed to delegitimise Hamas and help the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority assert its leadership.

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Getting Charedim to work

By Nathan Jeffay, March 11, 2010

The large buildings and symmetrical streets in Modiin Illit are a world away from the crowded flats found in other Charedi neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. And according to new figures, the environment is directly contributing to a growing enthusiasm for work.

Israel's fast-growing Charedi community is traditionally characterised by low employment, high poverty and dependence on charity and benefits. How to change this has become a perennial question of Israeli politics.

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Israel's The Office: Who's playing David Brent?

By Simon Round, March 11, 2010

It has been the most sought-after comedy role in Israel. Who would play David Brent in the country's upcoming version of The Office?

Now the Israeli production company has released news of the castings for its own version of the award-winning show - to be called Ha Misrad -– a direct translation of The Office.

In the David Brent role is Dvir Benedek, who, disappointingly will not be called Dovid Brent Cross, but rather Avi Meshulam.

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