Israel news

Chabad excommunicates rabbi

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

A new schism emerged last week in the Lubavitch movement in Israel following reports that one of the leaders of its “messianic” stream had stopped fasting on days marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, a leading Lubavitch rabbi in Haifa, published a letter last week saying that “according to halachah”, Rabbi Zimroni Tzik, who runs the Chabad House in Bat Yam, should be excommunicated.


Israel ‘not ready’ for a major earthquake

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

The Israeli Defence Ministry will hold a national earthquake preparedness exercise this year, in response to the Haiti disaster. Experts estimate that between 20 and 50 per cent of Israeli buildings are not built to withstand a large earthquake.

Israel is situated in the northern part of the Great Rift Valley in an area which historically has known devastating earthquakes. Seismological experts are convinced that a large-magnitude earthquake in Israel in the next few decades is all but inevitable.


Peace talks on hold as Obama admits failure

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

Senior Israeli officials have acknowledged that the chances of a resumption of high-level talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the near future are very slim.

US envoy George Mitchell, who made yet another trip to the region this week, also played down expectations.


Hamas: We never promised to recognise Israel

By Jessica Elgot, January 22, 2010

Hamas has strongly denied claims made by British businessman David Abrahams that it is prepared to recognise Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported that after meeting Labour Party donor Mr Abrahams in Hebron, the Hamas Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Aziz Dwaik, had said that the group was prepared to renounce the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.

Mr Dwaik has since denied he ever said such a thing, and wrote on the Hamas website that the group would never recognise any occupation of Palestinian lands.


Frum Friends storms Israeli primetime

By Nathan Jeffay, January 21, 2010

A bride starts menstruating a few hours before her wedding. How will she get through her wedding day and night, given that Orthodox couples cannot have physical contact when the woman has her period?

This may sound like an exam question for rabbinical school but, believe it or not, it is the storyline from the season premiere of Israel’s hottest television programme.

When Srugim, dubbed the frum version of Friends, first hit the small screen 18 months ago, the Israeli public was expecting the normal clichéd religious characters and bad jokes.


Mrs Netanyahu sued by her maid

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 21, 2010

A lawsuit against the Netanyahu family brought by their former housekeeper has cast a new set of question marks over the conduct of Sarah Netanyahu and her influence on her husband’s policy-making.

Lillian Peretz, who was employed for six years as housekeeper at the Netanyahu weekend home in Caesarea, claimed in the Labour Court lawsuit that she was paid beneath the minimum wage, not given social benefits and forced to work on Saturdays despite being Shabbat-observant.


David Abrahams meets Hamas

By Jessica Elgot, January 21, 2010

British businessman David Abrahams claims to have obtained a significant concession from Hamas following a private meeting with the group’s leadership.

Mr Abrahams says that Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Aziz Dwaik told him the organisation “may be prepared” to nullify the Hamas Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.

Once a key player in Labour’s “donorgate” scandal, Newcastle property developer Mr Abrahams says he has set out on a personal mission to help negotiate peace in the Middle East.


Israel reopens Ethiopian immigration

By Jessica Elgot, January 19, 2010

Eighty-one immigrants from the Falash Mura community have touched down in Israel, the first to make aliyah since a controversial Israeli decision to ban further Ethopian immigration.

This is the first flight of the Falash Mura since the Israeli government decided to end Ethiopian immigration in August 2008, with another 63 due to arrive tomorrow.

The ruling was reversed in December 2009 after the Jewish Agency for Israel threw its support for bringing the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel.


Israeli 'polygamous guru' held for rape allegations

By Jessica Elgot, January 15, 2010

Israeli self-styled ‘guru’ Goel Ratzon has had his appeal for bail rejected after he was arrested on suspicion of enslaving and raping several of his 17 ‘wives’.

The Tel Aviv District Court on Friday rejected an appeal filed by Mr Ratzon against the extension of his 12-day remand.

He will be held in a Tel Aviv jail until his court date. No formal charges have been made but he is held on suspicion of enslavement, rape and extortion.


Child killings fuel Israel 'crime-wave' fears

By Nathan Jeffay, January 14, 2010

After a murder reminiscent of the James Bulger case and several other apparently violent deaths since the New Year, Israelis are becoming increasingly concerned about violent crime.

On January 1, police found the body of seven-year-old Leon Kalantarov in the bedroom of Naor and Adir Sudmi, twins in their 20s who live in the boy’s home town, near Ashdod.