Israel news

Natan Sharansky to chair Jewish Agency

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 22, 2009

Natan Sharansky, once imprisoned in the Soviet Union for his human rights activities, is to be named as chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will also name a war historian as his ambassador to Washington.

Mr Sharansky spent nine years in Soviet prison camps. Following his release he emigrated to Israel and formed the now defunct Yisrael B’aliya party. After serving four times as a minister, he resigned in 2005, in protest over then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip.


Israel remembers the 6 million

April 21, 2009

Most of Israel came to a standstill earlier today to remember the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Traffic came to a halt and people stood in silence as air raid sirens rang out for two minutes. Many bars and restaurants didn’t open.

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attended the opening of a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem on Monday night. They pledged that there would never be a second Holocaust.

Mr Peres said the appearance at the Durban 2 conference of Iranian Presdient Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "a deplorable disgrace".


So who’s in Bibi’s circle of power?

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 7, 2009

While Binyamin Netanyahu’s more controversial ministerial choices grab the headlines, his small team of aides and advisers are settling in to their new roles in Israel’s corridors of power. Most of them have been with him for years and proved their loyalty during his long period in the political wilderness.

No less important, they have all been vetted by the prime minister’s ultimate confidante — his wife, Sara.


But one Arab baker doesn’t care. He’s rushed off his feet at Pesach

By Ben Lynfield, April 7, 2009

Bread may be off the shelves for Passover in Jerusalem but for the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, it means a boost in trade.

Passover is the busiest week of the year, according to Thabet Abu Ghosh, owner of the 59-year-old Caravan restaurant, the oldest among the town’s many eateries catering mostly to Jewish Israelis. “We get about 50 per cent more customers. We have to cook more food, prepare more food, and order more pita.”


Rabbis use code to bar chametz

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 7, 2009

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is turning to barcode technology in the Passover struggle against leavened products.

Every year, Israeli supermarkets with a kashrut certificate “sell” all the chametz products in stock to a non-Jew on the eve of the festival. The nominal sale is automatically cancelled when Pesach ends and the chametz reverts to the supermarkets’ ownership.

During the week-long festival, most of the chametz goods remain on covered-up shelves.

In many stores, shoppers can simply reach under the covers, take out chametz and pay for it at the tills.


Lieberman to be charged with fraud

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 7, 2009

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is to be charged with money laundering and fraud, according to Justice Ministry sources.

“We have enough proof to indict him on multiple charges of money laundering through a string of shell companies,” said a lawyer from the Justice Ministry, who is close to the investigation.

In the next few weeks, the police’s National Fraud Squad is expected to recommend an indictment against Mr Lieberman. Then Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz must decide whether to press charges, pending a hearing.


Lone attacks fear after axe murder

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 6, 2009

The IDF warned this week of a new wave of terror attacks carried out by lone attackers after a 13-year-old was killed by an axe-wielding Palestinian last week.

The murder took place last week at the Bat-Ayin settlement, in the Etzyon bloc, south of Jerusalem. Shlomo Nativ was murdered and Yair Gamliel, seven, was wounded. The murderer fled in the direction of the nearby Palestinian village of Safa. Intensive searches by the IDF and the General Security Service (GSS) failed to locate him.


Obesity up in Israel

April 2, 2009

The number of obese Israelis has nearly tripled over the past 30 years, according to a report from five physicians who examined data on 1.14 million conscription candidates between 1967 and 2003.

Their study found that low socio-economic standing and less education increase chances of obesity. Families of African or Asian descent are more likely to be thinner.


For sale: one rebbe

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 2, 2009

If you’ve got $250,000 to spare, you could buy yourself a day to remember — Shabbat with the reclusive Gerrer rebbe.

The Gerrer Chasids have been hit by the global financial slump and seen a significant fall in fundraising. The Gerrer network has 120 schools and yeshivot around the world with 23,000 pupils. It also has many medical and welfare groups.

The Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, has taken the lead in an emergency fundraising campaign for the network that he controls.


'No more light touch for Hamas prisoners'

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 2, 2009

Human rights groups will not challenge the Netanyahu government’s new regime for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.

A committee headed by former Justice Minister Professor Daniel Friedman recommended that Hamas prisoners should be denied academic studies, media access and have their family visits limited. “We might be the only democracy in the Middle East,” explained Professor Friedman, “but we don’t have to be the only suckers.”