(JNS.org) Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has signed off on a secret investigation of Arab members of the Israeli Knesset over their alleged incitement against pro-IDF Christian leader Father Gabriel Nadaf, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee said in a statement on Wednesday.
Although there were conflicting reports as to the whether such an investigation was actually underway, the subject produced a heated debate in a committee hearing held earlier Wednesday, Israel Hayom reported. Likud members of Knesset (MKs) criticized Arab lawmakers for allegedly sending threatening letters to Nadaf to protest his recent statements, in which he urged Arab Christians to join the Israel Defense Forces.
According to the Likud MKs, some in the National Democratic Assembly (a predominantly Arab party), including MK HaninZoabi, were outraged over Nadaf’s comments and tried to pressure him and the Christian Officer Forum to retract the statements. This pressure was allegedly accompanied by threats. Chief Superintendent RevitalKarako, who represented the Israel Police in the hearing, told the committee that Weinstein had summoned the Arab MKs for questioning.
During the hearing, committee Chairwoman MiriRegev (Likud) said, “We must not let Arab MKs become Trojan horses inside the Knesset or allow them to send threatening letters against a Christian cleric who has been encouraging Christian youths to join the IDF.”
Israeli High School Students Win Contest with Robot Wedding
(JNS.org) A team of 9th-graders from a high school in Rehovot, Israel, won the RoboCup 2013 international robotics competition in Holland with their robotic re-enactment of a Jewish wedding, returning to Israel on Wednesday night with the first-place trophy.
The competition included contestants from more than 40 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Slovenia and Turkey. The students had been tasked with creating robots to act out one of three scenarios: A soccer match between a pair of two-person robot teams, a choreographed dance, or a rescue robot that can identify victims at disaster scenes and navigate to safety.
“We [the students and I] built bride and groom robots that, using sensors, know to enter the wedding canopy and start dancing. The robots we built are considered tall, at 1.3 meters [4 feet], and that also impressed people in the competition,” said Sarit Zaltsman, the teacher in charge of the robotics division at the high school, according to Israel Hayom. Zaltsman accompanied her students throughout the competition.
“Our robots were well constructed, I know this will help me in the future,” student and team member Daniel Golub said.
July 4th Celebrated at U.S. Ambassador to Israel’s Home
(JNS.org) Red, white and blue balloons, hamburger stands, fireworks and lavish gifts from commercial sponsors were all part of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s July 4th party at his home in HerzliyaPituach.
Some 5,000 guests arrived at Shapiro’s home to celebrate the 237th anniversary of U.S. independence on Thursday. Among the guests were President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Also present were the prime minister’s wife, Sara, and their son Yair.
“July 4th is first and foremost an American holiday,” Netanyahu said at the celebration, Israel Hayom reported. “It’s a time when Americans celebrate their freedom; it’s a time when they celebrate the cherished principles of American democracy. These are values we deeply share here in Israel. In the Middle East, Israel has always been an island of stability and democracy in a sea of instability and despotism.”
“We are celebrating not only our independence but our journey together,” Shapiro said of the U.S. and Israel. “The unbreakable security alliance and economic ties [between our countries] are based on shared fundamental principles.”
Israeli Startup Seeing Aid for the Blind Sees Big Demand
Bloomberg reports: OrCam makes a small gizmo that hooks onto a pair of glasses and tells the wearer what’s in front of him. It can read the text of a book aloud, or announce the names of friends and family in a room. The Israeli company began taking orders for the $2,500 seeing-aid device on June 4, and within a few weeks the first run of 600 units was sold out. Since then, the company’s backlog of orders has ballooned to more than 1,000.
Liat Negrin, 37, who was born visually impaired, has been testing early prototypes at OrCam. “It helps you be independent and helps overcome fears,” she said. “It helps you keep your orientation, and you always know where you are.” OrCam can recognize a wide arr ay of objects including street signs, newspaper articles, money and products on supermarket shelves.
Israel Cautiously Optimistic on Egypt
Al-Monitor—With its election last year to the Egyptian presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood stepped back from everything to do with Israel. Once Morsi was installed, he transferred responsibility for Israel to the army. Having recognized their limitations—the Brotherhood could never maintain direct contact with Israel because of a religious prohibition—they gave former Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, and later Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, total freedom when it came to managing affairs with Israel.
At the same time, security relations between Israel and Egypt improved. Security collaboration was tightened, and the Egyptians were seen taking vigorous action in response to intelligence they received from Israel—two phenomena that didn’t exist in the past. Senior defense official and Israeli envoy to Egypt Gen. Amos Gilad continued flying to Cairo, where he received considerable respect from his colleagues.
There was a logical explanation for this. Under Mubarak, the Egyptian government was afraid of being portrayed as doing Israel’s bidding, fearing harsh criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood. Suddenly, the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, so that fear dissipated and was replaced by a relationship driven by issues.
Courts Jail Father for 21 Days for Not Divorcing Wife
Arutz Sheva—Israeli courts have sentenced a man to 21 days in jail in an effort to try and convince him to come to court to sign divorce papers. The wife left with the couple’s daughter and moved to a new location. A private investigator was hired to track the father down. Details of the case have not been released to the media,
Statistics show that a roughly equal number of men and women are unable to get divorced because one spouse refuses. Fathers have often complained that women can refuse child visitation in an effort to gain the upper hand in divorce litigation. A new caucus in the Knesset has been established to deal with such issues.
In the case reported, Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, who heads such matters in the rabbinical courts, said, “I urge those who have not yet found a way to end their marriage, to contact our department and we will help settle the matter in a dignified manner.”
Netanyahu Taps Dermer as U.S. Ambassador
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint his close aide Ron Dermer as Israel’s next ambassador to the United States, Army Radio reported.
According to the report, Dermer’s candidacy as ambassador has been in question for some time, as he was considered a “red sheet” in Obama administration circles for his perceived support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in last summer’s race. Army Radio reported that Dermer has managed to improve his ties with the Obama administration and with Secretary of State John Kerry in particular.
In a recent speech to American Jewish leaders, Dermer said President Barack Obama’s support for Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza “was superb.”
Army Radio reported that the Obama administration has now removed its objection to Dermer’s appointment. The U.S.-born Dermer will replace another American-born Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, in August.
Orthodox Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich: Medical Marijuana Is Kosher
Mazkeret Batia—According to an article on NRG, the website of the Maariv newspaper. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) Efraim Zalmanovich, the frum rabbi of Mazkeret Batia, said that distributing and smoking marijuana is kosher as long as it’s for medical purposes,
Recreational use is another issue, according to Zalmanovich.
“Taking drugs to escape this world in any excessive way is certainly forbidden,” Zalmanovich said. Times of Israel reports.Zalmanovich’s ruling modifies an opinion by Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, head of kitchens, bakeries, factories, catering and events at the Israeli chief rabbinate, who in March told Israel’s Magazin Canabis: “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.”
While marijuana is currently illegal under Israeli law, the nation’s ministry of health has issued medical marijuana permits for some patients. Officials say the number of people prescribed cannabis reached around 11,000 this year, though they plan on tightening the application process. Activists are pushing for broader acceptance, however, as the nation makes bold strides on scientific research involving cannabis and THC, the psychoactive compound in the drug.
Israeli Technology from “Silicon Waddi”
Globe and Mail-Canada—When President Obama visited Israel in March, he met with inventors whose products exemplify the best of Israeli innovation. A paraplegic, strapped into ReWalk, a battery-operated exoskeleton suit, walked around a room. Students from the Technion operated a miniaturized camera-equipped robot that can slither into hard-to-access disaster sites. And scientists from Mobileye showed their collision-prevention system.
Israel is 26th of 144 countries rated by the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report. It’s also third in innovation, fifth in investor protection and 17th in financial market development. Since 2008, investors have paid roughly $17 billion for almost 300 startups. The Library of Congress uses Ex Libris Israeli software, Arab countries and the FBI use Israeli video intelligence products, and BriefCam, an image-processing system that summarizes hours of video, helped authorities find the Boston Marathon bomber.
‘Christian Birthright’ Group Travels to Israel to Learn Advocacy Skills
(JNS.org) A group of 17 Christian college students recently traveled to Israel to take part in a three-week program to bolster their skills as pro-Israel advocates. Described as “Christian Birthright,” a play on the popular 10-day Taglit-Birthright program for young Jewish adults, the Israel Experience College Scholarship Program, which is in its 10th year, offers students a free trip to Israel to expand the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be stronger advocates for Israel in college and in life.
According to the program’s website, the students learn about the Jewish roots of their faith, a history of Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, modern Zionism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Despite being the only beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, we are losing the battle for public opinion on university campuses,” Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, told the Jerusalem Post during a meeting the students had at the Knesset.
The pro-Israel Christian students believe that the program will be an effective tool for them to counter anti-Israel bias when they return to campus.
“The Israel Experience College Scholarship program is equipping me with the knowledge to counter speech directed against Israel, educate the misinformed and promote peace,” Danielle DosSantos, a student at Rutgers University, told the Jerusalem Post.