Archive for the ‘Jerusalem’ Category

Major Terrorist Attack Foiled on Jerusalem Outskirts by Border Guard Police – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: TPS

Israeli Border Guard Police officers prevented a deadly terrorist attack mid-afternoon Tuesday after spotting six suspicious-looking occupants in a vehicle coming up to the Mazmoria checkpoint on the outskirts of southern Jerusalem, leading to Gush Etzion.

The front and rear license plates on the car did not match. Moreover, the driver had no identification card at all neither a green Palestinian Authority ID, nor an Israeli blue teudat zehut car either and refused to answer any questions when asked. In fact, not one of the six occupants of the vehicle had any identification with them.

At that point, personnel at the checkpoint proceeded to carry out a full-scale, thorough search of the vehicle.

The soldiers uncovered a number of firebombs (Molotov cocktails) two of them already prepared for operation two shock (stun) grenades hidden within the car, and a bag with five sharp knives, making it clear that a major terrorist operation was underway.

The crossing was closed, a sapper was called to the scene, and the area was cleared until the end of the investigation, said a spokesperson for Jerusalem District Police.

The would-be terrorists, all Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority, were all taken into custody and transferred to security personnel for interrogation.

During initial questioning, the suspects admitted they intended to go to Jerusalem and carry out an attack, the police spokesperson said.

There is no doubt that an attempt was made to carry out an attack that could have had serious consequences in the Jerusalem area.

Efforts to locate, prevent and thwart attempts by terrorists to carry out their attacks are continuing throughout Jerusalem, with an emphasis on the crossings around [the capital].

The seizure of the vehicle and the arrest of the suspects at the Mazmoria crossing is a central and added layer to the wise operational activity that is being carried out at all times, the spokesperson added.

The Border Guard Police officers operating in the surrounding area provide a crucial security envelope in the effort to prevent the entry of hostile elements and to ensure the safety of the residents.

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UNESCO set to pass yet another critical resolution on Jerusalem – The Times of Israel

An important committee of the United Nations cultural agency is set to pass on Tuesday evening a resolution critical of Israeli actions in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The annual vote on a Jerusalem-themed resolution at UNESCOs World Heritage Committee, which is meeting in Krakow, Poland, was originally scheduled to take place next week. But Palestinian diplomats advanced the debate, presumably to blindside Israeli officials who are currently busy fighting another Palestinian initiative at UNESCO regarding Hebron.

A vote to inscribe the Old City of Hebron on UNESCOs World Heritage List is scheduled for Friday.

The Jordanian-sponsored resolution on the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls is much softer than last years text, but Israel rejects any attempt to politicize the issue of the holy sites in its capital in international bodies.

This years resolution still calls Israel the occupying power and reaffirms previous UN resolutions denying the countrys claims to East Jerusalem, echoing a resolution passed in May by UNESCOs executive board. It also regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.

However, Decision 41 COM 7A.36 stresses the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions, language not found in last years text. It also does not refer to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, as the 2016 resolution did, defining it only as a Muslim holy site of worship.

The Palestinians moved to advance the discussion because they believe that by softening the text on the subject of Jerusalem they will reach consensus in favor of the proposal so that no voted will be required, Israels ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday morning.

Israels ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen throws a copy of the days resolution on Jerusalem in the trash on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Erez Lichtfeld)

He vowed to use the remaining time to fight the Palestinians move and seek to open the discussion, thus forcing a debate he said he believed would thwart a consensus.

The chairperson of UNESCOs World Heritage Committee can propose to adopt a resolution by consensus, which would give it the appearance of a unanimous decision. But if Israel manages to recruit at least two member states to request a secret ballot, the decision can no longer be passed by consensus, paving the way for no votes and abstentions.

At last years convention in Paris, the much harsher text was accepted by a large majority, after Tanzania and Croatia had asked for a secret ballot. Ten countries voted in favor, eight abstained and two opposed the text. Eight yes votes were needed for the resolution to pass.

UNESCOs World Heritage Committee voting on a resolution ignoring Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalems Old City in Paris, October 26, 2016 (screen shot UNESCO website)

The 21 members of this years committee are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

The list includes five countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, and a number of others that routinely support pro-Palestinian resolutions. Even the four Europeans states on the committee are determined to support the decision, The Times of Israel has learned. Its passing thus seems a foregone conclusion.

As much as Israel deplores resolutions denying its claims to East Jerusalem, the governments main focus remains on thwarting Fridays expected vote to declare the Old City of Hebron including the Tomb of the Patriarchs a Palestinian world heritage site in danger.

Israel, the US government and several Jewish groups vociferously object to this move, and have called on UN leaders to prevent the vote.

A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Cave of the Patriarchs, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is in no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Many precious sites from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCOs full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action, she added.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry hit back at Haley, accusing her of being racist and anti-Palestinian and an ambassador for Israel, rather than the US at the UN.

This is not the first message in which the American ambassador has expressed her hidden malice and hatred toward the Palestinians, the PA Foreign Ministry said in a press statement on Tuesday. After she prevented the appointment of Dr. Salam Fayyad as the UN envoy in Libya, she recently affirmed that she would prevent the appointment of any Palestinian in the United Nations and its institutions, confirming her racist and anti-Palestinian position, and its clear hostility to Palestine.

The statement went on to condemn the crude intervention of the US ambassador in the work of UNESCO and the attempt to influence the independence of the UN organization by pressing the member countries of the World Heritage Committee to vote against the Palestinian request to put Hebron on the World Heritage List. It said that was indicative of nothing less than a complete bias in favor of Israel, and confirms what has been reported in the corridors of the United Nations in New York. Recently, many foreign diplomats have expressed that Haley is an ambassador for Israel, more than an ambassador for her country, the United States of America.

The PA called on the US State Department to clarify its official position regarding the statements made by Haley on the issue.

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Army Demolishes A Home, Stable And A Farmland In Jerusalem – International Middle East Media Center

Israeli soldiers demolished, Tuesday, a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied East Jerusalem, a stable for horses in Silwan town, and bulldozed a farmland in Zaim town, east of Jerusalem.

Dozens of soldiers, accompanied by bulldozers, invaded Beit Hanina neighborhood, after surrounding and isolating it, and demolished a home, reportedly for being built without a permit.

The soldiers also invaded Wadi Yasoul neighborhood in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and demolished a stable for horses.

Furthermore, the soldiers bulldozed and uprooted a farmland, owned by Tareq Abu Sbeitan, in Zaim town, east of Jerusalem, without a warrant or even a explanation.

Earlier Tuesday, the soldiers abducted two young Palestinian men from their homes, in Zabbouba village, west of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank.

On Tuesday at dawn, the soldiers carried out massive invasions and violent searches of homes in different parts of the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and abducted twenty-four Palestinians, including a woman, former political prisoners, in addition to a father and his four sons.

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Danon guides counterparts in Jerusalem ‘to defeat lies spread at the UN’ – The Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon guides counterparts through a tour of Jerusalem.. (photo credit:ARNON BOSSANI AND FRAYDA LEIBTAG)

NEW YORK Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon led nine of his counterparts on a tour of Jerusalems City of David on Monday as part of a visit to Israel organized by the American Jewish Committee.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat gave the diplomats a guided tour of the historic site, showing them the remains of the Shiloah Pool as well as numerous archeological findings, which, he said, unambiguously link the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

To defeat the lies spread about our capital city at the UN, nothing is more important than for my fellow ambassadors to learn the truth about Jerusalem and see the beauty of this city firsthand, Danon said.

The five-day visit aims to provide the ambassadors with a deeper understanding of the geopolitical and security challenges Israel faces. Participating in the tour are representatives of Australia, Estonia, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Poland and Togo.

In addition to their tour of Jerusalem, the diplomats will spend the next few days traveling from the northern border to the southern region, as well as to Tel Aviv.

The trip also includes a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other government officials in Jerusalem, as well as visits to centers for innovation in agriculture and water technology.

The delegation is also scheduled to travel to Ramallah, to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. They will also tour the joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian Industrial Zone.

Ambassadors to the UN are senior representatives of their governments and are at the forefront of their countries international relations efforts, Danon said. The more ambassadors that visit Israel and have the chance to visit all parts of our beautiful country, the more they understand the challenges, as well as the opportunities, facing Israel in todays tumultuous Middle East.

AJC CEO David Harris, who is also taking part in the trip, said his organization is honored to play a part in bringing this high-ranking delegation to Israel.

From considerable experience, observing Israel from a distance is no substitute for seeing it up close, which is the goal of this fiveday visit, he added.

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Emboldened by Trump, Israel pushes on with East Jerusalem settlement plans – The Guardian

Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, in the northern area of East Jerusalem. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Israel is pushing forward with controversial plans to build 1,800 new settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem in the largest proposed surge in construction in recent years.

The plans are expected to be considered by the Jerusalem district planning committee this month. If approved, they would mark an end to the relative slowdown in Israeli construction in the eastern parts of the city.

Israels rightwing government appears to have been emboldened by the pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration, which has been far more muted in its criticism of settlements than its predecessor.

When the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Donald Trump in Washington earlier this year, the US president issued a weakly-worded request that Netanyahu limit settlement activity.

The disclosure of the East Jerusalem plans by the Peace Now group came as Netanyahu approved proposals to allow Israeli MPs to once again visit the flashpoint Temple Mount-Haram al-Sharif complex on a five-day trial, starting this month.

Visits by MPs to the site considered the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam were banned in 2015 after a wave of Palestinian violence following claims that Israel was attempting to take control of the compound.

The two issues seem likely to raise tensions once again in Jerusalem, over which Israel has claimed sovereignty since it seized the Old City and eastern neighbourhoods in 1967. Israels claim is not recognised by much of the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

The construction plans include proposals for Jewish buildings, such as an eight-storey yeshiva, in Sheikh Jarrah, which Palestinians regard as being at the very heart of East Jerusalem.

According to Peace Now, the plans would also involve demolishing the homes of five Palestinian families, who have had long-term tenancy rights.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law as they are built on occupied territory.

Last month, Israel began work on the first new settlement in the West Bank in 25 years to house rightwing extremist settlers expelled from the illegal out-post of Amona in February.

According to official Israeli statistics the period between April 2016 and March 2017 saw a 70.4% increase in settlement housing construction in the occupied West Bank.

The plans for new settlement housing in Sheikh Jarrah are likely to be the most contentious following an outcry seven years ago which prompted mass protests by activists when Palestinians were evicted in similar moves.

The neighbourhood is regarded as heavy with symbolism for both sides. For Israel, it was home to a small Jewish community until 1948 when East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule after the war that saw Israels birth.

Then in the 1950s several dozen Palestinian refugee families from west Jerusalem displaced by the same war were settled there.

In recent years, however, a number of these Palestinian families have been evicted as a result of Israeli court rulings to recognise pre-1948 Jewish ownership claims under laws that refuse to recognise claims made by Palestinians forced to leave west Jerusalem in similar circumstances.

Peace Now and other groups condemned the plans, accusing the Israeli government of trying to destroy the two-state solution.

The government is brutally attempting to destroy the possibility of the two-state solution, and this time it is by establishing a new settlement at the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem and promoting nearly 1,800 housing units beyond the Green Line, they said in a statement.

The eviction of five Palestinian families, which are protected tenants, in order to establish a new settlement in Sheikh Jarrah shows that nothing will get in the way of settler groups and a pro-settler government from preventing a future compromise in Jerusalem.

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Jerusalem Youth Peace Summit Opens with Interfaith Prayer – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Scholas Occurentes

75 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim youth from around the world gathered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Sunday for a unique summit, answering Pope Francis call to create a culture of encounter for peace. Students ages 15 and 16 from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Mexico, and Spain joined their Israeli Jewish and Arab counterparts for 4 days of learning through arts, sports, technology, and living together.

At the opening ceremony, young people expressed their hopes for peace through a variety of artistic presentations. Students from Burundi and Congo performed a song in Swahili; students from Beit Hanina performed Imagine by John Lennon; and students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance sang of peace in Hebrew.

Three senior religions leaders, representing the three Abrahamic faiths, gave opening benedictions as part of an interreligious prayer for peace: Kadi Iyad Zahalka, The Kadi of Jerusalem and the Head of the Sharia Courts of Israel; His Eminence Mons; Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel; and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, the Rabbi of Yakar Congregation in Jerusalem.

Yakar, founded by the children of the late Yaacov Kopul Rosen, founder of Carmel College in Notting Hill, London, encourages interfaith meetings between Orthodox Jews and non-Jewish persons of faith.

The summit, July 2 to 5, 2017, is co-organized by the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. Within the framework of this gathering, two major events are taking place: Scholas Chairs International Congress 2017: Between University and School Peacebuilding through Culture of Encounter and Interreligious Citizenship Encounter.

The closing ceremony on Wednesday, July 5, is expected to include greetings from Pope Francis, together with the planting of an olive tree for peace in his name, as students describe their experiences and present their works of art and their social projects.

Speaking at a meeting with leaders of Scholas and the Hebrew University at his residence on February 7, Pope Francis said: Religion can bring us together and teach us to create the bonds of friendship. With the intuition of Scholas and the intelligence and history of the Hebrew University, I am sure that this will produce great changes in the world.

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Forced to sign waiver to use ritual bath alone, some Jerusalem women fear coercion – The Times of Israel

Lea was standing in only a towel when the ritual bath attendant barred the 32-year-olds way, saying she must fill out a waiver before entering the water alone. Feeling vulnerable and unable to collect herself, Lea waited for the woman to go out and fetch the form, and, still clad only in a towel, wrote in her personal information and signed it.

In any other condition, the religious feminist in me would have taken over and I would have protested, Lea says. But when youre in the moment youll agree to anything they say.

Its a problem confronting an increasing number of women in the Jerusalem area since a Supreme Court ruling last year granted women the right to refuse the supervision of an attendant, known as a balanit, when immersing in the mikva, or ritual bath. Until this ruling, the presence of the balanit during the immersion process was mandatory for women.

The issue of female ritual immersion is an extremely personal one: It revolves around the menstruation cycle and directly impacts whether a husband and wife are allowed to have sexual relations under Jewish law. As such it is a subject that is referred to very delicately among religious circles, if at all. (While some men also choose to ritually purify themselves, male immersion in the mikva does not usually carry the halachic urgency of female immersion.)

Ritual baths operating under the auspices of local religious councils throughout the country have, for the most part, been accommodating since the Supreme Court ruling. But the conservative-leaning Jerusalem Religious Council requires women who enter the water alone to fill out a paper form with their name and personal identification number.

According to the Jerusalem council, the form absolves it of responsibility should anything happen when the woman is alone in the water. Councils in other municipalities do not require such a form.

Illustrative: Mikvah immersion with a balanit. (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates via JTA)

While it is technically within the confines of halacha for a woman to dip alone, stringencies recommend that she do it in the presence of the balanit, who can ensure that she is entirely under the water. This has led some to feel that the waiver carries with it undertones of religious coercion.

I told the balanit, I understand that its now okay for me to do this without you, and Id like to do it, so how does that work? says Lea. And she was like, No, what do you need to do that for, you know its better to dip with a balanit, its not halachic to do otherwise. And I replied, Actually, I know the halacha and Id like to do it this way. So she said okay, but that I needed to sign a form.

A pending lawsuit initiated by ITIM, a nonprofit organization that assists and advocates for people navigating their way through religious bureaucracy in Israel, claims that not only are the waivers noncompliant with the Supreme Courts ruling, they arent legally binding in the first place.

They do not understand that they must respect the dignity of women coming to immerse

The religious principles of modesty and kavod habriyot [respecting the needs of others] apply to all segments of Israeli society and this is not clear to the Jerusalem Religious Council, says Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM. They do not understand that they must respect the dignity of women coming to immerse, their modesty, privacy and peace of mind. Mikva immersion shouldnt be fraught with tension but rather a positive and personal experience. This is how it is characterized in the halachic tradition.

Unfortunately, Farber continues, in some mikvaot in Israel, people are made to feel unwelcome. This will have to change. We will continue to support womens rights in mikvaot and if necessary, turn to the legal system to force the issue.

Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM. (Courtesy)

Attorney Asher Axelrod, who represents the Jerusalem Religious Council, says that the waivers are an issue of liability alone.

How do you expect that someone should insist on entering the water unsupervised and the council should still be responsible? he says. This is a simple matter of responsibility for potential damages and not a halachic question at all.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Services sees where both parties are coming from.

Illustrative: Activists protesting for mikva reform in Jerusalem, March 13, 2016. (Michal Smith Hazan/JTA)

The ministry understands why the Jerusalem Religious Council feels the need for these forms, says Shlomi Naki. But given the decision of the Supreme Court, it is legally problematic. The ministry would like to see a solution that can accommodate both sides.

Dr. Naomi Marmon Grumet, founder of the Eden Center in Jerusalem which trains female mikva attendants, is more vocal in her opposition to the waivers.

This is obviously something that is making women feel very uncomfortable. They are coming there out of their free will to use the mikva, and now that she has the legal protection to use the mikva without an attendant, there should be no reason whatsoever for a woman to sign a waiver, she says.

Ive never seen a waiver for a man who goes to the mikva where there is no male attendant

Whats more, Marmon Grumet continues, Ive never seen a waiver for a man who goes to the mikva where there is no male attendant, so there should be no difference between a woman using a mikva and a man using a mikva without an attendant.

Its a discrimination claim Axelrod was prepared to defend preemptively.

[The Supreme Court ruling] creates a problem that doesnt exist for men because the balan [male attendant] is always there and he is responsible. If a woman goes in without supervision, she takes responsibility upon herself in case something happens. But men never request this. If a man were to request such a thing, he would be required to sign the form there is no scenario in which a man could enter the mikva and immerse alone, he says.

A mikvah. (Illustrative photo credit: CC-BY-SA Tamar Hayardeni/Wikimedia Commons)

I do not think that is the case, says Marmon Grumet. I dont frequent mens mikvaot. There is a balan hes not usually there when men come in. I dont know if there are hours for the mens mikva, I believe you can just come in at any time. Ive never seen or heard that there is a balan. Im curious to go right now to the mens mikva and see if theres a balan there.

Several male mikva-goers contacted for the purpose of this story say that they almost never encounter a balan during their aquatic excursions though there are almost always other men there and it is not clear whether the mikvaot they frequent are under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Religious Council.

The women have a choice. Either they can dip with an attendant or they can fill out the form

There are numerous private mikvaot utilized by men and women that are not subject to the regulations imposed on public ones, though they are more costly.

The women have a choice, says Axelrod. Either they can dip with an attendant or they can fill out the form. Its either one or the other. No one is forcing them to come to the mikva in the first place.

Because marriage in Israel is performed exclusively through the Chief Rabbinate, ceremonies for Jews of all denominations conform to Orthodox halacha. One of the prerequisites is that brides-to-be must visit a mikva and provide written documentation to the effect that they immersed and are now ritually permissible to their future husbands.

Illustrative: Male use of the mikvah is not new. Many dunk ahead of weddings, feast days, and even Shabbat. (Courtesy of Mayyim Hayyim/via JTA)

The Eden Center estimates that 30,000 women visit the mikva regularly in the Jerusalem area, and that 750,000 go nationwide. Most of those who immerse each month are religious, though some less-observant women cherish the ritual as well and it has long been a symbol connecting families to Jewish tradition. For some, it is a choice they make to indulge their more religious partners.

Whatever their reasons for visiting the ritual bath, for many people, the exact halachic requirements are somewhat murky.

A telephone receptionist for the Ministry of Religious Services was surprised that anyone would make the choice to enter the water in private, though she was more than happy to help find a Ministry spokesperson.

Why would someone want to do that? That sounds strange to me, she volunteered, when informed of the purpose of the call. The woman needs a balanit there to make sure her immersion was kosher.

Israeli Minister of Religious Services David Azulay visits a luxury mikva. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

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Modi to hold mass rally for Indians in Israel – The Jerusalem Post

With an estimated 31 million India-born people living abroad either temporarily or permanently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi views the Indian Diaspora as a significant and valuable diplomatic asset.

This is why he makes it a point to hold large, often times rock-concert like events with people of Indian origin when he travels abroad. He has done this on his travels to the United States, where in 2014 he attracted 19,000 people to Madison Square Garden in New York; to Britain; Australia; the United Arab Emirates; and just last week during a trip to the Netherlands, where he stopped on his way home from visiting the US and Portugal.

Modi will keep this practice alive when he arrives in Israel this week for the first ever visit of an Indian prime minister.

Israel, obviously, cannot compete with countries like the US, which has an estimated 4.5 million Indian-born people living there; or Saudi Arabia, with 4.1 million; the United Arab Emirates with 3.8 million; or the United Kingdom, with 1.8 million. Still, with an estimated 80,000- 85,0000 non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin, Israel is in the list of top 35 countries around the world with a significant Indian Diaspora.

Modi is expected to address 4,000 to 5,000 of these people when he holds a largescale event for their benefit Wednesday evening at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds.

One thing our prime minister likes to do is connect with Indians oversees, not just Indian nationals, but people of Indian origin, Indias ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview.

Modis logic in holding these events, he said, is that as part of his travels, he wants to connect with everyone, and there are people who obviously retain some connection with India. He wants to reach out to them and say thank you for their contribution, for the ways they are helping build relationships with other countries. He always sees these people as friends for our country.

Modi said as much last week when he met an arena full of Indians at a sports center in The Hague, where thousands of people chanted Modi, Modi, when he entered.

The embassy staff, the officials they are called Rajdoots, Modi told the crowd, representatives of the second- largest Indian population in Europe, after Britain.

But you, the Diaspora, are the Rashtradoots. Indians in Europe must be connected. Every citizen is Indias ambassador.

According to Kapoor, Modi sees Indians abroad as bridges between the countries where they are living and the country of their birth, and he would like to use the Israelis of Indian descent in a similar capacity.

Kapoor divided people of Indian origin in Israel into five different categories: the Cochin Jews; the Bene Israel; the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay and Calcutta; and the Bnei Menashe. In addition, there are about 10,000 Indians working or studying in Israel in various capacities, with 9,000 of them working in the care-giving sector.

While acknowledging that Indians in Israel are not as tied to India as are those in Britain or the US, he did say many of them are very culturally connected to the country of their birth and appreciate the Indo-Israel relationship.

The embassy is organizing the Wednesday evening event, and making buses available to transport people from all over the country from Beersheba in the South to Haifa in the North and from the large concentrations of the community in cities such as Ashdod and Jerusalem.

Noah Massil, a writer and poet in Jerusalem, immigrated to Israel from Bombay in 1970 and has been very active in the Indian scene here since.

He said he is going to Modis event for a number of reasons.

First of all, India is the only country in the world where there was never antisemitism, he said. We were there for 2,300 years and they treated us as equals. We lived there in peace.

Secondly, he said, he wants to identify with the country, to show that we, the descendants of India, have not forgotten.

Were not like many of the German Jews who hate the Germans and dont want to even buy German cars. We are the opposite. We want more contact I go there every year. We are very proud.

Finally, he said, he wants to attend the event because he likes Modi and supports his policies both inside India and the way he has opened up Indias relationship with Israel.

Another Israeli born in India, Linda Rivkind, also plans to attend the event.

Rivkind, who was born and raised in Calcutta and moved to Israel in 1971, said she has retained an emotional connection to the country so much so that she applied for Overseas Citizenship of India, a document that allows its holders visa-free travel to the country and the ability to stay there and work for any length of time.

India does not, however, allow dual citizenship, so this does not give the right to vote or the right to purchase agricultural property.

I have a few friends who are going, the Tel Aviv resident said when asked why she wanted to attend the Modi event. I want to see the atmosphere.

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Britney Spears Causes Chaos in Jerusalem – Variety

Britney Spears arrival in Israel has caused quite the commotion. Its the pop stars first visit to the country and a tour of the holy sites in Jerusalem on Sunday was described by Israeli news outlets as a veritable mob scene.

While Spears security detail was substantial, the Western Wall is mainly accessible by foot. This presented a challenge for the Make Me singer and her team as they made their way through mobs of fans, press, and onlookers (see video below).

Spears is scheduled to perform at Tel Avivs Yarkon Park on Monday night, the same outdoor venue where Justin Bieber and Aerosmith recently headlined and where Radiohead is due to take the stage on July 19.

There has also been some hubbub concerning a possible meeting with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Ynet, Spears canceled a supposed visit, but it has also been reported that the meeting was never confirmed, a belief which the PMs office seemed to acknowledge.

Ahead of the July 3 concert, Spears will visit with pediatric cancer patients.

Prior to her Israel expedition, Spears had spent the last few weeks performing in Asia as part of her Britney: Live in Concert tour.

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Major Terrorist Attack Foiled on Jerusalem Outskirts by Border Guard Police – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: TPS Israeli Border Guard Police officers prevented a deadly terrorist attack mid-afternoon Tuesday after spotting six suspicious-looking occupants in a vehicle coming up to the Mazmoria checkpoint on the outskirts of southern Jerusalem, leading to Gush Etzion. The front and rear license plates on the car did not match. Moreover, the driver had no identification card at all neither a green Palestinian Authority ID, nor an Israeli blue teudat zehut car either and refused to answer any questions when asked. In fact, not one of the six occupants of the vehicle had any identification with them. At that point, personnel at the checkpoint proceeded to carry out a full-scale, thorough search of the vehicle. The soldiers uncovered a number of firebombs (Molotov cocktails) two of them already prepared for operation two shock (stun) grenades hidden within the car, and a bag with five sharp knives, making it clear that a major terrorist operation was underway. The crossing was closed, a sapper was called to the scene, and the area was cleared until the end of the investigation, said a spokesperson for Jerusalem District Police. The would-be terrorists, all Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority, were all taken into custody and transferred to security personnel for interrogation. During initial questioning, the suspects admitted they intended to go to Jerusalem and carry out an attack, the police spokesperson said. There is no doubt that an attempt was made to carry out an attack that could have had serious consequences in the Jerusalem area. Efforts to locate, prevent and thwart attempts by terrorists to carry out their attacks are continuing throughout Jerusalem, with an emphasis on the crossings around [the capital]. The seizure of the vehicle and the arrest of the suspects at the Mazmoria crossing is a central and added layer to the wise operational activity that is being carried out at all times, the spokesperson added. The Border Guard Police officers operating in the surrounding area provide a crucial security envelope in the effort to prevent the entry of hostile elements and to ensure the safety of the residents.

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UNESCO set to pass yet another critical resolution on Jerusalem – The Times of Israel

An important committee of the United Nations cultural agency is set to pass on Tuesday evening a resolution critical of Israeli actions in the Old City of Jerusalem. The annual vote on a Jerusalem-themed resolution at UNESCOs World Heritage Committee, which is meeting in Krakow, Poland, was originally scheduled to take place next week. But Palestinian diplomats advanced the debate, presumably to blindside Israeli officials who are currently busy fighting another Palestinian initiative at UNESCO regarding Hebron. A vote to inscribe the Old City of Hebron on UNESCOs World Heritage List is scheduled for Friday. The Jordanian-sponsored resolution on the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls is much softer than last years text, but Israel rejects any attempt to politicize the issue of the holy sites in its capital in international bodies. This years resolution still calls Israel the occupying power and reaffirms previous UN resolutions denying the countrys claims to East Jerusalem, echoing a resolution passed in May by UNESCOs executive board. It also regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law. However, Decision 41 COM 7A.36 stresses the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions, language not found in last years text. It also does not refer to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, as the 2016 resolution did, defining it only as a Muslim holy site of worship. The Palestinians moved to advance the discussion because they believe that by softening the text on the subject of Jerusalem they will reach consensus in favor of the proposal so that no voted will be required, Israels ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday morning. Israels ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen throws a copy of the days resolution on Jerusalem in the trash on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Erez Lichtfeld) He vowed to use the remaining time to fight the Palestinians move and seek to open the discussion, thus forcing a debate he said he believed would thwart a consensus. The chairperson of UNESCOs World Heritage Committee can propose to adopt a resolution by consensus, which would give it the appearance of a unanimous decision. But if Israel manages to recruit at least two member states to request a secret ballot, the decision can no longer be passed by consensus, paving the way for no votes and abstentions. At last years convention in Paris, the much harsher text was accepted by a large majority, after Tanzania and Croatia had asked for a secret ballot. Ten countries voted in favor, eight abstained and two opposed the text. Eight yes votes were needed for the resolution to pass. UNESCOs World Heritage Committee voting on a resolution ignoring Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalems Old City in Paris, October 26, 2016 (screen shot UNESCO website) The 21 members of this years committee are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The list includes five countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, and a number of others that routinely support pro-Palestinian resolutions. Even the four Europeans states on the committee are determined to support the decision, The Times of Israel has learned. Its passing thus seems a foregone conclusion. As much as Israel deplores resolutions denying its claims to East Jerusalem, the governments main focus remains on thwarting Fridays expected vote to declare the Old City of Hebron including the Tomb of the Patriarchs a Palestinian world heritage site in danger. Israel, the US government and several Jewish groups vociferously object to this move, and have called on UN leaders to prevent the vote. A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Cave of the Patriarchs, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90) The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is in no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. Many precious sites from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCOs full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action, she added. On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry hit back at Haley, accusing her of being racist and anti-Palestinian and an ambassador for Israel, rather than the US at the UN. This is not the first message in which the American ambassador has expressed her hidden malice and hatred toward the Palestinians, the PA Foreign Ministry said in a press statement on Tuesday. After she prevented the appointment of Dr. Salam Fayyad as the UN envoy in Libya, she recently affirmed that she would prevent the appointment of any Palestinian in the United Nations and its institutions, confirming her racist and anti-Palestinian position, and its clear hostility to Palestine. The statement went on to condemn the crude intervention of the US ambassador in the work of UNESCO and the attempt to influence the independence of the UN organization by pressing the member countries of the World Heritage Committee to vote against the Palestinian request to put Hebron on the World Heritage List. It said that was indicative of nothing less than a complete bias in favor of Israel, and confirms what has been reported in the corridors of the United Nations in New York. Recently, many foreign diplomats have expressed that Haley is an ambassador for Israel, more than an ambassador for her country, the United States of America. The PA called on the US State Department to clarify its official position regarding the statements made by Haley on the issue.

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Army Demolishes A Home, Stable And A Farmland In Jerusalem – International Middle East Media Center

Israeli soldiers demolished, Tuesday, a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied East Jerusalem, a stable for horses in Silwan town, and bulldozed a farmland in Zaim town, east of Jerusalem. Dozens of soldiers, accompanied by bulldozers, invaded Beit Hanina neighborhood, after surrounding and isolating it, and demolished a home, reportedly for being built without a permit. The soldiers also invaded Wadi Yasoul neighborhood in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and demolished a stable for horses. Furthermore, the soldiers bulldozed and uprooted a farmland, owned by Tareq Abu Sbeitan, in Zaim town, east of Jerusalem, without a warrant or even a explanation. Earlier Tuesday, the soldiers abducted two young Palestinian men from their homes, in Zabbouba village, west of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank. On Tuesday at dawn, the soldiers carried out massive invasions and violent searches of homes in different parts of the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and abducted twenty-four Palestinians, including a woman, former political prisoners, in addition to a father and his four sons.

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Danon guides counterparts in Jerusalem ‘to defeat lies spread at the UN’ – The Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon guides counterparts through a tour of Jerusalem.. (photo credit:ARNON BOSSANI AND FRAYDA LEIBTAG) NEW YORK Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon led nine of his counterparts on a tour of Jerusalems City of David on Monday as part of a visit to Israel organized by the American Jewish Committee. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat gave the diplomats a guided tour of the historic site, showing them the remains of the Shiloah Pool as well as numerous archeological findings, which, he said, unambiguously link the Jewish people to Jerusalem. To defeat the lies spread about our capital city at the UN, nothing is more important than for my fellow ambassadors to learn the truth about Jerusalem and see the beauty of this city firsthand, Danon said. The five-day visit aims to provide the ambassadors with a deeper understanding of the geopolitical and security challenges Israel faces. Participating in the tour are representatives of Australia, Estonia, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Poland and Togo. In addition to their tour of Jerusalem, the diplomats will spend the next few days traveling from the northern border to the southern region, as well as to Tel Aviv. The trip also includes a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other government officials in Jerusalem, as well as visits to centers for innovation in agriculture and water technology. The delegation is also scheduled to travel to Ramallah, to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. They will also tour the joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian Industrial Zone. Ambassadors to the UN are senior representatives of their governments and are at the forefront of their countries international relations efforts, Danon said. The more ambassadors that visit Israel and have the chance to visit all parts of our beautiful country, the more they understand the challenges, as well as the opportunities, facing Israel in todays tumultuous Middle East. AJC CEO David Harris, who is also taking part in the trip, said his organization is honored to play a part in bringing this high-ranking delegation to Israel. From considerable experience, observing Israel from a distance is no substitute for seeing it up close, which is the goal of this fiveday visit, he added. Share on facebook

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Emboldened by Trump, Israel pushes on with East Jerusalem settlement plans – The Guardian

Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, in the northern area of East Jerusalem. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images Israel is pushing forward with controversial plans to build 1,800 new settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem in the largest proposed surge in construction in recent years. The plans are expected to be considered by the Jerusalem district planning committee this month. If approved, they would mark an end to the relative slowdown in Israeli construction in the eastern parts of the city. Israels rightwing government appears to have been emboldened by the pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration, which has been far more muted in its criticism of settlements than its predecessor. When the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Donald Trump in Washington earlier this year, the US president issued a weakly-worded request that Netanyahu limit settlement activity. The disclosure of the East Jerusalem plans by the Peace Now group came as Netanyahu approved proposals to allow Israeli MPs to once again visit the flashpoint Temple Mount-Haram al-Sharif complex on a five-day trial, starting this month. Visits by MPs to the site considered the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam were banned in 2015 after a wave of Palestinian violence following claims that Israel was attempting to take control of the compound. The two issues seem likely to raise tensions once again in Jerusalem, over which Israel has claimed sovereignty since it seized the Old City and eastern neighbourhoods in 1967. Israels claim is not recognised by much of the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The construction plans include proposals for Jewish buildings, such as an eight-storey yeshiva, in Sheikh Jarrah, which Palestinians regard as being at the very heart of East Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, the plans would also involve demolishing the homes of five Palestinian families, who have had long-term tenancy rights. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law as they are built on occupied territory. Last month, Israel began work on the first new settlement in the West Bank in 25 years to house rightwing extremist settlers expelled from the illegal out-post of Amona in February. According to official Israeli statistics the period between April 2016 and March 2017 saw a 70.4% increase in settlement housing construction in the occupied West Bank. The plans for new settlement housing in Sheikh Jarrah are likely to be the most contentious following an outcry seven years ago which prompted mass protests by activists when Palestinians were evicted in similar moves. The neighbourhood is regarded as heavy with symbolism for both sides. For Israel, it was home to a small Jewish community until 1948 when East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule after the war that saw Israels birth. Then in the 1950s several dozen Palestinian refugee families from west Jerusalem displaced by the same war were settled there. In recent years, however, a number of these Palestinian families have been evicted as a result of Israeli court rulings to recognise pre-1948 Jewish ownership claims under laws that refuse to recognise claims made by Palestinians forced to leave west Jerusalem in similar circumstances. Peace Now and other groups condemned the plans, accusing the Israeli government of trying to destroy the two-state solution. The government is brutally attempting to destroy the possibility of the two-state solution, and this time it is by establishing a new settlement at the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem and promoting nearly 1,800 housing units beyond the Green Line, they said in a statement. The eviction of five Palestinian families, which are protected tenants, in order to establish a new settlement in Sheikh Jarrah shows that nothing will get in the way of settler groups and a pro-settler government from preventing a future compromise in Jerusalem.

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Jerusalem Youth Peace Summit Opens with Interfaith Prayer – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Scholas Occurentes 75 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim youth from around the world gathered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Sunday for a unique summit, answering Pope Francis call to create a culture of encounter for peace. Students ages 15 and 16 from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Mexico, and Spain joined their Israeli Jewish and Arab counterparts for 4 days of learning through arts, sports, technology, and living together. At the opening ceremony, young people expressed their hopes for peace through a variety of artistic presentations. Students from Burundi and Congo performed a song in Swahili; students from Beit Hanina performed Imagine by John Lennon; and students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance sang of peace in Hebrew. Three senior religions leaders, representing the three Abrahamic faiths, gave opening benedictions as part of an interreligious prayer for peace: Kadi Iyad Zahalka, The Kadi of Jerusalem and the Head of the Sharia Courts of Israel; His Eminence Mons; Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel; and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, the Rabbi of Yakar Congregation in Jerusalem. Yakar, founded by the children of the late Yaacov Kopul Rosen, founder of Carmel College in Notting Hill, London, encourages interfaith meetings between Orthodox Jews and non-Jewish persons of faith. The summit, July 2 to 5, 2017, is co-organized by the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. Within the framework of this gathering, two major events are taking place: Scholas Chairs International Congress 2017: Between University and School Peacebuilding through Culture of Encounter and Interreligious Citizenship Encounter. The closing ceremony on Wednesday, July 5, is expected to include greetings from Pope Francis, together with the planting of an olive tree for peace in his name, as students describe their experiences and present their works of art and their social projects. Speaking at a meeting with leaders of Scholas and the Hebrew University at his residence on February 7, Pope Francis said: Religion can bring us together and teach us to create the bonds of friendship. With the intuition of Scholas and the intelligence and history of the Hebrew University, I am sure that this will produce great changes in the world.

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Forced to sign waiver to use ritual bath alone, some Jerusalem women fear coercion – The Times of Israel

Lea was standing in only a towel when the ritual bath attendant barred the 32-year-olds way, saying she must fill out a waiver before entering the water alone. Feeling vulnerable and unable to collect herself, Lea waited for the woman to go out and fetch the form, and, still clad only in a towel, wrote in her personal information and signed it. In any other condition, the religious feminist in me would have taken over and I would have protested, Lea says. But when youre in the moment youll agree to anything they say. Its a problem confronting an increasing number of women in the Jerusalem area since a Supreme Court ruling last year granted women the right to refuse the supervision of an attendant, known as a balanit, when immersing in the mikva, or ritual bath. Until this ruling, the presence of the balanit during the immersion process was mandatory for women. The issue of female ritual immersion is an extremely personal one: It revolves around the menstruation cycle and directly impacts whether a husband and wife are allowed to have sexual relations under Jewish law. As such it is a subject that is referred to very delicately among religious circles, if at all. (While some men also choose to ritually purify themselves, male immersion in the mikva does not usually carry the halachic urgency of female immersion.) Ritual baths operating under the auspices of local religious councils throughout the country have, for the most part, been accommodating since the Supreme Court ruling. But the conservative-leaning Jerusalem Religious Council requires women who enter the water alone to fill out a paper form with their name and personal identification number. According to the Jerusalem council, the form absolves it of responsibility should anything happen when the woman is alone in the water. Councils in other municipalities do not require such a form. Illustrative: Mikvah immersion with a balanit. (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates via JTA) While it is technically within the confines of halacha for a woman to dip alone, stringencies recommend that she do it in the presence of the balanit, who can ensure that she is entirely under the water. This has led some to feel that the waiver carries with it undertones of religious coercion. I told the balanit, I understand that its now okay for me to do this without you, and Id like to do it, so how does that work? says Lea. And she was like, No, what do you need to do that for, you know its better to dip with a balanit, its not halachic to do otherwise. And I replied, Actually, I know the halacha and Id like to do it this way. So she said okay, but that I needed to sign a form. A pending lawsuit initiated by ITIM, a nonprofit organization that assists and advocates for people navigating their way through religious bureaucracy in Israel, claims that not only are the waivers noncompliant with the Supreme Courts ruling, they arent legally binding in the first place. They do not understand that they must respect the dignity of women coming to immerse The religious principles of modesty and kavod habriyot [respecting the needs of others] apply to all segments of Israeli society and this is not clear to the Jerusalem Religious Council, says Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM. They do not understand that they must respect the dignity of women coming to immerse, their modesty, privacy and peace of mind. Mikva immersion shouldnt be fraught with tension but rather a positive and personal experience. This is how it is characterized in the halachic tradition. Unfortunately, Farber continues, in some mikvaot in Israel, people are made to feel unwelcome. This will have to change. We will continue to support womens rights in mikvaot and if necessary, turn to the legal system to force the issue. Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM. (Courtesy) Attorney Asher Axelrod, who represents the Jerusalem Religious Council, says that the waivers are an issue of liability alone. How do you expect that someone should insist on entering the water unsupervised and the council should still be responsible? he says. This is a simple matter of responsibility for potential damages and not a halachic question at all. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Services sees where both parties are coming from. Illustrative: Activists protesting for mikva reform in Jerusalem, March 13, 2016. (Michal Smith Hazan/JTA) The ministry understands why the Jerusalem Religious Council feels the need for these forms, says Shlomi Naki. But given the decision of the Supreme Court, it is legally problematic. The ministry would like to see a solution that can accommodate both sides. Dr. Naomi Marmon Grumet, founder of the Eden Center in Jerusalem which trains female mikva attendants, is more vocal in her opposition to the waivers. This is obviously something that is making women feel very uncomfortable. They are coming there out of their free will to use the mikva, and now that she has the legal protection to use the mikva without an attendant, there should be no reason whatsoever for a woman to sign a waiver, she says. Ive never seen a waiver for a man who goes to the mikva where there is no male attendant Whats more, Marmon Grumet continues, Ive never seen a waiver for a man who goes to the mikva where there is no male attendant, so there should be no difference between a woman using a mikva and a man using a mikva without an attendant. Its a discrimination claim Axelrod was prepared to defend preemptively. [The Supreme Court ruling] creates a problem that doesnt exist for men because the balan [male attendant] is always there and he is responsible. If a woman goes in without supervision, she takes responsibility upon herself in case something happens. But men never request this. If a man were to request such a thing, he would be required to sign the form there is no scenario in which a man could enter the mikva and immerse alone, he says. A mikvah. (Illustrative photo credit: CC-BY-SA Tamar Hayardeni/Wikimedia Commons) I do not think that is the case, says Marmon Grumet. I dont frequent mens mikvaot. There is a balan hes not usually there when men come in. I dont know if there are hours for the mens mikva, I believe you can just come in at any time. Ive never seen or heard that there is a balan. Im curious to go right now to the mens mikva and see if theres a balan there. Several male mikva-goers contacted for the purpose of this story say that they almost never encounter a balan during their aquatic excursions though there are almost always other men there and it is not clear whether the mikvaot they frequent are under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Religious Council. The women have a choice. Either they can dip with an attendant or they can fill out the form There are numerous private mikvaot utilized by men and women that are not subject to the regulations imposed on public ones, though they are more costly. The women have a choice, says Axelrod. Either they can dip with an attendant or they can fill out the form. Its either one or the other. No one is forcing them to come to the mikva in the first place. Because marriage in Israel is performed exclusively through the Chief Rabbinate, ceremonies for Jews of all denominations conform to Orthodox halacha. One of the prerequisites is that brides-to-be must visit a mikva and provide written documentation to the effect that they immersed and are now ritually permissible to their future husbands. Illustrative: Male use of the mikvah is not new. Many dunk ahead of weddings, feast days, and even Shabbat. (Courtesy of Mayyim Hayyim/via JTA) The Eden Center estimates that 30,000 women visit the mikva regularly in the Jerusalem area, and that 750,000 go nationwide. Most of those who immerse each month are religious, though some less-observant women cherish the ritual as well and it has long been a symbol connecting families to Jewish tradition. For some, it is a choice they make to indulge their more religious partners. Whatever their reasons for visiting the ritual bath, for many people, the exact halachic requirements are somewhat murky. A telephone receptionist for the Ministry of Religious Services was surprised that anyone would make the choice to enter the water in private, though she was more than happy to help find a Ministry spokesperson. Why would someone want to do that? That sounds strange to me, she volunteered, when informed of the purpose of the call. The woman needs a balanit there to make sure her immersion was kosher. Israeli Minister of Religious Services David Azulay visits a luxury mikva. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

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Modi to hold mass rally for Indians in Israel – The Jerusalem Post

With an estimated 31 million India-born people living abroad either temporarily or permanently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi views the Indian Diaspora as a significant and valuable diplomatic asset. This is why he makes it a point to hold large, often times rock-concert like events with people of Indian origin when he travels abroad. He has done this on his travels to the United States, where in 2014 he attracted 19,000 people to Madison Square Garden in New York; to Britain; Australia; the United Arab Emirates; and just last week during a trip to the Netherlands, where he stopped on his way home from visiting the US and Portugal. Modi will keep this practice alive when he arrives in Israel this week for the first ever visit of an Indian prime minister. Israel, obviously, cannot compete with countries like the US, which has an estimated 4.5 million Indian-born people living there; or Saudi Arabia, with 4.1 million; the United Arab Emirates with 3.8 million; or the United Kingdom, with 1.8 million. Still, with an estimated 80,000- 85,0000 non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin, Israel is in the list of top 35 countries around the world with a significant Indian Diaspora. Modi is expected to address 4,000 to 5,000 of these people when he holds a largescale event for their benefit Wednesday evening at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds. One thing our prime minister likes to do is connect with Indians oversees, not just Indian nationals, but people of Indian origin, Indias ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview. Modis logic in holding these events, he said, is that as part of his travels, he wants to connect with everyone, and there are people who obviously retain some connection with India. He wants to reach out to them and say thank you for their contribution, for the ways they are helping build relationships with other countries. He always sees these people as friends for our country. Modi said as much last week when he met an arena full of Indians at a sports center in The Hague, where thousands of people chanted Modi, Modi, when he entered. The embassy staff, the officials they are called Rajdoots, Modi told the crowd, representatives of the second- largest Indian population in Europe, after Britain. But you, the Diaspora, are the Rashtradoots. Indians in Europe must be connected. Every citizen is Indias ambassador. According to Kapoor, Modi sees Indians abroad as bridges between the countries where they are living and the country of their birth, and he would like to use the Israelis of Indian descent in a similar capacity. Kapoor divided people of Indian origin in Israel into five different categories: the Cochin Jews; the Bene Israel; the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay and Calcutta; and the Bnei Menashe. In addition, there are about 10,000 Indians working or studying in Israel in various capacities, with 9,000 of them working in the care-giving sector. While acknowledging that Indians in Israel are not as tied to India as are those in Britain or the US, he did say many of them are very culturally connected to the country of their birth and appreciate the Indo-Israel relationship. The embassy is organizing the Wednesday evening event, and making buses available to transport people from all over the country from Beersheba in the South to Haifa in the North and from the large concentrations of the community in cities such as Ashdod and Jerusalem. Noah Massil, a writer and poet in Jerusalem, immigrated to Israel from Bombay in 1970 and has been very active in the Indian scene here since. He said he is going to Modis event for a number of reasons. First of all, India is the only country in the world where there was never antisemitism, he said. We were there for 2,300 years and they treated us as equals. We lived there in peace. Secondly, he said, he wants to identify with the country, to show that we, the descendants of India, have not forgotten. Were not like many of the German Jews who hate the Germans and dont want to even buy German cars. We are the opposite. We want more contact I go there every year. We are very proud. Finally, he said, he wants to attend the event because he likes Modi and supports his policies both inside India and the way he has opened up Indias relationship with Israel. Another Israeli born in India, Linda Rivkind, also plans to attend the event. Rivkind, who was born and raised in Calcutta and moved to Israel in 1971, said she has retained an emotional connection to the country so much so that she applied for Overseas Citizenship of India, a document that allows its holders visa-free travel to the country and the ability to stay there and work for any length of time. India does not, however, allow dual citizenship, so this does not give the right to vote or the right to purchase agricultural property. I have a few friends who are going, the Tel Aviv resident said when asked why she wanted to attend the Modi event. I want to see the atmosphere. Share on facebook

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Britney Spears Causes Chaos in Jerusalem – Variety

Britney Spears arrival in Israel has caused quite the commotion. Its the pop stars first visit to the country and a tour of the holy sites in Jerusalem on Sunday was described by Israeli news outlets as a veritable mob scene. While Spears security detail was substantial, the Western Wall is mainly accessible by foot. This presented a challenge for the Make Me singer and her team as they made their way through mobs of fans, press, and onlookers (see video below). Spears is scheduled to perform at Tel Avivs Yarkon Park on Monday night, the same outdoor venue where Justin Bieber and Aerosmith recently headlined and where Radiohead is due to take the stage on July 19. There has also been some hubbub concerning a possible meeting with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Ynet, Spears canceled a supposed visit, but it has also been reported that the meeting was never confirmed, a belief which the PMs office seemed to acknowledge. Ahead of the July 3 concert, Spears will visit with pediatric cancer patients. Prior to her Israel expedition, Spears had spent the last few weeks performing in Asia as part of her Britney: Live in Concert tour.

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