Friday, December 17, 2021

From Ian:

Meir Y. Soloveichik: What Zionism Owes Yavneh
On Hanukkah, as part of the country-wide celebration, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) opened to the public a Jewish town excavated from the earth. Yavneh was where the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious and judicial body of rabbinic Judaism, took up residence in 70 C.E. Talmudic tradition accords the credit for the Sanhedrin’s survival to the sage Yohanan ben Zakkai, who fled Jerusalem before it fell. Today, an entire home has been uncovered in Yavneh, a home that clearly belonged to Jews who kept kosher and followed the Levitical laws of ritual purity. It may have been the domicile of a Sanhedrin member. Nearby, a cemetery may well bear the bodies of some of the most important rabbis in Jewish history.

All of Jewish ritual from the destruction of the Second Temple to the present has been defined by what ben Zakkai and his Sanhedrin ordained in Yavneh. It is, after Jerusalem, the most influential site in the history of Jewish law.

Now Yavneh’s significance is being celebrated and highlighted by Israeli archeologists. The excavators informed the media that the town represents “a direct voice from the past, from the period when the Jewish leadership salvaged the remaining fragments from the fall of the Temple, went into exile in Yavneh, and set about re-establishing the Jewish people there.” Simultaneously the IAA is staging an exhibit in northern Israel illustrating how the Sanhedrin preserved Judaism and the memory of Jerusalem. Rightly understood, these excavations and this exhibition are nothing less than the righting of a historic wrong, a recognition of all that modern Zionism owes to Yavneh, the Sanhedrin, and the man who oversaw its survival.

While rabbinic sources differ as to details of Yohanan ben Zakkai’s story, all agree as to certain facts. The rabbi fled Jerusalem while the Jewish rebels against the Romans were still fighting. He then met with the Roman authority and requested to be allowed to settle the Sanhedrin in Yavneh. But it is often unappreciated why he did so; why did he not hope for the miraculous salvation of the city, as it had been saved in the age of the Maccabees and so often in the Bible? The Talmud stresses that ben Zakkai was horrified by how the Jews in Jerusalem, riven by factionalism, were attacking one another inside the city even as they fought the Romans without. The last straw for ben Zakkai, according to the Talmud, was when the rebels burned their rivals’ food. This rabbinic text parallels another in Josephus’s contemporaneous history, The Jewish War. Josephus describes the horrific behavior of Jerusalem’s Jews toward one another: “It was as if to oblige the Romans they were destroying all that the city had laid up against a siege and hamstringing their own powers…. It was hunger that defeated them, a thing that could never have happened if they had not brought it about themselves.”

Jews lost Jerusalem by attacking one another. Nearly 2,000 years later, the moment would be cited by Menachem Begin in 1948 when he stood upon the ship Altalena as the forces of his political rival, David Ben Gurion, fired upon members of Begin’s Irgun, and Begin ordered his men not to fire back. Yohanan Ben Zakkai, seeing a Jerusalem where Jew slaughtered Jew, sensed the city would fall not only because of the brutality of the Roman emperor Vespasian’s assault, but because a Jerusalem that had eschewed Jewish unity had no right to expect salvation. He therefore set about preserving Jewish tradition, preparing for an age when Jews could claim Jerusalem again.
Mark Regev: Why is support for a two-state solution declining?
In his famous 2009 Bar-Ilan University address, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as an indispensable ingredient in any future peace, arguing that “the Palestinian leadership must arise and say: ‘Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own.’”

Of course, Netanyahu has been accused of deliberately creating obstacles to peace.

Unlike the Likud prime minister, Tzipi Livni is “known for her efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.” Yet in the lead-up to the November 2007 Annapolis peace conference, she as foreign minister urged the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, seeing this as a vital prerequisite element in a genuine process of reconciliation.

The Palestinians refused to do so.

Herein lies the fundamental contradiction: Palestinians demand from Israel recognition of their right to national self-determination, while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the corresponding right of Jewish people.

Palestinians counter that they accepted Israel in 1993 as part of Oslo when the sides exchanged mutual letters of recognition, and that should suffice. But acknowledging Israel as a fact is no substitute for affording it legitimacy. (Iran recognizes Israel as fact, like cancer is a fact, a cancer that must be removed.)

Ultimately, if the Jewish state remains fundamentally illegitimate in the eyes of our Palestinian neighbors, what sort of peace are they offering us?

When Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert adopted proposals that dealt with the post-’67 issues in a highly forthcoming manner, even accepting the redivision of Jerusalem, it was never enough for the Palestinian leadership. If the heart of the dispute is 1948 and not 1967, it really does not matter how flexible Israel is in the negotiations, how acquiescent our proposal on final borders, or how many settlements we offer to uproot. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, for Palestinians, the real problem is not Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, but Herzliya and Ra’anana.

Perhaps the international community needs to appreciate its accepted formula is more convention than wisdom.
Ruthie Blum: Yes, prime minister
Yes, prime minister, you know this about the settlers. You know it, as well, about the PA, which on Wednesday lauded Bar Lev for presenting the “first official recognition” of “settler violence,” and called on more Israeli ministers to “condemn and oppose settler terrorism and attacks on Palestinians.”

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej, from the left-wing Meretz Party, did so on Tuesday, tweeting: “Not all settlers are violent, but there is a great deal of violence that originates in the settlements. Anyone who ignores this problem, and the need to deal with it, encourages it.”

Yes, Prime Minister, you’re familiar with Frej. He’s the minister who last month led Israel’s delegation to the biannual gathering of PA donor countries in Oslo, where he did some fundraising for the leadership in Ramallah. Their till, after all, has been on the wane as a result of their refusal to cease paying stipends to the families of Palestinians killed while committing terrorist attacks on Israelis, or to those survivors imprisoned for doing so.

Frej is also the guy who accompanied Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on a pilgrimage to Ramallah in October to suck up to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and assure the terrorist-in-a-tie that the left-wing members of the Israeli government were on a mission to “keep the two-state solution alive, not let it disappear and not sabotage the chance of reaching it in the future.”

Horowitz told Abbas, “We believe that there’s no room for unilateral measures… No new settlements, no illegal outposts, and no violence by extremists among the settlers.”

Yes, prime minister, though you are cognizant that the Palestinian apparatus, not the settlement movement, is the real cause of “violent extremism,” you are stuck with the likes of Bar Lev, Frej and Horowitz for the duration of this coalition. But it’s a concoction that you yourself contrived.

The “settlers in Judea and Samaria [who] have been suffering from violence and terrorism, daily, for decades” – many of whom voted for your party – aren’t thanking you for your lip service.

‘I Felt Abandoned’: Miss South Africa Opens Up About Death Threats, Backlash for Competing in Eilat Miss Universe Pageant
Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane spoke out publicly on Wednesday about efforts to have her boycott the Miss Universe competition in Israel and the death threats that kept her awake at night.

Mswane, 24, was surrounded by a large crowd of fans — as well as others who chanted “Free Palestine” — as she landed in South Africa’s O.R. Tambo International Airport on Wednesday, according to local media, returning home after placing third in the Dec. 12 pageant in Eilat.

South African supporters of the BDS movement against Israel had urged the beauty queen to withdraw from the competition, using hashtags including “#NotMyMissSouthAfrica.” South Africa’s Department of Sport, Art and Culture also said it would not support Mwane after failed attempts to convince her not to compete in the pageant.

At a press conference on Wednesday after arriving in her home country, Mwane admitted she felt in “despair” and “thoroughly disappointed” when the government made its announcement in November, South Africa’s Channel 24 reported.

“I felt abandoned. I also felt a bit of anger because I don’t know what I had done so wrong,” the teary-eyed beauty queen said. “I’ll never comprehend what I did to make people feel justified in their actions. You don’t have to be for me, but you don’t have to be against me. You don’t have to, certainly, wish death upon me because I made a choice. I never initiated any war. This is way bigger than me. All I did was just pursue a dream of mine.”

While reading a statement she prepared, the beauty queen said she knew representing South Africa “wasn’t going to be smooth sailing” but she did not expect “baptism with fire.”
ZOA to Duke U.: Rectify Antisemitism at Duke & Override Student Govt.’s Refusal to Recognize a Pro-Israel Student Group
Dear President Price:
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., whose mission includes fighting antisemitism and anti-Israelism on college campuses. The ZOA led the successful battle to ensure that Jewish students would be protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act from antisemitic harassment and discrimination at federally-funded schools. We have helped Jewish students enforce this right on campuses across the U.S., including at Duke University. It was the ZOA’s Title VI complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (OCR Complaint No. 11-19-2214) that triggered the December 3, 2019 Resolution Agreement that Duke signed and agreed to implement, under OCR’s monitoring.

We were extremely troubled to learn that the Duke Student Government (DSG) wrongfully denied official recognition to a student group called Students Supporting Israel (SSI), and that Duke University has still not overridden the decision. As the facts below demonstrate, DSG singled out and discriminated against SSI, in violation of Duke University’s policies, and DSG’s misconduct should be addressed immediately.

You should know that months ago, we alerted OCR to Duke’s violation of the December 2019 Resolution Agreement. We will be informing OCR about this latest incident as well if it is not remedied right away, since it again reflects that Duke is not truly committed to its legal obligation to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment and discrimination.

DSG Recognized SSI and Then Wrongfully Upheld a Veto of the Decision
We understand that on November 10, 2021, the DSG voted to recognize SSI as an official student organization. On November 13, 2021, a Duke student shared on social media an article about SSI’s recognition, and included this false, anti-Israel post: “My school promotes settler colonialism.”

As was its right, SSI responded to the post, respectfully and constructively, urging the student and others to “please allow us to educate you on what ‘settler colonialism’ actually is and why Israel does not fall under this category whatsoever.” SSI further explained that “[t]hese types of narratives are what we strive to combat and condemn, which is why Duke’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel has been officially established & is here to stay!!” SSI encouraged the Duke community to attend an upcoming “SSI 101” event.

On November 15, 2021, DSG President Christina Wang vetoed SSI’s recognition, wrongly claiming that SSI “singled out an individual student on their organization’s social media account in a way that was unacceptable for any student group and appeared antithetical to the group’s stated mission to be welcoming and inclusive to all Duke students, and educational in mission and purpose.” Ms. Wang also made a point of noting that “any group exhibiting similar conduct would be handled in the same manner,” and that a group exhibiting “potentially hostile or harmful” behavior could have their status re-examined or suspended.

BDS fails - December 2021 Stories you likely didn't read in the British media
Here’s the latest installment in our ongoing series of posts documenting BDS fails – stories of Israeli success that are rarely covered by British media outlets.

Political BDS Fails
Britain will ban Hamas as a terrorist organization
LONDON (AP) — The British government said Friday that it intends to ban the Palestinian militant group Hamas as a terrorist organization, saying it will no longer differentiate between the group’s political and military wings.

The military arm of Hamas has been outlawed in the U.K. since 2001 but the organization as a whole is not proscribed.

Canada’s largest labor union votes against BDS endorsement
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) rejected a proposal to endorse the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement’s official platform and boycott Israeli businesses in a vote at the union’s biennial summit on Thursday, foreign media reported.

The CUPE, which has 700,000 total members, had voted for a series of resolutions during the summit. Among them was Resolution No. 70: Endorsing the BDS campaign against Israel and supporting “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and their demands to end Israel’s military occupation and colonization.” The motion lost by a margin of 68% (no) to 32% (yes).
Honest Reporting Canada: Saturday Night Live's Michael Che Obsesses Over Israel Once Again
Only a few months after tacitly accusing Israel of providing Covid vaccines only to its Jewish population, Michael Che of Saturday Night Live (SNL) is at it again. In a recent episode, Che made a snide comment about Jews, once again under the pretense of humour, claiming that Jewish people in Israel can’t make wine.

Saturday Night Live: unlike award-winning Israeli wines, leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

How Nazi Germany used student exchanges with US prep schools to promote propaganda
In the summer of 1935, the Nazi government hijacked a student exchange program between leading American and German schools.

The International Schoolboy Fellowship, as it was known, was first set up by Walter Huston Lillard, the headmaster of Tabor Academy in Massachusetts, in 1927 to foster better relations between all nations through schoolboy exchange. Participating countries included the US, Germany, France and Great Britain.

Lillard believed “that misunderstandings and quarrels between nations often arise through long-distance misjudgments,” and that “the development of contacts … will tend to promote cordial relations and lasting friendships.”

But by 1935, officials in charge of the Third Reich’s new elite schools, the National Political Education Institutes, or Napolas, had plans to appropriate the exchange program to promote National Socialist aims.

These Nazi institutions were modeled on elite British public schools, the Prussian cadet corps and ancient Sparta. The schools educated boys aged 10 to 19, training them as future leaders.

On Feb. 12, 1935, Lillard and the International Schoolboy Fellowship were informed by the Napola authorities that they would exchange 10 American boys for 10 Napola pupils from July to December 1935.

As I describe in my new book, “The Third Reich’s Elite Schools – A History of the Napolas,” the American exchange organizers were unaware that the German pupils and staff were charged with an explicitly propagandistic mission. The Germans’ aim: Counteract and neutralize the effect of anti-Nazi reporting in the American media, and favorably influence public opinion of the Third Reich.
Maine Commission Votes Against Landlord Couple Biased Against Jewish Tenant
The Maine Human Rights Commission voted unanimously on Monday that a couple discriminated against their former tenant based on his Jewish religion, reported News Center Maine.

In March, Mark and Michelle Fortin evicted Yohannis Selassie, who is black and Jewish, from an apartment they own in Winthrop after the latter refused their demands to remove a mezuzah from his doorpost, according to a report filed by an investigator and submitted to the commission.

When Selassie refused to take down the mezuzah, telling the Fortins that it is a symbol of his Jewish faith, the landlords terminated his lease and asked police to monitor him during a final walkthrough of the apartment, the report stated.

The Fortins claimed they terminated Selassie’s lease because he screwed a metal object into the doorframe, which is in violation of his lease, and refused repeated requests to remove a trailer they allowed him to temporarily park on their property. They added that Selassie then damaged the property when he eventually moved the trailer in March.

“The mezuzah and the damage to the doorframe is truly trivial,” said commissioner Edward David on Monday. “I agree that that became part of the motivation and that they … thought that that confirmed their ability to end this tenancy by saying, ‘Oh, that’s another violation, and you should be out immediately,’ and that—the motivation for doing that—was an impermissible basis on religion.”

Apple TV+ Series Starring Uma Thurman, Based on Award-Winning Israeli Show, Gets Release Date
Apple TV+ announced on Wednesday the premiere date and first look for its upcoming thriller series “Suspicion,” starring Academy Award-nominated actress and “Kill Bill” star Uma Thurman.

The Apple Original eight-episode series will premiere globally on Feb. 2, 2022, with the first two episodes, followed by one new episode every Friday.

In “Suspicion,” the son of a well-known American businesswoman, played by Thurman, is kidnapped from a New York hotel. Four British citizens who were at the hotel on the night of the kidnapping are suspected of being connected to the crime, and are then thrown into a trans-Atlantic race to elude the National Crime Agency and the FBI and prove their innocence.

The show is based on the Israeli series “False Flag,” produced by Keshet International. The Israeli show won the Audience Award and the Grand Prize at France’s annual Series Mania Festival; was one of eight international dramas to be selected and screened as part of the 2015 Berlinale Special; and the show’s second season was one of seven dramas selected as part of the 2019 Berlinale Series. The third season of “False Flag” is set to premiere March 2022 on Keshet 12, according to Variety.

“Suspicion” is being produced in the United Kingdom by Keshet Productions, the UK production branch of Keshet International. BAFTA Award nominee Rob Williams (“Man in the High Castle”) will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Other executive producers on the project include Emmy Award nominee Chris Long (“The Americans”), who also directs, Howard Burch for Keshet Productions, Avi Nir for Keshet Media Group and Anna Winger. The series is being produced by Darin McLeod (“Watchmen”).
Mobileye rolls out trial for on-demand, autonomous car rides in Paris
Jerusalem-based autonomous driving systems company Mobileye announced Thursday that it was rolling out a pilot scheme for autonomous, on-demand rides in Paris in collaboration with a French public transport company.

Mobileye, an Intel subsidiary, recently obtained an AV (autonomous vehicles) testing permit to drive its cars in Paris, adding the French capital to a growing list of cities where the company is piloting its self-driving technology. These cities include Detroit, New York City, Tokyo, and Jerusalem, as well as Tel Aviv and Munich, where Mobileye is set to launch autonomous taxis and ride-hailing services, or “robotaxis,” next year.

Riders will be able to access the service through Moovit, the Israeli smart transit data company Intel bought last year for some $900 million. Moovit developed the MoovitAV app for consumer ridesharing with Mobileye.

In the initial phase, employees of the Galeries Lafayette, an upscale French department store chain, will be able to access the service, requesting or scheduling a ride to work at the store on Haussmann Boulevard in Paris four days a week. The pilot is being launched in partnership with French transportation operator RATP Group.

The test vehicles will be able to carry two passengers at a time, in addition to a Mobileye safety driver and an RATP “co-pilot.”

“Autonomously driving the roads of Paris is yet another milestone on the way to realizing our vision of self-driving inclusive mobility. We are happy to have not only gained the testing permit, but also strong partners in Paris,” said Johann Jungwirth, vice president of mobility-as-a-service at Mobileye, in a statement Thursday.
Israeli Startup Greeneye Raises $22 Million for AI Crop Protection
Greeneye Technology, which has developed AI-enabled precision spraying technology for agricultural applications, announced on Thursday the completion of a $22 million funding round led by JVP. The round also includes participation from Syngenta Group Ventures, the world’s largest manufacturer of crop protection chemicals, Hyperplane Venture Capital and One Way Ventures. They are joined by leading agricultural machinery manufacturer, AGCO, and KDT.

Founded in 2017, Greeneye utilizes artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to transform the weed control process in agriculture, transitioning from the current practice of wasteful spraying of herbicides to accurately detect and spray weeds in real-time. Greeneye’s selective spraying (SSP) system can easily integrate into any agricultural sprayer, by retrofitting existing sprayers or through working in collaboration with sprayer manufacturers to deliver plant-level variable-rate spraying.

Greeneye employs 22 people and is planning to use the investment to support the company’s commercial launch in the US in 2022 and its expansion across North America in 2023. It will also be used to double the size of its R&D team in Israel and its sales and operations team in the US. Greeneye is the first company to launch an AI-based precision spraying system in the US, where it has already secured dozens of contracts with farmers in the Midwest.
Israeli Embassy in Rwanda Donates Funds for School Computers, Equipment
Israel’s embassy in Rwanda donated nearly $100,000 to purchase computers and other equipment for schools, the Rwandan daily The New Times reported this week.

Under the UN Children’s Fund Giga project, educational institutions are being hooked up to the Internet, noted the report, adding that the International Telecommunication Union is also a partner in the program to connect every school on Earth to the Internet by 2030.

Rwanda has been chosen by the UN Broadband Commission in 2020 to lead implementation in Africa.

Ron Adam, Israeli ambassador to Rwanda, said his country was pleased to support the program, saying, “education is the foundation of everything and this goes hand in hand with the quality. In this era, you can’t talk about quality while excluding technology.”

“We believe that this support from Israel will be another stepping stone for Rwanda to realize its ambition of universal connectivity in schools and becoming a knowledge-based economy,” he added.

Of the 63 Rwandan schools taking part in Giga, only 29 percent have the needed computers and other equipment, the report said, citing UNICEF.
Israeli President Herzog Tells Astronaut Set for Historic Mission, ‘the Whole Nation Is Watching You’
Israeli President Isaac Herzog met Thursday with Eytan Stibbe, who will soon become the second Israeli to travel into space, saying, “The whole nation is watching you.”

Stibbe follows in the footsteps of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, who died tragically in the accident that destroyed the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

The Ramon Foundation, founded in Ilan Ramon’s name, is the co-sponsor of Stibbe’s upcoming Rakia Mission, along with the Israel Space Agency.

The Rakia Mission is intended to promote the Israeli aerospace industry, and will involve scientific experiments, educational activities in Hebrew, and a platform for works of Israeli art.

A government statement said that Herzog gave Stibbe a glass cube inscribed with a prayer for the well-being of the State of Israel in the handwriting of its author, Israel’s first chief rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog — President Herzog’s grandfather.

“The whole nation is watching you,” Herzog told Stibbe. “I want to wish you, from the bottom of my heart, success in your important space mission.”

“May you influence the whole of humanity for another hundred years,” he said. “May you continue to bring all of us, your nation, your country, and your family, great pride.”

“Fly in peace and return in peace,” Herzog added. “Look after yourself!”

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