Is the Choice Really One of Judaism or Democracy?

An old issue - how does Israel define itself - has now been resurrected and has come to the fore in the Knesset. Is Israel a Jewish state? Is it a democratic state? Is it a pluralistic state that represents the plurality of its citizens and, if so, should it make any pronouncements as to its ethnic, cultural, or religious identity? How is Judaism defined in the state? What role does Turkish law, HaMaharah, play in the modern Israeli society? … [Read more...]

Govn’t of Israel and Jewish Agency Sign Memorandum of Understanding on “Initiative”

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After decades of lobbying, profile of high school in Israel programs raised It has been almost 3 months since we have heard anything about the World Jewry Joint Initiative. But behind the scenes, significant negotiation has taken place. In fact, we have learned that so much effort has but put into this agreement that if JAFI's representative was billing his usual and customary hourly rate, the bill might exceed $100,000! In the end, the negotiation has now culminated in an initialized non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the parties. While there are still many details to be worked out, the MoU lays out overall governance including structure, oversight and of most interest to our readers the "Initial Content Areas:" Teen trips to Israel - to double the numbers of teen … [Read more...]

Education to Employment in Israel: Why It Matters to Funders

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A report last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development gave failing grades to the Israeli education system. Half of Israel’s students graduate from high schools that emphasize rote learning over analytical thinking and offer little in the way of vocational education. Meanwhile, the number of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree has fallen. Of those who do graduate, many leave college without the skills needed to find gainful employment. These are trends that spell trouble for Israel’s economic future, and prompted the Rashi Foundation and Kol Israel Haverim - Alliance, along with the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), to hold a conference in New York on Dec. 8 to talk about how to reverse these alarming trends. The conference, Pathways: Education to Employment to … [Read more...]

Israel’s New Pioneers Work to Transform the Negev Through Farming

An R&D center in the Negev that is responsibly for developing new technologies and plant breeds the rest of the country utilizes.

By Maayan Jaffe JNS.org In southern Israel, the next generation of Jewish pioneers is making the desert bloom. A group of young, Zionist, idealistic adults are cultivating a previously uninhabited area in the northwest Negev on Israel’s borders with Egypt and Gaza - growing tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, pomegranates, olives, and more. “I am there (in the Negev) because I can make a difference,” said Nava Uner, who lives in Bnei Netzarim, one of three Halutza (pioneer) communities in the Young Farmers Incubation Project. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) established the project shortly after the 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza, one of the most polarizing events in Israel’s history. The Halutza planned communities are part of JNF’s Blueprint Negev campaign, which is aimed … [Read more...]

Judaism in the Public Sphere – Taking the Torah Back to the Marketplace

BTI's 700 Sq.ft Sukkah at Tel Aviv Port, October 2014. Photo by Or Glickman.

By Dr. Noga Zivan and Daphna Yizrael And Ezra the priest brought the Torah before the congregation, both men and women, all that could hear with understanding and all the community, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate. Nehemiah chapter 8, verse 3 For the young man who sat a full 10 minutes outside a Sukkah in Tel Aviv Port, listening to the singing within, those 10 minutes might have been his only encounter with the festival. For the mother who, in tears, was given the Torah scroll to dance with for the first time, it was an experience she might never previously have considered she would have. For the Tel Aviv child whose apartment cannot accommodate a Sukkah, it was a moment of discovery. The 10,000 people who … [Read more...]

From Ebola to Iraqi Refugees, Israeli Aid Group Tackles World’s Most Difficult Crises

Distribution of 2,000 blankets and mattresses to Yazidi new arrivals in Khanke camp on Oct. 16, 2014. Also distributed were 2,040 cans of milk powder for babies under 1 yr old. Photo courtesy IsraAid.

By Sean Savage JNS.org Known primarily for their military prowess and high-tech ingenuity, Israelis are often overlooked when it comes to their global engagement. But IsraAID, an Israeli nonprofit and non-governmental organization founded in 2001, has been on the frontline of every major humanitarian crisis of the 21st century - including today’s most difficult hotspots in Iraq and West Africa. “Our mission is to efficiently support and meet the changing needs of populations as they strive to move from crisis to reconstruction and rehabilitation, and eventually, to sustainable living,” Navonel Glick, IsraAID’s program director, told JNS.org. Drawing on Israel’s military expertise and robust healthcare system, IsraAID has tackled humanitarian disasters in 22 countries, including the … [Read more...]

Jewish Agency Presents NIS 50 Million Aid Package to Residents of Southern Israel

The Jewish Agency for Israel has developed a NIS 50 million ($13.22 million) aid package to help the communities of Israel's south recover from this summer's hostilities, thanks to contributions from the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and other donors. The aid package includes a series of programs aimed at enabling the communities of southern Israel, particularly those closest to the border with Gaza, to expand their population bases and support a range of groups with an investment of NIS 25 million. It also includes NIS 25 million worth of aid extended to the residents of the South during the summer's hostilities. The aid package being developed includes scholarships for local students, assistance to local businesses, grants for victims of rocket attacks, the … [Read more...]

Southern Israel Comes Back to Life Thanks to the Jewish People

Children from southern Israel participate in a special summer camp run by The Jewish Agency for Israel's Fund for Victims of Terror. Photo credit: Sarah Bronson for The Jewish Agency for Israel.

By Rany Trainin At the conclusion of Simchat Torah, I had the opportunity to experience a truly moving event. More than one thousand people spanning four generations, all of them members and residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the past and the present, gathered to celebrate the end of the kibbutz's sixtieth birthday year. As residents of the Gaza border region, the kibbutz members also took the opportunity to mark a return to normalcy after a turbulent and difficult summer. As Deputy Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel and a longtime resident of the region, I was overcome with emotion upon being asked to greet the gathering on behalf of the Jewish world. The event took place thanks to the support of The Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish people, whose contributions made the emotional and … [Read more...]