[Israeli Politics 101] Who’s Running and What it Means for Israeli Messianic Believers
Not that long ago, there were two main political parties in Israel – Likud (“Consolidation”) and (“Avoda” )Labor. Likud was the more conservative and Labor was more left leaning. As time went on, more centrist parties began to pop up, among them – the now defunct Kadima (“Move Ahead”) headed by the late Ariel Sharon, Shinui (“Change”) headed by the late Tommy Lapid, father of Yair Lapid who himself established Yesh Atid (There is a Future) just a few years ago. Another hopeful was Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon who, in 2014, established Kulanu (“All of us Together”). Other smaller parties, of which there are many, joined one of the two major political parties to provide enough mandates (voices) in order to become the ruling party, but, it’s notable to recognize that, in recent years, most of Israel’s Prime Minister were elected from either Likud or Labor.
Now, as the decision of early elections scheduled for April 9th, has been taken, there has been the emergence of two new political parties – one called Hosen L’Yisrael (“Resilience”) headed by Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and another called Yamin HeChadash (the New Right) co-headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
What does all this mean for Messianic believers? Here’s what we already know. Under the Likud leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish believers attempting to immigrate to Israel have had to, for years, confront the ultra-orthodox party stronghold of the Interior Ministry who traditionally has been given control of that office of government. It has been unfriendly, antagonistic and unwelcoming to Messianics, blatantly and systematically denying them the right of return. That situation would likely not change under another Likud term.
The Labor party, whose views lean towards many positions which most believers would not share, is much more embracing and sympathetic towards Jewish believers who want to return to their homeland. Some Labor Knesset ministers have even personally, and through their party, tried to help a number of believers in their fight for citizenship.
It is anyone’s guess how the two new parties would respond towards Messianic Jews, but both Bennett and Shaked of Yamin HeChadash are of a more traditional and religious stripe and would likely offer governmental portfolios to their more religiously observant party friends who may not be any friendlier to believers than the Likud has been to the present day.
Yesh Atid, run by Yair Lapid takes a centrist position on most issues, bucking the present system of allowing military exemptions and stipends to the ultra-orthodox, and would seek to be more pluralistic to the secular majority of Israeli citizens, but also amongst their party members are those who have been vocally unfavorable to Messianic Jews. While they may seek to distribute governmental portfolios to more centrist leaning individuals, it’s not clear if they would remove the present collective body of ultra-orthodox zealots from the Interior Ministry, the very group which determines issues of birth registry, marriage, death and immigration rights.
Finally, Former IDF chief Benny Ganz, (Hosen L’Yisrael) has not yet stated his political positions nor does anyone seem to know who will be associated with his party. Gantz is said to hold moderate positions toward Palestinians which places him left of Netanyahu. Although the former paratrooper who rose to the prestigious rank of IDF chief of staff, is said to project a sense of integrity and security, he, nonetheless, represents an unknown commodity to the Israeli public who have yet to know his political leanings and aspirations.
One thing for sure is that many Israelis are tired of business as usual and looking for what they believe to be needed change. With looming threats that Bibi Netanyahu stands to be criminally indicted over charges of corruption, there, perhaps, has not been a better opportunity for aspiring candidates to jump into the political pool and do their best to appeal to the 70% of secular Israeli citizens who long for a more pluralistic, democratic atmosphere which breaks the stranglehold of the ultra-orthodox which have long supported the Likud party and continue to control their definition of who is a Jew, how today’s Judaism is defined and who, despite their birthright, does not fit into that category.
Messianic Jews and their gentile believing counterparts should certainly be concerned over the differing political positions of those seeking to run the country, questions of Israel’s security and any prospective peace deals, but, perhaps, the most important political factor that Israeli Jewish believers and those who regularly support and pray for Israel should concern themselves over is whether or not Jewish believers are welcomed to return to the land of their forefathers and also able to enjoy religious freedom as full and valued Israeli citizens.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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Pro-life org lobbies Israeli govt over staggering abortion costs
An Israeli pro-life organization is urging the government to stop funding millions of dollars worth of abortions ahead of next year’s budget allocations — and is calling on believers to pray for a positive response to its campaign.
Be’ad Chaim (which means pro-life in Hebrew) sent a letter earlier this month to ministers and officials involved in allocating the Ministry of Health’s budget, probably coming to a final decision today or tomorrow.
“Since hearing the report about a 40 million shekel reduction in the Ministry of Health budget, I found it a good opportunity to call your attention to a subject that has been breaking (dear to) my heart for the last several years,” Be’ad Chaim Director Sandy Shoshani wrote in an official letter sent to government officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Approximately 20,000 legal abortions were performed in Israel this year at a cost of between 1,800 to 3,100 shekels each depending on the method of abortion. On average we are talking about a sum of 49 million shekels a year which is 11 percent of the Ministry of Health’s budget.”
And all of these are funded by taxpayers. The estimated cost is approximately 3,000 shekels for a surgical abortion and between 1,400-1,800 shekels for a pill that terminates the pregnancy. That come to almost $13 million on state-funded abortions every year.
“We know we cannot stop abortion in Israel, but what we are asking is that the government wouldn’t pay for every single one,” Karin Miller, Be’ad Chaim project manager, told KNI. “We are urging them to require women who want an abortion to, under certain circumstances, pay for it themselves so it doesn’t come from the Ministry of Health budget.”
If that were the case, Miller said, the number of abortions in Israel would likely go down.
By law, female soldiers serving in the IDF get up to two free abortions, and women under 18, over 40 and single women are also eligible. But more than half of the women who were approved for an abortion last year didn’t fall into those categories. In fact 56 percent were married.
“It’s not clear to us why the state would fund such a high percentage of married women,” Shoshani wrote. “We are not talking about minors or single mothers, but married women who simply find it inconvenient to have another child.”
In Israel, any woman who wants to get an abortion must present her case to a committee under the auspices of the Ministry of Health. Last year the committee approved 99 percent of those requesting to terminate their pregnancy, all of these then subsidized by the government.
In response, a social worker who sits on the committee, defended its decisions and told Be’ad Chaim they are not taken lightly.
Nevertheless, Be’ad Chaim is encouraging the government, if it won’t ban abortion outright, at least make it harder to get one.
“Look, if you want to buy a new smartphone, for example, let’s say it will cost you 2,000 shekels or more. You would do the maximum you need to in order to buy the one you want,” Miller said. “Likewise, If you really don’t want this child, let them do the maximum to get the money for an abortion and not rely on the government to pay for it.”
While Israel spends millions on abortions, Be’ad Chaim points out that the nation’s hospitals are overcrowded and people with complicated diseases don’t get approval from their insurance for their medical prescriptions.
Freeing up some money in the Ministry of Health’s budget could alleviate these other needs.
While Be’ad Chaim lobbies the government to consider making changes on this issue, the organization works hard to support women who decide to keep their babies. They provide mothers with financial assistance for a full year after the baby is born, baby equipment, formula, diapers and clothes.
The organization also offers free parenting and childcare courses and partners with shelters for pregnant women whose lives are in danger because they became pregnant.
The Israeli government gives the official number of abortions as one in every 10 births.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Life under fire in Sderot
Paul Calvert hears the stories of two residents, and visits an Israeli police station witnessing shelves of rockets that have been fired from Gaza.
Sderot is a very interesting city as it is on the border with Gaza. It has felt the full force of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists inside the Gaza Strip. Recently in a 24 hour period, over 400 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
Imagine the fear you would feel when the siren goes off telling you that a rocket is heading your way. In Sderot the residents have 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter.
One thing that you notice when you travel around Sderot is that it is bomb shelter city. There are bomb shelters everywhere. We went to a children’s playground and in the playground was a bomb shelter. It was made to look like a giant caterpillar but it had a purpose and that was to protect children if a rocket was to come in.
When I visited Sderot, Noam Bedein from the Sderot Media Center was the tour guide. He explained the situation in the Gaza border area and we as journalists got to ask him questions.
Noam told us that every bus stop had a bomb shelter next to it.
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Netanyahu: Every individual is created in the image of God
A visibly moved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saluted the organization Shalva for caring for and treating many of Israel’s disabled.
Netanyahu was speaking at the annual New Year’s Toast for foreign journalists sponsored by the Government Press Office. This year’s theme was honoring persons with disabilities. The prime minister had just listened to a rendition of “Hallelujah” by Shalva’s band. Both lead singers are blind and are the other six members face other physical or mental challenges.
After their performance, Netanyahu delivered an unscripted and passionate defense for the disabled. “This goes to the fundamental concept developed in this land, which was a complete departure from anything that existed in the ancient world and that is that all human beings are created in the image of God. There was an innate equality. This is the basic Jewish idea that promoted the birth and the growth of our civilization.”
Netanyahu added the soul is the heart of the matter.
“I would say that living creatures with cognitive abilities, the ability also to feel pain, sensation, grief, happiness, sadness this transcends human beings but it’s most encapsulated in human beings. It’s their soul.”
Yet Netanyahu said other forces in the world challenge that sanctity.
“It’s still contested. There are many forces that contest this idea and we have to contend with them and I can say that it’s not always obvious to our critics the fundamental role that Israel plays in this region and in the world and that is to hold the forces of radicalism and intolerance and fanaticism and those that don’t recognize the universal rights of men and women and children and girls and people of different faiths that they have fundamental rights that have to be safeguarded and to guard those rights you have to do one thing: you have to be prepared to defend them.”
He lauded Shalva. “We recognize that and we salute what Shalva is doing in Israel, which I think is a beacon to the entire world. Congratulations and thank you.”
Shalva is the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. According to its website, it provides “transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion.”
During his remarks at the event, he discussed a host of issues affecting Israel and the Middle East including the threat of Iran, the growing relationship with Sunni Arab nations and the amazing technological achievements. But the most emotional part of the evening belonged to the least among us.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, December 12, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Chris is CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem.
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Drive-by shooting leaves mother, premie baby, in critical condition
JERUSALEM, Israel – Doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said Monday the premature infant delivered after a drive-by shooter critically injured his mother Sunday has been put on a ventilator.
The baby’s 21-year-old mother, who was in her seventh month of pregnancy, remains in critical but stable condition. The shooter also hit the baby’s father and four other passengers waiting at a bus stop near the Samarian town of Ofra.
Israeli security forces are still searching for the shooter who drove off after the attack.
Hamas, which praised last week’s UN vote in its favor, called the shooting “blessed.”
“We appreciate the blessed shooting that proves that the resistance is present in the occupied West Bank despite the ongoing attempts to destroy it,” the Times of Israel translated Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou Arabic-language post on Facebook. “It proves that any attempt to condemn the Palestinian resistance will fail in the face of the desire and valiance of our Palestinian people.”
According to the report, Hamas leaders later labeled the attack “heroic,” saying the victims were “Israeli occupation soldiers” rather than civilians.
“The West Bank is taking the initiative today to resist the occupation and to respond to its ongoing aggressions against our people, where the heroic shooting of a group of Israeli occupation soldiers near the settlement of ‘Ofra’ in Ramallah, is an affirmation of the legitimate right of our people to resist the occupation.”
In a tweet Monday morning, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman reminded the United Nations of last week’s failure to pass a resolution condemning Hamas attacks against Israel.
“Another vile act of Palestinian terrorism last night included the shooting of a pregnant woman,” Friedman tweeted.
Another vile act of #Palestinian terrorism last night included the shooting of a pregnant woman. Hamas calls the shooters “heroic” — yes, the same #Hamas that the @UN could not resolve to condemn last week. The #US stands with #Israel against terrorists even if others won’t.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) December 10, 2018
White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt also condemned the UN vote.
.@UN this is what you defended last week when you failed to condemn Hamas. Hamas praises yet another terror attack. You had the ability to help fight against terror. Is this what the UN wants its legacy to be? https://t.co/MPLWVYdQwY
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) December 10, 2018
“UN this is what you defended last week when you failed to condemn Hamas. Hamas praises yet another terror attack. You had the ability to help fight against terror. Is this what the UN wants its legacy to be?”
Hamas, the Palestinian faction that’s ruled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, has recently talked about a long-term ceasefire with Israel, mediated by Egypt, while continuing its terrorist activities, which include weekly protests along the border with Israel and less-frequent attempts to infiltrate Israel.
Hamas, the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is listed as a terror organization by the US and Israel.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, December 10, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Tzippe Barrow is the CBN News Internet Producer - Jerusalem. She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) nearly two decades ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.