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May 26, 2016 / 18 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

Despite Fervent Objections by All Seven ‘Green Line’ Universities, Ariel U. Becomes a Reality

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Samaria will have its first full university, pending the go-ahead of the Israeli military.

The Ariel University Center on Tuesday was recognized as a full university by the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, which handles educational concerns in the “disputed territories.” The center, which has more than 10,000 students, Jewish and Arab, would be called Ariel University.

The 11-2 vote came despite a vehement recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, as well as opposition from the country’s other seven universities, and from public figures, all of whom objected to upgrading a college which had passed all the prerequisites for the boost, but was still unable to conceal the damning fact that it was located in the “West Bank.”

Last month, in a letter to Netanyahu, the presidents of Israel’s seven universities said that an eighth university would deal a “fatal blow to the higher education system in general, and the universities in particular.”

On Sunday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that his ministry would earmark extra funds for the Ariel University Center, so that it would not cut into the funding of Israel’s other universities. Steinitz said he will ask the government to grant an allocation of some $5 million to $7.5 million for the next two fiscal years, with plans to increase the sum in future years.

That’s an approximately $4 million a year fatal blow.

Professor Daniel Zajfman, head of the Weizmann Institute of Science, said he would cancel all academic and professional cooperation with Ariel U.

Hebrew University President Menahem Ben-Sasson was concerned about gentile reaction to the move, specifically Norwegians and Swedes, warning: “We are putting the next Nobel Prize in danger.”

MK Einat Wilf, head of the Knesset Education Committee, said it was still all about the money: “If the Finance Minister and the Education Ministry have tens of millions of extra shekels for higher education, they should have been used to assist the existing universities, which are recovering from a decade of tough budget cuts.”

Again, that’s approximately $4 million a year.

For comparison, as of 2010, the Hebrew University deficit was estimated at $2.5 billion.

And the Tel Aviv University salaries and pensions alone have reached $165 million a year.

No doubt, depriving the fledgling Ariel of $4 million a year would go a long way to balance those hemorrhaging deficits.

Of course, the report on the center’s progress that was submitted to the committee of Israel’s academic establishment praises Ariel’s accomplishments and left no doubt as to its ability to take its rightful place as a major academic institution.

The final authorization for making the Ariel center a university will be made by the IDF central commander in the West Bank, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon. At this point, Alon is expected to back up the Judea and Samaria council’s decision.

The Judea and Samaria council was established in 1997 after the Council for Higher Education refused to discuss academic issues concerning the “West Bank.”

In 2007, the Ariel academic center was granted temporary recognition as a so-called university center, and its status was to be reexamined within five years. The city of Ariel, with a population of about 20,000, is located southwest of the biblical city of Shchem, where the patriarch Jacob was hoping to settle down and study some Torah, when unexpected thing started to happen.

Like it or not, Jacob’s dream is becoming a reality now.

JTA content was used in this report.

Yori Yanover

Israel’s Transportation Revolution is Underway

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

The Ministry of Transport published last week a primarily web-based campaign showing the impending changes, transformations and expansions undertaken in air, sea, and land transportation in the country. The Ministry of Transport, headed by Minister Israel Katz, has been working intensively in recent years to develop and implement far-reaching programs that could affect every Israeli citizen’s life. Videos distributed by the Ministry of Transport online show the expected investment of about 100 billion Shekels over the next six to eight years. The Ministry’s publicized objective is the promotion of national transportation that will leverage economic development, connect the periphery to the major cities, and place Israel among the most advanced countries in terms of transportation.

It is no secret that  transportation development has suffered neglect and lack of promotion in the past two decades. Until recently, roads have not been revamped, the train’s route was not developed, and traffic jams across the country intensified due to an increase in the number of private vehicles. Today, most citizens own at least one car, and in many cases two, a situation demanding immediate solutions. Lately, however, Israel has witnessed developments everywhere. Across the country, from north to south, there are new roads, interchanges have been built, railroads placed and more.

In Jerusalem, the Ministry promises to construct a new entrance. The road will be called “Route 16” and will reach downtown. The road will contain mostly tunnels and should relieve traffic congestion. The busy highway 1 linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will become a two-track road which should, according to transportation officials, solve the heavy load on this road.

Also, a special railway line of about 57 km should  be open by the year 2017, which will connect Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by only 28 minutes travel.

In the North, one of the major projects that the Ministry of Transport presented is the establishment of the Golani Junction interchange – a huge project that began this year and is scheduled to be concluded in 2013. The junction will connect in the future to a network of highways and to Highway 6, which will allow a smoother trip with no traffic lights from the north of the country to its center.

Another project is the extension of  Highway 6, Israel’s most significant highway. Today it ends in the north at the Ein Tut intersection near Yokneam. In the future it will be expanded to Shlomi, taking the highway even further North. As for the southern segment of the highway, The Ministry of Transport promised to expand the highway  to the outskirts of Be’erSheva, which will further connect the south to central Israel.

A more grandiose project is the “Ha’Emek Train” – a flagship project of the Ministry which has set to develop the Valley Railroad, establishing a fast connection along the Haifa – Nazareth – Beit Shean rout. This project is scheduled to be ended by 2016. Minister Katz briefly introduced the project’s future benefits for the entire region: “The Jordanians are interested in promoting such a project, which will allow them to export and import cargo by train, arriving at the port of Haifa.”

In the center of the country, the Ministry of Transport presented the light rail which should constitute in the near future an extensive transportation network in the greater Tel Aviv area. The first line to be built is the Red Line, which will connect Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Petach Tikva, Bnei Brak and Bat Yam. The 11-billion-Shekel project will include additional lines, and will be completed gradually by 2017.

Furthermore, the ministry is establishing in the Sharon area a transportation system of special buses called BRT lines, which will have its separate lanes. The BRT lines  are intended to transport large numbers of passengers. The network is scheduled to be opened in 2014.

In the south of the country, modern rail lines should connect the Tel Aviv metropolitan area to the south of the country, including Eilat, and will allow passengers on the train to get from Tel Aviv to Eilat in two hours. At Timna,  a new international airport will replace the existing one in Eilat. The new airport will be called “Ramon Airport,” named after Ilan Ramon, an Air Force pilot and the first Israeli astronaut, and Assaf Ramon, Ilan’s son who was also an air force pilot and who was recently killed in a training accident. The Ministry of Transport did not supply an exact date of completion for this project.

Tom Nisani

The World Is Aghast as 500 Jewish Families Are Promised Homes

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The AP has apparently caught the Israeli government red handed on the eve of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Jewish state, as said government has “quietly agreed to grant subsidies to build more than 500 new homes in the West Bank, backtracking from a promise earlier this year to deny these incentives to the settlements.”

It’s our habit at the Jewish Press to scrub the “west bank” thing and replace it with the more biblical “Judea and Samaria,” despite the inherent reference within that name to a period in the life of the nation in which it was split into two kingdoms, both of which were eventually scrapped by enemies from without and corruption from within. But in this case it makes sense to keep the WB in place, to retain the brazen cold heartedness of the AP report.

The AP reports that the planned construction has enraged Palestinians, although it is difficult to tell at this point what doesn’t enrage Palestinians. But in this case, the move – imagine, housing for 500 Jewish families – would likely also enrage Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is determined to “re-energize” the Mideast peace efforts.

Back in January, Netanyahu’s Cabinet identified more than 550 communities, “including 70 West Bank settlements,” as national priority areas, the AP reminds us. The list drew immediate protests from… you guessed it, the Palestinians. And so, shortly thereafter, Netanyahu quietly held a second vote in a phone meeting to exclude the settlements from the measure.

That figure of 500 housing units has been bandied about a lot lately, including as compensation for the court ordered demolition of a section of Beit El’s Ulpana Hill neighborhood.

The AP cites Israel’s Housing Ministry, saying that the government has approved subsidies for 24 homes in Efrat, south of Jerusalem, as well as “nearly 500 other homes” in Efrat, Beitar Illit and Ariel.

A Housing Ministry spokesman told the AP that construction bids for the 500 homes have not closed yet.

The AP story mentions the Levy committee’s ruling on the legality of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, but it suggests that with more than 500,000 Jewish settlers now living in “the West Bank and east Jerusalem,” the Palestinians say their dream of an independent state is fading as it grows tougher to partition the land between Israelis and Palestinians.

And who among us is heartless enough to want to see a dream fading away?

Of course, each time Israel as much as hints that it is serious about facilitating this dream of binational coexistence based on mutual recognition, it somehow ends in rivers of blood, as the Palestinians are still unwilling to embrace the concept.

Some dreams are better defined as nightmares.

Yori Yanover

More than 1.5 Million Views for Israel’s Christian You Tube Channel

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Ministry of Tourism’s Christian You Tube channel is attracting millions of viewers from around the world. Launched at the end of 2011, the channel crossed the 1.5 million mark this week, averaging 5,500 views per day. And while these numbers are quite tame compared to the truly viral clips on You Tube, the Ministry of Tourism views the channel as an important platform in exposing Israel to the Christian world, promoting tourism to Israel at a time when some large denominations are debating boycotting Israel altogether.

Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov says that You Tube “has turned into a central tool for the tourism industry. The positive reaction to the channel proves the significant interest among the Christian community regarding Israel.”

The channel  features videos in several languages including English, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Polish. Those show community leaders and pilgrims telling about their spiritual experiences in Israel. There are also videos of Christian holy sites and holiday themed events that are unique to Israel.

The channel was created by the Ministry of Tourism’s Religious Desk, which is dedicated to encouraging Christian tourism to Israel. Marketing activities for Christian tourism is one of the Ministry of Tourism’s main programs. In 2011, NIS 60 million was invested in reaching out to Christian communities abroad, with a similar amount being invested again this year.

Jewish Press Staff

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Facing Heated Calls For Change On Several Fronts

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – The latest battle over religious pluralism in Israel has unleashed a new barrage of criticism and calls for reform aimed at the Orthodox-controlled Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Unlike major flare-ups in past decades, however, this time it’s not just the Reform and Conservative movements leading the charge – mainstream, consensus-oriented Jewish groups with no denominational affiliations are speaking out, too.

One flashpoint has been the fallout from the Israeli attorney general’s decision to approve government funding for Reform and Conservative religious leaders as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” – albeit through the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Orthodox-controlled Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis.

That announcement drew a caustic response from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who in a June 27 meeting urged more than 100 fellow Orthodox rabbis – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – to pray “in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism [because] they are trying to uproot the foundation of Judaism.”

“There is a natural backlash on the part of American Jews and American Jewish leaders when the Chief Rabbinate issues such statements,” said Steven Bayme, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. “As we enter the 21st century, the [Chief Rabbinate] needs to be reevaluted in terms of democratic norms and modern Israel’s relationship to world Jewry.”

In response to Rabbi Amar’s remarks, about 50 Reform and Conservative rabbis protested outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s building in Jerusalem. Two Conservative rabbis filed a police complaint accusing Amar of incitement – a particularly serious claim in Israel ever since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has leaders from across the religious spectrum, but which in recent years has become more vocal on behalf of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, was quick to respond.

“It is a fundamental Jewish virtue to ‘love your fellow as yourself.’ We condemn comments that disparage fellow Jews and, in particular, well-established branches of Judaism that represent 80 percent of North American Jewry,” Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA, said in a statement. “Statements such as those made by Rabbi Amar only serve to alienate our fellow Jews from our religion, our people and the Jewish state.”

Shortly after that controversy, the board of governors of the AJC – another nonsectarian Jewish organization with no formal ties to either the Reform or Conservative movements – went even further in criticizing the Chief Rabbinate and calling for major changes to the institution.

“In the 21st century, a coercive Chief Rabbinate has become, at best, an anachronism, and at worst a force dividing the Jewish people,” the AJC’s leaders declared in a resolution.

The Chief Rabbinate’s actions “threaten to divide the Jewish people and risk an anti-religious backlash against Judaism itself within the Jewish state,” they wrote. The AJC urged Israel’s government “to undertake promptly all needed actions” to end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over issues of personal status.

The latest wave of criticism comes amid a backdrop of religion-related controversies – tensions between Modern Orthodox rabbis and haredi Orthodox rabbis over conversions; the push for civil marriage in Israel; and the struggle over whether haredi men should serve in the military or continue to be exempt to study in yeshivas.

“Like any human institution, the Chief Rabbinate could use improvement,” said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive director emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

“What those improvements would be though requires a lot of thought and a lot of study, and from the OU’s perspective in no way could the Orthodox nature and the halachic nature of the Chief Rabbinate be compromised.”

Rabbi Weinreb stressed that OU congregations and rabbis adhere to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decisions. He added that the process of electing chief rabbis could be refined so that it is “less political.”

The call for radical reform of the Chief Rabbinate was greeted warmly by Reform and Conservative groups.

“It’s a powerful letter from the dead center of the American Jewish establishment weighing in on what the Israeli government and the Israeli public still thinks is a fringe issue,” Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said of the AJC’s position. “It’s a welcome voice in that debate.”

Neil Rubin

Emotion-Filled Israel Trip For TV Stars

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

With tears flowing, a phalanx of top American TV stars recounted various personal and religious revelations they gained during last week’s weeklong visit to Israel. They expressed admiration for the Jewish people’s vitality and for their willingness to create a better society in the midst of political and religious upheaval in the region.

The star-studded group included, among others, AnnaLynne McCord (“90210” and “Nip/Tuck”), Omar Epps (“House”), Paul Johansson (“One Tree Hill”), Holly Robinson Peete (“21 Jump Street” and “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper”), Mekhi Phifer (“ER” and “The Tuskegee Airmen”), Holt McCallany (“Lights Out”), Zach Roerig (“The Vampire Diaries”) and Paget Brewster (“Criminal Minds”).

The trip was sponsored by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, while the Ministry of Tourism hosted and arranged their tour with the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, El Al Israel Airlines and the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. The celebrity group was led by Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel (AVI), which is part of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Some key elements of the trip included a visit to an Israel Air Force base, exploration of the ancient ruins in Caesarea, experiencing the physical and spiritual beauty of the Galilee and Golan Heights regions, and meeting the people behind some of Israel’s most renowned social welfare and outreach programs. They also celebrated Shabbat amid thousands of Israelis and tourists at the Western Wall.

“The hospitable nature of the people in Israel is something you just don’t find in many places,” Epps, who plays Dr. Eric Foreman on Fox’s long-running medical drama series “House,” told foreign correspondents during a press conference at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. “We encountered people at the Western Wall on Friday night who made sure that anyone who didn’t have a place to eat a warm Shabbat meal, were invited to someone’s home. I’ve never seen or experienced such loving care.”

Brewster, who has garnered critical acclaim for her role as special agent Emily Prentiss on the CBS crime drama “Criminal Minds,” was impressed by how a soup kitchen in Tiberias, run by Meir Panim, treated everyone with a smile. “It didn’t look or feel like a soup kitchen but rather [like] a restaurant, where the Meir Panim staff just wants to help people from all walks of life enjoy a good meal with dignity, even if they don’t have money. I was fascinated and moved by what I saw,” said Brewster.

Johansson, who has earned a notable reputation as an actor, writer and director, remarked that “I was invited many times to visit the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles, but I always wanted to run away from seeing or experiencing that type of pain. After going to Yad Vashem with Irwin [Katsof] and recognizing the continuing struggle of the Jewish people in their homeland was a very important experience for me.”

McCord, the popular antiheroine Naomi Clark on the CW’s “90210,” was enthused by the number of young Israelis who recognized her (the TV series airs on a local cable station). “Israelis of all ages are an engaging people,” she said. “It was fascinating for me to hear a wide range of opinions from so many different types of people, whether it was an aspiring blind actress trying to make a living in Jaffa to a former high-ranking Israeli diplomat who resides in Jerusalem. What I learned is that even in the midst of all the turmoil around them, Israelis love to live their lives to the fullest.”

The emotional response by the actors reinforced Irwin Katsof’s belief in America’s Voices in Israel’s ongoing mission. Katsof told The Jewish Press, “The power of bringing people like celebrities and others who have a platform on social media was made very clear by the impact this trip has had on the celebrities who came. Omar Epps will be producing a show about Israel for a cable travel network. Paul Johansson plans on directing a feature movie about [the biblical] Noah in Israel. Many of the stars sent out hundreds of positive tweets on Twitter that were seen by tens of millions of people. This trip enabled them to become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.”

Steve K. Walz

Tunisian Boy “Brave” for Refusing to Compete With Israeli in Chess

Monday, May 7th, 2012

A ten year-old Tunisian boy is gaining fame across the Aram world for having refused to compete against an Israeli opponent in the World School Chess Championship.

The eighth annual competition took place in Romania, with 640 participants competing.  Rather than compete against an Israeli, Tunisian Muhammad Hamida withdrew from the competition.

Director of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Gaza, Ahmed Machisan, called the forfeiture a “show of bravery”, according to a report in Ynet.

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/tunisian-boy-brave-for-refusing-to-compete-with-israeli-in-chess/2012/05/07/

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