Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Of course the big news going on right now in the world is the US Presidential Election and its results. This obviously has huge implications for Israel and the entire Middle East. But we have a deadline and it’s before the votes are going to be counted, so I guess we’ll discuss that next week (although, who knows, they may still be counting mail-in votes then!).

 

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Corona Update

The number of active coronavirus cases in Israel sank below 10,000 this week. The number of seriously and critically ill declined as well. More grades started going back to school and some businesses were allowed to open.

If the lower numbers stay steady throughout this week, more restrictions are expected to be eased next week, including the opening of retail stores. Some stores already illegally opened this week in protest to the restrictions. They should be okay as long as they don’t host a religious wedding in their store.

Meanwhile, Israel began to test an Israeli-made corona vaccine this week. The first human testing phase will eventually involve 80 people. The first people to be injected with the vaccine have shown no negative side effects so far.

If all goes well, there will be two more human testing phases and then the general public will be able to receive the vaccine. This is true for everyone except for people who have posted anti-vaccine posts on social media in the past – they will be ineligible. Just kidding, but it would make sense, wouldn’t it?

 

Draft Deferment Law Extension Denied

One of the issues that has led to the political turbulence of the past few years is the draft. The Supreme Court previously ruled that the current law that exempts yeshiva students from military service is illegal. (Based on what? Nothing. They just feel it is.)

If a new law is not passed, the old law will expire and there will theoretically be no draft exemptions. Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

As each deadline has approached over the past few years, the various Israeli governments have asked for extensions from the court and received them. Now Defense Minister Benny Gantz asked for another six-month delay because of corona and the new security situation in the Middle East caused by the recent normalization agreements.

The Supreme Court rejected this request and gave the government until February 1 to pass a new law. Suddenly corona isn’t so important any more. Get ready for that, America.

 

Leaks in Blue and White Party

Like a bad marriage from a generic TV show, the current Israeli coalition government continues to teeter on the edge of the abyss, just one fight away from appearing on a talk show.

This week during what was supposed to be a private meeting of Blue and White Party members, Benny Gantz said what everyone else is already thinking: that he doesn’t think that Prime Minister Netanyahu will ever honor the rotation agreement that is supposed to make him the prime minister a year from now.

Some generous soul leaked this juicy morsel to the press and Gantz is furious about it.  (Netanyahu must be laughing his head off!)

 

Israeli Diplomacy Successes Continue

On a visit to Israel this week, the Foreign Minister of Malawi announced that his country would be opening an embassy in Jerusalem. This would make it the first African country to do so. Other countries have recently promised to open embassies in Jerusalem, but, so far, only the U.S. and Guatemala have actually done so.

Malawi hopes to open its embassy in Jerusalem by the summer. One more important fact: the first name of Malawi foreign minister is Eisenhower. This man was destined for greatness.

Speaking of a man destined for greatness… you’ll have to wait ’til next week for that!

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Rabbi Ben Packer is the director of the Jerusalem Heritage House.