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2018 Sets Record for Tourism to Israel as More than 4 Million Visit

January 6, 2019 Special Feature

Jerusalem tourism information center. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

It took Israel 69 years to reach 3 million tourists visiting in one year. It took just one year to reach 4 million tourists in a year. 2018 set a record for the number of tourists to visit Israel in one year, with more than 4.1 million arriving in the Holy Land. “This is the second consecutive record-breaking year in incoming tourism to Israel and this year we have crossed the threshold of 4 million tourists in a year,” Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said in a Sunday press release from the Tourism Ministry. “…What was considered a fantasy a few years ago is today a reality: Israel is a preferred tourist destination among tourism destinations around the world.”

In 2017, around 3.6 million tourists visited Israel, which was itself a record at the time according to a prior press release from the Tourism Ministry. Sunday’s press release noted that it took 30 years—from 1948 to 1978—for Israel to finally have 1 million tourists in one year. 40 years later and the United States alone sent almost a million tourists to Israel, with 897,100 Americans visiting in 2018. France and Russia were next on the list with more than 300,000 visitors each. … Continue Reading

Israeli Civilian Discovers Ancient Roman Busts While Just Taking a Walk

December 30, 2018 Special Feature

The uncovered Roman busts. Photo courtesy of Eitan Klein, Israel Antiquities Authority

It’s not every day that the average person finds 1,700-year-old sculptures, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen during an everyday activity in Israel. A local resident recently discovered two “impressive” Roman busts near the city of Beit She’an in northern Israel while just taking a walk, according to a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The top of one of the two sculptures was poking out of the ground and seen by the woman, who along with her husband contacted the IAA Theft Prevention Unit. Inspectors sent to the site were able to find the antiquities, which are believed to be from the Late Roman period (3rd–4th centuries CE).

Nir Distelfeld, IAA Theft Prevention Unit inspector, said in the press release, “It seems that the busts were exposed following the recent heavy rainfall in the area. These are very important finds, which tell us a great deal about the inhabitants of the Beth She’an area in antiquity. We thank the Beit She’an resident for her alertness and good citizenship and she will receive a certificate of appreciation.” … Continue Reading

Israeli Parliament Votes to Move Elections Up to April—will Netanyahu Win Again?

December 27, 2018 Special Feature

Israeli Knesset Building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock.

The Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, voted on Wednesday to dissolve its current rendition and move elections up to April. A press release on the Knesset website said the vote passed overwhelmingly by a 102-2 margin. Just over four years since the last round of elections were held in March 2015, Israelis will be going to the polls again to determine if Benjamin Netanyahu will be able secure his fourth consecutive term as the leader of the Jewish State.

So far, it looks likely. According to a poll earlier this week originally published by the Maariv Hebrew newspaper and reposted in English by The Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s Likud party would win more than double the number of Knesset seats as the runner up party—earning 30 seats compared to 13 for what was then a hypothetical new party to be created by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. The Knesset is comprised of 120 seats, making 61 the threshold for holding a majority.

Generally, that is accomplished by multiple parties joining forces in a coalition. The poll, conducted by Panels Politics, found that Netanyahu could narrowly cobble together a government coalition of right-leaning and religious political parties similar to the current government. … Continue Reading

‘Moderate’ Palestinian Leaders Oppose UN Resolution Condemning Hamas Terror

December 2, 2018 Special Feature

UN headquarters in New York. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The world is generally united against terrorism, but for some reason the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership is opposed to the United Nations condemning Hamas terrorism against Israel. The WAFA Palestinian news agency quoted a spokesman of the Fatah political faction that heads the PA as saying they “totally reject American-Israeli efforts to brand Hamas with terrorism at the UN.” Spokesman Usama Qawasmi further accused Israel—who has had to defend themselves against Hamas rockets and other violence aimed at their civilians—of sponsoring terrorism and committed to oppose “all hostile efforts to condemn” Hamas at the UN.

A resolution condemning Hamas terrorism, seeking to be the first of its kind passed by the UN, is backed by the United States and the European Union and references Hamas rockets and arson balloons . The resolution further calls for the Palestinian factions to reunite under the PA’s leadership. The US Mission to the UN said in a statement last Friday that the Palestinian representative at the UN requested a delay of a vote on the resolution from last week to next Thursday. In response, the US was clear on the importance of the vote.

“The issue before the United Nations on Thursday is not whether it supports one form or another of a Middle East peace plan. The issue is as plain as the resolution’s text,” said the US statement. “Each country will be asked to vote for or against the activities of Hamas, along with other militant groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad. If the UN cannot bring itself to adopt this resolution, then it has no business being involved in peace discussions.” … Continue Reading

Netanyahu Defends Israeli Forces in Judea and Samaria: ‘We Keep the Peace’

October 24, 2018 Special Feature

PM Netanyahu & JFNA Chmn. Sandler at the JFNA GA. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon / GPO

The Palestinian Authority (PA) publicly laments the presence of Israeli security forces in the Judea and Samaria region (the West Bank), but if the IDF hadn’t been there, PA President Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t be with us either. “Couple of years ago we uncovered a plot of 100 Hamas to kill [Abbas]. Not kill him politically—kill him,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday. “So if we weren’t there, they’d not be there, which is exactly what happened when we left Gaza.”

Netanyahu, in comments to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly published by his office, said he refuted a complaint from former US Vice President Joe Biden that a persistent Israeli security force in the Judea and Samaria region that would be part of a Palestinian state would prevent it from being a “fully independent state.” Netanyahu insists that Israel’s presence is necessary.

Netanyahu recalled his words to Biden at the time: “Okay, it is what it is. You can give it any name you want: state minus; autonomy plus; autonomy plus plus. Sounds like a rating agency or something. But that’s it—that’s the truth.” And the truth is clear in Gaza. … Continue Reading

US Closes Palestinian Office in Washington for Rejecting Peace Plan ‘They Haven’t Yet Seen’

September 11, 2018 Special Feature

The Palestinian office in Washington is no more. Illustrative photo of Palestinian event. By Joshua Spurlock

The Americans increased the pressure on the Palestinians for obstructing peace again on Monday, as the United States government closed the office of the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington, D.C. The PLO is the official representative of the Palestinian government to the world and in peace negotiations with Israel, but lately, those peace efforts have been largely dormant. In a statement, the US State Department slammed the Palestinians’ rejectionism.

“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” said spokesperson Heather Nauert in the press release. “To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The US decision to close the PLO office follows a recent determination to cancel funding of the United Nations refugee agency that focuses solely on Palestinians as the Palestinians continue to push back against US peace efforts. Israel has supported both US actions, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the closure of the PLO office “the correct decision” in a statement on Tuesday. … Continue Reading

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