This Week Today - Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House ( and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives ( He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Alot going on in Israeli politics this week. At the same time, there are numerous reports of potential terrorist distractions being planned by hamas, hezbollah and others to disrupt/influence the election. In the meantime, the arabs are letting the Jews fight out the politics our traditional way - with witty arguments! 

Trump for the Win

Following up Israel's removal last week of the TIPH Jew-hating program in Hevron, the UN Security Council decided to get together to rip Israel for asserting their sovereignty (and basic sefl-respect). Fortunately for Israel, things are different now at the UN these days and the US simply vetoed the whole thing. Must be frustrating for those anti-Semites. President Trump also invited a Jewish Holocaust survivor and survivor of the Pittsburgh massacre to the State of the Union speech and the whole Congress sang happy b-day to him (it was also his b-day). Must be frustrating for all those who (ridiculously) claim Trump is an anti-Semite. 

Syrian/Russian anti-aircraft batteries

Reports have come out this week suggesting that at least some Russian-made anti-aircraft batteries in Syria have become operational. This could theoretically pose a serious threat to Israeli Air Force planes flying over Syria and Lebanon. There remains the question of who is actually going to operate these things. If its syrians, as opposed to russians, we can probably rest a little easier. Syria isn't going to be so quick to train too many people on how to use something that can just as easily be used on syrian airplanes as well. For now, its unclear how much of an impact these systems will have. In an election season, look for Israel to be quite aggressive and finding out soon. 

Israeli Election Update!

3 Major Developments this week:

-The Likud Party (Prime Minister Netanyahu's party) held their primary elections to determine their candidate list for the Knesset. No real surprises in the results. Netanyahu loyalists did not do so well, but are still on the list in reasonable spots to be elected again. Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat did well and got a good spot. Oren Hazan did not do well - sad for me. That dude is hilarious. 

-Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid anti-religious party continues to be heavily pressured to join ranks with former Chief of Staffs Benny Ganz and Moshe Yaalon in order to create a unified leftist bloc to challenge Netanyahu and the right. This week, another former Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, threatened to join Ganz and Yaalon if Lapid did not. I have no idea why this is a real threat, I doubt anyone cares was Ashkenazi does or thinks. Additionally, there is no credible indication, other than their wishful thinking, that they will actually receive more votes by uniting. 

-Bayit Yehudi appointed a new leader this week. (after previous leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked left to start a new party) The new leader is former Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Army and head of a pre-army religious school - R' Rafi Peretz. 

Why him? With Bennett and Shaked leaving, Bayit Yehudi needs to maintain their traditional support. Peretz represents this base. Even though he's not very different from Bennett on political issues, he has better religious credentials. The idea is basically to come to grips with those leaving for Bennett's party and keep those who don't feel religiously comfortable switching from Bayit Yehudi. So really his job isn't to bring anyone. However, he may keep away farther right Otzma Yehudit. Its hard to imagine him combining with the far-right party. Basically there are 3 parties on the right side of political spectrum that could account for between 9-12 Knesset seats if they combine or possibly 0 if they don't. In my humble opinion, Peretz's appointment pushes things closer to the 0. 

R' Yechiel Eckstein passes away

Founder of the "International Fellowship of Christians and Jews", R' Yechiel Eckstein, passed away suddenly this week of a heart attack at the age of 67. Whether or not one agrees with the idea of Jews raising money from christians for Jewish causes, one cannot ignore the impact of Eckstein's life's project. It is estimated that he raised as much as $1.4 billion from christians around the world to be spent on numerous projects helping Jewish people, mostly in Israel. His results are everywhere in Israel. 

Got some more good rain in Israel this week. Sea of Galilee continues to rise, defying all doomsday predictions before the winter. Doomsday predictions don't fare well in the new Jewish reality. Its all up and up! 

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem