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....

This Week Today
Current Events from Israel

'Tis the season for not great news. I will report on one glimmer of hope - the World Zionist Congress election results! But I'll save it to the end, just when you think you can't take any more negativity. It is what it is. 

Coronavirus in Israel Update
Israel suffered its first death from Covid 19 this week and now the death count is up to 5. Pretty standard demographic: older people with previous health complications. Of course, still quite sad. There remain another 20 or so people in serious condition in Israel and another 2400 people who have tested positive. As a result, the Israeli government has increased restrictions and now people are only allowed to venture out for very specific reasons, like to the grocery store or the doctor. Otherwise, they need to remain within 100 meters (does anyone know how much that is?) of their homes. Minyans (prayer quorums) are allowed to continue in open areas and all the synagogues have been closed.  

The City of Jerusalem has taken the opportunity of less people on the streets to get some serious roadwork done during this time. I guess they figure the workers will be fine - I mean they inhale asphalt all day, definitely not at risk for any breathing complications. Their lungs must be rock solid! 

How long will these restrictions go on is anyone's guess. Some folks have said about a week. From the past restrictions put in place, it seems that a week is about as long as it takes for folks to forget how long they said initially something was going to last. Pattern seems to repeat itself.

Also, now the Supreme Court (more on those fuzzy bunnies soon) has authorized the security services to monitor everyone's cellphones to determine where they are/have been in proximity to people who have tested positive. Looks like all those conspiracy movies predicting this were right afterall. The reason this is now allowed, as opposed to before, is because the Knesset can oversee this surveillance now that they are back in session. And how did that happen? Read on! 

Israeli Political System Armaggedon
Ok, let's do this. So, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, after having been given the first mandate by President Rivlin (more on that fat bastard soon. too harsh?)  has so far been unable to form a coalition government - no surprise there. However, that doesn't mean he hasn't accomplished anything, with a little help from his friends.

The rule in the Knesset is that the Speaker of the Knesset come from the largest party that formed the coalition government. Since there still hasn't been a new coalition government in over a year and with 3 elections, the Speaker has continued to be the same person, Yuli Edelstein, from Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party. But this week the Supreme Court ordered the Speaker to have a vote in the Knesset, after ordering that the Knesset had to be opened and functional, to replace himself with someone from the Blue and White party - even though they can't seem to form a government. And if they could, why not just wait the few weeks to do so? Because everyone knows that the folks who are voting out the Speaker are not the same folks who would agree to be in a government to together. 

So why are they doing this? One reason: to get rid of Netanyahu. If they can elect a new Speaker then they will be able to introduce legislation to be voted on and the first, and possibly only, law that will come up is to make it illegal for an indicted Prime Minister to form a government - exactly the current situation of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Unclear what would happen after that, but its safe to assume that no one is working for free here, so the Arabs and Avigdor Liberman would likely be rewarded with some legislation for going along with this scheme - all while not being able to form a functioning government. 

The Supreme Court set the final date for the current Speaker to call a vote on a new Speaker to replace himself to be today (Wednesday). Earlier today, Knesset Speak Yuli Edelstein, resigned rather than doing so. Keep in mind this man was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for years in the gulag in Siberia for the crime of teaching Hebrew. Granted the Israeli Supreme Court hates Judaism more than the Soviets did, but they importantly lack the Siberian option. Edelstein was apparently not too intimidated by them. At this late hour, the Court is now deciding how to respond to Edelstein's insolence and when the vote will take place. Its hard work making every single decision in a country that thinks its a democracy.

President Rivlin has publicly criticized Edelstein's move and every good slam deserves another. Rivlin, a very overweight arrogant man who has led a very pampered life based on some false pretense of his family's grossly fabricated glorious legacy as devout Jews, could nowhere near match his newest ideological buddy. That would be Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab joint list who said this about Edelstein: "Yuli, you lightweight. You wouldn’t survive for a second as an Arab.” Not exactly sure what that means, but probably not very nice. Apparently Rivlin is fine with all this. While we're on the subject of the Arab list, one of their members, in celebration of some made-up "palestinian" mother's day earlier this week, sent out a greeting to the mothers of convicted terrorists that said "I want to tell you that we really appreciate you and the heroic efforts and roles that you are performing. Thank you and happy holiday." These are the type of people that Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman are working together with. Its really a disgrace. No way around it. Some things really should be unforgivable.

There are now renewed rumors of an emergency unity government being formed between Blue and White and Likud. There's still time left for that to happen, but if Netanyahu gets disqualified that will probable be the end of that. 

World Zionist Congress Results
Now for the good news! The results of the recently held elections for US representatives to the World Zionist Congress have been announced and they are very different than last time! The main difference was the success of the "Eretz HaKodesh" slate, led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, to bring in ultra-orthodox voters for the first time - 20,000+ of them! They went from zero to the third largest slate. Overall, the more right-wing, Orthodox slates scored a big victory and it looks like they will control a solid majority of the US delegation of 152 seats in the 500 member congress, scheduled to take place in October. 

This is terrible news for the reform, conservative and hatikfah slates. They dominated in the previous election in 2015. But to be painfully honest, they brought this on themselves. They took radical and obnoxious public positions on a range of issues and virtually forced the pushback from the more traditional elements within the the American Jewish community. This would have never have happened if they hadn't gone too far, and they went way too far. Certainly the hatikfah slate should consider running for the Palestinian Authority parliament, if they ever have elections again, they'll feel more at home and probably get more support. 

We're coming up on the Pesach and its a time to remember and commemorate many miracles that the Jewish People experienced when we were liberated from slavery in Egypt. One of those is splitting of the Sea of Reeds. That took place when things didn't look all so great for the future, but G-d made a miracle and rescued us. G-d willing, everyone will be healed from this Corona thing and we'll get our political acts together over here in Israel so that we can accomplish what needs to be done, without terrorist supporters and senile old men mucking stuff up.