Simchat Torah 5776 – Chag Same’ach!

I didn’t think it could be possible, but here we are, once again on erev Chag, and again the nation is in mourning after another barbaric double murder by a Palestinian terrorist thug. And again I feel guilty at blogging about celebration when we are mourning two more beautiful Jewish lives suddenly snuffed out in their prime.

And again, I note that we do not mourn on festivals and Shabbat, and that life goes on. But it is hard…

I will simply repost here what I have written in previous years:

Simchat Torah

The last and most joyous festival of the Jewish holiday season is almost upon us – Sukkot finishes tonight and Simchat Torah begins.

I shall refer you to a previous post on Simchat Torah if you would like to know more details about the festival – which involves lots of dancing with the Torah scrolls in 7 circuits of the synagogue, giving out sweets to the children, and generally celebrating reading the entire Torah and starting all over again from Bereishit (Genesis).

Dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah

Following the dancing,  we say Tefilat Geshem (the prayer for rain) as Sukkot marks the official end of summer in Israel and the beginning of autumn and the rainy season.

In between the dancing and the prayer for rain we pause the celebrations for the Yizkor, the memorial prayer for the dead. This year Yizkor will taken on an added poignancy in the wake of the Palestinian atrocities which took four lives over the Sukkot.

May this Simchat Torah herald in a year of celebrations and only good news.

Chag Same’ach everyone.

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The terror continues: double murder in the Old City of Jerusalem

Rabbi Nechemia Lavi HY’D (l) and Rabbi Aharon Benita-Benet (r), murdered on Motzei Shabbat in the Old City

We thought things couldn’t get worse after the murder of Naama and Rabbi Eitam Henkin Hy”d on Thursday. We were wrong. This Shabbat has seen another wave of Arab terrorism, including the shooting of children sleeping in sukkahs around Israel, and culminating in yet another double murder. This time it was the Old City of Jerusalem, as a couple and their baby were attacked by a Palestinian terrorist. The father was killed, the mother has been seriously injured, the baby slightly injured, and a second Israeli who rushed to their rescue was also killed. This time the Israeli security forces were on the scene immediately and shot and killed the terrorist. But where were those forces in real time, when they were needed?!

From the 2nd link:

Two Israeli men in their 40s died of their wounds Saturday night after being stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City in a terror attack.

The wife of one of the men is in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. The mother was taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and is undergoing surgery. The toddler was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where he remains in stable condition.

The men were stabbed in the upper body and were unconscious when paramedics arrived at the scene.

The father was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus where he died of his wounds shortly after the attack. The second man was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center where he also died Saturday night.

When the attack began, the injured woman managed to run and alert a group of Border Police forces nearby who arrived on the scene and shot and killed the attacker.

The baby was shot in the leg, although it is not yet entirely clear how. Police said the attacker may have grabbed a firearm the father was carrying but it is not clear if he managed to fire it.

The incident occurred near Lion’s Gate in East Jerusalem.

The two Israeli murder victims were named as Rabbi Nechemia Lavi and Rabbi Aharon Benita-Benet:

The two Israeli men who were killed Saturday evening in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City were named by police as Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Benet, 22.

The two died of their wounds shortly after being stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City by a Palestinian terrorist.

Benet’s wife is in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. She was taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and is undergoing surgery. The toddler was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where he remains in stable condition.

Lavi, a Jerusalem resident, leaves behind a wife and seven children.

His funeral is scheduled for Sunday at noon at Har Hamenuhot in Jerusalem, also known as the Givat Shaul cemetery.

French-born Benet and his family lived in Beitar Illit. He was set to be buried early Sunday morning on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Arutz Sheva has a video of the attack which was taken by a passer-by. It’s rather blurry and unclear on the one hand but stomach-churning and horrific as you realize what’s going on. I won’t post it here. Watch it at Arutz Sheva.

The video was filmed near the Lion’s Gate of the Old City, and in it gunfire, screams and a baby crying can be heard as the mayhem unfolds.

At around 12 seconds into the video the terrorist, wearing a black sweatshirt, can apparently be seen stabbing a victim in a white shirt from behind. He follows after his falling victim and repeatedly stabs him on the ground.

Shouts of “Allahu akbar” (Allah is greater), traditionally shouted by terrorists as they attack, is heard around the same time.

In the attack the terrorist attacked a family with a knife, stealing a gun from the 40-year-old father whom he stabbed repeatedly before opening fire on passersby before being shot dead by security forces.

I am beyond words, still trying to process the Henkin murders and here we are faced with another bloodthirsty attack. And all this on our most joyous holiday. How are we supposed to reconcile the two? How can we celebrate Simchat Torah tomorrow night?

Meanwhile, how have those peaceful Palestinians been responding to the murder of the Henkin couple? Not with breast-beating, apologies, or “where did we go wrong” articles like Israeli society and the Israeli media did after the Dawabshe arson attacks – for which, it must be noted, no culprits have yet been found. Nope. Not them. They celebrated with fireworks and handed out candies, just like they do after every “successful operation”:

Throngs of Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday night to celebrate the brutal slaying of an Israeli couple in a shooting attack in the West Bank.

The festivities included the launching of fireworks and the waving of flags in the streets, Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Gendelman posted on Twitter a photo of the scene. Most of the flying banners were of the Palestinian Fatah faction, the armed wing of which claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Eitam and Naama Henkin. Revelers in Nablus, near the site of the shooting, set off fireworks, he said, adding that Palestinians on social media networks were “ecstatic” about the killings.

They make me utterly sick! Those murderous bastards ought to be rounded up and kicked out of the country, and stuff the do-gooders and righteous voices who criticise Israel for every perceived misdeed. And if they so much as point a wagging finger in our direction we should repay them in kind for the way they are treating all those waves of “peaceful” Muslim immigrants now flooding to their shores.

Referring back to the beginning of this post, and the report of children being shot in their sukkahs, the citizens of Lod are angry – and they’re absolutely right and correct in being so:

In the coastal town of Lod on Shabbat eve this Friday night, Arab gunfire reportedly wounded a five-year-old child as he was in a sukkah, the festive booth Jews are commanded to dwell in during the holiday of Sukkot – the same night a girl was shot in a sukkah north of Jerusalem.

Several gunshots were fired apparently by Arab assailants in Lod on Friday night, with one of them entering the balcony of the Shiloh family and hitting their five-year-old son Maoz, according to Yafit Haikin, a community leader and social worker in the coastal city.

The bullet caused a fracture to the young boy’s skull, and currently he is in intensive care following a complicated surgery.

“We aren’t prepared to live in a reality like this, and therefore we will go out in protest and read Psalms in front of the police station,” announced Haikin. “We must stop and demand the police to act and clear the city of illegal weapons.”

The protest began at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night in front of the police station.

According to reports, on Friday night a 16-year-old girl who slept in her family’s sukkah in Kokhav Ya’akov in the Binyamin region of Samaria was also shot.

She was wounded in the lower body, likely in her leg, as a result of a  bullet which was fired from a nearby Arab village.

The girl was lightly wounded, and was evacuated by a Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.

Adding to the gunfire on sukkahs around Israel was an incident on Saturday night in Nof Tzion, located in eastern Jerusalem, in which an Arab terrorist shot through the wall of a sukkah. Fortunately no one was wounded in the attack.

The murders and sukkah shootings were not the only violence over Shabbat. Security forces prevented further stabbings and firebombings:

Amid heightened tensions in Jerusalem following this evening’s deadly stabbing and shooting attack in the Old City, border police gave chase after spotting a suspicious Arab man in the neighborhood of A-Tor.

During the chase the suspect drew a knife, and was promptly tackled and arrested by police.

Elsewhere, in the Arab neighborhood of Issawiya, border police noticed an Arab youth lighting a firebomb, with the intention of hurling it at security forces.

Police acted preemptively, shooting and injuring the terrorist before he was able to attack.

Other Arab residents spirited him away before police were able to apprehend him, and forces have now sealed roads into the neighborhood as they search for the suspect.

Several other rock-throwing attacks were reported Saturday night, including one targeting an Israeli ambulance traveling along Route 60 near Hevron. No one was injured in that attack, but the ambulance itself suffered extensive damage.

There is an ironic twist to this incident:


So after an Arab is stabbed because he was mistaken for a Jew, the ambulance that evacuated him was stoned. It seems that we have found a new definition for the term “irony”.

The Arutz Sheva article continues with reports of Israeli anger at the latest attacks:

Meanwhile, protests have erupted throughout Israel following the latest attack, which comes just two days after the brutal slaying of parents Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of their children.

Protesters in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria temporarily blocked roads to Arab traffic.

Outside Shiloh in Samaria, one activist summed up the sentiments of protesters throughout the country: “It can’t be that in Israel Jews are afraid to travel but Arabs travel freely. If we can’t move around freely then neither can they.

Latest updates on the Israeli security forces’ activities, via the Muqata (follow him for constant updates):

Tonight the day of Hoshana Rabba began. This is the last day of Sukkot and also the last day when the Book of Life is still open and when we can still repent and ask for the evil decree to be overturned before our fates are sealed for the coming year. It looks like we have a lot of repenting and a lot of begging from the Almighty to make the coming year a peaceful and safe one.

May the families of Rabbi Aharon Benita-Benet Hy”d and Rabbi Nechemia Lavi Hy’d be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Please pray for the badly injured mother in the Jerusalem attack: Adel bat Miriam.

יהי זכרם ברוך.

Posted in Defence and Military, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Good News Friday – Sukkot edition

As I noted in my previous post, I tried my hardest to keep the news positive this week but in the light of yesterday’s terror attack I was tempted to cancel this Good News Friday installment. However my family persuaded me otherwise. Life does go on, and so do the chagim. We are not allowed to mourn on Shabbat or festivals, but how can one suspend one’s feelings? Maybe this blog post will help us towards this end as we head into Shabbat chol hamo’ed, the intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot, which ought to be the most joyous Shabbat in the year.

IBM Israel

So we’ll start with some great news from the world of hi-tech (h/t Reality): Why the world’s largest hi-tech companies all want a piece of the Israeli pie:

They all want a piece of the Israeli pie: Microsoft, Google, Apple – dozens of large, multinational companies have chosen to establish offices and R&D centers in the Startup Nation. Why did they all pick Israel and what exactly are they doing here?

It’s a little known fact that two thirds of all R&D employees in Israel are employed by foreign companies such as HP and Microsoft, according Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Currently, there are 250 R&D centers of foreign high-tech companies in Israel, according to IVC Research Center. The heavy presence of multinationals in Silicon Wadi clearly affects the local economy; consider this: Intel Israel is responsible for almost a tenth of Israel’s overall exports!

Thanks to multinational R&D centers, Israel is now a patent powerhouse. Over the past year, the number of Israeli patents filed in the US jumped 21 percent, making it the third-largest patent filer per capita, according to a study by Israeli business data firm BdiCoface. Only Japan and Taiwan outranked Israel. According to BdiCoface, between 2009 and 2013, IBM produced the most patents in Israel (674), followed by Intel (435), Marvell (281), SanDisk (261) and HP (197).

So, why are the big kids playing in the small Israeli playground?

No Camels asked the big hi-tech companies what is so special about Israel:

Maxine Fassberg, president of Intel Israel, said during a DLD panel discussion that Intel is in Israel “because we’re after the talent and the creativity of the Startup Nation.” According to Fassberg, “Israel is crucial to Intel. Intel cannot do without the geniuses here in Israel.”

There’s no doubt IBM is invested in Israel, or as IBM Israel’s passionate CEO Rick Kaplan said at the DLD conference: “We’ve acquired 13 companies here, we invest in them, we grow them.” He explained that IBM puts its offices “where the talent is,” and added that Israel is the company’s No. 2 office in terms of patents.

What’s so special about Israel in his opinion? “The state is now reaching out to eighth graders. By the time they enlist in the military service at age 18, they have advanced degrees in math. It’s an amazing proposition,” Kaplan said.

“Facebook looks at Israel as the place to be,” she said at the DLD conference. “There’s so much they can learn from Israelis. Israelis move fast, they don’t wait for an answer, that’s how you get things done. That’s why Facebook likes Israel. They’re amazed every time they come here.”

Clearly, multinational companies look for local talent, creative thinking and perhaps a grain of Israeli chutzpa. In return, they get a team of Israelis eager to prove themselves. Or, as Israeli Yoelle Maarek, who leads Yahoo’s regional office, said earlier this month at DLD: “We want to be critical to the company; we want to be the leaders.”

With the continuing onslaught on Israel’s legitimacy and the (not-so-successful) efforts of the BDS bigots, it’s gratifying and heartening to know that the big organizations, the ones that count, the ones with the money, the influence and the know-how, see Israel as one of the world’s leading lights.

In more technology news, two Israeli firms signed cumulative $923 million deals:, one in an acquisition and one in a sale:

Israel-based chip designer Mellanox Technologies Ltd made the bigger of the two deals, with its acquisition of network communications chip maker EZchip Semiconductor Ltd for $811 million as it expands its product portfolio for high-performance computing.

Mellanox said the acquisition pursues its strategy to become the leading supplier of interconnect solutions for software-defined data centres.

Mellanox, with a market value of $1.85 billion, makes InfiniBand products that enables databases, servers and computers to communicate. By buying EZchip the company adds Ethernet network processors to the list.

Meanwhile, Israel-based MediWound recently signed a five-year, $112 million contract with the US authority that handles public health medical emergencies to further develop and buy the company’s drug treatment for severe burns.

Investment group Clal Biotechnology, which has a 45 percent stake in MediWound, said in a statement that the deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would raise preparedness for mass-casualty incidents.

The US body would also help MediWound get approval for its drug NexoBrid, a topical treatment that removes damaged tissue, from the Food and Drug Administration, Clal said.

With what is going on in our region, with the added malign influence of Russia, it looks like there’ll be a great demand  for MediWound.

Kol hakavod to Israel’s scientists, researchers, developers, coders and geeks. And kol hakavod to all those tech giants who recognize Israel’s quality.

Tiny stone seal from the King David era

From the future back to the past, last week it was reported that a 10 year old Russian tourist to Israel discovered a tiny stone seal from the King David era amongst the rubble that has been illegally excavated and dumped from the Temple Mount:

A rare stone seal believed to date from the 10th century BCE was recently found in rubble removed from the Temple Mount, archaeologists announced.

The artifact was found some time in the past half year by a 10-year-old Russian boy who volunteered for a day at the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which sorts through rubble that was excavated from the contested holy site during the construction of the Marwani mosque in the late 1990s. Only recently, however, was the seal deciphered, the group said.

The seal, carved from brown limestone, features two crudely engraved animals, one atop the other, “perhaps representing a predator and its prey,” Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the project, said in a statement Thursday.

While later stone seals with inscriptions have been found in Jerusalem, Barkay said in a phone call with The Times of Israel that it was unique inasmuch as it was the first of its type and from that period found in Jerusalem.

Seals of this sort would have been used to stamp documents or clay vessels. The one found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project had a hole punched into the tip for wearing on a string.

Drawing of details from a cone-shaped seal found in rubble excavated from the Temple Mount believed to date to around the 10th century BCE (Razia Richman, Temple Mount Sifting Project)

The archaeologists said they determined the date of the seal to be from the 11th or 10th centuries BCE, the period traditionally attributed to the reigns of the biblical kings David and Solomon, based on stylistic comparison to other seals found at sites around the region.

“In recent years, using newly developed statistical methodologies and technologies, we have managed to overcome the challenge of having finds with no exact context since they were not recovered in a proper archaeological excavation,” Zachi Dvira, co-founder of the project, said in the statement. He said over a half a million other finds from the fill remain to be analyzed at the TMSP’s labs.

The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated.  Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary Magazine that the  discovery of the seal refutes Jewish history-deniers:

In recent weeks, the conflict over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has heated up. Palestinians have grown increasingly violent in their effort to prevent Jews from entering the site of the two Biblical Temples that constitutes the holiest spot in Judaism. Though the state of Israel has left in place rules that prevent Jews from praying there, the Arab states and the United Nations regard the desire of Jews to visit the compound as an insult to Islam. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has called upon his people to resist the efforts of Israelis to “desecrate” holy places with “their stinking Jewish feet.” This effort to whip up Arab hate against the Jews, is a cynical act that has several precedents in Palestinian history that inevitably led to the shedding of Jewish blood. But while Israeli efforts to stop the uptick in terror in Jerusalem are being met with unfair criticism, the truth about the struggle over the sacred plateau is best illustrated by the news of a startling archeological discovery.

Aerial view of the Temple Mount

… The reason why some will question the significance of the seal is that it was found among the 40 tons of dirt excavated by heavy machinery from the ground of the Temple Mount in the 1990s. That excavation was ordered by the Muslim Wakf that Israel has allowed to administer the site and its mosques since Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967 and was the result of a mosque building project. Though this is one of the key historic sites in the world, the Wakf had no interest in preserving the vast treasure trove of artifacts that are contained in the 35-acre Temple Mount compound. Indeed, judging by the brutality of its methods and its decision to simply dump the contents of their excavation in the Kidron Valley outside the walled city, it appears the Wakf was as interested in trashing any possible evidence of the history of this place as they were in improving their facilities.

Though malice is part of this effort, it is rooted in a more concrete aim. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority and its official media routinely deny that Jerusalem has a Jewish history. They treat all evidence of the indelible historic ties between the Jews and their ancient capital as Zionist propaganda. Rather than seek to cooperate to ensure that all faiths have equal access and rights to the holy sites in Jerusalem — something that has only become possible under Israeli sovereignty — the Palestinians treat the Jews as interlopers in even those places most closely associated with Jewish history.

In this context the battle over archeology isn’t merely a scholarly debate but a vital part of the effort to deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. By trashing an area that was loaded with precious artifacts buried over 30 centuries, the Palestinians hope to convince the world that Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, let alone any part of Israel, including the areas inside the 1967 lines.

The significance of the seal is that it shows the level of activity that is consistent with it serving as the site of the capital of ancient Israel. Since denying the existence of David’s Kingdom might hurt the case for Zionism’s legitimacy, destroying evidence of that history is key to their agenda. That’s why they trashed the Temple Mount and also why the volunteers of the Temple Mount Sifting Project that is painstakingly going through the material they removed from the historical site is so important.

Tobin is exactly right, and that is also why Israel and her supporters must continue to alert the world and protest at the desecration of the Temple Mount – by the Muslims and the Waqf, not by Israel, the Jews, or Christians. Kol hakavod to the Temple Mount Sifting Project – it is hugely important as well as providing a fascinating and enjoyable project for children, tourists and locals.

Meanwhile in present day Jerusalem, here are pictures of some of the wonderful things that have been going on this week:

Birkat Cohanim (the Priestly Blessing) at the Kotel:

At least 150,000 Jewish worshipers gathered under heavy police guard at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday morning for the traditional priestly blessing performed during the Sukkot festival, police said.

… During the Western Wall ceremony, hundreds of Kohanim — descendants of the caste of priests in charge of ritual in the ancient Jewish temple — blessed the crowds packed into the Western Wall plaza.

Just look at the pictures below to get an idea of what it looked like.  (Click on them to enlarge). Now we can get an inkling of what Jerusalem looked like when the Temple still stood. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days!

Arutz Sheva too has a great photo essay and video of the ceremonies at the Kotel:

The celebrations continued with the Hakhel ceremony.

The commandment of Hakhel involves assembling all Jewish men, women, children and non-Jewish residents of Israel to hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel after each Shmittah year. The Hakhel gathering took place at the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of the holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles), when all of Israel was gathered together in the capital.

The Biblical requirement for perform this commandment is not incumbent upon the Jewish nation today since it is only when all the Jewish people reside in Israel.

Nonetheless, there was a move to revive this unique commandment, at least in a symbolic manner, beginning in the early 1900s with Rabbi Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim (the father-in-law of Rabbi Kook), and then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shmuel Salant.

In 1945, the year after the shmittah, an official Hakhel ceremony was held for the first time in thousands of year. Since then, similar ceremonies have occurred every seven years since. The ceremony will be held this year at the Western Wall, with the chief rabbis of Israel, ministers and politicians in attendance.

Aaron Domba, an organizer behind the last three Hakhel events, spoke with Breaking Israel News about his experiences with what he described as an awe-inspiring endeavor spanning over 20 years. “We all come together as one, equal, like we did at the base of Mount Sinai,” he told Breaking Israel News.

Seven years ago I attended the last Hakhel ceremony with my daughter and it was an incredible, emotional and uplifting moment. Here are pictures from this year:

Here is my free translation of President Rivlin’s words:

As one man with one heart, the Hakhel ceremony is intended to gather in and untie the people, to join our hearts together. I was very moved to take part in the Hakhel ceremony this evening to mark the end of the Shmitta (fallow) year, which took place at the Kotel together with thousands of Israeli citizens who arrived from all over the country. Our existence as a nation is dependent upon our connection to the roots of our traditions throughout the generations, to our historic heritage, and to the path of our Forefathers.

After the Hakhel ceremony there was singing and dancing in celebration:

Yesterday, on our own aliya le’regel (pilgrimage) we found ourselves caught up, entirely by accident, in the Tza’adat Yerushalayim, the Jerusalem March. This is an annual parade in which participants come from all over the world to show their support for Israel. Also taking part are Israeli groups from companies, cities, farms and even the army. It is a very joyous, colourful (and noisy!) parade, and a wonderful sight to behold. The added bonus of course is the warm and emotional support for Israel from the participants.

Here are some of the photos I took (click to enlarge) and a couple of amusing videos:

Here is the Swiss delegation – complete with gigantic cowbells! :-D

And here is a multinational dancing group:

It was a joy to see Jerusalem so full, so busy and so happy. May this be a foretaste of even greater things to come in the days and years to come.

Nearer home, Petach Tikva city council held a Beautiful Sukkah competition – and my sister’s Sukkah was one of the winners! Here’s a video she took of their (very) bright and well-lit Sukkah! :-)

Kol hakavod to you, your husband and your family on your beautiful Sukkah. May you celebrate many more Sukkot together will all the family in nachat in your Sukkah and in your home.

May the peace and beauty of Shabbat bring comfort to the mourning families and friends of Naama and Eitam Henkin HY’D and may it usher in a better week of good news.

Shabbat Shalom and Mo’adim Le’simcha everyone.

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Disaster on Sukkot – Israeli couple murdered in front of their children

Eitam and Naama Henkin Hy”d

I know I had stated my intention to write only good news during Sukkot (and believe me, there is plenty of bad news out there, from Russia’s meddling in Syria, to ISIS, to Iran, to the UN’s hostility, and everything in between) but yesterday disaster struck and I cannot ignore it.

Last night, a young Israeli couple, Naama and Rabbi Eitam Henkin, were shot dead in their car as they drove past the communities of Itamar and Eilon Moreh to their home in Neria. Their four children were sitting in the back seat fo the are and must have witnessed the murder.

An Israeli couple was shot and killed in front of their four children Thursday night in the West Bank, in what appears to have been a drive-by terrorist attack.

According to reports, the family was driving near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik when their vehicle came under heavy gunfire from a moving vehicle.

Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene found Eitam and Na’ama Henkin from the settlement of Neriya, both approximately 30 years old, with bullet wounds to their torsos.

The children – aged nine, seven, four and a four-month-old baby — were examined by MDA medical personnel near the Itamar junction, not far from the site of the attack on the family’s car. It was determined that they were not injured physically and did not require hospital care.

The IDF said Israeli security forces are searching the area for suspects.

Responding to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian incitement.

“It has been proven again that the wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening,” he said from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly earlier today.

“This is a difficult day for the State of Israel,” he continued. “We are witness to an especially heinous and shocking murder in which parents were murdered, leaving four young orphans. My heart is with the children, all of our hearts are with the children and the family. The killers knew that they were murdering a mother and father, the children were there.”

Netanyahu said he would be speaking shortly with leading Israeli officials and vowed to take steps “not only to apprehend the murderers but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens.”

President Reuven Rivlin released the following statement:

Tonight, bloodthirsty murderers claimed the lives of a mother and a father, leaving their young children orphaned. The heart breaks at the magnitude of such cruelty and hatred.

We will continue in our brave and unwavering fight against this cruel and heinous terrorism — of this our enemies can be sure. This is our duty, and the only way we can ensure the right of the orphans who lost their parents tonight, along with the right of all our children and grandchildren, to live with security and in peace, everywhere in the Land of Israel.

We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured children — our hearts and thoughts are with them.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was also quick to respond to the news. “The murder in Samaria is reprehensible and very painful. I share in the family’s grief and in the community’s mourning,” he tweeted.

Ministers Uri Ariel and Naftali Bennett also blamed Palestinian Authority incitement for the attack.

“The Palestinian leadership is responsible for the horrific murder; it’s the killing of Jews because they are Jews,” Bennett said. “It has to be said clearly: This is the end of the era of the Palestinian state.”

“This murderous occurrence which orphaned four little children is the direct result of Abu Mazen’s litany of lies last night at the United Nations,” said Ariel. “The responsibility is his and he must answer for it.”

Tzippi Livni couldn’t resist a stupid political dig:

However, MK Tzipi Livni, the former justice minister who was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the negotiations with the Palestinians, condemned the attack. She said that while the entire country is mourning the couple and devastated for their now-orphaned children, the incident should not be used as a political tool.

And as for Hamas… puke:

Hamas praised the double murder, and called on activists in the West Bank to carry out additional terrorist attacks.

The US condemned the murder. Even the UN Secretary General condemned it:

But not the Palestinians.

Netanyahu slammed the Palestinian “President” for his silence on this awful murder:

“I didn’t hear any condemnation from the Palestinian Authority” on the murders of Naama and Eitam Henkin, Netanyahu said bitterly.

“Note that there was this horrible and pretty unique event of the murder of an Arab family in Kfar Duma,” he continued, referring to a terror attack on July 31, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed.

“I, and the entire Israeli leadership, immediately condemned it forcefully,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a briefing in his Manhattan hotel Thursday. “I went to the hospital. We gave any assistance possible. Now compare that to defeating silence, pardon the expression. It’s a deafening silence.”

This deafening silence is all the more disgraceful considering that the Al Aqsa Brigades, a PLO organization associated with Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, took “credit” for the murderous attack and urged more:

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser on NGOs, Gen Sultan Abu Al-Einen, called for more attacks as Fatah claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, Ofir Gendelman, Israeli government spokesman for Arabic media, tweeted on Friday.

The Palestinian Authority has been totally silent since Thursday’s murder of an Israeli couple in Samaria while its ruling Fatah party took responsibility for the terrorist attack that orphaned four small children.

Abbas told the United Nations in his speech Wednesday:

The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

Not only have the PLO and Abbas not condemned the drive-by murder, but Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed also told Hamas’ Al Quds TV:

The attack is a natural response to the crimes of the settlers and every action has a reaction.

The Martyr Abdul-Qader al-Husseini Brigades, associated with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades said it carried out the “heroic operation.”

The Henkins were a dream couple according to their friends, and came from illustrious families:

“They were a dream couple, who in life and in death were inseparable. Everyone knew that they went everywhere together. They invested a lot in their relationship, in their family, their children, ” a neighbor who was identified by her first name, Shlomit, told Ynet.

“They were something special, good people, very humble,” Shlomit went on, speaking quickly and appearing deeply upset.

Yossi Dermer, the head of the security team of the West Bank settlement of Neria, where the family lives, said the community and others like it are “unfortunately well versed” in such tragedies and were finding their strength in each other.

“Right now, there are four small children that need care; we need to see how we proceed in the morning,” said Dermer.

He indicated that the children were with relatives in the West Bank settlement of Pedu’el, where Naama Henkin was from.

The Hebrew daily Maariv reported that in a Facebook post on a “mommy forum” last year, Naama had asked about purchasing life insurance and possibly, drafting a will “in light of recent events and in general,” in reference to tensions and violence in the West Bank.

Eitam Henkin is the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Chana Henkin, who moved to Israel from the United States in the 1970s. His mother, Chana, runs the Nishmat institute, a Jewish learning institution that was one of the first to teach women Talmud and Jewish law.

Rabbi Henkin, a noted Torah scholar and author of several volumes of responsa, also serves as the school’s Jewish law authority.

Naama Henkin was a graphic artist who owned a design studio. According to Arutz 7, she is the daughter of a former member of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. Her father reportedly took part in the failed 1994 rescue attempt of IDF soldier Nachshon Waxman from a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem. Waxman was killed by his Hamas kidnappers as the IDF sought to free him; one of the rescue team was also killed.

What a huge loss to their families and to the whole of Am Yisrael! May their memories be for a blessing and may their families be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

How do we continue to celebrate Sukkot in the midst of such mourning? A friend of the family, Rabbi Eizman, talked about the couple and  tried to explain:

“Eitam and Naama died as holy people, but they also lived their lives in holiness. Not only in their deaths were they holy, but rather they were holy their entire lives,” he emphasized.

“Eitam grew up in (Jerusalem’s) Kiryat Moshe, he was talented, righteous, humble. He was currently in the middle of exams to become a municipal rabbi, and amid his study for the exams he also wrote books, some on halakhic (Jewish legal) issues, some on other issues.”

“This very difficult and complicated reality is now before us,” said Rabbi Eizman. Turning his attention the funeral on Friday morning, he said it “will be a family funeral, apparently private but the president has already announced he will come and also the defense minister will apparently arrive.”

“The pain is a great and awful pain, how the family is bereaved of both heads of the family, leaving orphans who will grow up – all over their desire to live in the land of Israel.”

When asked how it is possible to continue rejoicing in the Sukkot holiday after the murder, Rabbi Eizman said, “it’s very difficult, one of the most difficult things, that halakha requires us to continue as normal and to start the shiva (seven-day period of intense mourning – ed.) only after Simchat Torah.”

“But there’s no doubt that holy people like these leave upon us (the obligation) to keep great strength.”

“Those who see the wonderful parents Rabbi Yehuda Hertzl and rabbanit Chana in their courage and pain know that the main and greatest message is to continue the momentum of the settling of the land of Israel, to continue the momentum of life in the land of Israel, and G-d willing, also to overcome this awful pain.”

The funeral for the couple began at 11 a.m. this morning (about an hour ago as I write) and is still ongoing. Arutz Sheva has reports.

An article that puts the murder into its own awful perspective is worth reading: Paula Stern talks about “layers of tragedy”:

The children in the car range in age from nine years old to four months old. The nine year old, at least, will remember the moment her/his parents were murdered. And still worse, a tragedy by itself, the four month old will never remember, never know the parents that were lost.

And the layers of tragedy go deeper and deeper. Perhaps minor compared to the other tragedies, but still one that came to mind. While not all infants are breastfed, statistics say that as many as 87% of all babies in Israel are. And so I thought about who would feed this baby…if it cried for food before and after the children were found.

Four months old…who will nurse this 4-month-old child? Yes, yes, there is formula so we all know the child will not starve, and hopefully grandparents, uncles and aunts and, of course, five traumatized but loving siblings. But the wonder of breastfeeding a child, of holding it in your arms…and for the child, that close bond…tragically cut short.

And more…in just a couple of days, Israel will celebrate the most joyous of holidays – Simchat Torah. Last year, Rabbi Henkin danced with his children to celebrate as we read the final chapter of the Torah…and then immediately begin it again. Will his children dance this year? Who will dance with them in the years to come? Fathers all over Israel lift their children onto their shoulders and dance with them…on whose shoulders will these children sit now?

Forever, they will be orphans, no matter who steps in to take care of them in the coming years. One of the greatest blessing God can give to a parent is to see them all married; to see them all have children. I see my parents – with three married children, eleven grandchildren, and now four great-grandchildren. That is life.

Eitam and Na’ama Henkin never lived to see their children grown, will never see them marry. They will never know their grandchildren, never know the blessing of great-grandchildren. There are so many layers of tragedy here; and as each one comes to mind, the heart breaks that much more.

The tears are coming to my eyes too easily at the moment. This murder has become personal to me because Naama Hy’d was a friend of my daughter. She has gone to the funeral even though it is Friday, nearly Shabbat, she has a house-full of children and another large family as guests over Shabbat too. And the newly-orphaned children have been taken to their mourning grandparents who live in Peduel – which is wehre we are heading for Shabbat to be with our son and his family.

As Paula writes, layers of tragedy. This precious country of ours is so small despite its larger-than-life footprint in the international media and diplomacy. Everyone knows everyone else, if only at a remove of one or maximum two people. No six degrees of separation here. The people of Israel are mourning. And angry. The government had better take concrete steps to curb this growing wave of Palestinian violence before anarchy takes over.

יהי זכרם של הרב איתם ונעמה הנקין הי”ד ברוך.

Posted in Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

EU MP: Israel has many friends, labelling Israeli goods is illegal

Continuing with my “good news only” project for Sukkot, here is a very interesting take on Israel’s complicated relations with the European Union.

Israel and the EU

Support for Israeli settlements, i.e. those communities built in Judea and Samaria, has emerged from the most unlikely of places: Bastiaan Belder is a “Dutch member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as Vice-Chair of the Israel Delegation. He is also an advisory board member of the Europe-Israel Public Affairs.”.

This EU MP, Baastien Belder, insists that Israel has friends in Europe. In his op-ed in Ynet he writes:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing in Europe. This BDS movement may be strong but it’s not powerful. Thankfully, there are true friends of Israel inside Europe and the European institutions. They work hard to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism within the European Union. They did it again when faced with the strong negative draft joint motion for resolution on the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process that was adopted in the European Parliament last week.

In a very short timeframe, they had to reflect and think of strategies to tone down the language proposed by the Socialist and Democrats Party. The proposed resolution contained so much negative language that it was almost impossible to imagine any agreement by all political parties on a joint text.

After four hours of negotiations, in which the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the first and third largest parties at the Parliament, teamed up to delete the most poisonous language from the document. The end result is still not satisfying, but much worse was prevented.

They are the face of the true friends of Israel in Europe. They seek to achieve the best possible outcome with what they’re given – a very bad deal. Nevertheless, they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We reacted and used our political weight to tone down the text as much as feasibly possible. It was the choice of the lesser evil.

Another success of our persistence was the inclusion of the passage that any rocket fire into Israel by militant groups is unacceptable and that it is imperative for the EU to work in partnership with Israel to prevent the re-arming of terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the basic notion of Palestinian terrorism is always downplayed in the corridors of the European institutions. It is the friends of Israel who remind their left-wing colleagues, that the latter is the root cause for instability in the region and the true obstacle to peace.


All in all, the end result is not perfect but worse was prevented. In Europe, the friends of Israel, want to retain strong economic, scientific and security cooperation with Israel. Side by side with the Jewish state, we want to equally benefit from EU-Israeli collaboration and secure and safe and prosperous future for both our regions. We therefore will continue to work hard to secure strong EU-Israel relations and expand our cooperation in this coming new year.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Belder asserts that the EU’s labelling of settlement goods is illegal, and that Israel should have the courage to fight this miserable new edict.

The European Union’s moves to label Jewish-made produce from Judea and Samaria is illegal under international trade law, Dutch European Union MP Bastian (Bas) Belder warned Tuesday.

The European Conservatives and Reformists Group MEP – who is Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Israel and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs – added that the Israeli government should be taking a tougher stance against the moves to label Israeli produce in a bid to encourage boycotts.

​”What the European Union is doing… is totally against the rules of international state law,” he said.

“Instead of going with diplomacy and soft words… to Brussels,” Israel should be making more of this fact and threatening the EU with legal action if it goes ahead with the move.

“International law is not on the side of the EU,” he emphasized, while noting such a move would also undermine the EU’s own stated goal of forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Is that the way to normalize Israeli-Palestinian relations? Totally not.”

This is of a piece with what Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said recently. She suggested taking the fight to the boycotters and suing them. It is very gratifying to note that even a European Minister agrees with us. It is also extremely heartening for us Israelis to know that we have such good friends as Bastiaan Belder and his associates.

Let’s just hope that they have the power to influence the reigning anti-Israel mood in the EU. And let’s also hope that our often craven government has the strength of will and the courage of its convictions to go after these bigoted edicts and confront them in the courts of law.

BDS - Big, Dumb, Stupid

BDS – Big, Dumb, Stupid

Backing up Belder’s claim (and of course Israel’s claim as well) that the settlements are legal and boycotting and labelling are illegal, here is Ben-Dror Yemini on The lies  of BDS and the truth:

…  there is a difference between a legitimate argument, relevant criticism of Israeli policy, and a monumental campaign of false claims of apartheid, genocide, crimes against humanity, and proclamations that Israel was born in sin because it is a colonialist entity and as such is involved in the serious crime of ethnic cleansing.

The following short answers do not attempt to defend this government, or any other government of Israel. They are meant only to refute some of the false claims that are uttered time and again against Israel.

The Lie: “Zionism is a colonialist movement. You conquered from the Palestinians land that is not yours.”

The Truth: Zionism is a national liberation movement, like many others that were established in the 19th and 20th centuries. Zionism did not “conquer.” Many Jewish people, who were persecuted, especially in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, started making their way to Israel. There was no entity called Palestine at that time. It was a piece of land extremely sparsely populated, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The Lie: “You drove millions of Palestinians off their land. That is ethnic cleansing.”

The Truth: In the first half of the 20th century, there were waves of population exchanges for the purpose of establishing Nation States. About 60 million people were uprooted from the homeland. In 1947 the U.N. declared the establishment of two States between the River Jordan and the sea – a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the decision. The Arabs rejected it, and declared a war of annihilation.

Many Arabs fled because of the upcoming war, and a few were driven away following the invasion of the Arab state armies into the newly born State. About 711 thousand Arabs became refugees. As a result of that conflict about 850 thousand Jews were forced to leave the Arab countries. Many of them were driven out and their possessions confiscated. Out of tens of millions of refugees in those years, the only ones who remained as refugees are the Palestinians, and that is as a result of a conscious decision of the Arab countries to perpetuate their situation.

The Lie: “Palestinians who live in Israel are second-class citizens.”

The Truth: Israeli Arabs are citizens with equal rights. Arabs serve as Members of Parliament, as judges in courts, including the Supreme Court, as professors and doctors. In the past there were incidents of discrimination, and sometimes there still are. But according to any objective measure, the condition of Israeli Arabs is far better than that of Muslim minorities in Europe.

The Lie: “Israel enforces an apartheid policy in the occupied territories.”

The Truth: Israel has completely withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and most West Bank Arabs live under the Palestinian Authority which covers most aspects of their lives. The Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line are not Israeli citizens, because they aspire for a Palestinian State, and Israel did not annex the West Bank.

The Lie: “Israel is committing Palestinian genocide.”

The Truth: Eleven to 12,000 Palestinians have been killed between 1967 and 2015. The vast majority were involved in hostile activities. Relative to the size of the population this number is smaller than the average death rate from road accidents. One can call it many things – but not genocide.

It does not even come close to being genocide. This is one of the most blatant lies behind anti-Israeli propaganda. Contrary to terrorist organizations, who intentionally target civilians (both with rockets and with suicide-attacks in densely populated centers); Israel makes every effort not to harm innocent civilians.

The Lie: “Only an academic and consumer boycott of Israel will improve the situation of the Palestinians and bring peace.”

The truth: Objective data proves that the Palestinians’ situation has improved under Israeli rule. For example, in 1967 there was not even one academic institute in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Since Israeli rule, and under its patronage, scores of institutions of higher-education have been established.

The Lie: The definition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is an expression of racism.

The Truth: The most important principle in the U.N. Charter is the right to self-determination. Jews who want autonomy, as well as Palestinians, have that right. Jews have fought for the right to self-determination because they suffered persecution.

Czechoslovakia was divided into two nation states; Yugoslavia was split into six entities, because each people claimed their right to self-determination. An effort to deny any people this right is a violation of International law, and in itself is an expression of racism. It must be said, that as a Jewish Democratic country, non-Jews have full and equal rights in Israel.

There is so much more at the link. Read it all, share it widely, and let’s refute these terrible lies about Israel which form the basis for the bigoted and biased edicts that emanate from the EU and UN amongst others.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrate a birthday with a huge mitzva

As we get older we still want to celebrate our birthdays, especially our “special” ones, but by the time we hit our 50s and 60s we rarely need or even want presents. We already have a houseful (and maybe even a garage- or basement-full) of unnecessary gadgets and ornaments.  Yet we still want to mark the important day.

Caroline Ben Ari

Times of Israel blogger Caroline Ben Ari has come up with a brilliant, simple and innovative way to celebrate her special birthday – by asking all her friends, family and even passing strangers, to make a donation to the One Family Fund instead of giving her a present. Thus she gains a twofer: a mitzva by making a charitable donation and making sure her birthday won’t be forgotten!

Here is Caroline in her own words (emphases added):

… in February I read Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll’s blog, “I’m turning 40 and this is what I want for my birthday.”

And she also inspired me to set myself an outrageous goal: By my 60th birthday, which will be on November 4,  I want to raise $18,000 for OneFamily — specifically, for their Orphans Project.

One Family Fund aiding victims of terror

OneFamily is a wonderful organization that provides support to thousands of people who have been bereaved and injured by terror attacks. As they say on their website:

OneFamily understands the trauma of bereavement and injury from terror. Our family can provide the key elements that lead to successful rehabilitation. With this level of trauma, comes a feeling of isolation by singular experience. The perception of being alone affects every element of the recovery and rebuilding process. Our presence and resources ensure that victims and their families never need to feel alone.

The Orphans Project supports children who have lost both parents (and sometimes also siblings) in terrorist attacks. OneFamily holds multiple events for the orphans throughout the year, including Passover Seders and retreats, and also provides these particularly vulnerable survivors both with both financial and emotional support. OneFamily does what their parents would have done if they were still alive, such as help pay for tuition, weddings and other life-cycle events, and also attend each and every event. In short: OneFamily is their family.

You can help OneFamily continue their amazing work by donating as much or as little as you want at the special page OneFamily has created for my Big Birthday Project.

I am moved almost beyond words at Caroline’s initiative (yes, and Shoshana Keats Jaskoll’s too). I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a milestone birthday or any other important life cycle event.

Here are the ways to donate: If you are in the US, click this link.

If you are in Israel, Canada or the UK, click this link – but make sure you mention that the donation is for “Caroline’s Birthday Project” (or for Caroline Ben-Ari) because it’s not certain the Israeli page can identify that automatically like it does for the US donations page.

You can also keep up with the project, leave comments and share the project at Caroline’s Facebook page that she set up for this purpose.

Share, tweet and email this wonderful initiative and let’s help Caroline raise at least $18,000 for Israel’s orphan victims of terror.  And let me add a huge Kol Hakavod to Caroline for her generosity and initiative.

Posted in Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments