A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that was filed against a U.S. House Chaplain who refused to allow an atheist to perform an invocation in Congress.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled on Wednesday in favor of House Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy who was sued by an atheist over his refusal to invite him to deliver a nonreligious invocation in Congress.
“This court concludes that the refusal of the House chaplain to invite an avowed atheist to deliver the morning ‘prayer,’ in the guise of a non-religious public exhortation as a ‘guest chaplain,’ did not violate the Establishment Clause,” Collyer stated in her ruling, as reported by Christian News Network.
Dan Barker, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), sued Conroy and House Speaker Paul Ryan in May 2016 after he was prevented from delivering an invocation before Congress.
He was invited to deliver the invocation by Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, in February 2015, but Conroy’s office informed him that all guest chaplains must be “ordained by a recognized body in the faith in which he/she practices” and must present a copy of their ordination certificate as proof. Additionally, Barker was also told that a “higher power” must be addressed in the invocation.
Barker was ordained as a minister in 1975 before he became an atheist 10 years later. He submitted his certificate of ordination, which he had retained as a means to officiate at weddings, and said that in regard to addressing a higher power, he believes there is no higher power than “we, the people of these United States.”
In January 2016, Conroy denied Barker’s request to give the invocation because he had publicly announced his atheism.
In his lawsuit, Barker alleged that Conroy violated his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s exercise of religion unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
Collyer, however, concluded that Barker has not been discriminated against, despite his claims.
“Taking as true Mr. Barker’s allegations that atheism is his religion and assuming, but not finding, that RFRA applies to the House, the court finds Mr. Barker has failed adequately to allege a claim under RFRA because he fails to allege a substantial burden,” the judge wrote, according to Courthouse News.
She then argued that a substantial burden exists when a government action “puts a ‘substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.'”
Collyer also rejected Barker’s argument that his lawsuit was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway case, in which the court ruled that the township could permit volunteer chaplains to open each legislative session with a prayer.
The judge argued that the ruling does not apply to Barker’s case because the justices make no mention of atheists in their decision.
The FFRF denounced Collyer’s ruling, saying the court has legitimized the exclusion of nonbelievers from the nation’s legislative chambers.
“We’re deeply dismayed that atheists and other nonbelievers are being openly treated as second-class citizens. Our government is not a theocracy, and it needs to stop acting like one,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor on Facebook.
In the midst of this destruction, however, a California church is offering a place of safety. According to The Christian Post, members of the Influence Church in Anaheim Hills have not only opened the church to those in need, but have opened their own homes.
“During the evacuation, church members and staff helped neighbors move stuff out of their houses. We prayed for those that were in distress during that time. It was like chaos around here,” Pastor Phil Hotsenpiller told The Christian Post.
The church is especially close to the “Canyon Fire 2” which began on Monday. This particular fire is reportedly about 60 percent contained.
Pastor Hotsenpiller continued: “We gave out water. We offered to house. We probably had 50 of our members offer homes for people to stay in. If they didn’t want to do that, we offered to pay for their hotel. Although we didn’t have anyone take us up on the hotel, on the rooms they did.”A coffee shop near the church also offered free coffee to those fleeing the fires
Calif. wildfires now up to 100 mi. wide, death toll hits 40
The California wildfires raced toward wineries and the historic town of Sonoma on Saturday, chasing hundreds more people from their homes and threatening to roll back firefighters’ modest gains against fires that stretched across a 100-mile swath of Northern California.
Propelled by stiff winds, the fires damaged or destroyed several buildings in the middle of the night before crews halted their advance at the edge of Sonoma, where firefighters spent days digging firebreaks to keep flames from reaching the city’s historic central plaza built centuries ago when the area was under Spanish rule.
For those living in the huge fire zone, it was another night spent watching, waiting and fearing the worst.
John Saguto said he awoke several hours before dawn at his home east Sonoma to see flames “lapping up” 300 to 500 yards away. He and his neighbors evacuated as firetrucks raced up and down the streets and hot embers flew over their heads.
The fire made “a strong run” into Sonoma and damaged or destroyed additional buildings before firefighters stopped it, said Dave Teter, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Several homes and other structures near a vineyard east of downtown were in smoldering ruins. Firefighters hosed down embers and knocked down walls that could topple over.
As of Saturday afternoon, Teter said crews did not expect any more losses in that area. But gusts up to 25 mph were forecast for the rest of the day.
Nearly a week after the blazes began, the fires have left 40 people dead and destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses, making them the deadliest and most destructive group of wildfires in California history. Some 300 people remain unaccounted for, though officials think they’ll locate most of those people alive.
Most of the deceased are believed to have died late on Oct. 8 or early Oct. 9, when the fires exploded and took people by surprise in the dead of night. Most of the victims were elderly, though they ranged in age from 14 to 100.
“It’s a horror that no one could have imagined,” Gov. Jerry Brown said, after driving past hundreds of “totally destroyed” homes with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
From the sky, large subdivisions that burned to the ground looked like black and white photos. Each neatly outlined lot is full of ashen rubble. Cars are burned a darker gray. Trees still standing are charred black. Only streets look unscathed.
Brown, 79, and Feinstein, 84, said the fires were the worst of their lifetimes. The two veteran politicians reminded people that the blazes remain a threat and that people need to leave their homes when told to go.
No causes have been determined for the fires, though power lines downed by winds are seen as a possibility.
Although some evacuees were returning home in Mendocino County, the latest estimates were that about 100,000 people were under evacuation orders as the fires burned for a sixth day.
Some evacuees weary from nearly a week on the run demanded to return home or to see if they still have homes. Plans were in the works to reopen communities, but they were not ready to be put into effect, Teter said.
Douglas and Marian Taylor stood outside their apartment complex Saturday in Santa Rosa with their two dogs and a sign that said “End evacuation now.”
Their building was unharmed at the edge of the evacuation zone with a police barricade set up across the street. The couple said they are spending about $300 per day to rent a motel and eat out, and they want to return home because the fire does not appear to threaten their home.
At an evacuation center at the fairgrounds in the Sonoma County city of Petaluma, volunteers sorted through mounds of donated baby wipes, diapers, pillows, shoes and clothing.
Randy Chiado and his wife, Barbara, evacuated Monday from the Oakmont section of Santa Rosa. They stayed for several days with a friend in Santa Rosa but left Saturday when flames approached again and sought refuge at the fairgrounds.
“After so many times of ‘It’s coming, get ready. It’s coming, get ready,’ it just gets nerve-wracking,” Barbara Chiado said.
Life away from home has been difficult and dangerous. Randy Chiado said a man who may have suspected he was a looter tried to punch him through his car window and yelled for a friend to get a gun when the Chiados turned onto a residential street. He said he was able to push the man off and drive away.
The couple planned to spend the night with other evacuees in a room set up with cots. “It’s like jail,” he said.
In all, 17 large fires still burned across the northern part of the state, with more than 10,000 firefighters attacking the flames using air tankers, helicopters and more than 1,000 fire engines.
Signs posted in Sonoma thanked the firefighters. One declared them “heroes among us.”
Throughout the day, fires continued to flare and burn through forested areas, engulfing extremely dry vegetation. Air tankers streamed red retardant to halt the spread of flames while other planes and helicopters made targeted water drops.
In a rural section of Santa Rosa, a low-flying helicopter dumping load after load of water on homes and mansions sent startled cattle stampeding.
Reacting to a truck bomb in Somalia’s capital that killed at least 53 people Saturday, the U.S. government has joined a group of nations in condemning the attack.
“Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism,” the U.S. mission to Somalia said in a statement.
The U.S. military this year has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and often targets Mogadishu, the capital.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society were among the dead.
A statement Sunday said “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”
Hospitals in Mogadishu struggled Sunday to cope with the high number of casualties, security and medical sources said.
Ambulance sirens echoed across the city a day after the blast as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.
Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, said Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein.
Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, al-Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to comment.
“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”
Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen. “It’s a sad day. This how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said, speaking to the state-run radio station.
Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for any survivors trapped under the rubble of the Safari Hotel, which was largely destroyed. The hotel is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The blast blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel
A Palestinian Authority Arab was arrested outside a Samaria military court near Kfar Salem on Sunday morning, according to Border Police.
At the checkpoint outside the court, he was discovered to have been carrying a pipe bomb.The court was closed as security forces cleared the area and sappers neutralize the bomb.
Arab Youth Sets Self on Fire Outside Hebron
A young man set fire to himself east of Hebron on Sunday morning, after pouring a flammable liquid on his body, Ma’an reported. His burns were described as light.
Local and medical sources told Ma’an that the young man, from the town of Bani Na’im, five miles east of Hebron, set fire to himself on the roundabout of Beit ‘Einun, a village located three miles northeast of Hebron. A Red Crescent ambulance rushed to the scene, where the young man had been slightly burned in his lower body. He was evacuated to a hospital in Hebron.
The sources pointed out that the youth is suffering from family problems, and set fire to himself as a way to resolve these problems.
US to Spend $750,000 Conserving Ancient Jewish Site as ‘Palestinian Heritage’
Jerusalem-based US Consul General Donald Blome last Friday joined “Palestinian officials and dignitaries” in launching a major conservation project to protect and preserve Solomon’s Pools, an archaeological site in Bethlehem. The $750,000 project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the State Department’s Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and a complimentary $250,000 grant from the Consulate General in Jerusalem. The project will be run through a partnership with the Solomon’s Pools Preservation and Development Center (SPPD), and will help protect the historic site, which has been damaged in recent years by erosion. The US consulate is hoping the pools would encourage tourism and help the PA economy.
Now for the zinger: in his remarks, Consul General Donald Blome said, “This contribution from the US government not only underscores America’s respect and admiration for Palestinian heritage and its treasured antiquities, but also the imperative of supporting the Palestinian economy as an essential element for peace.”
Ever wondered what UNESCO stood for? Answer: United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
The United States is dropping out of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization only months after the international organization went “delusional” by declaring the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a “Palestinian heritage site.”
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” Nauert said.
In July, WND reported a prominent supporter of Israel said the United Nations has turned “delusional.”
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, was responding to UNESCO’s vote to declare the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a “Palestinian heritage site.”
It was just the latest in a series of actions by the U.N. against Israel, including its move to call the Temple Mount “Islamic.”
“This recent UNESCO resolution is another delusional U.N. decision which disregards the historical truth and the Jewish people’s deep connection to Hebron,” said Staver.
Staver also is president of Christians in Defense of Israel and founder of Covenant Journey, all in support of Israel.
“To refer to Hebron as ‘Islamic’ denies thousands of years of Jewish history as well as Christian ties to the site. The biblical patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, as well as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are believed to be buried there, and to deny that is another move toward the Palestinian Authority and Hamas renaming the entire land to Palestine and denying Israel’s right to exist,” said Staver.
“Netanyahu pulled no punches in reminding the body of its anti-Israel and, more bluntly, anti-Semitic bias,” Farah wrote. “He condemned UNESCO’s July declaration of the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a ‘Palestinian World Heritage site,’ saying sarcastically, ‘That’s worse than fake news, that’s fake history.’”
Netanyahu continued: “It’s true that Abraham, the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, is buried there, but so too are Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – Sarah is a Jewish name, by the way – and Leah, who just happen to be patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. You won’t read about that in the latest UNESCO report. But if you want to, you can read about that in a somewhat weightier publication. It’s called the Bible. I highly recommend it. I hear it even got 4 ½ out of 5 stars on Amazon. And it’s a great read. I read it every week.”
When UNESCO made the announcement over the summer, Netanyahu cut an additional $1 million from Israel’s U.N. membership dues. Israel will give those funds to the Museum of the Heritage of the Jewish People in Kiryat Arba and Hebron.
That resolution, brought by seven Muslim nations, emphasized Islam’s claims to the site but ignored the historical facts about Jewish presence there over 3,000 years.
UNESCO said at that time it “firmly deplores the continuous storming of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces, and urges Israel, the occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif.”
East Jerusalem has been part of Israel since the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians want the city as part of a future state.
“Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples. Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is home to the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia,” Fox News reported.
Netanyahu at that time issued a statement on Facebook he titled “The theatre of the absurd continues at the UN.” The statement reads:
Today UNESCO adopted its second decision this year denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site for over three thousand years.
What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?
Is it any wonder the UN has become a moral farce when UNESCO, the UN body tasked with preserving history, denies and distorts history?
UNESCO’s drive to rewrite the history of the Temple Mount according to Islam began shortly after it accepted the Palestinians as a member state in 2011. There initially were attempts to have it declared a solely Muslim site, which failed. Since then, resolutions regarding Jerusalem repeatedly have used only the Muslim terms for the Temple Mount area and its adjacent wall.
“The Word of God has much to say about the abject hatred of the revenant nation of Israel in the last days. It also speaks of Jerusalem ultimately being surrounded by enemies and, at least, the temple area – being trampled upon by ‘Gentiles,’” he said.
“To Satan, it is not enough that an ultimate symbol of an ‘abomination that causes desolation’ (The Dome of the Rock) is sitting upon the Temple mount – but now, apparently he is indwelling an organization that fancies itself to be the head of a rising ‘one world order,’ and attempting to assassinate historical truth in the furthered cause of alienating Israel in the last days.”
The anti-Israel agenda at the United Nations even has moved into the farcical at times.
WND reported in June that Arabs at the U.N. were placing the blame for Palestinian men who beat their wives on Israel.
The outlandish claim came during a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council when a report on violence against women was submitted, reported Palestinian Media Watch.
According to PMW, the report claimed there was “a clear linkage between the prolonged occupation and violence against women.”
However, U.N. Watch Director Hillel Neuer responded immediately.
The report on “violence against women” was undermined, he explained, “by its subservience to the recurring and unproven assumption … that there is, quote, ‘clear linkage between the prolonged occupation and violence against women.’
“In other words, what you are saying is as follows: When Palestinian men beat their wives, it’s Israel’s fault.”
He asked where was the evidence for a “clear linkage.”
“Where is the data. I don’t see it anywhere in the report,” he said.
And he questioned why those submitting the report had not done the basic comparisons, such as looking at similar statistics from Lebanon, Jordan, and other Arab nations.
“Why have you not done so?” he asked.
Besides, he said, Arab television routinely promotes messages to men about how to beat their wives, he said.
The U.N.’s actions caught the attention of the U.S. Senate, where all 100 senators signed a letter calling for a change in the international body’s behavior toward Israel.
“Too often, the U.N. is exploited as a vehicle for targeting Israel rather than as a forum committed to advancing the lofty goals of its founders,” the letter states. “These actions have at times reinforced the broader scourge of anti-Semitism, and distracted certain U.N. entities from their original missions.
“As both the U.N.’s principal founding member and its largest contributor, the United States should insist on reform. As duly elected representatives of the American people, we take seriously our responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of U.S. engagement at the United Nations. We are deeply committed to international leadership and to advancing respect for human rights.
“But the continued targeting of Israel by the U.N. Human Rights Council and other U.N. entities is unacceptable. This situation must change. We urge you to engage member states in a comprehensive effort to directly confront and root out this bias.
A woman fell to her death in London’s historic St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday.St Paul’s Cathedral/ Facebook
The unidentified victim fell more than 30 metres from the Whispering Gallery inside the cathedral on Wednesday at 10.30am. Emergency services were rushed to her aid within minutes of the fall but she died at the scene, according to The Telegraph.
A City of London police spokesperson said: ‘The incident is being treated as non-suspicious. Officers are currently working to inform the woman’s family.’
The cathedral said in a statement that it was ‘deeply saddened’ by the incident.
The statement added: ‘Although robust procedures for emergency situations are in place at St Paul’s and today’s response bore that out, it does not lessen the shock we feel as a close community, especially for those of us who witnessed and responded to this incident.
‘We hold also in our thoughts those visitors within the Cathedral at the time.
‘We think and pray especially at this time for the woman who died, and for all those who were close to her and who loved and cared for her.’
The famed Whispering Gallery, a walkway more than 100ft high in the dome of the cathedral, is surrounded by metal railings to protect visitors.
St Paul’s was closed for the day following the event, but reopened for services, as usual, this morning.
‘Ten Commandments Judge’ emerges victorious in GOP race to replace Sessions
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore won a major victory Tuesday in Alabama’s special election GOP runoff against interim Sen. Luther Strange, and he’s widely expected to win the race for the Senate in December.
In the final count, Moore garnered 54.6 percent to Strange’s 45.4 percent.
Analysts had claimed the race embodied a war inside the GOP between establishment and anti-establishment forces.
As WND reported, Breitbart Washington Bureau Chief Matthew Boyle even suggested the race was “a flashpoint in a larger war inside the GOP for the heart and soul of the party.”
Moore’s candidacy represents a referendum against the “swamp,” Boyle argued.
“If Alabamians send Moore to the U.S. Senate, they will be sending a message to the swamp in Washington, D.C., that they do not support Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others’ efforts to dilute the agenda that President Trump campaigned on,” he wrote.
Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned amid scandal, had appointed Strange to the seat vacated when Sen. Jeff Sessions became U.S. attorney general. Moore came away from the initial Republican primary on Aug. 15 with 39 percent of the vote, while Strange, who was backed by the GOP establishment, had 32.8 percent. The third leading GOP candidate, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, took 20 percent.
Now Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in the December special election. The Republican nominee is expected to prevail in the GOP-dominated state.
President Trump had campaigned on behalf of Strange and voiced support for Strange in the August primary.
“‘Big Luther’ is a great guy who gets things done!” he tweeted.
In one interview with an Alabama radio show Monday, Trump admitted, “I don’t know that much about Roy Moore.”
McConnell and his allies endorsed Strange before the initial Republican primary in August, stoking criticism that Strange represented the Washington establishment, which dropped a cool $30 million on the race. With the exception of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has said he refrains from getting involved in primaries involving incumbents, Strange had the support of nearly all his colleagues in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Moore had been making political hay out of the establishment support for Strange. In a fundraising email, he accused the McConnell of “dirty tricks and schemes … like turning out Democrats to vote for his crony Luther Strange in our Republican primary.”
“Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate means the END of Mitch McConnell’s reign as Majority Leader,” Moore added.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, slammed Moore in a recent interview, asserting the former Alabama Supreme Court justice would not be a productive member of the Republican caucus.
“Look at his track record,” Cornyn said. “It’s highly likely that he could be disruptive. We’re talking about somebody who has been removed from the bench twice.”
Moore was first removed, on a federal judge’s order, from the Alabama Supreme Court more than a decade ago for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court building. Voters put him back in the same position. He then was removed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s creation of same-sex “marriage” when he issued an administrative order advising Alabama judges with with respect to a current marriage case, the state law regarding marriage was still in force.
“They feel like maybe I would take the same kind of attitude at the United States Senate,” Moore said of Senate Republicans in an interview with Politico. “And maybe I would. Because I stand for what I believe in.”
Fox News correspondent Jonathan Serrie tweeted this image of a Ten Commandments display at the entrace of an election night watch party for Roy Moore on Sept. 26 (Photo: Twitter)
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon threw his support behind Moore. Bannon also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday that there should be a “real review” of the information given to President Trump to convince him to back Strange. Bannon attended Tuesday night’s election night watch party.
“They tried to destroy Donald Trump; the same gang that is going after Roy Moore is the same gang that went after Donald Trump,” Bannon said. “And I have to tell you, I think at some time later after [Tuesday], a real, you know, review has to be done of how President Trump got the wrong information and came down on the wrong side of the football here.”
Bannon blasts GOP establishment’s role in Alabama Senate race
After Moore’s win, Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Nov!”
At a Conservative Action Project meeting on Aug. 28, Bannon emphasized that his support for Moore is not about undermining or subverting the president, but is a move to disrupt the GOP establishment, specifically to rebuke McConnell.
Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also endorsed Moore last month, arguing he “has what it takes to stand up to the out-of touch political establishment.”
Boyle said most of the Washington establishment “that despises Trump’s agenda – including the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, McConnell’s forces, and Karl Rove and his allies – have aligned behind Strange.”
“Most of the supporters of the president’s agenda – including Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – have aligned behind Moore’s campaign.”
Last year, I expressed optimism for Israel in 5777. I suggested that Israel would continue to suppress the terrorism from within the Palestinian Authority, and at the same time learn to deal with a rise in terror coming from radicalized Israeli and Jerusalem Arabs.
Indeed, in 5777 the IDF and Israeli security forces prevented PA Arab terrorists from committing as many deadly or serious attacks as they had the year before — unfortunately, the ones that succeeded were still horrific. And the radicalized Israeli-Arab terror, while still limited, became far more extreme, setting the country on fire, in some cases quite literally.
Just so no-one misunderstands the statement above, the majority of Israeli-Arabs are law-abiding and appreciate living in Israel as opposed to living in any Arab or Islamic country. A survey by IDI in May of this year found that 51.1% of Israeli-Arabs felt proud to be Israeli (compared to 86.1% of Jews).
Former US President Obama’s anti-Israel November Surprise at the UN wasn’t much of a surprise, but, in the end, his words had no effect in the real world.
His actions, on the other hand, Obama’s massive financial contribution to the radical Islamic Iranian regime, which then used that fortune to consolidate their terror network forged a tectonic shift across the Middle East.
I don’t know if we’ll be facing off in a full-scale war this year with Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies (or even Iran itself), but it appears we are headed in that direction. It will be a serious conflict on multiple fronts when it finally breaks out, this coming year or next.
I hope that the newly emerging reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will go the way of all their previous reconciliations — I would be surprised and worried if it survives the inherently tribal nature of the Arabs of the Land of Israel. There is reason to suspect that Hamas is trying to adopt the Hezbollah model of government.
As predicted, BDS and other anti-Zionist NGOs spewed their venomous propaganda against Israel’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation, and as predicted, no one paid attention.
Unexpectedly, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi/Ichud Leumi) introduced a real chance for progress towards resolving the Middle East conflict with his “One Hope” peace plan. If nothing else, it has opened up the tired, 50-year-old conversation to new ideas other than the “two-state solution.” The radical left was duly shocked and outraged.
Economically, Israel had some spectacular successes, and the country’s economy is doing well, despite Finance Minister Kachlon’s failed social engineering experiments in the real estate market.
My urgent concerns in 5778 are not for Israel, but for American Jewry.
Open anti-Semitism from the Left and the Right (talk about intersectionality) is on the rise in the US, and as the Lubavitcher Rebbe once said regarding a new Holocaust, “It can happen again overnight.”
Trump’s election (and equally, Hillary’s loss) has made the progressive/”liberal”/Reform Jewish community a little crazy, while the 2013 Pew study has forced them to face their denominational mortality.
With few exceptions, the Reform movement has avoided any real introspection as to why their ideas are failing — while their membership become less and less Jewish. Indeed, they no longer believe having a fast growing non-Jewish membership is a bad thing.
Instead, the Reform leadership has chosen to unite their dwindling community in a religious war against Israel and traditional Judaism, using Israel’s High Court as the battlefield where they attempt to force their failed and divisive ideologies and practices onto the Jewish State.
Israel has always struggled over issues of religion and the state, but the Reform and anti-Zionist NGO insurgency is helping to radicalize what most Israelis have been adept at working out — because we live here together and have no choice but to get along.
I am also concerned with the permanent damage Reform clergy are causing the traditional ties of their congregations with Israel, with their campaigns to grab more real estate at the Western Wall. Their decision to snub a sitting US President on the eve of Rosh Hashanah may also harm those same congregations. Their arrogance cannot but yield disaster and I can only hope they realize this and step back from the brink.
Here’s an uplifting note: more Jews have visited the Temple Mount in 5777 than in past years going back to 70 CE, and those numbers continue to grow. Israeli police have become more sensitive to the Jewish visitor than in the past (though far from perfect), and for one week this year we tasted how peaceful the Temple Mount could be without Muslim agitators on our holiest site.
As I write these words I’m thinking of the Israeli volunteers who recently flew to Houston to help after the hurricane, and the search and rescue team Prime Minister Netanyahu is sending right now to Mexico to assist after the earthquake. Our hearts are with the victims. It makes me proud to live in Israel, in a country that is able and willing to provide aid and assistance to those in need around the world.