Country's economic recovery will take years-Taub report and Jews in Music" Presented by The Genesis Prize Foundation and Pollard and the great Jewish divide by Caroline Glick and New elevator, tunnel to provide accessible entry to Jerusalem’s Old City and is the Covid Epidemic like the ten Plagues?
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
New elevator, tunnel to provide accessible entry to Jerusalem's Old City
Along with providing an accessible route to the Jaffa Gate, the project will also open up archaeological finds to the public.
The Jerusalem Municipality's Planning and Construction Committee has approved a plan to build an elevator and tunnel to form a new accessible entrance.
The Jerusalem Municipality's Planning and Construction Committee has approved a plan to build an elevator and tunnel to form a new accessible entrance to the Old City.
The elevator and tunnel will connect Teddy Park, located alongside the Mamilla pedestrian mall, to the Jaffa Gate, allowing pedestrians to avoid needing to cross major roads in the area and will reduce congestion at other entrances to the Old City.
The project also includes plans to develop the area underneath the Jaffa Gate Square and nearby roads, which include a variety of archaeological remains that were found during excavations in the 1990s. The remains include a bathhouse and streets and shops from the Byzantine period, a water aqueduct from the fourth century CE and part of an Ayyubid wall from the 13th century.
The development will also create a continuum between the archaeological finds in Teddy Park and the finds next to the Jaffa Gate.
The space underneath the roads in the area and the Mamilla Bridge will be used in the project to create closed spaces measuring about 3,800 square meters that the city will use for musical, educational, cultural and operational activities.
"The proposed construction will turn the site into a useful and high-quality complex, with tourist value, accessible to the general public," wrote the municipality in a press release.
The project was proposed by the Jerusalem Municipality through the Jerusalem Development Authority and will move forward for approval by the district committee. The master plan for the project was jointly funded by the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry, the Tower of David Museum and the Jerusalem Municipality through the JDA.
Pollard and the great Jewish divide by Caroline Glick
Israelis celebrated the Pollards' arrival. In contrast, American Jews bristled both at the news and the happiness with which Israelis greeted them.
The rift between Israeli and American Jews is palpable almost everywhere you turn today. The most glaring disparity surrounds how they view President Donald Trump. The vast majority of Israelis adore Trump. The vast majority of American Jews despise him.
But Trump isn't the only thing or even the main thing that separates them. The main issue that separates Israelis from American Jews is the issue of exile. Israelis by and large hold to the traditional Jewish view that all Jewish communities outside of Israel are exile—or diaspora—communities. American Jews, by and large, believe that the exile exists in all Jewish communities outside Israel except in America. This disagreement is existential. It goes to the heart of what it means to be a Jew.
The divide between Israeli and American Jews is more apparent today than in the past, but has been around since the dawn of modern Zionism. However, if one date marks the point it became an irreversible rift it is Nov. 20, 1985, the day Jonathan Pollard was arrested outside Israel's embassy in Washington, D.C.
From the day of his arrest, Pollard became not only the symbol of the divide, but to a degree also its cause. That divide was unmistakable on Wednesday morning when the news broke that in the middle of the previous night, Pollard and his wife, Esther, had landed in Israel.
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Israelis celebrated the Pollards' arrival. Many wept watching the footage of Pollard kiss the ground at the airport.
In contrast, American Jews bristled both at the news and the happiness with which Israelis greeted Pollard's arrival.
One writer angrily wrote on Twitter, "As an American Jew this isn't a bit exciting. He spied on America. There's no reason to celebrate this."
Once Pollard's parole restrictions were removed in November, it was a foregone conclusion that he would quickly make aliyah. Many Jewish officials in both the Trump administration and previous administrations expressed concern about the upcoming event that resonated with the angry posters on Twitter.
"I really hope you Israelis aren't going to turn his arrival into a carnival," one said recently, in a burst of frustration.
What explains their anger and frustration?
The facts of Pollard's story are well known.
In 1984-85, as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard transferred highly classified information about the military capabilities of Arab militaries to Israeli intelligence officers in Washington.
After Pollard's arrest, U.S. and Israeli officials agreed to deal with the incident quickly and quietly. Pollard would confess in a plea agreement to transferring classified information to a U.S. ally for the benefit of the ally. Israel would return all documents it had received from Pollard. For their part, federal prosecutors would not request the maximum sentence for Pollard's crime.
The plea bargain, both sides agreed, would save Israel and the United States the embarrassing spectacle of a drawn-out trial. Pollard and the Israeli government were led to believe that he would serve something along the lines of the average prison term meted out for U.S. citizens who transferred classified information to U.S. allies—two to four years.
But after Pollard fulfilled his part of the bargain and pleaded guilty, and Israel returned the documents, then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger changed the administration's position on Pollard.
In three secret memos to the sentencing judge, the last of which he delivered the morning of Pollard's sentencing, Weinberger claimed Pollard had caused egregious harm to the United States, endangered its forces in the Middle East and weakened its ties to Arab states. In his final memo Weinberger accused Pollard of "treason." Since Pollard had waived his right to a trial, he had no meaningful opportunity to defend himself from Weinberger's explosive claim.
On the weight of Weinberger's accusation, the sentencing judge disregarded the recommendation for leniency and sentenced Pollard to life in prison.
In the decades that followed, several senior national security officials and lawmakers who reviewed Pollard's classified file rejected Weinberger's claims. They argued that based on the evidence, the initial plea bargain was accurate. While Pollard had helped Israel, he hadn't harmed America. He had not committed treason. His punishment did not suit his crime. Weinberger himself admitted in a 2002 interview that the Pollard case was a "relatively minor matter" and "it was made much bigger than its actual importance."
Most Israelis looked at these facts, and the vitriol with which Pollard was castigated by senior officials and concluded he was unjustly persecuted because he was a Jew who supported Israel.
In private conversations, many American Jews admitted the logic of the Israeli position and even agreed with it. But all the same, aside from a small minority of groups who worked tirelessly on Pollard's behalf, keeping the story alive throughout the years, the community at large failed to demand justice for Pollard. Instead, they lashed out against him and against the Israelis who supported him.
They did this not because they were blind to the anti-Semitic nature of his treatment but because they were aware of it and feared it. They despised and resented Pollard because his plight reminded them of their weakness. The fact that he was unduly punished for passing information to the Jewish state brought home the fact that despite America's warm welcome to the Jews, America wasn't the new Promised Land. The Israelis had a point about the diaspora.
Even now, after Pollard has finally arrived in Israel, evidence abounds of the continued power and prevalence of the double standard. And to find it one need look no farther than the tragic tale of Larry Franklin. Today, Franklin, a 74-year-old Irish Catholic, lives in abject poverty with his invalid wife, Patricia, in West Virginia. Due to their indigence, they survive on food that Franklin finds in dumpsters behind local restaurants. Last month, the couple were hospitalized for several days after contracting food poisoning from spoiled scraps Franklin fished out of a trash bin.
Sixteen years ago, as an Air Force colonel, Franklin served as the Iran desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In what became known as "the AIPAC spy scandal," Franklin was arrested together with two AIPAC lobbyists. Franklin was accused of transferring classified information about Iran to the lobbyists. They were accused of transferring classified information to Israeli Embassy officials and to a Washington Post reporter.
The story was a bombshell, but once the dust settled and the details emerged, it worked out that Franklin, a decorated intelligence analyst and operative, was the victim of an anti-Semitic plot. In 1999, the FBI opened an investigation into AIPAC employees and American Jewish Pentagon officials on suspicion of spying for Israel. The suspicions had no basis in fact, but that didn't stop the investigators from searching under every rock to find a Jewish spy.
Franklin, who served as the Air Force attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel in the 1990s, believed that Israel was the United States' most important ally in the Middle East. He viewed AIPAC, an organization dedicated to expanding the U.S.-Israel alliance, as a positive force for good in Washington.
In 2003, Franklin became convinced that Iran was the primary threat to U.S. forces in Iraq. He was concerned that the data he was seeing that led to his conclusion was not being adequately communicated to then-President George W. Bush. So he spoke of his concerns in general terms with the two AIPAC lobbyists and asked them to share them with their contacts at the National Security Council in the hopes that they in turn would communicate those concerns to Bush.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about Franklin's behavior. Government officials hold similar discussions with lobbyists, reporters and think tank scholars thousands of times a day, every day, in Washington, D.C. For government officials, such conversations are a legitimate means to advance their desired policies in the expansive process that surrounds American policymaking.
What Franklin didn't know was that by speaking to the AIPAC lobbyists he had caught the eye of the investigators.
When FBI investigators first reached out to Franklin, he had no idea he had reason to worry. He met with them 10 times without an attorney. But as the meetings proceeded, it dawned on him that the investigators were obsessive anti-Semites. One bragged that his uncle served as a Nazi general in World War II. Another insisted Hezbollah wasn't a terror group.
And after he recognized that he was sitting with stone-cold bigots, he also realized that they were waging a witch hunt against Jews in the Pentagon. They demanded that he help them "get the Jews." When Franklin refused, they arrested him, along with his two colleagues from AIPAC.
Initially, AIPAC defended its employees. But after a threatening meeting with investigators, AIPAC crumpled. The pro-Israel lobby fired and denounced their long-serving loyal lobbyists.
It took a drawn-out, five-year battle, but in 2009 charges against both men were dismissed. Unfortunately, in the meantime, Franklin had already been destroyed.
Within a few months of his initial arrest, Franklin went bankrupt and had no option other than pleading guilty to something. During a search of his house, investigators found a classified document that he had brought home to work on while he cared for his wife. So he pleaded guilty to mishandling classified documents. As for his meetings with the AIPAC staffers, Franklin pleaded guilty to discussing a classified subject (but not sharing classified information) with unauthorized persons.
"Crimes" like Franklin's are committed in Washington thousands of times a day, every day. Given their prevalence, the Justice Department's decision to selectively prosecute Franklin for them was a gross injustice. All the same, the court initially sentenced Franklin to 12 years in prison. After the charges were dropped against the AIPAC staffers, his sentence was reduced to a 10-month suspended sentence. But Franklin was still undone.
His felony conviction stripped him of his military and civilian pensions and barred him from working in either intelligence or academia. Broke and denied all professional opportunities, Franklin was reduced to menial labor. He cleaned septic tanks, washed dishes, hauled furniture and parked cars. Now at 74, with his health failing and his wife incapacitated, Franklin has been reduced to eating scraps from dumpsters.
Last month, Franklin's pro-bono attorney submitted a request for a pardon and restoration of his pensions to President Trump, and his family and friends are praying Trump will grant it.
Franklin's suffering is a product of the hostile climate that greets American Jews who support Israel in Washington, D.C. The FBI's ambush of a devout Catholic for his "crime" of not being an anti-Semite and for treating Jewish pro-Israel lobbyists as other lobbyists are treated sends the message to Jews and non-Jews alike. Not only must they be careful of speaking with Israelis, they must be careful about speaking to American Jews who support Israel.
The Pollard saga, which finally ended this week, exposed a much larger tale. It is the tale of exile in America, the land that exile was not supposed to touch. And it is the tale of the divide between the Jews who accept this truth and those who do not.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of "The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East."
Rivers of blood, invasions of frogs, lice, locusts, pestilence, devastating storms... The ten plagues which beset Egypt over the course of one year are horrifying to contemplate. Lives and livelihoods were being lost. People were forced to lock themselves in their houses to avoid annihilation... Is it beginning to sound terrifyingly familiar?
For the past twelve months, the entire world has been buffeted about by one cataclysmic catastrophe after another. The Coronavirus, which has earned the infamous honor of being the most destructive of all the plagues which have been visited upon humanity over the past year, has wreaked unprecedented havoc on the modern world. But a quick review of events over the past year reminds us that natural disasters, political violence, and mob anarchy have all darkened our days and night. Governments have been toppled. Presidents have been felled. How have we arrived at this Egyptian-like nadir in history?
In this week's Torah reading, Va'era, we witness the first seven of the ten plagues that the G-d of Israel is raining upon Egypt. The methodical and repetitive manner in which each upcoming plague is announced by Moshe to Pharaoh, Pharaoh's dismissive response, the arrival of the plague itself, Pharaoh's plea to Moshe to remove the plague, and Moshe's agreement to do so, it itself, mind-numbing. "Let my people go!" was all that Moshe was asking. A three-day journey in the desert to make offerings to G-d! Pharaoh would not hear of it. Even when his top advisors, his necromancers, and magicians wavered, Pharaoh would not be moved. Why?
The answer is found, not in this week's Torah reading, but in last week's: When first confronted by Moshe with the message, "So said HaShem G-d of Israel, 'Send out My people, and let them make offerings to Me in the desert,'" Pharaoh responded with the fateful and fatal answer, "Who is HaShem that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know HaShem, neither will I let Israel out." (Exodus 5:1-2)
If Pharaoh cannot recognize the reality of HaShem, then there is nothing to talk about. One does not respond favorably to a demand made by what one considers to be a non-existing non-entity. So for Pharaoh, there truly was nothing to talk about, no one to say yes to No G-d.
When one doesn't acknowledge the reality of G-d, then one cannot possibly recognize the image of G-d in which we are all created. Not only does G-d not exist, but human dignity, human rights, and human freedom also do not exist. Pharaoh did have his moments of enlightenment, brought on by desperation when he asked Moshe to appeal to the G-d that he did not acknowledge, but these moments of illumination were fleeting. Refusing to admit to the reality of G-d, Pharaoh painted himself, one plague after another, into a corner with no escape.
When one doesn't acknowledge the reality of G-d and therefore does not recognize the image of G-d in his fellow man, then his fellow man becomes an enemy, a target to be eliminated or enslaved: canceled! If this sounds eerily familiar, well, it should. The world today is caught up in a whirlwind of delegitimizing the other - the ones who don't see it our way or look like us. We have become strangers, filled with suspicion and fear, and all because we, like Pharaoh, have become blind to the image of G-d that we all, each in our unique way, share.
Would that we could all journey just three days into the desert, to reunite with our knowledge of G-d, our love of G-d, and our gratitude toward G-d. What a difference that would make! By worshiping G-d we will reawaken our awareness of the spark of G-d in every one of us, even in the ones who see things differently from us. The world today is marching toward a Pharaoh-like precipice, a point of no return, a very unhappy ending. But we have read the book, we know how it ends, and we still have a chance to open our eyes and our hearts, to recognize the G-d Who created us all in His image and to put an end, at last, to the plagues that we have brought upon ourselves over the past twelve months. G-d is calling: "Let My people go!"
Jews in Music" Presented by The Genesis Prize Foundation
The Genesis Prize Foundation created "Jews in Music" to honor outstanding achievements by Jewish individuals in music throughout history. Because the Genesis Prize honors individuals for their extraordinary accomplishment in a particular field, The Foundation pays tribute to the field of the Laureate each year. "Jews in Music" was debuted at the 2016 Genesis Prize Ceremony in honor of virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman. Some of the musicians featured in the video include: Leonard Cohen, Carole King, Vladimir Vysotsky, Idan Raichel, Martha Argerich, Paul Simon, Evgeny Kissin, Billy Joel, Adam Levine, Drake, and many more.
Country's economic recovery will take years-Taub report
Pandemic will worsen already high poverty, inequality in Israel, report says
Number of recipients of unemployment benefits surges more than elevenfold, Taub Center for Social Policy report says
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for a long time and is likely to increase poverty levels and worsen inequality, two facets of Israeli society that were "exceptionally high" even before the crisis hit, a report by the Taub Center for Social Policy said.
The incidence of poverty is estimated to have increased by about 8 to 14 percent and inequality by about 1.5 to 4 percent in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, wrote the authors of The State of the Nation 2020 report. The main victims of the crisis were working families who saw their jobs disappear or their salaries cut, single-parent families, and young families.
In terms of employment, the coronavirus crisis has affected different groups of workers in different ways. More women than men were affected, due to women's large presence in ancillary education professions such as teaching assistants and instructors, many of whom were put on unpaid leave as schools were shuttered. Also, more women than men took unpaid leave to stay home with their children whose schools were closed.
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Especially during the early months of the pandemic, the highest rate of unemployment was among low-wage workers and those with relatively low levels of education. Two other groups that were severely affected by the crisis were those close to or beyond retirement age, and young workers.
Israelis wear protective face masks as they walk in Tel Aviv, during a nationwide lockdown, Israel's 3rd. December 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
During the first months of the crisis, the rise in the broad unemployment rate was steeper among young people aged 18 to 29 and among older workers aged 65 to 74 than among those ages 30 to 64, the report said. The definition of broad unemployment includes unemployed people and those furloughed, for reasons associated with the crisis, as defined by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
One of the explanations for the strong impact of the pandemic on the employment of older people is that they are likely to belong to a health risk group.
"The longer the crisis persists, the greater the probability that many of the workers in this group, some of whom continued to work beyond the official retirement age, will leave the labor market permanently," the report said. If this scenario transpires, the labor force in Israel may lose workers who would have otherwise continued to work for several more years had it not been for the crisis, and this will impact the nation's economic growth and productivity levels.
Israelis sit on Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv during a nationwide lockdown, Israel's third, December 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
In the Haredi sector, the crisis seems to have had a "relatively severe impact" on the employment of men, a group whose employment rates were already low, the report said, while the Arab Israeli sector "also sustained a relatively severe impact."
The business sector was hit harder by the pandemic than the public sector, and there are indications of a "severe impact" on the self-employed, the authors of the report said.
The number of recipients of unemployment insurance benefits grew more than elevenfold, from about 70,000 prior to the crisis to about 900,000 in April 2020, the report said.
Accordingly, the total cost of unemployment insurance benefits during the first half of 2020 rose to about NIS 9 billion and benefits paid in May alone were larger than the total for all of 2019, the report said.
During the first three quarters of 2020, Israel's gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 3% relative to the same period in 2019.
Israeli Police at a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem on December 29, 2020, as Israel enters 3rd lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
According to a Bank of Israel forecast, the decline in GDP during 2020 will be 4.5–5%. Given an annual rate of population growth of 1.9 percent, "this implies a drop in GDP per capita of up to 6.9%, which will set Israel back about six years," the authors of the report said.
According to the Bank of Israel's more optimistic forecast — if the pandemic is brought under control soon — GDP is expected to grow by 6.5% percent in 2021, which implies that even at the end of 2021 GDP will be lower by about 5% than what was expected without the crisis, and GDP per capita will be at its 2017 level, the report added.
The crisis has also led to a plunge in tax revenues and an increase in the government's budget deficit. In 2019, the deficit reached 3.7 percent of GDP, which was significantly higher than the target for the year (2.9 percent). At the end of the third quarter of 2020, the cumulative deficit had already reached 12 percent of cumulative GDP for the year, which is quite close to the Bank of Israel's forecast of 13 percent for the year.
Meanwhile, the national debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to balloon to 76% in 2021, according to Bank of Israel estimates, if the pandemic is under control, and to a high 83% in a more pessimistic scenario.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, chairs an emergency meeting of senior ministers to decide on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, July 16, 2020. (Chaim Tzach/GPO)
"This means that after the crisis, the government will have to quickly reduce the deficit and encourage growth in order for the debt-to-GDP ratio to return to its pre-crisis level" of around 60%, said Professor Benjamin Bental, head of the Economic Policy Program at the Taub Center, in a statement.
"Currently, the situation of our national debt is much better than that of many other developed countries and our interest rate environment is very favorable," he added. "At this stage, the Israeli economy enjoys a high level of confidence from the global capital market, as can be seen in the premium paid on the government of Israel's debt and its high credit rating. Nonetheless, it should be noted that improper management and poor utilization of funds is liable to quickly change this situation."
When formulating policies for the future, the government must take into account the gaps that exist in terms of impact sustained by the workers, addressing each group with appropriate steps.
"There is room for concern that workers who stopped working for an extended period may lose hope and not attempt to re-enter the market," the authors wrote. "As a result, the Israeli economy will lose workers who, were it not for the crisis, would have continued to work. This point is particularly important in the case of older workers."
People on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on December 29, 2020, during a 3rd nationawide lockdown, in an effort to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The current crisis, however, also presents opportunities: the vast number of dismissals among low-wage workers opens up a chance to improve their level of training and thus their wages.
In addition, an expansion of technologies that allow for work from home could boost employment prospects and the ability of firms to access high-quality workers among a more diverse pool of people, the report said.
The government's economic program to deal with the crisis in 2020 totaled about NIS 139 billion as of end November, which constitutes about 10 percent of the GDP in 2019, the report said, based on Finance Ministry data.
The overall utilization of this budget for the months March to November is 73%, "which is behind schedule," said Dr. Labib Shami, one of the authors of the report, in the statement. The underutilization in certain programs, like budgets for vocational training programs or those to ensure business continuity and plans to ensure future economic growth, "is liable to harm the economy's potential for recovery."