Thursday, January 28, 2016

El Salvador denies that it's moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Ramallah

As reported by the Times of Israel, January 18, 2016:

El Salvador’s ambassador to Israel emphatically denied media reports on Sunday that his country was planning on moving its embassy to the West Bank in response to Foreign Ministry intentions to close the Israeli embassy in the Central American nation.

The country’s newly appointed ambassador, Werner Matias Romero, told The Times of Israel that El Salvador was “not even thinking” of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv.

However, Romero expressed his grave disappointment with the Israeli move to shut down its embassy in San Salvador, the capital, and said El Salvadoran authorities had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.

“We were very surprised and concerned with that decision,” he said. “My minister has sent a letter to Netanyahu expressing that concern and surprise. We are hoping the government of Israel reconsiders its unfortunate decision due to the longstanding deep relationship between El Salvador and Israel.”

In addition to the embassy in El Salvador, Israel’s Foreign Ministry intends to close its consulates in Philadelphia, Marseilles, the Caribbean as well as its embassy in Belarus.

The decision to close the diplomatic outposts was reportedly made in order to free up funds needed to strengthen existing diplomatic offices.

“I just arrived in October and we were planning on deepening ties and holding a lot of joint events, programs and activities, so the decision took us by surprise,” Romero lamented.

He noted that funding for embassies is a problem for El Salvador, too, but Israel is worth the effort.

“We also struggle with trying to find enough resources so we can maintain all our embassies. El Salvador has been opening instead of closing embassies. The Israeli embassy is considered by us one of the most important. We struggle but are committed to maintaining our diplomatic network, and maintaining Israel is a priority.

“We were told by the Foreign Ministry that Israel was reaching out to Latin American countries,” he continued. “Central America, despite being small, is 55 million people, and is very economically important. El Salvador has been extremely supportive of allowing Israel to join the Central American Integration System (CETA) as an extraterritorial member. Israel has wanted to become an extraterritorial member, and the HQ is in San Salvador.

“We in El Salvador are also going through hard times in terms of security and see Israel as a key partner in this endeavor.”

“I want to reiterate that we are disappointed but we are hopeful. Even though Israel said they will shut the embassy down at the end of 2016, we will try to get the government to reconsider.”

Earlier Sunday, the Ynet news site quoted diplomatic sources saying that El Salvador had threatened to close its embassy in Israel and move it to the West Bank or Egypt because Salvadorian officials were upset to learn that Israel had decided to close its mission in San Salvador.

In the summer of 2014, El Salvador recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest over Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials slammed the move, saying recalling ambassadors only encouraged Gaza’s radical Hamas leaders.
Click on the link for the article El Salvador threatens to move its embassy to Ramallah from Ynet News, January 17, 2016.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

75 years ago: a scientist offers his opinion on the physical characteristics of the "best minds"

On January 27, 1941, it was reported that Dr. Alex Hardlisha of the Smithsonian Institution claimed that larger and broader skulls, lower cheekbones, and dark hair were the physical characteristics that distinguished the nation's "best minds."

I've been unable to find out anything about Dr. Hardlisha, but I suspect that the physical characteristics that distinguished America's "best minds" were characteristics possessed by Dr. Hardlisha himself--a coincidence, no doubt.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Israel bars visits from Swedish officials following criticism from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

It's easy for Sweden and other countries to criticize Israel for its handling of the Palestinian issue, when they haven't had to deal with similar situations. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 13, 2016:

Israel will not welcome visits by Swedish officials, the deputy foreign minister of Israel said a day after Sweden’s foreign minister called for an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinian attackers.

“Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden,” Tzipi Hotovely said at a meeting with members of the Foreign Ministry’s cadet course. The remarks were widely published in the Israeli media.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Associated Press that “given the incendiary and aggressive nature” of Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s comments, “we have made it clear that she is not welcome in Israel.”

But an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told Haaretz that Netanyahu had not made a decision to halt official visits from Swedish officials.

Also, Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus, was summoned for a reprimand in response to the Wallstrom remarks about possible “extrajudicial killings” by Israel. The summons came from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Wallstrom also said it is “vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.”

Israeli officials have said security forces are justified in killing suspected attackers because trying to neutralize them without killing them would pose unnecessary risk. However, some human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups have said Israeli police and soldiers are too quick to kill alleged perpetrators and should instead make more efforts to subdue and arrest them.

Over 130 Palestinians have been killed during the recent wave of violence that began in October, most while perpetrating or attempting attacks, and others in violent clashes with security forces. Twenty-one Israelis and an American studying in Israel at a yeshiva have been killed in the attacks.

“The Swedish foreign minister’s statement backs terrorism,” Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Tuesday night in a post on Facebook. “Every declaration like this takes the whole region back a step from reaching a two-state solution and helps the murderous terrorists who do everything possible to stop us from getting there.

“It’s interesting that Sweden did not have a similar response when police in Paris killed the terrorists, as they had to do, and it will be interesting to see how Sweden will react when terrorists carry out attacks within its territory. Will it also want to pat them on the head because they had rough childhoods?”

In November, Wallstrom linked the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130, which were blamed on the Islamic State, to perceived hopelessness among the Palestinians.
As reported by Ian Deitch of Associated Press, January 13, 2016:
Israel said Wednesday that Sweden's foreign minister is "not welcome" in Israel after she called for an investigation into the deaths of Palestinians involved in a four-months' spate of deadly attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that "given the incendiary and aggressive nature" of Margot Wallstrom's comments, "we have made it clear that she is not welcome in Israel." He did not elaborate.

Sweden's ambassador was summoned Wednesday and reprimanded in protest over Wallstrom's remarks, Nahshon added. The summons, he said, showed "the anger of the government and the people in Israel" over Wallstrom's "twisted" view of reality in Israel that is "biased and even hostile" against Israel.

"Wallstrom's remarks show that she doesn't understand what is taking place in our region and is apparently unaware of the harsh situation where Israelis are exposed to the perpetual dangers of murderous terror attacks," Nahshon said.

Near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers have killed 24 people and wounded dozens in stabbings, shootings and other assaults since mid-September. At least 141 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. About two-thirds of them are said by Israel to be attackers. The rest were killed in clashes with security personnel...

...Sweden's relations with Israel have been strained since the Social Democratic-led government in 2014 recognized Palestinian statehood, and Wallstrom's comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have elicited angry responses from Israeli officials.

Swedish opposition lawmaker Jan Bjorklund of the Liberal Party accused the government of shifting the country's Middle East policy so that it's perceived to be "siding much more unilaterally with the Palestinian party."

As foreign minister, Wallstrom has been outspoken on women's rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her statements have riled not just Israel but also Saudi Arabia, which temporarily recalled its ambassador from Sweden last year after Wallstrom criticized the kingdom's human rights record.

Affable in person, Wallstrom has been accused of being too blunt and undiplomatic in her public comments...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands by his choice as Ambassador to Brazil despite Brazilian objections

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 13, 2016 (link in original):

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if Brazil won’t approve former settler leader Dani Dayan as its ambassador, Israel won’t offer another diplomat.

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Netanyahu’s comments Wednesday.

According to i24news, Israel not having an ambassador in Brazil would represent a “de facto downgrade in relations” between the two countries.

Netanyahu’s apparent decision to stand by Dayan comes a week after various reports that Israel would withdraw Dayan’s name and instead give him the Israeli consulate general position in Los Angeles or New York.

Earlier this week, a group of 40 retired Brazilian diplomats signed a statement against the appointment of Dayan, complaining that Israel had bypassed protocol because there was no prior communication with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry or any presentation of his credentials for an agreement.

Netanyahu tapped the former head of the settlers’ Yesha Council four months ago to serve as envoy to Latin America’s largest nation, but the Brazilian government remained silent on the choice to signal an official rejection of Dayan’s credentials because of his settler past.

A native of Argentina, Dayan, 59, currently lives in the West Bank settlement of Maale Shomron.
February 11, 2016 update: As reported by The Times of Israel, February 7, 2016:

Rebuffed for months by Brasilia, former settler leader Dani Dayan will not become Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) finally acknowledged on Sunday, during a committee discussion on Brazil’s refusal to accept Dayan’s credentials.

“We needn’t delude ourselves, Dani Dayan will not be the ambassador to Brazil. We condemn Brazil’s behavior,” said Hanegbi, a close aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that Dayan would instead doubtless be made ambassador in a country “just as important.”

During the committee session, Likud MK Anat Berko said that Israel must be careful that the Dayan affair does not set a precedent for other countries wishing to dictate to Israel which diplomats represent it.

The Latin America director at the Foreign Ministry, Moti Efraim, was present at the committee session and said that the Foreign Ministry has been waiting for a response from Brasilia for six months, “an answer we have yet to receive, even though this is an unprecedented situation,” Maariv reported

Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, has been trying for months to get Brazil to agree to accept Dayan’s credentials, to no avail, but has chosen not to cancel the appointment.

As first reported by The Times of Israel in early December, Brasilia indicated that it would not accept Dayan’s appointment because he previously headed the Yesha Council, a committee representing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and because of the unorthodox way in which his appointment was announced.

Dayan was named as envoy in August, 2015 and endorsed by the Israeli cabinet in September, but Brazil has maintained a frosty silence on the appointment rather than issuing the customary confirmation.

Netanyahu named Dayan only one year after the current envoy, Reda Mansour, took up his post in Brasilia. According to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Mansour’s wife did not want to move to Brasilia, and he therefore informed Jerusalem that he wanted to quit. As soon as Netanyahu heard that Mansour was planning to vacate the post in December, he publicly nominated Dayan without first informing the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

British authorities shut down ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in London

It's taken only 40 years, but British authorities have decided that multiculturalism--at least in the case of ultra-Orthodox Judaism--has its limits. Let's see if they do more than just "consider" prosecuting unregistered Islamic schools--40 years is too long to wait.

As reported by David Connett of the London newspaper The Independent, January 15, 2016:

An orthodox Jewish school which operated illegally for 40 years and does not teach children English has been ordered to shut down.

The Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar school in Stamford Hill, north London has been ordered to close by the Deparment for Education next month after Ofsted inspectors warned that it was failing to meet the “minimum” standards required.

Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.

The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”.

The school’s failings are spelt out in a series of Ofsted reports into the school after it applied to be a private school. The reports between 2012-14 were disclosed under Freedom of Information requests.

According to the reports, the school states that “as a matter of religious principle” it does not allow pupils to learn English, nor provide for any secular education.

Despite the school failing to meet the minimum standards three times, no action has been taken to shut it down and it continues to operate.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, disclosed in December that Ofsted was considering prosecuting those involved in the running of unregistered Islamic religious schools.

A Government consultation on combating schools which “promote intolerance” will end later this month.

The British Humanist Association, which campaigns for a crackdown on all illegal “faith” schools, welcomed the decision but called on the Education Secretary to move against scores of other schools like it.

“We’re glad that the Government has now moved to shut this particular school down... However, there are clearly many more out there just like it. The situation revealed by these reports is simply outrageous and those in government who have failed to act in the past ought to be ashamed of themselves for standing idly by while thousands of children have their childhoods stolen.

“Every year, every month, every week that these places are allowed to stay open, a huge number of children remain isolated, indoctrinated, and very likely abused, so we will certainly be writing to the Government to ask that action is taken far more swiftly in the case of other schools than it has been here.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered independent school. This school’s application for registration has been rejected and on 30 December it was informed of this decision. It has been told to close by 12 February.”

The school was unavailable for comment.
In a related matter, there has been a complaint about similar schools in New York; as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 27, 2015:

Fifty-two people — former yeshiva students, parents of current yeshiva students and former teachers from schools — reportedly signed a letter sent to New York City education officials expressing “deep concern” about “the poor quality and scant amount of secular education” at the 39 schools with which they say they are affiliated.

The letter, sent to seven district superintendents in Queens and Brooklyn and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, allege that the yeshivas are failing to meet New York state law requiring all nonpublic schools to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what is offered in public schools. The letter urges the superintendents to “investigate the quality of secular education and, in particular English instruction, at the listed Yeshivas and to take steps to ensure that pupils at these Yeshivas receive the essential and substantially equivalent education to which they are entitled.”

The letter-writing campaign was organized by Yaffed, a 3-year-old advocacy group that seeks to improve the quality of secular education in haredi Orthodox schools in New York state. Haredi Orthodox schools devote far greater time and resources to religious instruction than to secular instruction, particularly in boys’ schools. As a result, some graduates complain that they are unprepared for careers and unable to support themselves financially.

Yaffed shared a copy of the letter in a news release, but is withholding the names of the signatories and is asking the letter’s recipients not to release them in order to protect the letter-writers’ “safety.” The group also did not release the names of the 39 schools it said were identified in the letter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Debate among Marseille's Jews over whether they should stop wearing yarmulkes in the interest of their own safety

As reported by Itamar Eichner and Rachel Cadars of Ynet News, January 12, 2016:

Jews across Europe are taking off their yarmulkes and prayer shawls and hiding their Star of David necklaces as the fear of anti-Semitic violence continues to grow across the continent, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

At the same time, Zvi Ammar, the head of Marseille's Jewish community, has called on the city's Jewish residents to stop wearing yarmulkes in the wake of an attack on a Jewish teacher on Monday morning.

Benjamin Amsalem, an ultra-Orthodox resident of the southern French city, was attacked with a machete by a 15-year-old Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, who was caught after a brief chase.

In his interrogation the stabber said that he had attacked Amsalem in the name of Islamic State and that he was also planning to attack police.

"The stream of events means that we need to take exceptional decision," Ammar said. "Life is more sacred than anything else. We need to hide a little."

The head of the Department for Combating Anti-Semism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Bachar, said: "There is a sense of growing fear and worry among Europe's Jews.

"Many Jews feel that their Jewish identity is a threat to them. We know that many have stopped going to synagogue on holy days for fear of terror attacks. To our regret, Jewish life is taking place more and more behind walls, armed guards, police and security cameras."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on European governments to increase the level of security for Jewish communities and institutions throughout the continent, including synagogues, community centers, schools and kindergartens.

The rise in aliyah from Europe to Israel is also testament to the growing impact of anti-Semitism on European Jews. Aliyah has also grown from countries such as Canada, the US and Australia. "We are seeing a lot of Jews leaving France making aliyah, or leaving France and Europe. The numbers are not huge but there is a clear phenomenon," Bachar said.

Meanwhile, police in France are investigating the murder of Jewish politician Alain Ghozlan, who was found dead in his home on the outskirts of Paris on Tuesday morning, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Ghozlan, a prominent figure in the French Jewish community and a resident of Créteil – a predominantly Jewish suburb of the French capital – failed to show up to his synagogue on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, arousing his brother's suspicions.

Arriving at Ghozlan's apartment, his brother found the body, which showed signs of violence. The initial indication is that Ghozlan was beaten to death.

Ghozlan's credit cards and car had disappeared, but according to local media the French police have not rejected any line of enquiry and are investigating possibilities from robbery to anti-Semitism.

Ghozlan was a member of the Créteil local council as well as of the local Jewish community.

The police are also investigating the possibility of anti-Semitism due to the current rise in such incidents in France.
As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 12, 2016:

Representatives of the Jewish community of Marseille issued conflicting statements on whether Jews should hide their kippah in the southern French city following a spate of anti-Semitic stabbings there.

Tzvi Amar, president of the local office of the Consistoire, the French Jewish community’s organization responsible for religious services, was quoted Tuesday by Le Figaro as saying Jews should “remove the kippah during these troubled times” because “the preservation of life is sacrosanct.”

But Michele Teboul, president of the local branch of CRIF – an umbrella group that represents French Jewish communities politically as a lobby – told JTA that she “could not support a measure which dials back hundreds of years during which Jews were able to practice their faiths and live freely as citizens of the French Republic.”

Jewish individuals “should decide whether to wear a hat on top of their kippah, depending on the situation, but removing one’s kippah seems unwarranted,” Teboul said.

France’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, also rejected Amar’s call, saying, “We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippah.”

Amar’s statement, which he said “turns his stomach” and is born of “grave circumstances that require extraordinary measures,” came after the stabbing of a Jewish man in Marseille on Tuesday, allegedly by a 15-year-old Muslim radical. He sustained minor injuries.

In November, a Jewish teacher was stabbed and seriously injured in Marseille by a man who hurled insults at him along with two other men, one of whom was wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the Islamic State terrorist group. The previous month, also in the city, a Frenchman of Algerian descent stabbed a Jewish man who was returning from synagogue and assaulted two others, including a rabbi.

Marseille has 80,000 Jews in a total population of approximately 850,000. About a third of its residents are Muslim, according to estimates.
Click the link to see the original article in Le Figaro, January 12, 2016.

January 30, 2016 update: A survey conducted in France shows that most French oppose the idea of Jews removing their yarmulkes. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 18, 2016:

PARIS (JTA) — Seventy percent of French citizens said it would be giving in to terrorists if Jews were forced to remove their yarmulkes for security reasons, according to a survey.

The survey commissioned by the Paris Match weekly news magazine and published Friday was conducted Jan. 14-15 following one community leader’s call to Jews in Marseille not to wear their kippahs. The statement came in the aftermath of the stabbing of a Jewish man there earlier in the week — the third stabbing of a kippah-clad Jew in the southern port city since October.

In the survey of 1,011 adults conducted by the Odoxa polling company, 36 percent of respondents said they “absolutely agreed” with the assertion by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who called on French Jews to keep wearing yarmulkes “to not give in to the terrorists.” Another 34 percent indicated they “pretty much agree.”
Ten percent of respondents, who were pre-selected to represent French society’s voting pattern distribution, said they “totally disagree” and another 19 percent said they “rather disagree.”

Left-wing and right-wing respondents answered similarly in the poll, with 71 percent supporting the assertion on the right — including 66 percent within the far-right National Front party — and 76 percent approving on the left.

Tzvi Amar, the president of the Marseille office of the Consistoire — the communal organization responsible for providing religious services — had called on his city’s Jews to hide traditional head coverings following the Jan. 11 stabbing.

Other community representatives joined Korsia in rejecting the suggestion.
Click on the link to see the original Paris Match article Port de la kippa: 70% des Français approuvent in French.

Friday, January 8, 2016

First kosher medical marijuana to go on sale in New York

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isaiah 29:13

As reported by Ynet News, December 31, 2015 (bold in original):

A US pharmaceutical company announced Wednesday that its medical marijuana has been certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).

Vireo Health, one of the five companies permitted to market their medical marijuana in the State of New York stated that this is the first time medical cannabis has been certified kosher and as such it is in fact the first producer of kosher marijuana.

US media reported that the rabbinical association gave its certification after inspecting facilities manufacturing company's facilities and found that the marijuana is grown and produced according to the laws of kashrut. For example it is entirely free of insects.

"Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis," said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung in a statement delivered to the press.

He added that kosher marijuana will deliver an "important message" to those who mistakenly believe that use of the product for patients suffering from pain promotes recreational use of drugs.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of the Orthodox Union, said that "using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

Vireo expressed hope that the approval will help the company serve its Jewish patients in New York, where the largest Jewish community in the US lives. The product will be on the shelves in about a month, available with a doctor's prescription.

No kosher certification in Israel yet

The United States has seen a veritable revolution in recent years regarding the use of soft drugs. About half of US states allow the use of medical marijuana, and in 2012, two states, Washington and Colorado, legalized the sale of marijuana to those 21 and older without a doctor's prescription.

From a religious standpoint there should not be a problem certifying marijuana as kosher as it's a plant, and like all plants grown overseas, the laws of shmita (every seven years the land in Israel must lie fallow – ed.) and tithes do not apply. When they reach their natural form they are kosher for eating or smoking.

In Israel there are several manufacturers who market medical cannabis, but so far the Chief Rabbinate has not certified the product.
Jews in Trudeaupia need not worry about certification, as reported by Laura Kane of Canadian Press, January 8, 2016:

VANCOUVER—Is marijuana kosher? If it’s medicine, it doesn’t matter.

That’s the message from Canada’s largest kosher certification agency after its board of rabbis held a debate on whether to certify cannabis oils as kosher.

The Kashruth Council of Canada met Thursday to discuss an application from MedReleaf, a licensed producer of medical pot. The meeting followed news in the U.S. that a New York company would soon offer certified kosher medical cannabis products.

But after “a lot of interplay and exchange,” the Kashruth council decided the Jewish faith doesn’t require sick people to consume kosher medicine, said managing director Richard Rabkin.

“Something that is medicine, that’s prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn’t need kosher certification,” he said by phone after the meeting.

“We don’t really want to get into the business of providing kosher certification for something that is doctor-prescribed. We’re not going to go down that path.”

Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish law, with strict guidelines on the types of foods that can be consumed and how they are prepared.

Rabkin said there’s a principle in Judaism that the preservation of human life overrides other religious concerns. If one must consume something non-kosher to survive — or, in the case of medical marijuana, to relieve pain or seizures — one can and should do so.

He acknowledged that some medical cannabis users might prefer to consume kosher pot, but he said a conversation with a rabbi should alleviate their concerns.

Neil Closner, chief executive officer of MedReleaf, said he was proud his company pushed Kashruth to consider the issue.

“It was because of us that they even had this meeting,” he said. “We’re pleased with the outcome that from their perspective, (medical) cannabis is considered kosher for all consumers.”

Closner is Jewish and observes a kosher lifestyle. He said to his knowledge, no other companies in Canada currently offer kosher medical marijuana products and he had hoped MedReleaf would become the first. It has a licence to produce oils and expects to begin selling them in six to eight weeks.

He said he might consider seeking certification from another agency in the future, particularly if he expands into the recreational pot market.

In fact, not all kosher certification agencies agree with Kashruth on medical marijuana.

Kosher Check, a global kosher certification agency headquartered in British Columbia, debated the issue two years ago and decided in favour of certifying edible medical pot products.

Rabbi Mendy Feigelstock said while preservation of life does come before all else in Judaism, his organization decided it would be helpful to offer a kosher choice for those who want it.

He said dried marijuana that is smoked is automatically considered kosher since it is a plant. However, edible products including oils, capsules, brownies and cookies would need to be certified.

“There are people who are suffering and unfortunately sometimes the only medication left for them is marijuana, which could ease their symptoms, and to force a person to smoke it seems silly,” he said.

“If it’s easier to ingest it either in an oil or some other edible, then there’s no reason why that person should not be able to ingest it kosher, if that’s something that they’re careful about.”

Kosher Check’s business director Richard Wood said the organization had a few inquiries about kosher cannabis over the years but nothing had progressed to the certification stage.

He said when certifying an edible pot product, inspectors would look for issues including insect infestation in plants, equipment that is used for multiple purposes or capsules that use gelatin, which is produced from a non-kosher animal slaughter.

The issue of kosher pot is only coming to the forefront now in Canada because cannabis producers were banned from selling oils until last July, following a Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled medical cannabis patients have the right to consume edible pot.

Another licensed medical marijuana producer, Aurora, is also considering kosher certification. Chief brand officer Neil Belot said in an email that the company had been in touch with a prominent certification agency to discuss the possibility.
What if it's a sabbath year in Israel and the land is supposed to lie fallow? The rabbis have that covered, as reported by Akiva Novick of Ynet News, May 24, 2014:

An unusual halachic issue was place of the table of Israel's Chief Rabbinate recently: Is it permitted to consume marijuana on a shmita year – the seventh year in a seven-year cycle during which land in Israel must lie fallow.

The issue does not just apply to drug smokers, but mainly to patients in need of medical cannabis.

"I receive grass as a medication," explained M., a religious man who suffers from shell shock, in a letter to the Rabbinate. "The shmita year will begin in four months, and observant IDF disabled veterans have been asking themselves whether the grass should be grown differently like fruits and vegetables."

There are several methods to maintain the kashrut of fruits and vegetables which are halachically forbidden during the shmita year, but what about marijuana?

The question was referred to rabbis in the Religious Zionism movement, and most of them replied that because it is used as a medication and not as food, patients can continue consuming the plant.

And what about the consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes? The rabbis agreed unanimously that it is forbidden due to the halachic on smoking drugs.

"It’s like asking if one can drive 300 kilometers per hour on Shabbat," said Efraim Zalmanovich, the rabbi of the central Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya.

60 years ago: Five American missionaries are martyred by natives in Ecuador

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

On January 8, 1956, what was popularly labelled Operation Auca--an evangelistic effort among the with the isolated and hostile Huaorani people--also known as Auca--in Ecuador ended when missionaries Nate Saint, 32; Roger Youdarian, 31; Ed McCully, 28; Jim Elliot, 28; and Pete Fleming, 27 were speared to death by Huarani tribesmen. It seems hard to believe now, but the martyrdom of the missionaries was a major news item in the secular press at the time.

From a worldy perspective, the missionary effort was a failure--but not from God's perspective. The deaths of the martyrs in Operation Auca served to galvanize missionary efforts elsewhere. Jim Elliot's wife Elisabeth and Mr. Saint's sister Rachel later returned to the area, and many of the Huaorani people came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The story was told in Mrs. Elliot's book Through Gates of Splendor, which was originally published in 1957, and was published in several revised editions through 2005. Mrs. Elliot went to be with the Lord on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88.

Friday, January 1, 2016

70 years ago: Arab League economic boycott of Jewish goods in Palestine goes into effect

Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:
For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.
And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
Zechariah 2:4b-12

From the "the more things change, the more they stay the same" department:

For those who think that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement)--the worldwide anti-Israel campaign on behalf of the Palestinian cause--is a recent phenomenon, it's worth noting that the idea goes back to 1945, before the state of Israel existed, when the Jewish community in Palestine was known as the Yishuv.

On December 2, 1945, the Arab League announced that, effective January 1, 1946, its seven member states--Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen--would boycott all Jewish-produced goods from Palestine in an effort to weaken Jewish industry in the region and to deter Jewish immigration to Palestine. The declaration urged both Arab states that were members of the then-new United Nations and Arab states which had not yet obtained UN membership to prohibit the products and usage of the products of Jewish industry in Palestine. The declaration, contained in Arab League Resolution 16, stated:

Products of Palestinian Jews are to be considered undesirable in Arab countries. They should be prohibited and refused as long as their production in Palestine might lead to the realization of Zionist political aims.

On December 30, 1945, the Egyptian cabinet of Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha approved the boycott. The Arab League boycott of Israel largely failed; Jewish immigration to Palestine continued, and Israel became a state, with a prosperous economy. Egypt and Jordan ended their participation in the boycott when they signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Most Arab nations don't enforce the economic boycott against Israel today; neither, apparently, does ISIS, as reported by the Israeli business news service Globes, November 30, 2015:

Kurdish and Turkish smugglers are transporting oil from ISIS controlled territory in Syria and Iraq and selling it to Israel, according to several reports in the Arab and Russian media. An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization.

The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.

In August, the "Financial Times" reported that Israel obtained 75% of its oil supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan. More than a third of such exports go through the port of Ceyhan, which the FT describe as a “potential gateway for ISIS-smuggled crude."

“Israel has in one way or another become the main marketer of ISIS oil. Without them, most ISIS-produced oil would have remained going between Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Even the three companies would not receive the oil if they did not have a buyer in Israel,” an industry official told the newspaper "al-Araby al-Jadeed."

"Israel has in one way or another become the main marketer of IS oil. Without them, most ISIS-produced oil would have remained going between Iraq, Syria and Turkey," the industry official added.