In Brief…


Jewish Agency to distribute $1M for terror victims

The Jewish Agency for Israel plans to distribute $1-million to more than 100 individuals and families that have been directly affected by the wave of terror attacks in Israel that began in October.

Each family will receive financial assistance of up to $6,400 from the agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror, which is meant to supplement government support for victims of terror, the agency announced in a news release.

Families that have lost loved ones in terror attacks and those physically or emotionally affected will be able to use the financial aid for rehabilitation, supplemental treatment, the purchase of medical equipment, personal empowerment and other purposes.

In addition to the supplemental assistance, the fund will offer emergency assistance of approximately $1,000 to any family affected by terror in order to help them address immediate needs in the aftermath of an attack.

The fund, which will operate in partnership with the Ministry of Defense and the National Insurance Institute, relies on donations from Jewish federations around the world.

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, said in a statement: “This is an expression of Diaspora Jewry’s solidarity with the people of Israel, which is also manifested by the hundreds of thousands of Jews who visit Israel, the tens of thousands of Jewish young people who participate in Israel experience programs, and the record number of Jews who choose to immigrate to Israel–even now.” (JTA)

Chinese women arrive in Israel to make aliyah

Five women in their 20s from the Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng arrived in Israel to make aliyah.

The women, who have been studying Hebrew and Judaism in their native Kaifeng, arrived and then traveled to the Western Wall.

They must still undergo a formal conversion by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The women will continue their Jewish studies at Jerusalem’s Midreshet Nishmat–The Jeanie Schottenstein Center For Advanced Torah Study For Women, with the support of the Shavei Israel organization, which will also cover their living expenses and support them as they prepare for their conversions. Upon completion of the conversion process, they will receive Israeli citizenship.

“Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people,” said Michael Freund, chair of Shavei Israel, which seeks to strengthen ties to the descendants of Jews in communities around the world. “After centuries of assimilation, a growing number of the Kaifeng Jews in recent years have begun seeking to return to their roots and embrace their Jewish identity.”

The Kaifeng Jewish community is believed to have been founded by Iraqi or Persian Jewish merchants in the eighth or ninth century. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the community may have numbered up to 5,000 people. Today, after centuries of assimilation and intermarriage, the community claims 500 to 1,000 members who continue to observe Jewish customs.

Seven young men from Kaifeng made aliyah in October 2009 with the help of Shavei Israel. (JTA)


Poll: Jewish-Israelis prefer Clinton to Sanders 2 to 1

Of the two Democratic candidates in the U.S. presidential race, Israelis prefer the non-Jewish one.

The Israel Democracy Institute’s Peace Index survey found that 40.5 percent of Jewish-Israelis see former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “preferable from Israel’s standpoint,” while only 16.5 percent prefer Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish.

The survey of 600 Israelis also found that 61 percent of Jewish-Israelis believe Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s positions on Israel are “very or moderately friendly.” In addition, 34 percent of Jewish-Israelis surveyed believe a Republican president would be better than a Democratic one for Israel and 28 percent think a Democratic president would be better, while 38 percent had no opinion or did not know.

In addition to asking about the U.S. elections, the poll solicited opinions on the recent wave of terror, and 90 percent of Jewish-Israelis are confident the Israel Defense Forces is “currently operating in a very or moderately moral fashion in counteracting the terror wave.” Fifty percent of the Jewish respondents said they disagreed with a recent statement by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot saying the army should operate greater restraint in acting against alleged terrorists.

The poll also found sharp differences of opinion between Jewish- and Arab-Israelis about the involvement of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in attacks on Jewish-Israelis. While 57 percent of Jews said there is “no connection” between discrimination against residents of Arab sections of Jerusalem and the attacks, 52 percent of Arab-Israelis had the opposite view. (JTA)


NASA: Recent drought worst in 900 years

A recent 14-year dry spell in the Middle East was the worst drought in the past 900 years, according to a new NASA study.

The American space agency’s researchers examined records of rings of trees in several Mediterranean countries to determine patterns of dry and wet years across a span of nine centuries. In the study, they concluded that the years from 1998 to 2012 were drier than any other period, and that the drought was likely caused by humans, The Associated Press reported.

The study’s lead author Ben Cook said the range of extreme weather events in the eastern Mediterranean has varied widely in the past nine centuries, but the past two decades stand out.

Israel also experienced a severe drought, but its effects were significantly dampened by its array of six desalination plants.

When the sixth plant in Ashdod goes into full production, Israel’s desalination plants will reach 600 million cubic meters of water–which is nearly 70 percent of Israel’s domestic water consumption. According to a government decision, by 2020 the desalination plants should reach a capacity of 750 million cubic meters.

Cook, the NASA scientist, said the Middle East drought “falls outside the range of natural variability.”

Cook is a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City. (JTA)

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