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First Read For January 10
News Roundup

First Read For January 10

The Sessions hearings; Hier and the Trump inauguration; Coldplay to play Israel; bomb threats target Jewish schools in England.

Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's picks for attorney general, joined president-elect Donald Trump on stage during a thank you rally in Mobile, Alabama on December 17, 2016. Getty Images
Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's picks for attorney general, joined president-elect Donald Trump on stage during a thank you rally in Mobile, Alabama on December 17, 2016. Getty Images

Two prominent Jewish organizations have questioned the competence of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Donald Trump’s choice to serve in the presidential administration that will take office on Jan. 20, to serve in that post. Bend the Arc Jewish Action said in a statement that Sessions “must answer for his relationship with two right-wing anti-immigration organizations with ties to white-supremacist, anti-Semitic movements.” The organization’s CEO, Stosh Cotler, urged the Senate to delay the hearing on Sessions’ nomination that is set to start today.

And the Reform movement said this week that it has “significant concerns” about Trump’s nomination of Sessions. “On issues of vital importance to the Reform movement, including voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality and immigration, Senator Sessions has a voting record and a history of statements that raise alarm,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, on behalf of the movement’s congregational arm, the Union for Reform Judaism, and its rabbinical body, the Central Conference of American Rabbi


Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says he will not back out of his plans to deliver an invocation at the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. pushed a stack of printouts across his desk — blessings and invocations he’s delivered on behalf of four sitting U.S. presidents. “I’ve done invocations for President [Bill] Clinton, both Bushes, Ronald Reagan,” he told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. “I wouldn’t make any exception.”

A petition on calling on the rabbi to say no to the invitation gathered more than 2,000 signatures in three days. “By speaking at his inauguration, especially as a hero of a half-century battling hate and intolerance, we feel you lend those elements of your ‘brand’ — if inadvertently — to help create a smokescreen for Trump,” the petition reads.

“Who’s sitting on the platform [at Trump’s inauguration]?” the rabbi asked. “His worst opponents, sitting in the peaceful transfer of power: Hillary and Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, President and Mrs. Obama, George W. Bush and his wife — and they say that I shouldn’t partake. Come, come! Isn’t that the height of hypocrisy?”

“I’ve stated my views, and I was invited to give the prayer anyway,” he said.


Israeli soldiers thwarted a would-be knife attack Tuesday morning, killing the Palestinian assailant who came at soldiers on patrol in the vicinity of the al-Faraa refugee camp near Nablus, the Jerusalem Post reported. While soldiers from the Duvdevan special forces unit performed routine activities, the man ran at the soldiers with a knife brandished, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” according to the Post. Soldiers shot at the man, who died at the scene.


Family members of the four Israeli Army soldiers officers who were murdered in a truck-ramming terror attack on Sunday have expressed anger and disappointment in the government for the failure of ministers to appear at any of the funerals, the website reported. A friend of Lt. Yael Yakutiel’s family spoke of the disappointment in the political establishment, saying, “During the funeral they didn’t notice because of the clamor and the amount of people, but afterwards, when they realized (no minister had come), they thought it was very inappropriate.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to instruct Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman to formulate binding procedure requiring government ministers, deputy ministers and Knesset members to attend the funerals of fallen IDF soldiers.


The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation has unanimously decided to a support a new bill that’s aimed at banning activities on school campuses by any groups that try to “undermine educational goals or harm IDF soldiers,” according to Virtual Jerusalem. The bill is specifically targeting the nonprofit organization Breaking the Silence, or BTS, a left-wing protest group. The new bill is being spearheaded by a counter-group called “Reservists on Duty” who say BTS promote draft-dodging and anti-military propaganda.


The Knesset has banned use of the term “mentally ill” (mefager) in official documents, according to Hamodia. Individuals who were formerly in that category are now to be known as “individuals with developmental brain limitations.” The law was approved on its second and third reading by a vote of 34 in favor, with none opposed.

In a text accompanying the law, its sponsors, MKs Merav Ben-Ari and Itzik Shmueli, said that “this linguistic change is needed not only because of changing times, but because of our commitment as individuals and society to the honor of human beings, whoever  they may be.”

Although it passed unanimously, the law has generated a great deal of criticism, Hamodia reported, and has been mocked as well for the politically correct tone it sets in terminology that was accepted for many years. According to critics, changes in the ways that people are described will not change social attitudes to them – and in fact could harm real efforts to help them, as the legislative energy that could have been applied to fighting discrimination has been expended on mere terminology.


Coldplay, one of the world’s leading rock bands, will reportedly come to Israel in November to play two joint “peace concerts” for Israelis and Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported. The unprecedented joint concerts have been scheduled for Nov. 3-4, at an outdoor location north of the Dead Sea.


Jewish schools in England were put on emergency alert this week after a series of hoax bombs threats. The Metropolitan Police in London confirmed they were alerted o phone calls made to schools in the city’s Roehampton, Ilford and Brent neighborhoods, in London, in which it was claimed explosive devices had been planted on the premises, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Officers conducted a thorough search of all three sites – and others schools were placed on emergency lock-down while the searches were concluded. Hoax calls were also made to a small number of non-Jewish schools.

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