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Palestinians Launch Rocket Attacks Against Israel

By AFP, DEBKAfile, &

Shortly before 11 p.m., Wednesday night, explosions resounded in the Israeli towns of Netivot and Ashkelon and red code alerts sounded in Shear Hanegev, Lachish and close to Be'er Sheva for rocket or mortar fire. Long-range Grad missile fire is suspected.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets, raising the likelihood of an Israeli military response. A police statement said there were no immediate reports of casualties. Last Tuesday night a single rocket fell east of the port city of Ashdod and was followed a few hours later by four Israeli air strikes on Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip. Nobody was hurt on either side.

Israeli public radio said the latest volley could be related to internal Gaza infighting between the strip's Hamas rulers and its extremist opponents. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The incident came as Hamas stepped up measures against militants belonging to Islamic extremist groups, some of whom are known as Salafists. Since last summer, when Israel and Hamas fought a deadly 50-day war in and around Gaza, there have been growing signs of internal unrest between Hamas security forces and extremist splinter groups.

Salafists are Sunni Muslims who promote a strict lifestyle based on that of early "pious ancestors". In Gaza they have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas over its observance of a tacit ceasefire with Israel and its failure to implement Islamic law.

Wednesday's rockets were fired from Al-Shati in the northern Gaza Strip and from the area where the Jewish settlement of Netzarim used to be, near Gaza City. Gaza media outlets reported drones and airplanes above the Strip not long after the launches.

Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan, said he was in contact with the IDF, "in order to see whether we should prepare for an escalation, or this was an isolated incident. Each escalation must be met with force," he said "I hope this time the IDF strikes in a way the other side understands this front cannot be opened. The residents hope for vacation time this summer, and not like last year."

MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid), the former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, agreed with Idan. "The rocket fire cannot continue," he said. "Terror must be struck forcefully and we should not settle for bombing some sand dunes, otherwise we will face pointless wars every summer," he continued.

"Operation Protective Edge ended without a diplomatic agreement - this is a strategic error which must be rectified. We must create a diplomatic mechanism including the US, the European Union and moderate Arab countries, which would set the condition that the Gaza reconstruction would not happen without the Strip first being demilitarized."

Responding to Wednesday evening's attack, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) called on the Israeli government to respond. "Hamas is responsible for firing rockets into Israel, no other excuse will not be accepted. I expect the Israeli government to respond with force to the fire so that we are not dragged into Operation Protective Edge 2 this summer," he said.

Obama Invokes Waiver Postponing US Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem

By Israel Faxx News Services

President Barack Obama invoked a waiver on Wednesday postponing the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem for at least another six months.

Despite Congressional legislation mandating that the US move its mission to the Israeli capital, successive administrations dating back to the Clinton regime have used presidential authority to postpone implementation of the law by citing "national security interests."

Jerusalem is not recognized as Israel's capital, and the international community's position is that its status is to be negotiated in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's annexation of the eastern half of the capital is also not recognized internationally. The Palestinians seek a state with east Jerusalem as its capital, while Israel's official position is to keep the city united under its sovereignty.

US candidates often express their intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem from its current location in Tel Aviv, only to invoke the presidential waiver upon entering office.

Jeb Bush, a likely candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, expressed support on Saturday for Jerusalem remaining undivided as Israel's capital and for moving Washington's embassy to the historic city. Asked in Nashville whether Jerusalem should remain Israel's capital "forever" – as is the policy of the Netanyahu government – Bush said, "I support that, absolutely."

Kibbutzim Get New Lease on Life as Israelis Flee Urban Rat Race

By Reuters and Israel Hayom

This year's harvest was especially merry in many kibbutzim across Israel, where the agricultural holiday of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is celebrated by presenting both the first fruits of the harvest and the newborn babies.

At Kibbutz Nir am near Sderot, the community celebrated the birth of 14 children, a relatively large crop of babies. One after another the newborns were presented by their mothers to the kibbutz members and their guests during the annual harvest festival. Tractor-carts carried children and fresh crops past stacks of hay. At Kibbutz Ruhama in the southern Negev, kibbutz members donned white cloths and flocked to the fields where the tractors and plows paraded and fellow kibbutz members danced on stage.

Twenty-five years ago, kibbutzim seemed all but doomed. The pioneering socialist and Zionist spirit that drove the movement in the 1950s, '60s and '70s ran head-on into the consumerist, free-market 1980s and came off worse.

The kibbutzim were hit hard by financial crisis that gripped Israel in the mid-1980s, and youngsters abandoned the communal dream and headed to cities. Kibbutzim found themselves graying and failing. But the last few years have seen a surprising turnaround, with young families seeking to escape the high cost of living and alienation they find in cities for a cheaper, rural lifestyle in a closely knit community.

"The kibbutz has been changing during the last 20 or 30 years. It is now more individualistic, less socialistic in a way, closer to the capitalist way of life but still retains its high level of communality and of mutual responsibility between members. And the young generation is attracted to that way of life that on one hand gives them more freedom as individuals, and on the other hand gives them a sense of communality that they lack in the cities," said sociologist, Shlomo Getz, of Haifa University's Institute for Research on the Kibbutz.

In some cases, the new "kibbutzniks" are those who left to try something different only to return later in life. Others include career city folk who want a complete change of lifestyle. Sagi Gavri, a 47-year-old physician who was born in Nir Am, said he returned to the kibbutz with his family from Jerusalem due to the high cost of living in Israeli cities.

"It is economical and the houses are cheaper. It is cheaper to buy here, in the periphery of Israel, a house and a land than to buy in the center, which is impossible," Gavri, who still works in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital, told Reuters.

At Degania Alef, Israel's first kibbutz, founded in 1910 on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, 11 children were born this year, its largest crop of babies in a quarter-century. The kibbutz's absorption director, Tamar Gal-Sarai, said that a vast majority of kibbutz-born people who leave for school, travel, or to taste a different way of living, eventually return home. "I can't say that only teachers come back or only these come, or only those come, no. Cross-ages, cross-occupations, cross-ages of children, they come back," she said.

Bosmat Viner-Shwarzbard, 38, a pastry chef, left Degania for the Tel Aviv suburbs when she was 16. She returned with her husband 17 years later and became one of the kibbutz's 350 members in May, along with 16 others, another record high.

In the courtyard where the kibbutz founders built Degania's first barn, Viner-Shwarzbad's spouse, Oded, runs a restaurant that looks like any high-class dining spot in the city of Tel Aviv. "There's no stress, there's no fear when your child is going outside to the yard, or roaming around in the kibbutz. Everything is very safe, very protective, the neighbor knows your children, and the other neighbor also knows your children, so everyone takes responsibility. It is sort of a commune, one big family, a community," he said.

"If there were times when the only thing on wheels was old people's mobility scooters, now there are suddenly so many baby's pushchairs rolling along," added Bosmat, as she nursed her baby daughter. "It has brought a spirit of renewal to the kibbutz and I can say that... I am very happy that what my grandparents began here will go on."

There are 274 kibbutzim in Israel, and their population is growing rapidly, at 3% last year versus 1.1% a decade ago. The national population growth average is 1.9%.

"The impact of coming back of young people, mainly kibbutz-born children, to the kibbutz is tremendous," said Getz. "They are taking roles that their parents are not doing anymore because they are starting to get older and older. They are reviving, they are bringing with them many children, their own children, and the children's houses are full again. They are contributing to the culture of the kibbutz and in all they are reviving the kibbutz."

Kibbutz residents make up less than 2% of Israel's 8.3 million population. But the communities have spawned much of the country's political, military and cultural elite, and account for more than 40% of national agricultural output.

Addressing their economic problems a decade ago, kibbutzim began a process of "privatization," incorporating free market structures while retaining a strong social safety net, including attractive health, welfare and education benefits.

In 2007, after years of demographic stagnation, the trend turned with more people moving into kibbutzim than leaving. Some became members while others rented or bought homes in new neighborhoods built on kibbutz land to generate income.

The number of kibbutz newcomers has been growing since, spiking in 2011 when a social protest swept the country and hundreds of thousands of middle-class Israelis took to the streets to demonstrate against soaring living and housing costs.

Though some kibbutzim are still struggling financially, most are stable, if not thriving. Their main income now comes from industry, including from leading companies in Israel. Some communities have grown rich selling off land.

The privatization changes in kibbutzim and housing prices that can, in certain areas, be half those in the center of Israel, have made moving there more attractive. In most of the communities, members no longer have to work largely in kibbutz-assigned jobs for modest monthly allowances. Instead, they can pursue their own professional paths and earn their own wages, a portion of which may go back to the kibbutz.

About a third of kibbutzim are still mainly collectives. Kibbutz Ortal on the Golan Heights, which has fruit plantations, advanced dairy technology and a small winery, is one of them. Salaries go to the kibbutz and members either get half the sum back or an allowance based on family size and seniority.

Jews Attacked for Drinking Water on Temple Mount


Jewish men were once against mobbed and attacked on the Temple Mount on Wednesday - this time, by Arab women loitering at Judaism's holy site who pounced on them for daring to drink from the water fountain. The Mourabitoun, Muslim women who serve as guards over the Mount, harass and occasionally assault Jews who visit.

Gilad Hadari, the Temple Mount activist who was present, said he was attacked by one of the activists and filed a complaint with the police about it. He noted that in recent months the situation has worsened on the Temple Mount.

"The situation is deteriorating every day," he stated to Arutz Sheva Wednesday afternoon. "There is no law and no judge on the Temple Mount and they are allowed by police to yell, threaten, attack police and break privacy." Hadari called on Internal Security Minister Glad Erdan (Likud) to act immediately to stop the attacks.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, who is representing Hadari, said that his client intends to initiate proceedings both against lawbreakers and against the police - and that the video reveals "incredible incompetence."

Arutz Sheva already revealed last week that Jews have been banned from drinking water on the Temple Mount, whether from bottles or from the public water fountain - despite the fact that Muslims not only host elaborate meals there, but even hold soccer matches at the holy site.

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