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Temple Mount: Police Arrest Jew For Lifting Up His Hands


A prominent Jewish Temple Mount activist was arrested on the holy site Tuesday morning, after Muslim and police officials claimed he broke the strict rules governing Jewish visits to the site - by lifting up his hands.

Police say Yehuda Etzion lifted up the palms of his hands in an act of surreptitious prayer during the visit, which took place to mark the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet. Non-Muslims are forbidden from praying at the site due to Muslim threats of violence, and Jews in particular are closely monitored by police and members of the Waqf Islamic trust which administers the site, to ensure they do not do so. This, despite the fact that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Another Jewish visitor was arrested along with Etzion, for allegedly cursing Waqf guards.

Attorney Rehavia Filtz of the Honenu legal rights said that according to Etzion, he had his palms raised for a considerable period of time during the visit, when a police officer asked him to accompany him off the Mount. When Etzion asked if he was suspected of any crime the officer declined to respond, and he therefore refused to leave. At that point, four officers forcibly removed him from the site.

The two men were briefly held by police before being released. Jerusalem District Court will decide Wednesday whether to grant police their request to distance the pair from the Temple Mount for a period of time - a measure often used against Temple Mount activists.

"It is very serious that the Israel Police is allowed to curse, insult and disrupt Jews visiting the Mount on the fast day marking the start of the destruction of the Temple, and on the other hand picking on Jews based on such infantile charges."

Jewish Temple Mount groups have repeatedly complained over the gradually-increasing draconian measures against Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount, saying the police's policy is one of blatant anti-Jewish discrimination.

Samir Quntar's Ex-Wife Justifies His Elimination


Lebanese terrorist Samir Quntar "deserved to be killed," Quntar's ex-wife stated after the Hizbullah figure was killed in Syria.

Quntar is notorious for the 1979 murder of three Israelis, including 31-year-old Danny Haran, and Haran's four-year-old daughter whose head he smashed on a rock with his rifle butt after killing her father in front of her. The girl's two-year-old sister was accidentally smothered to death by their terrified mother as she stifled her cries to prevent them from being discovered.

But Quntar didn't deserve death for their murders, ex-wife Kifah Kayyal stated in an Al-Arabiya news story on the incident; he deserved it for "fighting the Syrian people and the Palestinian people" on Syrian land.

In the remarks, translated to English by the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Kayyal noted that Hizbullah and Quntar were in Syria "not to fight Israel, the Zionist enemy, or any aggression," but "fighting the Syrian rebels on the land of Syria. We show no solidarity with murderers," she concluded.

Obama's State Department Rejects Congressional Calls to Close Washington PLO Office

By Reuters

The US State Department on Tuesday rejected calls by 32 congressional lawmakers, including Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, to close the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

In a letter dated December 18, the lawmakers called on Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke a waiver that allows the PLO office in Washington to remain open. They argued that Palestinian leaders encouraged violence against Israelis, including a wave of knife-wielding attacks in recent months.

"The United States government has an obligation to publicly denounce the PLO's actions and should immediately revoke its waiver," according to a copy of the letter posted on Cruz's website. "Allowing the PLO to maintain an office in Washington, DC provides no benefit to the United States or the peace process."

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau confirmed that the department had received the letter and said Kerry would respond to it. "We believe that closing the PLO office would be detrimental to our ongoing efforts to calm tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, advance a two-state solution and strengthen the US-Palestinian partnership," Trudeau told reporters.

She said every US administration since 1994 had used the waiver to keep the PLO office open. "We believe the PLO has a valid place ... and we'd oppose those efforts" to close the office, Trudeau said, adding that Kerry had condemned the attacks.

Knesset Ministers Approve Bill to Shutter All Shops on Saturday


A bill to shut all business-related locations – from shopping malls to warehouses – on Saturday and holidays has been unanimously approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The Weekly Day of Rest Bill is now to go to the Knesset for a first reading within days.

The new bill, spearheaded by MK Miki Zohar (Likud), calls for only entertainment and dining establishment being permitted to stay open: restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, theaters, movie theaters, gas stations and hotels. Furthermore, the bill would forbid employers from stipulating that workers must be willing to work on Saturday in order to be hired.

Failing to abide by the bill would result in financial sanctions in addition to up to a year in prison or a fine equaling three times the income made by breaking the law – and no less than NIS 4,000 for any violation of the law.

"The bill is intended to prevent losses for all businesses that are not active on Saturday," said Zohar. "We will thus ensure that employees will not be forced to come to work on Saturday and will also be able to use the day as a day of leisure. The municipalities will no longer be able to do whatever they want."

Zohar rejected the possibility that the move would be damaging to Israel's four million secular Jews and Arabs. "Everyone will be happy for the Sabbath to become a day of rest and not a day of work. After all, that's how we lived until a few years ago. The majority of people don't even go shopping on the Sabbath and there's no reason for a clothing store to be open on the Sabbath. It's over. If they want to, they can go to a movie theater or café."

Other politicians were staunchly opposed to the bill. "This is a bizarre bill that will finish, divide, and destroy Israel from within, and could lead to a civil war," said MK Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid)."The vast majority of Israel's Jews have fun and shop on Saturday without doing anything to hurt those who observe traditions. Israel will transform into Iran."

Asaf Zamir, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, was also opposed to the initiative. "This is unacceptable intervention by the government in the fabric of the city and its resident's independence," he said. "Tel Aviv is an open and free city."

The 'Secret Jews' of Ethiopia Emerge From the Shadows


For thousands of years, the Bal Ej practiced Judaism in secret - now they are reemerging, and they want to come home to Israel. Earlier this year, the Israeli government announced it plans airlift 500 family members of Ethiopian-Jewish soldiers to Israel, as part of the Interior Ministry's vow to "complete" the aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry back to Israel.

Israel brought most of the community to Israel during the 1980s and 90s in what was dubbed Operation Solomon, with others following them in subsequent years.

There are currently around 135,500 Jews of Ethiopian descent living in Israel, including more than 50,000 native-born Israelis. The ancient community was exiled from Israel in pre-Talmudic times, and spent much of its long exile largely cut off from other Jewish communities, resulting in a unique set of customs and practices.

Some - known as the Beta Israel - preserved their Jewish identity despite harsh persecution, while others - often known as Falash Mura - were forcibly converted to Christianity, in some cases practicing Judaism secretly.

But just as Israel poises to "wrap up" the return of Ethiopian Jewry to their homeland, an upcoming documentary by Jewish filmmaker Irene Orleansky reveals another reemerging community in the heart of the Horn of Africa state. Known as Bal Ej, like many other Beta Israel they too were forced to keep their Judaism a secret due to persecution - in some cases far worse than their brethren elsewhere in the country.

Arutz Sheva spoke with Orleansky about her project, to find out just who the Bal Ej are. "Bal Ej means craftsmen in Amharic. According to their oral history, they originate from Beta Israel of Gondar region. A story of their migration from Gondar region to North Shewa region was also documented by Jacque Faitlovitch, a prominent researcher of Beta Israel, in his journey diaries in 1910. The community was also mentioned in earlier documents as long ago as in 1840.

"They migrated from Gondar to North Shewa region in a few waves beginning from the 15th century with the largest wave in the 19th century at the time of rule of Menelik II who brought them from Gondar to North Shewa to build his capital Ankober, and later Entoto and Addis Ababa. The weapons produced by Beta Israel craftsmen of North Shewa played an important role in military success of Menelik II.

"The traditions and practices of Beta Israel of Gondar and North Shewa are essentially identical. They practice animal sacrifice and follow strict purification laws typical for Beta Israel. They also strictly observe Shabbat, circumcision and dietary laws.

"But unlike the Beta Israel of Gondar who practiced Judaism openly, the Beta Israel of North Shewa were forced to act outwardly as Christians and practice Judaism in strict secrecy to avoid severe persecutions and discrimination. Even Faitlovich mentions in his book "My Second Trip to Abyssinia" that they live in North Shewa in conditions of slaves with no right to return to their homes.

"Another difference is that all their writings were confiscated by Coptic Orthodox Church or lost during migration, therefore their traditions were transferred from generation to generation only orally. Not only that they lost ties with their kinsmen in Gondar, until recently they did not known that Beta Israel of Gondar are already in Israel.

"More than that, they did not know that the State of Israel was reestablished and that there are other Jews in the world. This knowledge came only in recent times, when the younger generation started migrating from villages to the city and got access to information.

"Until today they continue practicing Judaism in secrecy. Today there are 14 secret synagogues, or rather monasteries (a common practice for Beta Israel), all located in remote inaccessible places in the mountains of North Shewa.

Arutz Sheva: Have they been practicing Judaism secret as Jews for all these years, or were they - like many other Ethiopian Jews - forcibly converted, and only returning to their Jewish roots now?

"Unlike most Ethiopian Jews known as Falashmura, who converted into Christianity and have recently returned to Judaism, the Beta Israel of North Shewa have never abandoned Judaism, but practiced it in secrecy. Unfortunately young people of Kechene are beginning to abandon and forget their roots. In spite of this, there is no assimilation even among the youngsters who have recently abandoned Judaism.

"Like the Beta Israel of Gondar, the Beta Israel of North Shewa are believed to be "buda," or evil eyed, and "jib," people who turn into hyenas during the night. This superstition in a way has preserved the community from assimilation for centuries. To this very day, no outsider will step his foot into the neighborhood of craftsmen, and if he has to do so, he will tie a clove of garlic to his arm which is believed will protect him from evil eye. Marriage between Beta Israel and other communities is a taboo.

"What prompted the community to come out is the desire to reconnect more strongly with their Jewish roots and the rest of the Jewish world as well as fear that their identity will be lost forever in just one or two generations.

"The community is economically independent. Many of the youngsters are with college and university degrees, while most elders are still practicing crafts because of lack of education and because in rural areas land is still not given to "falashas" no matter how many crosses you tie around your neck for disguise.

Arutz Sheva: What kinds of challenges do they face?

"In rural areas, murders and property damage are still common. Every time that a Christian gets sick or dies, it is believed that it is because of the curse of the "hyena people". So Christians come to the village of Bal Ej and take "revenge." Almost every month I hear about a murder of a community member.

"In Addis Ababa, the main problem is the lack of Jewish cemetery or at least a civil burial ground. If a community member dies and at his life time he practiced Judaism openly, he will be refused to be buried at a Christian cemetery. Sometimes the community members have to take the body of the deceased kilometers away in search of a burial place.

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