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Pompeo's Thumbs Up for Israel to Counter Russian-Backed Iranian Drive in Syria

By DEBKAfile

As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sat down on Sunday, April 29 in Tel Aviv to discuss the Iranian threat, a Russian-backed Syrian force struck across the Euphrates to capture a string of US-backed fortified Kurdish SDF villages. This incursion of a key US area of influence region in eastern Syria, if confirmed, would rip up a key element of the US-Russian de-confliction zones accord and provide Iran with a springboard for a leap up to the Iraqi border. Pompeo, on his first Middle East Trip as Secretary of State, reiterated in Tel Aviv – as he did in Riyadh earlier Sunday – that the nuclear deal will need to be fixed or it would be abandoned by President Donald Trump's on May 12. Standing alongside Netanyahu, the secretary backed Israeli efforts to counter Iran in Syria. He said the US is committed to "rolling back to the full range of Iranian malign influence in Syria," specifically mentioning "Iran's missile systems, its support for Hizbullah, its importation of thousands of Shiite fighters into Syria." Pompeo added, "We strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself." This was taken as a US green light for Israel to take on the elements threatening its security from Syria. The secretary also stressed that the US would continue to fight ISIS and not tolerate the Assad regime using chemical weapons. DEBKAfile's military sources add: If the Syrian push into the US-held region is confirmed, it will tell the Trump administration and its new secretary of state that while they were busy arranging for US troops to leave Syria, Moscow was expanding its support for Iran to move in and deepen presence in that country.

US Army Chaplains Fire Only Jewish Religious Leaders on Base

By IsraelNationalNews.com

US Army chaplains at the army's 101st Airborne Division have been accused of dismantling programs to serve religious Jewish soldiers on-base, Army Times reported. The chaplains fired all of the longstanding Jewish lay leaders at Fort Campbell, Kentucky without providing any reason for the dismissals. No replacements were appointed, ending the holding of Shabbat services for Jewish soldiers and their families. Jeanette Mize, her husband, Curt Mize, and their son, Lawrence, had served as the lay leaders for Jewish worship at Fort Campbell until February 28, 2018, when they were fired without explanation by the division chaplain, Col. John Murphy, and his deputy chaplain, Lt. Col. Sean Wead. The family had served as the Jewish lay leaders at the base since 1984. "This is the first time in at least 34 years that the Jewish soldiers and their families have been denied weekly Shabbat worship at Fort Campbell," Jeanette Mize told Army Times. "There is no synagogue in the Fort Campbell area or the nearest towns of Hopkinsville or Clarksville," she said. "The nearest synagogue is located in Nashville, more than 50 miles away."

Mize called Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who filed a complaint with the base. Robert Jenkins, Fort Campbell's director of public affairs, said the post is now investigating the allegations against the chaplains. Mize also said that the chaplains refused to support the holding of a Passover Seder on the first night of Passover because it would 'conflict' with the observance of Good Friday by Catholic soldiers. The chaplains told her that the Seder would receive no advertising or support. "They had to celebrate Passover on a non-Passover date," Weinstein said. "That's like telling Christians `I know you want to do Christmas on December 25, but it's more convenient if you do it on December 7, so we can save money.' " According to Mize, her work environment deteriorated after a man she described as a "fundamentalist Christian" was appointed the Jewish lay leaders' chaplain sponsor last summer. She said that he bullied the Jewish lay leaders and threatened to take over the religious decisions for Jewish worship. "I made appeals to replace him," Mize said. "Nothing was done about this. [He] enjoyed his position and exerted his authority." Weinstein said that the inquiry has become a 15-6 investigation, which shows that the army is taking the allegations against the chaplains very seriously. "About 10% of the cases I file with the Army become 15-6 investigations," he said, noting that he is pleased with the speed with which the investigation was launched and the seriousness with which the army is dealing the case.

A Jewish Future? Only in Israel

By Noah Klieger (Commentary)
Considering soaring assimilation rates, the Jewish population in many countries around the world will likely disappear completely in six or seven generations. Israel is the only country in the world where the number of Jews keeps growing and the only place where the Jewish people have a future. I read the forecasts on the Jewish people's future across the universe in several generations from now very carefully, and with all due respect to the demography experts, I disagree with their forecasts. In my opinion, they are simply too optimistic and incompatible with the reality of the past few years. After visiting many countries around the world over the years, and being a rationalist, I am convinced there will be a dramatic decrease in the Jewish population in most countries worldwide in six or seven generations from now, and in some countries it will most likely disappear altogether. For example, if there are about 7,000 Jews living in Denmark, which has less than six million residents, how can they survive? Clearly, most of them won't find a partner within the community, and everyone knows that mixed marriages usually lead—after several generations—to a loss of the Jewish identity. And that makes complete sense. What about countries with a relatively large Jewish population? In the United States, for example, the number of Jews in the general population of 327 million residents is about 5.5 million. Clearly, the Jewish community there will last longer than the Jewish community in Denmark, Belgium or Spain.



It's pretty clear, however, that the American Jewish community will also disappear eventually, apart from the ultra-Orthodox. But the latter make up only a very small percentage of the US Jewry, and the rate of mixed marriages there keeps growing and has already reached 60%, according to data. Even though some of those who live in mixed families claim to lead a Jewish life and maintain a Jewish identity, as the Reform Jews have been trying to convince us, they will assimilate completely within several generations. The undeniable fact is that the Jewish people in the Diaspora are losing tens of thousands of members every year. If the non-Jewish wife in a mixed family is against performing a circumcision on the couple's baby boy, what will her Jewish husband do? Divorce her? Of course not. After all, they married out of love and a desire to start a family together. Moreover, the baby isn't considered Jewish according to the Halacha. And then the husband convinces himself that he can be Jewish even without circumcising his children, that a Christmas tree at home isn't a religious act but a traditional custom, that studying in Jewish educational institutions isn't necessary for maintaining a Jewish identity, etc. The situation is similar in the opposite case, when the wife is Jewish and the husband isn't, even if the child is definitely considered Jewish. For how long? Until he marries a non-Jewish woman. Most members of the Jewish people, who were scattered across the world, managed to survive and avoid assimilation for 2,000 years. Despite decrees and riots and annihilation, they insisted on sticking to their faith and succeeded. And now, when Jews enjoy freedom of religion and faith—at least in Western countries—and aren't facing an existential threat, many of them are drifting away from their Jewishness. The only country in the world where the number of Jews keeps growing on an annual basis is Israel, of course. Nearly 6.5 million Jews live in the country today, the birthrate is increasing and the number of immigrants is greater than the number of people who leave the country for different reasons. Seventy years after the Jewish state's establishment, it is clear to everyone that in light of the growing assimilation rates, the future of the Jewish people can only be found in Israel.

Officials: Trump `Seriously Considering' Letting Pollard Move to Israel

By the Jerusalem Post

President Donald Trump is "seriously considering" changing the parole conditions of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to allow him to come to Israel, Israeli officials said at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday. Pollard was paroled from prison in November 2015 after serving 30 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel, America's ally. But his parole conditions prevent him from leaving New York State and moving to, or even visiting Israel. In a recent conversation with a visitor to New York, Pollard revealed that he and his wife, Esther, were suffering from poor health and had dealt with significant medical challenges over the past year. Asked if he had hope that the Trump administration would commute his sentence and allow him to go to Israel, Pollard told the visitor he met on the street: "I am praying for a miracle. I just want to come home." Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz said allowing Pollard to come to Israel would be another welcome gesture by the Trump administration when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. "In order to make the celebration even happier, I would like to ask our great friend President Trump to give the Israeli public one more present and to allow Jonathan Pollard to come to Israel and celebrate with us in Jerusalem," Katz said. Asked on the sidelines of the conference whether the Trump administration would accept his request, Katz told reporters there was such a possibility. Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset's Free Pollard Caucus, said he hoped the reports were not "too good to be true. It is time to end the episode," he said.

Tunisian Islamist Party's Jewish Candidate Gears for Elections

By AFP

Municipal elections held in Tunisia next week will see Simon Slama, a Jew, running on the Islamist party's ticket, a move met with both derision and admiration; Slama, unfazed, vows to swear on both Koran, Hebrew Bible if elected. Decked out in a striking blue suit and white shirt, matching his political allegiance, Simon Slama rubs shoulders with fellow candidates ahead of Tunisia's municipal elections. Nothing unusual about that—except he is the only Jewish candidate standing for the Islamist Ennahdha party. A public relations stunt for some; a sign of genuine liberalization for others. But even if Slama fares dismally come the May 6 poll, his candidacy has become a major story in the nation. This will be the first municipal vote since former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fell from power in 2011. Ben Ali ruled Tunisia with an iron fists for 23 years, and was deposed in the so-called "Jasmine Revolution." The Ennahdha party, as part of which Slama is running, was founded after the dictator's ouster and was based on an Islamist movement founded in the North African country in 1981, inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. And while Slama looks at ease, joyously clapping hands on the campaign trail in the coastal town of Monastir, the 54-year old sewing machine repairman's decision to run drew fierce initial opposition from loved ones. "All my family were against my choice. My brother was angry and my wife went days without speaking to me," the candidate told AFP, with a timid smile and a nervous fidget of the hands. "But I managed to convince them." Slama and his relatives are among the small number of Jews still living in Tunisia. The community in the North African nation has shrunk from several hundred thousand before independence in 1956, to just 1,200 today. While Jews in the country, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, once served as lawmakers and even ministers, they have long since slipped to the margins of politics. Slama believes his candidacy is helping to change all that and has already "removed fears for Jewish Tunisian citizens." Comrades in the Ennahdha party insist Slama is the right man to stand for office in Monastir—a symbolic town for Tunisians as it is the birthplace of Habib Bourguiba, the father of the country's independence. "He comes from an ancient family. He has his roots in Monastir... and he knows the town's problems," says Chokri ben Janet, who heads the party's candidate list in the town. Slama says that despite its history as an Islamist party he opted for Ennahdha out of political conviction, describing it as "the most active and the most serious on the political scene. Ennahdha has changed its strategy—it is no longer a religious party, it is a civil party," he said. Taking stock from its experience in power after the 2011 revolution, it has worked hard to modernize its image. It opposed a project to criminalize any attempt to normalize relations with Israel; a vote on the proposal was dropped this winter. Now some of its leading candidates are women who don't wear the Islamic veil. All of these changes—including Slama's candidacy—have drawn derision from some political opponents who accuse the group of simple opportunism to bolster its vote. Others say that interest in Slama's candidacy highlights that while Jews can practice their religion freely they remain an anomaly in Tunisia—and shows the country still has a long way to go on minority rights. The media frenzy is testament to "this obsession we have of judging (people) on the basis of something as personal as their religious conviction," says Yamina Thabet, an official for Tunisia's Association for the Support of Minorities. Some noteworthy figures have, nonetheless, thrown their weight behind Slama's bid for a seat. "This candidacy brings pride for the Jewish community," says Rene Trabelsi, who organizes the Jewish pilgrimage to Tunisia's famous Ghriba synagogue, on the island of Djerba. "It has created a positive image of an open Tunisia that we can all share," says the businessman, who was once a contender to become tourism minister. And as for the candidate himself, he appears comfortable with his identity and the attention his foray into politics has garnered. If he wins, Slama says, he is ready to take the oath of office on "both the books"—the Jewish Torah and the Muslim Koran.

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