(JTA) — The ninth week of protests in Israel brought hundreds of thousands of opponents to judicial reform into the streets on Saturday night, but within hours Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition advanced the legislation through the Knesset.
Protests against the reforms extended to areas of Israel’s establishment where political protest was once unthinkable, including among combat pilots and staff for the national airline, El Al.
The government is opening bids for other airlines to fly Netanyahu and his wife to Rome later this week after too few El Al employees signed up to work the trip. The airline denied that the worker shortage reflected a protest against the prime minister, who is scheduled to meet with Italy’s new right-wing leader, Giorgia Meloni.
But others are making clear that their refusal to show up to work represents a protest against Israel’s right-wing government, which is seeking to sap the judiciary of its power.
Thirty-seven of 40 combat pilots in the military reserves said they would skip the first day of a required week of training to “devote our time to discourse and thinking for the sake of democracy and the unity of the people, and therefore we will not report to reserve duty on this day, with the exception of operational activity,” according to a translation of the letter published by the Times of Israel. They would turn up as required for the rest of the week, they said.
Reserves pilots train multiple times a year, a regimen that is seen as critical to their effectiveness. Individual soldiers have refused to serve in the past, at times earning jail sentences, but a mass action by one of the most elite units is unheard of. The squadron in this case was responsible for destroying a nascent nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.
The combat pilots joined a growing protest movement against legislation that would allow a simple majority of 61 Knesset members to overrule the Supreme Court and constrain the court in other ways. The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday advanced the legislation, which has already passed the full Knesset on a first of the three required votes to become law, making only limited changes.
The opposition sees the reforms as gutting the independence of the judiciary, which has been a bulwark against the erosion of the rights of women, non-Orthodox Jews, and minorities including Arab and LGBTQ Israelis.
Netanyahu has said he is ready to negotiate on the judicial reforms, but the opposition wants him to first stop the legislative process; coalition lawmakers have said they want to pass the laws by Passover, at the beginning of April.
Organizers said 400,000 people turned out for the ninth weekly Saturday night protest, over 150,000 in Tel Aviv alone.
In his remarks opening his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said he understood “that many of the protesters are loyal citizens most of whom don’t understand the details of the reform at all.”
The protests had been peaceful until Thursday, when mounted police used water cannons against crowds in Tel Aviv gathered for a “Day of Disruption.” Another “Day of Disruption” is planned for this week.
How far that disruption extends within the armed forces remains to be seen. Opposition leaders urged reservists to show up as required. Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party and who was the defense minister until December, called on reservists and regular troops “not to give in to refusal to serve, although you are in pain.”
In a letter leaked Friday, Tomer Bar, the general who commands the Air Force, appeals to reservists not to miss call-ups, while saying, “I am aware of and sensitive to the difficulties and challenges we are all facing these days.”
Netanyahu on Sunday tweeted a photograph of himself when he was young and serving in a commando unit. “When we are called to reserves, we always turn up,” he said.
Among the dozens of appeals to Netanyahu to stop the reforms a standout was from 10 of the troops who joined his older brother, Yonatan, in rescuing hostages held on a plane in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. Yonatan was killed during the raid, which is seen as emblematic of Israel’s refusal to deal with terrorists and willingness to go to extreme lengths to rescue Jews in peril. Benjamin Netanyahu has since made his brother his lodestar.
The 10 veterans were especially offended by Netanyahu’s likening of the protesters — whom they have joined — to the settlers who rampaged through a West Bank village last week, burning houses and cars and injured dozens.
“We did the impossible with our brothers in arms,” said the letter, posted Saturday on social media. “And you and your cohort are doing everything you can to undermine motivation and to crack up Israeli society.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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