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Palestinian driver who rammed Israeli police officers shot dead
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian driver who rammed his car into a group of Border Patrol officers in eastern Jerusalem was shot and killed by Israeli police.

Two officers were moderately injured in the Wednesday morning attack in the Arab neighborhood of A-Tor, near the Mount of Olives.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld in a tweet called the driver an “Arab terrorist.” The driver, 30, reportedly was shot as he tried to back his SUV over the downed officers, a man and a woman both in their 20s. They were taken to Jerusalem-area hospitals.

Police, who are investigating the incident, closed off the area. Local residents threw rocks at police and security forces following the attack, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Last week, four Israelis, three of them students, were injured at a traffic junction in the West Bank when a Palestinian driver from nearby Hebron rammed his car into them. The driver confessed to intentionally carrying out the attack.

There have been a series of vehicular attacks on Israelis by Palestinian drivers in the Jerusalem area in recent months.

Program banning Palestinians from public Israeli buses suspended
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A controversial program to prevent Palestinian workers from riding on Israeli public transportation in the West Bank was suspended a day after it was launched.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon suspended the program, which restricted the workers to four West Bank checkpoints to go to work and required them to return home by the same crossings. The workers would then take Palestinian bus services the rest of the way home. The plan added up to hours to their daily commutes.

Palestinian workers are not allowed to stay overnight in Israel. They are allowed to exit and enter the West Bank through a variety of checkpoints using a magnetic card.

Yaalon announced the program in October. At that time, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank said it would explore other options to provide the Palestinian workers with appropriate transportation. It had been scheduled to be reviewed after three months.

Opponents had called the plan racist.

“The only reason to have separate Jewish and Palestinian buses is pure racism,” Meretz party head Zahava Gal-on said in a Facebook status posted Wednesday. “The separation is just a symptom of 48 years of occupation, requiring us to be blind to the Palestinians so that we can live with ourselves.”

Zionist Union party head Isaac Herzog called the separation on public transportation “unnecessary degradation” and said it “pours more fuel on the fire of hatred of Israel in the world.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the suspension of the program.

“It is important we remember that our sovereignty obligates us to prove our ability to live side by side,” he said in a statement, speaking of Jews and Arabs.

Jewish residents of the West Bank and their local governments have waged a vociferous campaign over the last few years to prevent Palestinians who work in Israel to use Israeli public transportation there. Among the reasons given for keeping the Palestinians off Israeli buses is lack of room for Jewish West Bank residents and Jewish female passengers saying they have been harassed by the Palestinian laborers.

Netanyahu tells EU’s chief diplomat he is committed to two-state solution
(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the European Union’s top diplomat that he was committed to finding a two-state solution with the Palestinians, as long as they recognize the Jewish state.

“I don’t support a one-state solution – I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” Netanyahu said at a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini before meeting privately with her on Wednesday in Jerusalem. “I support the vision of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision in a practical, secure and responsible way.”

In response, Mogherini said that the EU supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“I believe your recommitment tonight to work on peace and security,” Mogherini said.

Netanyahu drew the ire of the international community, notably the United States, for saying on the eve of his reelection on March 17 that there would be no possibility of a two-state solution under his leadership. He walked back his comments and said that they were misconstrued in the media.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he has always been in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.

“Israel wants peace. I want peace. We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all,” he said. “My position has not changed.”

Mogherini met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank earlier on Wednesday as part of a trip meant to help restart peace negotiations in the region.

Israel ranked as 7th best country for gay men
(JTA) — Israel is the world’s seventh-best country for gay men, according to a poll of 115,000 gay men in 127 countries.

The Gay Happiness Index, a collaboration of the gay dating network Planet Romeo and researchers from Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, named Iceland the best country for gay men, followed in order by three other Nordic nations — Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The United States was 26th in the survey.

Twenty-seven of the 30 least happy countries for gay men are located in Africa and the Middle East.

The survey claims that the sample of men who were polled were taken from Planet Romeo’s index of 1.8 million users. The list used three categories to rank countries: public opinion, or how society in that country views gay men; public behavior, which took public discrimination into account; and general life satisfaction.

Robert Wistrich, leading anti-Semitism scholar, dies at 70
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Robert Wistrich, a leading scholar of anti-Semitism and its history, has died.

Wistrich, the Neuburger Professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the head of the university’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, died of a heart attack on Tuesday evening in Rome. He was 70.

He had been scheduled to speak about the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe in an address to the Italian Senate, the Times of Israel reported.

Wistrich was the author or editor of more than 29 books on the subject of anti-Semitism, including several that won international awards.  His 1992 book “Anti-Semitism, the Longest Hatred” was the basis for a PBS documentary that he scripted and co-edited.

He was born in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, where his parents had fled from anti-Semitism in Poland. The family returned to Poland after World War II, suffered from more anti-Semitism and moved to France and then England.

Rabbis holding vigil for detained African migrants ahead of Shavuot
JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 40 rabbis will hold a prayer vigil and pre-Shavuot study session at the Holot detention center for African migrants.

The program, organized by leaders of Rabbis for Human Rights and supported by the New Israel Fund, was scheduled for Wednesday outside the open-detention facility in the Negev Desert. Its participants come from across the denominational spectrum.

Organizers said the event was scheduled “to mark Shavuot, our turning point from freed slaves to a nation in covenant with God, by demanding that Israel honor our most commanded mitzvah,” citing Leviticus 19:33-34, which calls on Jews to love the stranger.

The date also was chosen because 12 of the detainees are facing immediate deportation, according to Haaretz.

Rabbi Nava Hefetz, educational director of Rabbis for Human Rights, and Rabbi Susan Silverman planned the vigil.

”God repeated the commandment to protect the stranger at least thirty-six times because it’s a really hard thing to do,” the organizers wrote in promoting the event. “Now that we are in our own land, it is something that takes real faith in God, and embracing discomfort — in a way that keeping kosher or Shabbat does not. But it is the real test of the Jewish soul. In that way, the refugees hold up a mirror to our inner character. And they give us an opportunity to rise to our highest selves.”

Some 42,000 Eritrean and Sudanese citizens are living in Israel, with 2,000 in the Holot detention facility. The residents there are required to check in twice a day. Many of the migrants have made their home in south Tel Aviv.

Israel has granted official refugee status to just four of more than 5,500 official asylum seekers.

Over 9,000 African migrants have left Israel in the past two years in voluntary departures, according to Haaretz. The Israeli government provided them with airplane tickets and grants.

Masada victim identified as Florida State student
(JTA) — The American tourist who died after falling during a hike in Israel was identified as a student at Florida State University.

Briana McHam, 20, of Pompano Beach, Florida, died Tuesday while walking down the steep Snake Path down the side of the rock plateau topped by the ancient fortification of Masada in southern Israel, near the Dead Sea. She was a student in the university’s International Programs.

According to a statement issued by the FSU International Programs, three of the program’s students decided to walk down from Masada instead of taking the cable car. When McHam did not return with the other students, a search ensued and McHam was found dead.

The other students received counseling services, according to the statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our students, who was at the beginning of a life of discovery broadening her horizons,” said James Pitts, director of International Programs. “Our hearts go out to her family, and we will assist them in any way we can, as well as other FSU students who might be affected during this difficult time.”

Tuesday saw temperatures of at least 104 degrees near Masada. McHam was dehydrated, suffering from heat stroke and not breathing when she was recovered from a steep cliff where she had fallen, Israeli news outlets reported, citing Magen David Adom paramedics.

Paramedics were unable to resuscitate McHam and she was declared dead at the scene.

Palestinians reject Israeli soccer proposal, pushing ahead with suspension vote
(JTA) — The Palestinian Football Association rejected an Israeli proposal to address its grievances and will move forward with a motion to expel Israel from international soccer play.

The Palestinian group plans to introduce a motion to expel Israel from international competition at the May 29 yearly congress of FIFA, the body that governs international soccer.

According to the PFA, Israel unjustly restricts Palestinian players’ travel and is breaking international law by fielding five teams in West Bank settlements. Israel has cited security concerns as the basis for the movement restrictions.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrived in Israel on Tuesday, aiming to solve the dispute and prevent the motion from coming to the table. To pass, the motion requires the approval of three-quarters of FIFA’s 209 member states.

On Wednesday, Israel proposed giving Palestinian soccer players special identification cards, and said it would provide an escort for them between the West Bank and Gaza, according to Reuters. Israel would also place special officials at border checkpoints to help ease their crossing.

The Israeli proposal did not address the settlement teams. The Israel Football Association’s director of communications, Shlomi Barzel, told JTA that the teams will continue to play as long as Israel considers the settlements part of its territory.

But the PFA rejected the Israeli proposal and said it would introduce the motion at the FIFA Congress as planned.

“The Palestinian federation is acting in the interests of soccer, in the interests of FIFA statues and above all in the interests of the footballers of Palestine,” Rajoub said, according to Reuters.

Chief rabbi: Rabbinate should be consulted on Knesset bills
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government should consult with the Chief Rabbinate on every proposed bill, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi said.

“I call on the justice minister to establish that for every bill that the government submits, just as it seeks the professional opinion of relevant ministries on the matter, so too it should ask the of the Chief Rabbinate to present the Jewish and traditional position on the bill,” Rabbi David Lau said Monday during a panel discussion with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference.

Lau stressed that the Chief Rabbinate would not be asked to decide on the bills, but to provide the traditional Jewish position on the proposed legislation before the Knesset votes. Relevant government ministries are usually asked to weigh in on pending legislation.

“Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state, and these expressions do not contradict each other but combine together,” Lau said during the discussion.