Following months of coalition wrangling, damning criticism from internal and international opposition, and bleak warnings from legal experts, Israel on Monday legalized all West Bank outposts with sweeping legislation that aims to prevent future demolitions of settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
In a late-night session, the Knesset passed the final readings of the controversial so-called Regulation Bill, which paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes.
The legislation could still be thwarted by Israel’s judges. “The chance that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court is 100 percent,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week.
After a day of back-and-forth on whether the vote would take place at all, the bill went before lawmakers at 10.30 p.m., receiving 60 votes in favor to just 52 against. All opposition MKs present voted against the bill — with veteran Likud lawmaker Benny Begin standing out as the only coalition member to oppose the measure. Eight MKs were not present in the plenary for the vote.
Speaking for the government in defense of the measure before the vote, Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said the vote was not just over this specific law, but rather about the right of the Jewish people to live in Israel. “This whole debate is based on one question: Who does this land belong to?” he told the plenary.
Condemned by the Barack Obama administration, the European Union, the United Nations and Israel’s attorney general, the law was hailed by the settler movement as a turning point in the 50-year settlement project. Now, supporters say, the era of evacuating Jewish settlements such as the one carried out against the illegal Amona outpost last week, is over.
The law freezes demolition proceedings against the homes.
For any structures found to have been built in good faith — that is, if the homeowners did not know the house was being built on privately owned land — the state would seize the property from its Palestinian owners in exchange for compensation valued at slightly more than the land’s market value, as determined by an Israeli government committee established for that purpose.
First put forward by the Jewish Home party, the original proposal was intended to overturn a High Court of Justice verdict forbidding the expropriation of the privately owned Palestinian land on which Amona once stood. The clause that would have circumvented that court ruling, however, was removed from the bill following coalition infighting.
A rabbi in a remote region of Mexico he went to a dairy farm to purchase milk, and was shocked when he saw a vital element of the Third Temple right in front of his eyes: a red heifer calmly chewing its cud under the Baja sun.
“I’ve grown up with the stories, so I know how rare and valuable the red heifer is,” Rabbi Benny “Bentsion” Hershcovich told Breaking Israel News. “I’ve never seen a red heifer and I never expected to see one. My heart literally jumped when I saw it.”
The red heifer, one of the most perplexing Torah commandments, is a necessary element for purifying Jews in order to enable them to do the service in the Temple.
And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of B’nei Yisraelfor a water of sprinkling; it is a purification from sin. Numbers 19:9
Over the course of the approximately one thousand years the First and Second Temple stood, only nine Red Heifers were used in preparing the waters used to purify Jews. According to Jewish tradition, the tenth one will be used by the Messiah.
Rabbi Hershcovich is the emissary to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism which emphasizes the role of the Messiah. He works hard to serve the spiritual needs of the small Jewish community in Baja, but adhering to the extra-stringent Chabad customs regarding the preparation of food presents a challenge in the exotic locale.
“Even though we are in this far-flung region, we decided not to compromise on any of the kosher standards we held in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Hershcovich explained to Breaking Israel News. This adherence to ritual led him to a remarkable discovery illustrating that the Third Temple is very close indeed.
Rabbi Hershcovich’s kosher stringencies require that he personally oversee the milking for making his own dairy products. While visiting a Mexican farm, the rabbi looked up from the milking and was shocked to see a distinctively colored cow wandering among the herd: one which appeared completely red, without a blemish or spot.
Rabbi Hershcovich asked the farmer about the calf. The perplexed Mexican farmer explained that it had been born several months earlier, and that while the color was odd, he considered it to be “just another cow”. The farmer had never heard of the Biblical commandment and did not understand why the rabbi was so excited.
“Regardless of its status, just seeing something that was an integral part of the Temple and Jewish history, was really magnificent,” the rabbi said. “I was mesmerized by this simple cow.”
A very few candidates for the red heifer have been found. Most have been disqualified due to blemishes or pregnancies. In an effort to reinstate the mitzvah (Torah commandment) of purifying with the red heifer’s ashes, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem last year imported embryos of red angus, a distinctly red breed of cow, and implanted them in Israeli cows at a farm in the Negev. Though several male heifers were born, no reports of pure red heifers have been forthcoming.
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