First Read For July 14


2 Israeli police officers killed on Temple Mount

Two Israeli policemen were killed this morning in a shooting attack near the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, Haaretz reports. Police said that assailants at the scene were killed.

The two police officers killed were Kamil Shanan, 22, and Hail Satawi, 30, Army Radio reported. A third shooting victim was hospitalized in stable condition.

Police said that three armed assailants arrived at one of the gates to the Temple Mount when they noticed policemen present. They shot at them and escaped in the direction of the mosques on Temple Mount. They were pursued and shot and killed by policemen, police said, adding that two rifles and a pistol were found on their bodies.

The gates to the Temple Mount area were shut on orders from the police and the complex was cleared of people. Friday prayers at the complex were also cancelled by police for the first time in years. The last time the Temple Mount complex was closed off to Muslims was a day after the 2014 shooting of Yehudah Glick, now a Knesset member for the Likud.

Demolition of Lower East Side synagogue building approved

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the application for demolition of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a historic synagogue building on the Lower East Side that was gutted in a May fire, the news website reports.

The Commission, in determining that portions of the building are structurally unsound and unsafe and must be removed, had stated that the demolition work must be conducted carefully in order to save as much of the building as possible to stabilize the facades.

Israel, PA reach agreement of desalination process

Israel and the Palestinian Authority yesterday announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process, the Times of Israel reports. Palestinians made clear that the deal, brokered by Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s envoy, will have no impact on final-status issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The agreement is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 137-mile pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water.

Environmentalists hailed the deal as a significant step toward addressing water shortage issues, especially in water-starved Gaza. Gaza needs about 200 million cubic meters of water per year, but natural aquifers can only provide 50 million.

San Diego rabbis to Chief Rabbinate: Add us to blacklist

Thirteen rabbis from San Diego have sent a letter to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate asking to be added to its blacklist of rabbis whose authority to approve Jewish status is rejected, the Jerusalem Post reports. The letter is intended “as a show of solidarity with affected colleagues,” according to the paper.

“We, the following San Diego, California, Rabbis are outraged that we were left off of your blacklist of Rabbis whose testimony as to the Jewish identity of their congregants are unacceptable to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate,” the letter said. “In the future please include our names among the other blacklisted rabbis. We would consider it an honor.”

Canada backtracks on labeling of wines from West Bank

Hours after Canadian food inspectors ordered liquor stores to stop selling wines made in the West Bank, saying their label identifying them as Israeli contravenes Ottawa’s policy on the territory, Canada’s federal food inspection agency backtracked on the decision, according to the Times of Israel.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement yesterday that it had not “fully considered” the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in reaching its ruling. The agency said the wines do in fact adhere to the agreement and can be sold as currently labeled.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario said earlier that the inspection agency had notified wine sellers last week that it would be unacceptable to declare Israel as the country of origin for wine products that aren’t produced within Israel’s formal borders. The letter indicated “that ‘Product of Israel’ would not be an acceptable country of origin declaration for wine products that have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory.”

The ruling would have extended to wines from “any other territory occupied by Israel in 1967” that carried such a label, which would be “considered misleading,” specifically mentioning the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as the West Bank.

Israel advocate wins legal battle against Ontario college

A pro-Israel North American advocacy organization announced yesterday that it had won a legal victory after an Ontario university’s student association banned it from participating in an event last year, due to its connection with Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. The event in question was Social Justice Week, held at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Robert Walker, national director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, had responded to an open invitation for community groups to participate. When he was denied entry, the organization filed legal action with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, citing discrimination. The group demanded a public apology, an invitation back to campus, and $50,000 in damages.

The Student Association yesterday released a public apology on its website, saying it: “deeply regrets the decision made to deny Mr. Walker and Hasbara the opportunity to participate in Social Justice Week. The SA sincerely apologizes to Mr. Walker and Hasbara. The SA aims to promote healthy debate on campus and rejects discrimination of any kind, including against Israeli students or community members. We welcome Mr. Walker and Hasbara’s participation at a future multicultural event on campus.”

More cheeses coming under kosher supervision

A growing number of mainstream cheese producers have begun large-scale kosher cheese production in recent years, recognizing an increased “taste among kosher consumers for artisanal cheeses and greater cheese variety,” JTA reports.

The article cites the Kraft subsidiary Polly-O, which “generated excitement among consumers” when it began producing Orthodox Union-certified kosher string cheese, and Wisconsin’s Lake Country Dairy, a subsidiary of Schuman cheese, which has been making millions of pounds of kosher Italian-style Parmesan, Asiago, Romano and mascarpone for about a decade.

“Smaller artisanal cheesemakers, like the Seattle-based Beecher’s, are also making kosher versions of their flagship cheeses,” according to JTA.

Many hard cheeses use rennet, an animal byproduct, in production and therefore are not kosher. To be certified as kosher, hard cheeses not only must use synthetic rennet, but all the equipment and ingredients must be kosher and a mashgiach has to supervise the production.

Typically, rather than convert entire facilities to kosher production or keep kosher supervisors on site year-round, large companies will do a special kosher run – perhaps once a month, news or in some cases for a few hours each day. During the kosher campaign, non-kosher production is shut down, all relevant equipment is cleaned and rabbinical supervisors oversee production.