This Week in Jewish Politics, Culture and Religion: Netanyahu and Pope Francis, Plus Google’s Pursuit of Immortality

December, 05 2013
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pope Francis at the Vatican this week, presenting the pontiff with a Spanish translation of The Origins of the Inquisition, a book written by the Israeli prime minister’s late father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu.

Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef signed a declaration reiterating their opposition to Jews visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—a position the Chief Rabbinate has held since its inception under Rabbi Abraham Kook in 1921—in the face of a growing movement of Jewish activists demanding the right to pray at the holy site.

The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association has accused the Israel Defense Forces of “deliberately targeting” journalists covering clashes at Qalandia crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The IDF, however, said that the photojournalists were “sighted adjacent and in the midst of the rioters, putting themselves at risk.”

As the United States negotiates Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the Washington Post’s Max Fisher asks, what about Israel’s nuclear weapons?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to the Middle East in a push to revitalize the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The National Council of the American Studies Association announced yesterday that it has unanimously endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities and Israeli institutions. The ASA is the second American academic organization to authorize a boycott, following the Association of Asian American Studies, which approved a similar resolution in April.

Jews and Muslims in Poland have jointly filed a legal complaint against the country’s ban on ritual slaughter—which Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director general of the European Jewish Association, has said is a “violation of freedom of religion.”

In a case that is sure to test the role of religion in the Jewish State, an Israeli rabbinic court has fined a woman $150 for each day she refuses to circumcise her son.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that he will use his $1 million Genesis Prize to encourage economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians.

Ray Kurzweil, the computer scientist behind the “Google Brain” project, looks forward to the day when machines become as smart as humans—and when humans can cheat death. When asked how long he expects to live, the 65-year-old says, “I think I have a good chance—I would put it at 80 percent—of getting to the point where it becomes indefinite, because you’ll be adding more time than is going by to your remaining life expectancy.”

The Israeli comedian Sefi Rivlin, who gained fame on shows such as Nikui Rosh, Zehu Ze, Habayit Shel Fistuk, and Hoppa Hey, has died after a battle with throat cancer at the age of 66.

From the Archives: Fifty years ago, the Beatles released “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the group’s first single to top American charts. To learn more about the Beatles’ rise to fame, click here to read Moment’s 2006 profile of Brian Epstein, the band’s manager who discovered the group at a club in Liverpool.


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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