Wait, what? Israel had fighter jets in Alaska? Sort of. The Israeli and the U.S. Air Forces are scheduled to hold a joint military drill in Alaska April 26 through May 11.

Israel Recalls Fighter Jets from Alaska

Israel was going to send F-15 fighters to participate in the exercise but just announced that they will be scaling back their participation in the drill because they might be needed at home. Specifically, Israel is likely keeping the fighter jets local in case of further escalation in their conflict with Iran.

Although they’re not sending their F-15s, The Jerusalem Post reports that they will still be sending other military elements to participate in the “Red Flag” exercise. The Red Flag exercises are designed to simulate air-to-air combat in airspace held between the U.S. Air Force and air forces of allied countries. This will be Israel’s first time participating in this exercise.

But why Alaska? Mostly for the weather. This drill would give Israeli pilots and flight teams experience flying and fighting in wintery conditions with snow and ice, a climate that isn’t very common in Israel. Even if they might miss the cold weather flying experience, the Israeli F-15 crews are likely to be busy with combat experience as the F-15 forms the backbone of Israel’s air force and have been deployed to strike Iranian targets in Syria several times in the past month.

Viral Shooting Video Leads to Arrest of Groom

A motorcade drove erratically through the Negev last week as masked young men leaned out the windows of the cars and fired assault rifles into the sky—but someone was filming.

By the end of the week the video had gone viral with millions of views, and by Sunday the police had arrested a suspect.

Just by watching the video it is unclear exactly what is happening. It doesn’t look like a terror attack. The gunmen are just shooting at the sky as their cars weave through traffic. The cars also have hazard lights on and are moving together. It wasn’t long before police had an explanation and a groom in custody.

Mystery solved. It seems that Bedouin wedding shenanigans got out of hand. Firing weapons in the air isn’t unusual at Arab and Bedouin weddings. It’s just part of the celebration, sort of like fireworks. But masked men firing weapons on main Israeli roads is something the Israeli police take very seriously. They were not entertained.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the convoy left a wedding in the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom. Police arrested the groom for questioning and are still searching for other suspects in what they describe as a dangerous incident. In addition to the hazard created on the road, the weapons being fired are likely illegally owned. Weapons confiscation is a priority for Israeli police, and they confiscated thousands in 2017, dozens of them in pre-Pesach raids in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

While it is obvious the authorities are taking this incident very seriously, it is not yet clear if the suspects actually have any connections to terror organizations.

Orthodox Authority Could Secure Monopoly on Conversion

A new bill booked to be presented to the Israeli parliament stands to upend one of the most contentious issues blending Israeli politics and Jewish religion: conversion legitimacy.

Beyond religious debate, the issue of conversion and legal Jewish status is a sensitive state matter. The status of one’s conversion can come with certain benefits such as the path toward Israeli citizenship. If passed, a new bill crafted at the request of Netanyahu would give the Orthodox Authority complete control of conversion legitimacy in regard to state matters. So what would this mean?

According to Ha’aretz it would deny recognition of conversion authority even to private rabbinical courts within Israel, something that was previously affirmed by an Israel Supreme Court ruling in 2016. Simply put, Israeli citizens are currently able to convert following Jewish halachah outside of the bureaucracy of the Chief Rabbinate, but if this law passes all state-recognized conversions must be processed under the Orthodox Authority. Conversions under Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel would no longer receive immigration benefits.

There is some confusion, however, about what the results of the new bill actually would be, and specific details are still under negotiation. Behadrei Haredim, an Orthodox news source, says that under the proposed law, the Orthodox Authority would, for the first time, recognize the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism and recognize non-Orthodox conversions made outside of Israel. The implications of that controversial decision are not yet spelled out, and those provisions will be hotly debated.

It should also be noted that this law is only in regard to qualifying Jewish status for state purposes such as the Law of Return, but does not question Jewish status for issues such as marriage, according to the Times of Israel.

For Messianic Jews, for whom it is nearly impossible to find citizenship under the current Israeli administration, this bill will likely only make things more difficult.

Student Discovers Rare Oil Lamp with Menorah

A team of students and volunteers working on creating an interactive trail in the Galilee incidentally uncovered a small trove of rare artifacts dating back 1,800 years.


Small oil lamp uncovered in the excavations of the Sanhedrin Trail. Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Here’s what they found:

  • A small oil lamp engraved with an 8-branched menorah and what appears to be a lulav.
  • A very rare gold coin with the name “Suleiman the Magnificent.”
  • Evidence of an ancient glass industry mentioned in rabbinic texts

This almost accidental find is exciting enough as it is, but the particular trail the students were working on is a new attraction called the “Sanhedrin Trail.” The trail is one of the first of its kind. Hikers will be able to pair their phones and use virtual reality to see augmented reconstructions of historical sites such as synagogues in the area where the Sanhedrin was once active.

This find is a reminder of the constant and tangible history on every piece of ground in Israel. The trail opens this week for Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood.