14 Days: Jerusalem Day

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen presiding over a cabinet meeting in the Western Wall tunnels in honor of Jerusalem Day, in Jerusalem, on May 21, 2023. (photo credit: MAYA ALLERUZO/POOL/REUTERS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen presiding over a cabinet meeting in the Western Wall tunnels in honor of Jerusalem Day, in Jerusalem, on May 21, 2023.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presided over a festive cabinet meeting in the Western Wall Tunnels on May 21 for Jerusalem Day. Responding to a claim by PA President Mahmoud Abbas a week before that Jews have no historical link to the al-Aqsa mosque compound (the Temple Mount), Netanyahu said:  “The deep tie between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is one that has no parallel among the nations.”


The Knesset passed the 2023-24 state budget in a 64-55 vote early on May 24 after an all-night debate. Before the vote, the prime minister promised an extra NIS 250 million to Agudat Yisrael to fund yeshiva students’ stipends, and an equal sum to Otzma Yehudit for the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee. “This is a good budget; it will serve all the citizens of Israel,” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. On the other hand, opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) said, “This budget is reckless; it’s a disaster for the Israeli economy.”


The Bank of Israel raised the interest rate by 0.25% to 4.75% on May 22 in an effort to curb inflation – the tenth consecutive hike in just over a year – bringing it to its highest level since 2006. “Economic activity in Israel is at a high level and is accompanied by a tight labor market, although there is some moderation in a number of indicators,” the central bank stated. “Inflation is broad and remains high.” The move came after the Central Bureau of Statistics announced that consumer prices in Israel rose in April by 0.8%, almost double the rate forecast, bringing annual inflation over the past 12 months to 5%.


An IDF soldier conducting routine activity sustained moderate wounds in a car-ramming attack in Huwara on the evening of May 21 and was hospitalized at Beilinson, the military said. Another soldier opened fire at the vehicle fleeing the area, apparently toward the city of Nablus, and a search was launched for the assailant. Several shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers have taken place in recent months, including the stabbing earlier in May of a soldier by a Palestinian woman, who was shot dead.


Beilinson Hospital announced on May 17 that it had received a $34 million donation, the largest of its kind in Israel’s history, to fund integrative cancer research. Philanthropists Dr. Susan and Dr. Henry Samueli, the California-based co-founder of Broadcom and chairman of the board, made a $25 million donation to establish the Samueli Integrative Cancer Pioneering Institute. Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare provider, donated $9 million. “We thank the Samuelis for this generous donation which will enable us to find a cure for cancer that impacts millions of people around the world,” said Beilinson Hospital CEO Dr. Eytan Wirtheim.

 The Codex Sassoon (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)
The Codex Sassoon (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)


Maccabi World Union, which has some 400,000 members in 70 countries, announced the election of American industrialist Michael Siegal as its next president and head of the umbrella organization. Siegal, the organization’s first American president, previously served as chairman for Israel Bonds, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. In a statement, Maccabi World Union chairman Amir Peled said, “We are honored to have Michael at the helm of our movement, especially at a time when we are expanding our work in North America, the world’s largest Jewish community.”


The Codex Sassoon, a 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible said to be the world’s oldest surviving biblical manuscript, sold for $38.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York on May 17, becoming one of the most expensive books ever auctioned. The leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume was purchased by former US diplomat Alfred H. Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU. He donated it to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People at Tel Aviv University, Sotheby’s auction house said in a statement.