IDF to Send Voluntary Draft Notices to Christian Recruits
The push to increase the growing number of Christian Arab IDF recruits advanced Tuesday, after the IDF made a landmark decision to send out “voluntary draft notices” to Christian Arabs of recruitment age.
Jewish Israeli teens receive their draft orders at the age of sixteen and a half, and are required by law to report to a local draft office to make arrangements for their IDF or National Service within a set time period after receiving the notice.
But now, IDF Radio reveals Tuesday, Christian Arab teens will also receive a draft notice - but have the option to either volunteer or decline draft services. Analysts say the move - which has Israel actively reaching out to Christian youth to serve for the Jewish state - has serious political and social significance.
Shortly after the report aired, the IDF made the official announcement on its Twitter page.
"Over the next several weeks, the IDF will begin sending voluntary draft notices to all potential Christian IDF recruits," it tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "This will provide a wellspring of opportunity for volunteerism."
In January, the Forum of Christian IDF soldiers revealed that Christian Arab recruitment is on the rise. The IDF does not provide precise numbers of Christians serving in its ranks, but the forum says the increase is significant and that there are currently 300 Christians serving in the IDF, 157 of them in the conscript army.
According to figures presented at a meeting sponsored by the Defense Ministry late last year in Upper Nazareth, 84 Christians joined in the last half of 2013, triple the rate in past years. The forum says there are dozens more waiting in the wings.
The Forum’s leader, Father Gabriel Nadaf, has advocated for a strong connection among Arab Christians with the State of Israel but has been sanctioned by the official Greek Orthodox church over his views. MKs from Israel’s Arab parties - all of which are staunchly anti-Zionist - have also condemned him, calling him “an agent of Zionism who seeks to divide Arabs”. Attacks on Nadaf intensified in December, when his 17-year-old son was violently attacked in Nazareth. The attacker was identified as an activist from the extreme-left Hadash party.
On Tuesday, Nadaf enthusiastically welcomed the news.
"I welcome this important and historic step," he stated to IDF Radio. "The IDF found it necessary to prove that the Christian community was part of Israeli society, and integrate it into society as citizens with equal rights and equal duties."
ATP Tour tennis returns to Israel as tournament is moved from St Petersburg to Tel Aviv
The tournament which has been held in St Peterburg, Russia, for nearly two decades is to be switched to the Israel Tennis Centre at Ramat HaSharon, in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv has been used for Davis Cup matches, but it will now also host the ATP Tour event between 15-21 September this year.
Tournament representative Ruslan Linkov told the ATP’s official website: “After 19 memorable years in St Petersburg, the time has come for us to take the tournament in a new direction.
"We are very excited about the opportunities that lie in Tel Aviv and look forward to holding a successful event in September."
The event will be a 250 tournament and will offer prize money of $1m.
Asian region to overtake US as Israel’s 2nd biggest export destination in 2014
The Asian region will overtake the US as Israel’s second biggest export destination this year, the Economy Ministry said.
The region is expected to come in as Israel’s second-largest trade partner for 2014 behind the European Union, shifting the United States into third place, according to the ministry’s Foreign Trade Authority. In 2013, exports to Asia nearly equaled those to the US for the first time, coming within 0.6 percentage points as a share of total exports.
When countries are not clustered into regional groups, however, the United States remains Israel’s largest single trade partner.
The ministry expects exports to Asia to grow from 21 percent of total exports in 2013, to 24.5% in 2018, while combined exports to the EU and US will shrink from a 63% share to 59.9%.
Exports to all other countries amounted to 16% in 2013, and are projected to fall to 15.5% by 2018.
A decade ago, Asia accounted for just 15% of Israeli exports, while the US provided more than a third of the market, Foreign Trade Authority director- general Ohad Cohen said.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett highlighted the ministry’s attempt to bolster exports to Asia, such as focusing more commercial attachés on the region and taking steps toward free-trade agreements with China and India. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has cited developing markets in Asia as a growth engine for Israel.
While the ministry emphasized the increasing importance of the Asian market and the persistent growth of Israel’s exports since the 2008 global financial crisis, it scaled back its expectations for overall export growth for 2014.
“The export forecast for 2014 is lower than the previous forecast, and stands at 4.2% as a result of disappointing growth and expected demand from India and Brazil, and the expected stagnation in demand from countries such as Canada, Turkey and Holland,” said Cohen.
For Asia, the ministry revised expected growth from 8.5% down to 4.7%. Despite the reduction, growth in exports to Asia is still expected to outpace those to the United States (1.3%) and Europe (1.5%).
According to figures from the Foreign Trade Authority, industrial exports to Asia will grow 1.9% in 2014 and rebound to 4.2% in 2015.
The ministry’s projections were based on import data from 20 countries, a survey of 75% of Israel’s export market and macroeconomic data collected from international bodies such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank.
7 Gaza rockets land in Israel
Terrorists in Gaza fired 7 rockets into Israel on Monday morning, the IDF Spokesperson’s office said.
The first 3 projectiles struck uninhabited areas in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and set off sirens and caused no damage.
Another two rockets were launched and caused light damage in Sderot.
In addition, the IDF reported that early Monday morning an RPG was launched toward IDF forces on the border but caused no injuries.
IDF later shot warning shots into Gaza. The shots caused no reported injuries inside Gaza.
Last week, Israel Air Force jets struck five terror targets in the Gaza Strip, following rocket attacks on southern Israel the previous night. The IAF hit sites in northern and central Gaza, including two Hamas posts, Palestinian media reported.
Also last week, a rocket siren went off in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, but an army spokeswoman later said no projectiles were detected in Israeli territory.
Last month, the air force stuck 29 targets across the Gaza Strip in response to Islamic Jihad rocket attack on the South. More than 30 rockets – fired in simultaneous barrages from northern and southern Gaza – exploded in Israeli territory. The Iron Dome anti-rocket battery stationed in Sderot shot down three projectiles over the town. The bombardment of the western Negev in March marked the largest flare-up of Gazan terrorism since 2012.