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Conversion Therapy, Good Shabbus, Record Raise


Israeli Minister's Gay Conversion Therapy Remarks Widely Condemned

NBC News, July 15th 2019

Recap:

Israel's education minister's remarks in favor of gay conversion therapy came under widespread criticism.

The Context:

  • Gay conversion therapies are strongly discouraged by the Israeli Health Ministry but remain legal and accepted in some conservative and Orthodox circles. An estimated 70-80 licensed and non-licensed psychologists, social workers and therapists practice some form of conversion therapy in Israel. Leading medical organizations say there is no proof such efforts are effective in changing sexual orientation and that therapy is more likely to reinforce self-hatred, depression and self-harm [1].

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly distanced himself from MK Rafi Peretz’s comments, saying they were “unacceptable and do not reflect the position of the government under my leadership [2].” Openly gay Justice Minister Amir Ohana said "sexual orientation does not require therapy nor conversion. Preconceived notions and ignorance require therapy and conversion."

  • Peretz ultimately retracted his statement in response to a letter from 67 Tel Aviv elementary school principals [3]. In his response, Peretz said he “strongly opposed” gay conversion therapy and never referred anyone for such treatment, contradicting his earlier comments [4].

  • Israel is one of the most gay-friendly travel destinations in the world, with the Tel Aviv pride parade attracting crowds of more than 200,000 people. Members of the gay community serve openly in the Israeli military and Knesset.

  • This is Peretz's second major controversy in his first month on the job. Last week, he sparked an uproar after he likened intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews to a second Holocaust. He later walked back those comments as well [5].

Conversation Points:

  • Can politicians survive in Israel without displaying tolerance towards Israel’s gay community?

  • How should Israeli leaders balance the Jewish identity of the state with the realities on the ground?

Tel Aviv Suburb Approves Pilot Program for Public Transportation on Shabbat

Haaretz, July 10th 2019

Recap:

The Ramat Gan city council voted to begin limited public transportation service on Shabbat. Several rabbis urged the council to drop the idea saying, “there’s a limit to democracy and freedom; there’s a creator of the universe.”

The Context:

  • The project, approved by a vote of 15-6 with two abstentions, will run during the summer and be discontinued if demand proves insufficient. The proposal calls for two shuttles to run on Saturdays at a total cost of $56,000. The Mayor holds the authority to institute the decision unilaterally but decided to pass the decision off to the city council instead [6].

  • Following the vote, Deputy Mayor Liad Ilani’s residence was graffitied with the threat "Ilani will pay". Ilani responded by saying “the steps we promote are not secular or anti-religious, but a result of reality. Those who want to live in a city that has a zero-sum game can go live in Bnei Brak or Tel Aviv [7]."

  • A 2016 study found that while most Israeli cinemas, national parks, museums and cultural institutions operate on Shabbat, only 161 bus lines, 0.75% of the total, operate on Shabbat. Those most affected by the dearth of service are teenagers, adults without a driving license, the elderly and tourists [8].

Conversation Points:

  • Under what circumstances should Israel allow public transportation on Shabbat?

  • What ramifications will the Ramat Gan decision have on Israel as a whole?

  • Why did the Mayor decide to run this decision through the city council?

  • Is Israel an orthodox Jewish state or a state for all Jewish denominations?

Israeli Firms Raise Record $3.9 Billion In First Half Of 2019

Eytan Halon, Jerusalem Post, July 17th 2019

Recap:

Boosted by a high-volume second quarter of investments, Israeli tech companies raised a record $3.9 billion in funding during the first half of 2019.

The Context:

  • Funding was boosted by 10 mega-deals, each exceeding $50 million and totaling $1.26 billion which included $300 million raised by insurance start-up Lemonade, $250 million secured by team management firm Monday and $186 million raised by Elbit Systems.

  • Marianna Shapira, research director at IVC Research Center, said " if the second half of 2019 continues with the same pace, this year will break previous records."

  • Startups in their initial revenue and revenue growth stages were “exceptionally active” in the 2nd quarter, raising $2.02 billion in 70 deals. Companies with transactions under $5 million accounted for just 113 deals in the first half of the year [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Why are Israeli companies at the seed stage feeling a funding squeeze?

  • Will the height of new valuations present challenges to investors and companies seeking capital?

Notes:

  1. Minister Walks Back Conversion Therapy Comments, Says He Opposes It ‘Utterly’, Times of Israel, July 16th 2019

  2. Ibid.

  3. Israel's Education Minister Now Says He Opposes Gay 'Conversion Therapy', Shira Kadari-Ovadia, Haaretz, July 16th 2019

  4. In About-Face, Peretz Says He's ‘Strongly Opposed’ To Gay Conversion Therapy, Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, July 17th 2019

  5. Rabbi Peretz Clarifies: 'Didn't Intend to Harm Any Diaspora Jew', Mordechai Sones, Israel National News, July 16th 2019

  6. Ramat Gan To Begin Saturday Bus Services, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Globes, July 11th 2019

  7. Ramat Gan Deputy Mayor Receives Life Threats for Approving Shabbat Buses, Yuval Bagno, Jerusalem Post, July 17th 2019

  8. Ramat Gan To Begin Saturday Bus Services, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Globes, July 11th 2019

  9. Israeli Tech Firms Raise $2.32 Billion In 2q, Highest Amount Since 2013, Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, July 17th 2019