Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, photo BBCi

JERUSALEM -- Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after its parliament voted in a new coalition government.  Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as prime minister, leading a "government of change".  He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority of 60-59.

Mr Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal. He will then hand power over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.

Mr Netanyahu - Israel's longest-serving leader who has dominated its political landscape for years - will remain head of the right-wing Likud party and become leader of the opposition.

During the debate in the Knesset (parliament), a defiant Mr Netanyahu promised: "We'll be back."

After the vote, Mr Netanyahu walked over to Mr Bennett and shook his hand.  However, representatives of the Palestinians have reacted dismissively to Israel's new government.

"This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital," a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.

"It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back," said a spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.

US President Joe Biden has already sent his congratulations to Mr Bennett, saying he looks forward to working with him.–BBCi



TEL AVIV – Business leadership fellowship program "Birthright Israel Excel" officially opened last night at a festive event held at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building. Marking the 10-year anniversary of the prestigious program. This year's cohort includes participants from all over the world: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, England, France and the UK, in addition to those from Canada, Mexico, the United States and Israel. The event marks the resumption of in-person programming after a long period when students could not gather together.

Founded in 2011, Birthright Israel Excel is a highly selective fellowship that builds leadership skills and relationships among tomorrow's global business leaders to propel the future success of the global Jewish community. Fifty-six students are selected each year from thousands of applicants studying at leading universities around the world. 

They come to Israel for a 10-week summer internship at the best companies in the global and Israeli tech and business sectors, some of which have included: aMoon, Check Point Software Technologies, CyberArk, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Evercore, Fortissimo Capital, Mercedes-Benz and ViolaVentures. Each participant is paired with an Israeli peer who is either an outstanding undergraduate student or officer from leading units in the IDF.

The timing of this year’s program presents an opportunity for Jewish college students across the world to better understand Israel, beyond what the global news media presents. Excel participants will see Israel up close for themselves and become better informed, hearing from a diverse range of speakers, among them: Yuval Bdolah, CEO and Founder of Tozeret Ha’aretz, an organization that builds housing solutions for communities in the social and geographic periphery of Israel; Dana Weiss, Journalist and Anchor for Channel12 and a leading figure in Israel working towards women’s empowerment and gender equality; and a representative from Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, an organization of over 600 people, all of whom have lost an immediate family member in past conflicts.

At the end of the summer program, all Excel Fellows join an active community that creates a variety of opportunities in North America and Israel from professional development and networking, to social impact initiatives to Jewish identity events. Many Excel alumni (called Fellows) are now notable young business executives -- some already serving as CEOs -- while others are successful entrepreneurs, investors and professionals in the technology industry or business sectors, in both Israel and across North America. Already in the first decade of Excel, 14 Excel Fellows have been selected for Forbes 30 Under 30.

"This project is considered to be the most prestigious program in the Jewish world today, with only a few dozen young people accepted each year from thousands of applicants,” CEO of Birthright Israel Gidi Mark said. “Members of the community prove themselves every day as leaders of both the business and Jewish worlds. By participating in Birthright Israel Excel, these future business leaders are further strengthening the bonds between diaspora Jews all around the world.”

Despite the difficulties posed by Covid-19, the pandemic did not stop the program from taking place last summer. While many summer internships and programs were canceled, Birthright Israel Excel and all of the program’s business mentors and Israeli companies that were set to participate, all agreed to switch to an online format, hosting programming via Zoom, resulting in a first of its kind online summer internship program.

“While COVID-19 has certainly presented challenges for our organization, we’ve actually found that the pandemic has been a catalyst for growth and expansion,” Executive Director of Birthright Israel Excel Idit Rubin said. “The increased use of video conferencing tools accelerated our ability to connect with talented young individuals around the globe and actually helped drive additional international interest in our program. As a result, we are delighted to have participants in Israel this summer from Australia, South America, and Europe for the first time."

Birthright Israel also recently resumed its traditional programming, with the first groups arriving in Israel in May after a hiatus of more than a year. Dozens of more groups are expected to arrive this summer.

"I am extremely excited that we are renewing the connection between the Diaspora and the State of Israel," Mark said."We’ve developed the best plan to safely and efficiently resume our trips, which play such a critical part in strengthening the Jewish identity of hundreds of thousands of young people around the world and connect them with the State of Israel. Following the rise of antisemitism over the past weeks, this is now more important than ever before." 

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LONDON -- US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have met the Queen at Windsor Castle.    The visit included a Guard of Honor and afternoon tea with the monarch. Mr Biden said afterwards that the Queen had reminded him of his mother, and he had invited the Queen to visit the White House.  It comes at the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall, where leaders of the world's biggest economies have discussed issues including vaccines and climate change.

The couple also met the Queen on Friday, when she attended a reception for G7 leaders at the Eden Project.

The Bidens travelled from Newquay, Cornwall, on Air Force One to London's Heathrow Airport before taking the Marine One helicopter the short distance to Windsor.  They were greeted by the Queen at the dais in the castle's quadrangle.

A Guard of Honour formed of the Queen's Company First Battalion Grenadier Guards gave a Royal Salute, and the US national anthem was played.

Mr Biden accompanied the Officer Commanding the Guard of Honour, Maj James Taylor, and Maj Gen Christopher Ghika to inspect the Honour Guard, before returning to the dais to watch the military march-past.

The role of escorting a visiting head of state to inspect the troops was usually carried out by the Duke of Edinburgh, before he retired in 2017. Prince Philip died in April, aged 99.

The Bidens were then introduced to the Queen's lady-in-waiting, Dame Annabel Whitehead, before enjoying tea in the castle's Oak Room. The palace said the couple left at just after 18:00 BST, meaning they spent around 40 minutes inside the castle.

The whole visit lasted just over an hour and is believed to have overrun by 10 minutes. Speaking afterwards, Mr Biden said they had spoken about Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's leader Xi Jinping.

"We had a long talk," he said. "She was very generous. I don't think she'd be insulted but she reminded me of my mother. In terms of the look of her and just the generosity. She was very gracious."

He added: "She said, 'What's it like in the White House?' I said, 'Well it's magnificent but it's a lot of people'."

Their latest meeting comes the day after the Queen marked her official birthday with a scaled back Trooping the Color parade.

This year's celebration saw a reduced parade in the grounds of Windsor Castle, rather than in central London, because of the pandemic.

The Queen, 95, first met a serving US president, Harry S Truman, as Princess Elizabeth in 1951. She has since met all 14 elected US leaders during her 69 years on the throne, except for Lyndon B Johnson.

In 2019 the Queen met then President Donald Trump at Buckingham Palace. They also had afternoon tea together in the Oak Room.  When the monarch met George W Bush at Windsor, they enjoyed a traditional afternoon tea, with sandwiches and cakes, in the White Drawing Room. –BBCi


TEL AVIV – The Toy Movement, a philanthropic initiative founded by Canada’s largest children’s toy and entertainment company Spin Master, today distributed toys to Arab and Jewish children at four nursery schools in Jaffa, in partnership with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. The children, whose neighborhoods were recently the scene of inter-communal tension and violence, each received a toy from Spin Master’s Paw Patrol range, one of the world’s most popular toy brands.

Odette Levy, the mother of one Spin Master’s founders, was on hand alongside Efrat Duvdevani, Director General of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, to hand out the toys at Gan Konchia and Gan Galil, both on Aristo St and Gan Tachelet and Gan Yam on Irit St. Levy, who spent part of her childhood in Jaffa, later helped to establish Spin Master in Canada and today spends much of her time back in Jaffa.

In the belief that all children deserve the right to play and to enjoy the feeling of fun, regardless of their background or religion, The Toy Movement resolved to do something positive and constructive for the children of Jaffa and their parents, who in recent weeks have seen their neighborhoods at the center of acute tension and violence between Arab and Jewish residents.

The Toy Movement decided to donate the toys and to partner with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in distributing them. The Toy Movement intends to expand this collaboration, turning the toy distribution into an annual event. The Peres Center is based in Jaffa and has been working on fostering positive relations between diverse communities in Israel and beyond for more than two decades.

Odette Levy, who was part of Spin Master for many years said: “Jaffa is a unique and wonderful place, close to my heart. It was heartbreaking to see the fabric of this community under threat. Ultimately, Jewish children, Arab children and children of every nationality want the same things – To play with each other, to have fun together and to smile. I hope that this small contribution will enable the children of Jaffa to do exactly that. It also serves as a reminder to parents and the wider communities who live side by side in Jaffa, that we have much more in common than divides us.”  

Efrat Duvdevani, Director General of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation said: “We are extremely grateful for Odette’s vision and for this donation. It has put a smile on the faces of so many children, who have lived through an extremely difficult period. Ultimately, harnessing peace and harmony can only happen when people from diverse backgrounds understand the commonalities between them. There is nothing more basic than the delight that we all share when children smile, play and are happy together. Odette’s initiative has brought this to life and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”    

The Toy Movement prides itself on community engagement and for bringing joy to children in times of conflict and difficulty. In 2014, The Toy Movement shipped thousands of toys to children in Israel and Gaza during conflict in the region. The initiative has also previously donated toys to underprivileged Bedouin and Druze communities in Israel. Further afield, The Toy Movement shipped toys to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and has also donated toys in Jordan, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, Nicaragua, Iraq, Canada, Uganda, Colombia, Kenya and Lebanon.

The Jewish Observer,

Los Angeles


                                      11-17 Tammuz, 5781                                                   June 21-27, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--652nd Web Ed.