Cliff Savren reports for the Cleveland Jewish News on Israel and the Middle East from Ra’aana, Israel.

Latest column

Recent columns

In 1985, I and five others from Northeast Ohio went to the Soviet Union to visit with refuseniks – Soviet Jews who had applied to immigrate to Israel and were denied exit visas. It was a grim period for those Jews trying to leave the country, which had roughly 3 million Jews at the time. Only about 1,000 a year were being allowed out, despite the worldwide campaign to “Free Soviet Jewry,” as the slogan went.

I got my third shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine last week. That would come as a surprise to people living almost anywhere in the world, but since I live in Israel, the third shot is routinely available here if you are 50 or over – and I am. A bit more than a week into the new vaccination campaign, 600,000 people had already gotten the third dose.

Political debate here in Israel is rollicking and spirited, but never before was ice cream at the center of the debate. That is until Ben & Jerry’s July 19 announcement it would halt sales of its ice cream in Jewish settlements in the West Bank when its license agreement with the Israeli company that manufactures and sells its products expires at the end of next year.

Israel’s new Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai found himself unexpectedly in the United States just days after taking office, on a solidarity mission to the Miami-area community of Surfside. He was in Florida in an Israeli show of support for the local Jewish community and the American people following the apartment building collapse there.

Dramatic news indeed. It looks like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be ordering movers to come to the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. He and his family have been living there for more than 12 years. Any Israeli under age of 20 would have little memory of anyone leading the country other than him.

Israel was shaken to the core at the end of April when an overcrowded exit ramp at a Lag b’Omer celebration on Mount Meron in the country’s north became a death trap, after people lost their footing, tumbling on top of one another, resulting in the deaths of 45 people, including Yossi Kohn, a yeshiva student from a Cleveland suburb. It was the worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history.