Michele Chabin, Religion News Service

Michele Chabin writes for Religion News Service.

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Trump Trip to Middle East, Vatican Offers Religious Opportunities and Pitfalls

 Image via RNS/Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

There is concern that Trump’s team will be too even-handed and that he and his advisers lack understanding of the region. On Monday a senior U.S. Consulate official coordinating Trump’s visit told Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.” The wall is in East Jerusalem.

Some Rabbis Fear Expanding Women’s Roles in the Israeli Army Could Lead to Sin

Image via RNS/Israel Defense Forces

A year and a half after joining the Air Force, Ofir is halfway through her stint as a flight simulator instructor. Despite the rigors of military life she continues to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath.

Ofir is one of a growing number of Orthodox Jewish women who see no contradiction between serving in the military and maintaining a religious lifestyle – a trend that some Israeli rabbis hope to end.

Orthodox High School Girls Bused to Western Wall to Drown Out Feminist Prayers

Image via RNS/Reuters/Michal Fattal

An Orthodox Jewish organization opposed to female-led prayers at the Western Wall bused in between 1,000 and 2,000 Orthodox high school girls to prevent a feminist group from praying.

Liba, an organization whose goal is to prevent pluralistic prayer at the holy site, instructed the girls to fill up the women’s section so the feminist group, Women of the Wall, could not enter to perform their monthly prayer on Feb. 27.

Why Can't Women Pray at the Western Wall?

Photo via Reurters/ Michal Fattal 

If the High Court ultimately rules that women can read Torah in the women’s section of the Western Wall, ultra-Orthodox lawmakers in the Israeli Parliament may try to pass legislation to criminalize the practice, not only at the traditional wall but also at Robinson’s Arch. 

Donald Trump Writes a Prayer for Western Wall Crevices

Image via RNS/Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Hoping for divine intervention – or Jewish votes – Donald Trump wrote a short prayer to be inserted in between the stones of the Western Wall.

Trump’s team photographed and sent a copy of the handwritten prayer to Ynet News and Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli sister publications. The original was handed to David Faiman, a Trump advisor, who was heading to Israel, the news outlets reported.

Site Where Romans Breached Jerusalem Walls Is Pinpointed

Image via RNS/Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

The site where, nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman army breached the outer walls of ancient Jerusalem, before capturing the city and destroying the Second Jewish Temple, has been discovered, the Israel Antiquities Authority says.

Archaeologists made the discovery last winter, during an exploratory survey at a future construction site, the IAA said on Oct. 20.

Why Israel's Waldorf Astoria Is Designed for Sukkot

Image via RNS/Michele Chabin

When architects planned the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Jerusalem, they designed it with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, in mind.

The hotel has an atrium with a retractable roof, as well as large, unobstructed patios to accommodate sukkahs, temporary structures Jews are commanded to dwell in during the holiday. In Israel the holiday, which began on Oct. 16, is observed for seven days, everywhere else for eight.

In Israel, Women-Only Beach Days Allow the Religious to Relax

Image via RNS/Michele Chabin

While some European beaches are banning women dressed in “burkinis” and other modest swimwear, and Americans are challenging women’s-only swimming hours at public pools, this Israeli beach has long been a haven for women whose strict religious beliefs, community norms or fears of sexual harassment, among other reasons, make swimming or sunbathing alongside men undesirable, even impossible.

In Israel, Followers of Different Religions Help Each Other Keep the Faith

Image via Michele Chabin / RNS

Stuart Levy, a nurse at a Jerusalem hospital, updates his ward’s work schedule several times a week, with staffers’ vacations, birthdays and more religious holidays than many people know exist.

“We have 18 hospital beds, and on any given day we may have an Orthodox Jew next to a devout Muslim next to a Catholic next to a Druze next to a Russian Orthodox patient,” said Levy, head nurse of the oncology/hematology ward at Hadassah Medical Center-Ein Kerem. “And many of our staff are religiously observant.”

A Bible You Can Wear on Your Heart, Sleeve, or Lapel

Image via RNS.

Bentov, a combat video journalist who was sent out to cover wars and terror attacks, said he developed the Jerusalem Nano Bible “as a way to generate some positive change in the world.”

“For a long time I felt the need to create something that would help fight the evil and the ugliness I witnessed all around me,” he said. “I wanted to leave something good for my kids and the next generations to come.”

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