World Briefs: Hispanic MLB players visit Israel to promote Christian-Jewish relations and more


Hispanic MLB players visit Israel to promote Christian-Jewish relations
Three Hispanic Major League Baseball players were recently brought to Israel for a week by the Philos Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that promotes Christian relations with Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, reported JTA.

From left: Jeimer Candelario, Nelson Cruz and Cesar Hernandez pose at a baseball field in Raanana, Israel. (Nico Andre’ Duran via

The athletes — Nelson Cruz, former Phillies second basemen Cesar Hernandez and Jeimer Candelario, all Major League Baseball players — were surprised by what they learned at lunch, too. For instance, they had not known of the existence of Black Jews, including the thousands of Ethiopians living in Israel.

The players and their significant others toured Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Galilee, and ran a baseball clinic for Jewish and non-Jewish youth in Ra’anana.

The visit also aimed to combat antisemitism, said Philos Project director of Hispanic Affairs Jesse Rojo, “to show our baseball players that they can make a difference, not wait for someone to come out with an antisemitic tweet to do something.”

Birthright Israel to scale back again, slashes free trips by up to a third
Birthright Israel is drastically cutting back on the number of free trips it plans to offer to Jewish young adults, scaling back its operations by up to a third, the organization announced on Nov. 21, according to JTA.

The cuts come amid what the organization said is a mix of financial pressures — namely, recent inflation and heightened travel expenses in a post-pandemic world. It plans to make added appeals to its top donors but expects to heavily reduce its Israel trips in 2023 to 23,500 participants, down from 35,000 this year and 45,000 annually pre-COVID.

“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years,” said Birthright CEO Gidi Mark in a statement.

Birthright’s own fundraising, however, has not been affected. A Birthright spokesperson told JTA that the organization expects its funding to increase from 2022 to 2023, but that the growth won’t be enough to compensate for the rise in expenses and inflation.

Earlier this year, the organization said that it would lower the maximum participation age to 26, after five years of allowing Jews aged 27 to 32 to enroll. The group’s leadership said at the time that the increased age limit was backfiring by convincing younger Jews to keep delaying their trips.

Israel, Japan take first steps toward free-trade agreement
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid agreed on Nov. 22 to move toward signing a free-trade agreement with Japan, reported JNS.

An FTA between the two nations will mean “discounts for products and goods from Japan for the benefit of the Israeli market and increasing Israeli exports to Japan, the third-largest economy in the world,” said Lapid.

“This year, we are also celebrating 70 years of relations between our countries and this is further proof of their growing strength — diplomatically and economically,” he added.

The last FTA Israel signed was also its first with an Asian country. On Sept. 27,
it ratified a free-trade agreement with South Korea.

“For quite a long time already, we have been calling for our government to open FTA negotiations with Japan, and I know that the private sector in Japan is also keen on that,” said Dan Catarivas, director general of foreign trade and international relations at the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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