Latinos Are Israel's New Best Friends

Despite the recent Gaza conflict and the subsequent media backlash against Israel, the land of milk and honey has found an unlikely cultural and socio-political marriage with Latin America. Don’t call it the Latin Invasion, but it is a unique relationship that has become increasingly important in recent years.

It started with an influx of Latino culture, highlighted by the booming popularity of and bizarre fascination with the ultra-dramatic telenovela soap operas. Israel has become such a boom market for telenovelas that series stars began doing press tours of the country outfitted with no more than a few words of Hebrew and English. Then the 2007 inauguration of the Israel Baseball League brought a contingent of Latino ballplayers to the country, and Israeli-Latino ties were forever sealed.

While the Israel Baseball League was launching, Project Interchange, a non-profit organization that sends academics and intellectuals from around the world to Israel, was making a push to send Latino-American officials on more goodwill trips. This included the president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. In an effort to further relations, the American Jewish Committee organized exchanges to Israel last summer for a group of Hispanic Pentecostal pastors, even prepping them with a class at a Southern California seminary on the essence of Judaism.


Israel has also seen a new wave of South American immigrants seeking work in the country. The number of immigrants is uncertain, but it's been at least enough to warrant the launch of LatinosinIsrael.com, a help site for Latinos expats in Israel to adjust to the culture and learn Hebrew.

In the United States, efforts to connect Israel with Latinos was born primarily out of a troubling 2007 Anti-Defamation League survey that found 29 percent of foreign-born Latinos harbored antisemitic views, compared to 15 percent of American-born Latinos.

Israel's place in the Latino imagination should not be too surprising. For Catholic populations, Israel remains the center of the religious universe. And Pentecostals, who make up a large portion of Latin churchgoers, believe God promised the Jews Israel as a precondition for the return of Christ.

Demographically, Israel has been seeing an influx of Latin American migrants for over a decade. The migration has established sizeable Latino populations in large urban areas, particularly Tel Aviv. It has even spawned a tight Latino social network that welcomes further migrants and eases their acculturation.

Israel is a prominent trading partner with Latin America. Last year saw an amendment to strengthen Israel and Mexico’s 2000 free trade agreement, a deal that made Israel the first country to have free trade agreements with every NAFTA country. Last year also saw the signing of a historic free trade pact between Israel and MERCOSUR, the powerful trading bloc comprising Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Politically, Israel enjoys friendly relations with all of Latin America although controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently made an unfavorable comparison between the Colombian and Israeli governments.

Altogether it makes for an unlikely partnership between two cultures with little common history or culture, and aside from the recent Chavez comments, the only downside to relations has been the financial problems of the Israel Baseball League which forced the cancellation its 2008 season.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less