Protesters gathering in Jerusalem on Monday.Credit…Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters
Israelis take to the streets
As a battle over the future of Israel’s judiciary — perceived by many as a fight for the soul of the country’s democracy — intensifies, roughly 100,000 protesters filled the streets outside Parliament in Jerusalem yesterday. Carrying Israeli flags, megaphones and banners, they chanted for democracy, freedom and judicial independence.
The demonstrators gathered to oppose a sweeping judicial overhaul proposed by a new government — the most right-wing and religiously conservative in the country’s history — that has bitterly divided Israelis. The changes would reduce the Supreme Court’s ability to revoke laws passed in Parliament and would give the government greater influence over who could become a judge.
The demonstration followed a televised speech on Sunday by Israel’s mainly ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, in which he warned that the crisis had left the country “on the brink of constitutional and social collapse” and possibly “a violent clash.”
Opposing arguments: Some say the judicial plan is a threat to the liberal Israeli state that could bring down the country’s democracy or result in civil war. The government, in response, says that the changes offer a much-needed overhaul of an unelected judiciary that has become too powerful. Leaders on each side have accused the other of attempting a coup.
Context: Rooted in a decades-old culture war between different parts of Israeli society, the standoff began after Israel’s new government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, entered office in late December and almost immediately sought control over judicial appointments.
A growing dispute over spy balloons
Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China escalated as the U.S. tried to explain its downing of three flying objects over the weekend and China accused the U.S. of sending its own unauthorized high-altitude balloons over Chinese airspace.
A White House official said the flying objects had posed a threat to civilian aircraft even though the military had not identified their purpose. The objects were not sending out communications signals, and there was no indication that Americans on the ground were in danger, he said. (The White House does not believe aliens are involved.)
In a jab at Washington, China’s foreign ministry said that it was “common” for U.S. balloons to illegally enter the airspace of other nations and that U.S. high-altitude balloons had flown over China without permission more than 10 times since last year. The U.S. denied the claim.
Context: China has growing ambitions for balloons in “near space,” a part of the atmosphere that is too high for most planes to stay aloft in for very long and too low for space satellites. Chinese strategists see near space as an arena of the growing great-power rivalry in surveillance: Both planes and satellites are vulnerable to detection, blocking and attacks.
Timeline: Catch up on the last 10 days, since the first detected Chinese spy balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean.
Desperation in a stricken corner of Syria
On the first days after a devastating earthquake, the residents of al-Atarib, a town in northwestern Syria, sometimes had to dig through rubble by hand as survivors begged for help amid a long wait for international aid. Now they are scouring the ruins for personal possessions — and they describe feeling abandoned by the world.
For years, the area has been home to millions of people displaced by war, making it hard to say with certainty who had been accounted for and who was still missing after the quakes. Rescue workers say that without more help and supplies from the outside world, there is little they can do. Early promises of assistance from Western and Gulf nations did not materialize.
Getting aid to this stricken enclave of Syria, held by opponents of Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad, is extremely difficult. A single border crossing that had been used for deliveries of foreign aid was out of operation for the first two days after the earthquake, and shortages have been compounded by the area’s mutual hostility with the government in Damascus.
International action: The U.N. Security Council met yesterday to discuss opening up more border crossings from Turkey to Syria. “We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid chief, said after visiting the border. “They rightly feel abandoned.”
Turkey: A week after the quake, more than one million people remained homeless in Turkey, struggling to survive in the ruins of cities and in extreme cold.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
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A man drove a U-Haul onto sidewalks and injured at least eight people in Brooklyn, the police said.
Other Big Stories
The James Webb Space telescope spotted a distant spiral galaxy with an eerie resemblance to our own Milky Way, about a billion light-years away.
A report in Portugal found that more than 4,800 children might have been sexually abused by priests and other members of the Catholic Church in the country since 1950.
Nearly three in five teenage girls in the U.S. felt persistent sadness in 2021, double the rate among boys, according to health officials.
What Else Is Happening
In places where marijuana is legal, veterinarians are seeing more dogs that are being sickened by eating discarded joints.
A star European choreographer has been suspended as ballet director at the main opera house in Hanover, Germany, after he smeared dog excrement on a critic’s face.
Subpar conditions (too much snow, or too little of it) have left would-be skiers enjoying shopping, fondue and après-ski instead.
A Morning Read
A wave of teenagers, including Aidan, above, developed tics during the pandemic after watching videos posted on TikTok by other young people who claimed to have Tourette’s syndrome. That tide has now receded, illustrating the powerful influence of stress on the body and the resilience of adolescents.
“Adolescence is a period of rapid social and emotional development,” said one neurologist. “They are like sponges, grabbing onto new skills to cope.”
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Analyzing the tactics of the remaining Champions League teams: Liverpool’s pragmatism, Bayern Munich’s tactical flexibility and every possible type of goal from Napoli — what to expect in the matches.
What Manchester City fans think about the charges against the club: Do Manchester City fans feel the club has a case to answer, or do they believe that the Premier League has a vendetta against them?
What is an A.C.L. tear, and how long does it take to recover? It’s one of soccer’s most common injuries. Athletes can often compete again, but a full recovery can take up to two years.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A Valentine’s Day origin story
Where did the day now known for heart-shaped boxes of chocolates — or wine alone on the sofa — come from? Theories abound.
It could have been a Roman bacchanal. Some believe that Valentine’s Day is an offshoot from the ancient festival of Lupercalia, a raucous Roman fertility rite held in the middle of February. Eventually, as the Roman Empire became less pagan and more Christian, it was transformed into a celebration honoring St. Valentine.
We don’t know much about St. Valentine. The day may in fact celebrate two saints who were made into a composite character. One of them, according to popular legend, was arrested after he defied an order by Emperor Claudius that forbade Roman soldiers to get married. (He was later beheaded for his religious zeal.)
A chance to celebrate spring in February? At least one English professor believed that the romantic tradition linked to St. Valentine originated in the Geoffrey Chaucer poems “Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars.” Britons in the 14th century thought spring commenced around this time, as birds started to mate and plants began to bloom.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Fend off February blues with a creamy mushroom and leek pasta.
Roses Are Red
Can ChatGPT write a valentine worth sending? You decide.
What to Watch
Three British TV shows you might have missed.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Frog’s mating call (five letters).
And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a great Tuesday. — Natasha
P.S. The Times will again join the National Center on Disability and Journalism on a fellowship to develop journalists with an expertise in coverage of disability issues. The application is now open.
“The Daily” is about U.S. plans to retire several of its warships.
You can reach Natasha and the team at email@example.com.