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Demolition orders given to four families of Palestinian terrorists

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 14:32

(JTA) — The Israeli government issued demolition orders to the families of the two Palestinians who committed the deadly terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Security officials sent the notices to the families of Said Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu, the eastern Jerusalem cousins responsible for Tuesday’s attack on the Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood that killed five.

Demolition orders also were sent to the families of Ibrahim Akkari, who rammed his car into pedestrians earlier this month, killing two, and Muataz Hijazi, the gunman who shot Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick last month.

All the families were given 48 hours to protest the decisions.

The demolition orders were given a day after the Israel Defense Forces razed the home of Abdelrahman Al-Shaludi, who killed two when he drove his vehicle into a light rail station last month.

Israel’s policy of demolishing homes has drawn international criticism and was largely suspended in 2005 after an army committee reported that it had little deterrent effect. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a return to the practice if attacks continue.

“We have nothing against the residents of eastern Jerusalem, but we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens and we will act against those who do these things and against those engaged in incitement,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement. “With a determined and vigorous hand, we will restore security to Jerusalem.”


Children can view ancient Jewish manuscripts with new free app

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 14:20

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched a free app to introduce archaeology to children using games and puzzles.

The app Dig Quest: Israel is available through the App Store beginning Thursday.

The games were developed in collaboration with Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists and researchers. As they play, children get a feeling of what archaeologists do and their excitement when they discover something new.

Fifteen 2,000-year-old manuscripts, including fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are featured in the app.


U.N. Security Council, Ban condemn synagogue terror attack

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 14:18

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United Nations Security Council “strongly condemned” the terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left five dead.

The Security Council UNSC in a statement unanimously approved on Wednesday evening called the incident a “despicable terrorist attack.”

The attack occurred Tuesday at the  Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of western Jerusalem during morning prayer services.

In its statement, the Security Council said that the current tension in Jerusalem has “affected both the Israeli and Palestinian people, and urged all sides to take immediate steps to restore calm.”

It reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, “regardless of its motivation,” according to a statement on the U.N. website.  The Security  Council also reminded both sides that they must “ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law” — an apparent warning to Israel on reprisal.

Ban-Ki moon, the U.N.’s secretary-general, also issued a statement.

“Attacks against religious sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank point to an additional dangerous dimension to the conflict which reverberates far beyond the region,” Ban said. “The steadily worsening situation on the ground only reinforces the imperative for leaders on both sides to make the difficult decisions that will promote stability and ensure long-term security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”


Justin Bieber spends three hours with L.A. rabbi

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:33

(JTA) — Pop star Justin Bieber spent three hours meeting with a rabbi in Los Angeles.

Bieber on Wednesday visited the Westside Jewish Community Center, the celebrity news website X17.com reported.

The singer “is on a spiritual journey,” according to X17, and reportedly has stopped using drugs and gotten rid of his entourage.

The Westside JCC’s executive director did not return a call from JTA seeking confirmation of Bieber’s visit. However, an employee at IKAR — a congregation that is housed in the JCC building — said no IKAR rabbi met with Bieber. The employee added that Bieber sometimes visits the JCC to play table tennis.

Bieber reportedly was scheduled to spend two weeks with a Christian pastor but apparently cut short his visit. The Christian Post reported that he was “learning how to spread the Word of God.”

In April 2013, Bieber was criticized for writing in the guestbook at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam that he hoped she “would have been a Belieber.” He visited the museum before playing a concert in nearby Arnhem.

Rocket launched from Gaza lands in Mediterranean Sea

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket launched from Gaza fell into the Mediterranean Sea for the fourth time in 24 hours, according to the Israel military.

It is not known what terror organization launched the rocket, the most recent on Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“Gaza terrorists are experimenting in order to increase rocket launching capabilities,” the IDF said in a statement.

Several rockets have been fired from Gaza since the end of the summer’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge, some of which have triggered Israel’s Code Red rocket alert system.

Presbyterians against divestment take out full-page NYT ad

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:21

NEW YORK (JTA) — A Presbyterian group took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on fellow church members to oppose divestment from Israel.

“Presbyterians: We can do better than divestment,” read the headline on the ad signed by scores of Presbyterian clergy and laypeople under the rubric of the group Presbyterians for a Just and Peaceful Future in the Middle East.

Last June, after a contentious debate at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), members voted 310-303 to approve divestment from the stock of three U.S. companies that do business with Israeli security services in the West Bank: Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard.

The authors of the ad wrote, “We are among the many Presbyterians all over the country who have worked against this action, believing that divestment would strengthen the extreme positions on both sides of this conflict without alleviating the suffering of Palestinians — and further divide and discourage the vast center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) that longs for justice with love for both peoples.”

The ad called on fellow Presbyterians to reclaim the church’s role as a “repairer of the breach” among Christians, Muslims and Jews; reaffirm the church’s commitment to a two-state solution; and seek opportunities to strengthen joint Israeli-Palestinian ventures.

Shipment of weapons bound for eastern Jerusalem intercepted

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:04

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A shipment of knives, swords, fireworks and Tasers bound for eastern Jerusalem was intercepted by Israel Police.

Police seized the two containers of weapons last week addressed to residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, which has a large population of Christian Arabs. They were labeled as Christmas decorations; the weapons were hidden among the decorations.

A gag order on the seizure was lifted Thursday.

The shipment, which had arrived from China at the Ashdod Port in southern Israel, was removed to a storehouse in Afula, according to reports.

Three Israeli Arabs picked up the containers. They were arrested, along with their two drivers.

The containers held 18,000 fireworks of a caliber that is restricted in Israel; 5,200 commando knives; 4,300 flashlights that can be used as Tasers; 5,500 Tasers; and 1,000 swords, according to police.

Rioters in eastern Jerusalem have caused serious injuries with fireworks fired at police and security forces.

On Tuesday, the Knesset Economics Committee approved a three-month ban on the import of fireworks due to their use as weapons.

Mike Nichols, director of ‘The Graduate,’ dies

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 08:23

Mike Nichols, with wife Diane Sawyer, attending a fashion show at Lincoln Center in New York City, Feb. 13, 2011 (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for IMG)

(JTA) — Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning director of “The Graduate” who had escaped Nazi Germany as a boy, has died.

Nichols died Wednesday evening at the age of 83, ABC News President James Goldston announced.

Nichols was the husband of Diane Sawyer, the former anchor of ABC World News.

Along with winning the Academy Award, he also won Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards — one of the few to win all four.

Among his most well-known films were “Working Girl,” “Silkwood,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Closer,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  “Annie, ” “Spamalot, ” The Birdcage” and “Angels in America.”

Goldston in a statement called Nichols “a true visionary,” adding, “No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike.”

Nichols, born Michael Igor Peschkowsy, left Germany with his family in 1938 for the United States.

Jewish lawmaker in Antwerp calls on government to fund security

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 07:41

(JTA) — In the wake of the stabbing of an Orthodox Jew in Antwerp, a Flemish Jewish politician demanded the government cover the community’s security costs of $1 million a year.

Claude Marinower, Antwerp’s alderman for education, made the demand in an interview that appeared in the Joods Actueel monthly on Thursday – several days after Yehosha Malik, 31, was stabbed in the neck by an unknown assailant while he was walking to synagogue for prayer services.

“Jewish families should not have to cover these costs,” Marinower said. “It is the government’s job to make sure its citizens can live in safety.”

According to the monthly, Jewish families pay $100 a month per every child they send to a Jewish public school so that the school may pay for the extra security measures deemed necessary by the community’s security officials.

Education is supposed to be provided free in Belgium – a federal entity that is made up of the Flemish region, whose capital is Antwerp; a French-speaking Walloon Region; and the autonomous Brussels region.

Throughout Belgium and much of Western Europe, Jewish communities are regularly targeted by Islamists and Arabs seeking revenge for Israel’s actions and, less frequently, by anti-Semites from the far right.

Marinower said Belgium is lagging other Western European countries that have stepped up to shoulder security costs for Jewish communities. He noted Germany, Denmark and neighboring Netherlands.

Authorities in Antwerp beefed up security around the city’s heavily Jewish neighborhoods following the murder in May of four people at Brussels’ Jewish Museum of Belgium, Joods Actueel noted, including  installing video cameras and increasing patrols.

Ashkelon mayor slammed for banning Arab workers

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:27

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The mayor of Ashkelon was criticized for laying off city Arab workers in the aftermath of the deadly synagogue attack in Jerusalem.

Itamar Shimoni ordered a halt to construction work on bomb shelters in the city’s preschools to prevent Arab workers from entering the city beginning Thursday, he announced in a Facebook post the previous evening.

The decision is a temporary one, Shimoni told Army Radio on Thursday. He said that parents were uncomfortable with the Arab workers around their children and had asked for additional armed security guards when the workers were present.

The move comes two days after two Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem killed five people in the synagogue attack in western Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among many throughout the Israeli political and religious spectrum to slam the decision.

“There can be no discrimination against Israeli-Arabs,” Netanyahu said Thursday in a statement issued from his office. “We must not generalize about an entire public due to a small and violent minority. The vast majority of Israel’s Arab citizens are law abiding and whoever breaks the law, we will take determined and vigorous action against him.”

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan ordered an investigation into whether the order was legal. Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi asked Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, to investigate the firings, and called the decision to separate Arab-Israelis from Jewish-Israelis “apartheid.”

Arab-Israelis have been rioting in cities in the Galilee since a resident of the northern Israeli village of Kfar Kana was shot and killed last week after threatening police.


Open Hillel: Fingerhut conference call flap a “mistake”

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:22

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Relaying information garnered from an off-the-record conference call featuring the director of Hillel International was a “mistake,” the Open Hillel network said.

“Recently, information was shared on an Open Hillel e-mail chain concerning a conference call briefing between Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut and the American Jewish Committee,” Open Hillel said in a statement emailed Wednesday to JTA. “This resulted in the firing of a recent college graduate and Open Hillel member who had worked with the AJC.”

Open Hillel is a network of Jewish student campus groups that reject Hillel International’s precepts banning events with speakers who advocate boycotting Israel and working with groups that are seen as hypercritical of Israel.

The Open Hillel statement noted that the call, for American Jewish Committee and Hillel staff, was not recorded, but that information about the call was shared among some Open Hillel activists.

“We recognize that this decision, made by a handful of people involved with the Open Hillel campaign, was a mistake,” the group said.

A report this week by the Washington D.C.-based Free Beacon news website revealed that AJC fired Danny Blinderman, a staffer in its Boston office, after he offered to share with Open Hillel activists information from an off-the-record conference call with Fingerhut.

“Open Hillel looks forward to re-focusing our energies on what really matters: Jewish students and Jewish campus communities,” the group’s statement said. “Open Hillel is steadfast in our commitment to making Hillel a welcoming space that is open to all Jewish students regardless of their political beliefs.”

British baroness, former lawmaker under fire for terror tweet

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:43

(JTA) — A British baroness and former lawmaker is under fire for a Twitter post that tied the terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue to Israel’s policies on the Temple Mount.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi tweeted Tuesday in the hours after the attack: “Israeli extremists storm Al Aksa & intimidate worshipers, Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshipers #Tragic #peacenotwar.”

Israeli extremists storm Al Aqsa & intimidate worshippers Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshippers #Tragic #peacenotwar

— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) November 18, 2014

Warsi, who had served as senior minister of state at Britain’s Foreign Office and minister for faith and communities, resigned from Parliament in August over Britain’s policies on Gaza. Her resignation came during Israel’s 50-day operation in the Gaza Strip.

Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, became a member of the House of Lords in 2007. She was named Conservative Party co-chair by David Cameron after the 2010 general election,

“Both Palestinian & Israeli lives have been lost in recent weeks at the hands of extremists, condemn both #Peace not #Hypocrisy,” she later tweeted, responding to Britain’s Zionist Federation.

Jewish veterans testify against sectarian prayer in military

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:31

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish veterans testified in Congress against allowing chaplains to engage in sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Association and a former U.S. Air Force judge advocate general, and Rabbi Bruce Kahn, a retired Navy chaplain, were among five witnesses to appear Tuesday before the subcommittee on military personnel of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

The subcommittee was considering arguments arising out of recent controversies over Christian chaplains who name Jesus in their prayers for groups of troops that include more than one denomination or faith, as well as atheists, among other sectarian practices.

A number of conservative groups, including several represented at the hearing, say military regulations prohibiting such invocations are an infringement on the religious freedoms of the chaplains.

Weinstein and Kahn argued that the religious freedoms of the troops tended by the chaplains must be preeminent. “The challenge is for the chaplain to adjust to the legitimate requirements of the troops, not for the troops to adjust to the denominational practices of the chaplain,” Kahn, who is now active in civil rights advocacy, said in prepared testimony.

Among the groups submitting written testimony were the Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, both also advocating against allowing sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

Teen charged in anti-Semitic beating of Israeli rabbi

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:23

(JTA) — Police have arrested a 15-year old boy for allegedly participating in an anti-Semitic attack at a Brooklyn subway station.

The New York City Police Department suspects that the teenager, who was arrested on Tuesday night, was one of three assailants who beat an Orthodox Jewish man with his own umbrella on Monday afternoon and shouted anti-Semitic epithets, according to the New York Daily News. Police charged the boy with assault as a hate crime.

The victim, who has identified himself to media as Rabbi Haim, is an Israeli citizen who came to New York for treatment of Hodgkins lymphoma.

“Maybe those people think the cancer I have, it’s not enough,” he told CBS 2 news.

According to the news website DNAinfo, police have said that the victim is Hasidic.

Rabbi Haim was beaten with his own umbrella after he discovered the three suspects trying to take his wallet out of his pocket at the Marcy Avenue station in Williamsburg, a neighborhood with a large Hasidic community. The assailants called him a “dirty bloody Jew” and a “f—ing Jew” during the attack, according to the New York Daily News. A bystander who intervened in the attack also was attacked, the New York Daily News reported, citing the website JPUpdates.com. The attackers fled on a Manhattan-bound train.

The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident.

Suspect arrested for slashing tires of 40 cars in London Jewish neighborhood

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:15

(JTA) – A man has been arrested in London for an attack on 40 cars parked in a Jewish neighborhood of the city.

Tires on the cars parked in the streets of Stamford Hill were slashed early Monday morning, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

The incident is being treated as a racially motivated crime, according to the Chronicle. The cars were makes known to be driven by members of the Jewish community, according to the report.

The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that two suspects were arrested and scheduled to appear in the Thames magistrates’ court

Pope prays for victims of Jerusalem synagogue terror attack

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:13

ROME (JTA) – Pope Francis said he prayed for the victims of a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue and appealed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am following with concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship,” he said at his general audience Wednesday, a day after Palestinian terrorists attacked Jewish worshippers during morning services, killing four rabbis and a police officer.

”I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result,” the pope said.

He added: “From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!”


AJC urges Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:11

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The American Jewish Committee urged President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, virtually alone among Jewish groups in endorsing the project.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is critically important for U.S. energy security, our economy and relations with Canada, our neighbor and ally,” Richard Foltin, AJC’s director of national and legislative affairs, said Wednesday in a statement.

Obama opposes the pipeline, heeding environmentalists who say its tar extraction methods damage the environment.

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the pipeline, and an effort to pass a Senate bill, also backed by the AJC, failed Tuesday by a single vote.

Other Jewish groups have not weighed in on the pipeline.


Committee approves 78 apartments in eastern Jerusalem

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 15:42

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jerusalem municipal committee approved the construction of 78 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved 50 apartments in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and 28 apartments in the southeast neighborhood of Har Homa , Israeli media reported Wednesday.

In recent weeks the Jerusalem municipality has advanced plans for some 4,000 apartments in eastern Jerusalem, bringing international condemnation and angering Palestinians.

“These decisions are a continuation of the Israeli government’s policy to cause more tension, push towards further escalation and waste any chance to create an atmosphere for calm,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement.

U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem warns Americans to be ‘harder target’

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 10:59

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United States Consulate in Jerusalem said in a security message to Americans in Israel that the deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue demonstrated “low-level coordination.”

“Today’s incident differs from recent attacks, potentially demonstrating low-level coordination to attack a pre-identified soft target as opposed to an opportunistic random act of violence. While we cannot predict where and when attacks may take place, we have consistently seen a cycle of violence in East Jerusalem neighborhoods following incidents like the one today,” the consulate said in the message posted on its website and emailed to Americans registered with the consulate or State Department.

The message came less than a day after an attack at a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinian assailants from eastern Jerusalem affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine left five dead and seven injured. Three of the dead were dual American and Israeli citizens. The FBI reportedly is participating in the investigation of the attack.

The consulate’s message urged Americans in Israel to “make yourself a ‘harder target’ and raise your situational awareness” when visiting “soft targets” such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, identifiable Western businesses, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools, or public recreation events, which the message said often have little or no security in place.

The message said that there is no information to support a belief that the American victims were targeted because they were American citizens.

Thousands attend police officer’s funeral, worshippers return to Har Nof synagogue

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 10:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands, including busloads of haredi Orthodox Jews, attended the funeral of the Druze police officer killed in the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem.

The funeral Wednesday afternoon for Zidan Saif, 30, came hours after morning prayer services were held in the Har Nof synagogue where Palestinian terrorists killed five worshippers the previous day.

The funeral took place in the presence of political leaders and religious leaders representing a variety of faiths.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the funeral.

“What do we tell a 5-month-old girl who will never know her father, that will grow up an orphan? We will tell her that her father was a hero,” Rivlin said.

Saif died Tuesday night from wounds sustained during a shootout with the terrorists.

The haredi Orthodox community in Jerusalem and elsewhere organized buses to bring people to the funeral.

The funeral came hours after worshippers again entered the  Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue for morning services, passing a security guard at the entrance to the building.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party and Dov Lipman of the Yesh Atid party joined the worshippers. A congregant who was injured in the attack also returned for services.

Four of those injured in the attack remain hospitalized. Of them, two are in serious condition, one in moderate condition and one in the orthopedic ward.