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Israel shuts Erez border crossing with Gaza following attacks

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 07:34

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel closed the Erez border crossing with Gaza after sustained attacks on the crossing that injured three civilians.

At least a dozen mortars were fired Sunday afternoon on the crossing, which is used by sick and injured Gazan civilians to receive medical treatment in Israel.

The crossing is closed “until further notice,” Israel’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement, “except for life-saving action.”

The three injured reportedly were Israeli-Arabs waiting to take people injured in Gaza to Israel for medical assistance, Ynet reported. The injured are in serious to moderate condition, according to Israel Police.

Fifty people had been expected to cross into Israel via Erez on Sunday, according to the Defense Ministry said.


Netanyahu: ‘No immunity’ for those who fire at Israel

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 07:11

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that any building from which Hamas carries out terrorist activities is a target for Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, said the Gaza operation will continue “until its goals are achieved.” As he did earlier this month, the Israeli leader again equated Hamas to the jihadist group ISIS.

He called on the residents of Gaza “to immediately evacuate any building from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity. Any such place is a target for us.

“In recent days we have proven there is no immunity for those who fire at Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This is true in all sectors and regarding all borders.”

Several hours earlier, Israel had leveled a 12-story apartment building with an airstrike that its military said housed Hamas operations.

Addressing directly the Israeli citizens living in areas on the border with Gaza, Netanyahu said, “I appreciate your resilience. I appreciate your suffering and I share your pain.” He promised that the government would approve a package of assistance for southern Israeli communities for during and after the operation.

Netanyahu also said, “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. They act in the same way. They are branches of the same poisonous tree. They are two extremist Islamic terrorist movements that abduct and murder innocents, that execute their own people, that shrink at nothing including the willful murder of children.”

The Gaza operation could extend into the start of the school year, the prime minister said.


Rockets fired from Syria, Lebanon strike northern Israel

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 06:30

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rockets fired from Syria and Lebanon struck northern Israel.

At least five rockets fired from Syria landed in areas across the Golan Heights early Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed.

No one was injured in the rocket attack from Syria, which occurred at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday amid a series of Code Red rocket alerts.

Late on Saturday night, a rocket fired from Lebanon landed on an empty house in the upper Galilee region of northern Israel; Israeli media reported that two children were injured.

Israel did not return fire but lodged a protest with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.


Mom of 4-year-old killed by Gaza mortar grieves: ‘I just cannot come to grips’ with his death

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 06:15

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hundreds attended the funeral for Daniel Tregerman, the 4-year-old who who was killed in a mortar attack outside his home near the Gaza border.

“We were the happiest family in the world, and I just cannot come to grips with it,” Daniel’s mother, Gila Tregerman, said between sobs at the funeral on Sunday morning at a cemetery in the Eshkol Region, near the family home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

“We wanted to protect you but even the Code Red siren failed to save you. You would always run first and call your little brother [to the shelter], and then in a second it ended.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the funeral.

“He was too young to cross the street by himself because it was dangerous, but old enough to know the Code Red siren means because that too is dangerous,” Rivlin told the mourners. “You are everyone’s child. We are burying a child for whose sake we were fighting.”

The Tregerman family reportedly had left their home during the first three weeks of Israel’s operation in Gaza, but returned last week after security officials told residents it would be safe. But rockets began hitting the area again when the cease-fire was broken on Aug. 19.

The family reportedly had planned to leave the kibbutz later on Friday, the day Daniel was killed by shrapnel from the mortar attack.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Sunday that the mortar that killed Daniel was fired from a launching site located adjacent to the Jafar Ali Ibn Taleb School in the neighborhood of Gaza City, which is serving as a shelter for displaced Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Times of Israel reported that most of the families living in Nahal Oz had left by Saturday, and that most of those remaining were kibbutz employees. A mortar shell scored a direct hit on the kibbutz dining hall on Saturday morning.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Saturday in a visit to southern Israel that the IDF would provide assistance to civilians leaving the area. He had been scheduled to visit Nahal Oz, but his visit was canceled by his security advisers due to the large number of rockets and mortars that struck the kibbutz over the weekend.


Well-known Turkish Jewish couple found murdered

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 16:09

(JTA) — A prominent Turkish Jewish couple were found murdered in their Istanbul home.

Police discovered the bodies of husband and wife, Jak Karako, 77, and Georgia Karako, 69, inside their apartment on Friday. They had been stabbed multiple times.

The Karakos were the former owners of Ören Bayan, one of Turkey’s most famous textile companies. According to media reports, the police are searching for the couple’s caretaker, whom they suspect of committing the crime.

According to the Daily Sabah newspaper, police entered the apartment after relatives were unable to contact the couple.

In Australia, Christian, Jewish leaders vow to ‘love Muslims’

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:59

(JTA) – Christian and Jewish religious leaders in Australia have launched a campaign to express love and support for the country’s Muslim population.

The campaign, called “We’ll love Muslims 100 years,” was initiated in response to a perception of growing anti-Islam hostility in Australia. The name is a riff off on a recent headline, published in the Weekend Australian, that stated, “We’ll fight Muslims 100 years,” according to a report in The Guardian.

The effort is the work of several religious leaders, including Rabbi Zalman Kastel, of the Together for Humanity Foundation, and pastor Brad Chilcott, national director of Welcome to Australia, a non-profit that focuses on issues relating to immigration and asylum.

Chilcott criticized the Australian government for using rhetoric that raised the threat of another September 11th-style attack and demonized Muslims, arguing that such an approach would encourage radicalism, according to The Guardian.

Kastel expressed similar concerns, telling the Guardian, “We have Muslims who are made to feel like terrorists in the past few years and they report the atmosphere is similar to post-9/11 and it is simply as a result of cultural incompetence.”

The organizers plan to hold three public events this week.

Israeli PM deletes controversial ISIS tweet

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:33

(JTA) — The Israeli Prime Minister’s office has deleted a controversial tweet that used an image from a graphic beheading video released by ISIS.

After coming under widespread criticism, the prime minister’s took down the hours-old tweet, which included an image of the late journalist James Wright Foley. A campaign on social media has sought to dissuade Twitter users and media outlets from disseminating either the video or images from it out of respect for Foley’s family and to deny a propaganda coup to the jihadist group ISIS, which murdered Foley.

The deleted Israeli tweet, which has been posted on BuzzFeed, juxtaposed an image, labeled “ISIS,” of Foley with his black-clad executioner with blade in hand alongside a picture, labeled “Hamas,” of a body being dragged through a street behind a motorcycle. The tweet was labeled “Hamas is ISIS. ISIS is Hamas,” repeating a statement made on Wednesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A few hours later, the tweet was deleted after the Prime Minster’s office received criticism for using the image, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shortly after midnight on Friday, it was replaced by a similar tweet, supplanting the image of Foley with the ISIS logo in white against a black background.

The prime minister’s office has stood by the sentiment expressed in the tweets. On Friday night, the office released a similar tweet, this time juxtaposing images of ISIS and Hamas performing public executions.

Pro-Israel groups condemn attack on Temple student

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:37

(JTA) — An assortment of pro-Israel groups has issued a joint statement deploring the attack on a Jewish student at Temple University. It also criticized a pro-Palestinian campus organization, and urged universities to monitor it and other likeminded groups.

In a statement released today, 12 organizations, including StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), condemned the incident in which a Temple student, Daniel Vessal, was struck. Vessal, a fellow with CAMERA, was hit in the face by person at an informational booth for the group Students for Justice in Palestine. Students at the booth, set up at a campus fair Wednesday, also allegedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs at Vessal.

SJP issued a statement condemning the attack and denying that the assailant was a member of SJP. The statement also denied that any anti-Semitic slurs were used.

In their statement, the pro-Israel groups alleged that SJP “has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus.” The organizations urged that SJP and groups like it be closely monitored.

They also called on Temple University to condemn the attack. Temple issued such a statement yesterday.

Vandals target Jewish school in Denmark

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 09:38

(JTA) — A Jewish school in Denmark’s capital city was vandalized this week — its windows broken and anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on the building.

Scrawled on the walls of the historic Caroline school in Copenhagen were the words “No peace in Gaza” and “No peace to you Zionist pigs,” AFP is reporting.

Headmaster Jan Hansen told the news agency that some parents kept their children home from school Friday, and that there were some children who “were sad and a bit afraid who we had to send home.”

The incident comes a few weeks after Hansen, citing security concerns,  asked pupils to refrain from wearing religious symbols near school grounds.

Europe has seen a rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and incidents since the start of the latest Israel-Gaza conflict.

Last week, hundreds of demonstrators — many wearing traditional Jewish head coverings and other religious symbols — took to the streets in a heavily Muslim neighborhood of Copenhagen to protest anti-Semitism. Organizers called the demonstration the “yarmulke protest.”

The Caroline school was founded in 1805 and bills itself as the world’s oldest still functioning school.

Boy killed by rocket fire; synagogue struck, injuring 3

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 09:06

(JTA) – Scores of rockets were fired at Israel Friday, one mortally wounding a child in Sha’ar HaNegev, and another lightly injuring three people at an Ashdod synagogue. 

The Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council announced the boy’s death. News reports have said that he was 4.

Earlier in the day heavy rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel moderately wounded another Israeli in Beersheva, Haaretz reported.

Two men in their 20s and a woman in her 40s were injured by shrapnel from the Ashdod rocket. All three were taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

A senior medic told Haaretz that the rocket damaged the synagogue. “There was a great commotion and many hysterical frightened people,” the medic added.

In Gaza, Hamas reportedly killed 18 Palestinians suspected of being Israeli collaborators on Friday. Seven were reportedly shot in a public execution outside, and another 11 were executed at the Gaza City police headquarters.

CBS to adapt British sitcom about Jewish family

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 05:52

(JTA) — CBS will adapt a British sitcom called “Friday Night Dinner” about a Jewish family.

The British show, created by Robert Popper, is about the Goodmans, a traditional Jewish family with two sons who come home each week for Friday night dinner.

According to entertainment publication Deadline Hollywood, it is unclear whether the family in the CBS adaptation –which Popper will write — will be Jewish. The show’s development is still in its early stages. Deadline reported that the show will have features similar to those of successful ABC sitcom “Modern Family.”

“Friday Night Dinner” premiered in 2011 and is in its third season. It was previously picked up for American adaptation by NBC for the 2011-2012 season, but the pilot did not become a series.

British Jewish human rights activist Helen Bamber dies

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 05:29

(JTA) — Jewish human rights activist Helen Bamber, who founded organizations to help victims of torture and violence, has died at 89.

Born in 1925, Bamber protested against the British fascist movement of Oswald Mosley as a teenager in London, according to an obituary published Friday in the London Jewish Chronicle.

Following World War II, Bamber joined aid workers at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany and subsequently worked with 700 child survivors of Auschwitz.

Bamber worked for Amnesty International and in 1985 founded the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which aided thousands of people. She later founded the Helen Bamber Foundation, which aided victims of forced prostitution, child slavery and ethnic violence in the developing world.

Bamber received an Order of the British Empire, a British honorary title, in recognition of her work.

“Always working with the most vulnerable and marginalized, in the most difficult of circumstances, with Helen it was possible to stand at the edge of the world and know how to first find, and then hold, an ember of life after atrocity,” said T.J. Birdi, executive director of the Helen Bamber Foundation, according to the Jewish Chronicle. “Refusing to be a bystander, her lifelong ability to represent those whose voices have been taken away was a rare and inspiring quality that earned her respect at the highest levels.”

Ontario students’ organization passes BDS resolution

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 04:51

(JTA) — The Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students unanimously passed a resolution to boycott Israel. 

One of the group’s executive members, Anna Goldfinch, said the resolution “endorses a number of solidarity tactics that have been called for by Palestinian civil society,” according to the Canadian Press. She said it represents an endorsement of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, known as BDS.

The organization represents 300,000 students. The resolution was put forward by the Students’ Union at Ryerson University. Rajean Hoilett, the union’s president, said Ontario schools should not “remain complicit” with what he called “Israeli war crimes,” according to the Canadian Press.

Hoilett said the union has planned a series of panel discussions on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, and will not allow space for anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.

Poll: Israeli Jews, Arabs oppose intermarriage

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 04:12

Protesters hold signs in support of the wedding of Muslim groom Mahmoud Mansour, 26, and Jewish-born bride Morel Malka, 23, outside a wedding hall in Rishon Lezion on Aug. 17, 2014. Israeli police blocked more than 200 far-right Israeli protesters there shouting “death to the Arabs.” (Flash 90)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Three-quarters of Israeli Jews and nearly two-thirds of Israeli Arabs would not marry someone from a different religion, according to a poll.

Conducted by Haaretz and the Dialog company on Tuesday and Wednesday, the poll found that opposition to interfaith relationships was highest among haredi Orthodox Jews, at 95 percent. But 88 percent of traditional and religious Jews, as well as 64 percent of secular Jews, also opposed interdating.

Seventy-one percent of Muslim Israeli Arabs opposed interfaith relationships, but only half of Christian Israeli Arabs were opposed.

Across religious denominations, Israeli Jews would be much more opposed to their relatives marrying Arabs than they would be to relatives marrying non-Arab gentiles. Only a third of secular Jewish Israelis would be opposed to a relative marrying an American or European Christian, but a majority would oppose a relative marrying an Arab. Seventy-two percent of Israeli Jews overall would be opposed to a relative marrying an Arab.

Opposition to intermarriage was lowest among immigrants from the former Soviet Union. More than half would avoid having a relationship with a non-Jew, but if they were to fall in love with a non-Jew, only 35 percent would insist their spouse convert.

Two-thirds of Israeli Jews see intermarriage as a serious threat to Jews worldwide, and one-third see it as a serious threat to Jews in Israel.

The poll questioned 505 respondents and had a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Last week, a small far-right group protested in Rishon Lezion outside the wedding of an Israeli Arab and a Jewish-born Israeli who converted to Islam.

Colleges truncate programs in Israel, West Bank due to conflict

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 03:47

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Several colleges have pulled students out early from summer study abroad programs in Israel and the West Bank due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Other programs have continued because their students live in Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah, which are far from the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel, according to the Associated Press.

But at least seven schools have ended their programs based on State Department travel advisories cautioning against travel to Israel, along with warnings from insurance companies. According to AP, Claremont McKenna College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Iowa, Trinity College, Michigan State, George Mason University and Penn State have all ended programs early. New York University and UMass Amherst also canceled their fall study abroad programs here.

“On the one hand, we want to introduce students to the dimensions of conflict,” said Yehuda Lukacs, director of the Center for Global Education at George Mason, according to AP. “But this was too much because their safety and security were challenged.”

But Brandeis University history professor Jonathan Sarna, president of the Association for Jewish Studies, said “there are huge gaps between perceptions of safety and reality,” according to AP.

US, EU push for UN cease-fire resolution as rockets and airstrikes continue

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 03:26

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Exchanges of Hamas rockets and Israeli airstrikes continued as the United States and European Union pushed for a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the fighting.

Hamas and Israel renewed fire after Hamas rocket volleys broke a cease-fire Tuesday. On Thursday, Hamas launched more than 100 rockets at Israel, according to the Times of Israel, injuring one civilian. After a night without rockets, Hamas rocket fire resumed Friday, injuring one person in Beersheva.

Israeli airstrikes Thursday killed 29 people, according to Haaretz, in addition to three senior Hamas commanders killed overnight Wednesday. Sixty-seven Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinians have died thus far in the conflict, which began in July.

Hamas executed 11 people in Gaza Friday after convicting them of collaborating with Israel.

In the midst of the clashes, the United States and European Union are pushing the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution instituting a cease-fire. A draft document circulated among diplomats called for the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza, the reopening of Gaza’s ports and border crossings, an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and a halt to all weapons sales and transfers into the coastal strip.

The document calls for an international force to monitor Gaza to ensure that Hamas does not rearm or build tunnels. The document also calls for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said cease-fire talks in Cairo could resume, according to the Times of Israel. The indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian delegation broke down, along with a string of temporary truces, after the rocket fire resumed Tuesday.

Temple U. Jewish student punched at pro-Palestinian group’s booth

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:02

(JTA) — A Jewish student at Temple University was punched in the face by someone at an informational booth for Students for Justice in Palestine.

The pro-Palestinian group condemned Wednesday’s assault of Daniel Vessal and said the assailant was neither a student nor a member of the group, according to the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia.

Vessal approached the booth during a campus fair and allegedly was punched following a verbal exchange that included anti-Semitic slurs, the weekly reported. Vessal was taken to the hospital and subsequently released.

He is a member of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and a fellow with CAMERA, a pro-Israel media watchdog.

The Temple Hillel expressed “outrage” over the incident. Its director, Phil Nordlinger, told the Exponent that police did not arrest the assailant.

Temple’s Students for Justice in Palestine condemned the incident, “just as we condemn the violence that is committed against Palestinians by the state of Israel on a daily basis.”

However, it also asserted that Vessal had “harassed” its members, calling them “terrorists” and “Hamas.”


Gaza experiencing severe water shortage

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:21

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Gaza residents are suffering from a severe water shortage as a result of the ongoing conflict there.

Damage to wells and Gaza’s energy infrastructure has disrupted the pumping and distribution of water, cutting the coastal strip’s water supply by half, according to Haaretz.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans have been unable to bathe regularly. Haaretz reported that the water shortage could lead to the spread of infections and skin diseases.

The Palestinian Water Authority told Haaretz that bombing destroyed 11 wells and two purification plants while damaging an additional 15 wells and four purification plants.

Workers began repairs on the infrastructure during the cease-fires of recent weeks, but the repairs are expected to stop now that fighting has resumed. Ninety percent of the water in Gaza is not potable, making the purification plants crucial to the area’s drinking supply.


Australian Jewish school evacuated by bomb scare

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:18

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Students at a Jewish school in Melbourne were evacuated amid a bomb scare.

More than 200 students at the King David School were moved off the campus after 8 a.m. Thursday when security personnel found an abandoned van containing a suspicious object near the school.

The Australian Jewish community’s Community Security Group alerted local police, and the department’s Bomb Response Unit used a remote-controlled robot to examine the van. The van did not contain explosives, and the campus was declared safe at approximately 11 a.m.

“While this did prove to be a false alarm, parents should rest assured that the security and safety of our students is our highest priority,” King David principal Marc Light wrote in a letter to parents Thursday.

The school makes “no apologies” for following security protocols, Light told local media.

“We haven’t had any specific threat to the school or to our students whatsoever,” he said.

The false alarm came hours before protesters gathered in Sydney near the opening of the Israeli Film Festival after a judge had blocked the planned protest outside the cinema.

Nevertheless, some protesters handed out leaflets to people entering the cinema urging a boycott of the festival, calling it part of a “charm offensive” to present Israel in a favorable light and to “disguise and legitimize the oppression of Palestinians.”

Inside, Albert Dadon, founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which organizes the film festival, told the audience that he had started telling his children to be careful.

“I didn’t think in Australia I’d have to do that,” Dadon said.

The festival, in its 11th year, will screen in major cities across Australia for the next two weeks.

U.N. watchdog expected to report Iran complying with nuclear deal

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:07

(JTA) — A report from the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations is expected to show that Iran is complying with the terms of an interim agreement regarding its nuclear program.

Under the agreement, which Iran signed in November with the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, Iran agreed to freeze nuclear enrichment above 5 percent and dilute its 20 percent-enriched uranium to 5 percent. It also agreed to freeze many of its centrifuges and pause construction and fuel production for its plutonium reactor.

In return, the six powers agreed to ease some sanctions on Iran, estimated at the time to give Iran about $7 billion in relief.

To ensure compliance, inspectors from the U.N.’s  International Atomic Energy Agency committed to visiting Iran’s nuclear production sites regularly. According to Reuters, an upcoming report from the IAEA will say Iran is complying with the deal’s terms.

The agreement was implemented in January and was set to expire on July 20. By that date, the sides aimed to sign a permanent accord regarding the nuclear program, but the interim deal was extended until November as gaps remained in negotiations.

Much of the world says Iran’s program is directed toward producing a nuclear weapon. Iran has insisted that the program is for civilian purposes only.