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T’ruah calls for censure of two rabbis for ‘denigrating’ remarks

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 05:00

(JTA) — T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is urging action in Israel against two rabbis who made “denigrating” comments about LGBT people and women, among other comments that stirred controversy in recent days.

The rabbinic network, which represents some 1,800 rabbis in North America, said in a release Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces should rescind Rabbi Eyal Karim’s appointment as the chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, and end government funding for the pre-military academy headed by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein.

“In a military organization which bills itself as ‘the most moral army in the world,’ people who serve as religious authorities must reflect the highest ethical standards of Judaism, be committed to the spiritual well-being of all members of the military, and consistently teach respect for human life,” according to a petition that T’ruah said had 300 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

“Instead, Rabbi Karim and Rabbi Levinstein have made statements denigrating LGBT people and women, and permitting the killing of wounded attackers and innocent civilians, all of which goes against the IDF’s own code of ethics as well as Jewish law.”

Karim, who was tapped last week for the chief rabbi post, is under fire for having said on a religious website that soldiers should disobey orders if they contradict Jewish law. Karim also presented the apparent justification for the rape of non-Jewish women during wartime.

The IDF’s chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said that after meeting with Karim he would continue to support his nominee.

Levinstein, who runs the Bnei David academy, a pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Eli, has been the subject of public condemnation since a video speech surfaced on Sunday in which he called homosexuals “perverts.” He also claimed the Israeli army is promoting a socially liberal agenda and said the Reform movement isn’t Jewish but an offshoot of Christianity.

The army reportedly said it will reevaluate its collaboration with Levinstein, although there may be no legal grounds for withholding his funding, defense ministry officials said.

On Wednesday night, Haaretz reported, 300 rabbis signed a petition in support of Levinstein, supporting his condemnation of “behavior which celebrates a lifestyle contrary to human morality and the path of the Torah.”

Pokémon Go game leads to body’s discovery behind New Hampshire Holocaust museum

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 09:16

A man holding up his cell phone with a screen shot of the Pokémon Go game in front of the White House in Washington, DC, July 12, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) —  A person playing the Pokémon Go game on his smartphone discovered a dead human body behind a Holocaust Memorial in New Hampshire.

A young man found the body floating in Salmon Brook near Rotary Common Park in Nashua, New Hampshire, while hunting for cartoon monsters using the Pokémon Go app, WMUR reported Thursday.

Authorities were called and dive teams retrieved the body from the water, according to the local station. The victim has not been identified.

The area is located next to the New Hampshire Holocaust Memorial, according to the WMUR television station.

The location has attracted a lot of Pokémon Go players, witnesses say, suggesting it is one of the local landmarks highlighted in the game.

A high-tech scavenger hunt, Pokémon Go takes place out of doors, and sends users to PokéStops — real-life places marked as checkpoints by the game — to get in-game items. The game uses the smartphone’s camera, which records the players’ environment. The characters show up on smartphones, superimposed on the real-life landscape.

“It’s my understand that the person who found the victim was playing the Pokémon game,” Robert Giggi of the Nashua Police Department, told the station.

It’s the second time a body has been found by someone playing Pokémon Go since the wildly popular app’s release in the United States on July 6. Last Friday morning, a teenage girl in Wyoming stumbled across a dead body floating in a river while searching for a character.

On Wednesday, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland said it is not allowing people to play the game on their smartphones during visits to the former Nazi German death camp because it is “disrespectful on many levels.” Several of the game’s users reported sighting the game’s characters at Auschwitz.

French, UN leaders criticize Israel for barring Palestinian entry

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 14:57

Israeli security forces arriving at the scene of a suspect terrorist opened fire at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

(JTA) — Barring Palestinians from entering Israel will hurt, rather than help, Israel’s security, France’s foreign minister said.

Jean-Marc Ayrault on Friday condemned, for a second time, Wednesday’s deadly Palestinian terror attack in Tel Aviv, but criticized Israel’s response to it, The Associated Press reported.

Ayrault said the Israel Defense Force’s decision to bar Palestinians from crossing into Israel this weekend “could lead to a risk of escalation.”

Exceptions are being made for “humanitarian and medical” cases and Muslims traveling to worship at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

“The decision by the Israeli authorities today to revoke tens of thousands of entry permits could stoke tensions which could lead to a risk of escalation,” Ayrault said, according to the AP.

Using harsher language, the United Nations also criticized the closure, saying it amounted to “collective punishment,” according to Agence France Press.

In a statement Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned Wednesday’s attack at Sarona Market, an upscale Tel Aviv dining and shopping center, but said he was also “deeply concerned” by Israel’s response.

Israel”s reaction “includes measures that may amount to prohibited collective punishment and will only increase the sense of injustice and frustration felt by Palestinians in this very tense time,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, two gunmen opened fire at Sarona Market, killing four and injuring six. Two Palestinian cousins from the West Bank have been detained on suspicion of carrying out the attacks.

Netanyahu reportedly agrees to Arab peace push, wants it to supplant France’s

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 17:02

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Jerusalem, May 23, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly consented to regional efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which he wants to supplant the French-led international push that just launched.

Citing a Channel 2 TV report, The Times of Israel reported that Netanyahu “said yes” Thursday to a new Egyptian-Saudi Arabia endeavor for regional progress toward peace.

Netanyahu spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on that day, shortly before the Paris peace summit, and the conversation was a reason the summit’s concluding statement was vague and set no date for a follow-up meeting, according to the report.

Netanyahu also called France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, soon after the summit ended on Friday and advised France and its allies to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to restart direct talks with Israel, the report said. Pushing a new international process now could threaten the success of the Arab effort already underway, he reportedly said.

Netanyahu has for weeks been saying that the Paris summit is the wrong approach and that direct talks are the only effective strategy for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dore Gold, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel earlier this week that by improving ties with Arab states, Israel hopes to push the Palestinian peace process ahead.

“The conventional wisdom for the last few decades has been that a solution to the Palestinian issues will result in improved ties between Israel and the Arab world,” he said. “But there is a serious basis for thinking that, actually, the sequence is exactly the opposite — that by improving ties with the Arab states, we set the stage for a future breakthrough with the Palestinians.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister used the Paris summit as a platform for promoting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi minister said the initiative “does not need changing or adjusting, it is on the table as is.”

While Netanyahu has voiced support for parts of the initiative, he has emphasized it would merely be a starting point and that Israel would not agree to all its terms.

The Arab Peace Initiative calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories gained in the 1967 Six-Day War and to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem. In exchange, the Arab world would normalize ties with Israel.