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Israeli polygamist, cult leader convicted of sexual offenses

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 06:42

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli polygamist and cult leader was convicted of several sexual offenses, including raping his wives.

Goel Ratzon, 64, was convicted Monday in Tel Aviv District Court on charges including rape, sodomy, indecent assault and sexual abuse within the family. He was cleared on one charge of sexually enslaving one of the women that he called his wife.

Ratzon was arrested and indicted 4 1/2 years ago following a complaint filed by one of his of 21 “wives,” with whom he fathered 38 children.

He made the women believe that he was the savior of the world and had supernatural abilities. Ratzon also alienated the women from their families and only allowed them to speak in public areas of their home.

Ratzon never officially married any of the women that he called his wives.

Greek island’s police chief photographed giving Nazi salute

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 05:53

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — The police chief of the Greek island of Hydra was photographed giving the Nazi salute while on a trip to Germany.

The Ethnos Sunday newspaper published the picture of Lt. Yiorgos Kagkalos, which it reported was taken in 2011 during a visit to the Nuremberg Transport Museum.

The publication follows persistent reports suggesting widespread support among the Greek police for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. It also comes in a week when the Greek Parliament is working to pass a law that would outlaw Holocaust denial and hate speech.

In the photo, Kagkalos is standing in front of a red locomotive emblazoned with the Nazi eagle and swastika. His arm is raised in the Nazi salute.

The newspaper reported that the photo was sent anonymously to the police, who investigated the incident but ultimately did not charge Kagkalos due to a lack of evidence.

Kagkalos has appealed to the administrative courts an order by police headquarters to remove him from his position, which he has held since 2011, the newspaper reported.

Death of Palestinian teen spurs rising violence

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 05:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Violence increased in eastern Jerusalem following the death of a Palestinian teenager who was shot a week earlier by Israeli troops during a demonstration.

On Monday, the day after Muhammad Abd Al-Majid Sunuqrut, 16, died in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, protests began in eastern Jerusalem, which has been the scene of demonstrations and violence since the beginning of July. Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained during the two months of unrest, which started when a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish Israelis in a revenge killing for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens, and with the launch of Israel’s military operation Protective Edge.

On Sunday night, masked Palestinian rioters threw firebombs at a gas station in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood, near the border of eastern and western Jerusalem, and attacked its convenience store, causing serious damage and concern that the gas pumps would explode.

Also, rocks were thrown at cars with Israeli license plates, injuring two drivers, and at the Jerusalem Light Rail, which has put seven out of 23 trains out of commission in recent weeks due to rock attacks and other Palestinian violence, according to its operator, CityPass.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the violence late Sunday night, calling on police to “take strong measures against rioters.”

Sunuqrut’s father, Abd, told the Palestinian Maan news agency that his son was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet during the Sept. 1 rally in the Wadi Joz neighborhood. He claimed that his son was talking on the phone and not taking part in the demonstration.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Associated Press that the teen was hit in the leg with a sponge-tipped bullet while throwing stones during the demonstration. He then fell and injured his head, according to reports.

The teen’s body reportedly was scheduled to be transferred to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute for an autopsy by a Palestinian doctor.

Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson to sell team over racially offensive email

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 16:15

(JTA) — Bruce Levenson, who owns a controlling interest in the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, is selling his stake in the team after self-reporting a racially insensitive email he sent two years ago.

Levenson and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the sale on Sunday in separate statements. Levenson voluntarily reported the email, in which he racially stereotyped African-American fans, to the NBA.

Levenson, who is Jewish, apologized in his statement for the email sent to the team’s co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry complaining that black fans were keeping white fans from attending games.

“I’m truly embarrassed by my words in that e-mail, and I apologize to the members of the Hawks family and all of our fans,” he wrote.

The statement was posted on the Hawks’ website.

“After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise,” Levenson wrote.

“Over the past several years, I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with low attendance at our games and the need for the Hawks to attract more season ticket holders and corporate sponsors. Over that time, I’ve talked with team executives about the need for the Hawks to build a more diverse fan base that includes more suburban whites, and I shared my thoughts on why our efforts to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide seemed to be failing.”

He added: “By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”

Silver called the remarks “entirely unacceptable and in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association.” He commended Levenson for his cooperation during the league’s investigation.

In March, Levenson joined the Hawks for a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The players heard from and were accompanied by Levenson’s mother-in-law, Irene Boyarsky, a Holocaust survivor.

Levenson is stepping down in the aftermath of a Jewish NBA owner, Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers, being forced to sell his team by the league after making racist comments that were secretly recorded. Sterling’s wife sold the team for $2 billion last month.

Arab League ministers agree to join international fight against ISIS

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 15:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The foreign ministers of the Arab League agreed to cooperate on an international and regional level to combat the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The ministers, who met Sunday in Cairo, also said their countries would take all necessary measures to fight ISIS terrorists.

“What is happening in Iraq, and the presence of an armed terrorist group that not only challenges the state authority but its very existence and that of other countries … is one of the examples of the challenges that are violently shaking the world,” Nabil Arabi, the Arab League’s secretary-general, he told the gathering, according to The Associated Press.

The Arab League also endorsed a United Nations Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to “act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria,” according to reports.

The final text of the meeting’s closing statement reportedly included a tacit agreement to endorse the U.S. campaign against ISIS.

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan this week to discuss possible actions in the region against the jihadist group.

The Arab League statement also for the first time called for Syrian opposition groups to meet with the state to form a reconciliation government.

Journalists reportedly were ordered to leave the meeting Sunday shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas started addressing the session. A live broadcast of the speech also was suspended.

Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly converting to Judaism

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 15:21

(JTA) — Actress Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly is converting to Judaism.

The New York Post reported that Paltrow, the daughter of a Jewish father, was converting, citing “sources.”

Paltrow has been following the Kabbalah movement for several years and is friends with Michael Berg, co-director of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles, according to the Post.

Paltrow’s representative did not respond to questions from the newspaper.

Her father is the late film producer Bruce Paltrow and she reportedly is descended from a long line of Eastern European rabbis.

Paltrow told an event in London hosted by the Jewish community’s Community Security Trust that she wants to raise her children, Apple, 10, and Moses, 8, in a “Jewish environment.”

She and her musician husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, were divorced earlier this year.

At private funeral for Joan Rivers, celebrities inside and fans outside N.Y. temple

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 15:08

(JTA) — Howard Stern offered a eulogy and Hugh Jackman provided a musical interlude at the celebrity-studded funeral for comedian Joan Rivers.

Hundreds of mourners attended the private service on Sunday at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. The temple’s rabbi, Joshua Davidson, offered the opening prayer at the funeral, which was closed to the media.

Fans and paparazzi also gathered outside the synagogue to pay their respects.

Television host Charlie Rose called the funeral “moving, funny, loving,” and said Rivers “would have liked it,” The New York Times reported.

Rose was among the television personalities, journalists and entertainment stars who came to remember Rivers, 81, the trailblazing comic who died Thursday, a week after being rushed to Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital after her heart stopped during throat surgery at a clinic. Doctors at the hospital put her in an induced coma.

Her daughter, Melissa, with whom the late comic appeared on a reality television show, also spoke at the funeral. The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus performed show tunes and Broadway actress Audra McDonald sang “Smile,” according to the Times.

In a statement on the Joan Rivers website, Melissa Rivers wrote last week, “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

In her 2012 book, “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me,” Rivers described her funeral.

“When I die (and, yes, Melissa, that day will come; and, yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action … I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way,” she wrote, adding, “I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents … I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.”

New sergeant is highest-ranking Hasid in NYPD history

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 14:07

(JTA) — A Hasidic New York Police Department officer was promoted to sergeant, making him the department’s highest-ranking Hasid ever.

Joel Witriol of Brooklyn attended Friday’s promotion ceremony in traditional Hasidic garb, according to the New York Post.

His Sabbath observance will be accommodated at his new post in the 13th Precinct in Manhattan.

Witriol joined the force in 2006 at age 24, becoming the first Hasidic officer, the Post reported. He started as a volunteer auxiliary officer in 2003.

His brother also is a member of the NYPD, which has many Jewish officers but few hasidim, according to the NY1 television station.


Germany’s Angela Merkel calls on public to fight anti-Semitism

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:48

(JTA) — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for civic action to fight anti-Semitism following a wave of incidents this summer in her country.

Merkel, speaking Saturday on her weekly podcast on the Internet, urged the public to attend a national rally Sept. 14 at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate under the banner of “Stand up! Say no to anti-Semitism.”

“I will personally do everything I can, as will my entire government, to ensure that anti-Semitism doesn’t have a chance in our country,” Merkel said.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which organized the rally, said that German Federal President Joachim Gauck would be an honored guest.

Several anti-Semitic incidents, including verbal and physical attacks, were reported this summer in Germany. Most occurred during anti-Israel protests connected with the renewed conflict with Gaza.

In the podcast, Merkel focused on the myriad attacks and said she was extremely concerned that virtually all Jewish institutions in Germany require police protection. Some 240,000 people of Jewish background are living in Germany today, including about 105,000 members of official Jewish communities. In 1933, before the Nazis came to power, there were more than 500,000 Jews in Germany.

Saying she is proud that Germany has a thriving Jewish population 69 years after the end of World War II, Merkel urged rally participants to demonstrate that “everyone who lives here is safe.”

“We also have to pay attention and not ignore signs of anti-Semitism,” Merkel said. “We have to act decisively against it.”

She said because of Germany’s responsibility for crimes against humanity during World War II, the country has a special duty to stand up against hate and for democracy.

Political action is much needed, critics say. At a pro-Israel demonstration in Frankfurt last week, Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, said the Bundestag should fulfill its promise of three years ago to support programs designed to teach about the Holocaust and the dangers of unbridled hate.

Palestinian teen dies a week after being shot by Israeli troops at protest

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 09:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian teenager shot by Israeli troops during an eastern Jerusalem demonstration a week ago has died of his wounds.

The teen, from eastern Jerusalem, died Sunday morning in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

The father of Muhammad Abd Al-Majid Sunuqrut, 16, told Maan that his son was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet during the Sept. 1 rally in the Wadi Joz neighborhood. Abd al-Majid Sunuqrut claimed that his son was talking on his phone and not taking part in the demonstration.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Associated Press that the teen was hit in the leg with a sponge-tipped bullet while throwing stones during the demonstration. He then fell and injured his head, according to reports.

Following news of the teen’s death, protests began in eastern Jerusalem. A Jewish man was injured at the entrance to Wadi Joz after Palestinians threw rocks at his car.

Eastern Jerusalem has been the scene of demonstrations and violence since the beginning of July and the launch of Israel’s military operation Protective Edge.

Monet artwork found in late German art collector Gurlitt’s hospital suitcase

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 09:25

(JTA) — A Monet painting was found in the suitcase that German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt took to the hospital before he died.

The executor of Gurlitt’s estate last week discovered the French Impressionist artwork in a suitcase handed over to him by the hospital, according to reports.

Gurlitt, whose uncovered trove of Nazi-looted artworks was discovered two years ago, died in early May, several months after heart bypass surgery. He had agreed to return the mostly early 20th-century paintings to the heirs of the rightful owners.

The Monet, believed to be from around 1864 and similar to the French artist’s “View of Sainte-Adresse,” will be researched to determine whether it was stolen by the Nazis as were many other works in Gurlitt’s collection.

Some 1,400 works were confiscated from his home in 2012 in the course of an investigation for tax evasion. Other works were subsequently found in Gurlitt’s second home in Salzburg, Austria. The investigation is now closed due to his death.

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer on assignment to the Nazis. When the elder Gurlitt died in 1956, his son inherited the collection, which includes works by such masters as Picasso, Dürer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse.

A month before his death, Cornelius Gurlitt signed an agreement with the state of Bavaria and the German federal government according to which the provenance of all works would be researched, paving the way for the return of the paintings to heirs of the rightful owners.

He bequeathed the trove to the Bern Art Museum in Switzerland.



Report: Israeli military prevented Irish U.N. peacekeepers’ deaths

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 08:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Irish soldiers serving in the Golan Heights would have been killed or taken hostage by Syrian rebels if it weren’t for the military intervention of the Israeli army, an Irish newspaper reported.

Israeli soldiers assisted the Irish troops last week as the latter attempted to rescue a contingent of Filipino peacekeepers who were surrounded and in a gun battle with the Islamist rebels, the Irish Independent reported Sunday.

Unnamed senior Irish sources told the newspaper that there would “almost certainly” have been U.N. casualties or deaths without the Israeli help, which was described as “decisive.”

The Israel Defense Forces reportedly was able to assist during the Aug. 28 siege because it has military posts on high areas overlooking the United Nations bases in Quneitra, located on the border between Israel and Syria.

The Israelis, according to the Independent, helped guide the Irish troops to avoid the rebels, and also may have fired at the rebel troops to halt their attacks on the Filipino and Irish soldiers.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said over the weekend that he did not want to see his country’s U.N. troops “being drawn into a Syrian civil war.” He added, however, that he would not unilaterally withdraw Irish troops.

“Support for the U.N. is a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy and any decision will be made in partnership with them,” he said.

A detachment of 41 Fijian soldiers who surrendered to the rebels from the al-Nusra Brigade, which has ties to al-Qaida, remains in captivity, but where the captives are being held is unknown. The soldiers were captured after obeying a U.N. order to surrender.

Suspected Brussels Jewish museum shooter was captor in Syria, journalist says

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 07:07

(JTA) — The French gunman accused of killing four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium has been identified as one of the Islamists who held a French journalist captive in Syria.

The journalist, Nicolas Henin, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday that Mehdi Nemmouche was one of his captors for six months and had mistreated his prisoners.  Henin called Nemmouche “violent and provocative.”

Henin said he recognized Nemmouche from video and audio recordings after Nemmouche was arrested in the Brussels shooting. The journalist said he was held for a time with American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were killed by an ISIS member who beheaded them on camera and released the videos. Henin was released in April 2013.

“When Nemmouche was not singing, he was torturing. He was part of a small group of Frenchmen whose visits would terrify the 50-odd Syrian prisoners held in the cells nearby,” Henin told the French magazine LePoint, which broke the story on Saturday. “Every night the blows would start raining down in the room, where I was also interrogated. The torture lasted all night, until dawn prayers.”

Nemmouche has been in police custody on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons since his arrest on May 30 in the southern French city of Marseille nearly a week after the May 24 museum attack.

French authorities believe he left for Syria via Belgium to fight with jihadists in 2012 before returning to Europe.

Abbas: Hamas unity pact is off is gov’t doesn’t run in Gaza

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 06:40

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would break his government’s unity agreement with Hamas if Hamas does not allow the unity government to operate in Gaza.

“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza where there is a shadow government running the territory,” Abbas said late Saturday night in Cairo, where he was scheduled to address the Arab League, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

“If Hamas won’t accept a Palestinian state with one state and one law, then there won’t be any partnership between us. This is our condition, and we won’t back away from it.”

Abbas told reporters that the Palestinian leadership is making every effort to help the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and is working to provide all forms of assistance.

He estimated that it will take $7 billion and at least 15 years to rebuild what was destroyed in Gaza during Israel’s seven-week Operation Protective Edge.

Some 461,643 people were displaced in Gaza, with at least 280,000 of them in United Nations shelters and schools, the P.A. leader said.

Abbas said some 18,000 homes were destroyed and another 41,000 were damaged, and that 75 schools were destroyed and another 145 suffered damage. Dozens of public buildings, including mosques, also were destroyed.


Nigerian woman quarantined in Jerusalem found to be Ebola-free

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 06:08

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Nigerian nurse visiting Israel who was quarantined in Jerusalem for fear she may have contracted Ebola does not have the deadly virus.

Doctors determined on Saturday that the woman, a tourist who works in Nigeria’s public health system, had an infection of the digestive tract, which improved after she was given antibiotics, according to reports.

She had arrived in Israel several days ago and was admitted Wednesday to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with a high fever. She was quarantined on Friday.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that more than 1,900 people have died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. There have been 3,500 confirmed or probable cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

More than 40 percent of the deaths have occurred in the last three weeks, WHO said, suggesting that the epidemic is fast outpacing efforts to control it, according to the BBC.

Symptoms of the virus, which spreads through bodily fluids, include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. The fatality rate can reach 90 percent, though the current outbreak has a mortality rate of about 55 percent.

France largest source of immigration to Israel so far in 2014

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 13:54

(JTA) – Reaching a 25-year high, immigration to Israel from France has become the largest single source of newcomers to Israel so far this year.

Some 4,566 French immigrants arrived in Israel from January through Sept. 1, surpassing Russia, with 2,632 immigrants, and Ukraine, with 3,252 immigrants. The United States, whose Jewish population is more than 10 times that of France, has sent 2,218 new immigrants to Israel so far this year.

The figures were published on Sept. 1 by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. The number of French immigrants in 2014 is the highest on record since 1989 and already has surpassed last year’s record-breaking number of 3,263 French newcomers. In 2004, another banner year for French aliyah, there were 2,948 French immigrants to Israel.

Between 1989 and 2013, an average of 1,943 French immigrants arrived in Israel per year.

Immigration from Ukraine — where government troops are fighting pro-Russian separatists in a conflict that has produced thousands of casualties and tens of thousands of displaced persons — also increased dramatically this year.

The 3,252 immigrants who came to Israel from Ukraine since January constituted a 61-percent increase over the 1,270 Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Israel during the corresponding months last year.

Officials from the Jewish Agency for Israel, the quasi-governmental agency responsible for organizing Jewish immigration to Israel, said the increase in immigration from France is connected to rising levels of anti-Semitism in France, a stagnant French economy and strong levels of Zionist sentiment among French Jews.

Jewish groups launch fair trade network

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 13:46

NEW YORK (JTA) — A  new partnership has launched to enable the purchase of kosher “fair trade” coffee, tea and chocolate while supporting Jewish communal efforts on human trafficking and worker justice.

The Jewish Fair Trade Partnership allows individuals and Jewish institutions like synagogues to purchase fair trade products at wholesale prices while supporting Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Fair trade products are designed to help farmers, primarily in developing countries, stay on their land, support their families, plan for the future and care for the environment. A portion of the proceeds from sales will support T’ruah and Fair Trade Judaica’s work promoting the end of modern-day slavery and protecting workers’ rights.

“Jewish law goes to great length to protect low-wage workers, whom our tradition knows are vulnerable to exploitation,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, in a news release issued jointly by the partner organizations. “Through this project, our sacred spaces will reflect the values of our tradition.”

A network of 1,800 rabbis and cantors, T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America) focuses on human rights issues globally and describes itself as the “leading Jewish organization working to end modern-day slavery.”

Founded in 2007, California-based Fair Trade Judaica works to create a “Jewish-based ethical consumer model” and sells a variety of Judaica products meeting specific standards assuring fair and livable wages, no child labor, and healthy and safe working conditions.

Since 1998, the Equal Exchange Interfaith Program has involved more than 10,000 religious institutions in purchasing fair trade products. Current partners include Lutheran World Relief, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Catholic Relief Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The Jewish Fair Trade Project includes Equal Exchange kosher-certified coffee, tea and chocolate products. Most of the products are listed as kosher for Passover.

Israel quarantines Nigerian tourist feared infected with Ebola

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 09:52

(JTA) — A Nigerian visiting Israel was quarantined in Jerusalem for fear she may have contracted the Ebola virus.

The patient, a tourist who works as a nurse in Nigeria and arrived in Israel several days ago, was admitted to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with fever, Israel Radio reported on Friday. The hospital put the woman in quarantine as part of its protocol for treating patients feared to be infected with Ebola.

But a spokesperson for the Israeli Health Ministry said that “the probability that the woman has contracted Ebola is low.”

On Thursday, the World Health Organization said that more than 1,900 people have died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. There have been 3,500 confirmed or probable cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

More than 40 percent of the deaths have occurred in the last three weeks, the W.H.O. said, suggesting that the epidemic is fast outpacing efforts to control it, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, the first British person to contract Ebola during the outbreak was discharged from a hospital after making a full recovery.

Symptoms of the virus, which spreads through bodily fluids, include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. Fatality rate can reach 90 percent, though the current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55 percent.

Israel plans 283 more homes in West Bank settlement of Elkana

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 09:05

(JTA) — The Israel Land Authority published a tender for constructing 283 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Elkana.

The announcement Thursday, advancing an expansion the Israeli government first approved in 2012, comes after international criticism, including from the United States, over Israel’s recent appropriation of approximately 1,000 acres in the West Bank.

The publication of tenders, in which contractors are invited to bid on the project, constitutes the final bureaucratic stage of the process for construction. Construction is not expected to begin before December.

The United States and European Union consider Israeli construction in the West Bank an impediment to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. On Thursday, Haaretz quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that the United States was examining “additional ways to respond to the appropriation” of West Bank land.

The mayor of Elkana, which is located in a settlement bloc Israelis believe will remain under Israeli control in any long-term agreement with the Palestinian Authority, said in February that the publication of the tenders was imminent, and that it is part of a plan to double Elkana’s population of 3,900 residents by 2019.

“We have waited for this tender during four years of fighting to end the freeze on construction,” Elkana Mayor Asaf Mintzer wrote in a description of a Feb. 3 meeting with Israel Land Authority officials about a neighborhood planned in the north of the settlement.

Watchdog: Britain saw record levels of anti-Semitism during Gaza war

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 08:49

(JTA) — Britain saw record levels of anti-Semitism during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, a Jewish watchdog group said.

In July 2014, the Community Security Trust, or CST, recorded 302 incidents — the highest ever monthly total documented by the group since it started monitoring anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom in 1984, CST wrote Thursday on its blog.

The figure constitutes a rise of over 400 percent from the 59 incidents recorded in July 2013 and only slightly fewer than the 304 incidents recorded in the entire first six months of 2014, CST said.

Of the incidents recorded since July, 21 involved physical violence; none resulted in serious injury. Roughly a quarter of all anti-Semitic incidents recorded by CST in July took place on social media. At least 150 incidents were recorded by CST in August 2014, making it the third-highest monthly total on record.

CST obtained a description of the offenders for 107 of the 302 incidents recorded during July. Of these, 55 offenders, or 51 percent, were described as being of south Asian appearance; 32 were described as white; 15 were described as being of Arab or North African appearance and five were described as black.