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U.S. designates a leader of Gaza group as terrorist

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 12:14

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department designated as a terrorist a leader of a Gaza Strip-based group that has targeted Israel.

Abdallah al-Ashqar is “reported” to be a leader of Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, a group that since August has been designated as terrorist, the State Department said Wednesday in a release.

“Al-Ashqar also serves as a foreign relations official for the group,” the release said. “In addition to his leadership activity, al-Ashqar has sought missiles and other materials with which to attack Israel.”

The group, reportedly linked to al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Israel, including a rocket attack on Eilat.

Terrorist designation means a ban on all financial transactions with the named individual or group and a freeze on the designated entity’s U.S. assets.

White House vows fight against ‘scourge’ of anti-Semitism

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 12:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is pledged to stem the “rising tide” of anti-Semitism, the White House chief of staff said.

“We will not waver in our commitment to defeat the scourge of anti-Semitism,” Denis McDonough said at an event Tuesday evening convened by the American Jewish Committee and Washington-area Jewish groups to show solidarity with France and its Jews after deadly attacks last week by Islamists.

“This is not an issue for any single community or nation to deal with by itself,” McDonough said at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. “From the president on down, you have my commitment that we will wage this fight together.”

The White House has come under fire for not sending a senior official to the solidarity march in Paris over the weekend.

In separate attacks last week, three jihadists killed 17 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and at a kosher supermarket in Paris, as well as a police officer.

Also speaking at the Washington event, which drew 700 people, was the French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud.

“We are at war against terrorism, against radical Islam,” he said. “Journalists and Jews are on the front line of democracy.”

He also said that France was committed to protecting its Jewish population.

“We want the Jews of France to remain in France,” he said.

Some Israeli leaders in the wake of the attacks have urged French Jews to leave.

Limmud Colorado shutting down

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:57

(JTA) – Limmud Colorado, after several years of conferences, is shutting down.

The announcement appeared last week in the Boulder Jewish News.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to inspire a large enough and stable enough core community of volunteers to plan and run our annual conference, and each year we ended up with a small, passionate group of individuals doing the work of many,” said the item, which was signed by Gregg Drinkwater, David Shneer, Ed Sitver and Cynthia Weinger. “That model was not sustainable, and more important, it didn’t fit with the vision of Limmud as a community-led experience with content inspired by the entire community.”

They said the decision to shutter the annual confab was made last summer, though they didn’t share the news with the public until recently.

The volunteer-based Jewish learning festival debuted in England more than 25 years ago and has spread to dozens of cities around the world.

In Colorado, the last full Limmud conference took place in February 2013 in Englewood, a Denver suburb. The state’s first Limmud conference was held in 2008 in Keystone, about an hour and a half west of Denver.

The assets left in Limmud Colorado’s control were distributed to a small group of people who had received Limmud-inspired Jewish learning grants via the Rose Community Foundation or “shown their ability to transform Jewish life in the region, and to foster volunteerism and community engagement,” the announcement said.

Hundreds of people had participated in the state’s Limmud conferences, which were meant to foster “cross-communal conversation, Jewish engagement and Jewish learning,” according to organizers.

“We know so many of you have loved participating in Limmud and learning at Limmud events,” the group of four wrote in their announcement. “But without the year-round commitment of a solid group of dedicated volunteers, the annual conferences were becoming too stressful for those intimately involved in planning them and were not reflecting the Limmud commitment to grassroots leadership.”

Dutch university cancels talk on Israel boycott, cites Paris attacks

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:47

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch university canceled a panel discussion on boycotting Israel following the terrorist attacks in France.

VU University Amsterdam nixed Tuesday’s debate a day before it was scheduled to take place. The debate, which was organized by a group called Students for Justice in Palestine, featured three speakers who are known for positions widely seen as being anti-Israel.

“We observed today that, in light of social unrest tied to the events of last week, the debate is causing feelings of exclusion and lack of safety within the university community,” Jaap Winter said in a statement published Monday on the university’s website.

The group said the university’s decision violated academic freedom and free thought. It held the debate off campus.

On Monday, the Joodse Omroep, a Dutch-Jewish broadcaster, published an interview with a Jewish student identified only as Sonja who said that she was afraid to return to the university when her internship outside the Netherlands ends.

“I don’t want to come back, and in fact I think it’s a bit scary,” she said, citing harassment of pro-Israel students and Jews.

On Jan. 5, a Facebook user using the handle Muhammad Seher wrote on the Facebook page of Students for Justice in Palestine, “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Jew-free!”

He was responding to the group’s post that read “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Israel-free!”

Survey: One quarter of British Jews have considered leaving due to anti-Semitism

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 09:30

(JTA) — Nearly half of Britons hold an anti-Semitic view and one quarter of British Jews have considered leaving because of rising anti-Semitism, two new surveys found.

The surveys were released together on Wednesday by Britain’s Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, or CAA. The reports came out less than a week after four Jewish men were killed in a Paris kosher supermarket by an Islamic extremist.

One CAA survey found that 58 percent of British Jews believe that Jews may have no long-term future in Europe and that over half of British Jews say that they have witnessed more anti-Semitism in the past two years than ever. The CAA survey also found that 45 percent of the British Jews surveyed feel their family is threatened by Islamist extremism.

Some 2,230 British Jews were given a link to complete the online survey. Several methods were used to ensure a wide and varied sample, according to the CAA.

“The results of our survey are a shocking wakeup call straight after the atrocities in Paris,” Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, said in a statement. “Britain is at a tipping point: unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country.”

Along with showing that nearly half of Britons hold an anti-Semitic view, the other survey carried out by YouGov for the CAA also found that one in four Britons believe that “Jews chase money more than other British people” and one in five believes that “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people.”

YouGov polled a nationally representative sample of 3,411 British adults between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6.

Some 269,000 Jews live in Britain and equal 0.4 percent of the population.

Israel to cover burial costs of Paris victims in Jerusalem

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 09:03

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services said it will cover the costs of the burial and funeral for the Paris kosher supermarket victims.

The announcement late Tuesday night followed reports that the families had been asked to pay some $13,000 for the plots and funeral.

Israeli lawmaker Limor Livnat, the minister of culture and sport, who made the arrangements in conjunction with the families, told Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett that charging for the services went against the commitments she had been given by ministry representatives, Ynet reported.

Late Tuesday night, Bennett said his ministry would cover the costs.

Thousands attended Tuesday’s funeral for the four men at the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem’s largest burial ground. The funeral also was nationally televised, and both the president and prime minister of Israel spoke to the mourners.

The charges were levied by the Chevra Kadisha, part of the Religious Services Ministry, after the families rejected burial in multi-story tombs, which would have been free, Ynet reported. The families initially had been offered burials in the historic Mount of Olives cemetery but declined because of security considerations, Ynet reported.

Lapid: Israel must attend Arab League meeting, push for regional accord

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:57

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid promised on Facebook to advance civil unions and push for a regional peace accord should he serve in Israel’s next government.

Answering questions from English speakers, Lapid on Tuesday called for an Israeli delegation to attend the Arab League summit in March. He wrote that his centrist party supports a regional peace agreement that guarantees Israel’s security and includes major West Bank settlement blocs in Israel’s borders.

He noted that the Arab League meeting will be the first chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is chairing.

“Israel should be there to make the case for a regional agreement which guarantees our security,” Lapid wrote.

Yesh Atid served in the governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was dissoved last month in acrimony. While Lapid did not rule out joining a left- or right-wing coalition, he said he hopes Netanyahu does not win another term.

“We will do all we can to make sure Netanyahu isn’t prime minister after these elections,” he wrote. “The process of building a coalition should take place after the elections and depends on the choices the Israeli voters make. Governing isn’t about personality, it’s about serving the best interests of the Israeli public.”

Lapid stressed the importance of maintaining strong relations with the United States, saying “Israel has no more important strategic ally.” He added that any disagreements between the countries should not be made public.

He said Yesh Atid would continue to try to advance a bill instituting civil unions in Israel, which currently allows only Orthodox marriage for Jews. Lapid wrote that his previous attempts at the civil unions bill were blocked by the modern Orthodox Jewish Home party, which also served in the governing coalition.

“We were in the process of putting forward legislation for civil unions for all couples,” he wrote. “We plan to work hard on this issue in the next Knesset because it’s something we as a party care deeply about.”

French comedian Dieudonne arrested over Charlie Facebook post

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:52

(JTA) — French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala was arrested for making a Facebook comment in sympathy with the Paris kosher supermarket gunman.

Dieudonne, who has multiple convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion that he incited to terrorist acts, the French news agency AFP reported.

His statement appeared following the killing of 17 people in three attacks last week in Paris.

“Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” Dieudonne wrote in a takeoff on the French expression for “I am Charlie.” The expression is being used in support of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed on Jan. 7 by two Islamist gunmen.

Two days later, four Jewish men were killed at a kosher supermarket in Paris by Amedy Coulibaly, who had killed a policewoman the previous day. Coulibaly reportedly had maps in his car marking the locations of Paris Jewish schools..

Dieudonne later removed the comment from his Facebook page.

He has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews and is facing an eighth trial for suggesting during a show that the French Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen belonged in a gas chamber. Dieudonne also is the originator of the quenelle, the increasingly popular gesture in France and Europe that has been called anti-Semitic and a quasi-Nazi salute.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Monday called Dieudonne’s remark “contemptible,” according to AFP. Dieudonne retorted by saying in a statement, “The government is ruining my life for making people laugh.”

Dieudonne reportedly participated in the Paris unity march on Sunday to express his support for free speech.

Study links synagogue affiliation to better health

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:50

(JTA) — Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a new study indicates.

A study of four large American Jewish urban communities by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion found that “adults who affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination and attend synagogue report significantly better health than secular or non-practicing Jews,” Jeff Levin, director of the institute’s Program on Religion and Population Health, said in a statement issued Tuesday by the Texas university.

“People with a strong sense of religious identity and who participate in their faith seem to do better, on average, than people without an active spiritual life,” added Levin, a professor of epidemiology and population health, who conducted the study.

The study, based on data collected throughout the 2000s as part of Jewish community surveys from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, was published in January’s Journal of Religion and Health.

“While there have been hundreds of studies of physical and mental health among Christians and members of other faiths, Jewish studies have been limited mostly to Israelis and to smaller clinical samples in the U.S. or the United Kingdom,” Levin said.

The results were consistent across denominations. Whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform, affiliated Jews reported better health than secular, non-affiliated Jews. Likewise, Jews who attended synagogue, whether regularly or less frequently, reported better health than those who never went.

Levin suggested following up with a national health survey of the Jewish population.

“This would provide an opportunity to dig a lot deeper than what’s possible using data from existing community surveys, which weren’t really designed to assess health,” he said. “It’s fortunate that a question or two on health was included in these surveys, but we can do a lot better.”

A sophisticated national survey also could serve as a needs assessment that would provide valuable information for Jewish organizations seeking to address the health and life needs of American Jews, Levin said.

Established in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion initiates, supports and conducts research on religion.

Terrorism charges added in torching of Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Supporting a terrorist organization was among the additional charges filed against the suspects in the arson attack on a joint Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem.

The new charges announced Tuesday against the three suspects also include incitement to violence and incitement to racism.

Last month, the suspects were charged with arson, breaking and entering, and destroying property in the fire and vandalism at the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School.

Yitzhak Gabai, 22, of Jerusalem, and brothers Shlomo Rachamim Twitto, 20, and Nachman Twitto, 18, both of Beitar Illit, are members of Lehava, a group that opposes Arab-Israeli coexistence and assimilation.

Along with setting a classroom on fire, the three are accused of spray-painting anti-Arab epithets on the school’s walls.

The Hand In Hand Jerusalem School is Israel’s largest joint Arab-Jewish school and the only such primary and high school in the city. Five Hand in Hand schools are located throughout the country.

 

Noah Pozner’s parents suing over Sandy Hook massacre

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 16:53

(JTA) — The family of a Jewish boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre is one of two families suing Newtown, Conn., and its school board for alleged lax security.

The parents of Noah Pozner, as well as Jesse Lewis, filed the lawsuit last month, the Hartford Courant reported Monday. It reportedly is seeking more than $15,000 in damages, as is standard.

According to the suit, the school board and the town were negligent in not having classroom doors that could be locked from the inside and because the school did not have a more secure entranceway, including bulletproof glass on the front windows. The lawsuit also alleges a lack of security in the parking lot.

Noah Pozner, 6, was the youngest victim of the December 2012 massacre. Twenty children and six school employees were killed when Adam Lanza, 20, forced his way into the school building and opened fire. Lanza killed himself at the school.

Prior to the school shootings Lanza, who had attended the Sandy Hook school, killed his mother, Nancy, in the Newtown home they shared.

Ten of the families, including the Pozners and Lewises, also are involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the gun used in the attack, according to the Courant. The families claim that the Bushmaster AR-15 should not be sold to the public because it is a military assault weapon designed for war.

Paris victims’ families charged for Jerusalem funerals

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 16:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s burial association charged each of the families of the Paris kosher supermarket victims nearly $13,000 for their Jerusalem burial plots and funerals.

The charges were levied by the Chevra Kadisha, part of the Religious Services Ministry, after the families refused to bury the men in multi-story tombs, which would have been free, Ynet reported late Tuesday.

Some $10,000 was to cover the costs of the burial plots, and another $3,000 was to help absorb the funeral costs. The French Jewish community reportedly will handle the latter.

The men were buried in the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem’s largest burial ground. The families initially had been offered burials in the historic Mount of Olives cemetery but declined because of security considerations, Ynet reported.

Hundreds gather to save Detroit-area JCC

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 15:23

(JTA) – Hundreds showed up at the Jewish community center in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park in an effort to save the building.

Some 800 people, the maximum number allowed in the JCC building, showed up at a discussion Monday night to protest the center’s closing, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Leaders of the center and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit recommended that the building be shut down by May because it is losing approximately $1 million a year.

Residents at Monday night’s meeting such as Alan Hitsky, 69, accused the area’s Jewish leaders of “only caring about the country-club set instead of worrying about those in need.”

Others proposed starting a grassroots funding campaign; one woman wrote a $1,000 check.

“We’re not abandoning this neighborhood,” Scott Kaufman, CEO of the area’s Jewish federation, told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re going to continue servicing the community, but at a price we can afford.”

The JCC’s financial problems surfaced in late 2013 when an oversight committee composed of JCC and federation leaders calculated the center’s debt at $6 million.

Another public meeting at the JCC will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Texas congressman apologizes for Hitler-Obama comparison over Paris rally

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 14:18

(JTA) — A Texas congressman apologized for using an Adolf Hitler comparison to criticize President Obama for not attending the Paris unity march.

“I need to first apologize to all those offended by my tweet,” Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday. “It was not my intention to trivialize the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler.

“The mention of Hitler was meant to represent the face of evil that still exists in the world today. I now realize that the use of Hitler invokes pain and emotional trauma for those affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust and victims of anti-Semitism and hate.”

Jewish groups and Democrats had slammed Weber for his Twitter post on Monday evening in which he said, “Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.”

The American Jewish Committee and the National Jewish Democratic Council on Tuesday had called on Weber to apologize.

The AJC in a statement Tuesday called the tweet “outrageous. ”

“The notion that President Obama and Adolf Hitler would be mentioned in the same sentence is beyond reprehensible,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said.

The White House acknowledged Monday that it should have sent a higher-level representative to the anti-terrorism rally in Paris.

The United States was represented by Jane Hartley, the American ambassador to France.

Over 40 world leaders and more than 3.7 million people attended rallies in Paris and elsewhere in France in response to the killing of 12 people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four others at a kosher market in Paris, as well as a policewoman.

U.N. to hold informal meeting on global rise of anti-Semitism

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 14:00

(JTA) — The U.N. General Assembly will hold an informal meeting on the worldwide rise of anti-Semitism.

Thirty-seven nations called for the Jan. 22 meeting in a letter sent to General Assembly leader Sam Kutesa on Oct. 1, more than three months before last week’s hostage situation at a Paris kosher market, The Associated Press reported.

“We have a great deal of work to do to move this issue from the headlines to the history books,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, said Monday.

Israel, the United States and all of the nations in the European Union were among those that signed on to the proposal. Others included Rwanda, Uruguay, Canada and Australia, AP reported.

The U.N. meeting will feature speeches by representatives from several countries. French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy, who is Jewish, will deliver a keynote address.

The deaths of four Jews at the kosher Hyper Cacher market in Paris last week is the latest in a string of high-profile anti-Semitic killings in Europe, including outside the Jewish Museum of Brussels last summer and a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, in 2012.

Ankara mayor: Mossad behind Paris terror attacks

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 13:51

(JTA) — The longtime mayor of Ankara accused Israel’s Mossad of masterminding last week’s terror attacks in France.

Melih Gokcek said Israeli intelligence planned the attacks in retaliation for France recently expressing support for Palestinian statehood, according to Today’s Zaman, an English-language Turkish publication, citing the Andalou news agency.

At a political event Sunday, Gokcek said it “is certain that Mossad is behind these kinds of incidents. Mossad enflames Islamophobia by causing such incidents.”

The head of Turkey’s capital city also claimed that following the Paris attacks, approximately 50 mosques and some Muslim individuals were targeted but there was no coverage from the international media.

On Twitter last summer, Gokceck called for the Israeli Consulate in Turkey to close because “we don’t want a representative of murderers in Turkey.”

Gokcek has been mayor of Ankara, Turkey’s second largest city, since 1994.

Charlie Hebdo columnist was killed for being Jewish, cousin says

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 11:38

(JTA) — A Charlie Hebdo columnist was killed because she was Jewish, the victim’s cousin said.

Elsa Cayat was the only woman killed in the targeted attack Jan. 7 on the satirical magazine’s Paris headquarters by two al-Qaida operatives, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi.

Cayat received threatening phone calls in the month before the attack on the magazine, Sophoe Bramly said.

“You dirty Jew. Stop working for Charlie Hebdo. If you don’t, we will kill you,” the phone calls said, Cayat’s cousin told The Independent in an interview published Monday.

“It seems she was selected to be executed because she was Jewish,” Bramly said. “They had a list of who they wanted to shoot and said they weren’t killing the women. But she was the only woman who wasn’t spared.”

Sigolene Vinson, a writer, told reporters that one of the masked gunmen pointed his gun at her and did not shoot, saying, “Don’t be afraid, calm down. I won’t kill you. You are a woman.”

Cayat, a psychoanalyst, wrote a column for the magazine and was there the day of the shootings for the weekly editorial staff meeting. She was born in Tunisia and moved to suburban Paris when she was a toddler.

European Jewish Congress: Beef up security at Jewish institutions

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:33

BRUSSELS (JTA) — The European Jewish Congress called on Belgium and other European Union member states to beef up security around Jewish institutions.

EJC President Moshe Kantor issued the call Monday as security professionals from Jewish communities across Europe gathered in the Belgian capital to drill for a scenario in which a car bomb explodes outside a synagogue.

Kantor as part of his call also said a mechanism must be put in place to ensure uniform policies to prevent and fight anti-Semitic violence.

The drill, which was scheduled months ago, was held three days after an Islamist killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris as part of a series of attacks in the French capital that left 17 people dead.

According to Kantor, the Belgian government has not yet allocated the $4 million it pledged in June to provide for additional security around Jewish institutions. The pledge was made several weeks after a gunman killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels; the museum was not under permanent police protection.

Mehdi Nemmouche, a French national who is believed to have fought with jihadists in Syria, is on trial for the murders,which he has denied committing.

“When even after a terrorist attack, the Belgian government still does not keep its promises to fund and beef up security on communities, this is a scarlet letter and a major lacuna that needs to be addressed immediately,” Kantor said.

He said he would bring up the issue with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign relations and security chief, later this week.

“We are demanding more resources, but also a uniform policy for combating and preventing anti-Semitic violence because the gaps that exist within the union are playing to the advantage of the assailants,” he said.

In a statement issued directly after the Jan. 9 attack on a kosher supermarket in France, Belgium’s umbrella group of Jewish French-speaking communities, CCOJB, urged the government to take “concrete steps” to enhance security.

The Jewish community of Denmark also has called on the government to increase security around its institutions, the Danish Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

“It should be evident to the justice ministry and the police that there is a need for better protection,” Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, the president of the Jewish Congregation in Copenhagen, told the Berlingske daily on Monday. “Therefore, we demand that the authorities review the situation.”

Jimmy Carter: Israeli-Palestinian conflict a cause of Paris attacks

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 09:25

(JTA) — Former President Jimmy Carter said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was among the factors that led to the deadly attacks last week in Paris.

Carter made the assertion Monday night during an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

“Well, one of the origins for it is the Palestinian problem. And this aggravates people who are affiliated in any way with the Arab people who live in the West Bank and Gaza, what they are doing now — what’s being done to them. So I think that’s part of it,” Carter told Stewart.

He called the training in the Middle East of Muslim extremists with passports from countries such as France, Britain and the United States a “new evolutionary development in terrorism.”

“They stay there for a few months and learn how to be a terrorist, and then they come back through Turkey and you know they have been there and you know who they are,” Carter said. “And I think this event in Paris is going to waken up the people in charge of security to watch those people more closely than they have in the past — and not single out all of the Muslims in the country.”

Carter, who wrote a book called “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,” told Stewart that it was “disheartening” to think about how much time has elapsed since the Oslo Accords — signed in 1993 — without a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I still have hope for peace in the Middle East, but a distant hope,” he said.

Carter said the United States must be “in the forefront of demanding that the Palestinians and the Israelis come together and accept a reasonable solution to the problem.”

His formula, he told Stewart, is for Israel to give up the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and for the Palestinians to promise Israel security.

Philly mayor to conduct same-sex marriage ceremony for Israeli diplomat

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 08:37

(JTA) — An Israeli diplomat will be married in a same-sex marriage ceremony conducted by the mayor of Philadelphia.

Elad Strohmyer, the deputy consul general of Israel in the city, and partner Oren Ben-Joseph will be married  at the Philadelphia City Hall this week, The Jewish Exponent reported. Mayor Michael Nutter and Michael Bills, a Conservative rabbi, will officiate.

Gay marriage has been legal in Pennsylvania since May. Israel’s Foreign Ministry recognizes same-sex couples and lists them as official spouses, though same-sex weddings may not be performed in Israel.

Strohmyer met Ben-Joseph during a gay pride event in Tel Aviv in June. Ben-Joseph joined him shortly after in Philadelphia, and they were engaged in October.

Strohmayer told the Exponent that Nutter’s “excellent work to promote Israeli and LGBT interests in Philadelphia” was one of the reasons he wanted the mayor to preside over the wedding, which he called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“It’s a big honor for me to get married in the city that has been my home for the past three years and in which I represent Israel,” Strohmyer told Ynet. “The fact that the local media and the leadership of the community is expressing great interest and will come to the wedding is really moving and also enables us to expose another facet of Israel that is not usually displayed in world media. Through our wedding that has been awarded with a high media profile we are adding another important element of representing Israel other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Some 150 guests, including friends and family from Israel, will attend the wedding.

It is the first time that Nutter will conduct a wedding ceremony for a diplomat and the fourth time he has officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony.