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Major teen engagement project launches in Colorado

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:28

(JTA) — A national and local foundation are teaming to launch a wide-ranging initiative for Jewish teens in the Denver-Boulder area.

The San Francisco-based Jim Joseph Foundation pledged to help fund the Colorado effort by matching local individual and foundation contributions totaling up to $2.26 million over four years. The Denver-based Rose Community Foundation has made an initial grant of $1.07 million over two years.

The initiative, which was launched Monday, is designed to increase the number and diversity of high school-age Jewish teens participating in Jewish education and engagement experiences, and to improve the quality and variety of experiences. It also seeks to expand the Jewish Student Connection network of Jewish clubs in secular schools, as well as the Moving Traditions organization’s teen discussion groups Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! and “Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood.

Also, the effort aims to facilitate collaboration among Jewish youth groups and synagogues, increase training and support for youth professions, and provide micro-grants and support to Jewish teens interested in creating peer-led Jewish programs.

Kerry: U.S. would consider extending Iran talks

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:21

WASHINGTON (JTA) –  The United States would consider an extension to the July 20 deadline for an Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Kerry, speaking Tuesday in Vienna after meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, and representatives of other nuclear powers negotiating with Iran, said one of the options he would put to President Obama and the Congress would be extending the talks.

The possibility of a six-month extension was written into the interim agreement governing the talks, launched in January, but the Obama administration has focused until now on the deadline date. Kerry, who was returning to Washington on Tuesday, appeared to suggest that advances in the talks merited the extension.

“We have made progress,” Kerry said, referring both to the negotiations and his recent round of direct talks with Zarif. “We have all continued to negotiate in good faith. But after my conversations here with both Iran and with our P5+1 partners in particular, it is clear that we still have more work to do.”

The P5+1 includes the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Republicans in Congress and a number of Democrats oppose an extension. Israeli leaders have said that it is the better of two bad choices, as it would at least delay a deal they see as too concessionary.

Kerry did not outline the progress he said the sides had achieved, but Zarif in an interview with The New York Times posted Tuesday said for the first time that Iran was ready to freeze uranium enrichment at civilian-use levels, between 3 and 5 percent, for up to seven years. Zarif also said Iran would not dismantle its centrifuges, a key U.S. demand.

Obama and others have said that they would find such a limit acceptable, but want it guaranteed by a dismantling of most of Iran’s centrifuges.

Western diplomats also have not spoken of a time limit for the enrichment freeze, although The New York Times quoted U.S. officials as saying that it should be at least 10 years.

Israel has said that any deal that does not complete dismantle Iran’s enrichment capacity is a bad one.


Kerry slams Hamas for ignoring cease-fire

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:12

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ripped Hamas for ignoring a cease-fire call and affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.

“I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a cease-fire in which Egypt and Israel have joined together,” Kerry said Tuesday in Vienna, where he was attending Iran nuclear talks.

The previous evening, President Obama defended Israel at an annual White House event honoring prominent Muslim Americans.

Israel abided for six hours by the terms of an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire on Tuesday, the eighth day of the Gaza conflict, before resuming airstrikes due to the unabated rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

“Israel has a right to defend itself, and it is important for Hamas not to be provoking and purposefully trying to play politics in order to gain greater followers for its opposition, and use the innocent lives of civilians who they hide in buildings and use as shields and put in danger,” Kerry said.

“That is against the laws of war and that’s why they are a terrorist organization. So we need to remember what is at stake here, and we will continue to work for a cease-fire.”

President Obama at the Iftar dinner said, “I will say very clearly, no country can accept rocket fired indiscriminately at citizens. And so, we’ve been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas.

“At the same time, on top of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that we’ve worked long and hard to alleviate, the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, which is why we’ve emphasized the need to protect civilians, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

Nearly 200 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the Israeli operation dubbed Protective Edge. The Israeli army said it is striking at military targets.

A number of prominent Muslim Americans, and at least one umbrella body, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, had called for a boycott of the dinner, citing in part Obama’s backing for Israel in the current conflict.

“In the government’s silence, Israel is committing a massacre in Palestine with the possibility of an all-out ground assault,” the ADC said in a statement.

The Obama administration has said it would oppose an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip.

“Nobody wants to see a ground invasion because that would put even more civilians at risk,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. “But again, this is Israel’s decision to make, and Israeli political leaders certainly have the right — even the responsibility — to protect their citizens, and that’s what they’ll do.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until now has resisted calls from some members of his Cabinet for a ground invasion, although on Tuesday, after Israel suffered its first death in the Gaza conflict, he said Israel would expand its attacks on the coastal strip.


Netanyahu fires deputy defense chief over criticism of Gaza campaign

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:43

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed Danny Danon from his post as Israel’s deputy defense minister after Danon criticized the government’s handling of the Gaza operation.

“At a time when the Government of Israel and the IDF are in the midst of a military campaign against the terrorist organizations and is taking determined action to maintain the security of Israel’s citizens, it cannot be that the Deputy Defense Minister will sharply attack the leadership of the country regarding the campaign,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued Tuesday evening. “These sharp remarks on the Deputy Defense Minister’s part are irresponsible, especially given his position.”

Danon is a Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud party and is chairman of World Likud.

Netanyahu said that given Danon’s stated lack of confidence in the government, it would have been expected that he would resign from his position.

“Since he has not done so, I have decided to dismiss him from his post,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Danon criticized the security Cabinet’s decision to approve an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire.

“Once again Hamas is setting the tone for this operation,” Danon said while visiting reservists on the Gaza border. “We must retake the initiative and correct the mistake made in this morning’s Cabinet meeting. Now is the time to let the IDF win this battle.”

Following his firing, Danon said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not accept that there are different voices than his within our party. The Prime Minister capitulated to Abu Mazan (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) when he agreed to release murderers in return for negotiations, did not react strongly enough when our three teenagers were brutally murdered, and this morning he accepted a cease-fire with Hamas that weakens Israel.  I could not accept the defeatist atmosphere that has become prevalent in our Cabinet.”

Earlier in the day in a televised news conference at the Knesset, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also was critical of the Netanyahu government’s handling of the Gaza operation, saying Israel should retake Gaza.

“Israel must go all the way in Gaza. The world must give us its full backing to go all the way,” Liberman said. “All this hesitation works against us.”

After agreeing to the cease-fire, Israel had halted its operation known as Protective Edge. But after six hours and more than 40 rockets fired throughout Israel, the military resumed its campaign to stop the attacks from Gaza.

Netanyahu: Hamas leaves Israel no choice but to intensify Gaza op

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 13:02

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will “expand and intensify” its military operation against Hamas in the wake of a failed cease-fire attempt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

In an address to the nation Tuesday night, which came less than an hour after the announcement of the first Israeli death in the latest Gaza conflict, a civilian, Netanyahu said, “If there is to be no cease-fire, our answer is fire.”

“It would have been preferable to have solved this diplomatically, and this is what we tried to do when we accepted the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire, but Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it,” he said.

Netanyahu said the campaign will continue until the military has eliminated the threats to Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in the same address that the country is “determined to continue the operation” in Gaza and “will not compromise the security of the state.”

The person killed was a 37-year-old civilian who brought food and treats to Israeli soldiers operating near the Erez border crossing with Gaza. He was hit with a mortar fired from Gaza.

Nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since the start of the operation.

Shortly after Netanyahu made his televised remarks, he fired Likud Party member Danny Danon from his position as deputy defense minister, reportedly for remarks he made criticizing the government’s handling of the Gaza operation.

“Once again Hamas is setting the tone for this operation. We must retake the initiative and correct the mistake made in this morning’s Cabinet meeting,” Danon had said, referring to the Security Cabinet’s decision to approve an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire. “Now is the time to let the IDF win this battle.”

Also Tuesday, 25 mobile bomb shelters donated by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews were placed in southern Israeli communities hard hit by rockets from Gaza, including Ashdod, Ashkelon and Lachish.

The group raised more than $2 million in the early days of Operation Protective Edge, now in its eighth day. Part of the funding was used to open an emergency support center for the elderly in areas affected by the rockets, providing assistance including delivering food and medicines, as well as staying in contact with them.

Civilian visiting soldiers is first Israeli killed in Gaza conflict

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:20

A fire caused when a rocket from Gaza, struck near the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon on July 15, 2014. The IDF reports that Gaza terrorists have fired nearly 35 rockets at Israel since Tuesday morning. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A civilian bringing food to Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border was the first Israeli killed by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

The 37-year-old man was pronounced dead upon arrival at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon on Tuesday afternoon; he had received emergency treatment in the field. He was visiting soldiers at the Erez border crossing when he was hit by mortar fire.

The CrownHeights.info news site identified the man as a Lubavitcher named Dor Chanin.

Nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the first eight days of the operation.

About 40 rockets were fired at Israel during the 7 p.m. hour, bringing the day’s total to nearly 100.  Israel observed a cease-fire for about six hours on Tuesday, but rockets from Gaza continued to rain down on Israel.

Following the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza Tuesday, Israel’s Air Force attacked 30 targets across Gaza, including 20 underground launchers, tunnels, an ammunition depot, and the house of an Islamic Jihad official, Haaretz reported, citing the Israel Defense Forces.

Also Tuesday afternoon, rocket fire from Gaza hit a second power line that provides electricity to Gaza, lowering the strip’s power supply by 20 percent. The Israel Electric Company said it will not repair the lines until it can be sure of its employees’ safety.

Dutch city to remove Palestine from Jerusalem, Tiberias street signs

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:03

(JTA) — A Dutch city that described several Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Tiberias, as situated in Palestine has agreed to remove the description.

A spokesman for Eindhoven, in the eastern Netherlands, said Monday that the city would remove the designation pertaining to street signs named for the biblical cities.

City officials argued that the description pertained to historical or biblical Palestine and “were in no way meant to express a political standpoint or to offend.” But at the insistence of Likoed Nederland, a local association supportive of Israel’s Likud ruling party, the city ultimately agreed to remove the reference to Palestine, the association said Monday on its website.

The announcement quoted a letter by a Eindhoven municipal spokesman, who said, “I am able to inform you that the municipality of Eindhoven has decided to remove the text from the street signs and from the street register.”

Likoed Nederland had reported the description to the media in May, calling it an attempt to “wipe Israel off the map.” The city had printed text on street signs bearing the names of biblical cities and areas that described them as being located in Palestine.

On Saturday, Likoed Nederland accused the Dutch ANP news agency of referring to Israeli territory targeted by rockets from Lebanon as “occupied territory.”

The report concerned rockets fired from Hasbaya in Lebanon that landed in the Galilee, which ANP, citing a Lebanese news agency, said may have been fired “in the direction of territory occupied by Israel.”

The managing editor of ANP’s foreign desk, Bengt van Zwol, told JTA the territory in question was not the Galilee, which his agency does not regard as occupied, but the Golan Heights.

Separately, a state-owned university in Barcelona, Spain, corrected its online course application form amid criticism over its omitting of Israel from a list that contained more than 200 “countries of residence,” including “Palestine Territory” and Antarctica.

Responding to criticism by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a spokesman for the Autonomous University of Barcelona apologized last week and added that “it has been an unfortunate technical mistake, without any political background.” But Shimon Samuels, the center’s director of international relations, said this claim “is of course nonsense, unless the software company is also complicit.”

Antwerp demonstration features calls to ‘slaughter the Jews’

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 10:53

(JTA) — Dozens of men at an anti-Israel demonstration in Antwerp shouted slogans about slaughtering Jews.

Approximately 500 people attended Saturday’s protest in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish region, where one of the speakers used a loudspeaker to chant a call in Arabic that means “slaughter the Jews.”

The demonstration against Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza happened amid a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Western Europe that coincided with the Israeli actions, and one day before a similar demonstration in Paris escalated into what European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called an “attempted lynch” outside a local synagogue.

The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism filed a complaint for incitement to violence against participants and organizers of the Antwerp demonstration, dozens of whom were recorded making the calls.

“International politics cannot serve as a pretext for incitement to anti-Semitic hatred,” the organization’s president, Joel Rubinfeld, said in a statement.

It also condemned the presence at the demonstration of three local politicians: Karim Bachar of the Flemish Socialist Party; Ikrame Kastit of the Flemish Green Party; and Mohamed Chebaa of Labor.

The protesters also called out “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,” referencing a seventh-century slaughter against Jews in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, the same call was heard at a demonstration in The Hague in favor of the ISIS Sunni militia in Syria and Iraq. The protest was held six days before Israel launched its military operation in Gaza.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in a letter to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte protested that the demonstration was allowed to take place.

“Unless Jihadism in your country is totally quashed, Dutch returnees from their Syrian baptism of fire and Jihadist websites at home will menace Jewish, Muslim and all other citizens of the Netherlands,” wrote Shimon Samuels, the center’s international relations director.

In Paris, approximately 200 Jews were besieged on Sunday inside the synagogue by dozens of young men who confronted police and Jewish guards outside in what turned into a street brawl before police reinforcements dispersed the crowd.

The CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organizations and communities appealed to French President Francois Hollande to temporarily ban “pro-Hamas protests” for fear they would escalate into similar attacks.

Jewish Iranian lawmaker compares Israel in Gaza to Nazis

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 10:22

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jewish representative in Iran’s Parliament condemned Israel’s military actions in Gaza, comparing it to the actions of Nazi Germany.

“The Zionist regime’s crimes are reminiscent of the actions taken by the German Nazis during the first and second World Wars,” Dr. Siamak Moreh Sedgh, who represents the Jewish minority, told the semi-official Iranian FARS news agency on Monday.

Sedgh, 50, also serves as director of the Tehran Jewish Committee and has been in the Parliament for two years. He is the only Jewish member of Parliament and has criticized Israel on several occasions.

The Parliament’s vice speaker, Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabifard, on Tuesday also condemned Israel’s strikes on Gaza, saying, “The hatred of the Americans and criminal Zionists has caused the people of Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Bahrain and Afghanistan to live in difficult situations.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry called on “friends of Palestine” to prosecute “the Zionist criminals” in international tribunals and legal bodies.


Brooklyn baby named for three murdered Israeli teens

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 09:52

(JTA) — A Brooklyn baby was named Eyal Gilad Naftali in memory of the three murdered Israeli teens.

The name was announced at the baby’s bris on Monday, according to the NRG news website. He is the son of Yankee and Bina Teitelbaum, who live in the Crown Heights neighborhood.

Reports that circulated on social media saying that a set of triplets was named for the boys proved to be false.

The teens who were kidnapped and killed last month are Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16.

Two of the couple’s other five children also were named for terror victims. Their daughter Shalhevet was named for Shalhevet Pass, an infant who was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2001, and their son Ehud Daniel was named for the captive and murdered Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser, whose body was recovered from Hezbollah in 2008, and Daniel Agami, an American soldier killed in 2007 in Iraq.

“Those three boys are our family, even more now that we gave our own son their names,” Bina Teitelbaum said in an interview cited by NRG. “We called him this name because we want him to continue the unity the boys have brought to all of Israel — united in prayer, and then reunited in grief.”

Avigdor Liberman: Israel should retake Gaza

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 09:44

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, said Israel should retake the Gaza Strip in the current military operation.

“Israel must go all the way in Gaza. The world must give us its full backing to go all the way,” Liberman said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference at the Knesset. “All this hesitation works against us.

“A cease-fire is a tacit agreement that Hamas can continue to build up its power,” he said of the failed attempt by Egypt to broker a cease-fire.

Israel’s security Cabinet on Tuesday morning agreed to the proposed cease-fire and halted its operation known as Protective Edge. But after six hours and more than 40 rockets fired throughout Israel, the military said it would resume its operation.

Liberman said the end result of Protective Edge, in its eighth day, “would see the IDF control Gaza.”

The foreign minister’s Yisrael Beiteinu party severed its connection with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud a week ago over disagreement on how to handle the rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel resumes military operations in Gaza after cease-fire fails

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:23

A fire caused when a rocket from the Gaza Strip struck near the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, July 15, 2014. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military resumed operations against Hamas in Gaza, six hours after accepting an Egyptian cease-fire proposal, following rocket attacks from the strip.

The resumption of operations in Gaza was announced at about 3 p.m. Tuesday after more than 40 rockets were fired from Gaza throughout Israel in the hours after Israel halted attacks in observance of the cease-fire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned earlier Tuesday that he would order the intensification of operation against Hamas if it continued to fire rockets at Israeli civilians.

“If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case now, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed Hamas for continuing its rocket fire, reiterating that the United States considers it a terrorist organization.

“I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a cease-fire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports,” Kerry said in Vienna on Tuesday morning.

“The Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire and negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm. We welcome the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal,” he said

Kerry had been set to go to Egypt on Tuesday to press for the cease-fire, but canceled the last-minute trip after Israel accepted the proposal. His spokeswoman told reporters that Kerry has been in contact with the Egyptians, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Defensive Edge began eight days ago.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, also threatened Hamas if it did not stop firing rockets.

“Israel is giving the Hamas an opportunity to also accept the Egyptian proposal, to stop firing and to stop a painful Israeli response that it will suffer if it continues to fire rockets,” Livni said, according to Haaretz. “If Hamas doesn’t take up the proposal, Israel will continue to use force against it — and a lot of it.”

Following a meeting Tuesday morning with Tony Blair, special envoy of the Quartet — the international grouping that mediates the peace talks — Israeli President Shimon Peres asserted that Israel would continue to defend itself against rocket fire from Gaza, saying “it is our moral responsibility and our sovereign right.”

Peres added, “We all wish to lower the flames, we want an end to the fighting and we hope to see it soon. But there can be no compromise with terror. A cease-fire must be on these terms. No more rockets. No more terror.”

Five groups around world win Ruderman Prize in Inclusion

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:43

(JTA) — Organizations from the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia were named recipients of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Prize in Inclusion.

The winners are Jewish Vocational Service of Toronto; JewishCare Big Brother Big Sister in Sydney, Australia; Bar-Ilan University in Israel; Jewish Family Services of Houston; and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The Ruderman Prize in Inclusion, in its third year, recognizes groups that provide services to foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community.

This year’s winners include programs dedicated to employment, higher education, mentoring, leadership training and inclusion in communal activities and schools. They each receive $50,000 to help them continue their work or innovate new programs.

“It is our hope that these awards will inspire Jewish organizations around the world to embrace the inclusion of people with all abilities in our community,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.




Ukrainian Jewish governor vows to return mosque to Muslim community

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:15

DNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (JTA) — The Jewish governor of a major Ukrainian city promised to return a former mosque to the Muslim community.

Igor Kolomoisky, who was appointed governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region in March, made the promise last week during a visit to the city’s Olympic Reserve Sports School, which operates from a building that was built in 1926 to serve as a mosque but which the Soviet government later confiscated, the news site evreiskiy.kiev.ua reported.

Representatives of the region’s Muslim community of 80,000 have been lobbying for restitution of the building since 2000, the news site rus.newsru.ua reported.

“Igor Kolomoisky, governor of the region, is going as soon as possible to return the mosque to the Muslim community,” Deputy Governor Boris Filatov was quoted as saying last week.

According to Newsru.ua, the region’s Muslim community is mostly made up of Tatars, whose main place of worship is a private residence in the city’s outskirts with a capacity of 250 people.

Throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities have received hundreds of real-estate properties that had been confiscated during the Soviet era from local and state governments.

Recently, Russia has come under international criticism, including by the Council of Europe, for its treatment of Muslim Tatars in the Crimean Peninsula, an area it annexed from Ukraine in March despite an international outcry.

Kolomoisky, a billionaire banker, is known for his criticism of Russia’s actions on Ukraine and is believed to have poured millions of dollars of his private wealth into arming Ukraine’s underfunded army to deal with threats from Russia.

Rockets from Gaza still striking Israel after it accepts cease-fire

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 04:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rockets fired from Gaza continued to land in populated areas of Israel after its security Cabinet accepted and put into effect an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire.

The Cabinet announced in a one-sentence statement its acceptance of the cease-fire at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the time it was scheduled to go into effect.

More than 35 rockets landed in southern Israel and further inward in the hours after Israel put the cease-fire into effect. Rockets were fired as far north as Haifa and Zichron Yaakov.

Hamas took responsibility for the long-range rocket fired on Haifa that was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Also, a home in Ashdod was hit by a rocket fired Tuesday morning.

“Israel’s leadership has directed our forces to suspend strikes in Gaza. We remain prepared to respond to Hamas attacks and defend Israel,” the IDF spokesman said Tuesday morning.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement early Tuesday afternoon following a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that Israel will defend itself if necessary,  despite accepting a cease-fire.

“We accepted the Egyptian proposal in order to present an opportunity for Gaza to be disarmed of its missiles, rockets, and tunnels through political means, but if Hamas does not accept this proposed cease-fire – and this is how it appears at present — Israel will have full international legitimacy for an expanded military operation to return the necessary quiet,” he said.

Hamas reportedly rejected the cease-fire proposal, calling it unacceptable. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the Palestinian Maan news agency that Hamas was not officially informed of the proposal by the Egyptians or any other party.

“We are a people under occupation and resistance is a legitimate right for occupied peoples,” he said, according to Maan.

Reuters reported Tuesday morning, however, that Hamas leadership was in Cairo debating the proposed Gaza truce and meeting with Egyptian officials.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad called the proposal a “surrender.”

“If what has been circulated is true, this initiative means kneeling and submissiveness, and so we completely refuse it and to us, it’s not worth the ink used in writing it,” a statement said, according to Maan.

Meanwhile, at least five Israelis were injured early Tuesday morning when three rockets were fired at the southern resort town of Eilat. One of the rockets struck four cars, sparking a fire. The rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula, Haaretz reported.

Overnight, the Israeli Air Force attacked 25 Gaza targets. In the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning, the IAF attacked 132 targets, including more than 50 concealed rocket launching pads and 11 weapons storage facilities. Among the targets hit was the home of Marwan Issa, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

More than 180 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday morning decided not to fly to the area to push the cease-fire following his nine-day trip to Asia and Europe, as he had been considering.

U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro posted on his Facebook page a statement attributed to Kerry: “The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire & negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm. We welcome the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal.”

Homeland Security officials discuss protest violence with Jewish leaders

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:39

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top Department of Homeland Security officials spoke with Jewish leaders concerned about violence at rallies and demonstrations connected to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Speakers on the conference call Monday, organized by the Secure Community Network, the security arm of national Jewish umbrella organizations, included DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Infrastructure Protection William Flynn.

There were 200 Jewish officials on the call, SCN said.

“While the majority of protests have been peaceful, pro-Israeli demonstrators in Boston and Los Angeles were physically assaulted by anti-Israeli protesters this past week, and synagogues in Paris have been attacked by violent protesters,” the statement said.

“SCN discussed the security implications of operations in Gaza on Jewish communities both domestically and worldwide, and reviewed security protocols for planned rallies and demonstrations in support of Israel,” it said.

At least three Jews were taken to the hospital in Paris as a result of clashes that erupted Sunday between the protesters and young Jewish men who guarded the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue. The rioters briefly besieged the synagogue, trapping the worshippers inside, until they were dispersed by police.

In Los Angeles, four people were arrested in Los Angeles over the weekend, allegedly for wading into a pro-Israel demonstration brandishing sticks.

Separately, the Anti-Defamation League published an alert Monday “encouraging heightened vigilance” for Jewish institutions and synagogues and “recommending that institutions take steps to enhance their security and connect with law enforcement.”

Reports: Israel ready to accept Egypt-proffered cease-fire

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:17

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel is ready to accept an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, multiple media reports said, although it is unclear whether Hamas also has agreed.

The cease-fire that would end the eight-day Gaza conflict was first posted Monday on Twitter by Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli journalist, who cited Palestinian sources and who confirmed with Israeli officials that Israel would accept the terms.

Other journalists soon posted the text as well, citing various sources, including Egyptian officials.

A de-escalation of violence is to start at 9 a.m. local time to be followed by a full truce within 12 hours, according to the full text, which Melman provided JTA via email.

“Israel shall cease all hostilities against the Gaza Strip via land, sea, and air, and shall commit to refrain from conducting any ground raids against Gaza and targeting civilians,” the text said.

“All Palestinian factions in Gaza shall cease all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel via land, sea, air, and underground, and shall commit to refrain from firing all types of rockets, and from attacks on the borders or targeting civilians,” it said.

Following the cease-fire, talks about opening crossings between Gaza and Israel to allow more goods into the coastal strip would take place in Cairo, the text said. Cease-fire talks would be held by Egypt separately with both Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

The proposal comes hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Egypt to work to end the fighting between the two sides and two days after the U.N. Security Council called for a cease-fire in a non-binding statement.

“The Security Council members expressed serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides,” the statement said. “The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire. The Security Council members further called for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”

A U.S. official told JTA that the U.S. delegation consulted closely with Israel while conducting negotiations over the Security Council statement.

“In those discussions we supported Israel’s right to defend itself and worked with Israel on diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis.” said the official who was authorized to speak only on background.

“No country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians,” the official said. “We support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. That said, we remain concerned about the risk of further escalation and reiterate the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm.”

The foreign ministers of the Arab League also are scheduled to arrive in Cairo to discuss the hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel launched airstrikes a week ago after an intensification of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Close to 200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in attacks on what Israel says are rocket launching and storage sites, as well as attacks on tunnels, military camps and Hamas officials.

No Israelis have been killed. Over 700 rockets have landed in Israel, reaching unprecedented distances as far north as Haifa’s southern suburbs and as far east as Jerusalem.

Egypt helped broker cease-fires in 2009 and 2012, but the current president, Abdel al-Sisi has poor relations with Hamas, and it is not clear he has the leverage to impose a cease-fire.

Melman said Sisi’s proposal came over “Hamas objections.” It is not clear yet whether the group will abide by it.

Times Square electronic billboard mourns murdered Israeli teens

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:48

(JTA) — An electronic billboard advertisement in Times Square is mourning the three murdered Israeli teens.

Time on the billboard that features rotating advertisements was originally purchased to call for the safe return of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were abducted from a junction in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem on July 12.

After the discovery of the teens’ bodies on June 30, the billboard advertisements was changed to read: “We join the families and all of Israel in mourning the tragic loss of these innocent boys.”

The ad airs for 15 seconds twice every hour and will remain up for two more weeks, the Algemeiner website reported.

Rabbi Dovid Cohen of Young Israel of the West Side, which funded the billboard advertisement, said that people from around the world have reached out to him due to the advertisement, including the Jewish former governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle.


Couple arrested for threats on Hamptons synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:40

(JTA) — A divorced couple from Long Island was arrested for allegedly sending threatening emails to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

Asli Dincer, 44, and her ex-husband Melih Dincer, 31, sent email messages to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in May and June, threatening an explosion there during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan began on June 29.

The two were arrested July 11 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport upon their return from Turkey. They were arraigned on Friday in East Hampton on charges of making a terrorist threat, falsely reporting an incident, menacing and conspiracy, according to NBC New York.


Gaza conflict disrupts airplane travel – in Florida

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:33

A Jewish woman was asked to leave a JetBlue flight from Florida to New York following an argument about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Shutterstock)

NEW YORK (JTA) – A Jewish woman was ejected from a JetBlue flight after arguing about the Israel-Hamas conflict with a Palestinian passenger.

The Jewish woman, physician Lisa Rosenberg of New York, was asked to leave the July 7 John F. Kennedy Airport-bound flight from Palm Beach International Airport not long after concluding a telephone conversation about Israel’s conduct in the conflict. Another passenger, who overheard the conversation, began arguing with Rosenberg.

“I was saying how it was good Israel found the students that killed the Palestinian teenager and how it was exemplary not making them into heroes, but seeking to publicly try them,” Rosenberg told the Palm Beach Post. “I said any other country would have made these students out to be martyrs and celebrating them.”

After the phone call concluded, Rosenberg said a woman approached her, identified herself as a Palestinian, and the two then had an “ugly, racially driven altercation” in which the other woman called her a “Zionist pig,” according to media reports.

But a commenter on the website Gothamist, who identified herself as the passenger who confronted Rosenberg, said that Rosenberg “was the only person yelling and actually said a Palestinian on the flight was a ‘danger to her’. She was removed from that flight for making a scene, refusing to sit in her seat and not complying with staff. Other passengers , if they come forward, will verify this.”

JetBlue confirmed that it asked Rosenberg to exit the plane, which was still on the ground in Florida and said that Rosenberg’s account is not accurate.

“The story presented in no way reflects the reports from our crew, whose decision to remove the customer we support,” the airline said in a statement.

A JetBlue spokeswoman told JTA that the details of the incident, including the identity of the other passenger, could not be disclosed “for privacy reasons.”

“A crew member may request a customer to deboard and be re-accommodated if the crew member feels as though the safety of the plane or customers on board is impacted, or the customer on board is unable to comply with in-flight instructions or obstructing a crew member’s duties,” corporate communications manager Morgan Johnston said.

Rosenberg flew back to New York the next day, but not on JetBlue.

“I just was completely outraged that I would be asked to leave a plane, being a Jew,” Rosenberg told ABC’s local affiliate in Palm Beach County.