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Gabrielle Giffords, 2010

App to track Obama’s Israel visit

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office launched an app to follow President Obama’s visit in real time.

The app, which is available though Israel’s Apple store, will assist journalists covering the visit and allow Israelis to receive real-time updates, including video streaming. It will be available shortly for Android.

Now available in Hebrew and English, the app soon will be available in Arabic, Ynet reported.

The app was announced Sunday at a preparatory meeting ahead of Obama’s visit to Israel later this month. Representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the president’s residence, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Israel Police, the Jerusalem Municipality, Ben-Gurion International Airport and other agencies attended the meeting.

National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror said it was “very important” that the visit be marked by three points: “One, that it go smoothly from start to finish. It is important for us that the Prime Minister and the President have fruitful and productive talks—this is the basis for the continuation of work over the next four years. It is important to us that the President and all those who watch the visit see the beautiful Land of Israel as much as possible given the short schedule.

“Cooperation between all elements—among all the Israelis, and between us and the Americans—is also vital for the success of the visit.” 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Israel announced a competition for 20 seats at Obama’s speech in Israel. Hopefuls must like the embassy’s Facebook page and in the comments section explain why they should be invited. The post had 400 likes on Sunday within six hours of the announcement.

The speech is scheduled to take place at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.

Swarm of 1 million locusts hits Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A swarm of 1 million locusts crossed into Israel from Egypt.

The locusts on March 5 remained concentrated in areas of southern Israel near the border, but sightings were reported throughout the country, including Tel Aviv and the Carmel region of northern Israel.

Residents of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, where the first locusts were seen on March 4, have sealed their homes against the thousands of locusts in their area, according to reports.

Aerial and ground pesticides were sprayed late March 5 and the morning of March 6. No more swarms crossed the border due to a shift in wind direction.

A black cloud of more than 30 million locusts—some estimates ranged as high as 120 million—swarmed over parts of Egypt beginning March 2, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, according to Egyptian Agricultural Minister Salah Abad Almoman.

The locust attack hit some three weeks before the start of Passover, which recalls a destructive plague of locusts that the Bible says was sent by God to free the Jewish slaves.

Giffords to receive JFK Profile in Courage Award

(JTA)—Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Giffords, who survived a shooting that killed six people, was recognized for the “political, personal, and physical courage she has demonstrated in her fearless public advocacy for policy reforms aimed at reducing gun violence.”

The award is presented each year by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, will present Giffords with the award on May 5.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, launched a gun control initiative following the shootings in December at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 first-graders and seven adults were killed by a lone gunman.

“Instead of retreating following the tragic shooting that ended her Congressional career, she has recommitted herself to fighting for a more peaceful society free from hate and violence. She is a true Profile in Courage,” Caroline Kennedy said in a statement.

Giffords was shot in the head in a Tucson, Ariz., parking lot in January 2011 during a constituents’ event, also by a lone gunman. Among those killed was a 9-year-old girl. The first Jewish woman elected to statewide office in Arizona, Giffords stepped down from her congressional seat and continues to recover from the shooting.

Paris suburb honors Palestinian killer of Israeli minister

(JTA)—A suburb of Paris made the killer of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi an honorary resident.

Bezons awarded the title last month to Majdi Al-Rimawi, according to the March edition of its official newsletter, Bezons Infos. The motion to recognize Rimawi passed unanimously at a special council vote of the municipality, which is northwest of Paris and nearly eight miles from the city’s center.

“He is imprisoned for more than 10 years in an Israeli prison. His crime? Defending his city and its inhabitants, calling for the application of international law for the establishment of Palestine in the 1967 borders as recognized by the United Nations and Jerusalem as its capital. For this he was sentenced in 2002 [sic] to life in prison… More than 80 years!” proclaims the newsletter article.

The article does not mention the 2008 conviction of Rimawi, a member of the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, for the murder of Ze’evi in Jerusalem in 2001. Rimawi was one of four shooters who waited for Ze’evi, Israel’s minister of tourism, outside a hotel in Jerusalem.

Appeals court to reconsider Jerusalem passport case

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A U.S. appeals court will hear arguments again on whether Americans born in Jerusalem can have “Israel” listed as their birthplace in their passports.

Nathan Lewin, the lawyer who last year won a Supreme Court decision requiring lower courts to resolve the issue, this week said that new hearings will begin on March 19 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

An array of Jewish groups had joined Lewin in pressing the courts to allow a hearing in the case of Menachem Zivotofsky, whose family for years has sought to force the State Department to name Israel as his birthplace, citing a 2002 law.

President George W. Bush signed the law, but refused to implement it, citing executive prerogative in foreign policy. President Obama has continued that practice.

Last year’s 8-1 Supreme Court decision overruled lower court decisions that maintained that the judicial branch does not have authority to determine foreign policy.

Bulgarian parliament expresses ‘regret’ at Holocaust-era deportations

(JTA)—Bulgaria’s parliament for the first time expressed regret for the deportation of 11,000 Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

The resolution last Friday by Bulgaria’s parliament was issued ahead of the 70th anniversary of the start of deportations from areas controlled by Bulgaria, which was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II.

The text read: “Beyond dispute,11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. We denounce this criminal act, undertaken by Hitler’s command, and express our regret for the fact that the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act.”

The text also lauded Bulgarian authorities for having “refused the deportation of over 48,000 Jews, Bulgarian citizens, to the death camps”—a historical event that is a source of pride to many Bulgarians.

British Labor leader Miliband pledges to oppose Israel boycott

(JTA)—Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, pledged to oppose boycotts of Israel and to protect Jewish customs, including circumcision and ritual slaughter.

Speaking March 7 before a crowd of 300 at an event organized by Britain’s main Jewish umbrella group, the leader of the British opposition, who is Jewish, warned of the need to be “ever-vigilant” against anti-Semitism, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Asked whether he would work to ensure religious slaughter and circumcision practices could continue in Britain, Miliband said, “Yes, these are important traditions. The kosher issue has recently been brought to my attention. Ways of life must be preserved.”

Samira Ibrahim acknowledges ‘anti-Zionist’ tweet

WASHINGTON (JTA)—An Egyptian human rights activist refused to apologize for anti-Jewish tweets that led the Obama administration to delay honoring her with an award.

“I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America on the previous statements hostile to Zionism under pressure from the American government, so the prize was withdrawn,” Samira Ibrahim tweeted March 7.

Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, had said earlier in the day that Ibrahim was on her way back to Egypt and would not participate in a State Department ceremony March 8 honoring nine other recipients of the International Women of Courage Award.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and first lady Michelle Obama will preside at the ceremony.

Ibrahim had initially claimed her Twitter account was hacked and that she did not write the tweets in question. The State Department said it was conducting “forensics” to determine if that was the case.

A July 18 tweet on Ibrahim’s feed, first reported by the Weekly Standard, notes the suicide bombing in Bulgaria that day that killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver: “An explosion on a truck transporting Israelis at the airport of Burgas, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea,” it says. “Oh Wowwww this eases off the day today very nice very nice news.”

Israel, U.S. and Greece launch joint naval exercise

(JTA)—Israeli, Greek and American vessels began a two-week Mediterranean naval exercise, the Israeli army said.

An Israel Defense Forces statement said the operation, named “Noble Dina,” was a scheduled annual exercise for its navy and is part of the security cooperation between the Israeli navy and foreign naval forces.

The joint maneuver, from March 7 to 21, will involve helicopters, ships, and search-and-rescue boats from the three nations.

Dudu Greenspan/FLASH90

A close-up of one of the hundreds of thousands of locusts that invaded Southern Israel on March 5.

“The participating forces will exercise their cooperation on search and rescue, quick reaction to naval emergencies, medical evacuation, navigation and weapons systems,” according to the statement.

For several years, Israel and the U.S. carried out naval maneuvers with Turkey, but in September 2011 Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador and suspended military cooperation with the Jewish state. Once-warm Israel-Turkey ties reached a low point in May 2010 after Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship in the Mediterranean trying to evade Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, killing nine Turks on board after the boarding troops were attacked.

Israel’s relations with Greece in the meantime have been warming, with the two countries joining for naval and air exercises.

 

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