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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Polish politician receives U.S. Holocaust museum’s highest honor

(JTA)—Polish politician and historian Wladyslaw Bartoszewski was scheduled to receive the Elie Wiesel Award from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The award, given Sunday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the museum, is the highest award given by the museum.

Bartoszewski was a former Auschwitz concentration camp prisoner, the Polish minister of foreign affairs and an honorary citizen of Israel. He is currently the secretary of state in the Polish prime minister’s office. During World War II, Bartoszewski was involved in the rescue of Jews, for which he received the Righteous Among the Nations medal from Yad Vashem in Israel.

Due to his declining health, Bartoszewski was not planning to take part in Sunday’s award ceremony; Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski was to accept the award on Bartoszewski’s behalf.

NYC synagogue bomber accomplice sentenced to prison

(JTA)—An immigrant to the United States who plotted to blow up synagogues in New York City was sentenced to five years in jail.

Mohamed Mamdouh, a naturalized citizen from Morocco who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to commit terrorism and criminal weapons possession, was an accomplice to Algerian immigrant Ahmed Ferhani, who two months ago was sentenced to 10 years in prison and likely will be deported after his release.

Mamdouh was sentenced in New York State Supreme Court on April 26.

Ferhani and Mamdouh were arrested after they bought three firearms and what they believed was a live grenade from an undercover police detective. They reportedly had planned to disguise themselves as hasidic Jews in order to get into the synagogues.

They are the first people to be convicted under a state antiterrorism law passed following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Tunisian island of Djerba draws hundreds to annual Jewish festival

(JTA)—Approximately 200 Jews participated in a traditional festive procession near the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba.

The march last Friday, which each year around Lag b’Omer draws Jewish pilgrims from around the world, was preceded by an auction of artifacts and ornaments arranged by the community. This year, the auction raised about $1,300, the France24 television news channel reported. After the march, the organizers played the national anthem of Tunisia.

Some 500 Jews visited Djerba over the weekend, according to the news site Djerba Salon.

“Tunisia would like to follow Morocco’s footsteps and do more to develop its Jewish heritage sites, but right now there are more immediate challenges,” Tunisian lawmaker Fatma Gharbi Mamoghli told JTA.

Mamoghli was one of several Muslim politicians and spiritual leaders who last week participated at the Kyiv Interfaith Forum, an annual gathering of representatives from 30 countries for the promotion of tolerance organized by Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian-Jewish philanthropist and lawmaker.

Mamoghli said Tunisia’s government deployed “substantial forces” on and around the southern island to provide security for the Jewish pilgrims and for members of the local Jewish community of approximately 2,000.

“Unfortunately, we have seen it is necessary,” Mamoghli said in reference to the April 2002 bombing near the synagogue, which killed 21 people and which several intelligence agencies attributed to al-Qaida terrorists.

Although the current building dates from the 19th century, El Ghriba is sometimes cited as North Africa’s oldest synagogue, according to Georgetown University’s Berkley Center, with traditions tracing its origins to exiles fleeing the destruction of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE.

Dutch rabbi upset over royal event scheduled for Yom Kippur

THE HAGUE (JTA)—A Dutch chief rabbi said his community is “vexed” because a farewell event for the Dutch queen is scheduled for Yom Kippur.

“Jews are again faced with a reality in which they don’t belong, and that is painful,” Holland’s chief interprovincial rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, told NRC Handelsblad last Friday.

The Dutch daily reported that Jacobs said officials from the Dutch Royal House should have made sure Jews would be able to attend the Sept. 14 event, when thousands are expected to gather in Rotterdam to wish Queen Beatrix a happy retirement after 33 years on the throne. Beatrix, who celebrated her 75th birthday on Jan. 31, announced in January that she was abdicating and handing the crown over to her oldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander. The abdication officially took effect Tuesday.

The committee planning the Sept. 14 event is aware of the Yom Kippur conflict, NRC Handelsblad reported, but the date likely will not be changed because of scheduling issues and because of limited availability of the conference center slated to hold the event.

Dresden to get first own rabbi in 75 years

BERLIN (JTA)—The Jewish community of Dresden is installing its first hometown rabbi since 1938.

Alexander Nachama, 29, was to be formally inaugurated over Shabbat as rabbi of the new synagogue in Dresden, which is in eastern Germany. Dresden’s Semper-Synagogue was destroyed during the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. The new synagogue was dedicated at the original site in 2001.

Canada to build national Holocaust museum

(JTA)—The Canadian government announced plans to build a national Holocaust memorial in the nation’s capital.

The monument “will be a testament to the importance of ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust is never lost,” Tim Uppal, minister of state for democratic reform, said in a statement April 23 following remarks at the Canadian War Museum, across the street from the designated memorial site.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Canada is the only former Allied nation that does not have a Holocaust memorial.

The memorial is expected to be completed by 2015.

French court: Jerusalem light rail project legal

(JTA)—A French court ruled that Israel did not violate international law by building a light rail line in eastern Jerusalem.

The ruling on March 22 by the Versailles Court of Appeals came in response to a lawsuit filed in 2007 by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the France-Palestine Solaridite association against three French firms that participated in the construction of the light rail network. The plaintiffs claimed the firms were responsible for human rights and international law violations.

In the 32-page ruling, the judges wrote that international treaties applied to Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967 and that those conventions—including the Hague Convention of 1907—state that “the occupying power can and even must establish normal, public activity in the occupied territory.”

The judges ordered the plaintiffs pay a total of $117,000 in legal costs to the three firms: Veolia Transport, Alstom and Alstom Transport.

British politician suspended for claim that Zionists caused Holocaust

(JTA)—A British political party suspended one of its local representatives following reports that she posted anti-Semitic comments online.

Anna-Marie Crampton of the small U.K. Independence Party in East Sussex was dropped as a candidate in the April 25 election for the council of the town of Crowborough, south of London, because of comments about Jews made on her website, the BBC reported.

The website contained claims that Jews deliberately caused World War II and sacrificed their own people in the gas chambers to promote Zionism. “The Second World Wide War was engineered by the Zionist Jews and financed by the banksters,” the article on Crampton’s website said.

She has denied writing the remarks and said her account had been hacked.

IDF to phase out use of white phosphorus

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israel Defense Forces said it would stop using shells containing white phosphorus, an incendiary weapon whose use may be limited under international law.

Phosphorus generally is used to set up smokescreens to hide troop movement. The material can cause serious burns.

International arms treaties forbid the use of incendiary weapons in civilian areas, but the chemical’s use in unpopulated areas to mask troop movements is not illegal under international law. During the three-week 2008-’09 war with Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian human rights groups said Palestinian civilians were severely burned by white phosphorus shells.

The IDF’s white phosphorus shells will be phased out over the next year and replaced with a gas, the IDF said.

Lag b’Omer bonfires burn out of control in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Bonfires lit throughout Israel to mark Lag b’Omer burned out of control, stranding thousands of celebrants in the northern Israeli town of Meron.

Hot, dry and windy conditions in Israel contributed to several fires around the country that burned out of control. Eleven people were injured at Maasiyahu Prison in central Israel, where former Israeli president Moshe Katsav is incarcerated, after a fire broke out in its wood factory. Officials had begun to take steps to evacuate the prison before getting the blaze under control.

A large fire broke out at Moshav Kfar Uria near Beit Shemesh, causing the evacuation of 200 people from their homes and damaging about 500 acres of forest. Several serious fires also burned out of control in the Jerusalem area after Lag b’Omer bonfires were not properly extinguished.

Fires also burned out of control in Netanya and Rosh Haayin in central Israel.

Meanwhile, thousands of people remained stranded Sunday in Meron, after the annual Lag b’Omer celebrations at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Due to overcrowded conditions, buses had difficulty reaching the site to take home celebrants waiting in hot, dry conditions with limited water supplies. There were reports of hundreds of people fainting, severe dehydration and heat exhaustion. Some 200,000 people reportedly visited Meron during the one-day holiday that began on Saturday night.

 

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