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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

Far from Kotel, Women of the Wall pray with police protection

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Women of the Wall conducted its monthly prayer service at the Western Wall plaza with an occasional disturbance from protesters, but the worshipers were kept far from the wall itself.

The women, who came to the holy site Monday morning to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, were blocked with barricades in the southern part of the plaza.  The Western Wall was not in sight, blocked by the Mughrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount.

“It sucks,” Women of the Wall’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, told JTA during the service. “It was a surprise.”

A police spokeswoman told JTA that the barricade was placed far from the wall for the “personal safety” of the female worshipers.

Thousands of haredi Orthodox girls and women arrived ahead of the Women of the Wall, packing the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza, praying silently and blocking Women of the Wall from entering.

A crowd of mostly male haredi Orthodox protesters surrounded the barricade, with some protesters singing and yelling epithets such as “Get out, Nazis!” Later in the service, protesters threw eggs and a bottle of water at the women, striking a male supporter of the group in the head.

Midway through the service, the female worshipers crowded close to the barricade, face to face with the protesters. The women held their prayer books in the air and sang loudly, trying to outmatch the chants from the other side of the police line.

Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall. Members have been arrested in the past for wearing prayer shawls because of a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall’s “local custom.”

In April, a judge determined that the group’s activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women has been arrested.

That month, the Women of the Wall service saw thousands of Orthodox girls pack the plaza and a police barricade enclosed Women of the Wall in the plaza’s center, separate from a crowd of protesters.

In June, a barricade enclosed the women into a space adjacent to the wall.

Casspi to sign with Houston Rockets, his third NBA team

(JTA)—Omri Casspi, the first Israeli-born player to join the NBA, reportedly has agreed to a two-year, $2 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

Casspi, 25, who played the last two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, told the Cleveland Jewish News that he hoped to sign the contract this week.

The 6-9 forward became an unrestricted agent earlier this month when the Cavs opted not to extend his $3.3 million contract.

Casspi had seen his playing time diminish in Cleveland, where he averaged 4 points and 2.7 rebounds this season playing nearly 12 minutes a game. He had played two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, coming into the league with great fanfare in the Jewish community, before being traded to the Cavs.

The Rockets have been interested in signing Casspi for a long time, according to Yahoo!Sports.  Houston recently signed star center Dwight Howard, the most coveted free agent on the market.

Last week a second Israeli, Gal Mekel, joined the NBA, agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Mekel last month helped lead Maccabi Haifa to the Israeli championship in an upset of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Popes who pushed interfaith dialogue to be made saints

(JTA)—Pope John Paul II  and Pope John XXIII, post-Holocaust pontiffs who played key roles in fostering Catholic-Jewish dialogue, will be declared saints.

The Vatican announced last Friday that the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005 and made bettering Catholic-Jewish relations a cornerstone of his papacy, will be made a saint after a second miracle was attributed to him in the years since his death.

Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958-1963, will be canonized even though only one miracle has been attributed to his intercession.

John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which in 1965  issued the Nostra Aetate declaration that called for Jewish-Catholic dialogue and rejected the ancient Christian stigma against Jews as the killers of Jesus.

Two miracles usually are required for canonization, but Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said it was the will of the current pope, Francis, that John XXIII be made a saint without a second miracle.

Israel’s U.S. envoy Oren to leave post

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, announced that he will be leaving his post this fall.

“Israel and the United States have always enjoyed a special relationship and, throughout these years of challenge, I was privileged to take part in forging even firmer bonds,” Oren said in a statement sent to media and posted on his Facebook page.

Oren, a native of New Jersey who made aliyah as a young man, later became a historian and was named ambassador in 2009, played a significant role in rebutting reports of a strained relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In interviews, Oren has stressed improvements in the defense relationship between the two countries during the two leaders’ tenure while acknowledging differences in some areas, particularly regarding the intensity of pressure on Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent.

In recent weeks, rumors have circulated that Oren will be replaced by Ron Dermer, formerly a top aide to Netanyahu.

Israeli Cabinet advances proposal to draft haredi Orthodox men

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved a bill proposal to draft thousands of haredi Orthodox men into the Israel Defense Forces.

The proposal for reforms to Israel’s military conscription law passed the Cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday in a 14-4 vote. It moves to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for discussion before going to the Knesset floor.

Under the proposal, some 1,800 yeshiva students would be exempt from the military draft and the haredi men could study in yeshiva until the age of 21 before being drafted. Conscription or a national service requirement for Israeli Arabs was not included in the bill proposal.

A four-year “adjustment period” would allow haredi yeshiva students to come into compliance.

Ancient cave found during work on West Bank security fence

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A million-year-old cave was discovered in the West Bank during work to move the security fence nearer the settlement of Tzofim.

The cave, with deep caverns and large rooms filled with stalactites and stalagmites, was discovered last weekend, Yediot Achronot reported.

Tzofim, near central Israel, is surrounded on one side by Kfar Saba and on the other by the Palestinian city of Kalkilya. Along with moving the fence closer to the community, the work also was being done to create better traffic patterns for the Israeli and Palestinian vehicles that share the roads.

The construction was stopped after the discovery of the cave to allow for geological testing.

Ahmadinejad calls Holocaust denial major achievement of his presidency

(JTA)—Outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a farewell ceremony that publicizing his Holocaust denial was a major achievement of his presidency.

“That was a taboo topic that no one in the West allowed to be heard,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech Sunday, according to the Iranian Fars news agency.  “We put it forward at the global level. That broke the spine of the Western capitalist regime.”

Ahmadinejad’s remarks on the Holocaust appeared on the Fars news site in Arabic, but not on its English website, which covered other aspects of the speech.

Ahmadinejad also called for the Arab world to work together to punish Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Lockheed Martin opening branch in Israel

(JTA)—Lockheed Martin is opening a technology center in Israel to help build a new center for Israeli military intelligence in the Negev.

The U.S. aerospace defense giant established a joint venture with Israel’s Bynet Data Communications to build the Israeli Defense Forces’ center, known as Project 5/9. The contract is worth about $210 million, according to Israel’s Globes.

Lockheed’s job is to help with “migration,” adapting lines of code written decades ago to advanced computer systems. Its new Israeli center will provide support and maintenance, Globes reported.

“The intention is to establish a local branch of Lockheed Martin in Israel in the field of information systems,” said Lockheed’s vice president for global solutions, Robert Eastman, according to UPI.

Israel Aerospace Industries already produces wings for the Lockheed-produced F-16 and the U.S. Air Force’s T-38 trainer aircraft.

Auctioned Modigliani painting is most expensive ever sold in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A painting by Italian Jewish artist Amedeo Modigliani sold at auction in Jerusalem for $8.6 million, despite not actually being in the country.

“Portrait de Anne Bjarne,” the 1919 oil painting that sold on Tuesday, is believed to be the most expensive piece of art ever sold in Israel. A painting by Camille Pissarro sold in Israel for $1.2 million.

The Modigliani work, from the private collection of Israeli businessman and millionaire Meshulam Riklis, was sold by the Matsart gallery and auction house.

It remained in New York in order to avoid the 18 percent value added tax on the sale in Israel. Bidders were able to view the artwork in photographs, however.


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