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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Tel Aviv makes top 10 in ‘selfiest cities’ list

TEL AVIV (JTA)—Tel Aviv has the sixth-most selfie-takers per capita of any major city, according to a ranking in Time magazine.

Among Tel Aviv residents, 139 per 100,000 frequently take selfies, or self-portraits taken with a cellphone, according to the “top 100 selfiest cities in the world” survey published last week. Time calculated the results by surveying 400,000 selfies tagged according to location on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing online social network.

The survey looked at selfies from cities worldwide with at least 250,000 residents. Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city, has a population of approximately 400,000. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and biggest city, did not crack the top 100.

The Philippines’ Makati City won the distinction of the “selfie capital of the world,” with 258 selfie-takers per 100,000. The United States holds three of the top five spots, with the New York borough of Manhattan placing second, Miami placing third and the metropolitan area of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Calif., placing fourth.

Palestinian youth throw stones at Israeli police on Temple Mount

TEL AVIV (JTA)—Palestinian youth pelted Israeli police with stones at the Temple Mount for the third time in a month.

The stone-throwing occurred Sunday morning near the Mughrabi Gate, where non-Muslims enter the holy site, according to the Times of Israel. No policemen were injured.

The incident follows two riots in February at the same gate. On Feb. 27, protesters threw firecrackers at police, injuring two.

Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel arrived at the Temple Mount shortly after Sunday’s rioting for a scheduled visit that was cut short due to the unrest.

“The reality where there are disturbances on the Temple Mount and these prevent Jews from ascending is unacceptable,” said Ariel, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, according to the Times of Israel. “I went up this morning and I intend to continue to do so in the future.”

Jewish state recognition, prisoner release on agenda for Abbas-Obama meet

TEL AVIV (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold firm in his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state when he meets with President Obama at the White House.

Monday’s meeting in Washington, D.C., will center on the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israel’s planned release of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for late this month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel’s Jewish character a key condition of any final peace agreement, but Abbas has said the condition would undermine Palestinian refugees’ right to return to Israel.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog also says the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Times of Israel reported.

As to the prisoner release, which is scheduled for March 28, some members of Israel’s governing coalition have voiced their opposition. The release would implement the fourth and final stage of Israel’s agreement last year to free 104 Palestinian prisoners as a condition for resuming peace negotiations.

On Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon criticized Abbas for being inflexible in the talks, calling him “not a partner” for an agreement. Yaalon has criticized the negotiations in the past, saying he doubts their chances for success.

Palestinian driver injures four Israeli border police

TEL AVIV (JTA)—A Palestinian driver injured four Israeli border policemen when he struck them with his car.

The soldiers were lightly wounded Saturday in the incident at an Israeli roadblock in the West Bank, according to reports. A soldier at the scene stopped the car by shooting at its wheels.

The driver said he hit the soldiers by accident when he stepped on the accelerator rather than the brakes.

The Israel Defense Forces is investigating the incident, which follows a flare-up in fighting between the IDF and Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Qaida affiliate claims responsibility for Lebanon border attack

(JTA)—A terrorist group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for an attack on an Israeli army jeep on Israel’s border with Lebanon.

No soldiers were injured in last Friday’s attack, in which the terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fired shots at an Israeli patrol, according to the Times of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces, believing the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah was responsible for the attack, had retaliated by firing on Hezbollah positions. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war.

The attack follows intensified fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip. The flare-up ended March 13 with the restoration of the 2012 truce brokered by Egypt.

Kerry says mistrust is high in talks, cites ‘Jewish state’ issue

WASHINGTON (JTA)—John Kerry said Israeli and Palestinian mutual mistrust remains high, and the U.S. secretary of state expressed frustration with the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry fielded questions about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for two days last week from congressional committees probing his department’s budget requests.

“I do believe both parties are serious,” Kerry told the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. “Both parties want to find a way forward. But, each of them—you know, the level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I’ve ever seen. On both sides. Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that both—that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here.”

Kerry’s pessimism, weeks before he is to unveil a framework for advancing the process, is in marked contrast to the optimistic tone of his chief negotiator, Martin Indyk, who just two months ago described substantial advances in a conversation with Jewish leaders.

Since then, Israeli officials have expressed reservations about proposals to replace Israel’s presence in the Jordan Valley with technological substitutes, and Palestinians have stood fast on not recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

That issue, particularly, appeared to frustrate Kerry.

He noted that the United Nations recognized Israel as such in 1947 and said that the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, had done so twice.

“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace, and we’ve made that clear,” he said Thursday, addressing the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It was not clear if Kerry believed the “mistake” in this case was Israel’s, or the Palestinians’, or whether both were to blame.

However, he appeared to be endorsing the premise of a question posed to him by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who  blamed Palestinians for the impasse.

“You’re absolutely correct,” Kerry said, in starting his answer.

A JTA request for clarification from Kerry’s aides was not answered.

In an earlier exchange, Kerry had told Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, that one way past the “Jewish state” impasse was to make clear in any agreement that the rights of non-Jews would be preserved.

As long as recognition includes a nod to “equal rights and non-discrimination against any citizen,” Kerry said, the likelihood increased of Arab and Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry, in his remarks to both committees, stressed his commitment to Israel’s security.

He pushed back against a warning from the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that Congress would cut funding to the Palestinian Authority unless Kerry was able to certify that the Palestinians had ended incitement against Jews and Israel.

“Let me say to you, it’s something that is a concern within leadership,” Kerry said, referring to the Palestinians. “It’s not always something that’s controlled all the way down the chain; it’s not always, you know, it’s not always easily accessible. Even though one person may issue an instruction, some things don’t happen. So, it’s a little more complicated, but we’re working on it.”

Kerry also pressed his request for a waiver to work with UNESCO, the science and cultural adjunct of the United Nations.

The Obama administration, heeding the law banning affiliation with international organizations that recognize a Palestinian state absent a peace agreement, last year withdrew from UNESCO.

Kerry said the U.S. absence harmed Israel. “What happens is, we actually lose our voice and our capacity to fight for Israel and to fight for other interest that we have,” Kerry told the foreign operations subcommittee. “We are stripped of that.”

Two pieces of Nazi-looted Dutch art to be returned

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—The Dutch government said it will return two Nazi-looted paintings to the heirs of a Jewish Holocaust victim.

“Amsterdam Town Hall” by Gerrit Berckheyde and “View of a Dutch Harbour with Figures” by Adam Willaerts—both from the 17th century—belonged to the Dutch Jewish collector Sam Bernhard Levie, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War wrote on its website last week.

Holland’s minister of education, culture and science, Jet Bussemaker, has accepted the advice, the commission said, and will return the paintings to Levie’s heirs.

Levie sold the artworks in September 1940, several months after the German occupation of the Netherlands, to the art dealer Walter Andreas Hofer, who acted as an agent for Nazi party boss Herman Goring.

Levie was deported to the Sobibor death camp in Poland, where he was murdered in 1943.

The statement did not say how much money Levie received from the sale.

The paintings were shipped to Germany and then returned to Holland and incorporated into the government’s national art collection. The Willaerts painting was on loan at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. The Berckheyde painting was at the Amsterdam Museum.

Last year, a different advisory committee found that dozens of Dutch museums are in possession of at least 139 items with “problematic origins.” The list published by the Committee for Museum Acquisitions in October of works from 1933 onward includes priceless items that are in the hands of 41 museums, including such renowned institutions as the Rijks and Stedelijk museums.

David Brenner, observational humor royalty, dies at 78

NEW YORK (JTA)—David Brenner, a longtime standup comedian whose observational humor is credited with inspiring many top comics, has died.

Brenner, a Philadelphia native, died at his home in New York City on Saturday after battling cancer. He was 78.

A favorite of Johnny Carson, Brenner appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 150 times—reported to be a record—starting in the 1970s. The former documentary filmmaker was a regular on TV talk shows and starred in four HBO specials.

“David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing,” comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. “To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy. He mentored me from day one.”

Lewis added, “His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”

Several of his uncles became rabbis, but Brenner told the Philadelphia Jewish Voice in 2008 that “I never had the calling.”

Brenner was performing his standup routine regularly as late as last year.

“David was one of the most respected and liked comedians by his peers,” said Jeff Abraham, his friend and former publicist. “He was always there helping a bright young comedian, whether it be Richard Lewis, Freddie Prinze or Jimmie Walker, and he was still doing it until the very end.”

White House Purim statement features hamantaschen recipe

(JTA)—The White House released a statement marking Purim that includes a recipe for hamantaschen, the holiday’s traditional snack.

The statement was released last Friday in advance of the beginning of the holiday on Saturday night. It retells the Purim story of the ancient Persian Jews’ triumph over evil, and notes that “these themes resonate throughout the centuries and in today’s world as well. By speaking up and speaking out, justice will triumph over evil.”

Also featured is a description of hamantaschen along with a recipe for the three-cornered pastries, as well as a recipe for bourekas, another traditional three-cornered food.

Two Jewish schools in Atlanta merging

(JTA)—Two Jewish day schools in Atlanta, Greenfield Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva Atlanta, are merging.

The Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy is an independent community day school for pre-kindergarten to eighth grade founded in 1953. Yeshiva Atlanta is a modern Orthodox high school founded in 1971.

The new entity is being billed as a college preparatory day school that will run from preschool through high school. The schools’ respective boards approved the merger last week; the union is to take effect at the end of this school year.

“Both GHA and YA have amazing attributes that will be magnified as a result of this merger,” Ian Ratner, who will be president of the board of the newly formed school, said in a statement. “We know from our research that the preschool-12 grade model is clearly best practices. Being a part of this endeavor is an honor for me.”

Nancy Weissmann, the board president of Yeshiva Atlanta, said both schools are in a strong position financially and educationally.

“The partnering of these two Jewish schools will facilitate a new level of educational excellence in a positive Jewish environment,” she said. “By combining resources, we will be able to give our students the best education possible.”

Judy Stolovitz, the president of GHA’s board, said the new school would aim to “inspire young Jews in Atlanta to believe in and live a Judaism that is tolerant, inclusive, embracing and non-judgmental, that is intellectually open.”

The Atlanta area, which has approximately 120,000 Jews, has three other Jewish primary schools and two other Jewish high schools.

Latvian minister to be fired for endorsing SS vets

(JTA)—Latvia’s prime minister said she would fire a Cabinet minister planning to march with local SS veterans.

Einars Cilinskis, Latvia’s minister for environment and regional development, said he would attend Sunday’s rally in Riga, Reuters reported last Friday.

“Taking into account that the minister has said today he would join the march and would not resign by himself, the prime minister will later today sign an order for his dismissal,” Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s spokesman Andis Blinds said.

Now in their 80s and 90s, many of the Latvians who joined the armed wing of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party were led by the Latvian SS commander Viktor Arajs. He and his troops were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Of 70,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania during German occupation, only 200 survived the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

In the Baltic nations, many people today admire Nazi collaborators because they fought for independence against the Russians, who occupied the Baltic nations until the 1990s.

Efraim Zuroff of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA he intended to participate in a counter-demonstration in Riga against the Nazi march.

Earlier this week, Zuroff attended a counter-demonstration in Vilnius, Lithuania, with five others to protest the glorification of the Lithuanian Nazi collaborator Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis at a nationalist march of 2,000 in the center of Vilnius.

Admirers of people like Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis and Arajs “are the spiritual heirs of those who committed the crimes of the Holocaust,” Zuroff said. “It is unthinkable that they should march through European Union capitals and cause unimaginable pain to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

 

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