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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Hadassah hospital recovery plan calls for cuts, bailout

TEL AVIV (JTA)—A recovery plan for Jerusalem’s bankrupt Hadassah Medical Organization calls for an additional $869 million in funding and cuts to the hospital’s services.

The plan, submitted Sunday by the court-appointed trustees managing the recovery, would draw funding equally from the Israeli government and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which owns the hospital. Under the plan, Hadassah would lay off 30 doctors and researchers, as well as hundreds of employees, according to Haaretz. The hospital also would close several departments and restructure its board.

The hospital is saddled with nearly $370 million in debt and an annual deficit exceeding $85 million.

Hadassah declared bankruptcy in February after two large Israeli banks cut off its credit lines.

The Jerusalem District Court gave the hospital a 90-day stay of protection from creditors, after which the medical organization will be restructured or liquidated.

The court must approve the recovery plan, and an assembly of Hadassah’s employees and creditors will vote on it Tuesday.

Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, which represents Hadassah’s doctors, said the association could not approve the plan in its current form.

Eidelman called on the trustees to “alter the agreement by Tuesday and bridge over the gaps so the IMA can recommend that the doctors vote for it,” according to The Jerusalem Post. “We have only a few precious days for improvements to be made that would prevent the dismantling of this vital and exquisite institution called Hadassah.”

Israeli officials reiterate: Israel does not spy on U.S.

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Senior Israeli officials insisted that Israel does not spy on the United States in the wake of a second Newsweek article accusing Israel of “aggressive spying” against the U.S.

Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel’s Channel 10 over the weekend that someone is trying to ruin the cooperation between Israel and the United States by providing such information. The later article appeared Thursday; the first came out two days earlier.

Former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin on Saturday night called the accusations “absolutely baseless,” telling Channel 2 that “Israel is unequivocally not spying in the U.S.”

Newsweek reported that while then-Vice President Al Gore was on a visit to Israel in 1998, an Israeli spy hid in the air duct in his hotel bathroom. The article said that such incidents are not widely known because the aggressor is Israel.

An unnamed U.S. official quoted in the article rejected the assertion that the espionage accusations “had the whiff of anti-Semitism in it.”

“It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” the official said. “It has only to do with why [Israel] gets kid-glove treatment when, if it was Japan doing it or India doing it at this level, it would be outrageous.”

Knesset panel advances bill keeping murderers in prison without parole

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli parliamentary committee approved a bill that would allow murderers to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The measure, which passed the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday by a vote of 7-3, aims to prevent future releases from prison of Palestinian terrorists who killed Jews in swaps for either Jewish hostages or for advancing the peace process.

Committee members from the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home parties voted in favor of the bill; members from Yesh Atid and the Hatnua party of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni voted against it.

The bill’s sponsor, Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home, told Israel Radio before the vote that the measure would equally affect Muslim and Jewish murderers.

“Just as Arab murderers wouldn’t receive a pardon, neither would Yigal Amir,” Shaked said, referring to the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The bill would prevent the president from using his power to pardon criminals in cases such as terrorist attacks, nationalistic murderers and the killing of a child. A judge would have to approve such pardons.

Before becoming law, the bill must pass three readings in the Knesset. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in a post on Facebook that his party will work to quickly advance the bill through the Knesset.

“Killers should die in prison and not celebrate at home,” he wrote.

Rabbis press for safeguarding Mount of Olives cemetery against Arab attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA)—More than 100 Orthodox rabbis are urging action against ongoing Arab attacks on the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The rabbis, mostly from the United States, signed a petition organized by Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, the president and chairman of the Religious Zionists of America-Philadelphia chapter, together with Rabbi Dov Fischer of the Young Israel of Orange County, Calif.

Rabbi David Lau, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel,  also signed the petition, as did rabbis from France, Australia and Canada.

Cemetery visitors have been attacked and graves vandalized.

“We call on the Jewish community to press for immediate action by the appropriate authorities to safeguard this holy Jewish site and preserve the integrity of undivided Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital,” the petition said.

The petition will be presented Sunday at a public meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the issue co-hosted by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Menachem Lubinsky, leader of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeitim, or Mount of Olives.

There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the mountain, where Jews have been buried since biblical times. Notable individuals buried there include the prophets Zechariah, Malachi and Hagai; Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin; famous modern rabbis such as Aryeh Kaplan and Ahron Soloveichik; Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah; Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt; and British parliamentarian Robert Maxwell.

Israel offers Nigeria help in finding abducted schoolgirls

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Israel’s assistance to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in locating at least 200 schoolgirls who were abducted by an Islamist rebel group.

“Israel expresses deep shock over the crime that has been committed against the girls,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement issued Sunday by his office. “Israel is ready to assist in locating the girls and in fighting the brutal terrorism that is taking place in Nigeria.”

The Islamist rebel group Boko Haram kidnapped the girls last month from a boarding school in the northern Borno state. About 50 of the girls escaped.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau acknowledged the abduction of the girls, aged 12-17, and threatened to “sell” them in the market as “slaves,” according to the French news agency AFP.

Britain, France and England are currently assisting Nigeria in searching for the girls.

Amos Oz hit with incitement complaint after ‘Hebrew neo-Nazis’ comment

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A West Bank-based organization filed a police complaint charging Israeli author Amoz Oz with incitement to racism.

The complaint by the Samaria Residents Committee was filed in the West Bank settlement of Ariel two days after Oz called Israelis who carry out “price tag” attacks “Hebrew neo-Nazis,” the Times of Israel reported Sunday.

Oz made the statement last Friday at an event in honor of his 75th birthday.

“‘Price tag’ and ‘hilltop youth’ are sweet, sugary nicknames, and the time has come to call this monster by its name,” he said in a speech recorded by Israel’s Channel 2. “We wanted to be like all other nations, we longed for there to be a Hebrew thief and a Hebrew prostitute—and there are Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.”

Oz is considered a candidate for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Defending his words Sunday in an interview with Israel Radio, Oz said he made the statement in order to “shock.”

“The comparison that I made was to neo-Nazis and not to Nazis,” he said. “Nazis build incinerators and gas chambers; neo-Nazis desecrate places of worship, cemeteries, beat innocent people and write racist slogans. That is what they do in Europe, and that is what they do here.”

Hours before Oz’s speech, price tag attacks were discovered on a Jerusalem church and an Arab home in the Old City of Jerusalem, part of a recent uptick in attacks against such sites.

Price tag refers to the strategy adopted by extremist settlers and their supporters generally to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Tunisian parliament withdraws motions over Israeli tourists

(JTA)—The Tunisian parliament withdrew motions of no confidence against two government ministers accused of trying to normalize relations with Israel.

The motions were withdrawn late last Friday, shortly before the lawmakers were to vote on them, according to the French news agency AFP.

Eighty-five lawmakers in the 217-member parliament last month signed a petition requiring Tourism Minister Amel Karboul to appear and defend her decision to allow Israelis to enter the country with their passports for a religious festival this month. Deputy Interior Minister for Security Ridha Sfar also was summoned to appear before the legislative body.

Tunisia does not recognize Israel and has not had diplomatic relations with the Jewish state since 2000.

The Hilula of Ghriba, a feast that features a festive procession on or near Lag b’Omer, brings hundreds of Jews—many Israelis—to Tunisia every year. The procession traditionally ends at the El Ghriba synagogue, a 19th-century building that is among Africa’s oldest existing synagogues. Pilgrims from Israel until this year entered the country on special visas issued by Tunisia in advance.

In March, Norwegian Cruise Lines canceled stops at ports in Tunisia following the denial of entry to 20 Israeli passengers aboard its Jade ship.

Israeli Army Radio apologizes for anti-haredi rhetoric

(JTA)—An Israeli public radio station apologized for airing offensive statements about haredi Orthodox Jews on the eve of Independence Day.

In a satirical bit on Army Radio’s late night program, comedian Niv Majar recommended controlling overpopulation through cannibalism.

“We should go ahead and depopulate,” Majar said. “But there’s a paradox here because the people whose population I would like most to reduce are the haredim, but they probably taste awful, bland.”

Army Radio host Noa Tzinman interjected, “They stink because they eat matzah balls.”

Last Friday, Army Radio released a statement that said the station “rejects offensive statements that were made about the Haredi public on Independence Day eve by a guest interviewee.”

The statements were “inappropriate and represent neither the station’s views nor its staff.” Army Radio apologized to anyone offended by the statements.

The statements, which come amid a heated debate in Israeli society on conscription of haredi Jews into the Israel Defense Forces—Army Radio’s owner and operator—triggered protests online and at the radio station.

Earlier last week, activists for the haredi lobbying group Dosim showed up at Army Radio’s Jaffa headquarters and handed out matzah balls to soldiers.

Livni: Radical settlers may prevent peace deal

(JTA)—Israel’s justice minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, said the peace process may fail because of radical settlers.

“This is a hardcore ideological group whose center is in a certain settlement in Judea and Samaria, which does not accept any authority,” Livni, the leader of the Hatnua party, said last Friday in an interview with Army Radio.

She singled out the perpetrators of “price tag” attacks, assaults or cases of intimidation directed at Palestinians, security forces or left-wing Israelis.

“They want to prevent us from leading reasonable lives here and object to the values of the State of Israel, in which we believe,” she said, referring to the perpetrators of “price tag” attacks. “Politically, too, they are the ones who would prevent us [from reaching] a settlement.”

On May 8, a Nazareth court extended by seven days the remand of a 25-year-old man who was arrested while slashing tires of cars belonging to Arab Israelis. The man, who was not named in reports by Israeli media, is denying any wrongdoing.

A court in Jerusalem on the same day released the right-wing activist Amihai Matoki, whom police suspect of trying to burn down a mosque in the central city of Umm al Fahm last month.

A third suspect, Eliraz Fein, was released to house arrest pending an investigation into statements that endorse targeting Israeli troops. Police say that Fein, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, made them in writing while corresponding online with other settlers.

Rahm Emanuel on board for Hillary Clinton presidential run

(JTA)—Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined a group that is urging former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

Emanuel, who is Jewish and a former White House aide to Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, on Friday joined the Ready For Hillary group and will headline two fundraisers in June, Reuters reported.

His support comes less than a week after U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also backed the effort for Hillary Clinton.

“I’ve seen firsthand how Hillary has inspired women and men, and girls and boys, here in America and across the globe, and I know that as president, she would continue to move our country forward,” Emanuel, also a former congressman, said in a statement from Ready For Hillary.

The group—a super PAC that voluntarily caps donations at $25,000—is not officially affiliated with Clinton, who says she will decide whether to pursue the White House after November’s congressional elections. But it has the backing of numerous Democratic officials and donors.

Clinton, the secretary of state for four years under Obama, is considered a favorite to be the Democratic nominee in 2016 if she chooses to run again. Preliminary polling shows her leading other potential White House aspirants.

The former first lady and New York senator lost the hard-fought 2008 nomination battle to Obama, then an Illinois senator, and since has spoken openly about the difficulties of presidential campaigns.

Anita Diamant’s ‘The Red Tent’ to become miniseries

BOSTON (JTA)—“The Red Tent,” a best-selling novel by Anita Diamant, is being made into a four-hour miniseries by the Lifetime network.

The miniseries, based on a book that explores the lives of women in ancient biblical times, is expected to be broadcast later this year. It begins production this month in Morocco.

First published in 1997, “The Red Tent” has sold millions of copies and has been translated into 28 languages.

The cast features Emmy Award nominees Debra Winger and Morena Baccarin, Golden Globe Award nominee Rebecca Ferguson, and Academy Award nominee Minnie Driver. Among the male stars are Golden Globe winner Iain Glen, as well as Will Tudor.

Diamant was pleasantly surprised, she told JTA, noting that over the years, the rights to the novel had been bought before and other deals had fallen through.

“Gee, this is really going to happen,” Diamant said she realized when the agreement with Lifetime was finalized. “It’s great; I’m excited to see what they do with it.”

Diamant said she had no further role in the film.

“ ‘The Red Tent’ brings premium and popular elements to a unique and timeless story,” Rob Sharenow, executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime, said in a statement. “It perfectly articulates our vision for Lifetime as the destination for epic movie events.”

The novel is told through the voice of Dina, the little-mentioned daughter of Leah and Jacob. Dina shares the intimate lives of women through the stories they tell in the red tent, where they gather during menstruation and birthing.

“The Red Tent” was considered groundbreaking because it gave voice to women, whose stories are largely untold in the Bible.

Diamant, the award-winning author of six books about contemporary Jewish life and the novel “Day After Night,” said “The Red Tent” struck a universal chord. She said she hears from readersfrom many backgrounds and faiths, including receiving letters from girls at a Catholic high school.

 

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