Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Jerusalem peace rally brings out Jews and Arabs

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Some 1,500 Jews and Arabs rallied in Jerusalem for an end to the current violence and a resumption of the peace process.

The peace protest on Saturday night came after a day in which four Palestinians were killed during what are believed to be attempted stabbing attacks. The alleged assailants were killed in separate attacks, including two in Jerusalem. Three Israeli police officers and another alleged Palestinian assailant were wounded in the incidents.

In addition to the Jerusalem attacks, three occurred in the West Bank city of Hebron, including one near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The rally participants marched under the banner “we will not surrender to despair,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Standing Together, a group that formed in response to the deadly violence over the past month, organized the demonstration. Several Knesset members were on hand, including left-wing Meretz party head Zehava Galon, who called for international intervention to solve the crisis.

Right-wing protesters demonstrated on the sideline of the rally.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio meets Israeli terror victims

JERUSALEM (JTA)—New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Israeli terror victims at a Jerusalem hospital.

“When you are attacked, we also feel attacked,” de Blasio said during the visit Saturday night to the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem with his Jerusalem counterpart Nir Barkat. “We in New York are very familiar with the effects of terrorism,” he added, a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks on the city.

“You can’t think about acts of terrorism like this in the abstract when you meet the victims and you meet the families. It becomes very real,” de Blasio said. “There can’t be peace when civilians are wantonly attacked just for going about their business.”

Earlier in the day, de Blasio met with Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai and with Israeli and Palestinian children and their parents from the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School,a  joint Arab-Jewish school that was the victim of an arson attack late last year.  On Sunday, de Blasio, and 40 mayors from cities around the world, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.  He also was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

During his three-day visit to Israel de Blasio is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a conference of international mayors sponsored by the American Jewish Congress and other Jewish groups.

It is his fourth trip to Israel, his first as mayor, according to the New York Post.

U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman in Israel to talk Iran, Syria

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, visited Israel in his first official overseas visit since assuming the position earlier this month.

Dunford landed in Israel on Saturday night and was welcomed Sunday with an honor guard at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv.

On Sunday, he was scheduled to meet with his IDF counterpart, Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, as well as Russia and Syria.

“The trip has been planned for months,” Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, the chairman’s special assistant for public affairs, told the U.S. Department of Defense News. “The purpose is to meet his counterpart for the first time and reaffirm the strong ties between our militaries and our two countries.”

Dunford will stress America’s continuing strong support for Israel, according to Hicks.

“He will reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel’s security and then get a view from them of what security conditions are like here,” Hicks said.

Also Sunday, Dunford is scheduled to meet with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.

5 Jewish-Israelis injured in confrontation with Palestinians at Joseph’s Tomb

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Five Jewish-Israelis injured in a confrontation with Palestinian police were rescued and then taken in for questioning by Israel for illegally entering the Tomb of Joseph near Nablus.

The men, part of a group of about 30 Jewish-Israelis who entered the holy site late on Saturday night without coordinating the visit with the Israel Defense Forces, were attacked by Palestinian bystanders and claimed that Palestinian police joined in the violence against them, according to reports. One of the cars brought by the men was torched.

The men, reportedly yeshiva students from Jerusalem, said they went to paint and repair the tomb following an arson attack on the site two nights earlier that caused extensive damage. After being evacuated from the site, the men were taken to the hospital with bruises all over their bodies. They were treated and released before being taken in for questioning, according to Israel Police.

“The yeshiva students’ entrance to the site tonight was irresponsible and the incident could have ended in tragedy, especially in days as tense as these,” the police said in a statement.

Jewish worshippers in coordination with the IDF make monthly nocturnal pilgrimages to the site, which has been renovated and restored. But haredi Orthodox worshippers sometimes make illegal visits to the site, which is believed to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the site was to remain under Israeli control. The IDF evacuated the premises in October 2000 during the second intifada and it was burnt down by Palestinians.

Israel erects concrete barriers between Arab, Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel began erecting a portable concrete security wall between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

The fence was erected Sunday between the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber and the Jewish neighborhood of East Talpiot because of Arab youths throwing rocks and firebombs. The concrete blocks resemble part of the West Bank security barrier.

East Talpiot was the site of a stoning attack on a car that killed its Jewish driver on Rosh Hashanah eve, as well as a shooting and stabbing attack on a bus last week that left two Jewish-Israeli men dead. Several homes in the neighborhood also have been hit with firebombs.

Also Sunday, at least four Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, banned Arab workers from working in local schools while school was in session. Arab-Israeli cleaners and maintenance workers reportedly will be allowed to do their jobs in school buildings after students have left for the day, Reuters reported.

The other cities that have enacted the ban are Modiin-Maccabim-Reut, Rehovot and Hod HaSharon, all in central Israel.

Hundreds of Israeli Jews and Arabs form ‘human chain’ in call for peace

(JTA)—Approximately 300 Jews and Arabs held hands in a chain in the central Galilee to call for reconciliation amid the violence in Israel over the past few weeks.

The symbolic gathering last Friday afternoon was organized by Givat Haviva, an educational organization that promotes Arab-Jewish coexistence.

The group of Arabs and Jews assembled and held hands on both sides of the highway Road 65, near the Megiddo Junction in Wadi Ara, an area in the Galilee with a large Arab population.

Organizers called the event “a symbol of coexistence and shared life, specifically at this tense period,” according to the Times of Israel.

After the event, entitled “Choosing to Engage,” Givat Haviva held a small ceremony with discussions.

Givat Haviva issued a declaration before the event titled “Call for a Secure and Shared Life in Israel” that condemned “any attack on body, soul or property, as well as any expression of physical or verbal abuse.”

“We appeal to the leaders of both peoples to refrain from incitement and the ferment of emotions,” the statement read. “Our task at this time is to inspire calm and ensure public safety.”

The declaration was signed by seven mayors of Jewish and Arab municipalities in the Wadi Ara area.

In first, Israeli cocktail bar makes world’s top 50 list

(JTA)—A leading publication on alcohol for the first time ranked an Israeli pub on its list of the world’s 50 best bars.

Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar in Tel Aviv was No. 17 on the list published earlier this month by Drinks International, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported last week.

The same establishment, situated on Hayarkon Street near the U.S. Embassy in the central part of the city, was ranked last year by Drinks International as the best bar in Africa and the Middle East, but was only No. 56 on the worldwide list. This year, Imperial Craft retained its regional title and completed the most significant advance of all the establishments ranked, according to Haaretz.

The two non-Western bars that ranked above Imperial Craft were in Tokyo and Singapore. The Israeli bar was one of three Middle East bars in the top 50 along with  Zuma Dubai (No. 44) and Cyprus’ Lost & Found (48).

Bar Shira, an owner of Imperial Craft, recalled in an interview for Haaretz attending Drinks International’s ceremony on Oct. 9 in London, in which organizers read out bars listed in ascending order of excellence.

“We reckoned we’d get ranked 36, so when No. 30 came around and Imperial’s name wasn’t read out yet we were totally psyched,” Shira said. “At No. 25 we were nearing cardiac arrest.”

Palestinian in ‘press’ jacket killed in stabbing attack on soldier, police say

(JTA)—Israeli security personnel shot and killed a Palestinian man in photojournalist garb who stabbed a soldier, police said.

The terrorist approached the soldier at Zayit Junction, near Hebron in the West Bank, last Friday. The assailant was wearing a “press” flak jacket and carrying a camera, according to a Jerusalem Post report.

Paramedics said they transported a 20-year-old Israeli soldier with a stab wound in his upper body to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The attack came as Hamas called for a “day of rage” against Israel as two weeks of violence continued. Approximately 40 people, mostly Palestinians, have died in or as a result of the attacks.

Israel’s Foreign Press Association wrote in a statement that it “utterly deplores this violation of press privilege” and called “on local Palestinian media organizations to immediately verify all media credentials to ensure there are no violations.”

Notwithstanding the current tension in Jerusalem, the association’s statement continued, it “finds the violent behavior by security forces toward foreign journalists absolutely inexcusable and abhorrent.”

Israeli security forces are investigating allegations that troops have assaulted journalists.

Abbas’ office walks back ‘execution’ charge about 13-year-old terrorist

(JTA)—An official from Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’ office said that Abbas was misled before he accused Israelis of executing a Palestinian boy who is recovering from wounds he sustained while trying to stab Jews.

The statement by the unnamed official from Abbas’ office Friday came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of spreading “incitement and lies” by describing what happened to 13-year-old Ahmed Mansara in Jerusalem on Oct. 12 as a cold-blooded execution.

Gal Berger, Israel Radio’s reporter on the Arab world, said that an official from Abbas’ office told him that Abbas “was given the incorrect information right before the speech as a last-minute addition.”

In the speech in Ramallah on Wednesday, Abbas spoke out against “aggression by Israel and its settlers, who commit terror against our people” and who “execute our children in cold blood, as they did to the child Ahmed Mansara and other children in Jerusalem and elsewhere.”

Ahmed Mansara and his 17-year-old cousin, Hassan, were filmed stabbing a 25-year-old man in Pisgat Zeev, a neighborhood in northeastern Jerusalem, causing the man serious injuries before stabbing a second victim – a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was stabbed in the neck after exiting a candy store, according to news.walla.co.il.

Police officers shot and killed Hassan Mansara as he ran toward them wielding a knife. Ahmed Mansara was shot and taken to hospital in serious condition. His condition is stable, according to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

US ambassador to Israel: Israeli actions not excessive

(JTA)—The United States ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, said Washington does not view Israel’s recent actions to curb Palestinian violence as excessive and supports Israel right to defend its citizens.

Shapiro made the statement during an interview last Friday on Israel Radio about indignation by Israeli officials at what they viewed as a suggestion by a State Department spokesman that Israel was using excessive force against Palestinians.

“The United States does not view Israeli actions as excessive,” Shapiro said. “We recognize the Israeli government’s right and responsibility to defend its citizens.”

Asked whether the United States considered the shooting of knife-wielding persons intent on stabbing passers-by to be excessive, Shapiro said: “We have always supported and continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself. There is no justification, there is no excuse whatsoever for these outrageous attacks. They present a difficult situation to deal with.”

On Oct. 14, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that although Israel “has a right and responsibility to protect” its citizens, “we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force.”

Shapiro added that the United States “never suggested Israel changed the status quo” at the Temple Mount—a claim that seems to be fueling some Palestinian violence toward Israelis in the recent spate of attacks.

In answer to a reporter’s question, Kirby said that the status quo on the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, “has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence.” Shortly thereafter, Kirby walked back that statement, tweeting: “I did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif has been broken.”

Kirby’s statement on excessive force prompted Gilad Erdan, Israel’s interior security minister, to accuse the State Department of “hypocrisy” and demand that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry distance themselves from Kirby’s words and “clarify the U.S. position.” 

Joseph’s Tomb torched ahead of Palestinian ‘day of rage’

(JTA)—Palestinian rioters set fire to the compound of the Tomb of Joseph near Nablus.

Flames engulfed the tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank that is under control of the Palestinian Authority, early last Friday morning. Several hundred people gathered outside the site and a few individuals hurled firebombs over its fence, Army Radio reported.

No one was hurt in the incident, which ended after Palestinian police dispersed the crowd. Footage showed extensive damage to the tomb’s dome and to its perimeter fence, which was knocked over.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s president, said in a statement that the arson was “wrong, obscene and irresponsible.” He added that the P.A. will restore the site and investigate the incident. The tomb was also set ablaze in 2000 during the second intifada.

Palestinian Authority police and fire brigades arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

The riot occurred shortly after Hamas leaders in Gaza called for “a day of rage” on Friday against Israel—a term that is often used to describe shooting or the hurling of stones and firebombs at Israelis at various locales in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials harshly condemned the arson, which the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s director, Dore Gold, said was “reminiscent of the actions of radical Islamists from Afghanistan to Libya.” He added that the incident showed the Palestinians could not be trusted to control religious holy sites.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the attack anti-Semitic.

The culprits, she said, “are targeting sites holy to the Jewish people, that show our deep attachment, which goes back millennia, to the Land of Israel.”


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