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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Netanyahu: Palestinian refusal to recognize Jewish state ‘core’ of conflict

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and rejected U.S. warnings that Israel was devolving toward a single state.

The “root cause of the problem,” Netanyahu said in a video address Sunday to the annual Saban Forum, is that “the Palestinians have not yet been willing to cross that conceptual bridge, the emotional bridge of giving up the dream of not a state next to Israel, but of a state instead of Israel.”

Netanyahu’s appearance at the annual convention of U.S. and Israeli leaders, convened in Washington, D.C., by the Brookings Institution and sponsored by Israeli-American entertainment mogul Haim Saban, was a last-minute addition. It came after a scorching speech to the forum the previous evening by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warning that Israel’s settlement policies were leading toward a one-state outcome.

Netanyahu denied that Israel was headed toward incorporating the West Bank Palestinian population.

“The only workable solution is not a unitary state but a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” he said.

Palestinians, after the launch of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, at times have expressed recognition of Israel’s Jewish character. However, as relations deteriorated in the 2000s and Israeli leaders demanded a reiteration, Palestinian leaders have resisted reasserting recognition of Israel as Jewish.

Netanyahu likened claims that the settlements were hindering peace to the notion once prevalent in some circles that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the core of the broader Middle East conflict. The earlier idea of blaming Israel for regional turmoil was now seen as “childish and irrelevant,” he said.

“The same will happen with the core of the conflict being of the settlements,” he said. “They are an issue to be resolved, but not the core of the conflict.”

Women light Hanukkah candles at Western Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA)—About 100 women gathered at the Western Wall to light Hanukkah candles.

Security guards permitted 20 women to enter with their menorahs, but then attempted to ban and confiscate a large communal one being brought in by the Women of the Wall organization.

Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party used her parliamentary immunity to bring the communal menorah in to the site on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah, the Women of the Wall said in a statement.

“Despite Rabbi Rabinowitz’s ridiculous regulations and despite the police’s shameful attempts to keep us out, we entered and held a candle-lighting ceremony where women were full participants,” Svetlova said in the statement, referring to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Places. “The Western Wall belongs to the entire Jewish people, women and men alike, and the time has come for real equality—at the Kotel, in the Rabbinate and beyond.”

Last week, the Attorney General’s Office in Israel ordered Rabinowitz to include women in the annual national candle-lighting ceremony for Hanukkah in response to a campaign by Women of the Wall claiming that the state-sponsored exclusion of women from the Western Wall ceremony is discrimination and thus violates government regulations.

The national candle-lighting ceremony was held Sunday night in the men’s section of the Western Wall plaza, where the first candle was lit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A second ceremony was set to be held in an area further away from the Wall with several female government officials, including Knesset members Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev, despite Women of the Wall’s plea for woman lawmakers not to attend.

Women of the Wall in a statement called it a “second-class Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.”

Yossi Sarid, former left-wing government minister in Israel, dies at 75

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Yossi Sarid, a former left-wing Israeli government minister, was buried in Israel in a civil ceremony.

Hundreds attended the funeral Sunday in central Israel for Sarid, a one-time leader of the Meretz party. He died of a heart attack two days earlier at his home. Sarid was 75.

“He was always worried about something and the burden of the whole world was on his shoulders. Now he is resting,” his son, Yishai, said at the grave, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Author Amos Oz said in his eulogy: “His voice accompanied us, a voice that kept reminding us that there is no conflict between justice and political intelligence. There is no contradiction between love for Israel and the hope for peace, and vice versa.”

Sarid served in nine Knessets for 32 years between 1974 and 2006, first for the Labor Alignment party and then Meretz. He served stints as education minister and environment minister in the governments of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak.

He began his political career as a speechwriter and diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol after serving as a military correspondent for Israel Radio and Davar newspaper, and before that a member of the artillery corps in Israel’s army.

After retiring from politics in 2006, Sarid began writing weekly columns for the Haaretz newspaper.

“Yossi Sarid had a unique voice in Israeli politics; he was opinionated and sharp,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued after Sarid’s death. “Even though we disagreed on many issues, I appreciated his devotion to his path, his broad knowledge and the meticulous Hebrew with which he spoke and wrote.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in a statement called Sarid one of Israel’s leading parliamentarians and politicians.

“He was a fierce, challenging, and faithful fighter for his beliefs,” Rivlin said. “Even when his criticisms were sharp and harsh, he always related to his opponents with great seriousness and respect, even when they emphatically opposed what he said.”

He is survived by his wife, Dorit, their three children and grandchildren.

2 lightly wounded in Jerusalem vehicular-stabbing attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli police officer and a civilian were lightly wounded in an attack in a haredi Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood.

On Sunday evening, a Palestinian assailant drove his car into an Israeli pedestrian in the Romema neighborhood before exiting the vehicle and stabbing a policeman, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The assailant, who was later  identified as a 21-year-old from eastern Jerusalem, was shot dead at the scene by an Israeli soldier who happened to be nearby.

Magen David Adom treated the victims before they were to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Romema is in northwest Jerusalem, near the main entrance to the city.

Israel’s Iraqi, Moroccan and Algerian Jews who survived WWII to get Holocaust payments

(JTA)—Israel will, for the first time, distribute an annual payment and other special benefits to Israeli Jews from Iraq, Morocco and Algeria who suffered during the period of the Holocaust.

The new policy, which Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said is“righting a historical wrong,” comes in response to several lawsuits filed by Iraqi Jews, arguing that they should be entitled to certain benefits the government provides European Holocaust survivors, the Times of Israel reported last Friday.

The new benefits—approximately $950 per year and free medication—will go to Jews from Algeria and Morocco who were persecuted between 1940 and 1942 and to Jews from Iraq who were targeted in the “Farhud” pogroms in Baghdad in June 1941.

Several historians have argued that Nazi Germany actively encouraged persecution of Jews in Arab countries during World War II, the Times of Israel said, citing Haaretz.

Jews from Libya and Tunisia, which both were under Nazi control until 1943, were already eligible for Holocaust survivor compensation, with payments starting at $7,000 annually.

Israel says it is still gathering evidence in Duma attack

(JTA)—Israel says it still doesn’t have enough evidence to charge suspects in the case of a West Bank arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said last Friday that investigators were still collecting evidence about the July attack in which a Palestinian home in the village of Duma was torched.

Ali Dawabsha, aged 18 months, died in the attack. His parents, Saad and Riham, later succumbed to their injuries.

“There are not many investigations that have as high a priority as that of the murder that was carried out in the village of Duma, and still the Shin Bet and police are advancing in this investigation,” Erdan said in an interview Friday with Army Radio.

Erdan’s comments came the day after reports surfaced that several Jewish youths had been arrested in connection with the attack. A gag order has limited the publication of details about the investigation.

4 Israelis wounded in 3 West Bank attacks

(JTA)—Four Israelis were wounded in three separate West Bank attacks.

Two Israeli soldiers sustained minor injuries when a Palestinian assailant hit them with his car near the village of Silwad. The driver was shot at the scene, the Times of Israel reported.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian attacker was shot dead after stabbing an Israeli soldier near the village of Abud, the Times of Israel reported. The soldier suffered moderate wounds.

On the night of Dec. 3, an Israeli soldier was stabbed near Hebron by two Palestinian assailants, both of whom were shot dead at the scene.

Report: Islamic State Sinai chief in Gaza to coordinate with Hamas

(JTA)—The commander of the Islamic State in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is reportedly on a secret trip to Gaza to coordinate with Hamas.

Shadi al-Menei, one of the founders of the militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which later joined the Islamic State, is currently in the coastal trip, Israel’s Channel 2 reported last week.

The trip is intended to enhance coordination between the groups and discuss the ongoing supply of weapons sought by Hamas, the channel reported.

Egyptian security officials reported last year that al-Menei had been killed, but the claim turned out to be false.

Israel reportedly strikes near Damascus

(JTA)—Israeli jets reportedly struck a Syrian army convoy north of Damascus.

The raid last week, reported by Israel’s Channel 2 citing Arab media sources, reportedly targeted a convoy loaded with missiles after it had left an army base.

Israel has been reported to have struck occasionally in Syria in the course of that country’s years-long civil war. Earlier last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israel Defense Forces are active in Syria “from time to time,” specifically to prevent the transfer of weapons to Lebanon.

San Bernardino killer’s father: Son was obsessed with Israel

(JTA)—The father of San Bernardino killer Sayed Rizan Farook said his son was obsessed with Israel, which shaped his Islamisist worldview.

Sayed Farook told the Italian newspaper La Stampa over the weekend that he tried to persuade his son not to act on his hatred of Israel.

“I told him he had to stay calm and be patient because in two years Israel will not exist anymore. Geopolitics is changing: Russia, China and America don’t want Jews there anymore. They are going to bring the Jews back to Ukraine,” Sayed Farook said.

“What is the point of fighting? We have already done it and we lost. Israel is not to be fought with weapons, but with politics. But he did not listen to me, he was obsessed.”

Sayed Rizan Farook was killed in a shootout with police after the Dec. 2 attack on a holiday party at a building housing a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14.

Sayed Farook told the newspaper that his son spoke about the Islamic State and that his wife, Tashfeen Malik, who also was killed in the shootout with police, may have radicalized him.

The Farook family, originally from Pakistan, has been living in the United States since 1973.

Yuri Foreman, ex-boxing champ and now ordained rabbi, scores victory in return to ring

(JTA)—Yuri Foreman, the former junior middleweight boxing champion and a newly ordained Orthodox rabbi, ended his two-year hiatus from the ring with a victory.

Foreman, 35, won in a unanimous decision over Lenwood Dozier at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday night. All three judges scored the eight-round super welterweight bout 77-75.

Foreman improved his record to 33-2; he has nine knockouts. Dozier, 34, of Maryland, fell to 9-10; he also has one draw.

In 2013, Foreman quit boxing after losing his title to Miguel Cotto at Yankee Stadium three years earlier and sustaining a series of injuries. According to ESPN, he had been the first Orthodox Jew to win a world title in over 70 years when he beat Daniel Santos in 2009.

During his hiatus, Foreman was ordained as a rabbi by Dovber Pinson, a Chabad rabbi based in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, The Algemeiner reported.

Foreman, a Belarus native who grew up in Israel, now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“Boxing is a very spiritual sport. We all have different paths,” the fighter said in a news release. “My faith keeps me centered and focused. You can be anyone. You can be a rabbi and still be fighting on the big stage at Barclays Center.”

In Paris, public Hanukkah ceremonies held despite security concerns

(JTA)—Some 6,000 people gathered in Paris under heavy security for the public lighting of a Hanukkah menorah at the base of the Eiffel Tower, despite security concerns in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia lit the first candle of a 30-foot menorah on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah, in the Eiffel tower  ceremony attended by French Jewish leaders and government representative and sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch.

“This year, Hanukkah delivers a particularly relevant message,” Rabbi Chaim Schneur Nisenbaum of the Complexe Scolaire Beth Haya Moushka school system in Paris said. “In Paris, we very recently faced terrible attacks ... intended to put an end to freedom of mind and opinions. In the historical times of Hanukkah, the invaders of the land of Israel, the Greeks, had the same intention. But the Jews did not submit.”

The Eiffel Tower event is one of more than 30 public menorah-lighting celebrations scheduled to take place across the city and in nearly 100 towns nearby. The public gatherings, which had to be approved in advance, are being held under heavy security, according to Chabad. org.

Rumors circulated last week that public menorah lightings would be canceled in light of the state of emergency in Paris initiated after the Nov. 13 coordinated attacks that left at least 130 dead.

Two of the menorah lighting venues of previous years, Republic Square and Bastille Square, both located near the Bataclan theater—the site of one of last month’s attacks—were not approved, Nisenbaum told Chabad.org.

Public Hanukkah celebrations in the French city of Marseille will be held indoors this year at the request of public security officials, according to Chabad.org. Marseille has been the location of several violent attacks against Jews in recent months and has a history of attacks on Jews.

NY mayor to Syrian Jews: Sympathize with Muslim refugees from shared homeland

(JTA)—New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Sabbath address to a Syrian Jewish synagogue called on congregants to sympathize with Muslim refugees from their shared homeland.

The worshippers at the Orthodox Congregation Shaare Zion in Brooklyn appeared to disapprove of the mayor’s address, the New York Post reported Sunday, noting that the congregants murmured uncomfortably as he compared Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s civil war with Jews fleeing the Nazis.

“I know this community understands deeply the pain of any family that must leave a homeland they love because they were forced away by violence and discrimination,” said de Blasio, calling on people to “look at history.”

There is disagreement among elected officials and the public over the resettlement of Muslim refugees in U.S. cities.

The congregants reportedly only applauded when de Blasio vowed to protect the city’s Jews in the wake of recent targeted terror attacks in Jerusalem and Paris.


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