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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


‘The Band’s Visit’ wins 10 Tony Awards, including for best musical

(JTA)—“The Band’s Visit,” a jewel-box musical based on an Israeli film about an Egyptian band stranded in a hardscrabble Negev town, won the 2018 Tony Award for best musical.

“The Band’s Visit” dominated its categories during the 72nd annual Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall Sunday night.

Ari’el Stachel, the California-born son of an Israeli-Yemeni father and an Ashkenazi mother from New York, won the award for best featured actor in a musical for his performance as a romantic Egyptian trumpeter in the musical.

Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) won for Best Actor in a Musical and Katrina Lenk for best actress in a musical for their roles as, respectively, the leader of the band and the Israeli cafe owner who takes him in.

“The Band’s Visit” also won awards for best book (by Itamar Moses), best direction of a musical, best original score (by David Yazbek), best lighting design, best orchestration and best sound design.

Stachel, 26, is making his Broadway debut in “The Band’s Visit.” The play is based on the 2007 award-winning Israeli movie directed by Eran Kolirin. In her acceptance speech, Lenk paid tribute to the late Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz, who originated her role in the film.

In his acceptance speech, Stachel acknowledged his parents, who were in the audience, saying the musical led him to again embrace an identity he had long avoided.

“Both my parents are here tonight. I have avoided so many events with them because for so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said. “And after 9/11 it was very, very difficult for me, and so I concealed and I missed so many special events with them. And they’re looking at me right now and I can’t believe it.”

He also thanked producer Orin Wolf “for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time where we need that more than ever.”

“Angels in America,” playwright Tony Kushner’s 1993 epic about the AIDS epidemic, won the award for best revival of a play for the 2018 iteration starring Andrew Garfield.

Lindsay Mendez won for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a Musical for the revival of “Carousel.” Mendez,  whose father is Mexican American and who identifies herself as “a Mexican-Jewish girl,” said she had been advised to change her surname to downplay her ethnicity when she first moved to New York, but was glad she refused.

Iraqi man extradited to Germany after admitting to rape and murder of Jewish teen

(JTA)—An Iraqi man was extradited to Germany after admitting to raping and murdering a Jewish German teenage girl.

Ali Bashar, 20, a former Iraqi asylum seeker, was scheduled to be interrogated by German investigators on Sunday, after arriving back in Germany from Iraq on Saturday.

Bashar fled from Germany after the murder last week, and was discovered in Zakho in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, where he was arrested on Friday night.

The girl, identified by police as Susanna Maria Feldman, was found Wednesday outside Wiesbaden, a city in western Germany. On Thursday, police said two male asylum seekers were detained in connection to her rape and murder. One was later released.

There is no formal extradition treaty between Iraq and Germany. Bashar arrived in Germany in 2015 along with his parents and five siblings, the French news agency AFP reported. His request for asylum had been rejected the following year and he remained in Germany waiting for his appeal, according to reports.

“During interrogation following his arrest, the young man originally from Kurdistan confessed to killing the German girl,” Tariq Ahmad, police chief for the Dohuk province of Iraqi Kurdistan, told reporters, according to AFP. “He said that the two of them were friends but that they had a dispute, and that he killed her when the girl threatened to call the police.”

Police said there was no evidence that religion had been a factor in the violent crime.  The Central Council of Jews in Germany in a statement confirmed that Susanna was a member of the Jewish community cautioned against attributing any anti-Semitic motive. The Council wrote that “premature conclusions or speculation [about the case] are out of the question.”

Kosher restaurant owner near Boston charged with filming customers in the bathroom

(JTA)—The owner of a kosher restaurant in suburban Boston has been charged with illegally recording his customers as they used the bathroom, allegations that arose after he was charged last month in the rape of a 12-year-old girl.

Prosecutors said Tze Chung, 63, who owns the popular Taam China restaurant in Brookline, Massachusetts, may have recorded customers up to 20 separate times beginning as early as 2015, The Boston Globe reported.

On Friday, Chung pleaded not guilty in Brookline District Court to 15 counts of illegal recording. He was released on $7,500 bail and must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Chung, who has run the restaurant for 20 years, is accused of primarily recording a waitress at the restaurant whom he used to see romantically, according to The Boston Globe. She did not know she was being recorded. Chung has been ordered to stay 100 yards away from her and from the restaurant.

Last month, Chung was accused of child rape and other charges for allegedly assaulting the girl, whom he knows. The investigation in that case led to the illegal recording charges. He was released on $100,000 bail and ordered to wear a GPS bracelet.

Patriots’ Julian Edelman apologizes to fans for failed drug test

(JTA)—New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman responded to reports that he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs with an apology.

Edelman is appealing the four-game suspension for the violation, which was reported first on Thursday by ESPN.

“I am very sorry—I don’t know what happened,” Edelman wrote Friday on Instagram. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates and fans. As this matter is being appealed, I can’t say anymore but no matter what, I will be ready to play and pursue another championship with our team and for Patriots fans around the world.”

Edelman, 32, will miss the Patriots’ first four regular-season games. He would be permitted to participate in training camp practices and preseason games.

The Jewish Pro Bowler missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. Edelman, one of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite targets, is entering his 10th season.

He has caught as many as 105 passes in a season, played in three Super Bowls, starred in a series of comedic videos and written a children’s book. In April, he was credited with helping to stop a potential school shooting by a Michigan teen.

Jerusalem not the only Israeli city to be considered as Eurovision host

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Jerusalem reportedly isn’t the only Israeli city in the mix to host the 2019 Eurovision song contest.

Israeli officials are set to present four cities as possible hosts for the contest after the Ministry of Communications announced Sunday that politics would be kept out of the decision.

The ministry said in a statement following a meeting between Israel Public Broadcasting Corp.’s CEO, Eldad Koblenz, and Communications Ministry Director General Nati Cohen that the public broadcaster, and not the government of Israel, will conduct negotiations with officials from the Eurovision song contest.

During the meeting, “it was agreed that all the matters relating to the production of content and the other issues of production will include the contacts with the European Broadcasting Union, with the emphasis that there will be no government political involvement in these matters,” said a statement from the ministry.

A delegation from Israel’s public broadcaster is scheduled to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with EBU officials next week, the Israeli business daily Globes reported Monday.

The Israelis reportedly will present Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat as possible host cities. The cities will have to submit detailed bids to be considered. They reportedly are the only Israeli cities to meet Eurovision’s requirements, which include a stadium with a capacity of at least 10,000; a press center for about 1,500 journalists; hotel capacity of about 3,000 rooms; round the clock public transportation; and in the vicinity of an international airport.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision after Netta Barzilai won last month’s competition with the song “Toy.” At the time of her victory, Barzilai proclaimed that the competition would be held in Jerusalem, which was echoed by Israel’s culture and sports minister, Miri Regev.

Jerusalem as a venue has become increasingly controversial, including early calls for a boycott of next year’s song contest. Ynet reported last week that Eurovision organizers made clear to Israeli officials that if the location of next year’s competition became too much of a political football, it would move the venue.

Last week Argentina’s national soccer team canceled a friendly match in Jerusalem over pressure and physical threats from pro-Palestinian groups due to its location. The match had been moved to Jerusalem from Haifa.

Israel previously has hosted the Eurovision contest twice before in Jerusalem, a city that most countries do not recognize as Israel’s capital.

Globes reported that the total cost to Israel of hosting Eurovision will run between $41 million and $53 million. Israel is required to hand over a guarantee of $14 million to the European Broadcasting Union, or EBU, in August, according to the report.

Netanyahu hopes North Korea deal will be better than the one with Iran

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the world community to support President Donald Trump’s efforts to denuclearize both North Korea and Iran.

“Dangerous regimes should denuclearize,” Netanyahu said Sunday night to some 2,500 participants in the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Jerusalem.

The delegates to the forum, being held for the first time outside of the United States, came from 26 countries.

Netanyahu noted the upcoming meeting between Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un, according to a readout of part of the speech issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Israeli leader used the occasion to again ridicule the Iran nuclear agreement reached in 2015. Israel objected to the deal led by the United States and signed as well by China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

“I think the entire world, as we do, prays for the success of this effort,” Netanyahu said. “Now, imagine, imagine: Imagine that President Trump would come back with some deal, and Britain, France and Germany would applaud it and South Korea and Japan would say that it endangers their existence. You’d think you’d listen to this, right?

“So the same thing happened with the Iran deal. This deal was applauded by many in the international community who are not in the missile range of Iran, but Israel and Saudi Arabia and others said this deal will ultimately give Iran a nuclear arsenal, and they will use it first against us, and then with the long-range missiles that they’re building and that the deal doesn’t prevent them from building, against everyone else.”

Netanyahu said Middle East peace is illusive not because there is no Palestinian state, but because the Palestinians have conditioned peace on there not being a Jewish state.

“Imagine what would happen if President Abbas would not invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in paying terrorists and the families of terrorists who murdered innocent people,” he said, speaking of the Palestinian Authority leader. “Imagine that he invested this in the project of peace. Imagine that they invested it in Ramallah, or for that matter in Gaza. Imagine what this would do. And I think it would change the world, and the Palestinians could aspire to become scientists and doctors. Instead, they erect statues to mass murderers.

“It’s never been about a Palestinian state. It’s always been about the Jewish state. Recognize the Jewish state. Stop paying terrorists. And invest in peace.”

Netanyahu also called on Diaspora Jews from the non-Orthodox streams to visit the egalitarian prayer section of the Western Wall, which has been enlarged and upgraded, though a more comprehensive plan to ensure egalitarian prayer at the holy site has been frozen by his government. The freeze enraged many non-Orthodox Jewish groups in the Diaspora.

“You should visit it. We’re enlarging it. We’re making it accessible, so anybody can pray at the Western Wall,” he said.

“Anyone here is welcome. Welcome. Feel free to come here. Feel free to pray,” he said. “When you touch the Wall, know this truth: This is your home. And this will always be the home of every Jew.”

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria was scheduled to deliver a major address to the AJC forum on Monday evening.

New York City councilman to provide day of gender-segregated beach for Jewish and Muslim constituents

(JTA)—A New York City councilman is renting a city beach on Coney Island in order to host gender-segregated swim days for his Jewish and Muslim constituents.

Brooklyn Democrat Chaim Deutsch made the announcement on his Facebook page: “For many New Yorkers, including religious Jews and Muslims who observe modesty laws, there isn’t an opportunity to utilize our City’s beautiful beaches. I’m excited to offer the chance for EVERYONE to enjoy!”

Men and boys will be able to swim at the southern Brooklyn beach on Friday, June 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Women and girls will be invited to do the same on Friday, July 27.

Religious Jewish and Muslim women adhere to stringent laws of modesty that do not allow them to wear bathing suits in front of men.

Deutch has raised $400 per day to cover the cost of lifeguards and other staff, the New York Post reported. The beach at Kingsborough Community College, next to the popular Manhattan Beach in south Brooklyn, is usually closed on those Fridays since there are no summer classes then, according to the newspaper.

“I have a lot of Orthodox Jewish and Muslim constituents in my district who have never been able to go to the beach before,” Deutch told the Post. “They’ve never been able to smell the beach, to walk in the sand. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beach.”

Responses on Facebook to Deutch’s initiative ran from “great idea” and “Thank you. This is amazing,” to “Since we are going to have now Gentile-free days on the beach, can we also have a couple of Muslim-and-Jew-free days per week also? I think it will be only fair solution.”

Another Facebook follower wrote: “This is not Tel Aviv or even close to it. and if you want something like that perhaps go there?”

Israel destroyed Hamas terror tunnel that stretched out to sea

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s military destroyed a Hamas terror tunnel that reached several yards into the sea, which would have allowed the group’s naval commandos to launch an attack on Israel from its coast.

The tunnel was destroyed by the Air Force on June 3, when Israel carried out several airstrikes on Gaza in retaliation for rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel, the IDF said in a statement issued on Sunday, a week after the airstrikes.

The IDF said that it has known about the tunnel for several months and was waiting for the right time to destroy it. Hamas divers would have been able to discretely enter Israel in a short amount of time by using the tunnel, according to the IDF.

“The IDF will not allow any threat to the security of the State of Israel and will continue to act with determination against terror of all kinds. The IDF is determined to continue performing its task of defending the citizens of the State of Israel and its sovereignty,” it said in a statement posted on social media.

Hamas has been increasing its naval prowess and power for some time, a senior Navy official said in a statement.


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