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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Druze leaders challenge Israel’s nation-state law

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Druze leaders in Israel filed a challenge with the Supreme Court over legislation passed by the Knesset making Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”

The Druze leaders, including three Knesset members, called it “extreme” and said it discriminated against Israel’s minorities, the Times of Israel reported.

Arabs make up nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population. Members of the Druze minority serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

The lawmakers were from both the ruling coalition and the opposition: Hamed Amar of the Yisrael Beytenu party, Akram Hasson of the Kulanu party and Salah Sa’ad of the Labor party.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, a Druze lawmaker of the Likud Party, is likely to get an increase in his security detail after death threats made against him and his family after he voted for the law

Kara has received death threats online and was subjected to physical harassment.

Israel rejects Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria 60 miles away

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel rejected a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria some 60 miles from the border with Israel.

Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Iran leave the country completely, an unnamed senior Israeli official told reporters on Monday following a meeting in Jerusalem between Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Netanyahu also demanded that all long-range missiles that could reach Israeli territory be removed from Syria, the Israeli official said during a briefing, according to Israeli reports.

Israel is concerned that Iran will stockpile “hundreds and thousands of missiles” in Syria.  “Iran wants to turn Syria into a second Lebanon. And we’re determined to prevent that,” the official said.

“The removal of Iran must include the removal of long-range weapons, halting the production of precision weapons as well as the air defenses that protect the missiles, and the closure of border crossing that permit smuggling of this weaponry to Lebanon and to Syria,” said the official, according to Haaretz. “Russia has a certain ability to prevent this. They are a significant factor in Syria.”

The official said that the two-hour discussion “was a very important meeting at a significant time, during which we delved into many details, produced maps and shared intelligence, and explained in great detail our policy.”

The Russian delegation that came to Jerusalem on Monday also included Russian Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov. Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday that the Russia delegation was in Israel “at the request of President Putin, in a conversation he had with me a few days ago.”

Also at the meeting were Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

Prior to the meeting, Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office: “The link between us is extraordinarily important and it exists, as you have seen, in the direct meetings between myself and President Putin and between our staffs. I appreciated the words that were spoken by President Putin together with President Trump regarding the security of Israel during the recent summit.”

JCC camp counselor faces child pornography charges

(JTA)—A camp counselor at a Jewish community center in Tarrytown, New York has been accused of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Benjamin Bojemski, 20, was arrested and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography in Greenburgh town court, the Shames JCC on the Hudson in Westchester County said in a statement Friday.

Shames Jewish Community Center said it had conducted a background check before Bojemski was hired as a counselor at its River Friends Day Camp in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“We take our responsibility to our members and community very seriously; in particular as a provider of services to children,” the JCC’s executive director, Rabbi Andrew Ergas, said in the statement. “Creating safe and secure environment is at the core of our mission and values as an agency.”

Entire Western Wall is ‘danger zone,’ archaeologist says

(JTA) – After a large stone fell from the Western Wall on Monday, an Israeli archaeologist declared the holy site’s entire plaza a “danger zone.”

Other stones “could immediately fall” and hurt people, Zachi Dvira told The Times of Israel. He is completing a Ph.D. on the archaeology of the Temple Mount.

The boulder that fell Monday morning at one of the sight’s areas designated for egalitarian mixed prayer weighed about 220 pounds, according to Israel Radio. It missed all onlookers but landed close to a female worshiper.

“I didn’t hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet,” Daniella Goldberg, 79, told Hadashot TV news. She said that they “tried not to let the incident distract me from my prayers.”

Israel “doesn’t do proper preservation [of the site] because of politics,” Dvira said, arguing that the controversy surrounding the egalitarian prayer area has prevented the proper upkeep.

While the egalitarian section has been closed since the incident, he believes visitors should stand a few feet back from the wall in all of its sections, for safety reasons. He noted that several rocks from the Temple Mount’s other three supporting walls have fallen in recent years. The rock that fell Monday was broken in two from moisture created by the plants in the wall.

“It’s a matter of life or death,” he said.

In 2004, large pieces of Western Wall stone fell during Yom Kippur, injuring one worshiper.

The Western Wall’s official rabbi weighed in on Monday’s event, noting it happened the day after Tisha B’Av, during which Jews mourn the historical destruction of the First and Second Temples.

“This is an unusual and most rare incident that has not occurred for decades,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. “The fact that this powerful incident happened a day after the 9th of Av fast, in which we mourned the destruction of our temples, raises questions which the human soul is too small to contain, and requires soul-searching.”

Haredi Orthodox men vandalize campaign poster of woman running for Jerusalem mayor

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Several haredi Orthodox men were captured on video vandalizing the campaign posters of Rachel Azaria, the only female candidate for the mayor of Jerusalem.

The incident took place on Sunday night, hours after the posters were affixed on 300 Jerusalem city buses. The half-dozen vandals, clad in long black suit jackets and black hats, removed the photo of Azaria, which showed her from the shoulders and up.

Azaria, a member of Knesset for the Kulanu party, announced her candidacy two weeks ago for the October municipal election.

The campaign, which had been scheduled to launch on Monday morning, is being run under the slogan:

“Believe it. We can live together.”

Akaria said in a tweet that she received information from haredi Orthodox supporters who made it clear that the vandals are a “small and fanatic group that does not represent the haredi Orthodox community in Jerusalem.” She vowed to rehang the ads and continue her campaign “because we know it is possible to live here together.” The tweet also included video footage of the vandalism.

Extreme haredi Orthodox sects object to seeing images of women, calling it a lack of modesty, and have vandalized posters and billboards over the years. Bus companies have in the past refused to hang such ads out of fear of vandalism.

Stanford student threatens to ‘physically fight’ against ‘Zionist students’

(JTA)—A student at Stanford University threatened to “physically fight” against “Zionist students” following Israel’s passing of legislation making Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Hours later, Hamzeh Daoud, 20, who will be a junior at the university, amended his post to read “intellectually fight” but not before the original post had been saved in screenshot by at least one campus organization.

In his original post which appeared on Friday morning, Daoud wrote, “I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullshit. And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.”

Under the post he included a link to an article in the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz titled “Jewish Nation-state Law Makes Discrimination in Israel Constitutional.”

Some four hours later he amended it to read “intellectually” instead of “physically” and added a comment: “I edited this post because I realize intellectually beating zionists is the only way to go. Physical fighting is never an answer to when trying to prove people wrong.”

Daoud is an active member of the campus Students for Justice in Palestine and identifies as a “third generation Palestinian refugee,” the Stanford Daily reported. He previously served on the undergraduate Senate. His is a graduate of the Amman Academy in Amman, Jordan.

On Saturday, the Stanford College Republicans called on the university to fire Daoud from his residential assistant position over the threat, and posted a screenshot of Daoud’s original post to Facebook.

In an email to the student newspaper, Daoud said he was “appalled” over the law passed by Israel’s Knesset and “took to Facebook to share my pain.” In a second email to the newspaper he wrote: “I apologize if I made anyone feel unsafe. That was not the intent and will never be an intent of mine at all.”

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda told the student newspaper that Stanford officials are aware of Daoud’s post, and that Student Affairs staff are “following up” on the matter.

Dutch city blocks Turkish developer’s plan to turn synagogue into eatery

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A Dutch municipality rejected a Turkish entrepreneur’s plan to transform a 125-year-old synagogue into a restaurant.

The city council of Deventer in the east of the Netherlands last week deemed the plan “inconsistent with the building’s character,” a decision which blocked the plan of developer Ayhan Sahin to turn the tall, neo-Moorish style Grand Synagogue into an eatery, Joods.nl reported. He bought the building in January.

Tom Fürstenberg, chairman of Deventer’s Beth Shoshanna Jewish community, made up of several dozen members, said he was “relieved” following the decision. In April, he had told the regional newspaper De Stentor that it would be “scandalous” if the municipality approves Sahin’s plans.

Fürstenberg had also said the plan ran contrary to agreements made with Sahin. The Jewish community had hoped to continue to be able to use the establishment for religious purposes under new ownership.

In recent years, the small Jewish community of Deventer could no longer afford to maintain the large building, which is a listed national monument. It was sold to a local church, which resold it to Sahin for an undisclosed amount, the report said.

Across the Netherlands, nonprofit organizations and municipalities have taken over synagogues in cities without Jewish communities, turning them sometimes into popular museums, as in Groningen.

In 1940, in the days following the German invasion of the Netherlands, members of the Dutch National Socialist Party ransacked the Deventer synagogue as police stood by, destroying the interior. By 1943, Deventer had no registered Jewish residents. The vast majority of them were murdered in Nazi death camps. The interior was restored after World War II.

Sahin told De Stentor that his plan to turn the synagogue into a restaurant “is very interesting and one that would appeal to a lot of people from outside” the city of Deventer. He also said he regrets hearing the local Jewish community would be without a space to worship if the plan is approved, but added he is “not the Salvation Army.” He also said he would be willing to allow the community to keep using the building if they pay “full rent” for it.

Negotiations are underway between Sahin, the city, the Jewish community and other parties for a solution which that would allow the community to continue to worship at the synagogue.

Jewish US soldier buried 74 years after going missing during World War II

(JTA)—A Jewish-American soldier from World War II who was listed as missing for more than 70 years was buried in California.

Staff Sgt. David Rosenkrantz was buried on Friday at the Riverside National Cemetery, where four of his brothers also are buried, in a funeral 74 years after his death.

His remains were recovered and identified in March, near the farm where he was killed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

More than 30 of his relatives, including nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews, and their children, attended the funeral, according to the Times.

Rosenkrantz became a hometown hero three months after being shipped out to Europe in 1943, when he and another paratrooper were mistakenly dropped into an Italian unit and all 200 of them surrendered to the two American soldiers.

Rosenkrantz was killed at the age of 28 during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, in a battle chronicled in the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far.”

Rosenkrantz’s dog tags, which were stamped with a “J” for Jewish, had been returned to the family in March 2012, according to a website in his memory maintained by his nephew Dr. Phillip Rosenkrantz. According to the website, the dog tags were found not long after the war by a farmer and turned over to the U.S. Army. They were then misplaced and found by the army in 2011 and later released to the family

Phillip Rosenkrantz eulogized his uncle and received the folded American flag that had draped his coffin during the funeral.

“This is a day I have been hoping for over 20 years,” he said in his eulogy, according to the Times. “We now have some closure.”

The soldier’s remains had been recovered from the farm where he was killed by Canadian soldiers and buried in an American military grave in the southern part of the Netherlands. This was discovered by a Dutchman named Ben Overhand, who as a teenager began trying to find the remains of soldiers who helped liberate the Netherlands and saw the website dedicated to Rosenkrantz. His research led to finding the soldier’s body.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the federal agency responsible for recovering the remains of missing soldiers, exhumed the remains last year

Israel fires interceptors at Syrian missiles that appeared to be targeting the north

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel for the first time fired the David’s Sling missile defense system, following the launch of two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles.

The missiles, carrying about a half a ton of explosives, fired on Monday morning as part of Syria’s long-running civil war, at first looked likely to land in northern Israel near the Sea of Galilee, which triggered the launch of the medium-range missile defense system.

One of the missiles abruptly changed course and landed in Syrian territory. The second rocket also landed in Syrian territory, according to reports.

The rockets set off Code Red alerts in communities throughout the Golan and northern Israel.

According to Haaretz, one of the Israeli interceptors was self-destucted when it was clear the Syrian missile was not going to enter Israel; the fate of the other interceptor wasn;t reported.

Each David’s Sling interceptor missile costs around $200,000. In the last month, Patriot missiles have been fired twice in order to intercept unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, from Syria that entered Israeli airspace.

David’s Sling became operational in Israel in April 2017. It is intended to supplement the Iron Dome system, which targets short-range rockets, and the Arrow system for long-range ballistic missiles.


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