Weekly roundup of world briefs
August 2, 2019
Lamar Odom visits Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite with his kids
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA)—Lamar Odom visited the New York gravesite of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the late leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, with his two children last week.
“I heard he makes miracles happen,” the former NBA star said in an Instagram post. “It’s a miracle to be here at this place with my children, reflecting on a better life we will build together.”
Tens of thousands of people, including non-Jewish celebrities, have visited Schneerson’s gravesite in Queens this summer on the 25th anniversary of his death. In the post, Odom pointed out that Rosh Lowe, Odom’s speaking coach, considers Schneerson a mentor.
In 2015, Odom fell into a coma at a brothel in Nevada after using cocaine and 10 doses of a “Viagra-like medication.” He recovered after having multiple heart attacks and strokes, and has since received drug treatment.
Odom shared a second Instagram post, which featured a photo of the rebbe and a video of a Chabad follower talking to Odom about religious observance.
“Even when we might be on the lowest rung of life’s ladder, living some of our lowest moments, we must focus on moving upward,” the man says to Odom.
Palestinian man sentenced to life in prison for killing Israeli soldier with marble slab
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian man was sentenced to life in prison for killing an Israeli soldier by dropping a marble slab on his head.
Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, 20, of the elite Duvdevan unit, died on May 26, 2018, two days after Islam Yousef Abu Hamid dropped the slab on his head from three floors up during an army raid on a Palestinian refugee camp near Ramallah. The raid targeted members of a terror cell involved in recent attacks and shootings against Israelis.
Abu Hamid, who was arrested two weeks after Lubarsky’s death, was sentenced on Sunday and ordered to pay Lubarsky’s family $72,900 in compensation. He was convicted by an Israeli military court in April.
Lubarsky’s father, Vladimir, called the sentence a “shame and an embarrassment for the Israeli justice system,” and called for the death penalty.
The family also called for compensation of $1.4 million, which is the sum they estimated would be paid to Abu Hamid by the Palestinian Authority for his time in jail.
The Israel Defense Forces in December razed Abu Hamid’s family home in Ramallah.
Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell wrote about his love of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA)—It’s true: Rock star Perry Farrell has rediscovered Judaism. So much so that he has a book of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings with him on tour.
That’s just one detail from a recent op-ed written by the 60-year-old Jane’s Addiction singer in Tablet marking the 25th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the influential leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
The essay, published July 14, touches on the history of Farrell’s Jewish identity, from getting kicked out of Hebrew school as a child for “making trouble” to finding Jewish spirituality while struggling with a drug addiction. During the latter period, Farrell discovered the work and teachings of Schneerson, whom Farrell calls a “modern prophet.”
“The Rebbe’s teachings help bring about a change of consciousness and a transformation in daily living. They inspire me in my life as an artist,” Farrell wrote. “We need to garner the Rebbe’s teachings and apply it to the here and now.”
Jane’s Addiction was one of the leading alternative rock bands of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Farrell, born Peretz Bernstein, has also released two solo albums, including “Kind Heaven” in 2019.
Israel demolishes 10 residential Palestinian buildings in eastern Jerusalem
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli army demolished at least 10 buildings on Monday in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.
The buildings, which reportedly contained over 70 apartments, were considered illegal because they were constructed too close to the security barrier between Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The residents received a 30-day notice of the demolition on June 18.
The United Nations and the European Union condemned the demolitions. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said in a statement that it “places the responsibility for this grave escalation on Israel.”
Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court declined to cancel a military order making construction in the area illegal. The ruling ended seven years of legal wrangling against the military order that in 2012 ordered a halt to the construction of the buildings due to their proximity to the security barrier.
Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, said in a statement that the court had ruled that “the illegal construction constitutes a severe security threat and can provide cover to suicide bombers and other terrorists hiding among civilian population and endanger the lives of civilians and security forces alike.”
“The court also ruled unequivocally that those who built houses in the area of the security fence knew that building in that area was prohibited,” he said, “and took the law into their own hands.”
Chelsea Clinton gives birth to third child
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA)—The Clinton clan just got a little bit bigger.
Chelsea Clinton announced on Twitter that she has had her third child, a boy named Jasper Clinton Mezvinsky. He joins Charlotte, 4, and Aidan, 3.
The former first daughter, 39, isn’t Jewish, but her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is. Clinton also heads an interfaith relations institute at New York University and frequently defends Jews on Twitter. The couple were married under a huppah.
Jared Kushner to visit Middle East to finalize economic peace plan
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—White House senior adviser Jared Kushner will travel to the Middle East to continue to push for the economic component of the Trump administration’s peace plan.
He will be joined next week on the trip by U.S. special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and special Iran envoy Brian Hook, a senior administration official confirmed to JTA.
They reportedly will visit Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and will follow up on last month’s economic peace summit in Bahrain, which the Palestinians boycotted and to which no Israeli officials were invited.
The “Peace to Prosperity” plan calls for $50 billion in investment to transform the Palestinian economy and build democratic infrastructures, including making the Palestinian judiciary more independent and expanding Palestinian higher education.
Thief tries to steal half a ton of chickpeas from kibbutz in southern Israel
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—You can make a lot of hummus spread from a half a ton of chickpeas, but not from jail.
Israel Police on Sunday arrested a man for his alleged attempt to steal half a ton of chickpeas from a kibbutz in southern Israel.
A Bedouin man in his 30s was taken in for questioning, the Times of Israel reported, citing police.
The chickpeas were found in an abandoned car that matched the description of a suspicious vehicle reported leaving Kibbutz Nahal Oz, located near the border with Gaza. It is believed that the legumes were stolen from the kibbutz’s agricultural fields.
Benjamin Netanyahu is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Netanyahu, 69, on Saturday surpassed the number of days as prime minister held by David Ben Gurion, the country’s first prime minister.
Ben Gurion served in the office for 4,875 days, from the establishment of the state in May 1948 until early 1954, and again from November 1955 to June 1963.
On Saturday, Netanyahu served 4,876 days from 1996 to 1999, and from March 2009 to the present. He faces a new election on Sept. 17 and possible indictment in three different corruption cases the following month.
His election in 1996 made him the country’s youngest-ever prime minister. Twelve Israelis have served as prime minister since the founding of the state.
He is the 16th longest-serving leader of a democratic country since World War II, according to statistics from the Israel Democracy Institute. Among those leaders are Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who as of July 20 served 5,972 days and counting; Germany’s Helmut Kohl at 5,870 days, and Canada’s Pierre Trudeau at 5,642 days.
Israel’s ambassador to US, Ron Dermer, to complete tenure at end of September
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, will complete his tenure in Washington D.C .at the end of September.
Dermer will leave Washington less than two weeks after Israel’s upcoming national elections, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported on Saturday night.
He will be forced to resign after Israel’s Civil Service Commission refused to extend his term of office by a year, as requested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The commission also rejected a separate request by Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz for the extension, saying that the term could only be extended until the formation of a new government, which could then decide on its own ambassador to Washington, Channel 12 reported.
Dermer is a close confidante of the prime minister, and a trusted liaison between Netanyahu and the Trump administration, according to the report.
He came to Washington in 2013, at the start of President Barack Obama’s second presidential term.
Netflix buys rights to screen 2019 Eurovision from Tel Aviv
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Tel Aviv in May, can be seen on Netflix.
Netflix picked up the U.S. VOD rights to the three 2019 telecasts from Israel – two semi-finals and the finals, Deadline Hollywood reported. The rights to the 2020 semi-finals and finals, scheduled to be held in the Netherlands, home of the 2019 winning country, also were picked up by Netflix.
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv was won by Netherlands with the song “Arcade,” performed by Duncan Laurence.
The Netflix acquisition comes as it currently has in production a Eurovision comedy feature, starring and co-written by Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams and directed by David Dobkin.
Eurovision is the world’s largest non-sporting live TV event and the most watched live entertainment program in Europe, attracting nearly 200 million television viewers worldwide annually.
Ohio man gets 30 months in prison for attacking man he thought was Jewish
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—An Ohio man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for attacking someone he believed to be Jewish.
Izmir Koch, of the Dayton suburb of Huber Heights, was sentenced last week for attacking Paul Marshall outside a Cincinnati-area restaurant in 2017. He was charged with committing a hate crime and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Koch, 34, was standing outside a restaurant asking people if they were Jewish. Though Marshall is not Jewish he answered in the affirmative when asked. Koch then beat him up, causing injuries to his ribs and a fracture of the orbital floor, the bottom portion of his eye socket.
The assailant, who is originally from Turkey, was indicted and convicted last year.
Todd Wickerham, a special agent leading the FBI’s office in Cincinnati, said the bureau sought a stiff sentence, Cleveland Jewish News reported.
“We just think the impact of someone being assaulted because of their religious preferences or their background is so impactful in the community that we want to take these cases on to make sure the penalties … really fit the impact of this,” Wickerham said.
Israel won’t block Omar and Tlaib from entering country, says envoy
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israel will not deny entry to any member of Congress, its Washington envoy said.
Ron Dermer responded Friday to speculation about whether two congresswomen who back the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel would be allowed to enter.
“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Ron Dermer said in a message his spokesman sent to reporters via WhatsApp.
Israel in recent years passed a law reserving the right to deny entry to advocates of Israel boycotts. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., both back BDS, and both have suggested that they plan to visit Israel this summer.
Hamas supporter arrested for allegedly planning to bomb hotel in Ashdod
By Gadi Golan and Lilach Shoval
(Israel Hayom via JNS)—A Bedouin man from the Negev town of Rahat was arrested in a joint Shin Bet security agency-Israel Police operation last month on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Israel, the Shin Bet reported on Sunday.
Adel Abu Hadayeb, 20, who was indicted in the Beersheva District Court on Sunday, told interrogators he had become radicalized after being exposed to Hamas propaganda online.
According to the indictment, Abu Hadayeb had attempted to make a bomb, which he intended to detonate at a hotel in Ashdod near where he worked as a gardener. He had also purchased materials to make a rocket and apparently tried to assemble one himself.
After his arrest, Abu Hadayeb led investigators to five grenades of various types, as well as a “Carlo” submachine gun.
The Shin Bet said in a statement following the arrest, “We take Israeli citizens’ involvement in terrorism very seriously. Some of them are influenced by the propaganda Hamas disseminates on social media and through Palestinian media outlets.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Jerusalem chief rabbi calls homosexuality ‘a wild lust that needs to be overcome’
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—The Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem said gay people cannot be religious Jews and called homosexuality “a wild lust that needs to be overcome.”
Rabbi Shlomo Amar made the remarks last week during a sermon. A video of some of his comments was published Monday by the Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
“There are people who call themselves religious who also fell into that trap,” he said, according to The Times of Israel. “They aren’t religious. It would be better if they cast off their kippah and Shabbat [observance] and show their true faces.”
The rabbi also referred to homosexuality as “a wild lust that needs to be overcome and it can be overcome.”
Three groups representing religious LGBTQ Jews– Bat-Kol, Havruta and the Gay Religious Community—slammed his remarks in a joint statement Tuesday, according to The Times of Israel.
“Rabbi Amar, with your harsh comments you called on our families to vomit us out of our homes and from our communities,” the organizations said.
Palestinian man illegally in Israel is shot trying to stab police officers
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian man was shot and injured after he tried to stab Israel Police officers in the northern city of Hadera.
The 21-year-old man, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, reportedly was in Israel illegally.
He pulled a knife on the officers late Monday night who asked to see his national identity card after he began to act suspiciously near a bus stop on a main thoroughfare in the city, Israel Police told the local media.