Weekly roundup of world briefs
October 18, 2019
Hundreds of etrogs held up at airport in England over new import regulations
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Hundreds of etrogs, the citron fruit used for the holiday of Sukkot, were seized at an airport in England.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency held up the shipment at the Manchester Airport under new and stricter regulations on the import of citrus fruit. Etrog importers were unaware of the new rules, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews worked with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to have the 600 etrogs taken to a Manchester synagogue, where the stalks could be trimmed to meet the stricter rules, the Board of Deputies reported. The fruits also must be destroyed immediately after the holiday.
Some 10,000 etrogs were due to be imported to Britain for Sukkot this year.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said the board’s “timely intervention” has “potentially saved Sukkot.”
“The waving of the lulav (palm branch) and etrog with hadas (myrtle) and arava (willow) is an essential and iconic part of the festival and it was vital to ensure the supply of etrogs for this year,” she said in a statement.
Van der Zyl called on suppliers to “ensure that etrogs are imported in full compliance with regulations in the years ahead.”
The shipmen was seized at the end of last month.
Golda Meir’s Yom Kippur letter to bereaved families has been discovered
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A letter of condolence to bereaved Israeli families written by then-Prime Minister Golda Meir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War has been discovered.
In the years following the establishment of the Jewish state, it was customary for the prime minister to have contact with the families of killed soldiers, including sending letters for holidays and official occasions. Meir was scrupulous about the custom and frequently corresponded with bereaved families both privately and officially.
On the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Meir sent a letter, dated Oct. 5, to bereaved families in which she wrote: “Your pain is the pain of the entire nation … Our main concern is achieving peace for Israel. The memory of our loved ones motivates us to do anything in our power so that there be no more casualties, and we know no more bereavement.”
A day later saw the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, which claimed the lives of 2,500 Israeli soldiers.
Meir resigned in April 1974 amid public criticism and a loss of confidence in the government.
The letter will be offered for sale at the Kedem auction house in Jerusalem in December.
Maron Aran, an owner of Kedem, said in a statement that the letter “unexpectedly” came to the auction house in the run-up to Yom Kippur this year.
“It evokes, more than anything else could, the tragedy that the State of Israel suffered 46 years ago,” Aran said. “A few hours after the Prime Minister shared in Israel’s national mourning for the victims of previous wars, a new war broke out,” adding thousands of families to the rolls of the bereaved.
Palestinian Authority removed agreements signed with Israel from textbooks, monitoring group reports
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Palestinian Authority has removed information about agreements signed with Israel from its textbooks, according to an organization that monitors Palestinian educational material.
The only signed agreement still mentioned in books studied by students in the West Bank and Gaza from first grade through high school is the 1993 Oslo Accords, which now is mentioned less favorably and with less detail than in earlier versions of the textbooks, Ynet reported, citing research by the Israeli NGO IMPACT-se, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
The 2019 textbooks do not include the PLO statement calling for “coexistence,” “peace” and nonviolence with Israel, which appeared in the old version of the curriculum, according to the report.
The new curriculum also removes the substantial amount of information provided to Palestinian students about the ancient Jewish history of “Palestine” and the Jewish presence and connection to Jerusalem.
IMPACT-se also reports that there are many fewer references to Israel by name in the curriculum, and instead the textbooks refer to the “Zionist Occupation”; “The Occupation”; “Israeli Occupation”; “The Zionists”; and “The Zionist Entity.”
“If peace agreements with Israel have indeed been deleted from Palestinian textbooks, this action harms young Palestinians first and foremost,” Benny Gantz, a former Israeli military chief and now chairman of the Blue and White party, said in a statement. “Our ability to achieve a better future begins with educating the next generations on peace, tolerance and coexistence, not in incitement and suicide bombings. Deleting the past is essentially an attack on the hope for a better future.”
Netanyahu condemns violence in Arab sector and pledges more police to fight it
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned acts of violence and murder in the Arab sector and pledged to allocate additional police manpower to fight against the phenomenon.
The statement issued on Sunday came a day after hundreds of Arab-Israelis demonstrated throughout the country and announced plans for further protests throughout the month.
In the statement, Netanyahu also called on the Arab-Israeli public to refrain from violence of any kind in the context of protest action.
“All of us need to act responsibility and cooperate in order to fight violence,” the statement said.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab political parties, said now Netanyahu must advance a plan of action to deal with the violence.
“It cannot be that 20 percent of the population needs to make a ruckus and block roads for the government to start to deal with the problem that has taken the lives of innocents for so many years already,” Odeh said in a statement.
Arab-Israeli communities held a general strike on Thursday to protest the uptick in violent crime and the lack of an effective police response. On Friday, protesters blocked roads, including major highways in the north of the country.
At least 71 Arab citizens of Israel have been killed as a result of gun violence and criminal activity since the beginning of this year, The Jerusalem Post reported. The murder rate among the country’s Arab population has increased by 20 percent in 2019 over the same period last year, according to Haaretz.
Palestinian Authority will accept its tax money collected by Israel
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Palestinian Authority agreed to again accept tax money collected on its behalf by Israel, after it stopped taking the revenue several months ago.
The Palestinians had stopped accepting the money in February, after Israel said it would not distribute part of the revenues, amounting to more than $138 million, because the Palestinian Authority pays terrorists in prison or the families of terrorists who kill Israelis.
Israel collects taxes from the West Bank and Gaza on behalf of the financially struggling Palestinian Authority. The tax transfers make up about half of the PA’s budget, Reuters reported citing Palestinian Finance Ministry data.
Some $430 million was set to be handed over to the PA on Sunday, Reuters reported.
The Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying terrorists who kill Israelis or their families has been condemned by the United States and Israel, which has dubbed the practice “pay to slay.”
Israel’s foreign minister confirms initiative to sign non-aggression treaties with Arab Gulf states
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz confirmed that he is working on a “historic” initiative to sign non-aggression treaties with Arab Gulf states.
Katz said in a Hebrew-language tweet on Sunday that the political initiative is being undertaken with the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The initiative, he said in the tweet, “will put an end to the conflict (with the Arab states) and allow civilian cooperation until peace agreements are signed.”
He said in the tweet that during his visit to the United Nations last month he presented the plan to the foreign ministers of the Arab states and to White House peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. Katz had attended the U.N. General Assembly in place of Netanyahu, who remained in Israel in the days following the country’s national elections. From the assembly, Katz had tweeted that he had held a meeting with his counterpart from an unnamed Arab country.
The initiative was first reported on Saturday night by Israel’s Channel 12.
The report said that the initiative is meant to promote cooperation as Israel and the Arab gulf states face a common concern over Iran.
Demi Lovato’s mom is not sorry about their visit to Israel
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Demi Lovato may have apologized for her visit to Israel, but the pop star’s mother will do no such thing.
Dianna De La Garze, who accompanied her daughter on the trip, said in her own post on Instagram that she will “unapologetically” make a return visit to Israel.
De La Garze’s Instagram post that appeared on Friday, accompanied by a photo of her hand and Lovato’s touching the Western Wall, read: “Praying at the Western Wall with my beautiful daughter @ddlovato in the Old City of Jerusalem was the highlight of my trip to Israel. I will never forget that day... or that trip as we celebrated life and Christianity as we learned about The Jewish faith while listening to the Muslim Call to Prayer. There was no fighting, no judgement, no cruel words... only love. And I will undoubtedly, unapologetically go again one day.”
She tagged her daughter in the post.
Lovato apologized to her 74.4 million Instagram followers in a post on Wednesday to her Instagram story, which only remains available online for 24 hours but has been preserved and shared in screenshot.
“I accepted a free trip to Israel in exchange for a few posts. No one told me there would be anything wrong with going or that I could possibly be offending anyone. With that being said, I’m sorry if I’ve hurt or offended anyone, that was not my intention,” she wrote.
In Israel, Lovato posted a photo from the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem for children with special needs; photos from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem; and a photo that showed her being baptized in the Jordan River.
Netanyahu proposes air-defense system to defend against Iran
(JNS)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed an advanced air-defense system in a cabinet meeting on Sunday that would counter the Iranian threat, reported Israel radio Kan.
After the strikes against Saudi oil facilities last month allegedly carried out by Iran, the defense system would focus on protecting against such cruise-missile attacks at a cost of billions of shekels.
Funding for the project would have to come from the existing defense ministry budget, cuts from other areas or an increase in taxes.
The more than 20 cruise missiles and drones that hit two Saudi Aramco oil facilities in September were launched from southern Iran, a senior U.S. official told CBS News at the time.
38,000 pounds of bagels burnt in truck days before Yom Kippur
By Ben Sales
(JTA)—Midwest Jews may need to find something else to eat when Yom Kippur ends—tons of their bagels are now toast.
Some 38,000 pounds of frozen bagels met an unhappy fate on Sunday, just a couple of days ahead of the Jewish Day of Atonement, when they were burnt to a crisp in a truck fire. An Indiana state trooper noticed that a semi heading north on I-65, about 90 miles southeast of Chicago, was smoking heavily from the rear axle, according to a news release from the Indiana State Police.
The trooper pulled over the truck, but it was too late: The fire was spreading to the trailer, and the rear tires exploded, burning the break-fast staple. The driver, a Floridian, was unharmed. A Chicago-area company owned the truck.
The news release did not say where the bagels were from or where they were going, but it’s safe to say that as we approach the holiest day of the Jewish year, some of them have become dust and ashes.
Canadian synagogue targeted with swastikas and anti-Jewish symbols
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Drawings of swastikas and other symbols were drawn in chalk on the grounds of a Canadian synagogue in Ontario.
The drawings, which were found in four spots at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton, were discovered Saturday morning when the rabbi arrived for Torah study before Shabbat services, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The graffiti also included the word Jews with a line drawn through it.
Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli told Canada’s Global News that surveillance camera footage showed four teenagers drawing the graffiti on Friday night.
The Hamilton Police hate crimes unit is investigating.
Lavery-Yisraeli said the synagogue hired a security guard after last October’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh killed 11.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger is scheduled to visit the synagogue during Yom Kippur services.
The Global News reported that hate crimes and hate/bias incidents reported to Hamilton Police in 2018 targeting the Jewish community rose by 25 percent over 2017.
Girl with degenerative brain disease celebrates bat mitzvah at LA hospital
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A 12-year-old girl with a degenerative brain malformation celebrated her bat mitzvah at the Los Angeles hospital where she has spent most of her life.
Numa Beron was born with lissencephaly, which has left her unable to stand or speak. She was given three years to live, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said in a statement.
“The Beron family are very fierce advocates for Numa,” said Dr. Gary Goulin, associate director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, who has cared for Beron for seven years. “It’s clear they just love and adore her, visiting every chance they get and taking turns spending every night with her at the hospital.”
Family, friends, former teachers and much of Beron’s Cedars-Sinai medical team attended the bat mitzvah celebration, which included unicorn balloons and decorations, rainbow cupcakes and a video compellation of Numa’s life.
A family Torah scroll was brought to the celebration, and Numa was able to put her arms around it.
“This celebration was a way to show appreciation to everyone in Numa’s life,” said Iliana Beron, her mother. “By the grace of God, we are here and celebrating this miracle and this beautiful day.”
Some 68,000 secular and religious Israelis to pray together on Yom Kippur
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Some 68,000 Israelis eschewed Yom Kippur services in a traditional synagogue setting and gather at community centers for free, public holiday services.
“Praying Together on Yom Kippur” services took place in 350 venues throughout the country, including cultural centers, school buildings and libraries. There were 18 venues in Tel Aviv alone.
The annual program is organized by the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, in partnership with Yachad Ohr Torah Stone. It is in its 20th year.
Participants are provided with a special Yom Kippur prayer book and detailed handout explaining the rituals and the meaning of the prayers that take place on the Day of Atonement. The service will include explanations, discussion and the shofar blowing at the conclusion of the holiday.
“Yom Kippur is a wonderful opportunity to take a break and disconnect from all the noise around us,” said Rabbi David Stav, founder of Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.
“Yom Kippur is a special and holy day among the people of Israel, but there are Israelis who feel less comfortable in observing it in the synagogue for various reasons. On the other hand, research indicates that most Israelis seek to connect with their heritage and dedicate a place for tradition in their daily lives. Yom Kippur and the rest of the holidays belong to everyone,” Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions, said in a statement.