Weekly roundup of world briefs
April 24, 2020
Recovered from coronavirus in prison, Harvey Weinstein now faces new charges
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Harvey Weinstein has been charged with a new felony sexual assault count by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
The charge, filed Friday, accuses the former Hollywood producer of assaulting a woman at a Beverly Hills hotel in May 2010, in an incident that falls just within California’s 10-year statute of limitations.
Weinstein, 68, is currently serving a sentence of up to 23 years in New York after being convicted in February of rape and sexual assault. He could face up to 29 years in prison in California on the new charges, ABC News reported.
Weinstein, 68, tested positive for the coronavirus last month, after transferring to the state prison system from Rikers Island, a New York City jail where the deadly virus has infected hundreds of people. He was quarantined in the Regional Medical Unit at Wende Correctional Facility and declared recovered on Friday, according to reports.
In January, on the first day of Weinstein’s trial in New York on charges of rape and sexual assault, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office filed rape and sexual assault charges against the former media mogul in separate incidents involving two women over a two-day period in 2013. The office said at the time that it was reviewing eight cases involving Weinstein.
Landing in Israel during the pandemic? You now must head straight for a state-run quarantine hotel.
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—An emergency order issued Sunday means that anyone arriving in Israel from overseas now must go directly to a state-run quarantine hotel.
It comes a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a halt to all flights to Israel until the country settled on a way to isolate new arrivals. That order came after several high-profile instances of people arriving in the country scattering without assurance that they would follow quarantine rules.
In the most recent example, after a flight from New York, a coronavirus hotspot, landed at Ben Gurion Airport Saturday, the 70 Israeli passengers were allowed to return to their homes, many in taxis, without being supervised or checked or even given masks.
The emergency order, in place until at least April 22, says that “all persons returning from abroad will, upon their return to Israel, be sent to quarantine by the state at designated hotels.” The order allows for exceptions to be granted on a case-by-case basis, but a 14-day quarantine rule will remain in effect for all arrivals.
Flights to Israel were reinstated on Sunday after the passage of the emergency order.
‘It will be very difficult to not to be able to give hugs,’ astronaut Jessica Meir says as she prepares return to a changed Earth
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir told reporters ahead of her return to Earth that watching the coronavirus crisis unfold from space has been “quite surreal”—and that she is looking forward to getting home, even if the pandemic has changed it.
Meir and fellow astronaut Andrew Morgan spoke to reporters from space on Friday, a week ahead of their scheduled return after nearly seven months on the International Space Station.
“It will be very difficult to not be able to give hugs to my family and friends,” Meir said. She added: “I think for me it’ll still be nice to go back and to see some familiar places and some familiar faces.”
“I think that I will actually feel more isolated on the Earth than I did up here because that’s just part of our expected routine up here,” Meir also said. “We’re so busy with so many other amazing pursuits and we have this incredible vantage point of the Earth below, that we don’t really feel as much of that isolation.”
Last week, Meir offered advice about how to stay mentally healthy while living in isolation. And in March, she tweeted a photo of Tel Aviv that she took from space, in which the usually bustling Israeli city is seen looking desolate amid the spread of the coronavirus.
The astronaut also posted a photo of Israel in November as a tribute to her father. She also tweeted a Chanukah greeting that included a photo of her holiday-themed socks with Earth seen through the window in the background.
Israelis again confined to neighborhoods under reinstated coronavirus regulations
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel has reinstated a coronavirus regulation that bans residents from leaving their towns or neighborhoods.
The lockdown will last from 5 p.m. Tuesday until Thursday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday evening in a nationally televised address.
After the start of Passover last week, Israel had lifted the restriction on residents leaving their communities, except in haredi Orthodox neighborhoods.
The lockdown will prevent Israeli families from gathering for the end of Passover as well as Mimouna, the traditional North African Jewish celebration dinner marking the end of the holiday.
Under the lockdown, bakeries will not open on Wednesday evening just hours after Passover, as is traditional.
Netanyahu acknowledged that he could have been stricter about hosting his son Avner for the Passover Seder. The prime minister was criticized after releasing a video showing the two of them talking over the Seder plate.
The explanation given to the Israeli media: Avner Netanyahu lives in an apartment adjacent to the prime minister’s residence and spends many hours a day there.
Netanyahu’s older son, Yair, lives with his parents.
‘Fauda’ season 3 launches this week on Netflix
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Season 3 of the hit Israeli series “Fauda” will begin airing this week on Netflix.
“Fauda” focuses on a commando unit of the Israeli army whose members embed themselves in the Palestinian community, gathering intelligence and preventing terror attacks.
This season, which launches Thursday with English subtitles, will focus on Gaza.
In Israel, the first episode of season 3 was viewed about 1 million times in the first 48 hours after its debut in December.
Netflix picked up the show in 2016, the year after its start in Israel.
Both of the show’s creators—Avi Issacharoff, the Arab affairs reporter for the English-language Times of Israel news website, and actor Lior Raz, who stars—served in the army unit depicted in the series.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donate $1 million to fight coronavirus in Hawaii
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan have donated $1 million from their foundation to help the Hawaiian island of Kauai deal with the coronavirus crisis.
The couple own a 700-acre estate on the island purchased for $200 million in 2014.
A quarter of the donation will go to the Wilcox Medical Center to assist in dealing with the deadly virus, Hawaii News Now reported.
The rest will be used to provide food, rental assistance and education to those in need on Kauai, according to Hawaii News Now, which cited the state. Money also will be donated to the Hawai’i Community Foundation and Aina Ho’okupu O Kilauea.
Chan is trained as a pediatrician.
Zuckerberg has had property disputes with his island neighbors since the purchase.
Ohio State U gives $336,000 in Jeffrey Epstein donations to human trafficking initiative
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died last year in jail, donated some $336,000 to Ohio State University, a review found.
The university announced late last week that the donations and pledges from Epstein personally and from the J. Epstein Foundation were made to the Wexner Center for the Arts at least two decades ago “and many years before questions about Epstein surfaced,” the university said in a statement. “However, the university has determined that, in light of Epstein’s reprehensible crimes, retaining these gifts would not be consistent with the university’s values.”
Ohio State announced that it will contribute $336,000 from discretionary funds to the Ohio Attorney Generals Human Trafficking Initiative.
The review was conducted by the national accounting firm EY, which had full access to Ohio Sate giving records and related documentation.
Epstein was a billionaire who was convicted in 2008 of soliciting a teenage girl for prostitution. He was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges when he [allegedly] killed himself in jail.
32 residents die of coronavirus at 2 Massachusetts Jewish senior living facilities
By Penny Schwartz
BOSTON (JTA)—Thirty-two residents at two Jewish senior living facilities that are part of the same nonprofit network have died from COVID-19, and scores of other residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.
Eleven residents of Chelsea Jewish Life Care, across its three Boston-area locations, and 21 residents at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow, a suburb of Springfield in Western Massachusetts, died, according to letters to families posted earlier this week on the websites of both facilities.
“The loss of so many of our loved ones is reflective of the severity of some manifestations of this terrible disease,” wrote Adam Berman, president and Barry Berman, CEO. “We offer our sincere condolences to their families and share in their grief.”
The pandemic is hitting seniors living in residential facilities especially hard. One of the first documented outbreaks in the United States affected a nursing home, and the death toll at Amsterdam’s Jewish senior home stood at 15 last week. Jewish homes, like many others, have adjusted their practices to try to curb the disease’s spread, but outbreaks are continuing nonetheless.
At JGS Lifecare, 93 residents tested positive out of more than 180 tests conducted, and 43 staff members tested positive of 84 tested to date. Across its sites north of Boston, Chelsea Jewish reported that 117 residents tested positive, out of 251 tested, and of 103 staff tested, 40 tested positive.
JGS Lifecare became part of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare in 2018. Combined, the nonprofit employs over 2,000 people and takes care of over 1,000 individuals, according to a spokewoman.
Chelsea, a largely immigrant city once home to a sizable Jewish population, has been hard hit by COVID-19, with an infection rate that rivals New York City’s. Many of its low-income residents are employed in businesses deemed essential.
The 11 deaths at the two Chelsea Jewish facilities in the city account for nearly 60 percent of the city’s COVID-19 deaths so far. As of Monday, Massachusetts reported 844 deaths due to COVID-19, with nearly 27,000 positive tests.
Satanist who tried to torch church is behind Maryland synagogue arson
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—A Maryland man accused of painting a swastika on a local synagogue had firebombed a nearby church as part of his plan to target multiple houses of worship to worship Satan, police said.
Andrew Costas, 28, of Rockville was arrested this week in connection with the anti-Semitic vandalism on March 28 at the Tikvat Israel Congregation in his hometown, WTOP News reported, and the hurling of firebombs on April 8 at St. Catherine Laboure Roman Catholic Church in Wheaton. He is a facing a hate crime charge among other charges.
Police say Costas told his girlfriend that he was the Antichrist and planned to cause damage to 10 churches and three synagogues. The total, 13, has symbolic significance in Satanist circles and literature.
According to police, Costas is the individual seen in a surveillance camera video parking his car outside the synagogue, walking up and spraying paint on the outside wall. Police said the man painted swastikas and hateful slogans.
Costas and his girlfriend, Rebecca Matathias of Brookville, Maryland, are facing second-degree arson charges. He is being held until his trial. Matathias, who is in her early 20s, also was arrested but is out on bail.
Costas was charged with damaging property because of a person’s religious beliefs—a hate crime—and defacing a religious facility and malicious destruction.
Sea of Galilee water level hits 16-year high point
By Dan Lavie and Adi Hashmonai
(Israel Hayom via JNS)—For the first time in 16 years, the water level in the Sea of Galilee has risen above the level of -209 meters (-686 feet). On Tuesday, the water level was measured at -208.985 meters below sea level, an increase of 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) since Monday.
According to the Israel Water Authority (IWA), the water level has been rising at a rate of 2.5 cm (0.98 inches) a day. At present, it is only 18.5 cm (7.3 inches) short of the Upper Red Line, the level at which a dam must be opened to allow water to flow out to prevent flooding.
The Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest freshwater source, has benefited from an unusually rainy winter.
Three weeks ago, the IWA reported that the water level was higher than it had been in 17 years, standing 49 cm (19 inches) short of the Upper Red Line. This means that from March 23 to April 14, the lake rose by a foot.
More rain is forecast for later this week, and the lake is also expected to benefit from spring runoff.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Israel approves $6 million in grants to startups, companies combating coronavirus
(JNS)—The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) approved NIS 22 million (approximately $6 million) in grants last week for 35 startups and companies trying to combat issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 17, the IIA, Israel’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Social Equality announced the allocation of NIS 50 million (approximately $13 million) in grants to companies “submitting research and development plans, proofs-of-concept, products and technological solutions that address the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic,” Calcalist reported.
“Among the companies that received the grants were NEAT Applied Technologies Ltd., which produces sensors and remote monitoring solutions that can help with the managing of flow, pressure and volume of patients; Ezmems Ltd., which develops smart plastic sensors for ventilators; and NanoScent Ltd., which offers a scent-recognition service that can help detect people with coronavirus symptoms.”
Ami Appelbaum, IIA chairman of the board and chief scientist at the Ministry of Economics and Industry, said “the committee chose to support a wide range of projects dealing with the challenges of coronavirus because the fight against the pandemic needs to be waged on multiple fronts.”
He added that “a strong emphasis has been put on the proposals that can combat the crisis immediately with a quick time to market or promising partnerships that will ensure the functional continuity of the Israeli economy.”
Appelbaum’s team received more than 750 applications from companies. Additional grants are expected to be approved next week.
Tesla moves forward with commercial launch in Israel after initial delay
(JNS)—The electric and autonomous-car company Tesla Inc. is going ahead with its plans to launch commercially in Israel, reported Calcalist on Tuesday.
Elon Musk’s company recently appointed Ilan Benano—a former executive at Israeli Mercedes importer Colmobil Ltd. and Audi importer Champion Motors—as its technical service manager in Israel, a person familiar with the matter told Calcalist.
Benano will be in charge of training the technical teams servicing Tesla’s cars in Israel and setting up specialized auto-repair shops in the country, the insider said.
Having repair service available in Israel is vital if the company wants regulatory approval from Israel’s Ministry of Transport and Road Safety to import and sell more than 20 cars a year in the country, explained Calcalist.
Tesla’s Israel team is also using 20 vehicles already imported by the company for potential clients to conduct test drives ahead of a formal launch expected in the upcoming months, the source added.
The company was initially expected to begin operations in Israel in January, but its plans were postponed due to regulatory problems. The company leased a showroom in Tel Aviv in January, and later that month, Israel’s transport ministry reversed its ban and allowed Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system, Autopilot, to be used.