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Weekly roundup of world briefs


Israeli government to bail out El Al, could gain full control

(JNS) — Israel’s Finance Ministry on Sunday proposed to loan $250 million to El Al airlines, far short of the $400 million the struggling airline had requested.

However, the government could end up nationalizing the airline, as it committed to purchasing any shares not bought by the public in an offering meant to raise the remaining $150 million, Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The Borovitz family currently has a majority stake in the airline and is probably not going to take part in the offering on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

El Al was privatized 15 years ago, and the airline is studying the offer, according to the report. Any agreement reached would also need to be approved by the Cabinet and the Knesset Finance Committee.

El Al announced last month that it was extending its suspension on commercial flights until June 20 as a result of ongoing coronavirus outbreaks, though it would continue with cargo and special passenger flights.

Rome Jews celebrate first Jewish wedding after lockdown

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Italian Jews celebrated their community’s first wedding since the country’s synagogues, along with many other institutions, were shut down due to the coronavirus.

Marco Del Monte, a Rome-born chef who is studying for a master’s degree in psychology, married Elinor Hanoka, a sixth-year medical student from Israel, on Sunday while wearing face masks at the Great Synagogue of Rome.

The couple had planned to marry in Jerusalem in March, but Italy and Israel went into lockdown.

The bride’s parents were unable to attend, Dror Eydar, Israel’s ambassador to Italy, wrote on Facebook. Eydar has known the groom for several years. His parents were able to attend, along with a handful of guests and Rabbi Menachem Lazar of Rome’s Chabad Piazza Bologna synagogue, who officiated.

“Great joy, albeit not in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, as had been planned, but in Rome,” Eydar wrote on Facebook, paraphrasing from the text of Sheva Brachot — seven blessings that are recited during Jewish weddings.

“Italy in general and Rome’s Jewish community are still healing from their wounds, let’s hope this joy heralds many more,” he added.

Italy, where more than 34,000 people have died of the virus, was the site of its first major outbreak in Europe. At least a dozen of the country’s 40,000 Jews also died. Italy emerged from lockdown about three weeks ago.

European Union asks US to ditch Trump peace plan and join new Middle East peace effort

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief effectively rejected President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan and asked the United States to join a new international effort to broker a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Josep Borrell said Monday that the Trump plan has created a “certain momentum where there was nothing,”according to The Associated Press, and the momentum “can be used to start a joint international effort on the basis of existing internationally agreed parameters.” The Trump plan does not respect those parameters, Borrell implied.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined in, calling for a “multilateral format” that allows “both sides to speak and negotiate with each other.”

Before his comments, Borrell and other EU foreign ministers in a call with Mike Pompeo warned the U.S. secretary of state that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank would endanger the prospects of a two-state solution and stability in the Middle East.

Borrell and the foreign ministers did not offer details on what a new international peace effort would look like.

Universal becomes first major music label to open a branch in Israel

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Universal Music Group, one of the largest music corporations in the United States, has become the first major American music company to open a branch in Israel.

UMG Israel will be based in Tel Aviv and be led by Yoram Mokady, a lawyer with no experience in the music industry, Billboard reported Tuesday.

According to Billboard, major labels such as Universal, Sony Music and Warner have engaged in an international music “arms race,” branching out into several countries to develop and sign local talent.

The news comes days after it was announced that the 19-year-old pop star Noa Kirel signed a multimillion-dollar record deal with Atlantic Records — possibly the largest ever for an Israeli artist.

Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga are among the recording artists who have released music through labels owned by Universal

Rocket fired from Gaza into Israel for first time in more than a month

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel for the first time since early May, spurring Israeli airstrikes and tank fire on Hamas posts and infrastructure in retaliation, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The rocket fired on Monday night landed in an open area and only triggered a local alarm. No group in Gaza has claimed responsibility.

But earlier Monday, Hamas deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri told the al-Resalah TV channel, which is linked to the terror organization, that Hamas is planning both political and diplomatic actions to prevent Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. He also threatened a military response.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that in the wake of Israeli aggression, matters may reach a point of escalation in the confrontation, which might lead to military escalation,” al-Arouri said, according to reports.

Adam Schlesinger tribute album includes covers by Sarah Silverman, Rachel Bloom and more

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Sarah Silverman, Rachel Bloom and an array of indie artists contributed to a tribute album for Adam Schlesinger, the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning Jewish songwriter who died of COVID-19 complications on April 1.

San Francisco-based Father/Daughter Records released the 31-track album, titled “Saving For a Custom Van,” on Tuesday. The songs are all by Schlesinger and span his career, which included being a songwriting member of the successful pop rock band Fountains of Wayne and a co-writer of the music in Bloom’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” sitcom.

Proceeds from the album will benefit MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is “dedicated to helping music industry and community members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” but the music was also released for free on Bandcamp.

On the album, Silverman sings “Way Back Into Love” — which Schlesinger wrote for the 2007 movie “Music and Lyrics” starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant — with Jewish songwriter Ben Lee.

Bloom sings the Fountains of Wayne hit “Stacy’s Mom,” which Schlesinger co-wrote.

Other noteworthy indie acts who contributed include the rockers Charly Bliss, Motion City Soundtrack and Jeff Rosenstock.

PJ Library to launch in German

By Joe Baur

BERLIN (JTA) — PJ Library, the popular program that provides free Jewish children’s books to kids around the world, will soon be available in German.

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Massachusetts-based nonprofit that oversees PJ Library, will be launching the program in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in partnership with the local organizations in those countries. The partnership between the foundation, Germany’s Central Council of Jews, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and the Vienna Israelite Community will enable local families to sign up to receive the books for children aged 2 to 8.

“We believe it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach children basic Jewish values and traditions and to set the foundation for their education,” said Daniel Botmann, managing director of the Central Council. “A lot of parents are already reading books to their children at home, so why not some with Jewish content?”

PJ Library, which was launched 15 years ago in the United States by the Grinspoon Foundation, provides Jewish families with monthly access to award-winning children’s books on Jewish themes. The new partnership aims to address the lack of German-language Jewish children’s books.

Botmann said the new project is part of the council’s Mischpacha program for newborns up to 3-year-olds.

EU cancels funding to Palestinian NGO that objected to anti-terrorism clause

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The European Union has canceled a joint project and funding for a Palestinian NGO after the NGO objected to the anti-terrorism clause in the funding agreement.

The Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights refused to sign the agreement for the $2 million project. Under the clause, grantees must make certain that members of EU-listed terrorist groups do not benefit from any of the funded programs.

In nearly a yearlong correspondence with the EU, Badil had sought changes to the wording of the clause. The EU responded that it would downgrade the clause from anti-terrorism to anti-incitement.

The three-year project, called Mobilizing for Justice in Jerusalem, was founded to enhance the resilience of Palestinians and expose alleged Israeli human rights violations and “international crimes in Jerusalem,” according to NGO Monitor.

Badil said in a statement posted on its website that “signing the contract criminalizes the Palestinian struggle against oppression and requires the recipient organization to perform ‘screening’ procedures which amounts to policing its own people.” It also spoke of “Israeli colonialism and apartheid” and said the article violates Palestinian and international law.

Olga Deutsch, NGO Monitor’s vice president, said in a statement that her group applauded the EU “for standing strong in the face of pressure and enforcing its anti-terror clause.”

“There is no question that radical groups like Badil, who not only have a history of promoting antisemitism and rejection of Israel, but who will not commit to not working with terror, have no business receiving funding from the E.U. or any other government,” she said.

Tel Aviv court orders freeze of construction over Muslim cemetery in Jaffa following violent protests

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — After days of often violent protests, a Tel Aviv court has ordered a halt to construction of a homeless shelter on top of an 18th-century Muslim burial ground in Jaffa.

The Tel Aviv District Court placed a temporary injunction on the demolition of the cemetery and construction of the shelter until the court hears the petition filed by the Islamic Council, which claims in part that the building permit on the shelter has expired, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Police and protesters continued to clash on Wednesday despite the freeze, with protesters throwing rocks and spraying tear gas at police.

On Friday, a firebomb set the Tel Aviv municipal building on fire, causing serious damage to at least one office.

The cemetery was discovered in April 2018 as digging began for the construction of the foundation of the Center for the Homeless.

Chelsea Handler deletes video clip of Louis Farrakhan that included her defense of his anti-Semitism

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Chelsea Handler deleted a video clip of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that the Jewish comedian posted on Instagram, including a defense of Farrakhan’s virulent anti-Semitism.

Handler had come under criticism in the comments to her post of Sunday, which was deleted without explanation on Tuesday. She has nearly 4 million followers on the social media platform.

Farrakhan has called Jews “satanic” and compared them to “termites.” He has accused Jews of controlling the government and Hollywood, and has called Adolf Hitler a “great man.”

The clip was from a Farrakhan appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show,” once a popular talk show, on the topic of racial prejudice.

“I learned a lot from watching this powerful video,” she wrote.

Actress Jessica Chastain also shared the clip, later deleting it with no explanation. Celebrity likes included Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Garner.

In defending Farrakhan, Handler wrote: “Another thing: perhaps Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views took form during his own oppression. We know now that oppression of one race leads to an oppression of all races.”

She also responded to a comment about whether she would post a video of Hitler, writing “no, because Hitler was responsible for killing millions of lives. Farrakhan is just responsible for his own promotion of anti-Semitic beliefs. They are very different.”

Actor Joshua Malina had criticized the Handler post.

Israel signs deal with American company Moderna for any future COVID-19 vaccine

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has signed a deal with the American biotech company Moderna for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the deal on Wednesday during a meeting of the government’s so-called Coronavirus Cabinet, Channel 12 News reported.

Netanyahu said the company claims it will have a vaccine by the middle of next year, and “we hope they will succeed.” Securing a deal to buy the future vaccine “puts us in a very good place in the world.” No details of the deal have been reported.

Forbes reported last week that Moderna has said that its phase 2 trials are underway and the company had enrolled 350 of a total 600 planned participants for the study.

Moderna also said that it was on track to deliver approximately 500 million doses of the vaccine per year and potentially up to 1 billion annually starting in 2021.

Israeli efforts to develop a vaccine are ongoing, Netanyahu said.

The Institute for Biological Research in Nes Ziona, in central Israel, last month completed a successful trial on rodents, according to Channel 12, and will soon begin trials on larger animals.

Fountain in California dedicated to Holocaust survivors toppled and smashed

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A fountain dedicated to Holocaust survivors that also was used for ritual hand-washing inside a California cemetery was toppled and smashed.

Police are investigating the incident at Santa Rosa Memorial Park to determine if it was a hate crime, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported. The vandalism occurred on Sunday night or Monday morning.

A maintenance trailer at the other end of the cemetery also was damaged, though nothing was reported stolen. Santa Rosa Police told the newspaper that it was unclear if the two vandalism acts are connected.

The fountain was part of a memorial created for the late Lillian Judd and her husband, Emil, local Holocaust survivors. Lillian Judd regularly spoke to Sonoma County students about the Holocaust. A mosaic erected behind the fountain lists the names of 12 family members who were killed during the Holocaust.

Traditional Jews perform a hand-washing ritual after they visit a cemetery.

Dennis Judd told the newspaper that he hopes the community will rally behind whatever symbol replaces the fountain.

“The hope that mom had was to teach the kids and teach the adults about peace,” her son said. “That’s the thing we need to push on. Maybe the community can come together and help us resurrect the fountain and make it a place of healing. That was always the message for (Lillian).”

With the number of cases rising, Israel extends emergency measures to halt spread of coronavirus

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Knesset approved extending emergency measures targeting the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases in Israel saw its largest one-day increase in the past two months.

The legislation, which will remain in force for 45 days starting Wednesday, was approved late Tuesday night, as the last emergency measures expired.

Among the measures approved is a requirement for Israelis to wear masks in public and maintain proper social distancing. The law also allows police to call a halt to large gatherings, with the exception of protests, and to fine violators.

A total of 303 Israelis have died of the virus, with the total number of cases diagnosed at 19,637. The number reflected a rise of 300 cases in the past 24 hours, the most in one day since April.

As of Wednesday morning, some 177 schools had been closed due to outbreaks for the coronavirus. Schools, which were closed for two months during Israel’s near total lockdown, opened in mid-May.

Israel’s borders remain closed to non-citizens until at least July 1.


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