Weekly roundup of world briefs
June 18, 2021
Israeli haredi publication blurs face of Labor Party’s female leader
(JTA) — A haredi Orthodox publication in Israel published a photo on its website Monday that blurs the face of the Labor Party’s leader, Merav Michaeli.
Bechadrei Charedim did not explain its decision on the photo, which was used with a story about Israel’s incoming government, but the reason was likely because Michaeli is a woman.
Haredi Orthodox publications have blurred, photoshopped or otherwise excluded photos of women from their pages for years. Most famously in the United States, Der Zeitung photoshopped Hillary Clinton, then serving as secretary of state, out of a photo taken in the Situation Room on the day that U.S. forces assassinated Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The publications have argued that the decision to exclude women from their photos stems from the modesty required of women in Orthodox Jewish communities or that readers would not buy publications that show the faces of women. The policy has inspired campaigns to push the ultra-Orthodox publications to print women’s faces, but few have changed their policies.
Michaeli is slated to serve as transportation minister in the new government, which is expected to be seated in the next week.
Vienna university announces new $9,000 scholarships for young Jewish studies researchers
(JTA) — Young scholars specializing in Jewish studies now have a shot at a scholarship worth more than $9,000 from the University of Vienna.
The university and a family foundation announced last month that they would be giving out a scholarship of $9,129, or 7,500 euros, to two young researchers every two years.
The Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Young Scholar Awards will be offered to “two young international scholars for a research stay of three months at the University of Vienna” in the framework of their doctoral dissertation or as a follow-up to their master’s degrees, the statement by the university and the foundation said.
On May 26, the foundation and the university gave a $20,000 prize to the first winner of an award for scholarly excellence that the two partners had created last year. The laureate, historian Michael Brenner of Germany, won for his work and lived experience bridging the U.S. and Europe, the board said.
Bernner, who is Jewish, is an expert on Jewish life in Germany during the Weimar Republic, which the Nazi Party ended.
Headstones smashed at Jewish cemeteries in Ukraine and Romania
(JTA) — In two separate incidents, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in Romania and Ukraine.
The Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism in Romania-MCA reported Sunday about the incident in the town of Ploesti, located about 50 miles north of Bucharest. Multiple headstones, some as recent as 2009, were knocked over. Several were smashed.
On Thursday, at least 10 of the 60 headstones in the Jewish cemetery of Radvanka, a western Ukraine village on the outskirts of Uzhgorod, according to the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, one of several communal interests group. Also, the group said Friday, in an unfenced hillside graveyard with overgrown grass, several of the headstones were smashed.
In both incidents, police were informed of the damage. There are no suspects in either case.
In 2012, the Council of Europe, a intergovernmental body that is not part of the European Union, adopted a nonbinding resolution placing responsibility for the care of Jewish cemeteries on national governments. The resolution was based in part on a report that said Jewish cemeteries are “probably” more vulnerable than other cemeteries.
In addition to frequent vandalism, including for anti-Semitic reasons, at Jewish cemeteries, the report also noted instances of cemeteries in Eastern Europe that have been turned into “residential areas, public gardens, leisure parks, army grounds and storage sites; some have been turned into lakes.”
Bhad Bhabie and Lil Yachty invest $1 million in Jewish dating app Lox Club
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — Bhad Bhabie and Lil Yachty have invested in Lox Club, a Jewish dating app for people “with ridiculously high standards.”
The two rappers have made the $1 million investment in partnership with Adam Kluger, an agent for musical artists, according to Variety. Kluger was Bhad Bhabie’s manager and partners with Lil Yachty on investments. Bhad Bhabie’s father is Jewish.
Lox Club, founded late last year, says it is looking for “authentic, well-rounded people. Those with ambitious dreams and careers, who can make you both think and laugh. We don’t care about your Instagram following.”
The app has an application process and a membership fee, and members work with a matchmaker.
Three teens charged in May murder of Israeli in Baltimore
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — An 18-year-old and two teenage minors have been charged in the murder of an Israeli man who was visiting relatives in Baltimore last month.
Efraim Gordon, 31, was shot while walking to his aunt and uncle’s house on May 3, according to the Baltimore Sun. He was in the United States for his cousin’s wedding.
William Clinton III, 18, and a 16- and 17-year-old have been charged with first-degree murder and are being held without bail. They were arrested after being identified in security camera footage.
Police have said the murder took place as part of a robbery, but Gordon’s sister told Israel National News, an Israeli publication, that she believes the murder was motivated by antisemitism.
“To come and say that it was a robbery that went wrong is not logical,” Ella Gordon said. “Nothing was stolen from him, they left the bag, wallet, headphones, watch and his passport, everything remained. It’s just murder for being Jewish.”
David Dushman, Auschwitz liberator who drove a tank through its fence, dies at 98
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — David Dushman, a Jewish soldier who liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp, died at 98.
Dushman died on Saturday, according to the International Olympic Committee.
Dushman drove a tank for the Soviet Army when his division arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland where more than a million Jews were murdered, on Jan. 27, 1945. Dushman mowed down the camp’s fence with his tank, helping liberate the inmates inside, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz,” he said in a 2015 interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German publication, according to AFP. “They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists.”
Dushman was seriously injured in the war but went on to become a renowned fencing coach. He coached the Soviet women’s Olympic fencing team from 1952 to 1988, and several of his fencers won medals.
At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Dushman was sleeping in lodgings across from the Israeli delegation.
He moved to Austria and later to Munich, where he fenced recreationally until four years ago.
Hamas was developing technology to jam Iron Dome system in bombed AP building, Israel says
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s U.S. ambassador told The Associated Press that the Israeli army destroyed the building containing its Gaza bureau because Hamas was developing technology there that would jam Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Gilad Erdan, also the U.N. ambassador, met Monday with the wire service’s president, Gary Pruitt, and its vice president of international news, Ian Phillips.
Hamas’ research and development and intelligence arms were in the building, Erdan said.
“The unit was developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system,” Erdan said, according to a release by the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Israel authorities told residents and workers in the building to evacuate about an hour before it bombed the 12-story building on May 15.
Hamas launched about 4,500 rockets at Israel during the May 10-21 conflict. Most hit open areas, but about 1,500 headed for built-up areas, and Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent.
Erdan told Pruitt and Phillips that Israel did not believe that AP knew Hamas was headquartered in the building. A number of right-wing pro-Israel commentators on social media have accused the AP of knowingly working alongside Hamas.
“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel doesn’t think that AP employees were aware it was being cynically used in this way by Hamas for a secret unit,” Erdan said in the release.
The ambassador said Israel was “willing to assist the Associated Press in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza.”
Biden’s support for Israel during Gaza conflict gets mixed results among voters, poll finds
By Ron Kampeas
(JTA) — U.S. voters were split about evenly on whether President Joe Biden’s backing of Israel was on target during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict or whether he could have done more for the country.
The poll published Tuesday by Vox, a liberal online magazine, found that 34 percent of voters believed that Biden was “not supportive enough of Israel” during the recent conflict and 32 percent thought Biden “had taken the right approach towards Israel,” an even split within the survey’s 3 percentage points margin of error.
Just 15 percent thought that Biden was “too supportive of Israel.”
Asked the same question about Biden’s support for the Palestinians, 27 percent said he was too supportive, 33 percent thought he was taking the right approach and 18 percent thought he was not supportive enough.
Biden during the May 10-21 conflict backed Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets fired by Hamas and refused to countenance calls from a number of lawmakers on the left-wing of the Democratic Party to leverage assistance to get Israel to agree to a cease-fire. In the last days of the conflict, Biden called on Israel to wind down operations, which Israel did.
The poll carried out by Data for Progress reached 1,319 likely voters in the last days of the conflict, May 19-21. The poll showed greater support for Israel among Republicans than Democrats, but did not report the number of respondents in subsamples or give a margin of error for them.
Forest fires ravage Jerusalem and environs, heightened by heat and winds
(JNS) — Multiple firefighting squads are battling out-of-control forest fires outside of Jerusalem on Wednesday, due to the hot and dry June weather combined with strong winds.
Ground crews are working to contain the spread with the support of firefighting aircraft from above near Har Haruach, Neve Ilan, Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hachamisha, Abu Ghosh and other locations.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish-Jewish National Fund called the fire at Ma’aleh Hachamisha a “major event.”
Among those who have joined the effort is Gidi Bashan, a KKL-JNF forester, who said “this is a huge fire event—very unfortunate and difficult to gain control over.”
The location, Har Haruach (“Wind Mountain”), is a national park and a joint KKL-JNF forest—one of the oldest forests in Israel, planted almost 100 years ago by the pioneers of Neve Ilan and Ma’aleh Hachamish. Most of it burned away with the fires still continuing.
Bashan added that “hundreds of acres of forest have been burned away, perhaps even more. The trees we’ve lost were 100-year-old pines and lots of natural woodlands that have developed throughout the years.”
Israeli president to Prince Charles: Let critically ill child come to Israel for treatment
(JNS) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin appealed to Prince Charles on Tuesday to allow a critically ill child to be brought to Israel for medical treatment. In May, a British court ruled that Alta Fixler, age 2, should be taken off life support.
“I am writing to you today on a matter of grave and urgent humanitarian importance,” wrote Rivlin in a letter to the Prince of Wales.
The court’s decision, he continued, contradicted the beliefs of the child’s Orthodox Jewish parents, who are also Israeli citizens, and it would be a “tragedy” if their wishes could not be respected.
“Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life, and [they] have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel,” he wrote.
Rivlin’s appeal joins that of Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who reached out to his British counterpart Matt Hancock on June 7.
The U.K. Board of Deputies of British Jews said in support of Edelstein’s appeal on Tuesday, “We welcome Israel’s offer to transfer Alta Fixler for treatment, in accordance with her parents’ wishes. We have written to the Department of Health and Social Care to ask that this be seriously considered.”
Alta experienced a brain injury at birth and is unable to eat, drink or breathe without medical assistance. She is connected to a ventilator at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, reported The Daily Mail.
Intact 1,000-year-old chicken egg unearthed in central Israel
(JNS) — An intact chicken egg dating back to the Islamic period 1,000 years ago was discovered in Yavne, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.
IAA archaeologists came upon the unbroken egg in an ancient cesspit during large-scale excavations at a site in the central Israeli city that revealed an extensive industrial area from the Byzantine period.
“Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David and at Caesarea and Apollonia,” said the IAA’s Lee Perry Gal, a leading expert on poultry in the ancient world. “But due to the eggs’ fragile shells, hardly any whole chicken eggs have been preserved.”
“Even at the global level, this is an extremely rare find,” added Gal, pointing out that archeological digs occasionally uncover ancient ostrich eggs, whose thick shells preserved them.
“Even today, eggs rarely survive for long in supermarket cartons,” said IAA archaeologist Alla Nagorsky, excavation director at the site where the egg was found. “It’s amazing to think this is a 1,000-year-old find!”
Nagorsky attributes its “unique preservation” to the “conditions in which it lay for centuries, nestled in a cesspit containing soft human waste.”
Nevertheless, said the IAA, “Despite the extreme caution with which the egg was removed, under the experienced supervision of a conservationist, its shell—preserved whole by the unusual anaerobic conditions—was cracked.”
It was restored to the state in which it was found, however, at the IAA organics laboratory by conservationist Ilan Naor.
According to the IAA, poultry farming was introduced in Israel 2,300 years ago, during the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. During the Islamic period, from the seventh century C.E. onwards, there was a marked decrease in the percentage of pig bones at sites in the region, reflecting the prohibition on eating pork.
Far-left French presidential candidate suggests Toulouse Jewish school murders were part of elections conspiracy
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — A far-left politician who won 19 percent of the votes in France’s last presidential race and is running again next year suggested that a jihadist’s 2012 murder of four Jews in Toulouse was part of an elections conspiracy.
“You’ll see that on the last week of the presidential campaign, we’ll have a serious incident or a murder,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the Unsubmissive France movement, said Sunday in Toulouse during an interview with the France Inter radio station. “In 2012 it was Merah, last week it was Champs-Elysee.”
Mohammed Merah, a former combatant for jihadists in Syria, murdered three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. He was killed in a police siege days later.
On April 20, a police officer was gunned down on the Champs-Elysee avenue in Paris. A 37-year-old Muslim man is on trial for the shooting.
“All of this has been planned in advance,” said Melenchon, who has declared as a presidential candidate for ’22. “We get all kinds of people pulled out of nowhere at a very serious event which, once more, allows to point fingers at Muslims and to invent a civil war. It’s boring.”
Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, condemned Melenchon’s remarks as “an obscene attack on the memory of the victims” of Merah and of the Champs-Elysee shooting.
Melenchon has made multiple statements widely condemned as antisemitic.