Weekly roundup of world briefs


August 13, 2021

Israeli Cabinet approves first state budget in three years

(JNS) — The Israeli Cabinet on Monday unanimously approved the state budget for 2022-2021, after marathon negotiations that began on Sunday morning and ran throughout the night.

“Israel has a budget, a budget of a government that cares. After three years of stalemate, Israel is returning to work,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a statement, noting it had been three years since a state budget had been passed due to political gridlock which saw the country hold four elections in two years.

Bennett thanked Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman for putting the budget together.

According to Lieberman, the budget contains reforms focusing “first and foremost” on lowering the cost of living.

“We have invested vast sums in infrastructure, transportation and real estate, and we have passed significant reforms that will lower barriers and reduce the bureaucracy, which will make things easier for everyone in our daily management, business or private,” he said.

The budget now requires approval from the Knesset, which is expected to hold an initial vote in September.

Under Israeli law, if a budget is not passed within 145 days of a government’s formation, the government is automatically dissolved and new elections held. Israel’s current government was sworn in on July 13, meaning it must pass a budget by no later than Nov. 4.

Ecuador’s largest grocer takes Ben & Jerry’s off the shelf

(Israel Hayom) — Ecuador’s largest supermarket chain, owned by El Rosado Group, has announced that it will no longer sell ice-cream manufactured by Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s.

The company has more than 180 stores across Ecuador and is joining other supermarket stores worldwide that are protesting the decision by Ben & Jerry’s not to sell ice-cream beyond Israel’s pre-1967 Green Line.

“For us, [the] decision is worrying and scandalous,” El Rosado Group CEO Johnny Czarninski wrote in a letter to Unilever. He also contacted Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to let her know about the decision after she approached him on the matter.

“Discrimination against some Jews harms all Jews worldwide,” he wrote.

Unilever is also receiving blows in the United States, with Illinois having announced last week it intends to take sanctions against the company. Illinois joins other states, like Texas, New York and New Jersey, which have already proposed similar measures.

Greenfield, published an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday defending the company’s decision.

“We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel. But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government,” they wrote.

France’s Macron to sue advertiser for depicting him as Hitler

(Israel Hayom) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s attorneys announced last week that he is planning to sue a billboard owner for depicting him as Adolf Hitler.

Several such images were placed across the southern province of Vaud as part of a broader backlash against Macron’s coronavirus restrictions policy.

One billboard in the city of Toulon portrayed Macron in a uniform as the Nazi leader, with a hairstyle and mustache similar to Hitler’s. The swastika armband was changed to LREM, La République En Marche, the name of Macron’s ruling party. An accompanying slogan read: “Obey. Get vaccinated

Michel-Ange Flori, who created and distributed the posters, told the French daily Var-Matin: “I was summoned by the local police. They confirmed that they had received a complaint from Elysee Palace [the official residence of the French president]. I was surprised and shocked.”

He later tweeted: “In Macron-land, [Charlie Hebdo‘s] showing the Prophet’s rear is satire, but making fun of Macron as a dictator is a blasphemy.”

Born in Corsica, Flori owns 400 billboards through Var and has a history of controversies. In 2019, during the “yellow vest” protests, he was fined 30,000 euros ($36,000) for using his billboards to criticize police conduct.

Azerbaijan opens trade office in Tel Aviv in preparation for future opening of embassy

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Azerbaijan has opened its first diplomatic office in Israel, three decades after the countries initiated diplomatic relations.

Azerbaijan’s trade office in Tel Aviv, opened on Thursday, is a stepping stone to the central Asian Muslim country opening an embassy in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. The countries began their diplomatic relations in 1992, and Israel has an embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.

Trade between the two countries is at least $200 million, according to the Post.

The trade office opening comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity between Israel and other mostly Mulsim countries. Last year, four Muslim countries announced they would normalize relations with Israel — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Yair Lapid visited the UAE last month, the first-ever visit to the country by an Israeli foreign minister. Lapid will also make a first-ever visit to Morocco next month.

Lapid opened an embassy in the UAE and will open a diplomatic mission in Morocco as well. Direct flights between Israel and Morocco also recently began.

British government okays contested Holocaust monument in London

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The British government has approved a contested plan for a prominent Holocaust memorial center outside Parliament in London.

Friday’s decision by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government means that the ambitious project has cleared its final major bureaucratic hurdle about five years after its inception.

The plans include 23 large bronze sculptures and an underground learning center to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens outside the Palace of Westminster, which is the seat of the legislature of the United Kingdom. The project will receive $105 million in government funding and is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Opponents of the plan have raised multiple objections, ranging from landscaping objections and concerns it would exaggerate Great Britain’s role in rescuing Jews to fears it would be targeted by terrorists and eclipse a nearby monument marking the abolition of slavery.

Westminster Council, the local government of the London borough of Westminster, last year blocked the project from gaining planning permission, prompting the ministry to set up an inquiry commission. The ministry decided to go ahead with the project despite the Council’s objection.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews in a statement said it welcomes the government’s approval for the project.

Among the project’s critics was Ruth Deech, a Jewish member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British parliament. She said the location of the monument — a large park with few preexisting facilities for a learning center — creates unnecessary complications that risk making the project “ineffective.”

Princess Diana’s niece marries fashion tycoon of South African Jewish descent

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The niece of the late Princess Diana married a Jewish fashion tycoon.

Kitty Spencer, a 30-year-old model, last week wed Michael Lewis, 62, who chairs the Foschini Group, in a lavish ceremony near Rome. It was the second marriage for Lewis, a South Africa native whose fortune is estimated at about $100 million.

Last year, the British media reported that Spencer was converting to Judaism for Lewis. Reports from the wedding did not say whether it had a religious component.

The Sunday Times reported that friends of the couple had said that Spencer was “taking religious instruction” in preparation for the marriage. Reports in the British Jewish media did not indicate whether that process has been completed.

Spencer’s cousin Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, is the future supreme governor of the Church of England.

Lewis is believed to have married his first wife, Leola, with whom he has three adult children, in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony in 1985, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewis is five years older than Kitty’s father Earl Spencer, a brother of the late Diana. He was absent from the wedding, and Spencer’s two brothers walked her down the aisle, the Evening Standard reported.

Among the guests at the July 24 event at Villa Aldo Brandini were Spencer’s sisters, Eliza and Amelia, the pop star Pixie Lott and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, wife of the actor Idris Elba.

Tel Aviv’s Sherry Herring sandwich shop to open on Manhattan’s Upper West Side

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) — If there was any doubt that the Upper West Side of Manhattan was a Jewish neighborhood, a new herring shop opening in the area should seal the deal.

Sherry Herring, a Tel Aviv sandwich shop offering herring sandwiches — served with a shot of vodka — will be opening a stateside outpost in New York City. According to the West Side Rag, the new store will be located at 245 West 72nd Street, replacing a longtime hat store. It is not yet clear when the store will open.

The original Sherry Herring store is located in Shuk HaNamal, an outdoor food market established in 2010 at the Tel Aviv port. The shop, which sells pickled fish and baguette sandwiches, was once featured on an episode of Somebody Feed Phil, a travel show on Netflix. Michal Ansky, the Israeli foodie who launched Shuk HaNamal, said the shop was named after her mother.

“This is worth stopping for,” Phil Rosenthal, the show’s host, said of the sandwich.

Artem Dolgopyat wins gymnastics gold for Israel, its second ever in an Olympics

By Philissa Cramer

(JTA) — Israeli men’s gymnast Artem Dolgopyat took home the Olympic gold medal in floor exercise Sunday, giving Israel its second-ever gold in any Olympic event.

Born in Dnipro, Ukraine, Dolgopyat moved with his family to Israel when he was 12 and began training at Maccabi Tel Aviv, an acclaimed sports club that has produced multiple Olympians. The Associated Press had predicted that he would win gold at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics (and that six other Israeli athletes or teams would medal during the games).

Until Sunday, the only gold medal ever won by an Israeli was Gal Fridman’s 2004 gold in windsurfing.

A compromise to avoid contentious evictions in Sheikh Jarrah might be coming together

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court has proposed a compromise that could avert the contentious eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

The neighborhood, also known in Hebrew as Shimon HaTzaddik, was home to Jewish families before Jordan captured the area in the 1948 war for Israel’s independence. Jordan then gave the Jewish families’ homes to Palestinians who were displaced from Israel and prohibited from returning. Now an Israeli group that obtained the original Jewish families’ ownership rights is trying to evict the Palestinian families from the homes.

The neighborhood has been the site of legal battles and protests rooted in the competing broader Israeli and Palestinian claims to eastern Jerusalem. Protests over the pending evictions helped spark the conflict in May between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

At a hearing Monday, Justice Isaac Amit suggested that the Palestinian families stay in the homes as “protected tenants” who are legally protected from eviction for life, according to The Jerusalem Post. In exchange they would have to pay a small amount of rent to the Israeli owners.

“What we are saying is, let’s move from the level of principles to the levels of practicality,” said Amit, according to Haaretz. “People must continue to live there and that’s the idea, to try to reach a practical arrangement without making various declarations.”

But the Israeli owners are demanding that the Palestinian residents formally recognize the Jewish residency rights. The Palestinian families worry that accepting the deal would constitute relinquishing their claims to the property in future potential court battles.

The hearing ended inconclusively, and the judges asked the Palestinians’ attorneys to submit a list of people who are eligible for protected tenancy.

Infrastructure bill includes $50 million in funding for energy efficiency at religious institutions

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill that is seen as a rare bipartisan breakthrough includes funding for energy efficiency measures at religious institutions, a measure long sought by Orthodox Jewish groups.

The Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act wrapped into the bill that Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced on Sunday night would include $50 million for grants of up to $200,000 each to improve infrastructure at religious institutions and other nonprofits, as well as pay for items like renewable energy generators and heaters, according to a release by the Orthodox Union, which for years has led lobbying for such a measure.

The language in the bill is based on the nonprofit security grant program launched in the mid-2000s at the behest of Jewish organizations seeking increased security following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Congress now allocates $180 million in nonprofit security grants and a number of states have launched their own such funding.

“Our nation’s synagogues, churches, day schools, and many other nonprofits have badly needed to update their energy infrastructure but haven’t had the funds to do so,” Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s Washington director, said in the release.

The infrastructure bill, the subject of months of negotiations, could still be amended on its way to passage by the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

100-year-old former Nazi camp guard to stand trial as accessory to murder of 3,500 prisoners

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A 100-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard has been indicted in Germany for being an accessory to murder in 3,500 cases.

The defendant, who was not named in the German media, is scheduled to go on trial in October in the Neuruppin district court for his service at Sachsenhausen, Reuters reported Sunday.

Court sessions requiring the defendant’s presence will be limited to about two hours a day because of his age.

The defendant was said to have worked as a guard from 1942 to 1945 in Sachsenhausen, a camp near Berlin where some 200,000 people were imprisoned and 20,000 murdered.

Germany has prosecuted several accused accomplices to Nazi war crimes since the 2011 conviction in Munich of former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who had been living in the U.S. before being arrested, deported and tried for his role at Sobibor. He was found guilty as an accessory in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews there and died in 2012.

The Demjanjuk case set a precedent that being a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder. Few of the guards are still alive, however, and thus the number of prosecutions is dwindling.

Team Israel’s Olympic baseball run ends after 9th-inning loss to Dominican Republic

By Philissa Cramer

(JTA) — Israel’s improbable quest for an Olympic medal in baseball ended Tuesday after the team featuring several former Major League ballplayers fell in a close match to the Dominican Republic.

Israel led 6-5 going into the ninth inning, but a home run followed by a string of singles propelled the Dominican Republic to a final score of 7-6. The loss means that Israel will leave Tokyo with just one win out of five games, a poor showing in what many had hoped would be a breakout year for Israeli baseball.

The Associated Press had predicted that Team Israel, made up of both Israeli ballplayers and American Jews, would win a bronze medal. Instead, the team lost to Korea and the United States in opening-round games, defeated Mexico in the first round of competition, and then lost to Korea again in round two before facing the Dominican Republic.

Ian Kinsler, the team’s only former All-Star, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before the Olympics that his goal in playing for Team Israel was to increase the profile of baseball in Israel.

“Medaling for Team Israel would create that buzz,” he said, and “obviously bring more attention to the sport. So it’s exciting to think about all that.”


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