Weekly roundup of world briefs


September 2, 2022

Creator of ‘Shtisel’ is working on a series about Theodor Herzl

By Philissa Cramer

(JTA) — Modern Jewish history’s most famous bearded political leader could be coming to streaming services soon, thanks to one of the creators of “Shtisel.”

Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in his native Austria in 1904, is the subject of a series being developed by Ori Elon, according to a report in Deadline. Elon wrote the script for “Shtisel,” the hit Israeli TV show about the travails of a haredi Orthodox family, as well as for “Srugim,” a popular series about Modern Orthodox singles in Jerusalem.

The Herzl project is in the “early stages,” according to the report, and is being financed by Inbar Nacht, a prominent Israeli attorney and philanthropist whose family foundation supported artists during the pandemic and helped hundreds of people escape the Taliban as it took control of Afghanistan last year. (Nacht’s husband Marius is an entrepreneur behind a successful early cybersecurity venture who has said Israelis should invest more often in their own country’s innovations.)

Herzl’s brief but significant life has not been depicted on screen in any substantive way since 1921, when he was the subject of an Austrian silent film called “Theodor Herzl, Standard-Bearer of the Jewish People.” That depiction would not have culminated in the 1948 founding of Israel, the state Herzl and his followers envisioned for the Jews in the Middle East.

His advocacy on behalf of that vision lasted for just a decade and included travel across Europe and the Middle East to generate support from political leaders and philanthropists. At the time of his death at age 44 of heart failure, he had proposed a Jewish state in Uganda.

Lapid to visit Germany to discuss procurement of Israel’s Arrow-3 missile-defense system

By Ariel Kahana

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is expected to travel to Germany in the coming weeks to discuss, among other things, Berlin’s request to procure a missile-defense system from either Israel or the United States, according to Israel Hayom.

Germany is looking to acquire the Arrow-3—built by Israel Aerospace Industries—or the US THAAD system—produced by Lockheed Martin—to defend against threats, including Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. 

Arrow-3, which intercepts ballistic missiles from outer space, neutralizing them before they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, is considered one of the most state-of-the-art interceptors and the only one that crashes into missiles, rather than detonating them with warheads.

It is designed to serve as the top of the multi-layer Israeli air-defense system, joining the ranks of Arrow-2, David’s Sling and Iron Dome.

The German government first made the request at the beginning of 2022, when Naftali Bennett was prime minister, and talks are expected to continue for some time. 

The Israeli political-defense echelon has expressed great support for the move. 

“Germany is one of Israel’s biggest friends in the world, and every such request should be granted,” one official said. 

Lapid is expected to travel to Germany on Sept. 12, a week before flying to New York City to attend the United Nations General Assembly. 

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

OneTable announces new features for guests, hosts to serve more at Shabbat tables

(JNS) — The national nonprofit OneTable, which empowers young professionals to find and share Shabbat dinners, announces two new features for guests and hosts to elevate such hospitality.

The “guests +1” and “open your dinner, unlock $300 nourishment” options are now available through the organization.

“We are excited to help more people recharge and find meaning at Shabbat dinner tables this year,” said Tirtzah Bassel, OneTable’s vice president of Jewish Learning and Partnerships. “We are all enjoying the chance to reconnect in person at our own comfort levels. OneTable is listening and giving our hosts and guests new options to savor a Friday meal, unplug from the week and build meaningful communities.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, OneTable turned off the guest RSVP option to add a plus-one feature when the guest responded to a dinner. It has reactivated that option, giving hosts the ability to set certain safety parameters, including requiring vaccination for guests if they choose to participate.

Hosts can receive up to $300 per Shabbat dinner in nourishment support (up from $100), which equals $10 per person for up to 30 people. They can use the OneTable nourishment catalog to elevate Friday nights with groceries, prepared meals or delivery, and home-decor items from hundreds of businesses. Such dinners work to network, build community and celebrate the weekly Jewish holiday.

“This year alone, more than 24,000 people have participated in 13,000-plus OneTable dinners, bringing good conversation and meaningful connections to Shabbat tables,” said Eva Laporte, OneTable’s director of marketing and communications. “We are excited for these new features to elevate hospitality and allow more people to create unique and meaningful Shabbat dinners throughout the country.”

Biden discusses Iran nuclear talks with Western leaders

(JNS) — U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday discussed the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran during a phone call with the leaders of France, Germany, and Britain, according to a statement released by the White House.

Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke about the “need to strengthen support for partners in the Middle East” as negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s nuclear program appeared to be reaching an end-point.

The leaders also discussed the need to undertake “joint efforts to deter and constrain Iran’s destabilizing regional activities,” said the statement.

The call comes just days after Iran reportedly dropped its apparent precondition for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

A senior Biden administration official cited by CNN revealed that Iran’s response earlier this week to a draft nuclear agreement proposed by the European Union made no mention of Tehran’s previously firm position on the IRGC.

“The current version of the text, and what they are demanding, drops it,” the official was quoted as saying. “So if we are closer to a deal, that’s why.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 17 that a central tenet of Iran’s response to the “final” nuclear proposal is that guarantees be put in place if the U.S. attempts to again withdraw from the deal, as it did under former President Donald Trump.

“There are three issues that, if resolved, we can reach an agreement in the coming days,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian last week said, according to Reuters.

“We have told them that our red lines should be respected. … We have shown enough flexibility. … We do not want to reach a deal that after 40 days, two months or three months fails to be materialized on the ground,” said Amirabdollahian.

Meanwhile, Axios reported that U.S. officials have in recent days been seeking to reassure Israel that Washington has not agreed to new concessions to Iran.

However, Jerusalem remains skeptical and Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday reportedly urged a top U.S. lawmaker to press the Biden administration to ditch the nuclear negotiations.

“In the current situation, the time has come to walk away from the table. Anything else sends a message of weakness to Iran,” Lapid was quoted by Axios as saying during a meeting with visiting Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.)—chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa subcommittee—and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.

According to local media, Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will travel to Washington next week for a series of meetings with U.S. officials that will focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

Federal judge denies Ben & Jerry’s bid to stop sales in Judea and Samaria

(JNS) — The attempt by ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales of its products in Judea and Samaria was rejected Monday by a federal judge, reported Reuters.

Ben & Jerry’s brought the lawsuit on July 5 against its parent company Unilever after the latter announced it would sell the rights to produce its dessert products in Israel to American Quality Products Ltd. Owned by Israeli businessman Avi Zinger, American Quality Products has produced and delivered Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel for decades.

In the lawsuit, the Ben & Jerry’s board argued that the transfer breached a deal between them and Unilever because it circumvented the ice-cream company’s decision to end sales in what it considers “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Ben & Jerry’s claimed that to sell its products in Judea and Samaria is inconsistent with its values.

Argentina’s president blasted for comparing COVID-19 pandemic to Holocaust

(JNS) — Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez came under fire for drawing similarities between the coronavirus pandemic and the Holocaust. 

He compared COVID-19 to “one or two Holocausts” while speaking at a seminar for the 33 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The event concluded on Aug. 18 in the capital of Buenos Aires. 

The Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas —the umbrella organization of Argentina’s Jewish community—said “the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews practiced by Nazism cannot and should not be equated with another situation.” 

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the president’s remarks, saying in a Twitter post on Monday that “evoking the 6 million Jews who were systematically murdered in the Holocaust to reference the tragic COVID global death toll is an affront to the victims of the Shoah.”

B’nai Brith International said in a statement on Twitter that Fernandez’s “trivialization” of the Holocaust is “unacceptable and deeply disrespects the victims of the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind.”

Also in May, Fernandez said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic was similar to that of the 6 million people killed in the Holocaust, reported the news outlet AJN.

Bull on loose runs through Israeli streets into building

(JNS) — A bull escaped from its confinement on Monday morning, causing a panic in the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod before entering an office building and eluding capture for half an hour as it scurried along the corridors.

The animal entered a branch of Bank Leumi in the city’s industrial zone, skidding along the slick floors, where people captured the action on video and shared it on social media.

The bull was eventually chased outside the office after the owner arrived to restrain it, reported Ynet. The city vet used a tranquilizer shot to knock the animal out, concluding the situation without any injury to members of the public.

One person who commented on the article asked, “Did the bull make a desposit?”

Israel reinstates PCR tests at Ben-Gurion Airport

By Shimon Yaish

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Ben-Gurion International Airport will reinstate a service on Wednesday that most travelers probably didn’t miss: PCR testing for people entering Israel.

The tests are being funded by the government and are voluntary, at least for now. The purpose of the program is to make PCR testing easily accessible for people entering the country ahead of winter when COVID-19 numbers are projected to spike.

In the first phase of the new rollout, testing will be carried out from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Later, testing will be available around the clock. Travelers who want to be tested can avail themselves of the service in the “G zone” of the arrival hall after collecting their baggage.

Once incoming flights land, passengers will receive text messages from Israel’s Ministry of Health encouraging them to be tested before leaving the airport.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Shin Bet issues ‘severe’ warning to Palestinian Authority not to interfere in Israeli elections

(JNS) — The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) has issued a “severe” warning to the Palestinian Authority to not interfere in Israel’s upcoming general elections, Israeli media reported on Monday.

The warning came after P.A. intelligence chief Majed Faraj met in Ramallah with leaders of the Arab-majority Joint List and encouraged them to merge with the Islamist Ra’am Party with a view to forming a large enough bloc to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from becoming prime minister, according to Channel 12.

Ra’am broke off from the Joint List ahead of Israel’s last election and ended up crossing the electoral threshold. The party, led by Mansour Abbas, garnered four mandates and entered the governing coalition initially led by Yamina’s Naftali Bennett and currently by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid Party.

The Joint List, composed of three factions, won only six seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 2021 elections, down from 15 in the national vote the previous year when Ra’am was still part of the alliance.

The Channel 12 report came on the heels of another by the outlet that suggested Faraj had gone so far as to castigate the Joint List lawmakers during their meeting for “not doing enough to increase voter turnout among the Arab [Israeli] community to prevent Netanyahu’s return to power.”

That report said that Faraj even offered to serve as a mediator in negotiations between the Joint List and Ra’am.

Bank of Israel makes biggest interest rate hike in two decades

(JNS) — The Bank of Israel on Monday raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percent in a bid to curb inflation that has topped 5 percent over the past 12 months.

The hike to 2.0 percent from 1.25 percent was the central bank’s biggest in two decades, and analysts believe additional increases are on the horizon, according to a Reuters report.

The interest rate stood at 0.1 percent in April, an all-time low set at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report.

“We understand the pain of those taking loans, taking mortgages, but the pain today is to prevent a much greater pain in the future,” Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told Channel 13 in reference to the hike.

He added that the bank remains determined to get inflation back within the 1-3 percent annual target.

In July, the Bank of Israel raised the interest rate by 0.5 percent after inflation in the country crossed “the upper bound of the target range,” at the time 4.1 percent.

Israeli kidnapped in Brazil released unharmed after ransom paid

(JNS) — An Israeli kidnapped in Brazil was released unharmed hours later after his family agreed to pay a ransom, the Israeli Foreign Ministry revealed on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, the Israeli was kidnapped on Tuesday evening along with his Brazilian Uber driver, who was subsequently released in a remote area, by three members of a criminal gang.

After several hours, the assailants contacted the hostage’s family and then withdrew money from an ATM using the man’s credit card.

In the interim, the Uber driver reported the incident to police, who were able to eventually track down the suspects by geolocating the phone they used to call the Israeli’s family.


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