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San Diego Jewish World will pause for Rosh Hashanah

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO—Along with most of our readers, the staff and contributors to San Diego Jewish World will pause for Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday evening (U.S. Pacific Coast time), September 8, and will resume their work after sundown Thursday, Sept. 9.  (Some of us will observe a second day of the Holy Day as well.)

Co-publishers Donald and Nancy Harrison extend to all their readers, to fellow writers and contributors, and to the Jewish community at large a fervent wish that this new year will bring peace in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, and that, on a more personal level, the New Year will be for all of us—Jew and Gentile alike–healthy, happy and prosperous.

L’shana tova!

Obama says progress made in first round of Mideast talks

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

From Left: Mubarak, Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas, Abdullah (White House photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJC)–Following a first round of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, US President Barack Obama said that parties were making progress on the Middle East peace process. He also said the talks were productive, but gave no specific details.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ended Thursday’s meeting in Washington with an agreement to talk again on 14 and 15 September, and every two weeks thereafter, fast-tracking a peace push that is one of Obama’s top priorities. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah were also in the US capital to take part in the direct talks, the first since Prime Minister Netanyahu took office 18 months ago.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged both sides to overcome the final obstacles to peace, saying their new talks may be a last chance to end the conflict. Clinton told reporters that skepticism and suspicion could not be allowed to derail the talks as has happened so many times in the past.

“It is clear to me that the forces of growth and positive energy are in a conflict with the forces of destruction and negativity. And the United States wants to weigh in on the side of leaders and people who see this as maybe the last chance for a very long time to resolve this.”

Clinton has in the past described the rising risks both sides face, saying “the dynamics of demography, ideology and technology” threaten to produce more extremist groups with better weapons dedicating to a violent solution to the conflict. She said it was important both sides now take concrete steps to improve conditions on the ground, particularly in areas where Palestinians and Israelis come into direct contact. “So the checkpoints, the roadblocks, all of the daily challenges that we know affect the Palestinians, are certainly on the agenda,” Clinton said.

“I think the political negotiations need to be matched with changes on the ground, and confidence-building and interactions between Israelis and Palestinians.” Clinton acknowledged the challenges ahead for both Abbas and Netanyahu, but said both leaders realized the imperative for their peoples to find a solution. “These two men, perhaps for different reasons, may be the two who can actually do this,” she said.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would try to block any extension of the moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements. Lieberman said the Israeli government must keep its promise to voters that the ten-month building moratorium, declared last November, would end as scheduled at the end of the month. “A promise is a promise,” Lieberman told ‘Israel Radio’.

“We will not agree to any extension. I promise that if there’s a proposal that we don’t accept it will not pass,” he added. However, in a sign that a compromise was possible Lieberman told the newspaper ‘Yediot Ahronot’ that he would not quit the coalition even if he does not get his way. “We will not leave or bring down the government. We will fight from the inside for what we believe,” he declared. He also voice skepticism regarding the possibility of a peace agreement within the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, President Abbas has made it clear that he would not continue with peace talks if Israeli settlement construction resumes.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Germany’s President Wulff inaugurates Mainz synagogue

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

MAINZ (WJC)–German President Christian Wulff has inaugurated a new synagogue in the city of Mainz, on the very site where Nazis destroyed the previous one more than 70 years ago.

“Exactly 98 years after the opening of the last major synagogue in Mainz, the Jewish community once again will have an architectural and religious center,” Wulff said at the official ceremony.  Wulff spoke of “a small miracle.” The ”revival of Jewish life in Germany is continuing” thanks to the new synagogue, he said, calling it a “blessing for our country, a blessing for Germany.”

Cologne architect Manuel Herz designed the US$ 13 million modern structure, which seats some people, and inscribed five Hebrew letters forming the word ‘Kedushah’ (holiness). The previous synagogue was burnt during the ’Kristallnacht’ pogrom in November 1938.  Mainz was considered a center for Jewish culture for centuries, and some 2,600 Jews lived there in 1933, when Adolf Hitler rose to power. More than half of them perished in death camps. 

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Lauder lauds Jewish revival in Germany

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

LEIPZIG, Germany (WJC)–Two Orthodox rabbinical students have been ordained by the Rabbinical Seminary Berlin in the eastern German city of Leipzig. Both men were trained at the seminary, located in the German capital and supported by the foundation of World Jewish Congress.

The seminary is the successor to the institution founded by Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer in 1873 in Berlin and shut down by the Nazis in 1938. “Judaism is alive and well in Germany,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said during the ceremony. The head of the German Jewish community and vice-president of the WJC, Charlotte Knobloch, praised the contribution of eastern European Jewish immigrants to Jewish life in Germany, which was now there to stay.

Shlomo Afanasev was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he studied financial management and accounting. He will be working for the Jewish communities in the state of Brandenburg. Moshe Baumel’s family immigrated to Germany from Lithuania in 1991. He will be rabbi and director of Jewish studies at the Zwi-Peres-Chajes School of the Jewish Community of Vienna, Austria. In addition to pursuing ordination, Baumel has studied art history and antiquities.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Mass shofar blowing on Tuesday will call for peace

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

LA JOLLA (Press Release)–Members of the San Diego Israel Coalition will gather at Congregation Beth El Tuesday for a 10 a.m demonstration that the Jewish community supports peace in the Middle East.

The theme will be sounded with a mass shofar-blowing in the courtyard of the Conservative congregation at 8660 Gilman Drive.

“The shofar is the most common symbol of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and beginning of the High Holiday season, which begins at sunset Wednesday September 8,” said Audrey Jacobs, a co-chair of the San Diego Israel Coalition. 

“Jews blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah as a spiritual and intellectual ‘wake up’ call to examine our actions, and commit to personal improvement in the new year.  The SDIC ‘Shofar for Israel’ gathering is a symbolic call to all people of goodwill here, in the Middle East and around the world to renew our commitment and efforts to pursue peace in the Middle East in the coming year. ”

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Preceding based on material provided by the San Diego Israel Coalition

Abbas tells Palestinians he won’t give up their principles

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM –Israeli media are quoting comments made by Mahmoud Abbas, that the Palestinians will not give up any of their principles in dealing with the Israelis. Among the items he considers cardinal are refugees, the 1967 borders, and the presence of Israeli civilian or military personnel in Palestine. Pressure on those issues, he says, will cause him to walk out of the talks.  

Mr Abbas should know that Israelis also have some principles. The most prominent may be the Land of Israel, a principle that has been in existence for something like 3,000 years. The Palestinians have thought of themselves as a nation for about 100 years. However, one wonders about the solidity of that concept due to fighting between political factions, clans, Muslim extremists and others, as well as the pressure of Muslims that turned Christian Palestinians into a stream of outward migrants.
Like all principles, the Land of Israel has its problems, but it is not hard to find interpretations that it does not leave much room for Palestine, or too many Palestinians.
Relax. 
Israelis have pretty much given up any insistence on their monopolistic control of the Land of Israel. The point is, they expect Palestinians to be equally flexible about what they claim to be their principles. If not, there is little purpose in negotiating. The coming year, which is the Obama administration’s idealized timetable, will not be an exercise in Israeli surrender, or Israeli flexibility and Palestinian steadfastness.
Israelis generally recognize that as the stronger power they are expected to be more forthcoming than their weaker neighbors. But within limits. 
There will have to be a better deal for those 50-60,000 Jews living in the West Bank beyond the security barrier  than for the 8,500 Jews withdrawn from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinian response to that move has not made many Israelis keen to move tens of thousands.
And those refugees who claimed to have been pushed out by the Israelis in 1948, as well as their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren will have to get use to living where they are, or go someplace else. A few may be let back in as a gesture when everything else is settled, but by that time there won’t be many of the original refugees left. There is not much inclination to make gestures toward those claiming to be descendants of refugees. 
There will be some who say that Abbas’ comments are meant for home consumption. He must know that he will have to be flexible with Israel under the eyes of the American and European observers.
Such an excuse is just as troubling as his comments. The Palestinians have been investing in the demonization of Israel for more than 60 years. Incitement continues in their schools and mosques, and may enjoy only occasional pauses in the mass media controlled by Fatah when it suits party leaders. If there is no preparation of the Palestinian public about the need to rethink their principles there will be little prospect of a deal anytime in the near or not so near future.
Other signs suggest that this appears to be an ideal time for negotiations. They include Netanyahu’s strength, the lessons of flexibility he has learned, plus the support for accommodation that appears among some of his leading party colleagues and even more so in the parliamentary opposition, plus the persistence of Barack Obama, and the relative prosperity in both Israel and the West Bank. 
Without Palestinian flexibility, the stars may not align so favorably for many years. This might be their last chance. 
Some years ago Anwar Sadat indicated that the last Egyptian had given his life for the sake of Palestine. While Palestinians figure prominently in the mantras recited by rulers throughout the Muslim world, they have not had significant military help since 1967. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 was not aimed at helping Palestinians, but at regaining Syrian and Egyptian territory. Occasional efforts coming out of Lebanon and Gaza have resulted in devastation in those places rather than in Israel. The aid provided by the United Nations, Europeans and Americans is best described as political lip service and a level of welfare assistance that has reinforced a culture of helplessness.
Palestinians should recognize that most nations do not have their own state. There is not much between their present condition and that of the Kurds, Druze, Basques, Catalonians, Welsh, Corsicans, and who knows how many African tribes who maintain their own languages, but are powerless outsiders in countries ruled by others. 
Bombast will not give the Palestinians their own state. Political savvy would be better. 

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

Research sub Nautilus to explore Mediterranean floor

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–A unique and first of its kind project has set sail from the coast of Haifa. The Nautilus – a research ship owned by oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic – has set out on a voyage to research the sea floor off the coast of Israel, in those areas in which Israel has rights (which reach beyond the territorial waters).

Heading this expedition are marine researchers from the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa.

Nautilus is a research ship fully equipped with state-of-the-art technologies for sea-floor research, and includes diving robots, elaborate control rooms and more. Taking Ballard’s place as captain of the ship on this voyage is Israel Prize winner and Director of the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham. He will be heading the ship over the coming two weeks, during which time the team will study the Mediterranean floor. Prof. Ben-Avraham, along with the School’s scientists, mapped out each and every step of this expedition.

“This unique collaboration gives expression to the central emphasis that the University of Haifa has decided to place on marine research, a resource that promises many discoveries in a variety of areas: economy, medicine, energy, biology, and more. The future is in the sea and this voyage is a first step towards understanding the mystery of a region that is so close to us yet still so far and unknown,” said Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, President of the University of Haifa.

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Preceding provided by the University of Haifa