113 Bereaved Boys Take Part in Mass Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall
(JNS.org) The Jewish charity Colel Chabad on Monday hosted a mass bar mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for 113 boys who had lost a parent.
Each boy received a new set of tallit and tefillin as well as a dress tie and kippah, and made the traditional blessing over the Torah for the first time. Many of the boys came from economically disadvantaged families that could not have afforded to organize a full bar mitzvah celebration. Causes of death for the boys’ parents included illness, accidents, terrorism, and suicide.
The Colel Chabad bar mitzvah program, in its seventh year, was the brainchild of Rabbi Yitzchak Mishan of Brazil, a father of 13 who lost his wife to illness. Colel Chabad also runs a bat mitzvah program for girls.
“During times of happiness, I know that these families feel that something is missing in their lives,” Mishan said in a statement. “So our goal was to ensure that these children know that they are not alone, that they can be truly happy, and that life will go on despite the obvious pain and loss they are feeling.”
Report: Israel Sought European Mediation for Talks with Hamas
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel asked European officials to serve as arbitrators in talks with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas about the return of remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer, al-Araby al-Jadeed reported Monday.
According to the London-based news outlet, senior Hamas officials said they refused to discuss the issue as long as Israel still holds prisoners who were released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, but were later rearrested.
Meanwhile, Arab media outlets reported that Hamas leaders are conflicted over whether to have indirect lines of communication with Israel to discuss a five-year cease-fire. It was recently reported that Qatari officials contacted Israel on behalf of Hamas and offered to mediate a long-term cease-fire agreement. While Hamas leaders in Gaza were in favor of this initiative, Hamas leaders abroad remain opposed to any negotiations that could bring about a long-term cease-fire.
ADL Audit Records 21% Increase in Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S.
(JNS.org) Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 21 percent in America from 2013 to 2014, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual audit of those incidents revealed.
ADL’s audit, released Monday, recorded 912 anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, up from 751 the previous year. The figures marked what ADL described as “the first time in nearly a decade of declines where the overall number of incidents has substantially risen.”
“While the overall number of anti-Semitic incidents remains lower than we have seen historically, the fact remains that 2014 was a particularly violent year for Jews both overseas and in the United States,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said, singling out the fatal pre-Passover shootings in the Kansas City area by white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr..
ADL said in a press release that last summer saw “a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents” during the 50-day war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.
“Anti-Semitism manifested on the fringe of anti-Israel movements during and after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge as Jewish individuals and institutions became the targets of anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts of vandalism,” said ADL.
New York experienced 231 anti-Semitic incidents last year, the most of any U.S. state. Other states that saw the most anti-Semitic incidents in 2013, according to the audit, included California (184), New Jersey (107), Florida (70), Pennsylvania (48 incidents), and Massachusetts (47).
The audit’s 912 recorded anti-Semitic incidents included 513 incidents of harassment, threats and, events; 363 incidents of vandalism; and 36 assaults.
Abbas Slammed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad for Urging Arab Intervention in Gaza
(JNS.org) Leaders from the Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad slammed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas for purportedly suggesting that Arab states intervene in Gaza with military force resembling their action in Yemen.
Abbas made the suggestion during his remarks at the Arab League summit in Egypt, where he praised the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen as “acceptable and advisable” and said that “there are other cases, there are other countries suffering from division and discord.”
“We suffer from division. We were the first to suffer from division,” Abbas said, in reference to the split between the PA-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
“Abbas had previously described Gaza as a rebellious region and seeks to pit the world against his own people, not to mention that he works with the Israelis against his Palestinians,” Hamas member Mushir al-Masri said at a rally against Abbas in northern Gaza on Sunday evening, the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Dawood Shehad, a spokesperson from Islamic Jihad, said Abbas’s statements are “poisonous and to destroy every effort towards national unity and internal cohesion.”
“Gaza will never become a separate entity from the rest of Palestine, and the conspiracy Abbas is warning of is actually of his own making,” Shehab said, according to the Anadolu Agency.
At the Arab League summit, Arab leaders agreed to form a joint military force to confront regional threats such as the Islamic State terror group and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert Found Guilty of Bribery in Retrial
(JNS.org) Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted for bribery in a retrial at the Jerusalem District Court after previously being acquitted. Olmert was found guilty of accepting illegal payments from an American businessman in 2012 based on new evidence reviewed by the court.
The court ruled that Olmert received about $600,000 from Morris Talansky while he was mayor of Jerusalem, and additional funds while he served as a cabinet minister. The court did not rule, however, that Olmert used the money for any illegal activities.
“In light of the new evidence, we have changed our conclusion... The defendant was obligated to report that cash to the state comptroller. Failure to report precluded any oversight and thus a causative connection was established. [Olmert’s] efforts to convince [his aide Shula] Zaken to say the money was a campaign fund indicate that he knew what he was doing,” the three judges who made the ruling wrote in their decision.
In March 2014, Olmert was found guilty on different bribery charges, for accepting $160,000 from the developers of the massive Holyland apartment complex in Jerusalem while he was mayor.
Jewish Democrats Ask White House to Tone Down Criticism of Netanyahu
(JNS.org) In a meeting with deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, a dozen Jewish Democrats serving in the House of Representatives asked the White House to tone down its criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his statements on the peace process.
The Jewish lawmakers told Rhodes that the White House “had to stop acting as if the Israeli prime minister’s comments are the only thing holding up a peace process” while not “expressing a word of disappointment about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” Politico reported.
Netanyahu came under fire from the Obama administration after saying before his re-election that his government would not support a two-state solution. The prime minister later clarified that he supports a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.
Jewish Democrats also reportedly told the White House that the Obama administration is making it difficult for them to persuade their constituents to support a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
“You want us to go out and say the administration’s got Israel’s back. How are you going to get us to say that when our constituents believe that the administration is stabbing Israel in the back?” an anonymous Democratic Jewish member of Congress told Politico.
Shin Bet Arrests Israeli Arab for Joining Islamic State
(JNS.org) Israel’s Shin Bet security agency announced Monday that it recently arrested an Israeli Arab man from Jerusalem for traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State terror group.
Khalil Adel Khalil, 25, was arrested March 1 after admitting to interrogators that he, along with an associate, Sami a-Aziz Abu Sneina, began planning to join Islamic State last August after watching recruitment videos online.
After training in a gym on Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus and telling his family that he was leaving to make the Hajj Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Khalil and his friend left for Greece and then Turkey in January, and eventually arrived at an Islamic State safe house on the Turkish-Syrian border. There with other Islamic State recruits from around the world, the two were smuggled into Syria. Khalil returned several weeks later to Israel, where he was arrested.
The Shin Bet noted that the latest arrest was part of a growing trend of Israeli Arabs interested in joining Islamic State. About 40 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have gone to Syria to fight with terror groups there amid the country’s civil war.
Hackers Threaten Israel with ‘Electronic Holocaust’ on April 7
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Hacker groups on Sunday posted a threat that they would launch a cyberattack against Israel on April 7. The groups that posted notices promising an “electronic holocaust” included a group identified with the international hacker network Anonymous.
One of the threats featured a clip uploaded to YouTube that said, “We are Anonymous. This is a message to the Zionist entity: We are coming to punish you for your crimes in the Palestinian territories.”
In the past, computer experts have explained that in April—when Israel generally marks Holocaust Memorial Day—underground groups try to launch coordinated cyberattacks against Israel and other targets. Thus far, the attacks have mainly comprised attempts to shut down websites and have not caused significant damage. Generally, the purpose of publishing warnings such as the one sent out on Sunday is to draft additional hackers to the mission.