Monday, April 26, 2021

From Ian:

Amid COVID, Israel enters top 20 club of nations with highest GDP per capita
For the first time in its history, Israel ranks among the top 20 economies based on GDP per capita, Forbes Israel reports, based on International Monetary Fund data.

GDP per capita breaks down a country’s economic output per person and is a global measure for assessing the prosperity of nations. Small, rich countries and more developed industrial countries tend to have the highest per capita GDP.

According to the data compiled by the publication, with GDP per capita of $43,689 for 2020, Israel ranked 19th out of the top 20, above No. 20 Canada, with per capita GDP at $43,278; No. 21 New Zealand, with $41,127, and the UK with $40,406 at No. 22.

Luxemburg tops the ranking with GDP per capita of $116,921, followed by Switzerland, with $86,849, and Ireland with $83,850. Norway comes in fourth at $67,176, and the US fifth, at $63,416, the data showed.

In 2019, Israel ranked 21st, and a decade ago it wasn’t even in the top 30 leading economies, Forbes said. In 2010, Israel was ranked 32nd globally for per capita GDP.

Israel seems to be emerging from its battle against the deadly coronavirus pandemic with a battered economy and massive unemployment, but still in better shape than other developed nations. The nation’s gross domestic product shrank by 2.5% in 2020, its worst contraction on record, compared to an average 6.6% drop last year for the European Union, a 3.5% decline in the US, and a 5.5% contraction on average in OECD countries.
French Magazine Devotes Cover Story to ‘Post-COVID’ Israel
Israel’s success in beating back the COVID-19 pandemic continues to attract attention in international media outlets and this weekend, the French magazine Le Parisien devoted a cover story to Israel as an example of life “after” COVID.

The feature article, which interviews numerous Israelis and includes colorful descriptions of a busy Tel Aviv and Israel’s unprecedented national vaccination operation, is titled “A Taste of Life After [COVID].”

“Tel Aviv is no longer hiding its face behind a mask. It is now open to the air and to people on the street, even though sometimes a mask hides under a chin,” the article informed readers.

The article attributed Israel’s success to its digitized healthcare system, the relative discipline of its population, and efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the magazine said “Fought tooth and nail for the vaccines … harassing the Pfizer CEO 30 times with phone conversations into the night.”

A separate article posted on the magazine’s website reported that Israel had marked the first day in months without a single COVID-19 fatality and said that since January, Israel had the lowest percentage of serious COVID-19 cases in the world.
Jews, Muslims in Gulf hold festive event as holidays coincide
A joint interfaith event celebrating both the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer and the daily breaking of the fast in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (Iftar) will be held this week in Dubai, marking the first occurrence of such a collaboration. The event was announced by the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC), the people-to-people network of Jewish communities from the Gulf.

"The event will include a panel discussion with Jewish and Muslim ambassadors focusing on how interfaith and co-existence is propelling the GCC region forward," the organization said.

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have recently signed peace deals known as the Abraham Accords as part of a larger normalization process orchestrated by the Trump administration in 2020. This has paved the way for official ties between Israel and those countries, as well as with Morocco and Sudan, and has improved Arab-Jewish relations in the region.

During the event, the AGJC will host a webinar moderated by the American Jewish Committee's International Director of Interreligious Affairs Rabbi David Rosen featuring Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States Abdulla Rashed Al Khalifa; Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba; and Ambassador Marc Sievers, who is the former Ambassador of the United States to the Sultanate of Oman. Bahrain's Ambassador Houda Nonoo will speak during the program as well.

"Both Sefirat HaOmer and Ramadan share a common theme as they are a time for reflection. As we celebrate the Lag B'Omer holiday and Iftar dinner together as the AGJC with our Muslim neighbors, it's a time for us to reflect on where the region is today and the role that interfaith diplomacy has played in getting us here," AGJC's Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie said in a statement.

"Interfaith dialogue and co-existence is the catalyst for change in the Gulf and it was very important for us to host a program during this time when both Jews and Muslims celebrate holidays in order to further this important conversation," AGJC President Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo added. "Living in the Gulf, we are blessed to share and experience many holidays with our Muslim neighbors and to host them at our tables for our holidays. This virtual celebration will continue to bring us all together."
In biggest-yet Israel-UAE deal, Delek to sell stake in Tamar gas field for $1.1b
Israeli energy giant Delek Drilling announced Monday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding to sell its entire stake in Israel’s Tamar offshore gas field to the Abu Dhabi government-owned Mubadala Petroleum, potentially handing the United Arab Emirates a major share in one of the Jewish state’s key strategic and economic assets less than a year after the countries established diplomatic ties.

The deal for the 22 percent stake is worth $1 billion, with an additional $100 million conditioned on certain terms and goals being met, according to a notification about the agreement sent by Delek Drilling to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the Israel Securities Authority. The companies said they aim to finalize the deal by May 31.

If completed, the deal will be the biggest commercial agreement made so far since Israel and the UAE signed a normalization pact in August 2020, brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

“This transaction has the potential to be another major development in our ongoing vision for Natural Gas commercial strategic alignment in the Middle East, whereby Natural Gas becomes a source of collaboration in the region,” Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, was quoted as saying in the statement. “The development is not only a significant endorsement of the quality of the Tamar reservoir and the Levant basin but also a major support for the East Mediterranean Natural Gas sector.”

Under the terms of the so-called gas framework, drawn up by the Israeli government in 2015 to regulate the domestic natural gas market and allow a competitive and decentralized structure, Delek — owned by tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva — was required to sell off its non-operated stake in Tamar by the end of 2021.

Human Rights Watch Endorses Palestinian Terrorism
Human Rights Watch is set to release its newest attack on the Jewish state of Israel tomorrow. The report, a 217-page collection of lies, distortions of the law and regurgitated propaganda is the self-styled human rights organization newest vehicle for accusing Israel of “persecution,” “systematic oppression” and apartheid.”

In its report, Human Rights Watch continues its full-on assault on the rights of the Jewish people to be judged by the same legal standards as other peoples in the world, as well as to their state and self-determination in their homeland. The report labels Israel’s Law of Return as criminal (or, at least, a key component of a crime), demands that Israel facilitate mass Palestinian immigration to Israel under a so-called Palestinian “right of return,” and demands that all states impose boycotts and sanctions on Israel and Israelis.

The length of the report is an important part of HRW’s strategy of marketing its propaganda as “research.” The report dissembles, distorts and distracts in order to create the illusion of “evidence,” and the 867 footnotes look sufficiently intimidating to prevent casual readers from understanding they have encountered a lengthy insult rather than a serious analysis. As Winston Churchill noted in another context, the report’s length “defends it well against being read.” Unfortunately, this means a point-by-point rebuttal and refutation of HRW’s false accusations would necessitate an equally long report that would be just as well defended against being read.

Since it’s impossible to tackle all of HRW’s distortions in one article, I’m going to focus on only one: its treatment of Palestinian terrorism.

The phrase “Palestinian terrorism” appears nowhere in Human Rights Watch’s report. This is not the least surprising given HRW’s anti-Israel agenda. While the HRW report mentions Hamas 13 times, it designates Hamas a “political party,” and never admits that Israel, the United States, the European Union and others have designated Hamas a terrorist organization as required by international law. The report overlooks altogether other active Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As far as HRW is concerned, apparently there is no Palestinian terrorism to discuss. The only times the terms “terrorism” and “terrorist” appear in the report is within quotations (from Israeli figures) or in the names or citations of newspaper articles or organizations mentioned in footnotes.
Democrats Send Letter to Administration to Use Other Definitions of Antisemitism
Several Democratic lawmakers are circulating a letter urging the Biden administration to consider using alternatives to the official International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

The letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is being circulated by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

“Two new definitions of antisemitism have been formulated and embraced by the Jewish community since the IHRA adopted a non-legally binding definition of antisemitism in 2016,” read the letter. “While the IHRA definition can be informative, in order to most effectively combat antisemitism, we should use all of the best tools at our disposal.”

It asks Blinken to consider using the Nexus document and the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism in addition to the IHRA one.

“These two efforts are the work of hundreds of scholars and experts in the fields of antisemitism, Israel and Middle East Policy, and Jewish communal affairs, and have been helpful to us as we grapple with these complex issues,” continued the letter.

Progressives have long been critical of the IHRA definition, which they accused of silencing criticism of Israeli government policy. In particular, they have singled out the IHRA definition over its assertion that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
Independent Jewish Voices: Independent of Rationality and Truth
Read how a bunch of Hampstead luvvies embraced a fake definition of antisemitism on the basis of its endorsement by (inter alia) a corpse, a Semiotics academic and a Gender and Sexuality Studies academic …

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) are a bunch of luvvies from Hampstead et environs, best described as Finkler Jews. They are very embarrassed by the State of Israel and do all they can to distance themselves (as-a-Jew) from it. They are led by Tony Lerman and Francesca, Brian and Tony Klug. Here is Lerman (as-a-Jew) blaming Israel for antisemitism:
… by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility

Such statements have made Lerman into a self-imposed pariah. Lerman’s appointment in early 2006 as director (for the second time) of the think-tank The Institute of Jewish Policy Research (now JPR) precipitated the resignation of four JPR directors and of one of its honorary patrons, the Conservative peer Lord Kalms. This was because Lerman had questioned the viability of Israel as a Jewish State and had advocated one secular state containing Jews, Palestinians and others – the proportions would not matter. After a controversial tenure lasting less than three years, Lerman was ousted from his position in late 2008, leaving him in the wilderness.

When he founded IJV in 2007, Lerman wrote:
….the creation of IJV could be the most serious challenge to the Jewish establishment since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948

The reality – of course – is that IJV has proven to be the dampest of damp squibs. But occasionally a spark still burns in the embers. Such as last Sunday when IJV expressed their support for the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA).

A word of explanation: The JDA was dreamed up to save the face of the leftist academics who reject the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Like Mark Abel at Brighton University. And Seth Anziska at UCL (who is one of the eight in the ‘Co-ordinating Group’ for the JDA). The reason they reject it is because they want to be able to say that Israel is a racist state and to advocate for a boycott of Israeli goods without being told (correctly) that they are antisemites. The JDA gives them this ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card.
Associated Press Changes Spelling of ‘Anti-Semitism’ to ‘Antisemitism,’ Joining Leading Experts
The Associated Press has changed its spelling of the word “antisemitism,” now writing it without a hyphen — joining the leading experts of hatred against Jews who have long advocated that usage.

The Twitter account of the AP Stylebook — the leading reference for news publications — posted on Friday, “We now write antisemitism (n.), antisemitic (adj.), without a hyphen and with no capitalization.”

“This is a change from AP‘s previous style: anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic,” it added.

The Algemeiner has long used the spelling “antisemitism,” but the issue has been a subject of debate in the Jewish and scholarly communities.

The acclaimed Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt has been campaigning for some time to adopt the non-hyphenated spelling. She told Israeli daily Haaretz last year, “The hyphen is over. We are way overdue when it comes to losing the hyphen. Its presence completely distorts the meaning of the word.”

She said that the term is often misrepresented or misinterpreted as referring to all speakers of a Semitic language, when in fact it has only ever referred to Jews.

“Why do I spell antisemitism without a hyphen?” Lipstadt has asked. “Because anti-Semitism is not hatred of Semitism or Semites — people who speak Semitic languages. Antisemitism is Jew hatred.”
Tens of Thousands Rally From Paris to Tel Aviv in Global Call for Justice for Sarah Halimi
In the tens of thousands, Jewish communities and other supporters in France, London, Israel and across a number of cities in the US were rallying on Sunday in a global call for justice for Sarah Halimi — the French Jewish woman brutally murdered in her Paris apartment by Kobili Traore, who bellowed antisemitic slogans while beating her up.

The global rally to show solidarity with Halimi’s family comes after France’s highest appeal court this month ruled to excuse Traore from trial, on the grounds that his intake of cannabis supposedly rendered him temporarily insane on the night of the killing in April 2017. Following the decision, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change in his country’s laws on criminal responsibility.

French Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti announced on Sunday that by the end of May, the government will present a bill to the council of ministers to fill the “legal vacuum” that became apparent in the case.

Protests on Sunday were taking place in a number of cities in France including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg, as well as cities such as Tel Aviv, Brussels, Rome, The Hague, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto. In Paris, more than 20,000 people demonstrated at the Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower holding up banners which read “Justice for Sarah Halimi.”

Speaking at the Paris rally, the French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy called once again for the creation of a “Sarah Halimi law” as well as for a revision of the Traore trial. “It is not sure that all judicial channels have been exhausted,” he said.

The rally in front of the French embassy in London was confined to limited attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions and included British actress Maureen Lipman as one of its speakers.

Paris street to be named for Sarah Halimi
At a mass protest against the decision by France's highest court not to prosecute the suspected killer of Sarah Halimi, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the French capital would name a street after the victim of the anti-Semitic hate crime.

"We know that what's at stake in this story is not just the Jewish community, but the Republic. We must turn up because an anti-Semitic murder has taken place, and this crime must be tried," Mayor Anne Hidalgo told the French-language BFMTV news channel at a mass protest against the court ruling, Sunday.

On Tuesday, France's Supreme Court rejected a complaint lodged by the family of Sarah Halimi, who was allegedly brutally killed by her neighbor Kabili Troare in 2018, against the Paris Court of Appeals' 2019 ruling that Kobili Traoré, 27, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" before killing his 65-year-old neighbor, could not be tried as he had consumed an excessive amount of marijuana and had been "delusional" at the time of the attack.

"Justice must be done for Sarah Halimi. I think we need a new law and that this law should be named after Sarah Halimi. And we must fight anti-Semitism because it is a plague, a plague that undermines the foundations of our republic and our democracy," Hidalgo said.

"We also have the responsibility today to carry this message, it must be done with determination. I also mean that a street will bear the name of Sarah Halimi in Paris, it is a project we'll work on with the family," she said.

Chicago lawmaker: 'Jews are Jews and only deal with Jews' - report
A powerful Chicago lawmaker on trial for corruption allegedly made a derogatory comment about Jews in a newly uncovered wiretapped conversation from 2017.

Ed Burke, 77, a longtime Democratic alderman and power broker in Chicago’s City Council, is accused of trying to illegally urge developers of an $800 million real estate project to use his law firm to appeal their property taxes, according to the Chicago Tribune. In one recorded conversation discussing the scheme in 2017, Burke allegedly suggested that the project’s Jewish developers would prefer to work with a Jewish law firm. Burke is not Jewish.

“Well, you know as well as I do, Jews are Jews and they’ll deal with Jews to the exclusion of everybody else unless … unless there’s a reason for them to use a Christian,” Burke allegedly said in the recording, according to the Tribune.

The Anti-Defamation League called on Burke to apologize, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called on him to resign over the corruption charges. Asked about the recorded comment, Burke said, “We’ll respond in court.”
An open letter to Butler U’s Students for Justice in Palestine and fellow travelers
Your group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), has a long history since its founding in 1993 of bringing vitriolic anti-Israel speakers to their respective campuses.

And your recent invitation to the Marxist, former Black Panther, Angela Davis, a supporter of the destructive Boycott Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, to speak at Butler affirms your group’s radicalism and its history of creating a hostile climate on whatever campus you have a chapter.

SJP members apparently wish to live in a world where only your predetermined virtues and worldview prevail, and feel quite strongly that, in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, at least, the answers are black and white, there is a moral side and an immoral side, and that anyone who does not, or cannot, see things as clearly and unambiguously as you woke students do is a racist, an oppressor, or a supporter of an illegal, apartheid regime trampling the human rights of the blameless, hapless Palestinians.

Your former president at Butler even promoted conspiracy theories about a Zionist cabal working behind the scenes to have the Angela Davis speech canceled. “Days before Butler University’s shameless censorship of Angela Davis,” wrote Roua Daas, the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Student Government Association at Butler University, “the Student Government Association was bombarded by pressure from Zionist students [emphasis added] who claimed to oppose Davis’ event because of her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — a grassroots demand for nonviolent economic pressure against Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine.”

In her letter in the Butler Collegian, Daas wrote that “This is not the first time this school year that these students [emphasis added] have attempted to silence free speech and prevent political events on campus,” continuing her denigration of Zionists on the Butler campus. “Many will recall failed attempts this past fall to use student senate resolutions to cancel student organization events and place limits on topics that could be discussed,” she added, referring to the debate on campus last fall over the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
The Times corrects erroneous reference to 'settlements' near Dimona
An article in The Times (“Missile from Syria explodes near Israeli nuclear reactor”, April 22) by their Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer included the following:

However, there are no “settlements” surrounding Dimona, an Israeli city in the Negev, and the towns in question where the sirens went off are all within Israel’s pre-67 boundaries. Following our complaint, the reference to “settlements” was replaced by the more accurate word “communities”
BBC inserts preferred political narrative into archaeology report
Particularly in light of the fact that at no point in the report are readers informed of the identity of the people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, one must wonder why the BBC chose to describe Qumran as being “in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank” rather than, for example, ‘in what was at the time Mandate Palestine’ (as it was known when the first scrolls, including the one which is the topic of this report, were discovered) or simply ‘in the Judean Desert’.

The BBC’s framing of course erases from audience view the fact that Jordan invaded and occupied that part of the territory designated by the League of Nations for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people and by means of the use of partial terminology – “Israeli-occupied” – the corporation’s preferred political narrative is inserted even into a report tagged “archaeology”.
Jews are top target for hate crimes in US, FBI data shows
New data analysis of the just-released FBI hate crime statistics uncovers a disturbing trend in the United States: Jews are at least three times more likely to experience a hate crime in America than any other ethnic group.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released its Hate Crime Statistics Report highlighting troubling trends related to hate crimes against Jews. According to the report, Jewish people were the targets of over 60% of religious bias-related hate crimes. Jews were targeted at significantly higher rates than any other religious group.

This data indicates an increase of 41% since 2015. Over the past decade, hate crimes targeting Jews topped the charts every year, with rates ranging from 52% to 67% of the total religious bias crimes.

While prominent Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, have expressed grave concern over this latest report, a more concerning reality is apparent. The FBI does not include crimes targeting Jewish people under the racial, ethnicity, or ancestry bias categories but only as a religious group. This singular perception of Jewish identity is a misconception.

All Jews – Orthodox Jews on one end of the religious spectrum and completely secular Jews on the other end – share a long and vibrant history, culture, and heritage. We are a people of a distinct ethnic background and are persecuted as such. The FBI does not analyze hate crime data targeting Jews to factor in broader antisemitic sentiments, which have surpassed mere religious bias, and intersect biases related to race, ethnicity, and ancestry.

The mass shooting at the Poway, California synagogue, the Jersey City shooting at a kosher grocery store, and the Monsey, New York, machete attack of a Rabbi were not inspired by hatred of Judaism alone. They were motivated by hatred of Jewish people.
Four synagogues in NYC’s Riverdale neighborhood vandalized, windows smashed
Four synagogues in the New York City neighborhood of Riverdale were vandalized as rocks were hurled through their windows and glass doors.

The vandalism in the Bronx neighborhood, which has a large Jewish population, occurred overnight on Saturday. The vandalized synagogues are the Riverdale Jewish Center, Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, Young Israel of Riverdale and Chabad of Riverdale.

No suspect has been arrested, according to News12, a local Connecticut station. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo instructed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation. Police presence will increase around the synagogues.

“An attack on any synagogue is an attack on all synagogues, all Jewish institutions, and all houses of worship,” read a mass email sent Sunday by the Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership, an umbrella neighborhood group. “We will stand strong against hate and will continue to celebrate being Jewish, engage in our personal, institutional and communal activities and support one another.”

According to security footage reviewed by the Community Security Service, a volunteer synagogue security group, the suspect also vandalized two of the synagogues earlier in the week.

‘Heavy Police Presence’ Outside Jewish Centers in Bronx After Four Synagogues Targeted Overnight
The New York Police Department has mobilized to protect Jewish institutions in the Bronx borough of the city after the targeting of synagogues in the area by a stone-throwing assailant continued Saturday night, bringing the total number of incidents up to six, The Algemeiner has learned.

On Thursday night and Friday morning the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and Chabad of Riverdale were attacked. On Saturday night both were targeted again, as well as Young Israel of Riverdale and Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR).

A community source familiar with the situation on the ground reported a “heavy police presence” in the vicinity of the Bronx Jewish establishments and noted that local Jewish groups were satisfied with the police response so far.

At a Zoom call on Sunday morning with local Jewish community leaders, NYPD personnel, elected officials and security groups, the suspect was described by investigators as “violent” and “dangerous,” an attendee, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Algemeiner.

Witnesses on the call, the attendee noted, said the assailant was in his 30s, 5 feet 11 inches tall, a “light-skinned African American” with a “skinny to medium build.” He was wearing a face mask, long trench coat with army colors and a hoodie built in and high top boots. He spoke with an American accent.
IsraAID Sending Team of Responders to Caribbean in Wake of Volcano Eruption
IsraAID is sending a team of Israeli emergency responders to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of islands in the Caribbean, where a volcano on the main island has been spewing ash since earlier this month, endangering lives and homes.

More than 20,000 people have been displaced with some 12,000 staying in public shelters since the La Soufrière volcano began erupting on April 9. It was the first time it has erupted since 1979.

Villages are covered in ash, drinking water is hard to find, and crops and livestock have been destroyed, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the island. The United Nations has started a global fund to help cover the estimated $29 million that is needed to help residents.

“The level of destruction that has befallen this beautiful country and the widespread disruption caused by this event will forever be etched in my mind,” said Didier Trebucq, UN resident coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in a press release. “The devastating impact of this event on thousands of people is undeniable.”

The IsraAID response team—some of whom will be relocated from current aid missions on the island of Dominica and in the Bahamas—will provide displaced residents with clean water; distribute hygiene supplies and other needed materials; and offer “psychological first aid” for people grappling with the effects from the volcanic activity.
Chicago writer discovers granddad was hero during Holocaust
In the BBC series "My Grandparents' War," now airing on PBS in the US, World War II history comes to life as modern-day celebrities, including Helena Bonham Carter, learn about their grandparents' experiences in that turbulent era.

Vrato, a Chicago attorney and author of The Counselors: Conversations with 18 Courageous Women Who Have Changed the World (foreword by Bill Clinton), discovered just last year that her own grandfather, Kadri Cakrani, acted with incredible humanitarianism and bravery during the Holocaust in Europe. Commandant Cakrani sheltered approximately 600 Jews in Albania while serving as the military officer in charge of its Berat region while it was under Nazi occupation.

Cakrani rallied his soldiers and the local citizenry to shelter Jews from the Nazis, even though the penalty for doing so was death. Fluent in German after having gone to school in Vienna, Cakrani lied capably under repeated threats and questioning by Nazi officials, saying he had no information about any Jews in the Berat region. He never turned over a single name. Whenever he got word of Nazi sweeps to find Jews, the sheltered refugees – from Poland, Germany, France and Macedonia – were moved from one part of the city to another, keeping them safe. He also took the enormous personal risk of hiding Jews in his own home.

At the end of World War II, Cakrani himself became a refugee. He put his life on the line once again in opposing Communist dictator Enver Hoxha in his takeover of Albania. Chased by Hoxha's death warrant and aided by British officers Colonel David Smiley and Lieutenant Colonel Billy McLean, Cakrani narrowly escaped to a displaced persons camp in Italy. Cakrani was granted political asylum by President Harry Truman and worked with US Intelligence to try to restore democracy to Albania. Furious at Cakrani's escape and protection by the West, Hoxha seized all of Cakrani's property and assets.
The secret mission to erase 2,000 years of Jewish life in Libya
For the past three months Libyan authorities have been surreptitiously converting Tripoli’s Dar Bishi synagogue into a modern Islamic cultural centre.

Dar Bishi is the last tangible sign of Libya’s Jewish past – other synagogues have been transformed into something else or destroyed. The old Jewish cemetery was destroyed by the then leader of Libya, Colonel Gaddafi, and a motorway now runs where gravestones used to be.

Dr David Gerbi, a Libyan Jewish refugee whose family was expelled from Libya in 1967, has for years been campaigning to restore the synagogue and save the remnants of Jewish life in the country. Now living in Rome where he works as a psychologist, Gerbi maintains a wide network of friends and sympathisers in the country, among them many diplomats. Several weeks ago he heard that the zone around Dar Bishi had become a no-go area and that secret work being was carried out inside. Attempts to find out what was happening were immediately thwarted, with no explanation given.

Finally, one of his contacts managed to enter the building and secretly take photographs that show without a shadow of doubt the extensive range of the works. More enquiries confirmed his suspicions about the Libyan government’s plans for Dar Bishi. “They are taking advantage of the fact that the country is in a state of chaos to violate our history, to try to obliterate the 2,000 years of Jewish life in Libya,” he says. “The synagogue is where our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers prayed and it needs to remain what it has always been, a Jewish site of prayer. Already many of our synagogues have been turned into mosques or libraries. So much of our heritage has been destroyed.”

Dar Bishi, in its current form, was designed by a Jewish-Italian architect, Umberto Di Segni, in 1922 as part of Mussolini’s project to “Italianise” the country, then an Italian colony. The brief was to build a ‘prestigious’ synagogue inspired by Rome’s Tempio Maggiore.
1,600-Year-Old Mosaic Pavement Unearthed in Central Israel to Be Placed on Display
A 1,600-year-old mosaic uncovered in Yavne, which archaeologists said may have once graced a mansion in an affluent neighborhood, is set to go on display in the central city, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The multicolored mosaic flooring dated to the Byzantine era (4th-5th century CE) was unearthed during excavations and was initially thought to be plain white due to a patina coating.

“At first, we did not realize that the floor is multicolored,” said Dr. Elie Haddad and Dr. Hagit Torgë of the IAA in a statement.

“We assumed that it was simple white mosaic paving belonging to yet another industrial installation. But black patches dotted around the mosaic suggested that it was more than one color and prompted us to remove the whitish patina that had coated it for years,” the experts said in the statement.

The mosaic was cleaned using special acid “and to our astonishment, a colorful mosaic carpet was revealed, ornamented with geometric motifs.”

The archaeologists said it was the first time that flooring of this type had been discovered in Yavne, and it “may have been part of a splendid residential building in a wealthy neighborhood adjacent to the industrial zone.”

In first, Israeli team crowned FIBA Europe Cup champion
Ironi Ness Ziona has been crowned as the new International Basketball Federation Europe Cup champions after beating Stal Ostrow Wielkopolski and earning their first title in a European club competition.

According to FIBA's website, Ironi Ness Ziona – an Israeli Basketball Premier League club – came out on top for an 82-74 victory behind 21 points from Nimrod Levi, while Jerome Meyinsse produced a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Wayne Selden was named Final Four MVP after backing up his Semi-Final heroics for the Israeli club with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists in their Final triumph.

Ironi Ness Ziona are the first Israeli team to win the FIBA Europe Cup.

Stal Ostrow Wielkopolski, also known as Arged BMSLAM Stal, had been bidding to become the first team to win the competition without a loss en route to the title.


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