World Briefs 10-25-11

The latest news relevant to the global Jewish community. 

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Turkey Rejects Israel’s offer of help after devastating quake

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale shook southeastern Turkey on Sunday at 1:41 p.m. local time, with Turkish officials on Monday putting the death toll at 270. Thousands more are believed to be injured.

Many countries, including the U.S. and Israel, were quick to offer assistance. Turkey has so far refused any outside help, including from China, Japan and European countries.

Preparations are already underway for dispatching an Israeli-led search-and-rescue team. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Israeli army’s Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz have instructed the Israel Defense Forces’ Homefront Command and Medical Corps to make all the necessary arrangements in the event the government decides to send rescuers to Turkey.

The Foreign Ministry has also relayed Israel’s willingness to help Turkey and provide humanitarian relief, with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon saying the cold relations between the two countries will have no effect on such an effort. “Israel has always been willing to offer help when natural disasters strike. These transcend nationalities and countries.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Gadhafi Buried in Secret Grave

After four days of Moammar Gadhafi’s body, along with those of his son Muatassim and former defense minister Abu Bakr Younis, being kept in cold storage—they were handed over for burial on Tuesday morning.

The Associated Press reported that the bodies were transported under the cover of darkness to an undisclosed and unmarked location. A modest Islamic ceremony preceded the burial.

The location of the grave would not be revealed, according to Libya’s new leaders, for fear of it being vandalized or turned into a shrine by Gadhafi supporters.

Gadhafi was captured and died on Thursday. While an autopsy on Sunday concluded that the former leader died of a gunshot wound to the head, the circumstances leading up to his death are still being investigated.

The bodies were available for viewing by the public, with hundreds arriving every day to view the corpses, according to theAssociated Press.

—JointMedia News Service

Gazans Flock to Libya to Find Work

Nearly 5,000 Gazans signed up with the Gaza Trade Union office for work in Libya, Reuters reported.

Many Palestinians, who were already working in Libya, had escaped back to the Palestinian territories following the outbreak of the civil war, and hope that the new stability following the end of the war will lead to an increase in work.

“I set no conditions over what kind of work it will be, I just hope there will be jobs,” said 49-year-old taxi driver Sami Abu Sitta, who registered at the office on Monday to Reuters.

According to Reuters, prior to the second intifada, tens of thousands of Palestinians were working in Israel.

—JointMedia News Service

Holocaust Survivor Receives Stolen Paintings After Death

A Dutch Old Master that was owned by Max Stern, a Jewish art dealer who was forced to sell his collection and flee during the Holocaust, will be returned to Stern’s heirs, according to Bloomberg.

The Nazis forced Stern, who died in 1987 and had no children, to auction off more than 200 paintings in 1937. Upon his death, he left the bulk of his estate to three universities: Concordia and McGill in Montreal and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. All three have been working to retrieve his collection. As of yet, only nine have been recovered.

“We are in ongoing discussions with a number of other German organizations, including some major museums who also possess Stern works, and remain hopeful that more good news will follow,” Frederick Lowry, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

—JointMedia News Service

Polish Man Who Saved Girlfriend from Auschwitz Dies at 90

Jerzy Bielecki, the German-speaking Polish inmate who saved his Jewish love from Auschwitz, died on Thursday at age 90, theAssociated Press reported.

Bielecki, who was one of the first Polish political prisoners to be taken to Auschwitz, met Cyla Cybulska, a Polish Jewish woman in the camp. Bielecki convinced Cybulska, whose family had been murdered, to escape with him and acquired an SS uniform and pass through a friend who worked in the uniform warehouse. 

Dressed in the uniform, he took Cybulska from her work, telling the guards she was to be interrogated, and snuck her passed a sleepy SS guard and out the gate. Bielecki hid Cybulska with a family in his uncle’s village, and left to join the resistance movement. They lost touch after the war; each thinking the other had died. They married and raised families, with Cybulska marrying a Jewish man and moving to the United States.

In 1982, Cybulska mentioned her story to her maid who, stunned, claimed she had heard Bielecki tell the same story on Polish TV. The two reconnected, and Cybulska flew to meet Bielecki in Poland, who met her at the airport with 39 red roses—one for each year they were part. They would meet 15 more times until Cybulska’s death in 2005.

In 1985, Yad Vashem awarded Bielecki the Righteous Among the Nations title for saving Cybulska.

—JointMedia News Service

Tunisian Jewish Community Lines Up to Vote

Members of Tunisia’s small Jewish community, which numbers at 1,500 people, on Sunday participated in the first election since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime was overthrown in the riots that sparked the Arab Spring.

In a statement to the Jerusalem Post, the community’s presdient, Roger Bismuth, said: “If Ennahda is going to win a majority of the seats in parliament it is a problem because then you replace one dictatorship with another. If you follow their promises during the campaign nothing will happen because they said they wouldn’t be extreme and support human rights, but you never know.”

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife and three children following a month of violent protests.

—JointMedia News Service


Tunisia, Libya choose Islam

Following the ousting of their former leaders, who were deposed in violent revolutions that have swept the Middle East since early this year, Tunisia and Libya on Monday both appeared to be moving closer to embracing more stringent forms of Islam. An Islamist party claimed victory in Tunisia's first free elections on Sunday, and Libya's new leaders said they intended to make Sharia law the main source of legislation, giving the country a more Islamic character in the post-Gadhafi era.

Official results are due later Tuesday in Tunisia’s first-ever democratic election, but preliminary results show that Ennahda (Renaissance), a moderate Islamist party, garnered at least 30 percent of the vote, assuring it a strong say in the future constitution of the country where popular revolution launched the Arab Spring.

Ennahda’s success could boost other Islamist parties in North Africa and the Middle East, although Ennahda insists its approach to Sharia, or Islamic law, is consistent with Tunisia’s more progressive traditions, especially on women’s rights.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Israel to free 25 Egyptians in deal for Ilan Grapel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Monday that a deal has been struck to free Ilan Grapel, the U.S.-Israeli citizen who has been held in an Egyptian prison for the last four months on espionage charges. Grapel, whom Egypt accused of spying for Israel, will be freed in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Grapel, 27, was expected to be released on Thursday. A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said the Political-Security Cabinet was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to approve the deal.

Ilan Grapel immigrated to Israel in 2005, served as a paratrooper in Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and visited Egypt several times before his arrest on June 12. Egyptian officials claimed that Grapel was recruiting young Egyptians to spy for Israel and had been instructed to sow discord among Christians and Muslims in Egypt and incite them to riot.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on October 25, 2011 .