U.S. Briefs 2-14-12

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Matisyahu’s ballyhooed beard returns

Click photo to download. Caption: A photo signaling the return of Matisyahu's beard. Credit: Matisyahu via Twitter.After stunning fans around the world in December with the shedding of his signature beard, (former) Chassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu posted new photos of himself on Twitter this week—with his facial hair back in the picture.

The return of Matisyahu’s beard was first reported Monday by the New York-based Algemeiner Journal. Matisyahu’s initial decision to shave, coupled with his declaration of “No more Chassidic reggae superstar,” set off a media firestorm as well as incorrect assumptions that he had shunned an Orthodox lifestyle.

“I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart,” Matisyahu posted on Twitter Dec. 13. “I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.”

However, the same day, Matisyahu offered some hope for “those concerned with my naked face” and foreshadowed this week’s news.

“Don’t worry … you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair,” he said at the time.

—JointMedia News Service 

Bill could ease Israeli investment in U.S. businesses

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) wants to pass a bill to make Israelis eligible for the E-2 investor visa in the U.S., the Israeli financial newspaper Globes reported. This would allow Israelis to invest in U.S.-based businesses for a relatively cheap price, and to live and work in America.

Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are co-sponsoring the bill, which has bipartisan support. Senators from New York, Illinois, and Arizona have also introduced a companion bill.

“My legislation will encourage Israeli business leaders to invest in the United States and lead to the creation of jobs for American workers. Israel is one of our closest allies in the world and a significant investor in the US economy. The E-2 investor visa program will strengthen the vital US-Israel relationship, boost the American middle class, and help grow the economies of both countries,” Berman said in a statement.

—JointMedia News Service

Singer Whitney Houston, dead at 48, once fell in love with Holy Land

Click photo to download. Caption: Whitney Houston. Credit: PD.Iconic singer Whitney Houston tragically died Saturday at the age of 48. A unique fact not widely known about the singer is that she visited Israel in 2003 for a “spiritual retreat” and was named honorary citizen of Dimona together with then-husband Bobby Brown.

The couple had visited the Hebrew Israelite community in Dimona, whose residents are about 2,000 African-American converts to Judaism. During the same visit, they also met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, followed by a tour of Jewish and Christian holy sites, reported Israel Hayom. “I’ve never felt like this in any other country. I feel at home, I feel wonderful,” Houston had said during the visit.

While her talent has always been recognized, the singer’s life was in turmoil from a turbulent marriage and drug use. No cause of death has been released.

—JointMedia News Service

Former congressman: ‘You could have a massacre’ by giving up Jewish cities in land swaps 

Click photo to download. Caption: Robert Wexler, former Florida congressman. Credit: PD.Leaving the Jewish city of Ariel inside the borders of a future Palestinian state would make it a sitting duck for extremists on the Palestinian side, former Florida congressman Robert Wexler said at a Feb. 6 Princeton University event titled “Is Middle East Peace Possible?” 

In any potential “land swaps” with the Palestinians, Israel’s stance is it cannot give up land with Jews living on it or land that contains valuable infrastructure, Wexler explained. Ariel—home to almost 20,000 residents and another 10,000 students—is situated inside the West Bank.

“There is no Israeli prime minister who could sleep at night knowing tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis are over the border,” he said. “You could have a massacre or scenario that obliterates any type of agreement you have.”

Wexler, now president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, was joined at the Princeton program by Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and current professor of Middle Eastern policy studies at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. 

—JointMedia News Service

Mossad chief wanted to size up U.S. reaction to Israeli strike on Iran

Mossad chief Tamir Pardo’s visit to Washington last month was meant to get a feel for how the Obama administration would react to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Daily Beast reported on Monday.

Quoting a U.S. official who was involved in the high-level meetings between Pardo and senior U.S. officials in Washington, the report said Pardo wanted “to take the pulse” of the Obama administration to see what the consequences would be if Israel moved forward with a military strike on Iran despite U.S. objections.

The U.S. official told The Daily Beast that Pardo raised several questions with his hosts, including, “What is [Washington’s] posture on Iran? Are we [the U.S.] ready to bomb? Would we [do so later]? What does it mean if [Israel] does it anyway?”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

U.S. Marines under fire for SS symbol

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the U.S. Marine Corps to investigate a photo of snipers in Afghanistan posing with a logo similar to the Nazi SS symbol, CBS News reported. The photo was taken in September 2010 in the Sangin district of the Helmand province. The marines posed with sniper rifles in front of an American flag and a dark blue flag with “SS” letters.

The Marine Corps said the resemblance is a coincidence and that the two white lightning bolts on the blue flag were representing sniper scouts, not Nazi Germany’s special unit responsible for the murder of six million Jews and other groups during the Holocaust.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of Los Angeles’s Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the symbol “desecrates the memory of some 200,000 Americans who gave up their lives to defend freedom against that infamous symbol.” Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said using the symbol could also embolden Islamist forces in the region. The commandant of the Marine Corps has since issued a public apology.

—JointMedia News Service

Oprah speaks on Chabad TV

TV personality Oprah Winfrey has visited several Hassidic communities for a two-part episode on “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” Motti Seligson recently interviewed her for Chabad.org.

Winfrey said the visits corrected her misconception that Hassidic women are considered subservient in their society.

“This experience for me today has really confirmed and affirmed what I truly believe as one of my deep, spiritual principles and that is that we are all more alike than we are different...I thought that women had to be subservient in this religion, in this faith and as Chaya [Teldon] explained to me, it’s not, we’re not subservient, we’re the foundation. We’re not the basement, we’re the foundation,” she said in the interview.

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on February 13, 2012 and filed under Briefs, U.S..