Israel Briefs 2-21-12

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Future New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief tweets with anti-Israel activist

The New York Times recently announced that in Jodi Rudoren, the paper’s education editor, will in April take the place of Ethan Bronner, the Times’ current Jerusalem bureau chief. Not long after the announcement, Rudoren communicated on Twitter with several controversial figures, including Ali Abunimah, who had created Electronic Intifada, an extremely anti-Israel website that advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state.

Rudoren’s tweet to Abunimah reads: “Hey there. Would love to chat sometime. About things other than the house. My friend Kareem Fahim says good things.”

Critics say the nature of the correspondence indicates a relationship that is much too cozy and reveals a deep anti-Israel bias that could impede Rudoren’s ability to perform her job fairly.

Rudoren released a statement that, “yes, of course I will talk to [Abunimah]...I will talk to lots and lots of people from all sides of this conflict... I will not apologize for reaching out to Ali Abunimah; he seems to be an important person to me. Anyone who thinks that I shouldn’t talk to him doesn’t understand how we do our jobs.”

—JointMedia News Service

Israel dispatches diverse delegation to counter Apartheid Week

Israel has launched a public diplomacy counterattack in response to Israel Apartheid Week, held by Palestinian sympathizers on university campuses around the world during various periods between Feb. 20 and March 11. Eighty Israelis, including actor Aki Avni, national security experts, new immigrants, and Arab Israelis, will depart for 20 countries on three continents to engage in dialogue with students and journalists, representing themselves as Israelis, with intimate knowledge of their own country..

The delegation was the brainchild of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud). The idea is that regular Israelis, not professionals, will present their own stories and lives as Israelis, acting as a counter force to Palestinian activists at the world’s largest universities. Those activists seek to persuade students that Israel is engaged in apartheid policies in the territories, an idea the delegation hopes to stymie.

“The government spokesperson in a suit does not work in such places. We have identified the kinds of people who are effective—people on the ground who can meet with students,” said Gal Ilan, a spokesman for the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Bill falls short of fully cutting terrorists’ pension rights

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Monday unanimously approved for a first reading in the Knesset a bill that calls for halving social security benefits to terrorists, Israel Hayom reported.

However, MK David Rotem originally proposed denying all social security benefits to convicted terrorists and security offenders. “This is a compromise I was obliged to agree to,” Rotem said, adding that the version of the bill he agreed to was “better than nothing.”

According to the bill, those convicted of terrorism or of helping to carry out terrorist attacks, and those who have been imprisoned for more than 10 years, would lose 50 percent of their social security benefits, including unemployment, disability, old age, work accidents, bankruptcy, and next of kin rights. The denial of social security rights will also apply to the family members of a terrorist.

“Our blood will not be spilled in vain,” said Labor Committee Chairman Haim Katz. “Terrorists will see and will fear that their social security benefits could be compromised, and so they will deterred from terrorist activity.”

—JointMedia News Service

Bloomberg: Israel was the safest bet for investors over the last 10 years

With a risk-adjusted return of 7.6 percent over a 10-year period that ended Feb. 19, Tel Aviv’s TA-25 Index represented the safest bet for investors among 24 stock markets in developed countries, according to new data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Israel produced the highest return on investment despite ongoing threats from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran, and the country’s economy grew more than twice as fast as the U.S. economy grew in 2011.

“[Israel] is surrounded by enemies, it’s always on the edge of extinction, but it expands and prospers,” noted Jewish philanthropist and former hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt told Bloomberg.

—JointMedia News Service

Israel thwarts terror attack near border with Egypt

Israeli security forces thwarted a terror attack near the border with Egypt early Tuesday, uncovering a large improvised explosive device near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Army Radio reported.

According to the report, Israeli troops discovered the powerful explosive during the course of a routine operation aimed at preventing border smuggling. The device was found near the Gaza Strip—in the vicinity of no Israeli communities.

An official statement on the IDF website indicated that “IDF forces who had been pursuing smugglers noticed an individual throwing a suspicious bag and fleeing the scene. The object was later determined to be a powerful improvised explosive.”

The bag was detonated in a controlled explosion by Israeli ordinance specialists, according to Army Radio.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Israeli Defense Ministry employees attacked by Arab mob

A crowd of Arab youths recently attacked two Israeli Defense Ministry employees with rocks as the employees got stuck in a traffic jam between two Arab drivers, Israel National News reported.

The youths slammed a stone in the Israelis’ windshield and the driver, Yehuda Attias, was also struck in the head with a rock, suffering a severe head injury. The two managed to accelerate and escape.

“He is suffering from headaches and has twice been hospitalized with vomiting and chills...It was a miracle, we have no other words to describe it. Yehuda, whose head was bleeding, fled at the last minute. Only when they came into the hotel did the security and rescue forces arrive,” said Eliezer Hakshur, Attias’ brother-in-law.

—JointMedia News Service

‘Embezzlement from God’: eBay sells stones from Western Wall

Click photo to download. Caption: The Western Wall. Credit: PD.The Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel is furious with eBay for reportedly allowing the sale of stones from the sacred wall on its online shopping network, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Unknown individuals are apparently selling small stones from the Western Wall on the website, promising blessings and good fortune with each purchase of $24.99. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz sent a letter to eBay saying that the commercial sale of such items is like “embezzlement from God.”

“There [are] no special powers in theses stones at all. It is simply a blasphemous injury to generations upon generations of the Jewish people,” he wrote. 

—JointMedia News Service

Israel digitizes religious writing by Sir Isaac Newton

Click photo to download. Caption: Sir Isaac Newton. Credit: PD.Israel’s national library has digitized 7,500 pages from Sir Isaac Newton’s theological collection—all in the famous scientist’s own handwriting, the Australian reported. Newton is known for his discoveries in physics, mathematics and astronomy in the 17th and 18th century, the principal of universal gravitation, and the three laws of motion named after him.

What is less known about this enlightenment scientist is that in spite of his interests, he was also devoutly religious and saw the scriptures as a literal guide to the natural world. “Today, we tend to make a distinction between science and faith, but to Newton it was all part of the same world,” said Milka Levy-Rubin, the curator of the Israeli national library’s humanities collection.

Even though he was a Christian, Newton studied Hebrew, the Bible, Jewish philosophy, the Kabbalah and the Talmud. Many of his contemporaries were anti-Semitic, but Newton “took a great interest in the Jews, and we found no negative expressions toward Jews in his writing,” added Levy-Rubin.

—JointMedia News Service

Israeli solar thermal power station built in Spain 

An Israeli company has constructed a gas turbine solar thermal power station in Spain, the Israel National News reported. The station was conducted over seven months and is intended to stay economically viable for 25 years.

Fifty-two tracking mirrors follow the sun and direct its rays towards a special solar receiver and a 100kWe gas turbine 35 meters above. The receiver then heats air to 1,000 degrees Celsius, converts the heat into energy, and sends it back into the turbine. The turbine then converts this into electric power.

Prior to this, the first such station was built in Kibbutz Samar, Israel, using technology first developed in Rehovot. The Spanish plant, constructed in the city of Almeria, releases 170 kW of heat as a byproduct that can be used to power a desalination plant. The station also requires less land and water resources, but can still general more usable power and heat than other solar energy systems.

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on February 21, 2012 and filed under Briefs, Israel.