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Category: Jewish Life (page 6 of 15)

Jewish life in Israel and in the world, humor, news, and commentary in OneJerusalem.com

Disengagement: Success or Failure?

Moof MoofWho stands for what, exactly? PM Netanyahu, even though he voted for the disengagement back in 2005, and then resigned from the government because of it (he’s always so consistent) came out today saying that it was, in fact, a catastrophe and it won’t happen again. On the other side, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, along with her number 2 Shaul Mofaz, reiterated their support for what they both termed a “historic process.”

The good thing about this is that we can start to see clear differences between Likud and Kadima now, whereas Kadima’s ideology has always been a point of ambiguity. With Labor quickly dying out and splitting in the meantime, Kadima may be basically the new Labor. Livni even went so far as to say that Netanyahu was implying a return to Gush Katif in the strip. Realistically speaking, it is doubtful whether Netanyahu actually meant that. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb here (it’s a fairly sturdy limb) and say that Livni was just trying to paint her former Likud party as “Extreme Right Wing” and herself as the pragmatic centrist that, what the heck – she’ll gladly go for another round of unilateral withdrawals.

Mofaz came out indirectly in support of future disengagements as well. He called it, an “historic process that helped keep many Israeli citizens out of harm’s way and gave the army the freedom to act against the terror organizations and the Iranians’ hold on Gaza.”

Uhhh….OK then. Do you think Mofaz is going to break away and join Likud now, with the Mofaz Bill all done and passed (which would allow him to break away from Kadima with 6 other legislators)? With those kinds of positions, I doubt Likud members would vote him in at primary time next round.

So then what will the Mofaz Bill accomplish, if not bait him to join Bibi? Splitting Labor and hurting his own coalition seems like a reasonable possibility.

Happy Days Here Again?

Unemployment center
“They certainly look happy, don’t they?”

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Sung during the Great Depression, and composed by J. Yellen and M. Ager

Bank of Israel Chairman Stanley Fischer and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz appeared happy when it was announced that the numbers of unemployed Israelis had decreased to “only” 17.5 thousand new claims in Jun/July, as compared to 18.6 thousand during May, or a decrease of 5%. That, according to Steinitz, brings the total number of redundant workers down to “a more manageable level” of slightly less than a quarter million souls. Another statistic that appears to cause both Mr. Fischer and Steinitz to smile is that the number of people being fired from various jobs fell by 2.2.% as compared to previous months.

But if all this is supposed to be such great news, why are so many not smiling, or whistling modern versions of Happy Days are Here Again? And why did the Bank of Israel have to go out and purchase another 100 million dollars on top of the 250 million the bank bought a few days earlier to try to stem the continuing decline of the Greenback? Perhaps things aren’t as “happy” as Fischer and Steinitz want us to think?

During the summer months, unemployment figures always seem to drop a bit for a number of reasons, including many people finding temporary summer jobs, or taking a vacation due to their kids being out of school; or simply waiting for the job market to pick up again in the fall. This logic is particularly true for women who are now unemployed from high tech or similar higher paying positions, and have decided to be home with their children instead of having to pay for expensive day care; since the greatest day care “plans” around , school and pre-school, are both out on summer break.

Another factor deals with people who out of desperation have taken lower paying jobs as cashiers, security guards and even maintenance workers that pay only minimum wage or slightly higher; making them under employed as compared to their former status. All of this goes along with a statement made the other day by U.S. President Barack Obama, when he told a press meeting that “we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the end of the current recession”. He almost broke in a version of the Happy Days song himself while making this statement, apparently giving himself the credit for any improvement in the still faltering U.S. economy.

But getting back to what’s happening on this side of the pond, it’s still far too early to whistle any happy tunes; especially when many people’s unemployment benefits are about to run dry and local banks are calling on credit card companies to return payments due to lack of funds. We must also bear in mind that when that Happy Days song came out in 1929, the Great Depression had not even begun yet.

So who’s whistling this song now? Maybe Yuval and Stanley are – but a lot of folks aren’t!

Heart Warming

Lieberman “If I’m indicted, I’ll quit all my political positions”

Avigdor LiebermanIs Avigdor Lieberman the big bad wolf, or really a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Following a number of allegations being made against him by the police for crimes that include money laundering, and accepting bribery, Israel’s Foreign Minister now appears to be ready test his popularity among his own party, Yisrael Beitenu, as well as the Likud led Netanyahu government. By threatening to leave political life, including heading his own party, his cabinet post, and even his Knesset seat, Lieberman hope to get his constituents to rally around him and in the end make him even stronger politically. This supposition became apparent when he stated yesterday that he believes that he will no only win out over the legal case that is built against him, but will even garnish more Knesset mandates (as many as 20) in the next election.

“I reviewed everything I said in the questioning sessions, and I am at peace with all of my actions,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to do things over again, I would do the same.”

The question a lot people are asking, what “things” is Lieberman talking about? Obviously, the F.M. still has a number of issues to work out concerning his activities, both business and political, which seem to be mounting up against him. Since being chosen for the second highest cabinet post behind the Prime Minister’s, Lieberman has not exactly won over most of the world as well as many people here in Israel. Only perhaps in Russia has he been able to find a bit of respect, as he sees eye to eye with people such as Russian P.M. Vladimir Putin. But in the rest of Europe, as well as the USA, his manner has been not well received by virtually everyone he has come in contact with.

Political circles in Jerusalem are already speculating as to who would replace Lieberman should he step down. Most likely, Deputy F.M. Danny Ayalon (a former ambassador to the USA) would temporarily replace him, which makes a lot people happy as Ayalon was very well liked during his tenure in Washington. As to who would replace him in his own party, right winged No. 2, Uzi Landau, would be a likely candidate; although his personal political views are a bit on the extreme side.

Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni doesn’t appear willing to join a Netanyahu led government, so her likelihood of again assuming the post is not likely at present. But in the game of Israeli politics, anything is possible, however.

But the police appear to be putting a case together against Lieberman, and are being backed up by former Police Chief Inspectors, and other high police officials. But Lieberman has managed to keep himself ahead of his accusers before, and could very well be successful again. It all depends on who really is running the police.

Hate Crime in Tel Aviv

It pains us to write this, but it seems Israel was the victim of a hate crime last night. A shooter, dressed in black and armed with a pistol, burst into a center for gay youth and opened fire. He killed 2, critically injured another 2 who are now fighting for their lives, while the rest of the injured are in hospitals near central Tel Aviv. It appears it was well planned, the alleged murderer perpetrating the attack on what was supposed to be a secret meeting point for gay youth looking for mutual communal support, and quickly escaping. The shooter is still at large.

Nir Katz

The dead are Nir Katz, 26, (left) and Liz Troubishi, 17. The meeting place was for 14-21-year-olds looking for a safe house, hang out and listen to music. Many of the injured are scared of being identified, and are worried they’ll be revealed as homosexuals before they are ready to come out to their relatives. Meanwhile, the attack is being condemned widely by all sides of the political spectrum, being termed a terror attack by the Likud’s Silvan Shalom, and Netanyahu vowing to bring the perpetrator to justice. Shas also came out with a statement condemning the attack.

Nitzan Horovitz

Nevertheless, there are those that have made their share of counter incitement to these sickening murders. Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is a homosexual, had this to say: “I very much hope this is not the result of comments made by public figures and Knesset members. They need to understand that some people will take action.”

He was referring to a comment made last year by former Shas MK Shlomo Benizri – recently sentenced to four years in jail for corruption – who proposed that the Knesset find a way to prohibit homosexuality, and save the State trouble in dealing with earthquakes, intimating that the homosexual act is a cause for the natural disasters.

Shlomo Benizri

Notwithstanding the fact that Benizri’s comment was idiotic and embarrassing for religious Judaism, to equate it with incitement to murder is just as idiotic and embarrassing. Incitement to murder is what you hear in places like Gaza and Jenin, where Sheiks go up publicly to give a sermon eplicitly about how everyone should kill as many Jews as people and liberate Palestine, or distribute videos about how to construct a suicide bomb vest, or praising suicide terrorist murderers That’s incitement to murder. Making a distasteful, offensive comment is not. To blame Benizri’s comment for these murders is like blaming the movie The Matrix for the Columbine High massacre of 1999. If I were MK Horovitz, I would, especially now, do my best to conduct a dialogue with Shas about this whole thing instead of yelling at them. The same goes vice versa. It’s easy for both sides to yell at each other, especially now. It’s not so easy to start talking.

But that’s the only way Israeli society will be able to heal itself after this unique terror attack. May God comfort the mourners.

Terror strikes Tel Aviv Gay Community Center

RobberyNot only is political or nationalistic terrorism a problem, but that against certain interest groups too. A long gunman wearing a mask burst into a central Tel Aviv gay community center late Saturday night, firing an automatic weapon at the crowd of young people who had gathered there. The result left two persons dead and at least 12 more wounded; four of them critically. The center, located on Nahmani Street, off Ahad HaAm, was a well known meeting place for young homosexuals and lesbians, as well as for those who weren’t quite sure what their actual sexual “orientation” really was, but needed a place to discover themselves. Most of the victims of the shooting were teenagers between 16 and 18. The two killed included a male counselor, Yaniv Katz (26), and a young woman, Liz Tarbishi (17).

The attack sent shock waves throughout the entire Tel Aviv entertainment sectors, as many thought this was a Palestinian instigated terror attack. It was an act of terror, all right, but one of a different form and apparently meant to target the city’s homosexual and lesbian communities, considered to be the largest and most open in the country – if not the entire Middle East. So far the lone gunman has not been apprehended, who witnesses said was “dressed in black”.

Police Chief Inspector General David Cohen called the attack “a most serious act” and one in which his police force will utilize all its resources to capture the perpetrator
and any possible accomplices. Israel Gay Youth organization chairman Yaniv Weizman said that the victims “were teenagers to came to center from all parts of the country to receive help and talk to each concerning their apprehensions regarding being gay.” He added that people coming to the center, which also served as a social center, thought that this was a safe place to meet, and was not meant to be pub or nightclub.

“Today, however, someone sent a message that members of the gay community in Tel Aviv are not safe. Someone knew what was going on here”, Weizman added.

The last serious act concerning gays in Israel occurred in Jerusalem in 2005 when two Gay Pride marchers were stabbed by a member of Jerusalem’s Haredi ultra orthodox community.

The Coalition Cat Fight

Are you ready for a OneJerusalem quick analysis of Knesset Mayhem?

Keep that circus music in your head now as you read this. By the numbers, PM Netanyahu’s coalition is 74 seats made up of 6 parties. He now wants to pass a bill called the “Mofaz Bill” which would allow for 7 Knesset members to break away from a party and form their own faction. This bill is named after the guy on the right, number 2 on Kadima, currently in the 46-member opposition, who has been irking to join the government against the wishes of his party leader Tzipi Livni, and who has 7 MK’s from his faction that he could break off and join Likud with. Netanyahu wants to do this to break up Kadima, a 28-member faction, down to 21.

Meanwhile, another Kadima MK has thrown a monkey wrench into the shoe factory by sticking an addendum to the bill which would allow 4 MK’s to break off instead of 7. He did this because of the 4 “Labor Rebels” who are technically part of Netanyahu’s government, but sure as heck don’t want to be. They are these guys:

rebelsFrom left to right, Eitan Cabel, Amir Peretz, Yuli Tamir, and Shelly Yachimovich. If 4 can break off, then these four might break off from the 13-seat Labor faction, which Labor leader Ehud Barak, who is part of the government, sure doesn’t want, so would he support the bill? That’s the monkey wrench.

Many people don’t like these moves because they change the rules of the game in the middle of the game. Now, to get into the nitty gritty, Netanyahu also wants to pass a land reform bill which would allow private citizens to own land instead of leasing it from the Israel Lands Administration. The current set up is meant to prevent the sale of land to non Jews who may slowly buy up the state from Jews and keep it. Netanyahu, last week, failed to pass this law because various members of his coalition ran out of the plenum in the middle of the vote so it wouldn’t pass. He got angry, tabled the bill at the last second, and threatened to fire ministers who didn’t support it the next time around.

Now, the 3-member Jewish Home faction is threatening not to vote for the land reform bill round 2 if Netanyahu doesn’t support the Slomiansky Bill, another game changer meant to allow one MK from each faction to retire from the Knesset if named a minister and get his seat back if he is fired from the government. This is meant to allow Jewish Home number 4 Nissan Slomiansky into the Knesset if Jewish Home number 1 Daniel Hershkovitz, Sport Minister, retires from the Knesset.

This is a limited Norwegian Law, and the reason a full one isn’t being passed is that Netanyahu would rather be seen in his underwear than pass a full Norwegian Law that would see over 10 Likud ministers retire from the Knesset and Netanyahu’s arch enemy Moshe Feiglin get in and cause him trouble.

In return, Netanyahu is threatening not to support the Slomiansky Bill if Jewish Home doesn’t support the Land Bill (support of which is needed for it to pass), who in return is threatening not to support the Mofaz Bill if Netanyahu doesn’t support the Slomiansky bill.

SLOW DOWN!

Basically, if any of this circus makes too many people unhappy, the government falls and we go to elections again.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to build nuclear weapons. Numbers really don’t matter so much when it comes to that minor detail.

That’s it for this week’s installment of “Israeli Knesset and Me.”

A Decade Later – Will Lieberman Finally Face the Music?

For such a young country that has sprung up out of the desert as a regional powerhouse in a matter of decades, Israel sure takes its sweet time when it comes to investigations and legal action against its leaders. An ongoing probe into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that started back when I was in middle school (I’m now 25 and married) is now, finally, coming to a close. Lieberman is suspected of funneling millions of dollars through Cyprus for some good old-fashioned money laundering purposes.

We all have to ask ourselves what, indeed, went on these past 10 years that it took an entire decade to figure out what was going on? The answer, as far as I can tell, is lots of coffee breaks and paid sick days, with some coalition government deals helping the sloth along a bit.

The way coalition government deals work here is, let’s say a government controls 65 seats out of a 120-seat parliament. Now let’s say a big Russian guy named, oh, Avigdor Lieberman to pick a randomly preselected name out of a hat, heads a 15-seat faction in that government. If he leaves, then the government falls, which the Prime Minister doesn’t really want, because that would mean he doesn’t get to be Prime Minister anymore, which would make him sad. So Avigdor says something like, “Hey, Bibi, would you mind making sure the police take plenty of coffee breaks and paid sick days so I don’t get indicted for money laundering? That would be really convenient. I mean, I wouldn’t want to *cough* leave the *cough* government or anything.”

Oh, I don’t have a recording of this conversation or anything, but I’m willing to bet that coughing was involved in some way or another. It usually is in these government setups.

Weimar RepublicAnd most people don’t even know this, but the system of government on which the functionality of the Israeli Knesset is based is, actually, the Weimar Republic of post World War I Germany (flag on right) which quickly fell and led to the rise of the Third Reich. This is an encouraging statistic for those of us who like uneasy excitement in the world. For those of us who suffer from ulcers, it’s a different story.

As reported by Ynetnews, Dr. Aviad HaCohen of Sha’arei Mishpat Academic College was quoted as saying on the case that:

“Although this is complicated and intricate, there is no justification for spreading this over such a long period of time.” In a fit of understatement, he continued, “This is not just causing a delay of justice for Lieberman, but also casting a heavy shadow over the Israeli government.”

It’s hard to say if shadows can indeed be cast in the dark, with the glorious history of the Weimar Republic hanging over your head already.

And what happens if, at the close of the decade, by some sudden lack of a coffee break, Lieberman actually does get indicted? Given that Netanyahu’s coalition consists of no less than 6 parties, you’ve got the equivalent of a pack of hungry wolves converging on the steak that is his position as foreign minister. Given the fact that Lieberman can barely speak English, there are probably some more qualified people that may lay claim to the post, and make some new threats of their own about government stability for the 31st Israeli government in 61 years of statehood.

I’d recommend, for now, that the government take a daily intake of fiber to keep it regular, but I’m not sure that will *cough* work.

Ganavim Get Sentenced: Hirschson & Benizri To Do Time

“We have to clean and sweep not under but over the carpet”, says retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat on the decisions that sent Hirschson and Benizri into incarceration. Former Tel Aviv District Attorney objects: The punishment for the former Treasury Minister is too lenient, and does not get the message across.

Avraham Hirschson - 5 + Years In The Big HouseIn one day, two former Israeli government ministers are being sent to jail: Avraham Hirschson was handed down a sentence of five years and five months. Shlomo Benizri received a harsher sentence of 4 years in prison. In a conversation with Ynet, legislators fighting against corruption approve of the sentence, but there are some who claim that it should have been stiffer. Former State Comptroller, retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat wonders: “Who knows how many more Hirschsons there are?

Ben Porat expressed satisfaction with the legal decisions:

“It’s good that punishment is meted out and we show that everyone is equal. Someone with a senior position should have to pay even more. Hirschson was trusted with Treasury funds and engaged in transactions for the entire country. He should have been purer than pure. It is unfortunate, he gave at least an outward impression of a man who cares, who fights for Holocaust survivors”.

She states that corruption “should be cleaned and swept – not under but over the carpet, and that’s what we’re doing now. It is difficult to know how many did not receive the punishments they deserve, because you can only conduct legal proceedings when there is evidence. Just bringing someone to trial is already a deterrent. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but matters are being dealt with as they should – with the necessary severity – and I welcome that, states Ben-Porat.

Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom referred at length to the corruption issues in Hirschson’s verdict and expressed surprise that “the same image of a good man and benefactor could turn into the image of someone who steals public funds together with his subordinates to support “the good life” he and they have become accustomed to as a lifestyle. Was it just drunken power that changed the accused’s view of the the world? Or was it unlimited greed combined with the atmosphere of neglect that took over the organization whose actions no one any longer oversaw?”

At the comptroller’s office it is said that “today the Court clearly expressed the importance of the struggle against public corruption. The comptroller’s office, which has been spearheading the Hirschson scandal from its very first stages, will continue in the struggle against public corruption, and for morality in the country, not excluding those at the top of the pyramid and including all enforcement officials. The comptroller’s office has proclaimed its views more than once, that only a process of proper investigation, followed by legal trial and severe punishment – all immediately following commitment of the crime – will help to cleanse society from the corruption that has affected it.

Retired judge Dalia Dorner is satisfied by “the appropriate legal rulings”, and believes that “they deserve retribution, not in terms of revenge, but in terms of public denunciation of acts of this kind. Fraud and theft have been with us from biblical times, but when it involves public figures, the punishment should be severe. Denunciation is most important and therefore you must take into account that a light punishment may suggest that the crime wasn’t really that bad. God help us if we broadcast that kind of message”.

In the Hirschson case, prosecution demanded a sentence of at least 7 years incarceration for the Treasury minister, who was convicted of stealing milllions, but the judge ruled a lesser sentence. The State has not yet announced whether or not it will appeal. However, then senior prosecutor in the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s office, Adv. Miriam Rosenthal, claims that that are good reasons for this: “He did not express his regret, and the difference between his sentence and the others’ is too slight,” she stated to Ynet.

“The District Court gave heavy consideration to Hirschonson’s personal circumstances,” Rosenthal added. “The punishment is fairly lenient, particularly when the other defendants, who confessed in a plea bargaining and did not waste the Court’s time – and did not spend the funds as Hirschson did, received sentences of up to five years. An extra six months is a light addition.”

When he harshened Ben Izri’s sentence, one of the Supreme Court Judges, Edmond Levy, wrote: “The rising corruption among Israeli governing authorities necessitates the action of setting a higher price…to cope with this affliction and to deter others. Words of admonishment are no longer enough. It’s time to take action.”

Adv. Rosenthal agrees that the punishment in the Ben Izri case is meant to deter – as punishments up to now have not been sufficent. “Ben Izri is not a victim,” she stresses. Despite this, there wasn’t enough in Hirschson’s conviction to get a message across.

And what’s next? Rosenthal sees a link between the two cases only in their involving two public figures who have transgressed – because their crimes are different. Ben Izri accepted a bribe; Hirschson stole. “In my opinion, the prosecution will not link these two cases. If they appeal, it will be due to the comparison between those charged and convicted in a plea bargaining and a man who was convicted after he denied the charges and went through with a trial”.

Corruption Case Against Olmert Heating Up

No sooner had former Kadima government finance minister Avraham Hirschson been sentenced to 5 years and 5 months for theft of public funds (among other things) and former Shas Party Health, Labor and Welfare minister Shlomo Benizri lost his bribery appeal (and got sentenced for more than twice the original period of 18 months), millionaire investor Morris Talansky was back in Israel to testify in the continuing investigations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is facing a number of charges, including being accused of taking more than $300,000 that Talansky was said to have contributed to Olmert’s mayoral campaign in Jerusalem.

talanskyOlmert’s legal problems are a bit different now than they were when Talanasky last appeared in Israel to answer questions concerning the monies he gave to the former prime minister; especially since Olmert is now a private citizen, and as such no longer has the immunity he had as Prime Minister. Talansky himself is under investigation in the USA under suspicion that he illegally transferred large sums of money to Israel under the guise of the money being “contributions”. Besides the noted sum that Talansky is said to have “contributed” to Olmert’s mayoral campaign, there is also the matter of a sum of $150,000 that he is said to have given to Olmert over a period o f years, and used by Olmert for his own personal benefit, including upgrading hotel rooms during trips abroad.

Talansky is under suspicion by American authorities of using his relationship with Olmert to transfer funds illegally to Israel. He noted to reporters that he had been warned against returning to Israel, but felt that he needed to set the record straight. One of the big questions concerning Talansky’s relationship with Olmert was whether Olmert obtained the funds under false pretenses, and whether part of it had been considered to be a bribe. For his part, Talansky only agreed to return to Israel to testify after an agreement had been reached with both Israeli and American authorities in order that his testimony would not incriminate him by returning to Israel.

With two of his former ministers already going “up river” will the former prime minister also be heading in that same direction? Or is he clever enough to find a way out with only a slight “slap on the wrist”. Corruption seems to be becoming more commonplace among government officials and politicians these days, and even former P.M. Ariel Sharon might have had so face similar counts (that led to his son Omri serving a short prison term for miss-use of campaign funds) had Sharon not suffered a severe stroke in January 2006 that has left him comatose and totally incapacitated.

King of Pop Michael Jackson dead at 50

Michael Jackson Dead at 50

Pop star icon Michael Jackson died Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles of an apparent cardiac arrest. He was 50 years old. Jackson’s death was reported to the media by he brother Jermaine, who was at his side when he has taken to UCLA Medical Center hospital after apparently suffering a heart seizure. An emergency room team worked on him for over an hour trying to revive him but to no avail, and he was pronounced dad at 2:26 p.m. Pacific Time.

Jackson had been trying to make a music comeback and had several concerts scheduled for this summer with tickets for them virtually sold out. His recent concert in London had been received by a packed house, indicated that the King of Pop was still top billing despite not being actively involved in the music and entertainment business for some time. His sister Janet, who was in the midst of making a movie, went immediately to be with her family after hearing the tragic news.

Although Jackson had not personally appeared in Israel as a music artist, he had several close Israeli friends, most notably magician and surrealist effect artist Uri Geller, who said he was profoundly saddened to learn of Jackson’s death.

Michael Jackson was born in Indiana in 1958 and his early talent as a singer and performer was seized upon by his father who featured his six year old son in a family singing group that became known as the Jackson Five. It was no turning back after that, and the young pop star led the group to win Grammy after Grammy until he finally “went solo” as a teenager during the 1970’s. During his music career, Jackson achieved fame that few musicians ever have and was indicted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Once with the Jackson Five and once as a solo singer. He won more than 12 Grammies in all as well as numerous musical awards. His pop movie, Thriller, won 8 Grammies on it’s own.

Jackson’s personal life was as news worthy as well as it was tragic, and was often filled with controversy. His strange and often eccentric life style, included being married to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of music legend Elvis Presley. That marriage, in which it was often queried if the couple actually lived together, lasted less then two years. He then married Debbie Rowe, and had two children with her before the marriage dissolved in 1999. Jackson made headlines when he was photographed dangling one of his children off a balcony of a hotel the family was staying in while visiting Berlin.

Jackson love for young children, especially young boys, was also mixed with controversy; and while many said it was due to his lost childhood by being thrust into the entertainment world at such an early age, there were also rumors that he had more than a fond relationship with them. He often brought hundreds of young children to his extravagant Neverland Ranch where he set up an almost Disneyland type of atmosphere, complete with a large zoo. He also established his Heal the World Foundation to help better the lives of underprivileged children, one of whom, a 13 year boy, accused Jackson of molesting him. That court case, which was literally plastered on the world media, cost the singer his career, and he never really recovered from it, even though he was eventually acquitted. He also have a strange skin problem that caused him to literally “turn white”, which was coupled with being burned once during a singing performance (he lost most of his nose during that accident). He also became the victim of ridicule and off-beat humor by numerous talk show hosts, who appeared to enjoy capitalizing on his misfortunes.

Jackson had amassed a fortune during his music and entertainment career, but didn’t have the ability to hold on to most of it, as he spent millions on his Neverland Ranch, and his numerous legal defenses, including several financial settlements with his ex-wives and with children who has accused him of sexual misconduct. He also traveled to several world locations, including the Persian Gulf Emirate of Dubai, to try to find “a haven form the world” for himself and his children. Some people who knew him well say that he was in a bad financial situation, which is what may have prompted him to return to the public concert scene and even to consider making new pop music recordings.

Tributes have been coming in from all over the world, and the noisy atmosphere of New York City’s Times Square and Los Angeles’s Chinese Theater (where Jackson’s celebrity “star” is included along with other entertainment celebs) seemed gripped in moments of silence when word of Jackson’s death was broadcast by the media. “I was really saddened to hear of Michael’s death – he was a true friend and co-worker” said actress Brooke Shields, who had known Jackson during his career. “Learning of Michael’s death was almost like hearing about (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy’s assassination” a fan noted.

Dudu’s Hit List Gets Ever Bigger

Ex Israel television personality (for now anyway) Dudu Topaz, appears to be sinking deeper into the quicksand of high profile crime when more names from his ever growing “hit list” were divulged by the police, including ex-wife: Roni Chen. Topaz’s lust for revenge seems to have been so great against Chen, the mother of one of his children, that even her new husband, actor Haim Zinati, was also noted on the list; and word is out that Dudu wanted to use explosives to do them in. When some of Topaz’s close friends were interviewed concerning the new revelations, including his brother Miki Goldenberg, the general response was “This really can’t be – especially concerning the mother of his own child! This guy has simply lost it!”

DuduOther well known personalities on Topaz’s “get even” list included TV news commentator Yoav Gross, TV show hosts Zvika Hadar (who recently rejected Topaz from being a panel judge on the Star is Born musical talent competition, and now calls Topaz “a monster”); as well as Erez Tal and Avri Gilad (both of whom also rejected Topaz from being in their shows). Another name listed in Topaz’s “bank of targets” is Israel Today newspaper editor Amos Regev, who Topaz believed wrote too many unkind words about him.

Topaz is still being held at the Abu Kabir police lockup in south Tel Aviv. His remand order has been extended by another 10 days due to him being regarded as “dangerous to the Public”. For sure Dudu would have been “dangerous” to those noted on his “bank list”, had he and his “employees” not been apprehended before they could carry out any more acts of revenge.

But the order to actually harm his ex-wife must have been simply too much to believe for those who know Topaz personally. “He thought that he sat on ‘Mt. Olympus’ and could do what he wanted to, regarding these acts. He’s not really bad – he’s simply sick” said actress Irit Sheila, a close friend of Topaz.

Topaz’ neighbor, and alleged accomplice, Daniel Zanko, who police think may be involved in a plot to inflict “serious injury” on Ms. Chen and her husband, is also being interrogated by the police.

Birds of a feather?

What do Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, and Daffy Duck have in common?

mahmoud ahmadinejadThings seem to be getting a bit “interesting” in places like Pyongyang North Korea and Teheran Iran. Both of these countries now have run-away nuclear arms programs, and in North Korea, the situation has reached the boiling point with the test of a 20 kiloton nuclear device, followed by the test launching of at least 7 missiles. Now, the scene in that region may be ready to explode with Pyongyang saying that its neighbor South Korea will be in a “state of war” with North Korea if it tries to intercept any North Korean vessel on suspicion of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

kim jong ilNorth Korea’s fearless leader, Kim Jong Il, seems to have retreated back to his secluded residence to eat lobster (his favorite food) and watch Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons. Looney Tunes, especially ones with Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, and Sargasso Sam, are said to be Kim’s favorite pass time, outside of raunchy sex orgies which he may be getting too old or too demented to participate in. And he may also have to cut down or even forgo the lobster and other rich foods that 95% of his countrymen can only dream about.

So that leaves Daffy Duck and Co. as his only pastime – and possibly his only friends.

daffy duckWhere this ties in with that other nuclear wannabe about 2,500 miles southwest of North Korea is not so difficult to figure out, as the guy sitting in the President’s Chair in Teheran has probably received most of his country’s nuclear technology and even equipment directly from his friend, Kim. Whether Mahmoud also likes Daffy Duck is not certain at this time; but we can bet that he has some interesting “diversions” of his own. Now that Pyongyang has heated things up quite a bit in his neighborhood, nuclear test and all, Ahmadinejad may see this act as a ‘window of opportunity’ to perhaps set off a big “fire cracker” himself. After all, if Kim and Daffy Duck can do it, why can’t Mahmoud?

Both of these scenes are being watched very closely by both the USA and Israel, with Israel having the most to loose if an Iranian IBM comes flying toward Tel Aviv with a bomb like Whylie Coyote might use to get even with his road runner nemesis, Beep Beep. What’s going to happen next is not quite certain, but we can all wonder whether American President Barack Obama will do more than just make condemnations, and whether anything will be done to prevent any of these leaders, from carrying out an act which up to now has been nothing more than intense saber rattling.

If the situation does get out of hand, and nobody stands up to either of these two guys, then there’s going to a something coming down that’s a lot more serious than Daffy Duck and Sargasso Sam. We’re afraid there’s going to be un-leashing of the Tasmanian Devil!

Don’t take the Sun for granted

Have you ever wondered why the sun is considered as being so important that it has often been worshiped as having god-like powers – even like being a god? The answer is simply that because the sun’s importance to life on earth is so obvious, since life itself is impossible without it’s light and warmth.

The first few lines of the Book of Genesis in the Bible state that “the earth was without form or void, and darkness covered the face of the deep”. Enter the light and warmth of the sun, which changed everything and caused a “separation between the “light and the darkness and darkness and the light” that resulted in life being formed on an otherwise dark and shapeless mass of stone. Jewish tradition notes that once during a period of 28 years, a special prayer dealing with the Creation is said on the eve of Passover when the sun rises. This year, in the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, and in the year 5769, which observant Jews say is the period of years from the actual Creation, a special prayer is said give thanks to the Devine Creator. The prayer goes like this:

“Baruch Atah Adonay, Elohenu Melech Haolam, Oseh Maaseh B’reshit” – Blessed be Thou, O’Lord, King of the Universe, who performs the act of Creation

Creation – the sun – without the sun there would be no creation. The position of the sun in relation to the earth is only part of the reason why this special prayer is only said once every 28 years. Other factors, both physical and spiritual, have to be present as well, and for this reason, the prayer is only recited so seldom.

Those who regularly study the Talmud, that all import set of books of Jewish knowledge, know that the answer as to why this prayer is recited once every 28 years, is found in section known as Brahot (Blessings) , section 59 B. Those seeking the answer can find it there. Or, you can simply recite the prayer tomorrow at dawn, when the first rays of the sun appear on the eastern horizon.

If it’s cloudy where you are, say the prayer anyway. G-d will hear you.

Israeli earthquake rescue teams hope to see action in L’Aquila Italy

Italy EarthquakeWill Israel’s famed IDF Search and Rescue Team, whose feats were well known in past earthquakes in place like Turkey and Mexico, once again see action in Italy? Following the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that stuck the city of L’Aquila, located in a mountainous region of central Italy. At least 50 people have been confirmed dead and numerous others unaccounted for in the quake which stuck around 3:30 a.m. and caused numerous Renaissance era buildings to collapse, including a university dormitory in which several students were still believe trapped, including possibly one Israeli university student who may be trapped in a collapsed school dormitory.

Four Israelis, said to be in the area at the time of the quake, were still unaccounted for at the time of this writing. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman immediately offered his Italian counterpart emergency aid, including the dispatching of the rescue team and medical workers, if required. Guido Bertolaso, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department called the tragedy in his country “the worst event since the start of the Millennium”.

Israel’s famed rescue team was formed following the bombing of a border police headquarters in Lebanon during the 1982 war in which more than 50 border policemen lost their lives when a suicide car bomber blew up the building they were housed in. Since then, the unit has been involved in rescue operations in places like Nairobi Kenya, following the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in 1998; and following the massive earthquake in Turkey in August 1999, when a team which included special search dogs and a portable field hospital were airlifted to Turkey and immediately began operating at the site of the worst damage.

Israel has often offered to dispatch this team to some unusual places, including the southern Iranian city of Bam, where thousands of people were killed in an earthquake in 2003.Their services were refused, however, by a government seemingly unwilling to let Israelis come and help save lives.

Although earthquakes are not a common occurrence in Italy, they have happened in the past and have caused massive damage to historical cities such as Rome. L’Aquila is located about 110 km northeast of Rome in the mountainous Abruzzo region which has two of Italy’s highest mountains not located in the Italian Alps. Famed for its medieval buildings, the city has a population of 70,000 and is the regional capital of the Abruzzo region.

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