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Meet the artist Shraga Landesman

Pomegranate Hebrew Seder Plate by Shraga Landesman

When you visit the Website of artist Shraga Landesman you’ll see this quote:

“My spiritual sources are the Bible and the ancient cultures that lived in the region. A disappearing world that I miss which does not exist anymore. I confront this world my way, trying to decode familiar cultural codes from those magic objects that these cultures left behind”.

Shraga Landesman was born in Israel where he studied sculpture and painting at the Oranim College of Art and Tel-Hai College. There was seemingly no limit to the borders of Landesman’s creative output. In 1982 he won first prize in a documentary photograph competition in Israel. His photographs were widely exhibited in Haifa.

At this successful juncture in Shraga’s career, he traveled through Europe where he was exposed to the origins of Western culture, hints of which were left there by the ruins of ancient civilizations such as that of Greece and Rome. Inspired by this, he enrolled at Haifa University, concentrating on small scale sculptures. A constant itch for creative expression led him to the designing and creation of ceremonial Judaica – this is what he is best known for, and this has been the focus of his artistic output since 1996. Shraga Landesman’s creations in functional Judaica are even featured at several museums, galleries and fine craft-stores throughout Israel, Europe and the United States.

Shraga’s Judaica comes in the form of mezuzot, Hanukkah menorahs, pesach items, candle holders, serving items, havdallah sets, Kiddush sets, and more. Currently his photography focuses on Birds of Israel.

“DAY OF RAGE”

THE SCOOP

What does Hamas do when they sense things are not going their way? Declare a sloppy Jihad!

Palestinian "Day of Rage"Hundreds of Palestinians held a “Day of Rage” yesterday – the Palestinian Authority announced a general alert and Israeli Border Police did their job.

What does a “Day of Rage” entail? Why, it entails throwing stones at security forces in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Hamas’ parliamentary speaker Dr. Ahmed Bahar called Palestinians to strike Israel with terrorist attacks in its central region as a response to the “desecration of al-Aqsa”, which actually has not been desecrated.

Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen commented on the situation saying:

“The Temple Mount is a national challenge for the police, and an international challenge. Every incident has significant ramifications on the situation. It is our job to maintain the relative calm. At this time, and in recent times, there are a number of signs of attempts to disrupt the order at the Temple Mount. This is why we have prepared in massive numbers, including today, to enable the freedom of worship.”

The Red Crescent in Jerusalem reported that 49 Arabs were injured around the Old City and in east Jerusalem as of noon, including 14 people injured from rubber bullets and 16 who suffered from teargas inhalation.

In total, 31 Palestinians were arrested in Abu Dis, Hawara, Wadi Joz, al-Tur, and around the Temple Mount. The riots also spread to Naalin, where 50 Palestinians hurled stones at security forces. IDF soldiers responded with means of crowd control, causing no reports of injuries.

Palestinian police were deployed in towns and cities in the West Bank to prevent the rioting from spilling over into PA territory. A PA source said, “The security forces are acting almost as if it was an emergency situation, with the aim of maintaining order.”

The PA also upped its surveillance of Hamas figures after the call for the general “day of rage” in the West Bank.

During the rioting to the east of Jerusalem, traffic was stopped for five minutes in the Gaza Strip as a sign of solidarity with Palestinians in the holy city. Trading was slow, and school classes were suspended while students and pupils demonstrated in the streets.

THE SCOOP FROM THE OTHER SIDE

MK Ahmad Tibi said:

“There is a sense that they are trying to reoccupy east Jerusalem, we are here to protest what we call the judaization of Jerusalem. Anyone that claims there is freedom of worship cannot prevent Muslims from coming here to pray. It is obvious that the goal is to leave the al-Aqsa Mosque without worshippers.”

MK Haneen Zoubi (Balad) said:

“Israel is testing the Palestinian and international threshold via the violent policies of judaization and occupation it is applying in Jerusalem: Massive Jewish inhabitation in the east of the city and in the Arab neighborhoods, the demolition of houses, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, revoking identity cards, suppressing demonstrations, arresting resident, picking on human rights activists.”

He added:

“This policy is nothing short of ethnic cleansing, and it constitutes a strong motive for the launch of a third intifada, even more than Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque. It seems that the official Palestinian and Arab stance has given Israel the wrong message: That the Palestinians will not fight for their freedom and their rights, and that the intifadas are a thing of the past. This is an incorrect assumption, as the ongoing aggression and occupation in Jerusalem make an intifada an unpreventable measure.”

He further stated:

“I am addressing the government and warning of a flare-up that will drag the area into a violent conflict. We will not sit idly by as the rights of the Palestinian people in general and the residents of Jerusalem in particular are trampled. There is no link between the rights of the Palestinian people in east Jerusalem and the honorable Joe Biden or the honorable United States, and there is no right timing to populate Arab neighborhoods with Jews. There is no good timing for occupation! Israel must seek a solution to its true crisis, which is not with the US administration, but with the Palestinian people.”

International Temple Mount Awareness Day

Israeli law prides itself on two cardinal principles of democracy: freedom of access to places of worship, and the freedom of worship to practitioners of all religions.

Israeli government has always cited the Jewish Country’s unflinching assurance of the freedom of worship for Muslims and Christians in the city of Jerusalem. This fact is vitally presented in its case to maintain Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli sovereignty.

Temple MountThe irony is this: in the heart of Jerusalem lies a piece of real estate which has been granted de facto some sort of extra-legal, extraterritorial status, a sort-of “wild West” where the rule of law does not exist and the most basic and inalienable democratic rights are not honored. That is the Temple Mount.

The facts are as such: The Muslim Waqf, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, has been granted absolute say over the administration of the Temple Mount. Illegal destruction of archaeological findings from the first and second Temples takes place on a daily basis, and so does illegal construction. The Waqf’s unambiguous aim of this policy is the transformation of the entire Temple Mount plateau into one massive Mosque, thereby achieving exclusivity to the site for Muslims.

No less pernicious is the manner in which non-Muslims are treated both atop the Mount and upon approaching it. The discriminatory policy is enforced by the Israeli police, go figure. Non-Muslims are simply not allowed to carry with them a Bible or prayer book and are not even allowed to pray. Jews who ascend the Mount, in accordance with Jewish law are singled out and discriminated against in a derogatory fashion. They are detained at the security booth, identification cards inspected and given oral instructions on what they cannot do.

Furthermore, unlike any other group of human beings ascending the Temple Mount, Jews are not allowed to be in gatherings of more than 10 or 20 at a time, and they are accompanied during the entire duration of their visit by police officers and a Waqf official to ensure that they do not violate the prohibitions. It is needless to say, prayer books, the Tanach, tefillin or a tallit are forbidden.

In recent rulings, the Supreme Court has categorically upheld the right of Jews to pray on the Mount, and has had to reprove the police for not honoring this law. If the danger exists that Jewish prayer on the Mount could be met by a disturbance of the peace, then freedom of worship is denied.

The Temple Institute has declared this coming Tuesday, March 16, the first of the month of Nisan, to be International Temple Mount Awareness Day. Supporters are called-upon to petition the government of Israel for change.

Destination: Zion

“There are about 200 countries in the world, but it seems that only two attribute holiness to their capital: Israel and Palestine (still not a recognized state, but on the way there). Perhaps three, if we count the Vatican as a state.”

Yossi Melman

western wall jerusalemU.S. President Barack Obama is delaying an action which would move the U.S. embassy in Israel, from the Tel Aviv coast to the city of Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is the former capital city of the State of Israel – and while the nation always dreamed of having Jerusalem as its capital, the change didn’t actually happen until 1980.

In 1995 a U.S. law was passed, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and in the same ruling it was ordered that the embassy be moved to there. The law also allowed a 6-month leeway to delay the change, in the name of national security grounds – this clause was invoked during the presidencies of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively. Barack Obama joined the U.S. presidential trend of delay, when on Thursday he told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to delay moving the embassy until at least June.

Madeba mosaic JerusalemThe fear is that left-leaning Obama is thinking along lines similar to Yossi Melman of Haaretz, who wrote an article on June 12th 2009, suggesting that Israel give up Jerusalem as a capital altogether. He suggests that it has always been an obstacle in the Middle East peace process:

“Most capitals contain religious symbols: cathedrals, mosques, temples, but they were not selected as capitals because of these. Even Saudi Arabia did not select Mecca or Medina, holy cities to Muslims, but Riyadh as its capital. Conclusion: The attitudes attributing holiness to a city were, in most countries, isolated from the political considerations that govern and shape day-to-day life.”

The Haaretz contributor added:

“It is hard to understand how two peoples, in the modern era, are willing to die for the sake of religious symbolism of stones and places of worship. Moreover, this ‘holiness’ is preventing any chance of achieving a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

For me, what is so hard to understand is how any Jew could be so removed from the soul of his heritage. If you wish to cite Saudi Arabia as a parallel to Israel, you are already wide of the mark. Saudi Arabia is the home of a culture which conquered much of the world often by the sword – and has most of the world shaking in their boots, today, out of sheer intimidation, inspired by a recent history of vicious violence. Israel, on the other hand, is a nation which has been oppressed more than any other on the planet and was driven from its capital as a result of racial, religious and cultural persecution. Yossi Melman is the one who should change location, not Zion.

Full House Even Without A Baby Boom

Israelis have for decades been worried about the exponentially growing rate of Palestinians and Arab Israelis. They fear that, as equal citizens, if the ratio of Arabs to Jews in Israel grows disproportionate enough, Arabs could soon control the Knesset and young Israel might cease to be a Jewish nation.

Israeli arab womenWell the birthrate of Muslims in Israel is actually on the decline, though out of any other ethnicity in the country, it is still by far the largest. According to new data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics: the growth rate of Israel’s Muslim population stayed at 2.8% in 2008, compared to 3.8% in 2000. The Druze population was 1.8% last year. The Christian population grew at 1.3% and the Jewish population growth rate stood at 1.6%.

Jaffa MosqueLast year the Muslim population totaled 1.24 million people – that’s 34,000 more residents than the end of 2007. The majority of Muslim Arabs live in the north with 21.4% in Jerusalem. 11.3% are in the Mercaz region, 13.8% are in the south and only 1.2% of the Muslim population is in the greater Tel Aviv district.

The 256,000 Muslims in Jerusalem make up one-third of the city’s population and the majority of residents in Nazareth are the 46,000 Muslims there.

While the fertility rate among Muslim women in Israel has dropped steadily in the last few years from 4.7 babies in the year 2008 to 3.8 in 2008 – however this Muslim birthrate is still higher than women’s fertility rate is still higher than that of Jews, Druze and Christians in the country – but also, and this is crucial, higher than the fertility rate for Muslims in other Sunni countries:

In Israel there is an average 3.1 children for each woman, in Syria and Jordan there is 2.9, in Morocco 2.4, in Algeria 2.2, Lebanon 1.9 and in Tunisia in Northern Africa there is an average 1.9 children per mother in Muslim households.

We just thought you might like to know this…

More Clashing of Worlds in Jerusalem

Despite some violence and 1,500 ultra-Orthodox protesters, shouting”Shabes! Shabes!” Intel Corp. says that it has no plans of closing down their chip making factory in the industrial zone of Har Hotzvim on Shabbat.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANSThe protests were sparked by Intel’s opening of a new facility near the ultra-orthodox area; the company has operated on Saturday’s for more than twenty years, and plans to continue to do so.

Intel is one of Israel’s biggest corporate supporters. They first opened a plant in Haifa in 1974 and in Jerusalem in 1984. By the year 2000, they employed more than 4000 Israelis.

Most businesses in Jerusalem close down for the Sabbath and those which stay open tend not to be located near haredi neighborhoods. There has always been tension in Jerusalem between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up one third of the city’s population. Well starting last year, things began to get worse. First, voters elected a secular mayor to replace the ultra-Orthodox incumbent, and then City Hall decided to open a municipal parking lot on Shabbat near the Meah Shearim neighborhood. These instances have been the cause of much controversy and violence over the last year, occasionally splashing onto the headlines.

What we have here dear readers is a “failure to communicate” as Paul Newman once put it in “Cool Hand Luke.” Who is right and who is wrong? This is a mere reflection of the case of the disappearing public sphere in the Jewish Country. There needs to a modifier, a common law to entice both sides to come together. It should be the blending of ancient Torah values, with modern Zionist vision; and an effective change of attitude should start in school.

Navy Seals Commandeer Antiguan Ship Carrying Iranian Weapons to Hezbollah

During an overnight raid on Tuesday last week, the Israeli Navy, about 100 nautical miles off the coast west of Israel and near Cyprus, seized hundreds of tons of weaponry on a ship sailing with an Antiguan flag. The weaponry was sent by Iran and destined for Hezbollah, in Syria.

The IDF was monitoring the Francop for several days before Navy Seals boarded it in the middle of the night. When they found the dangerous cargo, they easily commandeered it and sailed it to Israel.

The government of Antigua informed Israeli Intelligence that a ship left from the Bandar-Abbas Port in Iran with cargo which was shipped through the Suez Canal, unloaded in the Mediterranean Port of Damietta in Egypt and then loaded onto the Francop. The intended destination was the Latakia Port in Syria.

The ship’s crew was unaware that there were weapons on board, as they were disguised as humanitarian aid.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem denied the entire event. He said:

“Unfortunately there are official pirates disrupting the movement of goods between Iran and Syria, I stress, the ship was not carrying Iranian arms bound for Syria, nor was it carrying material for manufacturing weapons in Syria. It was carrying [commercial] goods from Syria to Iran.”

Meanwhile both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres complimented the Navy and the IDF, for the exemplary execution of a critical operation.

Today in Knesset, Tzipi Livni said:

“We all today praise the Navy and IDF over the seizure of the ship – it’s not a controversial matter. There are issues over which there are no coalition and opposition. We are all partners in the people of Israel’s war on terror – whether it’s Hamas, Hizbullah or other supporters [of terror]. Well done.”

Now since the world is basically ignoring this OBVIOUS WAR MONGERING ACTION BY IRAN AND HEZBOLLAH LAYING THE GROUND WORK FOR THEIR NEXT WAR – WE THOUGHT WE WOULD PUT TOGETHER A LITTLE GALLERY FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE (again, these are not weapons as the Syrian Foreign Minister explained, these are commercial goods!!!!)

More Trouble in Paradise: The Unruly Neighbors

Pisgat ZeevThe Adhan is the Muslim call to prayer. Five times a day it gets broadcast from the loudspeaker of mosques. In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, residents have complained that the volume of the Adhan has been unnecessarily loud, creating an annoying nuisance, and that Israeli police have not done anything to fix the situation. Especially at 4 a.m., it does not seem reasonable that a call to prayer need be THAT loud; and according to residents of Pisgat Ze’ev, it has been getting louder and louder since Ramadan.

One Pisgat Ze’ev resident named Yehudit Raz told the Jerusalem Post:

“It’s as if they took the speakers and put them inside my bedroom…and it’s not from one mosque or two mosques – we’re talking about tons of speakers going off, one after the other, every morning…everyone is shirking their responsibility…all we want is for them to turn their speakers down. How would they feel if we did the same thing to them?”

Also problematic for Jewish residents, were wedding celebrations featuring fireworks and gunshots in the neighborhoods of Shuafat, Anata, Beit Hanina and Hizme.
“Why must they wake up the whole neighborhood with the noise?” she went on. “Can’t they just get alarm clocks?” asked Raz.

Yael Antebi is the City Councilwoman who represents Pisgat Ze’ev at City Hall and she is a resident. Antebi says that she knows exactly what her fellow residents are complaining about and said that she has been bringing the matter to the proper forum, with the municipality.

One reason that the police may be touchy about addressing such a taboo issue as this is due to recent rioting and unrest at the Holy sites in the area. They do not want to rile the dogs anymore than they have to, so to speak.
Antebi was quoted as saying:

“These mosques are violating noise ordinances…and the police are refusing to get involved…it’s easy for us to say that now isn’t a comfortable time to deal with this issue, but we can always say that…meanwhile, people can’t sleep. This is affecting people’s everyday lives.”

Other complaints have been recorded by Jerusalem residents from Mount Scopus to Gilo. One anonymous Jerusalem resident said:

“When my wife and I lived near the,Mount of Olives cemetery, the speakers were always going off, and loudly…we realized after some time that it was a recording – an mp3 file or something – because a few times, really early in the morning, I guess they had turned the speakers on before they turned on the computer, and the music that comes on when Windows starts up would just blast, really loud, through the whole neighborhood.”

Benny A., a resident of Gilo, told the Jerusalem Post “We hear it [The Adhan] every morning. People get woken up, they can’t get back to sleep, and then they show up to work just exhausted…what I don’t understand is that if this is a religion that says it preaches tolerance, why aren’t they being tolerant here?”

More like tolerable. He continued, “I’m all for freedom of religion and I think they should be able to practice their religion openly, but when it comes to tolerance, they’re forcing their religion into our lives, and we’re their neighbors!”

In defense, Jameel Sanduka, the Mukhtar of Shuafat told the Jerusalem Post last week;

“We were living here long before Pisgat Ze’ev even existed…and this is just a continuation of all the troubles that have been going on on Jeruslaem, and on the Temple Mount.”

He continued:

“It’s not the noise that bothers these people; Islam bothers them. But there are things that bother us, too. The [security barrier] that has been put up in Shuafat, the checkpoints – these things disrupt our daily lives. So I say, if they have a problem with the noise, it’s their problem.”

Sanduka says that he has been contacted several times by the police, but while they have slightly lowered the volume of the Adhan, for religious reasons they cannot altogether make it cease. Sanduka suggested:

“If they would like to come here, as neighbors, and sit and drink coffee, my hand is always open…when there was trouble between the two communities in the past, I personally went to Pisgat Ze’ev and met with leaders there. I’ve been to their community center, I have a number of friends there…but people who want to start trouble – what can I tell you? They’re going to start trouble.”

The police in Jerusalem certainly have bigger fish to fry; but who the REAL trouble makers are, is a question which certainly should raise eyebrows.

Trouble in Paradise: The Latest From Al-Haram al-Sharif

Sunday was a day of chaos in Jerusalem’s old-city – which houses the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
Organized Palestinian protestors stormed the area which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock mosque, famous to Jews as the site of the Temple mount, while a conference by the Jewish National Religious Temple Institute in Jerusalem was underway.

Israeli police in Jerusalem gathered early at the site early in the day, in anticipation of the violent protests, which called for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Things got out of hand when Israeli police were hit with rocks and one Molotov cocktail, thrown by the Muslim rioters. There were reports that even tourists, who always frequent the holy area, were also being attacked with rocks. Palestinian demonstrators also poured oil through the streets to prevent Israeli police from gaining access to the site of the mosque.
In response the Israeli forces stormed the area of the al-Aqsa Mosque, using stun grenades. When the rioting had ended, nine policemen were reported as having suffered light injuries, after being pelted with rocks. Palestinian medical sources said that 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries; and 21 Palestinians were arrested.

Flag Burning by Our Turkish "Fans"According to an article in “The Age”:

The Jordanian Government’s spokesman in Jerusalem has demanded that Israel prevent its soldiers from entering the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif because, he said, it desecrated the area.

The Palestinian Authority Minister Hatem Abdel Kader, who is responsible for all PA Jerusalem affairs was arrested, and so was Islamic Movement cleric Ali Abu Shiyahe. Further details are pending on this latest eruption of the world’s Holy volcano.

Meanwhile, today in Turkey, demonstrators gathered to protest Israel’s actions in Sunday’s incident. According to an article in World Bulletin:

“[protesters] gathered in front of 4. Levent Metro station, thousands of people marched to Israeli consulate general. Shouting slogans to condemn Israel, protesters burned the Israeli flag in front of the consulate.”

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv: Please Don’t Anger the Gentiles!

Here are some of the edicts that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who will turn 100 this coming April, has made lately. The internet is forbidden, Shabbat elevators are forbidden, women must acquiesce to every form of extortion from husbands they want to receive a bill of divorce from in order to be free to remarry, Crocs are forbidden on Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to visit the Western Wall on Shabbat, women are forbidden from earning an academic degree but at the same time must support their unemployed husbands who aren’t allowed to work because they have to study all their lives, and now, Jews are forbidden from entering the Temple Mount complex.
Oh happy day.

Rabbi ElyashivThis latest of rulings was mentioned to President Shimon Peres when the latter went to visit him in his Meah Shearim sukkah.

According to Elyashiv, Jews going up to the Temple mount could anger the gentiles and spark a war and further condemnation of Israel by the nations of the world. So it’s better the Jews lay low and put up a do not disturb sign.

This ruling fits perfectly well with the Haredi mentality of, basically, put up a giant wall, and wait for everything around you to collapse on its own, at which point the Messiah will come and the Haredim will inherit the Earth. This translates into the assumption that if Jews do anything to assert their rights anywhere, then we are “inhibiting the coming of the Messiah,” by breaching the wall we’re supposed to put up. This is why, in Haredi eyes, Israel is illegitimate. We breached the wall.

Elyashiv has his critics and slowly but surely, Haredi society is freeing itself from the influence of the old guard. We won’t see this actively happening until Elyashiv passes on and then some, but there is some simmering going on. Building a giant wall and waiting for everything outside of it to collapse just isn’t in style so much these days.
Some actually think that putting up a do not disturb sign encourages people to start rapping at your door. If you don’t answer, it, the knock usually gets even louder.

Haredim Continue to Scream up a Storm

Well, several weeks have went by, and the Harta parking lot is still open. Now the Haredim are really pissed off, and they’ve decided to, in the words of Emeril Lagasse, kick it up a notch. In the last two days of protests, a Haredi man was run over by a car after he literally threw himself under it, six policemen were injured, and 16 were arrested.

Haredim parking lotIt’s now a battle of wills between mayor Nir Barkat and Haredi stubbornness. At some point, one of them is going to break, but both seem dead set on maintaining vigilance. Police reported an increase in the level of violence, the amount of people participating, the attempts to block roads and the parking lot itself, none of which succeeded. If you’re a policemen, at least your days are no longer boring.

Despite the ratcheting up, the police have no plans to instruct the mayor to shut down the parking lot.

I remember being at a rally recently on Tisha B’Av, where a group of religious nationalists were attending a rally circling the old city of Jerusalem mourning the destruction of the Temple. Meanwhile, upon exiting this rally, I walked through the Haredi Neighborhood of Meah Shearim. There, there was a different Tisha B’Av rally going on, about the parking lot.

Picture it. National religious Jews are circling Jerusalem and mourning the Temple. Haredim mourning the opening of a parking lot. There is something of an obsession here that has taken hold of the Haredi community and caused them to lose their Jewish sanity, until it seems there is none left.

I can imagine that, theoretically speaking, the Temple is actually rebuilt and they’re still protesting the opening of the parking lot. Is it really that far fetched?

Interestingly Dr. Hadas Hanani, a researcher of the haredi society, believes the real reason for the protest’s timing is economic.

“I think that the reason for holding protests at this time is the donations they have to raise ahead of the High Holidays,” she told Ynet. “This is the period when they look for donations abroad, preparing booklets and leaflets with explanations on why it is important not to leave families hungry during the holidays.”

She continued, “They show that they are bravely protecting Shabbat, presenting secular newspaper reports and pictures. It really serves them, it gives them ‘meat’ when they come to donors and tell them, ‘We are facing the seculars, the municipality, the police, and everyone.”

And when will they end according to her? Likely at the end of the holidays. “It will probably calm down slowly. They’ll find a patent in the form of an agreement with the municipality, or have the rabbis say that the demonstrations desecrate Shabbat.”

We shall see.

Sixty Six Percent Support Jerusalem Building

This month’s War and Peace Index is out. Who wants to know what Israelis think now? Unfortunately, that’s almost impossible, since polls can only give indications of trends, and minds change so quickly that it may actually be a good thing that the government falls every two years. People need to keep reassessing their decisions and do some nice zigzagging.

War IndexAnyway, here’s what the War and Peace Index found. 66% of respondents believe that building should continue everywhere in Jerusalem, since Jewish sovereignty over the city is indisputable. Those who disapproved of this idea were primarily Labor and Meretz voters, who don’t make up much of the electorate any more these days.

This data could prove, as they say in the media every other day, to be a “stumbling block for the peace process,” as Mahmoud Abbas yesterday suddenly announced that he is no longer interested in East Jerusalem. He now, as reported by Israel Hayom newspaper, wants the whole thing. Oof. I don’t think giving up the Jewish quarter would be such a popular hit these days in Jewish circles. Maybe we should keep it after all.

In terms of Barack Obama, 46% see him as pro Arab, 31% as neutral, and a whopping 7% as pro Israel. Why don’t these things ever add up to 100%?

What about Operation Cast Lead? That’s a little more confusing, and I don’t really understand it. Apparently, 43% believe soldiers accounts of the war (that they didn’t intentionally shoot civilians and things like that), but 47% do not. However, 76% are of the opinion that no further investigation into the war is required.

Almost half thing that fishy stuff when on, but three quarters don’t want to investigate anymore? This sounds a bit strange. Perhaps there was a loaded or tilted question in there that people got confused about.

Dr. Mordechai

Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University discusses Jerusalem and the settlements on Al Jazeera.

More clashes of Haredim with Law in Jerusalem over Child Abuse Case

Child abuse JerusalemSomething appears to be going awry among the ultra orthodox Jewish community of Jerusalem. The recent child abuse incident involving a 30 year old Haredi woman suspected of literally starving her three year old son over a two year period to get more attention from him, appears to be yet another incident involving a community who is not only a “culture within a culture” but one that is now trying to exert it’s influence – and even control – over a city that is not only sacred to the Jewish People, but to other religions as well.

The furor that been created, resulting in mass rioting by Haredi Jews, especially those belonging to extreme sects such as the anti-Zionest Toldot Aharon and Neturei Karta sects, who have set themselves apart of the rest of the community and have turned parts of Israel’s capital into a virtual battleground, and is causing widespread disruption to normal life in the city, especially in regards to municipal services.

The woman involved in this latest incident, was detained and later released under house arrest to the home of a prominent Haredi rabbi, was due to undergo psychiatric examinations today to determine her mental ability to face charges for her actions, which have been flatly denied by members of the Eda Haredit groups whose anti-Zionistic extremities may have set back normal relations with Jerusalem municipal authorities “at least 20 years”.

The woman, who is 8 months pregnant, has four other children, whose whereabouts as presently unknown; with speculation that they have been “absorbed” into this community that not only does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel, but often has members seen in photo clips at very unusual places – even posing with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at international anti-Zionest conferences.

Jerusalem in former years used to be city in which both religious and non-religious people seemed to coexist with each other, despite major differences – especially to the observance of the Sabbath and major Jewish holidays. This was especially true under to municipal leadership of Mayor Teddy Kollek, who managed to keep the “pressure cooker” of religious differences from exploding during his long mayoral administration which lasted nearly 3 decades.

More recently, however, secular and even mildly-observant Jews have been leaving Jerusalem and have been replaced by more religious groups, especially Haredi Jews who have moved into many Jerusalem neighborhoods, especially those within reasonable walking distance of the Old City and the Kotel Maaravi or Wailing Wall. This new trend may be the reason why such an uproar has been recently made by Haredi Jews over the parking lot located under the new shopping mall in the Mamilla Quarter, just outside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City. The opening of the parking lot on Shabbat, for use by non-religious Jews and other visitors to the Old City on the weekends, resulted in mass rioting and demonstrations by the extreme Haredi communities in recent weeks.

Why all of this happening, including personal incidents within these extremely closed communities, is bringing more and more attention to groups of extremely religious groups who now appear to be trying to gain an even greater hold on Israel’s capital, as well as bringing attention for people to appear to live under their own moral and even legal codes of conduct, and seem unwilling to act according to legal codes and statutes that have been set up for the benefit of all residents.

How both municipal and even national legal authorities will be able to deal with this apparently growing problem is one that remains to be seen. But most likely, non-religious Jews will continue to make attempts to exert their presence in the capital as well, resulting in further friction among the various groups of residents which make up the cultural and religious mosaic of the city of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Mayor Gets Death Threats Over Parking Lot

Jerusalem secular Mayor Nir Barkat has barely gotten into the routine of presiding over Israel’s capital and second largest city. And now he has had at least two death threats against him via email messages. Being secular, and interested in promoting his city’s tourism business, a big money maker for the country’s most historical and holiest city to three major religions, Bareket’s attempts to provide weekend visitors to the Old City with a parking lot has been met with violent objection by the city’s Haredi or Ultra Orthodox Jewish community.

Nir BarkatThe parking lot that has been the subject of all this controversy is located just outside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City and underneath a brand new open air shopping mall that also contains many Jerusalem Municipality offices. The lot, which is also close to several luxury hotels, including the King David Hotel and David Citadel Hotel, is actually not located near the Haredi strongholds such as Meah Shearim. Religious Jews wishing to enter the Old City to pray at the Kotel or Western Wall on the Sabbath don’t even go near this lot for the most part; and yet the lot being open on the Jewish Sabbath has stirred up a boiling cauldron of controversy, which has resulted in rioting that caused fires to be set in garbage dumpsters and thousands of Haredi and other religious protestors pitting themselves against police, who had to use water cannon as a last resort , and arrested scores of religious protestors.

Non religious protestors – to the demand to close the parking lot have also been active, including Knesset members like Labor Party member Ofer Pines, who was very upset by the actions of the religious community who, in Pine’s opinion, “want to turn Israel’s capital into another Teheran”.

The parking lot is meant to be beneficial not only to non-religious Jews, but also to many Christian and other visitors who come to Jerusalem on the weekend, particularly to visit the Old City, as well as shop in the large Souk open air market. Under a long standing agreement established by previous city fathers, including long time mayor Teddy Kolleck, the Jerusalem Municipality abided by the wishes of the religious community, and as a result, virtually everything in the western part of the city, with the exception of a few pubs and other similar establishments are closed on Shabbat. The Old City and most of East Jerusalem, where most of the city’s Arab community lives, is open for business, with the exception of places like the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. Where all this will finally end is still anybody’s guess, but it’s obvious that the Jerusalem Municipality not yet ready to turn the city over to the ultra-orthodox religious community.

Police are now trying to determine who sent the death threats against Mayor Baraket, and are taking the threats seriously, in light of what happened to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in November, 1995, in Tel Aviv by a religious fanatic, Yigal Amir. The Municipality, appear to be sticking by their decision to let the parking lot remain open, and that all efforts will be made to ensure the security of all people wanting to use the parking lot during Shabbat.

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